Monday, September 30, 2013

Zenda!

Most of mom’s books were destroyed in the fire that claimed my nephew’s life. The material possessions are quite secondary to our greatest loss. And I hadn’t really thought much about mom’s eclectic collection of biblical, political, literary, poetry and pulp novels. (Yes, now you know where some of the inspiration came from for both me and Kyle.)

Cover illustration by Fred Pfeiffer.
My charmers and I have been settling into a new home, and, over this weekend, we went to the storage unit for a few items when I began rummaging through some boxes. In them, I found a few of my mom’s books. I lit up. There was THE PRISONER OF ZENDA by Anthony Hope. That 1968 paperback, probably bought off a spinner rack, had a cover that simply mesmerized me as a kid before I was even old enough to read. Who was the guy trying to escape from? Would he get past the sentries on the bridge? Zenda! The very name sounded like excitement.

Ronald Coleman—one of mom’s favorite actors—starred in the 1937 film adaptation, and I still remember how her eyes would grow wide when she said his name. “What a magnificent actor!” she’d rave, then she’d add very dramatically, “I always loved movies of Kings and Queens!” She must have told me that a thousand times as I was growing up. I smile now when I imagine my mom as an eleven-year-old girl thrilled about going to see her favorite actors fight it out on the silver screen.

I think I will hermetically seal this paperback. Yep. Going to save it for another generation ... “Ava, let me tell you about THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Here’s your grandmother’s copy ...”

16 comments:

Chudney DeFreitas-Thomas said...

OMG My Aunt Patsy had the same book! I haven't seen it in years. :)

David Cranmer said...

And I had an Aunt Patsy, Chudney! That would make us... :)

Chris said...

Nothing like finding old treasures. My brother-in-law and I rebuilt my folks's pump house a couple years ago, and cleaning out a couple decade's worth of stuff ruined by weather was a big part of it. There were a few boxes of my old stuff from my childhood, and I found several old paperbacks I'd treasured. Several found their way into my makeshift mass market bookshelf in my closet.

David Cranmer said...

Chris, I was beyond stupid and left many boxes of books (kinda forgot them)in a non-climate controlled storage unit. Much was ruined.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My Mom was very into actors like Coleman too. She preferred actors who played cowboys and swashbucklers to those who played ordinary men. Perhaps this took her out of her day to day life more. These were movies to her.

Charles Gramlich said...

I loved that cover too. Just reeked of adventure.

David Cranmer said...

That's probably it, Patti! Regular Joe's need not apply. My mom preferred the swashbucklers like Errol Flynn and Ronald Coleman. I remember watching THE SEA HAWK and ROBIN HOOD early on. Those were MOVIE STARS. Yes, escaping the dull reality of the depression could have played a pivotal role. Though A TALE OF TWO CITIES with RC was a favorite of hers too.

David Cranmer said...

Charles, You slipped a comment in there on me. Yeah, I'm going to look up Fred Pfeiffer and see what other art he produced. I like the mixture of classical themes and pulp.

Thomas Pluck said...

I got into these very late, but love them, obviously. Blade of Dishonor is loosely inspired by Black Samurai, The Rat Bastards, the Destroyer. A few generations of pulp later.
I was a big fan of A. Merritt (Seven Footsteps to Satan) and such.
I have a copy of a Captain Blood book, and The Iron Mistress (the Bowie story) in the TBR pile now.

David Cranmer said...

CAPTAIN BLOOD is another film (Flynn & Rathbone) that I enjoyed with my mom. Geez, we could kill a day on the high seas with these heroes and villains. I haven't seen THE IRON MISTRESS, Tom. I must correct that today. *Reaching for the Kindle Fire*

Ron Scheer said...

Too much to respond to briefly in your post. Swashbucklers always bothered me as a kid. In the sword fights, I'd be thinking, I could never learn how to do that...

I just started reading a vintage copy of a 1906 novel I picked up a while ago. I remembered seeing it in my grandparents' attic. The image of a man on a horse stuck with me 60 years and I recognized it when I saw a copy online.

David Cranmer said...

Ron, Those books on grandparents and mom & dad's bookshelves become seared on the brain. I can see my mom's entire collection of books even now.

On swashbuckling: even as a kid I wondered why Flynn never got tired. Ha! I'd go outside and bang some sticks together with friends and be exhausted after fifteen minutes. Flynn, Lancaster, etc never wore out!

Richard Prosch said...

Neat post, David. You're right about parents and grandparents and their book shelves. My grandpa had a paperback copy of "Playboy's Party Jokes" which he took away from me when I was six or seven. I can still see his stoic face telling me "Ask me for this again when you're fourteen."

Sheila Grimes said...

Kings and Queens and Zenda! Sweet Memories!

David Cranmer said...

Fourteen, Richard! You lucked out. I wouldn't have seen that again... ever. Ha.

Yes they are, Sis.

Nik said...

A moving vignette, David. Thank you for sharing it.