Another Review!

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Home Sweet Homicide – Craig Rice

Amber’s Review: So here’s the thing, I’ve never read a Craig Rice mystery, well other than Home Sweet Homicide. So in preparation for writing this review, I did some research on Rice and her writing style.

This is where things got interesting.

Well more interesting, as her book was entirely engrossing.

At first blush Home Sweet Homicide doesn’t appear to be a typical Craig Rice novel. Her primary detectives are three kids, ages 14, 12 and 10. There isn’t a drop of alcohol anywhere to in the pages which, according to my reference books, is unusual. As Rice’s detectives typically spend an inordinate time throwing the sauce back. In addition, the kids work loosely with the police, which her hard-boiled detectives rarely consider a worthwhile option.

However.

Digging further into her other mysteries, I began to glimpse Rice’s genius for the absurd and her flair for recycling old tropes into fresh plot devices.

Need an example of her absurd literary recycling? When short of the necessary pocket change, our junior detectives in Home Sweet Homicide would hit up the owner of the soda fountain for a malt on credit. Then pay off their debt when they managed to get two nickels to rub together. Archie, Dinah, and April were also not above hustling an unsuspecting mark to obtain a free malt or two or three.

This complicated relationship with the soda fountain, its owner and malts – bears all the hallmarks of Rice’s most famous detective of John J. Malone. Who favors whiskey over malts and Angel’s City Hall Bar over the dimestore on the corner.

And it works!

Another intriguing facet of this work is Archie, Dinah and April’s mother Marian Carstairs.

Marian Carstairs is considered by most an imperfect self-portrait of Craig Rice herself. Both were at one point crime reporters, freelance writers, and mystery novelists – who published under several nom de plumes. Even more telling? Their writing style. Both women simply rolled a blank sheet of paper into their typewriters and started typing. Neither woman constructed outlines, character lists, the major plot points, or even the solution until they punched it out. They just sat down at the typewriter and typed until they reached the end!

(btw- I’d be lost without an outline.)

This mystery was witty, smart, and fun to read.

I would recommend this zany mystery to anyone who could enjoy a plot which at one point or another – rests of a band of grubby boys, a mother’s day present and an impromptu dance party.

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P.S. – The picture, above my review, is of a Rue Morgue edition I bought at the shop years ago and is unfortunately out of print now.

But never fear! Otto Penzler has reissued this great mystery in his American Mystery Classic series. So you click on the green cover above the postscript to go to Otto’s site and grab yourself a copy of this great book!

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P.P.S. – Don’t forget to check out this week’s edition of Finder of Lost Things – Penny In The Air!

Both Wood and Orin come clean about the shenanigans they both pulled on Phoebe this evening!

September Newzine

biggest      This ‘n’ That

From the LA Times: We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters

Michael Chabon Will Showrun Star Trek: Picard 

She fights every ‘troll, psycho and perv’ she can find – and uses the law to do it 

How to Cancel Your Amazon Prime Membership (and Why You Should): Here’s how to stop financially supporting a monopoly.

Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite

Not a murder in the story – so far as they know – but a fascinating one from National Geographic: DNA Study Deepens Mystery of Lake Full of Skeletons

Nineteen years ago, Tom Wales was shot dead as he worked at his computer in the lower floor of his Queen Anne house. This is notable for two reasons – first, he was and is the only Assistant United States Attorney to be murdered in office and, second, until Aug. 21 there had been no indictments. There’s a podcast which covers the case: somebody somewhere. The entire first season 12 episodes, covers the case.

NASA Said to be Investigating First Allegation of a Crime in Space

The Great Seattle Pot Heist

The ‘Breaking Bad’ Movie is Coming To Netflix In October and The Trailer Is Here

The Case of the Missing $7 Million Car and the Car Detective on the Hunt

       Words of the Month

jabber (v.)”talk rapidly and indistinctly,” 1650s, spelling variant of Middle English jablen (c. 1400), also javeren, jaberen, chaveren, jawin; probably ultimately echoic. Related: Jabbered; jabbering. The noun, “rapid, unintelligible talk” is 1727, from the verb. Related: Jabberment (Milton). [thanks to etymonline]

Foyles Sets Up Libraries for High-End Retirement Homes

Can Britain’s Top Bookseller Save Barnes & Noble?

JD Salinger: novels finally to be published as ebooks

Who needs bookshops anyway? Libraries Are Telling People How Much Money They Save by Not Buying Books 

The Tale of Genji: The world’s first novel? 

Why are women obsessed with true crime? Rachel Monroe has some answers

Ever Thought About Pursuing a Book Deal? Here’s How to Get Started

10 Great Books that Defy All Genres (thanks to Kat Richardson for this post)

Top Publishers Sue Audible (aka Amazon, aka SPECTRE), Alleging Encroachment On Text Territory

Why Beatrix Potter self-published Peter Rabbit

Parnassus Books Cares About Us. Does Amazon? [Thanks to Steve for passing this to us!]

Ringing the changes: how Britain’s red phone boxes are being given new life 

A California Type Foundry Is Keeping Vintage Printing Alive

      Manson: The 50th Anniversary

The Manson Family murders, and their complicated legacy, explained

How many more did Manson family kill? LAPD investigating 12 unsolved murders 

A ‘Mindhunter’ Fan Put the Charles Manson Scene Side-By-Side With an Actual 1981 Interview

      The Second Season of “Manhunter”

This one scene explains what makes Netflix’s “Mindhunter” so scary

Mothers cry out for justice as Mindhunter introduces the Atlanta Child Murders

The real Mindhunters: why ‘serial killer whisperers’ do more harm than good

Mindhunter star Holt McCallany: ‘I met Manson Family murderer Bobby Beausoleil – I’d bet my life he wouldn’t kill again’

      Words of the Month

gibberish (N) “rapid and inarticulate speech; talk in no known language,” 1550s, imitative of the sound of chatter, probably influenced by jabber. Used early 17th C. of the language of rogues and gypsies. (thanks to etymonline)

       Author Events

Sept 17 ~ Candace Robb (& Owen Archer!), 7pm, Third Place/LFP

September 17 ~ April Henry, 7pm, Powell’s/Cedar Hills

September 20 ~ Craig Johnson, 7pm, Powell’s/Cedar Hills

Sept 23 ~ J.A. Jance,  7pm, Third Place/LFP

September 23 ~ Amy Stewart, 7:30pm, Powell’s

September 27 ~ J.A. Jance, 7pm, UBooks/Mill Creek

September 28 ~ J.A. Jance, 4pm, Village Books

       Links of Interest

August 1: John Dillinger’s Relatives Say They Have ‘Evidence’ The Buried Body May Not Be His

August 1: The Fruitcake Prison Break That Reshaped Irish History

August 2: How a Group of Gamers Tracked Down a Quadruple Murder Suspect

August 2: Philadelpha Phillies Sue To Keep Beloved ‘Phanatic’ Mascot From Free Agency

August 3: Watergate Salad: A Fluffy Green Bite Of Washington, D.C.’s Past

August 3: Belfast City Cemetery: 150 years of buried stories

August 3: Concrete Carmel ‘Pueblo’ has a great view and a hidden room behind a bookcase – a steal at only $9.8 Million!

August 5: Red Sea Diving Resort: The holiday village run by spies


August 7: The Lies of the Irishman ~ Netflix and Martin Scorsese are making their biggest bets ever on the confessions of a mafia “hitman.” The guy made it all up.

August 16: The Publisher of I Heard You Paint Houses Responds to “The Lies of the Irishman”


August 7: Franz Kafka papers lost in Europe but reunited in Jerusalem

August 7: Scientists Discover Prehistoric Giant ‘Squawkzilla’ Parrot, As Big As Small Child

August 9: The Classic Novel That Is Most Often Abandoned By Readers

August 10: How death cafes are de-stigmatizing death

August 11: Interview with Martin Freeman ~ ‘The Detective’s Moral Dilemma Drew Me In’

August 12: Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard ‘done with zombies’

August 12: Pompeii archaeologists uncover ‘sorcerer’s treasure trove’

August 12: The Subversive Messages in the Wizard of Oz

August 12: A Novel Concept: Silent Book Clubs Offer Introverts A Space To Socialize

August 13: Long overdue: Five library books returned a few decades late

August 13: DREAMY CLOSET LIBRARY IDEAS TO ADD TO YOUR HOME

August 13: The Women Who Tasted Hitler’s Food

August 13: Is the bystander effect a myth?

August 14: Letter from Africa: The power of an apostrophe

August 15: Leonardo da Vinci’s abandoned and hidden artwork reveals its secrets

August 15: Self-Proclaimed “Dobby’s Freedom Keeper” Regularly Replaces House Elf Headstone

August 16: 5 HISTORICAL MYSTERIES THAT COMBINE REAL HISTORY WITH WHODUNNIT

August 16: THE ANATOMY OF THE BOOK

August 17: “Lincoln’s Spies”: Elizabeth Van Lew, southern sexism and the winning of a secret war

August 17: Sherlock Season 5: Martin Freeman updates fans on chance of new episodes

August 18: ‘Is that bum trap missing a flesh-bag?’: a guide to Australia’s convict slang

August 19: ‘Murder She Wrote’ & Me

August 20: The mystery photos of a 1957 gay wedding

August 20: “No Time to Die” ~ What the new 007 title might mean

August 20: Film props from The Shining, Star Wars, Jurassic Park and more go up for auction

August 21: The Cold War spy technology which we all use

August 22: GREAT BOOKS ABOUT TRUE CRIMES

August 22: Physicists discover hidden text in what was thought to be blank Egyptian papyri

August 24: The Russian spy who posed as a Canadian for more than 20 years

 

       R.I.P

August 6: Toni Morrison: Nobel Prize-winning author dies at 88

August 9: Comic Book Creator Ernie Colón Dies at 88

August 16: Peter Fonda, star of ‘Easy Rider’ and scion of Hollywood royalty, dies at 79

August 17: Richard Williams, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ animator, dies at 86

August 20: We learned this day of the death of a long-time customer, Alison Moore.

Fran Here: I spoke with Alison on the phone frequently, and while it took a little learning to translate her Liverpudlian accent to American, she was an absolute delight. Because she was wheelchair-bound, and later bedridden, we shipped to her all the time.

But Alison wasn’t just an avid reader. She’d have us send books to friends of hers all across the US! Not necessarily mysteries – as you know, we would order anything in print – but always for birthdays and Christmas. It was interesting getting to know her friends. And they, in turn, would call to order gift certificates for her to use when she called to order for  herself. If was one of those sad souls who let us know she’d passed.

There were times after the shop closed when Alison would call me at home, just to see how I was holding up. And then we’d talk about how things were going with her. She never really recovered after her husband died, but she was feisty all the way. Home Health tried to insist she keep her husband’s hospital bed, but he was almost 6′ tall, and she barely hit 5′. She said she kept slipping off it. She won, of course.

We at the shop are sorry to hear of her passing, and it’s a personal loss to me. I’ll miss hearing the, “Hey, Fran, how’re ya doin’?” followed by “What’cha been readin’?” Wherever you are now, Alison, I hope there’s a HUGE library!

August 27: Richard Booth, self-styled King of Hay, who put the market town on the map by establishing it as a centre for the secondhand book trade

August 30: James R Leavelle, detective handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald when he was shot, dies aged 99

       Words of the Month

polysemy (n) A condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation. dictionary.com

polysemous (adj) 1884, from Medieval Latin polysemus, from Greek polysemos “of many sides” etymonline

       What We’ve Been Up To

   AmberFinder

Last Friday In Finder of Lost Things the Resident’s come to Phoebe’s aid since her crew took their pirate costumes entirely to much to heart – and imbibed in too much spiced rum!

This coming Friday Phoebe, Wood, Beatrice and Laney run for their freedom across the last stretch of Nevermore – trying to stay ahead of Little Ben and security!

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Rhys Bowen – Love and Death Among the Cheetahs

Georgie is off on a surprise honeymoon safari Darcy has arranged for them… Which they can only afford because Darcy accepted an assignment from his mysterious employers. Of course, Darcy attempts to keep Georgie in the dark about the arrangement, but his new wife has solved her fair share of mysteries. So his secret isn’t a secret for very long.

Plus Georgi has her little task to complete for the Queen.

One thing I love about the Royal Spyness series is how Bowen creates a subtle sort of anxiety within the pages of her book. By sticking relatively close to historical events, Bowen establishes a sense of tension within her series – a worry which grows in each installment as we creep inevitably closer to WWII.

This worry is in no small part due to Darcy’s secret overseas work, which in the coming conflict will place him directly in harm’s way. And by extension Georgie, who is keen to prove her deductive prowess to her new husband (who wasn’t always privy to all her previous investigations).

In Love And Death Among The Cheetahs amongst the exotic animals and even wilder Happy Valley set Georgie proved her worth right away. By helping both solve a murder and uncovering a spy within their midsts!

However, it’s not Hitler whom I theorize will affect Georgie’s immediate future. But her cousin David, that dreadful American woman (as she’s known) and the King’s declining health. What will happen upon the King’s death? How will the chaos, created by David’s unwillingness to give up his American divorcee and his political leanings, effect Georgie, her family, and England?

And when he abdicates will that be the last we hear of David?

Or his disapproving mother and sending Georgie to the continent to extract her errant son from trouble? Or will the new King look to her for help?

Only time will tell.

But until the next book, I will fret over the safety and well being of Georgie’s grandfather, Queenie, Zou Zou, her erratic mother, Binky, Fig, and everyone else. Because of the aforementioned cleverness of Bowen’s storytelling, I know what’s coming. Even if Georgie and Darcy only see the hints of Hitler’s plans right now.

However, I am still very excited to see where Bowen takes her Royal Spyness series next!

Especially since Georgie finally feels secure enough to reveal the steely spine she inherited from her Great-Grandmother Queen Victoria. Showing not only Fig she’s done with her backhanded compliments, but allowed her to deftly deal with an old bully, a determined letch, and a belligerent detective. All in one book!

I would recommend Love and Death Among the Cheetahs if you are looking for a country house style mystery. Well, country house adjacent. As Love And Death Among The Cheetahs is set in Kenya, not the United Kingdom. And rather than the fox hunting, horse-loving aristocratic set routinely featured in the style of book. We meet the wanton, dissolute and libertine set of Happy Valley expats. Who enjoy sex, drugs, and safaris instead.

(BTW – Georgie is utterly shocked at their antics!)

In point of fact, I would highly recommend this entire series to anyone looking for a lighter, historically mystery series. If you don’t want to start all the way back at the beginning, never fear! So long as you’re aware you aren’t starting with the first in series, you will do just fine!

One Last Note!

My other blog My 52 Weeks With Christie – in which I kept posting my original photos to and re-blogging other Agatha Christie enthusiast pictures, TV clips and other ephemera on – reached a milestone!

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I’ve posted a total of 8,000 items and counting! Which I’m told is quite something – since it was originally only suppose to have a total of 52 posts!

   Fran

You know my fondness for Joshilyn Jackson. It’s no secret, and hasn’t been since gods in Alabama. 9780446178167She’s always remarkable, taking on some really tough topics in that genteel Southern way she has.

With her latest one, Never Have I Ever (Wm. Morrow), she takes off the gloves. Always a Southern lady, mind you, but in this new book, Joshilyn Jackson comes out swinging! It’s a much, much darker books than any of her others, and yes, I’m including Between, Georgia in that. For those of you who haven’t read it, partway through I was muttering, “Trust Joshilyn, trust Joshilyn, she’ll make it right!”

9780062855312Never Have I Ever is much darker than a body dumped in kudzu or an airport gypsy explaining that murder is the best solution.  Amy Whey’s life starts unraveling in the first chapter. Are you familiar with the game “Never Have I Ever”? It’s kind of a middle school game, like Three Truths and a Lie, that can be adapted to an adult game quite easily. Someone says, “Never have I ever (fill in the blank with something you’ve never done)” and anyone who HAS done it has to drink. Kind of embarrassing but fun, right?

It’s a blast. You should play. It’s like Never Have I Ever, but for grown-ups. We skip the coy denials and go right to confession. You start by telling everyone the worst thing you did today.”

When Roux crashes the monthly book club meeting, takes over, plies most of the women with alcohol and gets them to tell their secrets, Amy knows she could have stopped her, but she didn’t. Like watching a car crash, she just let it happen.

Sure, I’ll play,” I said quietly, to Roux alone. “The worst thing I did today was let you get this pack of harpies drunk in my house.”

However, Amy has a serious secret. One her neighbors, her friends, even her husband have no idea about. Things are about to go badly for everyone.

Make no mistake, this is still the Joshilyn Jackson we know and love, and her trademark humor is still present. There were times when I snorfled so loudly I startled the dog. But this is, at its heart, a much darker novel than we’ve seen before.

And it’s about time. Joshilyn Jackson is becoming one of the great literary voices of our time; she’s a storyteller of exceptional depth and quality. You’re going to love Never Have I Ever, even when you’re not entirely sure you can like Amy, and that juxtaposition is what will keep you eagerly turning pages.

Never Have I Ever lied to you about reading Joshilyn Jackson. You won’t be disappointed.

   JB

Aug 8th gave me another shop dream. I’d been away for some weeks for some reason and the “shop” was small, narrow place with shelves around the walls and the new release paperback table taking up most of the floor space. The table was a mess. Titles that should’ve been removed weeks ago were not only still on but had been re-ordered. Some single paperbacks were spine up between stacks of others. Duplicate copies were stacked randomly on a shelf near the door and Amber and Fran were desperately trying to get it squared away. I started trying to work out what should be removed AND returned AND sorted by publisher, but people were in the way and where was I going to be able to do all of this… It was a dream of chaos.

I’ve been weaving back and forth from this book to another for several months. Still
haven’t finished the Mueller Report, or 9th Street Women, or the second-to-last Philip Kerr. Guess I’ve been a restless reader. Something new crops up – such as the O’Neil book on the 60s – and it is easy to set down what I’m in to go to something else. But there are other reasons, too. Most of what I’ve been reading for the last few months have been thick and heavy hardcovers. For the trip to San Francisco, I wanted smaller and lighter. So I picked up a couple of mass market books I’d meant to read for, well, decades, and they were as great as I expected. Both were used paperbacks I’d brought home when the shop closed.

U8ayPh3U2P8COne was Donald Westlake’s Lemons Never Lie, one of his Grofield books published in 1971 as by Richard Stark. Grofield first appeared in one of Stark’s Parker books. I’ve read all of them and loved them but somehow never got to these. Mistake. This one is the last of the four separate books and now I’ll have to track the other three down. As with the Parker books, this one was a finely-crafted story of a professional thief with a highly developed sense of how his world should work. Unfortunately, Grofield violates his own rules a number of times and pays for his errors. But gets his justice at the end. It seems odd to talk about “honor” and “justice” with a crime novel about a thief…but that’s the world we’ve picked for our entertainment.

The other was Timothy Hallinan’s final Simeon Grist novel, The Bone Polisher. Early shop colleague Tammy had gotten me into these back in the mid-90s. I immediately loved them. Grist is an LA private eye who never got a college degree though he’s studied many different fields – this allows Hallinan to have him be erudite and literate and amusing without him coming off as pedantic. This last one I’d salted away because I’d never wanted the series “to end”. But it was time and it was a thrill.

And as to that trip to that Big Bay to the south, there are two posts about it, #1 and #2. Check them out should you be curious – – – – – – —


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San Francisco #2

Don Herron has been conducting his walking tour of Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco for over four decades. He knows his stuff up one hill and down the next. When we scheduled our long weekend in the middle of August I knew it was a must.

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The tour begins here, at 870 Flood, where the Pinkerton Detective Agency had it’s San Francisco office. Dashiell Hammett worked there in office #314. From here he got so much of the color and characters that he then used in his stories.

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No dummies, the building pays homage to Hammett and The Black Bird in one of the large, glass cases that line the entry foyer. If you can read the writing here, it tells you that the statuette is owned by John’s Grill.

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Go straight through the foyer and you end up on Ellis Street. Turn right and there it is. Hammett ate lunch there and so did Spade.

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The above photo shows that Sam Spade Lamb Chops are still on the menu.

The walking tour took nearly 3.5 hours. It was a very warm afternoon. There was lots of shade but I still fried my nose. It was worth it.

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In the top right corner of this building, Hammett wrote Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, and The Maltese Falcon. Herron said it’s a very small apartment. When the Murphy bed is down it’d be hard to move around the room.

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[Pardon my thumb in the corner.] This is a plaque by the entrance of that white building on Post. The Maltese Falcon doesn’t specify the building in which Spade lived but there are clues in the text that lead Herron to say this is Spade’s building as well as Hammett’s.

Mystery writer Mark Coggins has a page about the apartment. It includes photos and a floor plan. Take the embedded link to the story about the guy who lived in it.

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Much of the tour relates how much of the city was destroyed in the 1906 quake and what had been rebuilt by the time of Hammett’s residency. One of the buildings that did survive is in the center of the photo (admittedly not great but one must dodge oncoming vehicles). Look to the left of the street light, and then the long, red sign, and you can see a tall, tan building that has a reddish roof that’s then topped with light green fencing. That’s the building that Herron points toward as the likely location of the Space & Archer office.

Herron explained that the tour was originally 4 hours be he cut back on the hills as he aged. Don’t know if the tour used to range as far as this building.

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The tour pointed out more than just Hammett’s world. This hotel, which has learned to take advantage of it’s Hollywood past, was where Kim Novak’s character lived in Vertigo. It was around this area that I found I was one block from Frank Bullitt’s apartment in that movie. I really wanted to run up there for a photo but it was getting late in the day, I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for about 5 hours… can’t do it all. However, not once but twice we Ubered past the intersection where the car chase in Bullitt began. Close as I could get.IMG_0966

At this point, he corner of Pine and Hammett, turn or look left and you see a red brick building where Hammett also lived. Must have been before living on Post because of how he used this area in The Maltese Falcon. He didn’t move around as much as the Chandlers but almost. Down the way is Stockton and you can see the railings for the three stories of stairs that lead down a level.IMG_0967

And not far from this is the Stockton Tunnel. It has changed quite a lot. At the time he wrote the scene, it was mostly a vacant lot with a long dirt hill down to the next street. IMG_0968

Across Pine is this alley named Burritt Street. Above the man in the fedora (that’s Don in full regalia, trench coat and all) is another plaque. It says this: IMG_0969

The red brick across from the plaque wouldn’t have been there when Hammett knew the area, so the idea is Archer either followed Brigid here, or met her, and she let him have it. He then fell backwards and rolled down the hill to the lower level of Stockton.

You can see that Hammett used the city he knew well in the novel, the buildings and the lots, and used them well.

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Don ends the tour here, with a view of the majestic St. Francis hotel at Union Square. Hammett worked here, too. In the front, top-left set of rooms, silent film great Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and 2 friends had their roaring party in September of 1921. A young actress fell ill and died a few days later and Arbuckle was charged with rape and manslaughter. The Hearst papers turned it into a massive swamp of accusations and ugliness. Two trials resulted in hung juries; the third acquitted him. The scandal finished his career and the trials were a media circus. The Pinkertons were part of the investigative force, as was Hammett.

Wyatt Earp once stayed there, too.

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Saw this Black Bird at the Legion of Honor. It’s an eagle, not a falcon, but I couldn’t resist including it. At that museum, we ran into an unexpected delight – a Peter Paul Rubens exhibit. IMG_0945

One of the items was this pen and ink wash title page illustration Rubens created.

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Lastly, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Popeye!

If you find yourself in San Francisco and have a Sunday afternoon to burn, Don Herron’s walking tour is well worth the time!

 

A grateful tip of the fedora to Don.

San Francisco #1

JB Here ~

I had my first real vacation in something like six years. We went to San Francisco for a long weekend, did museums and ate great food, and did two touristy things I’d wanted to do for a good, long time. This post – #1 – covers our trip to Alcatraz. The next – #2 – deals with a certain black bird…

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This is the east side of the cell block. Many things amazed me. First of all, the complex is far larger than I had imagined. Secondly, the cell block is a small part of it. The water tower was graffitied by the Native Americans who occupied the island for 19 months starting in 1969. Alcatraz is now a national park and, each time the tower needs to be repainted, relatives of those who did the original painting are invited to redo the “graffiti”. I think that’s uncommonly cool.

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Walking up to the cell block, you pass this very small building. The interior is, honestly, about the size of a small bedroom.

It is the prison’s morgue…

The interior is rudimentary and sparse and may date more to the island’s time as a fort than a prison. Still, it is dark and creepy and tiny.

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This is  your average cell. Cot would’ve been on the right. Under the sink is the air vent through which the three men dug to escape. Those cells are preserved but did I take a picture of one of them? I took a picture of this cell for a reason. Can you figure it out?

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Here’s a view looking out of a solitary confinement cell. The size is the same as others but the guards would first shut the bars and then close and lock the outer door – which is about six inches thick and without windows. Solitary and shut off from world.

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This is the exercise yard. The dirt at the end is the “baseball diamond. At the right are the large cement steps where cons could sit and stare at freedom. At left, at the base of the wall, are horse shoe pits. All the white stuff? – sea gull poop. In the distance is the Marin County headland, Sausalito, and the Golden Gate Bridge to the left over the greenery.

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This is one wall of the prison’s library. Hard to know what it looked like when full of books and shelves. All that are present are against the walls.

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Turn around in the library and you see the gate out and, across the aisle, one side of the three-tiered D block.

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I don’t recall the designation of this cell block – A or B? – but it’s where the serious cons were kept – those too dangerous to be with the other dangerous criminals. Tourists can’t get into this section but I imagine the cells size is about the same as in the other blocks. If I heard right, this is the block were the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, Robert Stroud, was housed.

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Here’s a view of the guard’s station. I like the ring of big keeps hanging up by the window.

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I liked this spin file of location and phone number by state. Reminded me of the shop’s Future File.

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From the southwest corner of The Rock, you see downtown San Francisco. The free audio tour – which I would highly recommend if you get there – mentions how hard it was on the cons to see the city so near and how they could hear the city at night. In turn, I wondered what it was like for the people in the city to constantly look away from their Paradise, across the water, and see a grim reminder of the fall from Eden, federal prison well stocked with killers, maniacs, and hardcases.

The rubble at the island’s edge shows that much of the complex is gone – light keeper’s house, warden’s house, to name a couple. Lost to the destructive and damp salt air. There are some photos around the island that let you see how it once looked. And, of course, there’s no shortage of photos on-line.

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There are many things I’d like to do in my time left on the planet. Being in prison isn’t on the list…

There was one point where a park ranger demonstrated the mechanism to open and shut the cell doors on one level on one side. I was transfixed by the sight, sure, but more so by the echoing, metallic ringing of the heavy doors sliding open and then closed. Besides being nearly deafening, it was also just so final. I was so transfixed that I never thought of taking a video of it and had to kick myself later. Ends up it wouldn’t have mattered. We can’t upload video to this blog, so I don’t get to post the little “movie” I took of The Rock as our ferry pulled away. Ah well.

As luck would have it, the night after we got home Eastwood’s Escape from Alcatraz was on TV. Filmed there in the prison, it is a very good way to see how it all looks.

Finally –

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A shot that has nothing to do with Alcatraz. This was the next night, with this section of the Bay Bridge being the only part of the structure visible through the fog. Tells you just how thick that fog can be.

Next up: The Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour

Americans assemble: Meet the Artist Capturing the superhero in all of Us

From Crosscut.com

Seattle photographer Nate Gowdy celebrates the many hues of red, white and blue.

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“In a rampart of a building at the southwest edge of Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, people from all walks of life have been dressing up as American superheroes. Some choose their red, white and blue costumes from a large cardboard box. Others bring their own props to the building, which served as an immigration center for 72 years — a way station where newcomers were detained, deported or granted citizenship.

The superheroes are a diverse league: teachers, politicians, immigrants, veterans and students donning tights, shiny gloves and star-spangled plastic shields to strike a pose for Seattle photographer Nate Gowdy.

“’It’s about being American,’ Gowdy says of The American Superhero, the ongoing, collaborative patriotic portrait project for which he is photographing people of all ages, genders, races, creeds and abilities. ‘It’s about embracing our differences, which always ends up highlighting our commonalities.'”

 

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AUGUST’S NEWZINE

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There just isn’t pleasing some people. The trick is to stop trying.

~ Robert Mitchum

      Book Stuff

Buzz Aldrin carried a tiny book with him to the moon

Our congratulations to one of our favorite authors. Nicola Griffith has been nominated for the 2019 Washington State Book Award in the fiction category for So Lucky. Fran’s review was in our September 2018 newzine (scroll down towards the end).

Local writer Clyde Ford – he of the maritime private eye series set in Bellingham – has a new book out in September. Think Black is the story of his father being the first black software engineer hired by IBM. Another local mystery writer, Jon Talton, wrote about the father and son: At Big Blue, America’s First Black Software Engineer Blazed a Trail but Pail a Heavy Price

NEWS BULLETIN! No need to feel guilty about the pleasures of mystery books (aren’t you relieved???)

Here’s a site that one of us stumbled upon: Literary Hub. Got there by following a link to this story~ Interview with a Bookstore: Bluestockings. They’ve got many pages. This one’s devoted to Bookstores and Libraries!

The Amazon effect: How independent booksellers are fighting back 

From Douglas Preston: Online book-selling scams steal a living from writers

How Do You Read Ancient Scrolls to Brittle to Unfurl?

Crime writers react with fury to claim their books hinder rape trials: “Novelists have condemned the Staunch prize – for thrillers without violence against women – as a ‘gagging order’, after organisers said the genre could bias jurors.” [The gist seems to be that Dame Agatha could not have been nominated if any women were murdered in her books…]

From Uber driving to huge book deal: Adrian McKinty’s life-changing phone call: “Recent reports have highlighted just how hard it can be to make a living as a “midlist” author – one whose books are judged good enough to publish, but not good enough to support with any significant marketing budget. In the UK, writers’ earnings have fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005, according to the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, with median earnings now at under £10,500 a year – well below the minimum wage. The worldwide picture is similarly disheartening.”

Two bestselling series are going to be adapted for TV ~ Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer and (we detest promoting it) Lee Child’s Jack Reacher for SPECTRE

First edition Harry Potter book sells for £28,500 

Fragment of medieval ‘vagina monologue’ found at Austrian abbey

The Con Man Who Became a True-Crime Writer

Why Do Women Love True Crime? 

To Plot My Next Murder, I Went to the Body Farm ~ Lisa Gardner

We Asked 13 Novelists, From Lee Child to Ruth Ware, ‘What’s the Best Murder You Ever Wrote?’

Lastly, for Bill: The Weird, Wild, Inimitable Noir of Donald E. Westlake

      Words for the Month

Taradiddle

Definition: 1.Fib  2. Pretentious nonsense

The true origin of taradiddle is unknown, but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter a lot of balderdash about its history. Some folks try to connect it to the verb diddle (meaning “to cheat”), but that hasn’t been proven and may turn out to be poppycock. You may hear some tommyrot about it coming from the Old English verb didrian, which meant “to deceive,” but that couldn’t be true unless didrian was somehow suddenly revived after eight or nine centuries of disuse. No one even knows when taradiddle was first used. It must have been long before it showed up in a 1796 dictionary of colloquial speech (where it was defined as a synonym of fib), but if we claimed we knew who said it first, we’d be dishing out pure applesauce.

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

       Podcasts!

Podcast Live Event! Criminal (a brilliant & addictive true crime podcast) is coming to Seattle in September! Buy tickets now they are going fast!

A Hit Podcast Finds ‘True Crime” in the Justice System

       For Your Viewing Pleasure

Anyone is a fan of “Killing Eve” needs to start watching “Jett” on Cinemax. It stars Carla Gugino as a professional thief just released from prison. Hoping to go straight, she’s quickly reminded that she still owes some favors to old colleagues. Great writing and unexpected zigs and swerves. ~ JB

This Autumn (which, really, is coming at us at a frightful rate), we’ll get to see The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s new crime film staring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, and Harvey Keitel.

John Dillinger Exhumation to be Documented by History Channel

Mid-August gifts us with the second season of “Mindhunter”, the outstanding Netlix series about the establishment of the FBI’s study of killers. This season, the killers will include Richard Speck, David Berkowitz, Wayne Williams, and Charlie Manson (played by the same actor as in the new Tarantino film).

Speaking of the Tarantino – JB highly recommends Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. It’s got a great sense of the era, great acting, and the usual lunatic touches we expect from a Tatantino film.

       This ‘n’ That

Inside the deadly world of India’s sand mining mafia

I ran across a surprise the other day. Tooling around on the internet looking for stories for this newzine, I found this headline: We’re already excited about Jessica Chastain’s spy thriller. That itself was interesting. Interesting as well was that she refers to the folks doing it as a “studio”. About time women in Hollywood formed their own studios to vie with the dumb ol’ white-man outfits that have run the movie biz since it’s inception. But the surprise for me was the next to last line: “Theresa Rebeck penned the script for the movie…” Theresa is an Edgar-winning writer of TV, movies, novels and plays, as well as a director. She’s brilliant, funny and, most importantly to me, married to one of my oldest friends. (She once let me pick up her Edgar, which she got for an episode of “NYPD Blue”). So cool, far out, groovy and neat-o all around! Can’t wait to see the movie!! ~ JB

Meet English baker ‘Annabel Lecter.’ These Made-to-Order Cakes Look Like Beautiful Nightmares  

As I discovered to my cost at Agatha Christie’s favourite hotel, there is a tide… 

‘Double Indemnity’ Is 75, But Anklets (And Film Noir) Are Forever


An Epidemic of Disbelief: What new research reveals about sexual predators, and why police fail to catch them

Author James Patterson on Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘Unbelievable’ Crimes 

How a Predator Operated in Plain Sight


      Words for the Month

Crumbs!

Definition: Used to express surprise or chagrin.

Who doesn’t love crumbs? Most people, actually. And when we ask the question ‘where does the interjection crumbs come from,’ we have a wide range of possibilities to choose from. Is it a shortened form of crumbs-in-the-bed? No. Is it an abbreviation of the 19th century Cornwall dialect word crum-a-grackle (defined by Joseph Wright in his English Dialect Dictionary as “a mess, difficulty, bother”)? Probably not, although this is a word we should all consider adopting in everyday use. Might it simply be a variant of the phrase “By crum!” in which crum was employed as a mild oath of uncertain provenance? That is the least satisfying answer, which of course means that it is the most likely to be true.

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

      Author Events

Aug 2: Heather Redmond, 6pm, UBooks/MC

Aug 15: Rhys Bowen, 7pm, Third Place/LFP

Aug 20: Steve Cavanaugh, 7pm, Third Place/LFP

Aug 29: Karin Slaughter, 7pm, Third Place/LFP

Aug 30: Louise Penny, 7pm, Village Books

      Links Of Interest

July 1: THE CARE AND FEEDING OF A MACGUFFIN

July2: Watch: the first trailer for Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” tips its hat to Agatha Christie

July 2: DNA Begins to Unlock Secrets of the Ancient Philistines

July 3: The CIA and Jack Gregersen’s exploding hat ~ Agency classified a stranger’s suggestion that it invest in anti-personal headgear for over 40 years

July 3: Little Miss Marple! ‘Extremely rare’ photos reveal legendary crime writer Agatha Christie as a playful child at her Devon family home from 1895 to 1898

July 4: Mad Magazine to cease publication of new material

July 4: Sudan tomb diver reveals pharaoh’s secrets

July 4: Tutankhamun: Bust Egypt says was ‘stolen’ sells for £4.7m

July 5: This 33,000-Year-Old Man May Have Been Killed by a Left-Handed Murderer

July 5: How the Manson Killings Gripped Los Angeles

July 5: The God-Haunted Characters of James Lee Burke

July 5: The disabled artist and her dirty secret

July 6: In pictures: New Unesco World Heritage Sites

July 6: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Evil

July 7: How Norway turns criminals into good neighbours

July 8: ‘It sickens me’: Gillian Flynn slams Gone Girl theory in missing woman case

July 8: The only library to survive from the Graeco-Roman world

July 9: From Uber driving to huge book deal: Adrian McKinty’s life-changing phone call

July 9: The City That Launched The Publishing Industry

July 10: The Accidental Tour Guide ~Laura Lippman — novelist, reporter, and Baltimorean — on her city’s many lives and layered literary myths.

July 10: Found: 15 Wallets From the 1940s, Stolen and Stashed Behind a Bathroom Wall

July 10: Suzanne Eaton, US scientist, found dead in WW2 bunker on Crete

July 10: At The T-Rex Races: On Your Mark, Get Set, Rawwrr!

July 10: Inside One of the Most Spectacular and Dangerous Bank Heists in U.S. History ~ An excerpt from Peter Houlahan’s thrilling new book, “Norco ’80”

July 11: Scarecrow police officer slows speeding drivers

July 12:  Truck Heists, Dog Poisonings, and Murder: Inside the Brutal World of the Truffle Trade

July 12: My gonzo night at Hunter S Thompson’s cabin

July 13: How ‘Licence to Kill’ Put the James Bond Franchise on Ice

July 14: The Literary Battle of the Sexes, 1907-Style

July 14: To Plot My Next Murder, I Went to the Body Farm

July 14: Jo Nesbo, Master of Norway Noir, Returns With His Creepiest Yet

July 16: Mona Lisa is moving – what does it take to keep her safe?

July 16: How a ‘slick talker’ lobbyist boosted the false Seth Rich murder conspiracy — before getting shot himself

July 16: Dutch police are being infiltrated by criminal gangs, report says

July 16: Real life film noir: crime scenes from the LAPD – in pictures

July 16: A young couple was shot dead on a Jenner beach. 15 years later, the mystery is finally solved

July 16: The Doctor Who Helped Israeli Spies Catch Eichmann But Refused Recognition 

July 17: Wonka bar and Golden Ticket fetch £15,000 at auction

July 18: New Investigation Answers Pressing Question: Whatever Happened to All of Bob Ross’ Paintings?

July 18: This little-known inventor has probably saved your life

July 18: David Crosby Reflects On Music, Misdeeds And Making The Most Of What’s Left

July 19: Tennessee town dispels ‘meth-gator’ myth

July 19: The Quiet Cruelty of When Harry Met Sally

July 19: Richard Oland: A millionaire, a murder and a mystery killer

July 19: How A 10-Year-Old Boy Helped Apollo 11 Return To Earth

July 21: A Peculiarly Dutch Summer Rite: Children Abandoned in the Night Woods

July 21:What actually happens inside us when we read?

July 21: The Best Fantasy Novels Of All Time

July 21: Burglars Lift $2 Million Worth Of Body-Shaping ‘Faja’ Undergarments

July 22: French Minerve submarine is found after disappearing in 1968

July 22: Baseball card collecting world rocked by fraud scandal

July 22: 11 Books to Read if You’re an Adult Who Loves Veronica Mars

July 23: Body Found in Supermarket Identified as Employee Who Disappeared 10 Years Ago

July 23: The “Pulp Fiction” prequel never made: Tarantino details the amazing premise

July 23: 6 CLASSIC BOOKS TO READ IF YOU LOVE LOCKED ROOM MYSTERIES

July 27: Sanditon: Sex, nudity and slavery in Jane Austen TV drama

July 29: 50 States of True Crime ~ Every state has an infamous crime — and a book about it.

July 29: Missile launcher found in US man’s luggage at airport

July 30: THIS IS HOW PHOTOS IN “I SPY” BOOKS WERE CAPTURED

July 30: Rochester Cathedral’s crazy golf course 

      R.I.P.

July 8: Martin Charnin: Annie musical writer dies aged 84

July 9: Award-winning actor Rip Torn, known for ‘Larry Sanders Show,’ dies at 88

July 11: Denise Nickerson: Violet Beauregarde actress dies aged 62

July 11: Jim Bouton dies at 80 ~ All-Star MLB pitcher, former Seattle Pilot, author of Ball Four, and actor in Robert Altman’s film of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. In the movie, he played Marlowe’s friend Terry Lennox, around whom the story orbits.

July 13: Andrew Graham-Yooll, the man who dared to report on Argentina’s missing

July 17: Andrea Camilleri, who has died aged 93, was almost 70 when he took up the genre, but his novels are as rich with serious thinking as with thrilling plots

July 18: David Hedison – star of the original The Fly, captain of the Seaview in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, and Felix Leiter to  007’=’ twice – dead at 92

July 23: MHB Conant was a long-time customer. She was a huge fan of Thomas Perry as well as a number of other writers. She’d bounce in and get copies to give to friends. If we had more than one copy of Vanishing Act or The Butcher’s Boy, she’d take two. Early on she’d ask to have them individually gift wrapped which, to be honest, wasn’t always something we had the time to do – but that’s what you do for long-time customers. Yet though someone is a familiar face, you don’t necessarily know much about them, and that’s true with MHB. (We didn’t even know what the initial stood for!) She was a teacher, singer, and founder of a program to encourage reading around the world. She lead a remarkable life. She was 77 at the time of her death.

July 24: Rutger Hauer, ‘Blade Runner’ Co-Star, Dies at 75

July 24: Mystery author and geologist Sarah Andrews dies at 68 in a small plane crash with her husband and only son.

      Words for the Month

Apple Sauce

Definition: 1. a relish or dessert made of apples stewed to a pulp and sweetened  2. slang : BUNKUM, NONSENSE

English offers a smorgasbord of words for nonsense, some of which are better known as words for food. We have baloney, spinach, rhubarb, and toffee, not to mention full of beans. And if none of those offerings are to your taste, you can say that’s pure banana oil! Seemingly innocuous applesauce was first introduced to this menu back in the early 20th century. Back then, there may have been some bias against the real stuff. Poet Wallace Stevens’s turn-of-the-century description of a meal consisting of “some unnameable smathering of greasy fritters . . . and of course the inevictable applesauce” shows a lack of respect that must have been shared by others.

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

       What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

Daisy            Finder Of Lost Things

Don’t forget to check out my other penny dreadful style blog! This Wee Phoebe and the crew are heading into Nevermore to help dissuade Little Ben from making a grave mistake…Oh, and Wood decide’s this is the perfect time to settle up on an old bet with Phoebe! (click on my pic above to go to the blog!)

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A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder – Dianne Freeman

Freeman’s follow-up to last year’s Agatha Award winning novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is an absolute gas to read!

Francis Wynn, or for those who aren’t on a first-name basis the Countess of Hareligh, is back and is finally feeling like she’s on firm ground. The only canker in her hedge? It’s summertime in London, and everyone’s fled to the country!

Well, all most everyone.

Only the diehards, those of more modest means or those unable to secure an invitation to a friend’s estate – remain in the city. Unfortunately, since Francis occupies the second of those three categories, her household’s stuck with a very open social schedule.

Their unfettered social diary does prove fortuitous for Francis’s little sister Lily. Despite Francis’s reservations on the subject and irregardless of the limited guest list, Lily and her shiny new fiance are determined to throw a huge bash to announce their engagement.

Francis’s dance card fills out further when she’s pulled into another murder investigation on behalf of her favorite bumbling cousin – a cousin who she both introduced to the victim and inadvertently cast suspicion on with the police.

The only upside? Francis no longer needs to worry about how to entertain her household during the month of August anymore. And, even better, she gets to spend some more quality time with her handsome neighbor Mr. George Hazelton…

Effervescent, lively, and light I loved reading every page mystery.

What I love about A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is it reminds me vaguely of a Jane Austen novel (only set about eighty-ish years after Austen’s books). The vocabulary, manners, and (the mostly) meticulous observance of social conventions calls to mind that earlier era.

But… (There’s always a but.)

Freeman blends these classic features with a bold and slightly irreverent hand. Creating two books where our heroine not only knows her own mind but follows up her thoughts with decisive action. It doesn’t hurt that Francis Wynn has more latitude to act as a widow than married or single women do during this period. But still, living on her own – with her Aunt, daughter, sister, housekeeper, maid, kitchen boy and debutant – without a man in the house? It’s still slightly scandalous for the times. And heaven only knows what society would say if they knew about the private garden path linking her and Mr. Hazelton’s homes…And it’s that bit of ridiculousness which Freeman exploits, to great effect, in both her books.

Seriously if you’re looking for a fun historical beach book, I would highly recommend A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder.

Though I must caution you, I think you’d enjoy Gossip & Murder better if you read her award-winning Etiquette & Murder, first as there are several story threads which deftly bind the first and second books together.

Even better? Etiquette & Murder is in paperback!

   Fran

Okay, I’m gonna be honest here. I don’t have anything new to review, but here’s why.

I’m still traveling through life with Inspector Gamache. YES, I BLAME LOUISE PENNY! And I’m thrilled she’s going to be in town this month, as you saw above. You must not go. I want her all to myself. So there.

In fact, I’ve been loving her writing so much that I got Lillian hooked on the series, and now she’s not talking to me, but only because she’s off in Three Pines as well. We read non-spoiler snippets to each other.

Also in my defense, we got a dog.

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Her name is Shadow, and she’s a 2-year-old Lab mix. High energy and a goofball, but a delight. However, she does take up a great deal of time, what with cuddles and walks and playing.

So I’m a little slower getting through the Inspector Gamache series than I should be, but you know what? I’m okay with that. Not only is Shadow a fun dog, but that means I have to slow down in my reading, so I can savor them, enjoy them. And I’m glad there are so many, but I’m still reaching the end of what’s currently printed, and honestly, I don’t know how all you veteran Penny readers have been able to stand the wait between books. You must be saints!

    JB


Around the 4th, I had two bookshop dreams:

The first started with a former employee telling me about someone’s reaction to the newzine. Apparently, we were still mailing out the printed version. I was getting the latest one ready to mail and was informed that one of our best customers was mad because she hadn’t been getting her copies….

The second started with me working across and down Cherry from the shop. Something or someone reminded me that the 117 location would be closing and what was left would be moved to a different location. So I went to Bakeman’s to get chocolate chip cookies for Amber but she wasn’t there. As I walked in, she was heading out the side/back door with an armload of boxes. Fran wasn’t in this dream. I started loading my own books that  I hadn’t yet taken home into bags and started trying to get a hold of my wife to get her to come pick them up and to get me so I could get something to eat before coming back down to Pioneer Square to begin dismantling the shelves and counters and I remember thinking that the carport would once again be choked with wood. I was mad I couldn’t get ahold of her, mad about the work ahead, and mad – again – about the closure of SMB. Then I woke up.

On the 12th, I woke up after one where I was still trying to empty the space – though it wasn’t the actual SMB space (surely others have dreams where the places aren’t the right places or people aren’t the same people?). Most of the shelves were empty but there were still some things to pack. One shelf behind the empty counter was of thick black binders. When I took the one on the far right down it was filled with Bill’s financial records. There was even a section of the red rear receipts from credit card slips. But then I realized I didn’t have enough large boxes. John C. was here helping and offered to go get some but I said I’d go. For some reason, I was driving a battered early 60s Chevrolet, dirty grey or white, the kind with wings that my parents used to have. I got mired in a endless maze of alleys and one-way streets and finally made it out onto a street up by I-5 in order to head south to buy boxes – when I realized I was late to have dinner with friends. It was already early evening and I knew Gretchen would be mad when I called to say I wouldn’t be there for hours…. It went on from there and I never got back to the shop before I woke up EXHAUSTED...

Just before this was posted, I had another dream that is shop related. All I remember is that the lunch special at Bakeman’s was lasagna…


Journalist Tom O’Neill’s Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties is a wild, wild ride. As he relates, he began his journey as a job to right a story about the 20th Anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders and his investigation grew into a decades-long pursuit that consumed his life. And we’re enlightened for it.

He begins by relating some points in Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter that never quite made sense to him. From there comes a complete re-investigation of the crimes. From the end-notes, you can see that he talked to everyone who would talk about the era, LA at that time, the victims, the original investigation as well as members of Manson’s family. You get stories of the parties at Cielo Drive, parties at Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s place, and how Charlie formed his family in the hay-day of Haight/Ashbury before relocating to the LA basin. How did he achieve such complete control over those in his clutches and get a bunch of peaceful hippies to slaughter on command?

What’s it all got to do with the CIA? Ever heard of MKULTRA, 9780316477550the CIA’s program to effect mind-control? Doctors in San Francisco were working on it. Ever heard of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, the program to infiltrate and undermine the leftist challenge to the status quo? Turns out CHAOS was the CIA’s program to do the same – even though the CIA’s own rules prohibit  them from working within the US.

What’s it got to do with the Manson Family? Read the book. How many did they really kill? Why aren’t more files being released? Why didn’t the cops investigating the Tate-LaBianca deaths believe the Helter Skelter story? Read the book.

“It’s when someone claims that I’ve ‘found the truth’ that I get anxious. I haven’t found the truth, much as I wish I could say I have. My goal isn’t to say what did happen – it’s to prove that the official story didn’t. I’ve learned to accept the ambiguity. I had to, I realized, if I ever wanted to finish this book. For every chapter here, there are a dozen I’ve left out. There’s more, there’s always more.”

The book includes photos of his house and the mass of binders and stacks of papers that went into the book. He presents a wealth of information that’s never been released before and rails against the refusal of official offices to release what he knows they have – recording, documents, files, and case notes. He relates showing documents to the original cops or the original prosecutors and they’re shocked at seeing these things for the first time. Let’s get it all out in the open. I sure hope someone agrees to fund his further research and investigation. I sincerely hope his wild ride continues!



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An Extra Review!

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(The cookies in the picture are garam-masala chocolate gingerbread cookies – I use a different recipe than the one Nancy Atherton put in her book because it required nuts and I’m allergic!)

Aunt Dimity & the Heart of Gold 

by Nancy Atherton

Did you ever wonder how Miss Marple honed her investigative abilities? Or in fact, how she remained so sharp in between each case?

I believe she kept her wits keen through continual practise. Miss Marple not only investigated the occasional murder that crosses her path – but all the little mysteries that popped up in her village of St. Mary Mead as well.

Now you shouldn’t confuse the word little with unimportant.

As Miss Marple’s learned the small mysteries (and therefore their solutions) are often analogous to the bigger mysteries, like murder and blackmail.

Which I think explains how Miss Marple was able to solve Colonel Protheroe murder in her first full-length mystery, Murder At The Vicarage. She’d already had decades worth of parallels to draw from and years of practice finding answers to prickly questions.

Now you might be wondering why on earth I am talking about Miss Marple in a review for an Aunt Dimity mystery.

The answer is this: Lori Sheperd (our sleuth), in many ways, reminds me of Miss Marple.

Go with me for a minute here.

Married with three children, an American and decades younger than the Grand Dame herself – I know superficially, Lori doesn’t appear to resemble Miss Marple in the slightest. However, if you take a closer look at their traits, striking similarities start popping out of the text.

Both women are fixtures in their community, volunteer their time, help their friends, and enjoy a good chat with their neighbors.

This “chatting” is where we find one of the most significant similarities between these two extraordinary women – their marked partiality to obtaining and occasionally disseminating village gossip. This “newsgathering” allows them both to acquire a richer view of the villages in which they reside and a better understanding of human nature – which is essential in solving mysteries.

The other important trait Lori shares with Miss Marple is her love of solving little mysteries. Any curious puzzle that pops up in Finch – Lori wants to solve it. From a quilting bee that ends with a revelation of a widow’s curse to a mysterious wishing well – very little can stop Lori from pursuing the truth.

And by keeping this murderless mystery series, Nancy Atherton has successfully avoided the Cabot Cove Syndrom which oftentimes plagues series of this length (24 books and counting). Meaning? We aren’t left wondering why anyone would live in the small village of Finch if people keep getting shot, stabbed, poisoned or garrotted in it.

Similarly, Agatha Christie was able to neatly sidestep this Syndrome by only penning twelve full-length titles and of those she set a fair few of those outside the borders of St. Mary Mead. (Atherton’s done this as well only her mysteries are set outside Finch – though wouldn’t it be fun if Lori visited St. Mary Mead? Or is that to on the nose you think?)

The most notable difference between these two ladies that I think needs addressing is their outlook on life. Miss Marple’s take on the world is one of pronounced pragmatism. Over the years, Miss Marple’s heard a plethora of rumors and solved a multitude of crimes. This knowledge has lead to the understanding that while not always pleasant, the dimmest view of someone’s motives is often the most accurate. While Lori, who hasn’t seen nearly as much, holds a far more upbeat vision of the world and the people in it. Perhaps in time, Miss Marple and Lori’s world views will align, but only time will tell.

Until then Lori will continue to hone her skills (much as Marple did) solving every niggly little puzzle that creeps up in Finch.

Such as the latest installment, Aunt Dimity & The Heart of Gold. A lovely mystery which uses Christmas/winter as a backdrop/springboard to propel this mystery forward. Where a mysterious motorist crashes a Christmas party, then discovers a Hindu alter hidden in a priest hole no one, including the homeowners, knew was there!

Lori really has her hands full in this one…

I thoroughly enjoyed every page in this book. Atherton does a great job in balancing the mystery with the Christmastime theme. Happily, she never succumbs to the syrupy sweetness that often plagues book set in December! Again using the time of year to move the mystery forward – not stall it under a ton of garland.

Now, if Atherton’s backlist daunts you, don’t worry. So long as you understand you are not starting with the first book and are willing to roll with it, you’ll be fine. As it was, I was a few books (six) out of date and had no problems picking up the thread of the series again. Now I normally recommend you start with the first book first, so you understand the hint of magic eddying around the fringes of this series, but it’s not required.

All that being said, I must say I couldn’t put this book down until I finished the very last (and highly satisfying) page. And the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is that I needed to get some sleep!

I would recommend this book to anyone like me who loves a great mystery and/or enjoys reading Christmas books in July!

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Don’t Forget to check out my other blog – Finder of Lost Things!

This week, Dourwood decided is the perfect time to execute The Brace Affair…what could go wrong?