The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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September 12, 2011


Who knows what may be buried in his back garden? Only the man who has cultivated the whole area to a considerable depth. If his spade strikes on something out-of-the-way -- the golden helmet, perhaps, of some Roman general, or an Anglo-Saxon scramasax exquisitely inlaid with copper, silver, niello and bronze -- it is likely to be what the law describes as treasure trove. No owner can conceivably be discovered for it, but this by no means makes it the property of the finder. The finder, indeed, must hasten into the presence of the Coroner (popularly supposed to deal only in corpses) and produce his discovery. The Coroner will then sit on it. He will hold an inquest on the object, that is to say, and pronounce upon whether it is treasure trove or no. To hold on to one's find and say nothing is an indictable offence. Or it is so in England. In Scotland natural cupidity and possessiveness is more mildly regarded, although at the same time more portentously dealt with, since those charged with weighing the matter include the Procurator-fiscal and the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer. In both countries there is, of course, a spot of dead letter about all this. The affair ends up -- it may be crudely put -- by everybody getting his whack.
from The Ampersand Papers, by Michael Innes

After finding it in the library a month ago, after reading about Michael Innes in P.D. James' Talking About Detective Fiction {a golden-age mystery writer I've never read!} and again in Fleur Fisher's very cool alphabet,  I was almost going to return it today because of a stack of other books waiting for me. But then I decided to read the first page or two with my sandwich, and then I knew that I couldn't.  Two words I'd have to look up, a quirky English law, Scotland, and the world's most wonderful job title, even if it's been made up, and that's all in just this first paragraph. Could you have? :)


Lisa May said...

I bought a Michael Innes omnibus for $1 at a library book sale, even before I read Talking about Detective Fiction earlier this year. I just checked and it doesn't have The Ampersand Letters - but you've reminded me to move it up the TBR pile.

lyn said...

I haven't read any Innes for 30 years but I keep seeing him mentioned on blogs & I have a few of his books on the tbr shelves so I really should read him again soon!

Penny said...

It's great to discover a 'new' author, isn't it? I've read a few of Michael Innes' books and enjoyed them. I particularly like finding them in old green Penguins! The mention of Scotland caught my eye immediately, of course!

Thank you for visiting!

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