🔗 Endless Night


First published: .

I used to read a lot of books. I still do, but I used to too. It mostly started when I was 10 years old. In those years, Israel had an annual, country-wide event called "The Book Week": seven days of book-fairs and related activities. I think it was actually called "The Hebrew Book Week" to showcase local writing, but this wasn't how we referred to it, and it was more of a general book thing. These events were held for many years, and were quite popular, but their popularity waned over the years so much that the week was turned into a month, actual events and activities are mostly gone, and it's just discounts in the book stores now.

In my home town of Rishon Lezion, the Book Week events took place at a small stretch of Rothschild Street known as the "Midrekhov" (basically a pedestrian mall, which in Israel are usually paved like what we call "Dutch Streets"). On one day of that book week in 1994, I took the stage at one of these events in the midrekhov and read some stupid story I wrote. My mother is still proudly hanging on to the certificate I got from that event. Anyway, when we were there I saw a Sherlock Holmes book in one of the booths, and we bought it.

Reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book (it was actually one volume of a chronologically ordered collection of Sherlock Holmes stories) turned me into a fan of detective novels, and I've been reading such books ever since then.

Just a few years after buying that book, a bit over 20 years ago, eBay was becoming a thing and I stumbled upon a listing for 80 used Agatha Christie books—virtually her entire body of work—for about 20 bucks including shipping to Israel. Until then I mostly read Hebrew translations of such books, but I decided it was time to read them in their original language. Agatha Christie, for those of you who don't know, was a prolific British writer who wrote many detective novels.

Shipping prices were a lot cheaper 20 years ago. Buying 80 books from the US and having them shipped to Israel, all for 20 dollars, is impossible today. By the way, shipping packages from the US to Israel is considerably more expensive than shipping from the US to other countries, for some reason. A few days after placing my order I went to the post office to pick up the books. They were shipped in an "M-bag", which is really a sack that is exactly like the "kitbags" used by the Israeli army. This is a special service for the shipping of printed material and is quite cheap (and still available today), though I don't see how stuffing printed material into a loose-fitting bag is good for the paper. Just recently we found that M-bag in my parents' basement, but the years have not been kind to it.

It took me several years to go through all those books. I would take advantage of any idle time I've had to make progress on whatever book I was reading at the time. I would often have to pick my little sister up from various places, so I would wait for her outside reading an Agatha Christie book.

I was also reading works of other authors. I had just gotten to know Harlan Coben, another prolific writer, and was in awe at how different modern novels were to classical ones. Modern authors try to establish suspense from the first paragraph, and keep you on edge till the end. Classical writers, on the other hand, took their time to build suspense. A lot of time. Once I got to know these modern writers, it somewhat ruined me on the classic ones, at least for a short while.

One of Agatha Christie's book that was particularly difficult for me was Endless Night. It was so uninteresting that I gave up about a fifth of the way through; but I wanted to read all of her books, so a few months later I tried again. That time I managed to get a quarter of the way through before giving up.

It took me several years and at least three failed attempts before I finally managed to make it past the half-point mark and reach the book's twist. And boy, did that twist floor me. Prior to that point, I was bored and only invested in the book for abitrary reasons. The twist hit me so hard that I was literally shaking violently, which made it hard to continue reading the book, but I couldn't put it down anymore and made it all the way to the end, at which point I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I still can't believe how that book switched from being one of the most boring books I have ever read into one of the best.

To this day, no other book has managed to evoke such a strong reaction from me. And it saved classical writers for me. I sometimes re-read books I like years after reading them for the first time, but I refuse to re-read Endless Night, because I don't want to sully the memory of it.