“Two deep human desires were at war ... the longing for stability, for form, for permanence, which in its essence is the desire for death, and the opposing hunger for movement, change, instability and risk, which are life.”
--Rose Wilder Lane, from Old Hometown
For many of us, the written word with which we grew up was different from the written word we see today.
It smelled of old ink and parchment and leather. Aged brown covers, title and author name embossed, a few pages folded or torn, maybe even with a coffee stain or two. The more immediate written word arrived with a thud on our doorstep each morning and in the evening, its dark ink staining our fingers, literally hot off the newspaper press. Words then seemed to bear a certain heft, a visceral air of importance that promised to marry form with substance.
Nowadays, the written word has no smell. It comes bound in fancy book gloss and beautiful imagery. It gets delivered or laser printed with the speed of bits and bytes. It maximizes efficiency and marketability and glitz. While everywhere words fly from fingers, texting and tweeting, with little or no forethought, a spontaneous brain dump with an anonymity to posterity.
Have we gained more than we have lost?
I practice a three thousand year old art form flying a hawk wearing bells and strips of leather at live game using techniques that for the most part have barely changed in the last millennium. Yet I’m writing these words on my MacBook before beaming then on. I suppose you could say I have a foot firmly planted in the old and the new.
My entire backlist--all five novels--are now available on the Kindle and soon to be on the Nook and the iPad and and any number of other book reading devices. Sporting brand spanking new covers, some to be had for less than the cost of a double mocha latte.
You won’t get the ink or the paper smell or the apparent gravitas of old.
But I hope you can still smell the birds with the fire in their eyes, and the wet leather, and the morning field--the blood, and the gun oil in the detective’s holster, and the sweat-soaked thrill of the chase.
Andy Straka is the author of the Shamus Award-winning and Anthony and Agatha Award-nominated Frank Pavlicek novels. A licensed falconer and co-founder of the popular Crime Wave at the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, Andy is also the author of Record Of Wrongs, which Mystery Scene magazine calls "a first-rate thriller."