“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Mark Twain, after reading his own obituary, June 2, 1897.
Miracle Max: He probably owes you money huh? I’ll ask him.
Inigo Montoya: He’s dead. He can’t talk.
Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What’s that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.
—From the movie Princess Bride.
Nevertheless, death, and near-death, in summer do happen —especially in books. I thought, in honor of Mr. Twain’s exaggerated death and Westley’s almost death, I’d gather together some loose change, er —summer reading suggestions and other odds and ends, having to do with murder, mayhem, and possible death.
“Early one June morning in 1872 I murdered my father – an act which made a deep impression on me at the time.” Ambrose Bierce. Bierce was born in 1842, so he would have been about thirty years old when the alleged patricide occurred.
I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan. “The note was there, lying beside her plate, when she came down to breakfast. Later, when she thought back, Julie would remember it. Small. Plain. Her name and address lettered in stark black print across the front of the envelope.”
The House on the Gulf by Margaret Peterson Haddix. “Bran was up to something. I knew it the first day he showed me the house.”
Oh Earth, you are too dear to-night,
How can I sleep while all around
Floats rainy fragrance and the far
Deep voice of the ocean that talks to the ground?
Oh Earth, you gave me all I have,
I love you, I love you, — oh what have I
That I can give you in return —
Except my body after I die?
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie. “And from June till September (with a short season at Easter) the Jolly Roger Hotel was usually packed to the attics. . . . There was one very important person (in his own estimation at least) staying at the Jolly Roger. Hercule Poirot, resplendent in a white duck suit, with a panama hat tilted over his eyes, his mustaches magnificently befurled, lay back in an improved type of deck chair and surveyed the bathing beach.”
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. “There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself. That summer, I was six years old.”
June by Amy Levy
Last June I saw your face three times;
Three times I touched your hand;
Now, as before, May month is o’er,
And June is in the land.
O many Junes shall come and go,
Flow’r-footed o’er the mead;
O many Junes for me, to whom
Is length of days decreed.
There shall be sunlight, scent of rose;
Warm mist of summer rain;
Only this change–I shall not look
Upon your face again.
The Summer of the Danes by Ellis Peters. “The extraordinary events of that summer of 1144 may properly be said to have begun the previous year, in a tangle of threads both ecclesiastical and secular, a net in which any number of diverse people became enmeshed . . . And among the commonality thus entrammeled, more to the point, an elderly Benedictine monk of the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Shrewsbury.”
Message from Malaga by Helen McInnes. ” . . . he had come a long way from the tensions and overwork of Houston, a longer way than the thousands of miles that lay between Texas and Andalusia. He hadn’t felt so happily unthinking, so blissfully irresponsible in months. He lifted his glass of Spanish brandy in Jeff Reid’s direction to give his host a silent thanks.”
An End by Christina Rossetti
Love, strong as Death, is dead.
Come, let us make his bed
Among the dying flowers:
A green turf at his head;
And a stone at his feet,
Whereon we may sit
In the quiet evening hours.
He was born in the Spring,
And died before the harvesting:
On the last warm summer day
He left us; he would not stay
For Autumn twilight cold and grey.
Sit we by his grave, and sing
He is gone away.
To few chords and sad and low
Sing we so:
Be our eyes fixed on the grass
Shadow-veiled as the years pass,
While we think of all that was
In the long ago.
Summertime + Death: any more suggestions?