In 1926, Hemingway published a short story called “A Clean, Well-lighted Place.” A library offers both those virtues, plus a third which can be even more precious to writers and homicide detectives: silence, or at least (strictly enforced) quiet. Libraries are among society’s most generous gestures, and I for one am deeply grateful for them. I don’t know if a library has ever saved my life, but at several junctures, they’ve been crucial to my well-being and progress. In my early twenties, I took a year off from college and spent a few months in England working in a toy factory in Wellingborough in the Midlands. Every evening after work, I went to the local library, and for an hour or so, read Tolstoy’s War & Peace, and both the book and the place to enjoy it, helped sustain me through an otherwise bleak stretch. Later, when I was employed as an advertising copywriter in Manhattan, the New York Public Library was where I disappeared for as long as I could get away with it, to do my own writing. For me, a library was a place where a person can hatch noisy schemes. In both Shadows Still Remain and Buried on Avenue B, some of the better action sequences are in NYPD Det. Darlene O’Hara’s brain and sometimes that brain is in a library. In Shadows Still Remain, which focuses on the murder of an NYU undergraduate, O’Hara studies the transcripts of the victim in Bobst Library, and when in Buried On Avenue B, a murder investigation takes O’Hara to Sarasota, Florida in the summer, she does some productive mulling, while also escaping the heat and glare, in a tiny lending library next to a PUBLIX grocery store. O’Hara got pregnant at 16 and barely finished high school, and since then, has spent a lot more time in dive bars than libraries, but as she luxuriates in the thought-conducive silence of Bobst Library, she realizes that was probably a mistake. Not only does the calm quiet help her do her job, it soothes her soul and makes her feel good.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Peter. As a thank you to readers, we are giving away 10 copies of his book, so first 10 commenters to leave their thoughts will win!