What's the Worst That Could Happen?
I am embarrassed to admit that sometimes the titles of books make me superstitious. I am not normally superstitious and most of the time I behave like a mini-Richard Dawkins. But for some reason, book titles get to me.
A few summers ago when I was reading one Lee Child book after another, I had to stop at the eleventh installment in the series, Bad Luck and Trouble, because I was worried about some things and it seemed reckless to read a book with a title like that at such a time. Like it would be asking for bad luck to read it. I did not read it for several months until the general situation improved and it was safe to read something with a provocative title. And I read it and nothing happened. (Because I waited? Or because the title of a book has no power whatsoever?)
I faced a similar dilemma with Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels. I had to stop after reading eight of them as the ninth is titled What's the Worst That Could Happen? I've been wanting to resume this series for a long time but did not own a copy of this book. So I had two vexing decisions to make: do I buy it and then do I read it?
My wife planned a trip to the Caribbean for us in February and as I was assembling my vacation reading, I realized I needed a small paperback to bring. Yes, I have thousands of small paperbacks but I have been reading about Westlake again and started to think about confronting the ninth Dortmunder. Thinking of how fun it would be to relax on the beach and enjoy a Dortmunder caper, I decided to confront my fears (that's what you're supposed to do, right?) and I ordered a copy of What's the Worst That Could Happen?
My copy arrived on Monday and I packed it for our trip. And on Tuesday, in anticipation of a major winter storm that is expected to paralyze the entire East Coast, the airline cancelled our flight. Who's the dummy now? I should be in a lounge chair on the beach at this very moment but instead I am in my pajamas at home, struggling to fit on a chaise lounge that my dog will not share me. And I haven't touched my book. And it is still snowing.
PS: The two books that follow in the series are Bad News and The Road To Ruin. What am I supposed to do?