Becoming Reacquainted with M.K. Wren's Conan Flagg
I was recently reintroduced to a character and a book series that I hadn't read in over thirty years. When I was younger, I had stumbled across a book series featuring Conan Flagg by M.K. Wren. The first book in the series, Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat, published in 1973, introduced Flagg. The series would continue through another seven books, ending in 1994 with King of the Mountain.
Conan Flagg is ex-army and worked as an agent for military intelligence for many years. After leaving the military, he retired to Oregon seashore town of Holliday Beach, where he opened a small bookshop. Flagg is well-known in the small town, and his shop is a frequent destination for many of the Holliday Beach locals. He, however, has a secret that he keeps close to his chest. Conan Flagg holds a private investigator's license.
The mystery series, which is mostly set in Oregon, is standard fare when it comes to mystery and suspense fiction. There is nothing groundbreaking from a literary perspective in Wren's books. They do, however, contain a fantastic cast of characters and some thoroughly enjoyable mysteries. And, even though the books were written a few decades ago, Wren did a decent job of avoiding things that would heavily date the books. There are no computers or mobile phones in the books, but you hardly miss them. The dialog is snappy and the descriptions detailed enough to give you a good sense of the scene without dragging the story down.
I will say, however, that there are a couple things in the books that reveal the era in which they were written. In a day and age where public smoking is banned in almost every form, it is amusing to read about a character that is an avid cigarette smoker. Conan Flagg, along with many other characters in the books, frequently light up in public buildings, and many scenes play out through a haze of cigarette smoke. And, there is always a need to find a telephone as mobile phones were not in general use during the era in which the books are set.
I first came upon the series in the 1980s, and at one point owned all eight books in paperback. Conan Flagg had become one of my favorite literary characters, right up there with Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Dent, and A.J. Raffles. Over the years and through many moves, the paperbacks became lost to the wiles of time. And, with them, Conan Flagg vanished from my life, but not from my mind.
A few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find the eight books available for the Kindle on Amazon. I've already reread the first two books, and it was like meeting an old friend. They are just as good now as they were years ago.
Oh, as for the cat in the title of the first book? That would be Meg, the bookshop's resident feisty feline, and she's curious as hell.
Along with the Conan Flagg series, M.K. Wren also wrote science fiction, including The Phoenix Legacy trilogy, and the post-apocalyptic novel, A Gift Upon the Shore. Wren passed away in August of 2016.