Back in the day, even before the internet was black and white, we had the library. My favourite sanctuary when I was a child was Sandfields Library. It was right outside Glan-y-mor primary school, and once Miss Roderick the headmistress had rung the afternoon bell, my best friend and I would head over to linger over the books before going home for Blue Peter. This was an era of very little traffic and free range kids. Once inside through the heavy glass doors we would make our way purposefully to the children’s section and then turn left to the A’s and Bs to check out if any Enid Blyton books were in. There was always a bit of anxiety at this point as they were very popular, so we had to position ourselves proprietorially in front of the shelf to neutralise any possible contenders hovering nearby. I still can remember the joy of going home with a Secret Seven or Mallory Towers book.
It took a couple of years to work through the whole of Blyton oeuvre before I moved up to the adult section and continued the detective theme with Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. I was assisted through this progression by Kath, the library assistant with pearly pink nail varnish and thick glasses, who would check out through the returns for me in case there was a stray volume that I had missed. In my teens I extended my reading to autobiographies and would supplement my addiction to black and white films with memoirs of Bette Davies and Joseph Von Sternberg.
But crime fiction was my first love, and throughout my life I have always turned to it for my escapism. When I was feeding my firstborn, instead of thinking beautiful thoughts, I worked my way through Ruth Rendell. In my later years I have derived much pleasure from more literary crime novelists such as James Lee Burke. His novels set in New Orleans manage to intersperse a sometimes violent plot line with lyrical description and moving insights into human nature.