Back in April I picked up the last two missing Dave Robicheaux books, Heaven's Prisoners and A Morning for Flamingos, for the collection. I feel like this is an oft to told tale, but that may just be for Mrs. Hungry Detective. However in regards to Heaven's Prisoners I thought I would have comfortably owned this book fifteen years ago. Back in the nascent days of the collection that book along with Neon Rain were the most expensive books I could have purchased. It was 1995, and I had yet to really dig into Crime Fiction in a serious way. The only other authors I bought regularly were John Grisham, Walter Mosely and Clive Cussler. I had just picked up the first two Dennis Lehane books, and Michael Connelly and Robert Crais were a year or so away for being read for the first time. Neon Rain turned out to be the most expensive book I bought until two years ago when I bought Michael Connelly's The Black Echo with blue rebate band.
When I bought Neon Rain I was a buyer of books. Not a collector. Firing up Ebay and trolling all 8 pages of books in the 'Mystery' section does not a collector make. Spending money, even a lot of money as I did on Neon Rain, is perhaps the easiest criteria to describe oneself as a collector, and the most deceptive. The bar is low even if the financial expenditure is high. I would have called myself a collector then. Now I see that I was not. I was a buyer of books, an enthusiast. It was not until recently that a definition of what a collector is came into my mind. A collector to me has little to do with the money you spend on the object of ones affection nor the time enjoying that object. Like most things in my adult world being a collector is all about the work, and not the reward...in this case the procuring and enjoyment of a Crime Fiction novels.
One of the best panels I attend at the 2014 Long Beach Bouchercon was a Friday morning panel about the nature of book collecting. [Editor's Note: If anyone on the Programing Committee for Raleigh and Toronto should ever read this....PLEASE I strongly urge you make the Collecting panel a yearly part of the Conference.] One of the panelists right off the bat took what I thought at the time was broad swipe at the general audience....by which I mean those who buy a lot of Crime Fiction .... and said that those people by in large are not collectors. I thought it was a dig at the time, a bit of cheap shot. Nobody like to be told what they are not particularly when we have our own internal monologue for that. My almost immediate second response was to not take offense because the perceived condescension of that comment doesn't really exist. One is one thing and one is another. Pitting a crime fiction enthusiast against a crime fiction collector is a pointless comparison, because one is under the impression that both should be too busy enjoying crime fiction to really care what the other thinks.
As to the nuts and bolts of the acquisition.... Flamingos arrived a little dinged but a new cover hides the small tear. I 'm fine with it. Heaven's Prisoners is essentially flawless. I have spent the better part of decade and half looking for this book. A couple things about that. I bought this copy for just about the same amount that I purchased Neon Rain, and feel very lucky to do so. The other thing speaks more to the metaphysical nature of what happens when one goes on a journey. The 1996-97 version of me would have told you that I would have Heaven's Prisoners in my possession in within a year or two. The moment I could manage to scrap enough money together is in fact the the day I would buy it. But that is not what happened. So much has happened since then, and a part of that was this easy baggage of having to buy this book. We acquire and shed responsibilities like this most of our lives, but almost never to pay respect to the end of things. The book is a book. I read it years ago. I enjoyed. I even watched the movie. But for as long as I own that book, for as long as it sits on the shelf that book will be more than just the continuing adventures of Dave Robicheaux. The aura that surrounds that book will be the continuing adventures of The Hungry Detective.