If you remember back to when we used to stamp our plain, brown bags. We had a skull and crossbones, a Sherlock head, and a few others. One was a hardboiled image of a guy shooting a tommygun. I always wondered what the source for that image was and I just found it.
Seek and ye shall find, even if it takes a few decades….
There’s been a fair amount of media attention paid lately to the decisions of the estates of both Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming to make extensive edits to their respective bodies of work with an eye toward improving passages that might strike a contemporary reader as racially insensitive or otherwise offensive. I don’t feel moved to comment on either the original texts or the seemliness of changing them, but wanted to share a comparable move by an overseas publisher; perhaps because the work in question is in a language other than English, the following announcement has been largely overlooked by the linguistically insular American press:
Frankfurt, February 26: Representatives of Mehliger-Mund Verlag, the esteemed publisher, announced today the impending publication of Unsere humanitär Aufgabe, slated for reissue in early 1925, exactly 100 years after its original appearance.
“The book has stood the test of time,” said Mehliger-Mund’s spokesman, Heinrich Labberig. “Written during its author’s forced isolation after his initial emergence as a philosophical and political innovator, it has long since earned a permanent place on the shelf of German classics. But times change, and various textual idiosyncrasies, perfectly acceptable in 1925, have the unfortunate effect of alienating the reader of today.”
The challenge, Labberig explained, lay in judiciously ameliorating the author’s text without diluting its timeless message. “It is undeniable,” he said, “that the original text singled out for disparagement a particular segment of the German population. In the author’s defense, one might point out that he was doing little more than expressing the national consciousness of the time. Our attitudes on matters of race and religion have changed dramatically over the course of the past hundred years, and strict preservation of the author’s original text could make him appear bigoted—even antisemitic—in the eyes of the Twenty-first Century reader.”
In addition, the text itself has been toned down. Consider the following selection, thus in the original: “The application of force alone, without support based on a spiritual concept, can never bring about the destruction of an idea or arrest the propagation of it, unless one is ready and able to ruthlessly to exterminate the last upholders of that idea even to a man, and also wipe out any tradition which it may tend to leave behind.”
In the new edition, it’s softened somewhat: “The application of force is by no means the only way to change people’s minds and open them up to new ideas.”
When asked about the book’s new title, Herr Labberig admitted the risk in changing a phrase that had indeed become part of the world’s consciousness. Unsere humanitär Aufgabe—in English, Our Humanitarian Mission—does not readily call the original to mind. “But we felt it was an essential modernization,” he contended. “The author spoke as a lone voice, and so used the first-person singular, but he was in fact speaking on behalf of a whole people, as the plural Unsere affirms. Similarly, Aufgabe stresses that he is writing about a mission, a task, a higher purpose; a hundred years ago, given his personal circumstances, it is more than understandable that he proclaimed this to be a battle—but the word strikes today’s ear as harsher and more confrontational than one would prefer. As for the adjective, humanitär—well, given the book’s history, we felt it important to label the author’s mission as humanitarian.”
Update—Frankfurt, February 27: Heinrich Labberig, speaking on behalf of Mehliger-Mund Verlag, said it was “quite understandable” that the announcement of the impending publication of Unsere humanitär Aufgabe had occasioned a groundswell of outrage. “For many people,” he said, “the original text has taken on the aura of Holy Writ, and amending it has been likened to burning a religious scroll. But all should be assured that the original will continue to be available, and, in fact, simultaneous with the new version, Mehliger-Mund will be bringing out a deluxe leather-bound edition with the original text. And, of course, its original title, Mein Kampf.”
And so it goes.
As does Twitter, apparently. I’m in the habit of tweeting a link to each newsletter, and I know more than a few of you find it through those links rather than bothering to subscribe. That’s always been fine—but now, with Twitter evidently falling apart, I’m no longer able to tweet anything, or even to read what others tweet. I suppose this will sort itself out eventually, but in the meantime I’ll respectively request that some of you with Twitter access tweet the following: ” @LawrenceBlock March Newsletter: https://lawrenceblock.com/beyond-roald-dahl-and-ian-fleming/ “
swipe (v.): 1825, “strike with a sweeping motion,” from swipe (n.). The slang sense of “steal, pilfer” appeared 1885, American English; earliest use in prison jargon:
The blokes in the next cell, little Charley Ames and the Sheeney Kid, they was hot to try it, and swiped enough shoe-lining out of shop No. 5, where they worked, to make us all breeches to the stripes. [Lippincott’s Magazine, vol. xxxv, June 1885]
caper (n.2): by 1590s, “a playful leap or jump, a skip or spring as in dancing,” from caper (v.). The meaning “prank” is from 1840 via notion of “sportive action;” that of “crime” is from 1926. To “cut capers” dance in a frolicsome way” is from c. 1600, from cut (v.) in the sense of “perform, execute.” (etymonline)
rip-off (n):”an act of fraud, a swindle,” 1969, from verbal phrase rip off “to steal or rob” (c. 1967) in African-American vernacular, from rip (v.) + off (adv.). Rip was prison slang for “to steal” since 1904, and was also used in this sense in 12th C. The specific meaning “an exploitative imitation” is from 1971, also “a plagiarism.” Related: Ripped-off. (etymonline)
heist (v.): 1943 (implied in heisted; heister “shoplifter, thief” is from 1927), American English slang, probably a dialectal alteration of hoist (v.) “to lift” in its slang sense of “shoplift,” and/or its older British slang sense “to lift another on one’s shoulders to help him break in.” As a noun from 1930. (etymonline)
pilfer (v.): “to steal in small quantities” (intrans.); “to steal or gain by petty theft” (trans.), 1540s, from pilfer (n.) “spoils, booty,” c. 1400, from Old French pelfre “booty, spoils” (11th C.), a word of unknown origin, possibly related to pelf. Related: Pilfered; pilfering. Pulfrour “a thief” is attested from mid-14th C., implying earlier use.
pelf (n.): late 14th C., “stolen goods, forfeited property,” from Anglo-French pelf, Old French pelfre “booty, spoils” (11th C.), a word of unknown origin.Meaning “money, property, riches,” with a pejorative or contemptuous overtone, also is recorded from late 14th C. It has no plural. (etymonline)
shenanigan (n.): “nonsense; deceit, humbug,” 1855, American English slang, of uncertain origin. Earliest records of it are in California (San Francisco and Sacramento) [from that area’s Gold Rush? – eds]. Suggestions include Spanish chanada, a shortened form of charranada “trick, deceit;” or, less likely, German Schenigelei, peddler’s argot for “work, craft,” or the related German slang verb schinäglen. Another guess centers on Irish sionnach “fox,” and the form is perhaps conformed to an Irish surname. (etymonline)
What We’ve Been Up To
Round-up review of things I’ve loved watching/reading recently but are so popular they practically sell themselves!
First Up: The Glass Onion
The second installment in the Knives Out universe is absolutely awesome. Though I must admit, I was worried when I first started watching it. Very, very worried. All the cameos of well-known actors felt a bit gratuitous…but I’d looked forward to the movie for months — so I stuck with it, and boy, was my patients rewarded. The cameos enhance the feel of the billionaire jet set cast of suspects we are watching and make complete sense by the end of the movie. An end that I gotta say is one of the very best I’ve seen in a whodunnit…. since the original Knives Out movie.
Second: Desperation In Death by J.D. Robb
A page-turning, ripped-from-the-headlines thriller didn’t disappoint. Action packed from the first page to the last, if you’re looking for a good vacation read, you won’t go wrong with this installment. Though there is a trigger warning I must warn other readers about — the plot revolves around human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and young girls. While Robb does a good job of balancing the horror of the subject matter with the mystery (without getting overly graphic), if this is something that you struggle with, I’d skip this installment and wait for Encore In Death which is out now.
Third: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
Jane Austen meets pirates meets magical flying houses — this is the best summary I can give. An amusing read full of action, swashbuckling, betrayal, and books, The Wisteria Society was a fun read. Though, if you’re well versed in steam-punk and fantasy, it’s not quite the groundbreaking book the New York Times made it out to be.
A Netflix original that expands the Addams Family universe — is an exceptional show. Of course, all the traditional elements of an Addams Family story are present. Still, the writers have done a singular job of sprinkling them through the series and keeping them fresh (rather than simply regurgitating them in a cringe worthy fashion). Full of secrets, multiple mysteries, and interesting characters, this show is well worth your viewing time.
So, here’s the deal
I sometimes suffer from depression, the real deal, not just the blues or feeling down. If any of you follow Jenny Lawson, a/k/a The Bloggess, you know what I’m talking about: unable to move, almost literally, a deep fog, an endless circle of “why bother”, well, either you know or you don’t.
So I wasn’t reading because why bother, but I had to get out of bed and onto the couch because Lillian and Mazikeen insisted. Although it’s possible that Maz had ulterior motives.
Still, I wasn’t interested in much, although I did manage to lose myself in my writing, but that’s because I could think of plot pieces while doing physical therapy on my knee, which is healing better than expected, so there’s that.
But the point is, I was lethargic, so when Lillian turned on a Mexican series that’s on Netflix, I kinda shrugged and went with it.
It was great.
The series is based on books written by Paco Ignatio Taibo II, whom you might remember from our Bookshop days.
This is set in the 70’s, and it’s an homage to the classic noir stories. There is grit, there is backstabbing and double-dealing, there’s the possibility of romance, and there’s a lot of straight-up, laugh-out-loud humor. It’s captivating.
At first, I was shaking my head, thinking, “Oh no, it’s over the top and it’s just plain silly”, but it didn’t take me long to get hooked. Yeah, there are some wild things, but let’s face it, a lot of noir stories rely on head shaking moments.
Did Belascoaran lift me out of my depression? No. Only time can do that. But it helped. And it’s well worth your time, pinkie swear.
Movie Review: I know the critics have been nasty about Neil Jordan’s Marlowe, I enjoyed it. I would imagine most of the critics never read a Chandler book, much less the Benjamin Black (John Banville) novel on which the film was based (The Black-Eyed Blonde, now republished as a tie-in with the title of the movie, just to confuse everyone…). I’ve gotten the sense that they were expecting an ACTION movie, where as a 1940ish private eye movie was always one of plot, menace, femme fatales and a slow unraveling of whodunnit. They went in expecting a different movie and blamed the movie.
Marlowe unfolds like any good private eye novel – steadily, with dead ends and red herrings, thumps on the head and, of course, south-of-the border intrigue. While the book was a sequel, of sorts, to The Long Goodbye, the movie drops those connections to make it a stand-alone story and it functions well. Liam Neeson is a fine Marlowe [the 8th? – D. Powell, Bogart, R. Montgomery, Mitchum (twice), Gould, Garner, B. Powers (on HBO) before him] . Jessica Lange is startling as one of the blondes; watch her eyes during her lunch with Neeson. All of the acting is great, the faces and fashion spot on and, though not filmed in LA, Catalonia provides the warmth and colors to make you think you’re in that time.
Two carps: Marlowe is given a secretary, for some reason. Gittes and Spade had one, but Marlowe made enough to keep him in cigarettes, not employees, and Neeson’s fake hair color is a distraction, it looked spray painted. Marlowe can show gray, but dull brown was a mistake.
See Marlowe. Go in expecting a good, noirish private eye story and you’ll have a grand time. I did. And keep an eye and ear open for all of the sly references to crime movies from the past. I call ’em homages. The youngsters say Easter Eggs…
Of the four other books about Watergate that I’ve read, one name kept cropping up as the writer to whom all others owe a great debt: Jim Hougan. His 1984 history of the affair, Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat, and the CIA was the first to provide a counter history to what everyone had been exposed: that the break-in, arrests, and it’s exposure was not the focus of the White House “plumbers”; rather, there was a CIA operation to gather intelligence and the plumbers efforts were sabotaged in order to hide that operation. Indeed, did the plumbers really know what the point was?
The book, whether you want to buy his arguments, is a fascinating and
detailed account of the burglaries and the oddities that have always surrounded them. If nothing else, he makes clear how far and deeply the CIA had penetrated DC. Case in point: John Paisley was a career-long CIA agent who worked in the counter-intelligence wing of the Company. He “died” under odd circumstances (some theorize that the body said to be his hid his defection to the Soviets) and one recent book, Howard Blum’s The Spy Who Knew too Much argues he was the Great Soviet Mole at the heart of the CIA. Hougan writes that Paisley was the CIA’s connection to the plumbers. No other Watergate history even lists Paisley in the index.
Besides the oddities of the burglaries, it has never been historically agreed to what exactly the June 17th break-in was to accomplish. Hougan has his theory and gives details to support it. Again, believe him or not, his story is worth the time. Watergate is another Great American Historical Mystery that just keeps giving.
Once again, Mike Lawson has given us a smooth suspense novel, crackling with solid characters and a plot that has two major twists that are wholly unexpected. He’s also infused it with a poignancy that demands tears.
He’s also broken away from the “House” titles of earlier DeMarco books. Alligator Alley takes place mostly in Florida and has DeMarco and Emma trying to find out what happened to a Department of Justice worker, a young woman too eager to find out what the bad guys are up to. They’re asked by one of the most honored figures in DC to get the answers and Emma will stop at nothing to get them. DeMarco, of course, would rather be playing golf, but he adds important plans to their work proving he isn’t the dope he sounds to be.
And again, Mike ties the story to recent headlines with millions in Medicare fraud. Answers are found, the villains get what they deserve, but the cost is great, even if those paying the bill are at peace with it. That’s what is poignant and warrants the graveside tears.
disgruntled: It started from the English barnyard, where gruntle was used to describe the noise made by a piglet (adults made a grunt). From there it became a term for a complaint. Dis got added as an intensifier sometime in the 17th or 18th C. (Says You, episode 1512)
impend (v.): To hang or hover menacingly; to be about to take place; archaic use to overhang
We recently learned that one of our long-time supporters died last Sept. John Cashin stopped in a couple of times a week on his way to the Bainbridge ferry or a Mariners’ game. Couldn’t say when he first found us but it was probably on one of those trips home. He’d worked at a local printer for decades and he’d hand off a couple of notepads of a certain size that we’d use for daily bookkeeping. We called them ‘cashin pads’. John helped us out a few times as an auxiliary staff member during big events or if one of us had a health issue. Always cheerful, he slowly amassed a sizable collection. Adele stumbled on the news of his passing when dropping into Arundels Books. “Phil has not gotten through all the mysteries but said most he kept with the SMB signing band.” We got those belly bands through John. We also got our GM Ford limited edition pieces through John. John died five days short of his 74th birthday. As he said each time he departed, “Say goodbye, John!“
Okay, so the pull of this mystery title is obvious. Whilst not about Dame Agatha directly, the tangential tie intrigued me, so I settled down for a read…. and found myself enjoying the book rather a lot.
Ann Claire, our author, does a great job of keeping the mystery focused on the mystery. Knitting tidbits about the famous authoress in seamlessly and as needed — by using a Mary Westmacott book as a critical clue, naming the bookshop cat Agatha, and occasionally invoking our sleuth’s inner Miss Marple to help push the story forward.
The characters are well-rounded and interesting, as is the town of Last Word itself. The mystery, a variant of a Patricia Moyes plot I once read, works well.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries set in a bookshop, around a ski town, or with a strong family vibe. Seriously, I cannot wait until the next book in the series, Last Word To The Wise, comes out in October!
January in February
For any number of reasons, I’ve been in a funk this month, and it’s been a bad one for me. Therefore, I don’t have a book recommendation this month because I pick them up and set them down again. Yeah, I can’t even read.
Although I can write, so that’s something, and one of these days I’ll tell you what I’m writing, but for now the fact that I am seems encouraging. And, of all weird places, I find inspiration while I’m doing physical therapy for my knee, especially during my pool time.
So I decided to do a Best Of 2022 review, but then realized that it’s a recap of authors I’ve recommended through the years. Apparently I spent last year reading authors I know and love, and honestly, I’m really good with that.
Well, you get the drift. Tried and true authors who never let me down. Or if they do, it’s a minor drop because none of these folks can write a bad story if they had to.
So instead, I’m going to resurrect a recommendation from years ago, with a slight twist. I’m going to tell you to read anything and everything by Jenny Lawson, a/k/a The Bloggess. Why? Because I’m in a funk, and Jenny Lawson is perfect for those times when our mental health is iffy. She isn’t afraid to tackle mental health issues, which I admire endlessly, but she’s funny as hell too, which I also need.
This is one of her books, and starting here is a good place. It’s funny, and decidedly weird, and uplifting in an unusual sort of way, and for January and February doldrums, well, you just can’t ask for better than that.
“Slow Horses” – Apple TV adaptation of Nick Herron’s books – is fabulous – both seasons.
“The Pale Blue Eye” – adaptation of Louis Bayard’s 1830 murder mystery with West Point cadet A.E Poe – is a a good evening’s entertainment. On Netflix.
Also on Netflix, “Kaleidoscope” is astonishing. Episodes are by color and you can/are supposed watch them in any order. They direct you to save White for last. I would recommend that you save Pink to watch just before White. It was created, and some of the episodes were written, by Eric Garcia (remember Anonymous Rex?).
After sitting on my “to be read” pile for FAR TOO LONG, I picked up the new hardcover by Michael Mann and Meg Gardner, Heat 2. When I first heard they were releasing the novel, I was curious about what was left to tell. Well, there was LOTS. It goes both into the past, the period right after the end of the movie, and into the future. We get Vincent Hanna’s (Pacino) past in Chicago, Chris’ (Kilmer) escape from LA and his future, and then how their lives collide in the future.
The writing fits the characters very well and mirrors the stylings of the movie. And just like the movie, the plot and characters are full and rich and the result is terrific. Hard to put it down to eat or sleep!
Loren D. Estleman has been one of my favorite authors since Bill recommended when I first started working with him. His Detroit PI series with Amos Walker is the closest we’ve been able to get to Chandler since he started the series. It’s as reliable, durable, and hardboiled as the private eye himself. Looking on my overloaded shelves for something to read next, I spied The Sundown Speech, from 2015. I hadn’t gotten to it when it was released as that was the time of true stress at the shop. It appears to be out of print but it you can find a used copy, get it. Amos is hired by an Ann Arbor couple to recover an investment they made in an independent film and the director has gone missing. Great fun, especially Walker’s by-play with the homicide detective on the eventual case. I’ll be gathering the Walkers that I’ve missed over the last five years, no doubt about that!
Max Allan Collins has another Nate Heller book just out, The Big Bundle. As usual, Collins puts his fictional Chicago private eye, Nate Heller, into actual, historical true crime events. It starts out with Heller called into assist with a famous kidnapping case in 1953 Kansas City. I was astounded by this because I grew up maybe 7 minutes from the family’s house and drove by it maybe 10,000 times over the decades. Never heard anything about the case at any time, anywhere from anyone. The issue of missing ransom money continues into second half of the book and becomes entangled in the Bobby Kennedy/Jimmy Hoffa war, which will lead into the next book and RFK’s assassination.
I did find a few geographical things in the book that I thought were mistakes but the author insists they’re correct. If you know the streets of Mission Hills, KS, and the geography of eastern Kansas, you may run into things that clank when read. They are as the author insists they should be. Except for them, it was a great read.
and, finally, one last word for the Month of Romance
shotten: exhausted from a recent, romantic encounter (Says You!, episode 1402)
drivel (v.): Old English dreflian “to slaver, slobber, run at the nose,” from Proto-Germanic *drab-, perhaps from a PIE *dher– (1) “to make muddy, darken.” Transferred meaning “to speak nonsense” is mid-14th C., driveling being characteristic of children, idiots, and dotards. Related: Driveling, drivelling.
drivel (n.): early 14th C., drevel “saliva, slaver,” from drivel (v.). Meaning “senseless twaddle, idiotic speech or writing” is by 1852.
fable (n.) c. 1300, “falsehood, fictitious narrative; a lie, pretense,” from Old French fable “story, fable, tale; drama, play, fiction; lie, falsehood” (12c.), from Latin fabula “story, story with a lesson, tale, narrative, account; the common talk, news,” literally “that which is told,” from fari “speak, tell,” from PIE root *bha- (2) “to speak, tell, say.”
Restricted sense of “animal story” (early 14th C.) comes from the popularity of Aesop’s tales. In modern folklore terms, defined as “a short, comic tale making a moral point about human nature, usually through animal characters behaving in human ways” [“Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore”].
twaddle (n.): “silly talk, prosy nonsense,” 1782, probably from twattle (1550s), of obscure origin.
What We’ve Been Up To
Mia P. Manansala – Blackmail and Bibingka
The third installment in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series finds Lila in a much better head space. Both the Brew-Ha Cafe and her personal life are starting to take off in extremely happy directions. (If you hear nerve-jangling music at the end of the sentence, there’s a reason.) On the other hand, her family life has hit a rather large speed bump — in the form of her cousin, Tita Rosie’s son, Ronnie. The teenage ne’er-do-well has returned home, still carrying all the emotional baggage he left with, to start a new business with some college chums. This powder keg of past resentment blows when Ronnie’s primary investor is poisoned, and he becomes a suspect in her murder….and Lila feels duty-bound to snoop despite Ronnie’s insistence she stays out of his affairs.
Blackmail and Bibingka is an excellent read! With just a fringe of the winter holiday season on display and a well fused food motif, neither theme ever threatens to overwhelm the book’s main plot. Blackmail and Bibingka is a thoroughly engaging mystery I enjoyed reading, as it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen poison other than arsenic, cyanide, or thallium used as a murder weapon.
A Note From The Office of Fair Warning: Our author also deftly fuses genuine family tensions and resentments in ways that push the plot forward rather than stopping it cold, which isn’t an easy feat. But they could prove a tad uncomfortable for readers who’ve dealt with similar situations.
That said, I really can’t say enough nice things about this book. Technically speaking, you don’t need to read the first two books in order to understand what’s going on in Blackmail and Bibingka — but you should just because they are both awesome reads!
What Goes Around
Back in 2020, when we were all locked down and feeling grumpy, John Connolly helped ease us through the time with a serialized story that he released weekly (if I recall properly) to keep us alert and giving us something to look forward to. He called it “The Sisters Strange”, and oh my, they certainly were.
But not everyone who loves John’s work gets his newsletter, so he decided to flesh the story out a bit and put it into a book called The Furies. Because “The Sisters Strange” was more a novella than a novel, he added another story, “The Furies”, and the two of those stories comprise the book, The Furies.
During my knee replacement recovery, I was basically locked down again, so I jumped into The Furies with wild abandon. It was good to meet up with the Sisters Strange again — well, as good as meeting them can be, what with their troubles and all — and it certainly took me away from the required exercising.
Jumping into “The Furies”, I was once again reminded why John Connolly is so good at writing creepy stuff. He picks up on our collective awareness and turns it sideways. What he writes is absolutely relatable, but also just odd enough to hold you hostage.
But it’s not just that. John has created some amazing recurring characters, and there’s a special place in my heart for the Fulci brothers, as I know is true of many of you. There’s something endearing about two bear sized men with anger issues who completely adore their mother that just makes you smile. And be glad you don’t have to repair what they break.
John knows this, so with this book, he included a little something extra, if you ordered at the right time from the right place, and I did. So I’m the proud owner of a Fulci tote bag.
Don’t look too closely at the number of fingers on the fist. *grin* Otherwise their slogan will come into play.
If you haven’t read John Connolly, what the hell are you waiting for? Start with Every Dead Thing and I promise, you’ll just keep going. If you have, but you didn’t pick up The Furies because you already read “The Sisters Strange”, it’s time to rectify that oversight because the sisters are stranger than you remember, and the furies set free in the other story will haunt you. Best get to it!
I don’t have a book to write up so I’m recommending a few of songs that I’ve fallen for this year. A couple of years ago when Mom was dying, I asked my cousin Tom to recommend a radio station I could tap into when in the car running errands. He said “The Bridge, 90.9”. It’s the same type of station as KEXP here in Seattle – independent, listener supported – but I like their music more. Why? – just good rock, maybe not so “experimental” as just joyful. I listen to it everyday on some computer-like device. (Be Warned~ it’s out of KC, so all the ads and concert announcements are from there.) Monday’s are great as, mid-day, it’s all new music, I can’t link the songs themselves but I’ll like the youtube videos. In no particular order:
[ There’s the Marvel Universe, the Star Wars Universe, and any number of other Universes – why then isn’t there be a “00” Universe? There are so many actors who could be a great 00, whether they are Bond or not, so why can’t there be other 00 movies in between Bond? Why can’t Lashan Lynch have her own 00 movie, or Tom Hardy, Regé-Jean Page, Charlize Theron, Henry Cavill?? Sorry, but Idris Elba is now too old, but he’d make a great M. I don’t think other 00 movies would dilute the brand. If anything, it’d enlarge the brand. It appears that there will be room as we’re not likely to get any more Bourne movies and how many more Mission:Impossibles does Tom have left before one of the magnificent stunts kills him? I assume there are nine OOs: 001-009. Take out 007 and that leaves EIGHT other 00s open for their own movies. I listed five actors and it’d be pretty easy to add three more. Besides, we have to wait too damn long between Bonds! – JB]
I read Sarah Addison Allen’s Other Birds back in September, and I’ve struggled to figure out how to review it ever since then. Not because it’s terrible — but because I enjoyed it so very much. And the fact that Sarah Addison Allen’s style, magical realism, is done with such a deft hand, I don’t want to ruin the book for you!
What can I tell you?
Well, there’s a peculiar death, a series of strange occurrences unrelated to the four ghosts who also call Dellawisp home, and a cantankerous flock of birds flitting about the property. Add in the living human happenings in the small block of apartments, and you’ve got a riveting read!
Seriously, Sarah Addison Allen is one of my all-time favorite writers. Who, in fact, penned my all-time favorite novel, The Sugar Queen. In Other Birds, as with Allen’s other novels, she brushes up against several writing styles, like mystery and urban fantasy — which creates a story that’s more than a sum of its parts. (Or literary techniques in this case.)
Sitting here writing this review, I realized all the nice things I wish to say about this book boil down to this: I enjoyed every page of Other Birds. And I cannot wait to revisit the Dellawisp apartments and its inhabitants again and again.
Seriously, if you’re looking for a mysterious and lovely read this festive season, you cannot go wrong with Other Birds.
Out of the loop
There are a lot of things I miss about the shop – and I do keep dreaming about it (last night it was where Diva Dolls is/was) – but one of the things I really miss is being in the know about what’s going on.
So I had no idea that Thomas Perry‘s The Old Man was a series on Hulu. But then, I don’t have Hulu either. I’m becoming a hermit. Send cookies.
But in my lack of knowledge, there are delights to be had. You all know I’m a dedicated Thomas Perry fan, and I’d follow Jane Whitefield anywhere. When JB sent me a copy of The Old Man, I figured it’s because he knows what I love. Also he wanted to give me something to think about other than my knee, which is fine so far, thank you for asking.
The old man in question has been living his life quietly in Vermont, his dogs Carol and Dave keeping him company. He seems like a harmless older man, but obviously he’s not. Dan Chase has a past, and not your ordinary one, even when you think about thrillers. See, when Dan was stationed in Afghanistan, he saw something go wrong, and he tried to make it right.
Seems simple enough, except that by doing what he did, Dan ran counter to the US government’s wishes, so he became a fugitive. Now they’ve found him, or at least they think they have.
Yeah, that’s vague and generic, but Thomas Perry delivers an amazingly complex and twisted story. Dan Chase’s name isn’t Dan Chase, and he goes through several name changes throughout the book, but you never once lose track of who’s who. I promise you, that’s masterful writing.
And I love that I thought I knew how it was going to go, only to discover I was wrong. I love being wrong for all the right reasons!
I have no idea how the TV show plays out, and if someone has watched it and read the book, I’d love to hear from you. But in the meantime, definitely pick up The Old Man by Thomas Perry.
For years I’ve been meaning to read Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert. I’ve had enough time; it was published originally in 1986. Considering all of the dire drought news, especially concerning the Mississippi (you may recall I read a book by Rinker Buck about drifting down to New Orleans from Pennsylvania earlier this year which made the later drought stories more vivid), it was time to get a copy. And it is a startlingly majestic book.
Reisner covers the entire history of the US government fiddling with nature to move water from areas where it flowed freely to areas that were naturally arid, the infighting between departments to get the job, the pork-barrel spending to keep the projects moving, and the folly and damage caused by it all.
The worst of it is that Reisner writes about a future he hopes will not unfold, and his future is our present. So you get to see where much of our current problems start. He’s entirely caustic about it all, the politicians, the government actors, the developers, the big farmers, and the inability of them all to look ahead at what their actions will cause.
Another thing he refers to is the 100th Meridian. That’s the imaginary line on the continental US map that marks the climate divide between the humid east and arid west in North America. Well, for the last half dozen years there has been thought that this divide is shifting EAST. This has massive implications for the crops grown in the Great Plains, what we eat, the health of farms, the economics of food, and where people live. Again, when he wrote the book, is was just a fear – now, apparently, it is our reality.
Reisner is a wonderful writer, sprinkling his story with an impressive vocabulary. I kept a pen nearby to write down words I did not know on the back of a shop bookmark. The Words of the Month are all from his book.
coterminous (adj): having the same boundaries or extent in space, time, or meaning.
And if you do read it – I highly recommend that you order a copy of the trade paperback from your local independent bookseller – you’ll find the machinations of the big shots of LA to “acquire” more and more water familiar: it’s the plot of Chinatown.
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We Wish and Yours Peace and Happiness in this Season of Silliness, Sales, and Shindigs
danger (n.) mid-13th c., daunger, “arrogance, insolence;” c. 1300, “power of a lord or master, jurisdiction,” from Anglo-French daunger, Old French dangier “power, power to harm, mastery, authority, control” (12th c., Modern French danger), alteration (due to association with damnum) of dongier, from Vulgar Latin *dominarium “power of a lord,” from Latin dominus “lord, master,” from domus “house” (from PIE root *dem- “house, household”).
Modern sense of “risk, peril, exposure to injury, loss, pain, etc.” (from being in the control of someone or something else) evolved first in French and was in English by late 14th c. For this, Old English had pleoh; in early Middle English this sense is found in peril. For sound changes, compare dungeon, which is from the same source. (etymonline)
peril (n.) “danger, risk, hazard, jeopardy, exposure of person or property to injury, loss, or destruction,” c. 1200, from Old French peril “danger, risk” (10th c.), from Latin periculum “an attempt, trial, experiment; risk, danger,” with instrumentive suffix –culum and first element from PIE *peri-tlo-, suffixed form of root *per- (3) “to try, risk.” (etymonline)
alarm (n.) late 14th c., “a call to arms in the face of danger or an enemy,” from Old French alarme (14th c.), from Italian all’arme “to arms!” (literally “to the arms”); this is a contraction of phrase alle arme.
Alle is itself a contraction of a “to” (from Latin ad; see ad-) + le, from Latin illas, fem. accusative plural of ille “the” (see le); with arme, from Latin arma “weapons” (including armor), literally “tools, implements (of war),” from PIE root *ar- “to fit together.”
The interjection came to be used as the word for the call or warning (compare alert). It was extended 16th c. to “any sound to warn of danger or to arouse,” and to the device that gives it. From mid-15th c. as “a state of fearful surprise;” the weakened sense of “apprehension, unease” is from 1833. The variant alarum (mid-15th c.) is due to the rolling -r- in the vocalized form. Sometimes in early years it was Englished as all-arm. Alarm clock is attested from 1690s (as A Larum clock).
alarm (v.): 1580s, “call to arms for defense,” from alarm (n.) or from French alarmer (16c.), from the noun in French. The meaning “surprise with apprehension of danger” is from 1650s. Related: Alarmed; alarming. (etymonline)
warn (v.) Old English warnian “to give notice of impending danger,” also intransitive, “to take heed,” from Proto-Germanic *warōnan (source also of Old Norse varna “to admonish,” Old High German warnon “to take heed,” German warnen “to warn”), from PIE root *wer– (4) “to cover.” Related: Warned; warning. (etymonline)
safe (adj.) c. 1300, sauf, “unscathed, unhurt, uninjured; free from danger or molestation, in safety, secure; saved spiritually, redeemed, not damned;” from Old French sauf “protected, watched-over; assured of salvation,” from Latin salvus “uninjured, in good health, safe,” which is related to salus “good health,” saluber “healthful” (all from PIE *solwos from root *sol- “whole, well-kept”). For the phonological development of safe from sauf, OED compares gage from Old North French gauge.
From late 14th c. as “rescued, delivered; protected; left alive, unkilled.” The meaning “not exposed to danger” (of places, later of valuables) is attested from late 14th c.; in reference to actions, etc., the meaning “free from risk,” is recorded by 1580s. The sense of “sure, reliable, not a danger” is from c. 1600. The sense of “conservative, cautious” is from 1823. It has been paired alliteratively with sound (adj.) from c. 1300. In Middle English it also meant “in good health,” also “delivered from sin or damnation.” Related: Safeness.
safe (n.) “chest for keeping food or valuables” safe from risk of theft or fire, early 15c., save, from French en sauf “in safety,” from sauf (see safe (adj.)). Spelling with -f- is by 1680s, from influence of safe (adj.). (etymonline)
The second installment of the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series is fantastic! Set during Halloween and the trials and tribulations that plague a household with a five-year-old during said month of the perpetual sugar rush, Miriam finds herself juggling her on-air cooking show career with her mother-in-law’s demands upon her time. So when a body magically appears on her front lawn, amongst the fake plastic tombstones, our intrepid sleuth decides to sit this mystery out. Until…You’ll need to read the book to find out what happens next!
I enjoyed reading Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking very much. The food, the hook of this cozy, is written seamlessly into the story — adding to the narrative without detracting, distracting, or diverting one from the actual focus of the story — murder. (And if you enjoy this particular subgenre of mysteries, you understand how difficult this feat can be to achieve.) Above and beyond, watching Miriam making dishes I’ve not attempted before in her home kitchen (in my mind’s eye) makes them feel more accessible and far less daunting to attempt in my own kitchen.
(Don’t ask me why I find guava paste intimidating. I just do.)
Now, unlike Mangos, Mambo, and Murder, whose final pages succumbed slightly into the realm of saccharin (which one could ignore because the rest of the book was so splendid), Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking does not possess this flaw. Even featuring both Halloween and Thanksgiving between the pages, Reyes found an outstanding balance between the holidays and criminal intent.
However, because this is a review, I need to point out a minor flaw (again) in the final few pages. The penultimate summing up felt a tad muddled, in so far as untangling which crimes we could attribute to whom. Though, to be fair, I could’ve been so excited to find out whodunnit I skipped a few crucial deductions…But I don’t think so. That said, I think the slight tangling of plot threads has more to do with Reyes furthering an ongoing storyline from Mangos, Mambo, and Murder than anything else. And this minor flaw will in no way impede me from picking up this tome up for a reread in the near future or politely throwing money at my local bookseller when the next installment is published!
From the Office of Fair Warning: I do need to tell you that you do need to read Mangos, Mambo, and Murder before Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking as the latter narrative builds directly upon the bones of the former and gives away the solution to the first mystery in the second. Which, again, makes sense as background nefariousness is afoot in Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking that will hopefully burst into the foreground in Reyes’s next book!
I don’t have a review this month, but wait! Wait now. I have what I believe is a relatively good reason.
In a few days, I’m having a knee replaced. I know, right? I needed this back when the shop was going strong, but I’m very good at putting off things I don’t want to think about.
So anyway, Things have had to be done to make this work. Like, say, renovating the bathroom from tub to shower. Don’t you just love the paneling we found behind the tub wall?
But it was successful, and we’re quite pleased. However, much of my time during this process was keeping Mazikeen from freaking out every time the contractor walked through the door. You’d have thought he was a bunny or something.
Despite Mazkeen’s hyper-vigilance, we did get it done.
She does love protecting me. In fact, the other day while I was at the bathroom sink taking my multitude of pills, the heater kicked on, and she placed herself at my back, leaning against my calves, ready to take on whatever that new sound was – provided I’d guard her too. She really is a sweetheart.
But anyway, the shower now has bars and a chair, the toilet is all gussied up to make sitting there easier, and we’ve rearranged furniture to give me unobstructed access to the floors, since I’ll be walking a lot, I gather.
The weather is nice and cool down here in sunny New Mexico, and I think I’m going to enjoy my new knee during the upcoming holidays, although I’m using it as an excuse NOT to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. *huge grin*
Happy November, everyone, and remember not to eat all yesterday’s candy at once. Take your time. But don’t wait too long! Have you noticed that Christmas candy’s already on sale?
I hate to say I was disappointed in Joe Ide’s Marlowe novel but I simply kept groaning at what he was doing.
I suppose it isn’t that big a deal to bring Marlowe into today’s world but The Goodbye Coastchanges much about Marlowe’s life. First, he dropped out of the LAPD training after a very short time and became a PI. In Chandler’s books, he was an investigator for the DA before going private. That isn’t a huge deal. But then he saddles Marlowe with a father who is a cop but suspended due to drinking, never really recovering from the death of his wife. The family trauma/drama set off my soap opera alarms and they buzzed throughout the book.
But the worst part for me was describing characters by the actors or celebrities they resembled. I found that lazy. There is so much about today’s world in the book that there’s no way for it to age well, no way for it to become timeless, as Chandler’s have.
Ide is a good writer and he’s got a feel for similes. In that way, the sentences sparkle as Chandler’s did. He described a piece of fast-food orange chicken as looking like a burnt ear. OKAY! But the writing isn’t enough, to me, to save the novel from the weaknesses of how he’s presented the rest.
I was SO looking forward to reading this. The day I found out it existed I went out and bought it. Sorry I did. If you want to read it, wait for the paperback. But I hope other contemporary authors will continue to write new Marlowe novels. He’s too great a character to say goodbye to.
I believe Fran and I directed interested folks to John Connolly‘s 2020 on-line project called “The Strange Sisters”. In the midst of the first covid wave, it was to be a short story written and posted on-line in real time, that is as he wrote it daily, not once it had gone through the publishing mill. As interesting plan, he would create the story as he went, not knowing where it would go.
Now he’s released a new book called The Furies. It’s not a novel, but a volume with two “short novels”: a reworked “The Strange Sisters”, which he notes in an afterward is twice the length of the original; and “The Furies”, a new short novel.
Both are Parker stories, both full of the odd Maine characters we’ve come to know, as well as visitors. If you read “The Strange Sisters” on-line as we did, it’s worth reading this expanded version. And “The Furies” has Parker working to help two women who are at the end of their options. Both are a delight, even when dealing with otherworldly issues. Though Halloween has passed, don’t let that keep you from the on-going creepiness that is Charlie Parker’s world. You’ve got Louis and Angel to keep you safe…