My relationship with physical, printed books is… well… physical. They sit on my shelves, displaying their covers, summoning up memories of where I read them and how I felt. They have a distinctive smell that changes the longer you know them. They fit into the palm of my hand in a way that speaks of intimacy and entitlement. They hang in my jacket pocket with a weight that promises pleasure and distraction no matter whatever else the day brings.
Audiobooks nestle in my ears and speak to me in ways that the printed words cannot but when I press pause, they wink out existence. Physical books take more effort, demand more attention and they never leave me.
This week, I was sitting in my office at home, tired from travel and bored with work, wanting… something. My body turned my chair away from the computer screen towards the shelves of books that stand behind me, reminding me of how much reading time is wasted by work, and my eye was caught by the distinctive cover art of Tanya Huff’s five “Blood” novels. They were in my hands without any conscious decision on my part and I found myself opening them, one after another, dipping into the text, reminding myself of how these books always made me smile and always left me wanting more. It was like coming across a photograph of someone met for a single summer but living in my memory as an afterglow of wit and creativity.
Then I remembered that it was not the cover art on Tanya Huff’s books that snagged my imagination back in 2010 but the performance of Christina Cox in the DVD version of “Blood Ties”, the TV series based upon the books.
The TV series was fresh and amusing but Cox, playing the female lead, Vicki Nelson, was mesmerizing: intelligent, with a dry sense of humour, physically brave, emotionally vulnerable and with a mobile face that spoke volumes.
It seemed to me that Christina Cox couldn’t have come up with all that just from the pages of a script, so I set out to find the books.
I bought them all at the same time, an act that always brings me a kind of guilty pleasure, because I’m making myself a promise of hours of escapist self-indulgence and because I can now afford to spend on books without having to save first.
The books were a delight. Vicki Nelson, an ex-cop, forced to retire because of a degenerative eye disease and now working as a PI, finds herself in a series of complex encounters with the supernatural. Each book takes one of the classic horror tropes: werewolf, vampire, mummy, zombie etc. and twists it into something new. In each book, Vicki works with her ex-partner who is still on the force and with the mysterious Henry Fitzroy, who turns out to be both a vampire and the bastard son of King Henry VIII.
The Vicki in the book and Cox’s Vicki were a solid fit. The book Vicki has a slightly harder edge and changes more over the course of the books. The book Henry is nothing like the Henry in the TV series. Where Tanya Huff saw a ginger-haired man of medium height, the TV showed us a dark-haired pretty boy with cheekbones that just scream vampire.
The books brought me great enjoyment. I keep promising myself that I’ll reread them, the same way that I promise myself to meet up with friends from a decade ago. It’s a sincere wish but one that I am too easily distracted from by the sparkle of the here and now.
I put the books back on the shelf without reading them. The fact that they are there is, for now, possibility enough.