I never thought I’d be chasing after a book set. The only set I chased after and managed to complete was the seven HMT 'colour colour' Pilot mechanical watch set. So, it was with a sense of surprise that I saw two novels from the Martin Beck Harper Perennial Set appeared on the screen when I typed the author’s name on Save Earth Books’ page on Amazon.
It was more than a year ago that I fortuitously came across four novels in the Martin Beck series at a secondhand bookstall in Secunderabad (narrated here). When I bought the books, I only had a vague sort of memory of having bought one of the titles earlier. It was only later I realized that the four novels that I bought that day belong to a set of ten crime fiction (police procedural) novels written by the Swedish couple, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. It was a unique concept of a book set thought out by Harper Perennial (publishers). Each book, from the first to the tenth, is arranged according to the letters of the name of the chief protagonist, Inspector MARTIN BECK. So, each book carries the number and the corresponding letter on the spine. If you had bought the entire set or had managed to collect all the novels, then if you placed all the novels side by side and took a photo of the spines, it would look like this …
(picture taken from http://fleurinherworld.com/2010/04/28/roseanna-by-maj-sjowall-per-wahloo/ )
This set was published in 2007, whereas the authors wrote these ten novels in the 1960s and 70s. The concept itself has, I felt, ‘brainwave’ and flashing and popping bulbs written all over it. The person who had the brainwave saw that the authors wrote only ten novels in the series and the chief protagonist had ten letters in his name. After that purchase of four novels, I looked around the net if I could get the other 6 novels in the set. This enthusiasm lasted almost a month and I drifted away after reading the novels. I kept looking though, and quite unexpectedly, last week I was rewarded with two books from the set -- The Man Who Went up in Smoke and The Man on the Balcony.
I have seen other editions of the same novels, but somehow this keeda has caught hold of me and I have also vowed to read the unread novels only from this set. So, with the addition of these two novels, i.e., nos. 2 & 3 (letters A & R), my unfinished set looks like this.
I now need four novels to complete the set (M I N C)
I also bought a Dashiell Hammet novel, The Glass Key, along with these two Beck novels. I have been looking for The Glass Key to add to my Hammett collection, and I got it here. Hammett considered The Glass Key to be his favourite work and, this novel, along with The Maltese Falcon, is considered two of Hammett's finest works by many critics.