Monday, June 16, 2008

Guest Blog--Memory Book by Howard Engel

While living in Toronto, I became very attached to Benny Cooperman, a struggling private detective created by Howard Engel. I read all four of the books in the Massey College library written by him.

And, of course, I had to check out Howard Engel on the Internet. I discovered that Engel had a stroke in 2000 leaving him with a rare condition called alexia sine agraphia. With this type of brain damage, Engel was able to write but was not able to read. He could not read books or newspapers or labels or traffic signs. He could not read the words that he had written. What a challenge for an author.

In 2005 he published Memory Book. (I actually broke down and bought the paperback addition to read while I traveled.) In this novel, Benny Cooperman wakes to find himself in a Toronto hospital. Six weeks earlier, he was found in a dumpster outside a U of Toronto resident hall. He had been hit on the back of the head and left for dead with a professor who was not as lucky as he was. She did not survive.

Benny discovers that the blow to his head has left him with brain damage resulting in alexia sine agraphia. As Benny struggles with trying to remember what happened yesterday, he begins to try to unravel the mystery of what he was doing in Toronto in the first place.

Benny has lost none of his sense of humor and none of his ability to solve mysteries. And Engel has not lost his ability to create an entertaining story. All of the clues are there for me to follow, but I have to admit that I am not as clever as Benny even with his blow to the head.

The novel has an afterword written by Oliver Sacks, M.D. He talks about Engel’s efforts to write again despite his disability. Since he finished Memory Book, he has written two other books: another Benny Cooperman mystery and a nonfiction book talking about his personal experience following his stroke.

Now the only mystery is where I am going to find two books published in Canada now that I am back in the United States. I guess I’ll be checking out


The Aspirant said...

So interesting. His disability almost sounds made-up. It's incredible to even think about. What a find!

Blogger said...

It's funny that you said that because when I googled the illness, the only sites that came up were talking about Howard Engel.