By David Gates | NEWSWEEKH/T: Gramps
Published Jun 27, 2009
In W. H. Auden's essay "The Guilty Vicarage"—collected in The Dyer's Hand, which I've kept on my night table for years—he analyzes his self-confessed "addiction" to whodunits: "I suspect that the typical reader of detective stories is, like myself, a person who suffers from a sense of sin." I share Auden's fondness for Sherlock Holmes and G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown, but his reading habits could hardly be more different from mine. "I forget the story as soon as I have finished it, and have no wish to read it again. If, as sometimes happens, I start reading one and find after a few pages that I have read it before, I cannot go on." I've reread all the Sherlock Holmes stories, and many of the Father Browns, more times than I could count, and I seldom have fewer than a half dozen of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries there on the night table next to The Dyer's Hand. In fact, I never travel overnight without one or two in my bag. And, as far as I can tell, without a sense of sin.