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November 23, 2008

Gregg Hurwitz: LOVE SANDY

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Here's one for all you "book junkies", as today's guest blogger, Gregg Hurwitz --- author of THE CRIME WRITER --- discusses the new tradition he and his sister began over their shared obsession of the written word.

Aside from the occasional Red Sox game, which my father --- transplanted from Boston to the Bay Area --- allowed to grace our television, my sister and I weren't allowed to watch "the Plug-In Drug" growing up. Perhaps because of this, she and I are book people. As in, Book People. We love the smell of books, the feel of them. We can't travel without books or go to sleep without reading first. When we were younger, we brought books to camp and sleepovers. We brought them on car rides, to the beach, to doctor appointments. We'd go to library sales and buy used paperbacks for a quarter each, go home, and devour them like kids popping candy after a fruitful round of trick-or-treating. And then we organized and reorganized them endlessly --- by color and size, alphabetically, by genre and series. (Yes, there is an OCD strain in ye olde gene pool). When we were well-behaved, we'd get to go to the book store (Walden, anyone?) where we'd run the aisles like berserking junkies.

As we grew older, we grew more concerned with the state of the books we bought. New hardcover: good. Putting book face down to hold place: bad. Whispering sweet nothings to your books: good. Loaning them to book infidels who touch the pages with Cheeto-fuzzed fingers: bad.

So you can imagine my delight about five years back when I strolled into a used bookstore in Brentwood and came upon a mint-condition hardcover first-edition of THE BLACK ECHO. I already owned said book, but my sister did not. Christmukkah was coming up, and I'd yet to buy her a gift. With excitement, I checked the title page and there, lightly penciled (and erasable), was the price: 5-.

Now, Mr. Connelly's Edgar-award-winning first novel, as many of you know, is worth quite a bit more than that. I snapped it up eagerly and went home to wrap it (taping the brown-paper bag closed at the top).

When my sister opened the book some weeks later, she regarded it with great delight. She thumbed through it. Sniffed the pages like a book pervert. And then she turned to the inside front cover and her face fell. Magic markered in messy cursive was a note: DEAR JANE, HOPE YOU LIKE THIS BOOK. ITS [sic] ONE OF MY FAVERITES [sic]. LOVE, SANDY.

I don't know how I'd missed it, but I knew one thing: I hated that dumb-ass Sandy.

To this day, when my sister and I give each other gifts or send e-mails, we sign them "LOVE SANDY." It keeps us mindful of those finest of holiday traditions: holding on to resentments and making fun of others.

Luanne Rice joins us tomorrow, as she revisits holidays past with a very special copy of THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER.