Monday, March 16, 2009

March Madness: Mystery Bracket

Round One of the Mystery Bracket is in the books (yes, I'm going to continue to use that pun-- at least until someone comments on it, then perhaps I will relent). The Library staff has voted and the decisions are final. The pre-bracket favorites, the grand old Dame, Agatha Christie and the hotshot newcomer, Janet Evanovich were expected to cruise to victory-- did that play to form? And what of the intriguing middle-seeds, hard-boiled and gritty writers Mickey Spillane and Elmore Leonard against the more traditional and gentile writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sue Grafton? Read on....

Agatha Christie vs. P.D. James
Agatha Christie was prolific, popular and genre-defining with sales of her 80+ books estimated at roughly four billion copies (yes, that's a b). Less-well known about Dame Christie is that she has a wicked stop and pop jump shot and runs a wicked pick-n-go. P.D. James is also very popular and also an inductee of the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame and she has been known to drive coast-to-coast on even the fastest point guards. The #1 overall seed in the Mystery Bracket, Christie seemed a lock for the second round, but Ms. James didn't go down without a fight. Early on it was nip and tuck, with James finding some holes in Christie's zone defense, but over time, Christie's well-rounded game and strong defense took control. The result was a 10-2 victory for Christie and a date in the 2nd round.

Mickey Spillane vs. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes is still the most recognizable name in the annals of mystery writing. But Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur, was still only a slight favorite over Mr. Spillane, due mostly to the fact that Conan Doyle has been dead for nearly 80 years. Mr. Spillane did not invent the sub-genre of hard-boiled P.I. mysteries, but he did bring it into the mainstream, with his Mike Hammer books selling millions of copies worldwide. Despite being really, really dead, the third seeded Conan Doyle wasted no time in jumping out to a big lead on the also dead, but only recently, Spillane. Early on it was 5-0, and despite a few long balls from the corner and a nice post-up move, Spillane was never able to close the gap, finally succumbing, 9-3.

Sue Grafton vs. Elmore Leonard
The much anticipated #4 v. #5 match up of Sue Grafton and Elmore Leonard more than lived up to its billing. It was a study in contrasts, the more traditional Grafton vs. the quirky, sometimes profane Leonard. Grafton is a long-range sharpshooter, who loves to launch 3-pointers and isn't afraid to take one from anywhere on the court. Leonard is a rebounding machine, with strong shot blocking skills and some rim-rocking jams. The majority of Grafton's books feature P.I. Kinsey Millhone, while Leonard's works have a variety of main protagonists. In the end, the Unstoppable Force and the Immovable Object played to a dead tie, 6-6. And in the last seconds of overtime, Grafton arched a long, rainbow jumpshot just over the outstretched fingertips of Leonard. It caught nothing but net as the final buzzer blared, sending Grafton on to the second round and Leonard home, with his head full of thoughts of what might have been.

Dorothy Sayers vs. Janet Evanovich
The final pairing in the Mystery Bracket featured another well-established female mystery writer, Dorothy Sayers, against a comparative, but very popular newcomer in Janet Evanovich. Indeed, so popular is Evanovich at the Mukwonago Community Library that she was seeded #2 overall in the bracket. She also has the advantage of being alive, not so Ms. Sayers, who was preceded in death only by Sir Arthur in the mystery bracket. Unlike Conan Doyle, Ms. Sayers could never get her offensive game in gear, perhaps intimidated by Evanovich's aggressive, in-your-face defense. The result was an easy 10-2 victory for Evanovich and a second round match up with Sue Grafton.

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