Amber Here!

A Resolution At Midnight – Shelley Noble

People around the world have different traditions concerning New Year’s. 

Creating New Year’s resolutions, banging pots & pans outside at midnight (hopefully your neighbors do the same), kissing your sweetheart, or jumping off a chair at the very second the hands strike twelve – are all popular.

One particular interesting tradition that features a bit of divination, favored by Germans around the turn of the century, was placing walnut shells in a punchbowl and watching them zip around to figure out how the following 365 days will go. 

However, one of the most recognized and well-known traditions is the NYC ball drop in Times Square. Which, if you didn’t already know, first started its duties by marking the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908. And this is when A Resolution At Midnight comes to a thrilling conclusion (it’s in the title, after all). 

(Fun Fact: The ball’s only failed to mark the occasion twice – in 1942 & 1943 – when the threat of air raids kept it, and the rest of New York, dark.)

Now you know where A Resolution At Midnight ends, lets got back to the beginning – ten days before Christmas, when Lady Dunbridge arrives home from gift hunting and finds a short note from Mr. X requesting a meeting at a nickelodeon…in just over thirty minutes! Even in 1907, New York traffic is still thick. So Phil, much to her annoyance, arrives late to her meeting…whereupon she discovers a man with his throat slit! 

Here’s what I love about this series: Shelley Noble never loses sight of the fact she’s writing a mystery. Yes, she incorporates the very first NYC ball drop, the NY Times, the seedy underbelly of NY politics, and the slow slide of the NYPD back into its bad ways after Roosevelt moved on…but Noble never succumbs to the temptation of historical pontification. Rather, Noble seamlessly weaves just enough detail of these fascinating facts to flesh out her mystery without Without ever detracting, derailing, or slowing the pace of her storyline. Yet, she manages to give her audience enough detail to do a bit of historical sleuthing on their own – if they so choose.

A Resolution At Midnight is no exception. 

Honestly, I loved every second of this book. Noble festoons her mystery with just enough of both winter holidays to give the reader a taste of the season and – not unlike Christie – counterbalances it with a nice bloody murder. Which happily sops up all the saccharine that often saturates stories set during this time of the year. 

Seriously, I would recommend A Resolution At Midnight to anyone who likes strong female leads and historical mysteries. 

How About Lynchmob?

What Should We Call the Sixth of January?

Jill Lapore, The New Yorker





 

obloquious (n.): mid-15th C., obloquie, “evil speaking, slander, calumny, derogatory remarks,” from Medieval Latin obloquium “speaking against, contradiction,” from Latin obloqui “to speak against, contradict,” from ob “against” (see ob-) + loqui “to speak,” from Proto-Indo-European root *tolkw– “to speak.” (etymonline)

sedition (n.) From the mid-14th C., “rebellion, uprising, revolt, concerted attempt to overthrow civil authority; violent strife between factions, civil or religious disorder, riot; rebelliousness against authority,” from Old French sedicion (14th C., Modern French sédition) and directly from Latin seditionem (nominative seditio) “civil disorder, dissension, strife; rebellion, mutiny,” literally “a going apart, separation,” from se- “apart” (see secret (n.)) + itio “a going,” from ire “to go” (from Proto-Indo-European root *ei- “to go”).

Meaning “conduct or language inciting to rebellion against a lawful government” is from 1838. An Old English word for it was folcslite. Less serious than treason, as wanting an overt act, “But it is not essential to the offense of sedition that it threaten the very existence of the state or its authority in its entire extent” [Century Dictionary]. (etymonline)

peenge (v.): to whine, fret and complain of cold and hunger, to pretend poverty. (Says You!, episode 219). From the Oxford/Lexico site: To whine, complain in a whining voice; to mope, fret.

traitor (n.) c. 1200, “one who betrays a trust or duty,” from Old French traitor, traitre “traitor, villain, deceiver” (11th C., Modern French traître), from Latin traditor “betrayer,” literally “one who delivers,” agent noun from stem of tradere “deliver, hand over,” from trans- “over” (see trans-) + dare “to give” (from PIE root *do- “to give”). Originally usually with a suggestion of Judas Iscariot; especially of one false to his allegiance to a sovereign, government, or cause from late 15th C. Compare treason, tradition. (etymonline)

caterwaul (n.): “disagreeable howling or screeching,” like that of a cat in heat, late 14th C., caterwrawen, perhaps from Low German katerwaulen “cry like a cat,” or formed in English from cater, from Middle Dutch cater “tomcat” + Middle English waul “to yowl,” apparently from Old English *wrag, *wrah “angry,” of uncertain origin but somehow imitative. Related: Caterwauled; caterwauling. As a noun from 1708. (etymonline)

whinge(n.): “to complain peevishly,” British, informal or dialectal, ultimately from the northern form of Old English hwinsian, from Proto-Germanic *hwinison (source also of Old High German winison, German winseln), from root of Old English hwinan “to whine” (see whine (v.)). Related: Whinged; whinging. (etymonline)

lynch (v.): 1835, “inflict severe (but not deliberately fatal) bodily punishment (on someone) without legal sanction,” from earlier Lynch law (1811), in reference to such activity, which was likely named after William Lynch (1742-1820) of Pittsylvania, Virginia, who c. 1780, led a vigilance committee to keep order there during the Revolution. Other sources trace the name to Charles Lynch (1736-1796) a Virginia magistrate who fined and imprisoned Tories in his district, c. 1782, but the connection to him is less likely. The surname is perhaps from Irish Loingseach “sailor.”

It implies lawless concert or action among a number of members of the community, to supply the want of criminal justice or to anticipate its delays, or to inflict a penalty demanded by public opinion, though in defiance of the laws. [Century Dictionary, 1895]

Originally any sort of summary justice, done without authority of law, for a crime or public offense; it especially referred to flogging or tarring-and-feathering. At first the act was associated with frontier regions (as in the above citation), though from c. 1835 to the U.S. Civil War it also often was directed against abolitionists. The narrowing of the meaning to “extra-legal execution by hanging” is evident by the 1880s, and after c. 1893 lynching mostly meant killings of blacks by white mobs (especially in retaliation for alleged sexual assaults of white women). This shift in use seems due in part to the work of African-American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells. “Lynch mob” is attested from 1838. Compare earlier Lydford law, from a place in Dartmoor, England, “where was held a Stannaries Court of summary jurisdiction” [Weekley], hence:

Lydford law: is to hang men first, and indite them afterwards. [Thomas Blount, “Glossographia,” 1656]

Also in a similar sense was Jedburgh justice (1706) and, as a verb, to Dewitt (1680s), a reference to two Dutch statesmen of that name, opponents of William of Orange, murdered by a mob in 1672. Related: Lynched; lynching. The city of Lynchburg, Virginia, dates to the 1750s when John Lynch, brother to Charles but a peaceable Quaker, had a ferry landing on the James River there. (etymonline)

mob (n.): From the 1680s, “disorderly part of the population, rabble, common mass, the multitude, especially when rude or disorderly; a riotous assemblage,” slang shortening of mobile, mobility “common people, populace, rabble” (1670s, probably with a conscious play on nobility), from Latin mobile vulgus “fickle common people” (the Latin phrase is attested c. 1600 in English), from mobile, neuter of mobilis “fickle, movable, mobile” (see mobile (adj.)).

Mob is a very strong word for a tumultuous or even riotous assembly, moved to or toward lawlessness by discontent or some similar exciting cause. Rabble is a contemptuous word for the very lowest classes, considered as confused or without sufficient strength or unity of feeling to make them especially dangerous. [Century Dictionary, 1897]

Also used of a promiscuous aggregation of people in any rank of life (1680s), and in Australia and New Zealand used without disparagement for “a crowd.” Meaning “gang of criminals working together” is from 1839, originally of thieves or pick-pockets; the American English sense of “organized crime in general” is from 1927.

The Mob was not a synonym for the Mafia. It was an alliance of Jews, Italians, and a few Irishmen, some of them brilliant, who organized the supply, and often the production, of liquor during the thirteen years, ten months, and nineteen days of Prohibition. … Their alliance — sometimes called the Combination but never the Mafia — was part of the urgent process of Americanizing crime. [Pete Hamill, “Why Sinatra Matters,” 1998]

Mob scene “crowded place” is by 1922, from earlier use in reference to movies and theatrical productions; mob-rule “ochlocracy” is by 1806.

ochlocracy (n.): “government by the rabble,” 1580s, from French ochlocratie (1560s), from Greek okhlokratia (Polybius) “mob rule,” the lowest grade of democracy, from kratos “rule, power, strength” (see -cracy) + okhlos “(orderless) crowd, multitude, throng; disturbance, annoyance,” which is probably literally “moving mass,” from PIE *wogh-lo-, suffixed form of root *wegh– “to go, move.”  “Several possibilities exist for the semantic development: e.g. an agent noun *’driving, carrying, moving’, or an instrument noun *’driver, carrier, mover’. … An original meaning ‘drive’ could easily develop into both ‘stirred mass, mob’ and ‘spiritual excitement, unrest'” [Beekes]. For sense development, compare mob (n.). Related: Ochlocrat, ochlocratic; ochlocratical. Greek also had okhlagogos “mob-leader, ochlagogue.”

You’re going to get tired of hearing this.

Fran Here!

I know, I know, but Louise Penny is great!

At least half of you are skipping this, aren’t you? Either you’ve already read it or you’re not a convert yet. Ha!

If you’ve never read Louise Penny, starting with her latest, ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE, actually isn’t a bad place to begin. Granted, you won’t have the emotional ties that come with being in love with the series, but don’t worry. Once you’re hooked (and you will be), you’ll go back and start with STILL LIVES, and you’ll catch up.

ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE takes place in Paris rather than Three Pines, which is part of what makes it okay to begin here. Also, you get a lot of family history, which will help you understand some of the cloudiness about Gamache’s relationship with his son, Daniel.

There is a lot going on in this book. Armand’s relationship with Daniel, Armand’s relationship with his godfather, Daniel’s relationship with Jean-Guy. And we spend a lot more time with Reine-Marie, which is lovely.

Oh, and there’s murder. And attempted murder, and theft and burglary and corporate shenanigans. Everything you expect from Louise Penny.

Now, let me be frank. This is not my favorite of her books. I think the ending was rushed, and I’m not entirely sure her new editor gets Louise’s vibe. At times it felt a little clunky.

That being said, I still skipped all my chores to race to the ending, which quite literally haunted my dreams. I woke up from a nightmare about being in the middle of the final conflict. She’s that good. So when I say it felt clunky, understand that it’s still much, much better than many other authors’ work! It just felt rushed.

So there you go, yet another endorsement for Louise Penny, and yes, you absolutely should read ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE. And don’t worry, you’ll still be in touch with the Three Pines crew. I think you’re gonna love the ending, by the way. *wink*

Now I want a Parisian pastry.

January Newzine ~ 2021!

januaryjpg

Serious Stuff

Why being kind to others is good for your health

Zodiac Killer: Code-breakers solve San Francisco killer’s cipher

Is this what we’re becoming?’: Anne Frank memorial in Idaho, the only one in US, defaced with swastika stickers

Roald Dahl Family Apologizes For Children’s Author’s Anti-Semitism

Op-Ed Urging Jill Biden To Drop The ‘Dr.’ Sparks Outrage Online

Feds to delay seeking legal protection for monarch butterfly

Lockerbie bombing: New suspect soon to be charged

French Police Barred From Drone Use in Protests

What a History of Book-Burning Can Tell Us About Preserving Knowledge Today

Washington’s Secret to the Perfect Zoom Bookshelf? Buy It Wholesale.

When “Normal” People Snap: The Unnervingly Universal Potential for Violence

How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption

On the Matter of SPECTRE

Can Shopify Compete With Amazon Without Becoming Amazon?

Life Without Amazon (Well, Almost)For concerned customers, avoiding one of the world’s largest retailers and web service providers is proving harder than expected.

Local Stuff

Tattooist, Muralist, Author: Seattle’s Kyler Martz redefines what being an ‘artist’ means

Bill Gates’ Holiday Book Recommendations for A Lousy Year

Ex-Seattle man who owned cadaver business arrested for allegedly dumping body parts in remote Arizona

Words of the Month

Screen Shot 2020-12-14 at 9.09.23 AM

Snow-Bones: They’re the lines of snow or ice left at the sides of roads after the rest of the snow has melted. Which will probably be around June.

-Thanks to Mental Floss & Internet Archive for this word!

Awards

A Dog Pissing At The Edge of a Path wins prize for oddest book title of the year

PW’s 2020 Person of the Year: The Book Business Worker

The 2020 Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award

Book Stuff

This Little Free Library at the South Pole is the First in Antarctica

How modern mathematics emerged from a lost Islamic library

Denver’s Tattered Cover Becomes Nation’s Largest Black-Owned Indie Bookstore

THE STRANGE STORY OF RICHARD WRIGHT’S LOST CRIME NOVEL, SAVAGE HOLIDAY

Tome raiders: solving the great book heist

Library Books: A Small Antidote to a Life of Perpetual Dissatisfaction

Crime by Committee: 8 Novels Featuring Group Misdeeds

Publishing saw upheaval in 2020, but ‘books are resilient’

Career-improvement books and e-learning courses are gifts that keep on giving

The book of love: 400-year-old tome of John Donne’s poems is unveiled

Will Dean: ‘The whole book came to me between midnight and 6am

The Girl Detective Disappears: On Searching for Nancy Drew, and Finding Myself

Why on Earth Is Someone Stealing Unpublished Book Manuscripts?

The Strange Experience of Reading a Book Series in the Wrong Order

How Many of the Greatest Crime Books of All-Time Have You Read? (Wait, Which Books?)

Every Dark Tower Book Ranked From Worst To Best

Many Bookstores Still Raising Cash on GoFundMe

Virtual Guadalajara Book Fair Attracted Big Audiences

The Lost Art of the “Cast of Characters” Lists That Opened Midcentury Mystery Novels

The World’s Most Valuable Scientific Manuscripts

These are the books New Yorkers checked out from the library most this year.

The Smallest Children’s Book In The Library Of Congress

The Most Scathing Book Reviews of 2020

Unemployed and Underemployed Booksellers Choose Their Favorite Books of the Year

Here Are The Most Beautiful Book Covers Of 2020

Surprise Ending for Publishers: In 2020, Business Was Good

BOOK PORN: One of the 21st Century’s Greatest Buildings Is a Library in Mexico

Other Forms of Entertainment

“Fargo” season 4 has spun a complex, compelling American fable of race and crime

Chadwick Boseman will not be replaced in Black Panther 2

Revenge of the secretaries: The protest movement that inspired the film 9 to 5

Thirty Years Later, Is Goodfellas The Greatest Mob Movie Ever Made?

Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones for fifth and final episode

Lost Muppet Christmas Carol song rediscovered

No More Mr. Nice Guy: Hugh Grant Embraces The ‘Blessed Relief’ Of Darker Roles

Say ‘what’s up, Doc?’ to Eric Bauza — the Canadian now voicing Bugs Bunny

The Sims launches 100 new skin tones thanks to the advocacy of Black players

The Most Wonderful Time For Christmas Songs Turned Out To Be … In July?

These Artists Will Change Your Mind About Winter

Successful, Sentimental And Satirized, ‘Love Story’ Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The Glasgow artist inspired by what she finds in the fridge

Lawsuit over ‘warmer’ Sherlock depicted in Enola Holmes dismissed

The Most Iconic Crime Movies Set During Christmas

On the Weird Little Essays That Inspired A Christmas Story

Why The Sopranos Has Become a Zoomer Touchstone

The Skills We Gained — Or Tried To — In 2020

Words of the Month

Piblokto:  a condition among the Inuit that is characterized by attacks of disturbed behavior (as screaming and crying) and that occurs chiefly in winter

No one is entirely certain what causes piblokto (and some scholars in recent decades have expressed doubts that it actually exists at all), but what is fairly certain is that it sounds like a nasty way to spend the winter. Imagine if you had not only to perform through your normal routine of shoveling the walk outside your house and navigating the many additional layers of clothing that winter necessitates, but in addition had to do all this while in a state of hysteria. 

“When an Eskimo is attacked with piblokto indoors, nobody pays much attention, unless the sufferer should reach for a knife or attempt to injure some one.” Robert Edwin Peary, The North Pole, 1910

pearycostume

A picture of Robert Edwin Peary in his, “North Pole Costume

Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Blog Words at Play!

Links of Interest

November 29: The ‘Robin Hood’ policemen who stole from the Nazis

November 29: California Governor Again Denies Parole for Manson Family Member Leslie Van Houten

December 1: Grünten statue: Mystery over missing phallic landmark

December 1: The Literary Life Behind America’s Favorite Girl Spy

December 4: Sir Ian McKellen backs bid to buy JRR Tolkien house

December 4: Video: Arecibo Observatory Telescope Collapses

December 4: Why We See Rainbows

December 7: Ikea scraps traditional catalogue after 70 years

December 7: The day a Picasso statue vanished in Toronto

December 9: David Lew: Artist sues Los Angeles museum after work thrown out

December 9: Deer Santa strolls through downtown Invermere sporting holiday cheer

December 9: Bad Sex in Fiction Award Canceled Because We’ve All Suffered Enough

December 10: Spain Evicts Francisco Franco’s Heirs From Late Dictator’s Summer Palace

December 11: What’s Fauci Reading? We Take Another Look at Celebrity Bookshelves

December 11: Pennsylvania Turns To Man’s Best Friend To Sniff Out Spotted Lanternfly Infestation

December 11: Future-proofing Highgate Cemetery for climate change

December 13: Rare ‘Harry Potter’ book sold for $84,500 after sitting on woman’s shelf for 17 years

December 14: To Unlock Sublime Flavor, Cook Like A Scientist

December 14: Toledo Zoo Discovers Tasmanian Devils That Glow

December 15: Japan ‘Twitter killer’ Takahiro Shiraishi sentenced to death

December 15: Pup took van for a spin, police say

December 17: Woman discovers ‘thrill’ of wildlife photography in lockdown up for award

December 17: Italians Read More During the Pandemic

December 17: Long Lost 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Artifact Found in Cigar Box

December 18: US couple find 100-year-old whisky bottles hidden in walls of home

December 18: Thieves steal 2,400 cases of whisky from trailer

December 18: The John Jovino Gun Shop: The Closing of a Noir Landmark in Downtown New York

December 19: Police in hunt for twice-lost rare whale skull

December 20: Meet Beave, The Internet’s Most Famous Beaver

December 20: 24 Inventions by Women You Might Not Be Aware Of

December 21: Viking hoard secrets ‘unwrapped’ by £1m research

December 22: Hawaii Reboots Depression-Era Conservation Corps

December 22: War Pigeons: The Humble Heroes Behind His Majesty’s Secret Service

December 23: The Night Jacqueline Winspear Helped Her Father Steal a Christmas Tree

December 26: Scientists ID potential biomarkers to peg time of death for submerged corpses

December 26: Russian historian jailed for dismembering partner

December 27: Has Thomas Becket’s treasured ‘little book’ been found?

December 27: Model Train Company Makes Comeback In Quarantine

December 30: Jonathan Pollard: Israel spy greeted by Netanyahu after flying to Tel Aviv

December 30: Kim Philby – new revelations about spy emerge in secret files

Words of the Month

Northern Nanny: A cold storm of hail and wind from the north in England. Many northern nannies hit the UK in the 17th and 18th century, during a period known as the Little Ice Age. This led to the Thames freezing over on several occasions, and when the ice was thick enough, as in 1620, giant carnivals called ‘frost fairs’ were held on the river.

-Thanks to Collins Language Lover Blog for this term!

RIP

December 3: Mad Max star Hugh Keays-Byrne dies aged 73

December 7: William Kittredge, honored for his books about the rural West, has died at age 88

December 11: Thomas ‘Tiny’ Lister Jr.

December 13: Carol Sutton, New Orleans Star Known For Role In ‘Steel Magnolias,’ Dies At 76

December 14: Ella Augusta Johnson Dinkins, Champion Of Zora Neale Hurston’s Hometown, Dies At 102

December 18: Star Wars’ Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch dies aged 75

December 26: George Blake – Soviet Cold War spy and former MI6 officer dies in Russia

December 26: Barry Lopez, award-winning and influential Oregon author, dies at 75

December 30: Deadliest serial killer in American history dies at 80, with police still searching for his victims

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

Agatha Christie News:

INTRODUCING AGATHA CHRISTIE’S SVEN HJERSON

Six destinations every Agatha Christie fan should visit

Explore the World of Agatha Christie on PBS Jan. 17 & 24

It’s no secret that I love a well-written pastiche, and in Leonard Goldberg’s The Art of Deception, you’ve got just that – a well-executed pastiche….sorta. 

The sorta is on account of the fact these mysteries are based upon the canon of Sherlock Holmes. However, the man himself is absent, as he passed away many years before these tales – leaving behind Dr. Watson, Ms. Hudson, his methods….and a daughter. 

Who is just as bright, clever, and quick-witted as her father.

But here’s what I love about this series, Goldberg blends the familiar features of the original text into his new narrative with such a deft hand you’re able to recognize them for what they are, but they don’t feel crammed in. Even better? He doesn’t splice them in very often. Just enough to give flavor, but not so much he dilutes the current mystery Sherlock’s daughter, Dr. Watson, and his son are investigating.

Speaking of which, the case under investigation in The Art of Deception… 

A madman, for reasons unknown, is stalking and slashing Renaissance paintings – exclusively of women. When the madman decides terrorizing galleries in the West End isn’t enough and breaks into the home of man fifth in line for the throne…well, Lestrade calls on Sherlock’s daughter, Dr. Watson, and Dr. Watson for help.

The Art of Deception is a great book. One I, unfortunately, managed to polish off in two days. (I am absolutely terrible at putting a book down when I’m enjoying it. In fact, I would’ve finished it off faster, but work, sleep, and packing got in the way!)

If you’re looking for a solid, fun and fast mystery with a Sherlockian in feel, I’d recommend you read The Art of Deception

(BTW, you don’t need to read them in order to understand what’s happening in this book – Goldberg does an effortless job of catching the reader up.)

Don’t forget to check out Season 2!

Fran

Trust Me.

Some of you might have been put off by the fact that a good part of Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, Station Eleven, was presented as a dystopian novel, and I suspect in these days, knowing that the world collapses in this instance is because of what is known as the “Georgia Flu” won’t help. But Station Eleven is much, much more than that, and if you ask anyone else who’s read it, they’ll agree.

Also, don’t be off-put when I tell you that it delves into the realm of Literature, because that sounds pretentious, and Emily St. John Mandel has managed to avoid pretentiousness by telling a fast-paced action story. The fact that it has solid literary worth is cleverly disguised.

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Although I grant you, you’ll get more out of it if you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s King Lear. And Shakespeare in general, come to that.

Briefly, we begin on the eve of the Georgia Flu hitting the world (and this time the virus comes out of Russia instead of China, so see, that’s already one difference between fiction and reality. Aren’t you relieved?), with the collapse of legendary actor Arthur Leander onstage while he’s performing King Lear. The flu hits and within days, civilization as we know it is a thing of the past.

Station Eleven bounces back and forth between Arthur’s past and the future where one of the survivors of that fateful performance is now part of a traveling troupe of musicians and actors navigating the dangers of a new world littered with remnants and memories of the old one. And there are dangers aplenty, make no mistake.

Part of the deceptive charm of Station Eleven is that Emily St. John Mandel sucks you completely into her world, and you don’t see the power of her writing because it’s so beautifully understated. I finished it feeling like I’d been thumped over the head with a hammer that was lovingly encased in gorgeous velvet.

Oh, I know, I’m not making a lot of sense, which is why Station Eleven is a Trust Me book. Despite the dystopia and the flu, which I know sounds pretty awful to a lot of people right now, this is a book that should be on everyone’s TBR list, and honestly, I think it should be added to college level reading lists because Emily St. John Mandel’s weaving of stories is brilliant.

And it’s a page-turner too, with fabulous and complex people. And a dog. Trust me.

JB

In response to the year we’re leaving, and in hopes for the year we’re entering, I’ll leave it to this line from a great series we watched in November, “The Queen’s Gambit” ~ MY TRANQUILITY NEEDS TO BE REFURBISHED

BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL

Our Guardian Angel

There are three reasons for this most personal of posts:

This woman gave birth to me nearly 63 years ago. She loved words, and word play. She encouraged me to look up a word I didn’t know. She played word games with us on long car trips. She was always working on a crossword, and we’d always find scraps of paper around the house on which she was trying to create as many words as possible out of one, longer word. Oddly, for all of her love of words, she wasn’t a big reader. But she passed on this love of language to her children. Due to her, her children are big readers.

Eventually, I would find myself living in Seattle and in need of a part-time job and I’d wander into a small bookshop that was about to open in the summer of 1990. I’d work there for the next 27 years and own it for the last 18. When things got tight, when it was hard to meet the rent – especially in the last few years – she’d be my loan officer, even though we both knew it was a gift, not a loan. She loved that I had a bookshop and dearly wanted it to succeed. To a great extent, she was the reason it lasted as long as it did. If nothing else, she’d listed to my tales of woe about the state of the shop. When we closed it, she was a heartbroken as anyone.

Lastly, though it always seemed growing up that everyone knew her, that wasn’t true. I never made a public acknowledgement about her financial aid to the shop. That just wasn’t how we did things. It was between her and me – but you see it really wasn’t. It was between her and everyone who loved the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. So I wanted to acknowledge it publicly, thank her publicly for all that she did for the shop, for the extra years her help gave us all.

She was always my guardian angel, and she was the shop’s guardian angel.

She’s an angel of the first degree.

Dottie Thomas Dickey ~ April 14, 1927 – December 8, 2020

Amber Here!

So I’ve got two great historical mysteries for you: Dianne Freeman’s A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder & Rhys Bowen’s The Last Mrs. Summers!

ALGT: Mischief and Murder first!

The Countess of Harleigh is back in a new mystery! (Woot!) And life, after her last murder inquiry, is going splendidly. There’s only one small hiccup, her sister Lily and her fiancee jumped the gun a bit…and they’re now expecting! 

Now, this isn’t the first or last time such an event has occurred, but that doesn’t make it any less distressing. Especially since it means Frances will need to find a new venue, plan a country wedding, and tell her mother of the change of plans. 

It’s that last bit which both Frances and Lily are dreading.

Even worse? When they do find and arrive at the new venue, a series of accidents start befalling both staff and guests alike! 

The Last Mrs. Summers next.

Georgie is at loose ends – Darcy’s off on a secret jaunt, her Granddad is busy, and her mother’s rushed off to Germany. Happily, thanks to the unexpected appearance of her bestie Belinda Warburton-Stoke, Georgie is able to set aside the loneliness threatening to overwhelm her.

Even better? Belinda has good news! Which leads them on an adventure down the Cornish coast – where Belinda finds herself accused of murder! And of course, Georgie can’t just leave her friend in a pickle, especially since the police aren’t willing to look beyond Belinda for another suspect…

ALGT: Mischief and Murder is a witty murder mystery – with a relatable backdrop of family and relationship hiccups. Plus, reading about an American, who’s been plunked down in English high society, is an exciting twist on the usual norm for this style of historical novel. 

In The Last Mrs. Summers, Bowen does a beautiful job of melding a gothic atmosphere within her mystery and pacing it in such a way you want to keep turning the pages. While also subtly furthering the overall story arch of the oncoming specter of WWII looming at the series’s edge. 

Perhaps The Last Mrs. Summers is a bit understated in its wit and humor, and ALGT: Mischief and Murder is bubblier – but both are excellent historical mysteries (set during different eras). And I would heartily recommend both books to anyone looking for a historical mystery with a strong female lead that treads on the lighter side of murder. I know I relished each and every minute I was ensconced within their respective worlds!

(And BTW – what’s with all the blue covers this season?)

Happy Holidays!

Need a gift idea? Never fear!

Books:

The best books of 2020, chosen by booksellers

Buy a Book. Help Feed Hungry Americans

7 Best Mystery Books to Read Right Now (According to Mystery Experts)

Indie Bestseller Lists For December 9, 2020

NPR’s Book Concierge

Book Shops:

For those of you in the greater Seattle Area: A Guide to Seattle’s Independent Bookstores

For those of you around the county, here a list of mystery bookshop as curated by Sister’s in Crime: Mystery Bookshops

Indie Bound’s Bookshop Finder

Book Adjacent Gifts:

Etsy

Literati

Dear Holmes

Need Some Inspiration?

Employee pays boss’s 48-year-old overdue Marin County library book fine as holiday gift, joke

December 2020

smb december pdf

Serious Stuff

‘Get the Hell Out of Here and Get Something to Shoot With’ The political machine in McMinn County, Tennessee, had spent Election Day intimidating voters, encouraging fraud and holding poll watchers at gunpoint. That’s when a group of World War II veterans decided to revolt.

The Unsettled Legacy of the Bloodiest Election in American History

A vaccine heist in 1959 set off a frantic search to recover the serum before it spoiled

University staff urge probe into e-book pricing ‘scandal’

Censorettes: The Women Wartime Censors Who Kept The Allies Safe And Uncovered A Nest of Spies in Brooklyn

What Ozark Gets Wrong: The Latest Tricks in International Money Laundering

Buying a baby on Nairobi’s black market

Read Walter Mosley’s Incredible Speech From Last Night’s National Book Awards

Why Writing About Cults—and People Who Join Them—Is Never Easy

Two Darwin Notebooks Quietly Went Missing 20 Years Ago. Were They Stolen?

Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster

On SPECTRE

Do you really want Amazon’s new drugstore knowing your medical condition?

Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups

“Amazon’s unchecked growth is a threat to everyone’s rights.”

Audible bows to pressure and changes returns policy

On Serial Killers and the Extremely Violent

‘They were not born evil’: inside a troubling film on why people kill

The psychiatrist, who is the subject of HBO’s new documentary Crazy Not Insane, tells us what she saw during her decades interviewing and assessing serial murders

Samuel Little, America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, Confesses to Murder That Sent Innocent Man to Prison

Watch the Chilling Trailer For Netflix’s New True-Crime Docuseries, “The Ripper”

Art Crime

Amateur Art Sleuths Are Invited to Share Their Theories on the Whereabouts of Lost Art for a New Show About Missing Masterpieces

Inside Rome’s Secure Vault for Stolen Art

Art thriller ‘The Last Vermeer’ tells the engrossing true story of an ingenious fraud

The True Story of Rose Dugdale, The Woman Who Stole Vermeer

Want to own an art book on the Sistine Chapel? That’ll be $22,000—and you can’t return it.

Words of the Month

scruple (n.) A”moral misgiving, pang of conscience,” late 14th C., from Old French scrupule (14th C.), from Latin scrupulus “uneasiness, anxiety, pricking of conscience,” literally “small sharp stone,” diminutive of scrupus “sharp stone or pebble,” used figuratively by Cicero for a cause of uneasiness or anxiety, probably from the notion of having a pebble in one’s shoe. The word in the more literal Latin sense of “small unit of weight or measurement” is attested in English from late 14c. (etymonline)

Local Stuff

A Mysterious Pacific Northwest Road Trip

UNDETERMINED: A suspicious death at Green Lake, an investigation’s limits

Strange Stuff

The Most Unusual Murder Weapons in Crime Fiction

In the Footprints of the Hound: Why The Hound of the Baskervilles Still Haunts

‘Bullets for Dead Hoods’ salvages encyclopedia of 1930s mobsters

Powell’s by Powell’s fragrance offers smell of beloved Portland bookstore in one-ounce bottle

He Once Scouted Jamaican Beaches for Dr. No. Now, His 007 Rum Will Appear in No Time to Die.

Students discover hidden 15th-century text on medieval manuscripts

What Jack the Ripper’s Victims Can Teach Us About Digital Privacy

Words of the Month

As Donald Trump refuses to concede: the etymology of ‘coup’

Awards

Here are the winners of the 2020 World Fantasy Awards.

Douglas Stuart wins Booker prize for debut Shuggie Bain

Here are the winners of the 2020 National Book Awards.

Here is the shortlist for the 2020 Costa Book Awards.

Book Stuff

France’s independent bookshops struggle to survive a second lockdown

French bookworms denied their fix in lockdown

Want to Own a Beloved Book? Toni Morrison’s Book Collection Is for Sale

My First Thriller: Scott Turow

Vatican Library Enlists Artificial Intelligence to Protect Its Digitized Treasures

Review: Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell – virtuosic venting

A Collection of Rare Ian Fleming Books & Manuscripts Heads to Auction

Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions may finally be published, after five-decade wait

The Fleshly School: Sex writing in recent fiction

A comedian has just solved “the world’s most difficult literary puzzle.”

Beloved arts facility Poets House suspends operations

The Evolution of Espionage Fiction

A letter in which Beethoven literally just asks for some sheet music back has sold for $275k

The art of a short story

Unseen JRR Tolkien essays on Middle-earth coming in 2021

This museum is dedicated to the most famous Irish writers in history.  

Has Greed Fallen Behind as a Motive for Murder in Modern Crime Fiction?

Love and Murder with Jo Nesbø

The untold truth of the Hardy Boys

Arthur Conan Doyle and the Mutineers

Penguin Random House Staff Confront Publisher About New Jordan Peterson Book

‘Queen of crime’ Agatha Christie goes to Bollywood

Other Forms of Entertainment

How Sean Connery, an Unlikely Choice to Play Bond, Defined 007’s Style

15 Essential Conspiracy Theory Movies

Brooke Smith Answers Every Question We Have About The Silence of the Lambs

Val McDermid: The award-winning crime writer on how the plot of the novel that became ITV’s hit series Wire in the Blood arrived, fully formed, while she was driving on the M6

The secrets of TV’s greatest thriller-writer

This Week on Unlikeable Female Characters Podcast: Let’s Explore a Complicated Thriller Archetype: The Femme Fatale

This cryptic corner in downtown San Francisco is a movie treasure

C.J. Box on Big Sky, Big Twists, and Bringing a New Western Thriller to Montana

A forgotten female Sherlock Holmes gets her due in this audio play (with physical clues)

The Enduring Noir Legacy of John Cassavetes

31 Things We Learned from Michael Mann’s ‘Collateral’ Commentary

10 International True Crime Podcasts You Should Be Listening To Now

Misery at 30: a terrifying look at the toxicity of fandom

Out of the Shadows: Scoring ‘Double Indemnity’

‘Daredevil’ fans want Marvel to revive the show now that they have the rights again

‘Luther’ creator Neil Cross says there won’t be a season six but new project is coming soon

~ on The Godfather ~

Francis Ford Coppola announces new cut of ‘The Godfather III’

Oscar Isaac and Jake Gyllenhaal to star in ‘The Godfather’ making-of movie

Watch the dramatic trailer for Francis Ford Coppola’s new ‘Godfather III’ cut

Diane Keaton says watching recut ‘Godfather: Part III’ was “one of the best moments of my life”

Words of the Month

fustigate (v.)”to cudgel, to beat,” 1650s, back-formation from Fustication (1560s) or from Latin fusticatus, past participle of fusticare “to cudgel” (to death), from fustis “cudgel, club, staff, stick of wood,” of unknown origin. De Vaan writes that “The most obvious connection would be with Latin -futare” “to beat,” but there are evolutionary difficulties. (etymonline)

RIP

October 20: Jill Paton Walsh, writer of many genres, died at 84

November 6: Obituary: Geoffrey Palmer

November 8: Long-time customer Jim Mohundro died at 82

November 10: Scooby-Doo co-creator Ken Spears dies aged 82

November 29: Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dies aged 85

Links of Interest

November 4: Inside the Early Days of The Crime of the Century

November 5: High Life: The Carnegie Deli Murders

November 9: Why the funniest books are also the most serious

November 10: Owners’ joy as rare £2.5m books stolen in London heist returned

November 12: The instrument that ‘aided espionage’

November 12: Newton’s Daunting Masterpiece Had a Surprisingly Wide Audience, Historians Find

November 12: 200 more copies of Newton’s ‘Principia’ masterpiece found in Europe by scholar sleuths

November 12: Cognitive Load Theory: Explaining our fight for focus

November 13: Yorkshire Ripper death: Force apology over victim descriptions

November 14: Egypt: More than 100 intact sarcophagi unearthed near Cairo

November 18: My Mother, The Mystery Writer

November 19: Theodore Roosevelt and The Frontier Lawman

November 20: War, heroism and sex: Pulp magazines & the messages they perpetuated

November 20: Berlin police hold ‘cannibal’ after bones found in park

November 22: Unknown Constables found hidden for 200 years in family scrapbook

November 22: Decades of Alan Rickman’s diaries will be published as a book in 2022.

November 24: Linda Millar’s brief life was full of tragedy. Her secrets found their way into novels thanks to her celebrated parents, Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar. It’s time to see who she really was.

November 24: Metal monolith found by helicopter crew in Utah desert

Words of the Month

cantankerous (adj.) “marked by ill-tempered contradiction or opposition,” 1772, said by Grose to be “a Wiltshire word,” conjectured to be from an alteration (influenced perhaps by raucous) of a dialectal survival of Middle English contakour “troublemaker” (c. 1300), from Anglo-French contec “discord, strife,” from Old French contechier (Old North French contekier), from con- “with” + teche, related to atachier “hold fast” (see attach). With -ous. Related: Cantankerously; cantankerousness. (etymoline)

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

IMG_5977

Still love Christie….I am still writing! So check out Finder of Lost Things!

I am presently killing my hands painting the interior of my husband and I’s new house…and have literally packed every single one of my books in preparation for moving (which is killing me as a bibliophile). So I haven’t had much spare time to read…I know excuses, excuses!

Fran

You’re going to get tired of hearing this.

I know, I know, but Louise Penny is great!

At least half of you are skipping this, aren’t you? Either you’ve already read it or you’re not a convert yet. Ha!

If you’ve never read Louise Penny, starting with her latest, ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE, actually isn’t a bad place to begin. Granted, you won’t have the emotional ties that come with being in love with the series, but don’t worry. Once you’re hooked (and you will be), you’ll go back and start with STILL LIVES, and you’ll catch up.

ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE takes place in Paris rather than Three Pines, which is part of what makes it okay to begin here. Also, you get a lot of family history, which will help you understand some of the cloudiness about Gamache’s relationship with his son, Daniel.

There is a lot going on in this book. Armand’s relationship with Daniel, Armand’s relationship with his godfather, Daniel’s relationship with Jean-Guy. And we spend a lot more time with Reine-Marie, which is lovely.

Oh, and there’s murder. And attempted murder, and theft and burglary and corporate shenanigans. Everything you expect from Louise Penny.

Now, let me be frank. This is not my favorite of her books. I think the ending was rushed, and I’m not entirely sure her new editor gets Louise’s vibe. At times it felt a little clunky.

That being said, I still skipped all my chores to race to the ending, which quite literally haunted my dreams. I woke up from a nightmare about being in the middle of the final conflict. She’s that good. So when I say it felt clunky, understand that it’s still much, much better than many other authors’ work! It just felt rushed.

So there you go, yet another endorsement for Louise Penny, and yes, you absolutely should read ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE. And don’t worry, you’ll still be in touch with the Three Pines crew. I think you’re gonna love the ending, by the way. *wink*

Now I want a Parisian pastry.

BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL

November 2020

Serious Stuff

Leaked: Confidential Amazon memo reveals new software to track unions

Indie bookstores launch anti-Amazon ‘Boxed Out’ campaign

The next economic crisis: Empty retail space

MI5 boss says Russian and Chinese threats to UK ‘growing in severity’

Russia planned cyber-attack on Tokyo Olympics, says UK

Powerful New Video From Bruce Springsteen And Don Winslow Hits Trump In Key State

Best-selling crime writer Don Winslow on why he turned his sights on a new ‘criminal’ – Donald Trump

The gangster vanishes: twist in hunt for world’s largest haul of stolen art

The So-Called ‘Kidnapping Club’ Featured Cops Selling Free Black New Yorkers Into Slavery

Why Coroners Often Blame Police Killings on a Made-Up Medical Condition

How The 1969 Murders of a Labor Leader and His Family Changed Coal Country Forever

The True Story of Min Matheson, the Labor Leader Who Fought the Mob at the Polls

This Is How The FBI Says A Network Of ‘Boogaloo’ Boys Sparked Violence And Death

Coffins unearthed as the search for victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre continues

Violent criminal groups are eroding Mexico’s authority and claiming more territory

Words of the Month

dread (v.): From the late 12th C., “to fear very much, be in shrinking apprehension or expectation of,” a shortening of Old English adrædan, contraction of ondrædan “counsel or advise against,” also “to dread, fear, be afraid,” from ond-, and- “against” (the same first element in answer, from PIE root *ant-) + rædan “to advise” (from PIE root *re- “to reason, count”). Cognate of Old Saxon andradon, Old High German intraten. Related: Dreaded; dreading.

As a noun from c. 1200, “great fear or apprehension; cause or object of apprehension.” As a past-participle adjective (from the former strong past participle), “dreaded, frightful,” c.1400; later “held in awe” (early 15c.). [thanks to etymonline]

Strange Stuff

From cut-out confessions to cheese pages: browse the world’s strangest books

Unseen spoof by Raymond Chandler shows writer’s ‘human side’

Chandler and the Fox: The Mid-Century Correspondence Between Raymond Chandler and James M. Fox

The Strange Poetry of a Notorious Gangster’s Last Words

The 12 Greatest, Strangest, Most Transfixing Dance Scenes in the History of Crime Movies

The Strange History of Mickey Spillane and New Zealand’s “Jukebox Killer”

Italian police seize 4,000 bottles of counterfeit ‘super Tuscan’ wine

I Didn’t Set Out to Write a Book About the Argentine Scrabble Mafia But That’s What I’ve Done

Why Americans Fall for Grifters

Jeffery Deaver: ‘I can always find solace in Middle-earth and Tolkien’s imagination’

Local Stuff

Spokane author Jess Walter talks about his new novel ‘The Cold Millions,’ set in his hometown

Jess Walter is getting a ton of national critical praise for his new book. The Washington Post reviewed it as “one of the most captivating novels of the year” and The New Yorker called it a “masterful novel“. Congratulations to Jess!

Seattle writer receives $50,000 grant as one of 20 Disability Futures Fellows

A Bainbridge Island children’s book author bought Liberty Bay Books. One month later, the pandemic hit

Words of the Month

mumpsinus (n): One who stubbornly adheres to old ways in spite of clear evidence that they are wrong (Says You! # 223)

Awards

Here are the finalists for the 2020 National Book Awards

Louise Glück: where to start with an extraordinary Nobel winner

Here’s the shortlist for the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction.

Here’s the shortlist for the 2020 T. S. Eliot Prize.

Here’s the longlist for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

Book Stuff

The latest Covid trend is binge-reading. Independent bookstores are happy to oblige with special offers, free delivery and more.

Mystery Writer Jacques Futrelle Died Onboard the Titanic, but His Greatest Detective Creation Lives On

Bestselling author Tana French talks about what makes a good mystery writer and her latest novel

How Elmore Leonard Really Wrote His Novels—According to His Characters

A Shakespeare First Folio sold this week for $10 million.

The Westing Game may be a murder mystery—but it’s also a ghost story.

The Agatha Christie Centennial: 100 Years of The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Crime novelists dish on writing about cops in a moment of reckoning

How bookstores are weathering the pandemic

The Unlikely Detectives: Unlicensed, Unqualified, and Fully Invested

Edgar Allan Poe and and the Rise of the Modern City: “The Man of the Crowd” was arguably Edgar Allan Poe’s first detective story. It’s also one of his strangest.

Other Forms of Entertainment

In the Nixon Years, Conspiracy Thrillers Reflected Our Anxious Times. Where Are They Now?

Errol Morris Responds to the “Wilderness of Error” Finale

In 1983, Roger Moore and Sean Connery Squared Off in ‘The Battle of the Bonds’

Why British Police Shows Are Better: When you take away guns and shootings, you have more time to explore grief, guilt, and the psychological complexity of crime.

With Iron Man Behind Him, Robert Downey Jr. Plans MCU-Like Universe for ‘Sherlock Holmes’

New ‘Dexter’ Limited Series Headed to Showtime in Fall 2021

7 Great Heist Novels, Recommended By An Art Dealer

The Con: Portraits of Grifters and Scam Artists in Book, Film, and Real Life

How Edward Hopper’s Stony Blonde Became a Noir Icon

How ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Picked the Cases for Its Second Season

10 Political True Crime Podcasts to Listen to this Election Season

Edward Gorey designed the sets for the 1970s Broadway run of Dracula

The Burnt Orange Heresy review – Mick Jagger adds dash of malice to arty thriller

Words of the Month

oubliette (n): A “secret dungeon reached only via trapdoor and with an opening only at the top for admission of air,” 1819 (Scott), from French oubliette (14th C.), from Middle French oublier “to forget, show negligence,” Old French oblier, oblider, from Vulgar Latin *oblitare, from Latin oblitus, past participle of oblivisci “to forget” (see oblivion). Used for persons condemned to perpetual imprisonment or to perish secretly. (thanks to etymonline and John Connolly)

RIP

October 11: Margaret Nolan – actor, artist and Goldfinger title sequence star – dies aged 76

October 16 : Rhonda Fleming, femme fatale from Hollywood’s golden age, dies at 97

October 16: Tom Maschler, Booker prize founder and publisher of some of the greats of 20th-century fiction, dies at 87

October 30: Judith Hennes, long-time customer and friend of the shop, died

October 31: Sean Connery, James Bond actor, dies aged 90

Links of Interest

September 30: The Modern Detective: Inside the Secret World of Private Investigators

October 1: Nazi shipwreck found off Poland may solve Amber Room mystery

October 1: Happiness, a Mystery by Sophie Hannah review – solving the most profound puzzle

October 7: Stolen Mao scroll worth £230m was cut in two by £50 buyer, police say

October 14: Snapshots in the Life of a Criminal Data Analyst

October 15 : Mario Puzo at 100 – ‘The Godfather’ author never met a real gangster, but his mafia melodrama remains timeless

October 18: The Delightful Shock of Seeing the ‘Downton Abbey’-Famous Library

October 18: The secret world of diary hunters

October 22: The Network: How a Secretive Phone Company Helped the Crime World Go Dark

October 25: Chilling find shows how Henry VIII planned every detail of Boleyn beheading

October 25: Do not hike alone’: For 21 months, the Trailside Killer terrorized Bay Area’s outdoors

October 26: Killer High: Exploring the Phenomenon of LSD-Fuelled Murder

October 29: How Sierra Was Captured, Then Killed, by a Massive Accounting Fraud

Words of the Month

mesel (adj.): “leprous” (adj.); “a leper” (n.); both c. 1300, from Old French mesel “wretched, leprous; a wretch,” from Latin misellus “wretched, unfortunate,” as a noun, “a wretch,” in Medieval Latin, “a leper,” diminutive of miser “wretched, unfortunate, miserable” (see miser). A Latin diminutive form without diminutive force. Also from Latin misellus are Old Italian misello “sick, leprous,” Catalan mesell “sick.” The English word is archaic or obsolete since the 1500s, replaced by leper, leprous, but its lexical DNA survives, apparently, as a contamination of measles. (thanks to etymonline)

What We’ve Been Up To

Fran

Books and physics

In high school, I got a D— in physics, and the only reason I got so good a grade was that my physics teacher had been really good friends with my late cousin. Ms. Lopez made me promise I’d never take physics again if she gave me that grade, and I happily agreed.

She’d be massively unsurprised at my current dilemma.

We just moved to a new place. I have 60 boxes of books, which should surprise exactly no one, especially those of you who know me. I have not only signed and collectible copies of books, but manuscripts and Advance Reader Copies and ratty paperbacks that I adore.

I also have three – yes, three – bookcases. And even they don’t have enough shelves on them; I have to add at least one more per bookcase.

Now, I’ll grant you that the lady from whom we bought the house left another one, and I’m using it, but even then, well, it’s not going to be enough. Not by a long shot.

It’s a challenge, but I’m up to it. I think. It’s making my wife a little crazed, but she knew this about me when she married me, it’s going to be fine.

Eventually.

All of this is in order to explain why I don’t have a review for you this month. Also why I got a D— in physics back in high school.

JB

I guess I’m not in an objective mindset to be able to write up the last two books I read and do justice to them. The new John Connolly, The Dirty South, is sort of a prequel, taking place after his family was wiped out but before he caught The Traveler. Great idea, great characters, great story and… [a shrug of the shoulders….] The new Craig Johnson, Next to Last Stand, also gets a shrug – interesting germ for a story, characters I adore, etc, but…. guess I’m getting tired of Longmire’s indecision about running for office again. I understand that while the indecision has been going on for years for us readers and for only a few months for the characters, I’m tired of it. It’s much like the story lines in the TV series that didn’t grab me. You’re stuck with it. Still, I love a good art mystery, so I’d recommend you read this piece by Craig about where the idea for the story came from: The Strange Life and Mysterious Disappearance of a Very American Painting. Still, the questions remains” can there be a Longmire series after or when Walt retires?

BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL

October 2020

cat jpg

It’s been a hectic month for the three of us so this will probably be a shorter issue.

      Ghoulish Stuff for the Season

Did Mary Shelley actually lose her virginity to Percy on top of her mother’s grave? 

Are We Running Out of Monster Metaphors for the Disasters of the Real World? Erika Swyler on Surviving Our Fears By Creating More of Them

John Cleese Intends to Have His Unread Books Buried With Him

How Will Crime Fiction Authors Hold Up in the Coming Zombie Apocalypse?

      Words of the Month

kokum (n): fake niceness, simulated kindness  (Says You! Episode #717)

      Goofy Stuff

Jonathan Franzen’s best piece of advice for young writers will probably surprise you.

The 45 Best Bad Amazon Reviews of In Cold Blood 

‘Who knew people wanted a funny book on punctuation?’: Lynne Truss on writing Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Jim Thompson Is The Cynical Voice of Reason We Need In This Dumpster Fire of a Year

      Serious Stuff

The city depicted in To Kill a Mockingbird just elected its first Black mayor. [it was published in 1960…]

The Irish Department of Education is considering removing classic literary texts like To Kill a Mockingbird from secondary school curricula after pro-Black Lives Matter families complained about the use of the n-word in classrooms.

For the 2021-22 school year, the University of Chicago’s English department, one of the top-rated in the US, will only accept students “interested in working in and with Black Studies.”

The Evolution of Racism: A look at how the word, a surprisingly recent addition to the English lexicon, made its way into the dictionary 

Can Italy Defeat Its Most Powerful Crime Syndicate?


Amazon Is Spying on Its Workers in Closed Facebook Groups, Internal Reports Show

Amazon Is Hiring an Intelligence Analyst to Track ‘Labor Organizing Threats’

From the Idaho Statesman – not a state of the radical left: Amazon is not a friend of the book or its authors

Amazon says its warehouses are safe for workers. But the numbers reveal that workers are getting hurt much more often than the company claims.


Here’s how publishers based in the West are responding to a difficult, destructive fire season.

Sadly, we were ahead of the game: Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore launches a GoFundMe as more stores struggle through pandemic

A Massive Trove of Newly Leaked Documents Shows How Big Banks Help Criminals Move Dirty Money 

Joe And Jennifer Montana Foil Attempted Kidnapping Of Their Grandchild

A Rare Day-by-Day Document of Life Aboard a Slave Ship 

Bestselling author James Patterson donates $2.5 million for teacher grants

      Words of the Month

foe (n):  Old English gefea, gefa “foe, enemy, adversary in a blood feud” (the prefix denotes “mutuality”), from adjective fah “at feud, hostile,” also “guilty, criminal,” from Proto-Germanic *faihaz (source also of Old High German fehan “to hate,” Gothic faih “deception”), perhaps from the same Proto-Indo-European source that yielded Sanskrit pisunah “malicious,” picacah “demon;” Lithuanian piktas “wicked, angry,” peikti “to blame.” Weaker sense of “adversary” is first recorded c. 1600. (etymonline.com)

      Awards

Here’s the longlist for this year’s National Book Award for Nonfiction.

All the poets on the longlist for the National Book Award for Poetry are first timers.

Six Young Women with Prizewinning Book Collections

Milan Kundera ‘joyfully’ accepts Czech Republic’s Franz Kafka prize

Namwali Serpell will donate Clarke Prize money to those protesting Breonna Taylor’s murder.

Nikky Finney has won the $100,000 Wallace Stevens lifetime achievement award.

Women’s Prize for Fiction: Maggie O’Farrell wins for Hamnet, about Shakespeare’s son

      Words of the Month

zombie (n.) From 1871, of West African origin (compare Kikongo zumbi “fetish;” Kimbundu nzambi “god”), originally the name of a snake god, later with meaning “reanimated corpse” in voodoo cult. But perhaps also from Louisiana creole word meaning “phantom, ghost,” from Spanish sombra “shade, ghost.” Sense “slow-witted person” is recorded from 1936. (thanks to etymonline)

      Book Stuff

The real-life origin story behind The Count of Monte Cristo ~ Alexandre Dumas wrote his famous novel as a revenge fantasy for his father.

From Lindsay Faye: A Brief Introduction to Charles Vincent Emerson Starrett

Gayle Lynds: My First Thriller

“When I’m telling a story I imagine the eavesdropper over my shoulder.” Walter Mosley on storytelling, writing advice, and Winnie the Pooh.

“The translator is a writer. The writer is a translator. How many times have I run up against these assertions?” Tim Parks on the writer-translator equation.

$3.2 million worth of rare stolen books have been found under a house in rural Romania.

Why Writers Are Always in Pursuit of The Maltese Falcon

Just how odd is this month’s bestseller list? A look at pre-election bestsellers from years past.

The Writer Who Helped Spark an Explosive Debate Over the Future of Romance Novels

Rare Edition of Shakespeare’s Last Play Found in Spanish Library

What Are the Sexiest Books in Contemporary Crime Fiction? Authors Discuss

Why you should read this out loud

The Grim Truth Behind The Pied Piper

The Evolution of Jack Reacher

      Other Forms of Entertainment

The ancient palindrome that explains Christopher Nolan’s Tenet 

How Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant Filmed One of the Sexiest Scenes of All Time

The Big Sigh: Exploring the Lost Continent of Classic French Film Noir 1932-1966


Hunt continues for James Bond guns stolen in raid

‘Mythical’ Aston Martin Bulldog supercar being restored

007th heaven: why Tom Hardy as the new Bond is too good to be true

You May Have Read Tom Hardy Was Cast as the Next James Bond. Here’s Why That’s Not Going to Happen.


It’s Time to Acknowledge Miller’s Crossing As the Best Coen Brothers Movie

Goodfellas at 30: Martin Scorsese’s damning study of masculinity

Prince’s Sign O’ The Times: An oral history

Great British Bake Off: ‘Excellent’ Matt Lucas charms critics on show debut

Who is Tatiana Maslany, the new star of She-Hulk?

The Emotional Legacy Of ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’

How George Michael transformed pop

‘If you steal music, you aren’t a real music fan’

From ‘SNL’ To Workout Videos, How RBG Became A Pop Culture Icon

      Words of the Month

bellicose (adj.) from the early 15th C., “inclined to fighting,” from Latin bellicosus “warlike, valorous, given to fighting,” from bellicus “of war,” from bellum “war” (Old Latin duellum, dvellum), which is of uncertain origin. (thanks to etymonline)

      Links of Interest

September 1: The Many Sides to Dan Brown ~ The author of “The Da Vinci Code” just released a classical music album for children. It happens to be one of the assets he and his wife are disputing in lawsuits over their divorce.

September 3: On a “body farm,” researchers are exploring whether the nutrients from human cadavers can change the look of plants, which authorities might use to locate missing persons.

September 6: How cold war spymasters found arrogance of Carlos the Jackal too hot to handle

September 6: Man blows up part of house while chasing fly

September 6: ‘But Do I Love You?’: Tips For Homebound Declutterers

September 6: John Cage musical work changes chord for first time in seven years

September 6: Man in box of ice breaks world record

September 8: The Unexpected Politics of Book Cover Design

September 9: The Very Brief Heyday of Crime Beat Magazine

September 9: Some in France are urging President Emmanuel Macron to relocate the bodies of poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine to the Pantheon, a memorial site known as the resting place of French cultural luminaries

September 10: The Black Dahlia: The Long, Strange History of Los Angeles’ Coldest Cold Case

September 10: Wuthering Heights: House that inspired Emily Bronte classic for sale

September 10: Santa Fe rejects George RR Martin’s request to build a ‘castle’ library

September 12: Crime Curators: Keepers of American criminal history

September 12: A Legendary Spy’s Unusual Recruitment in 1930S Shanghai

September 13: Reading Michael Cohen’s Disloyal as a memoir of jilted love.

September 14:“There’s a part o f me that feels the loss is incalculable. What if there was something in one of those crushed boxes that would have transformed literary criticism forever?” On the university that accidentally put Nadine Gordimer’s library on the street.

September 14: Warren Harding: Grandson of former US president asks to exhume his remains

September 16: Blood & Fire ~ the Bombing of Wall Street, 100 Years Later

September 16: Notorious B.I.G. crown and Tupac love letters sold at auction

September 18: The FBI, The Second Red Scare, and the Folk Singer Who Cooperated

September 18: ‘Bonkers’ reaction to Scottish store’s Taylor Swift signed CD surprise

September 22: John Lennon killer says sorry for ‘despicable act’

September 23: The National Portrait Gallery honors women who shaped the past century of American lit.

September 23: How a Team of Calligraphers Brought Jane Austen’s Fictional Letters to Life

September 24 : The Philosopher and the Detectives ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Enduring Passion for Hardboiled Fiction

September 24: Man dies from eating more than a bag of liquorice a day

September 26: Rimbaud and Verlaine: France agonises over digging up gay poets

September 27: Joe Montana (American football legend) & wife saves grandchild from kidnapping attempt

September 28: “Whether fiction or non, the lot of the double agent is rarely a happy one.”

September 29: The cat who hitched a lift on a worldwide tour

      RIP

September 10: Diana Rigg, “The Avengers” and 007’s only wife, dies aged 82

September 10: George Bizos obituary: Remembering Mandela’s gentle but fierce lawyer

September 10: Ronald Bell: Kool & The Gang founder dies aged 68

September 17: Legendary jazz critic, playwright, and essayist Stanley Crouch has died.

September 21: Winston Groom, author of pop cultural phenomenon ‘Forrest Gump,’ dies at 77

September 21: Sam McBratney: Guess How Much I Love You author dies

September 22: Michael Lonsdale, Bond villain and Jackal pursuer, dead at 89

September 22: Robert Graetz, Only White Pastor To Back Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dies At 92

September 24: Sir Harold Evans: Crusading editor who exposed Thalidomide impact dies aged 92

September 27: Miss Sherlock actress Yuko Takeuchi found dead at 40

September 30: Mac Davis: “In The Ghetto” songwriter dies aged 78

      Words of the Month

fear (n.) From Middle English fere, from Old English fær “calamity, sudden danger, peril, sudden attack,” from Proto-Germanic *feraz “danger” (source also of Old Saxon far “ambush,” Old Norse far “harm, distress, deception,” Dutch gevaar, German Gefahr “danger”), from PIE *pēr-, a lengthened form of the verbal root *per- (3) “to try, risk.”

Sense of “state of being afraid, uneasiness caused by possible danger” developed by late 12th C. Some Old English words for “fear” as we now use it were fyrhto, fyrhto; as a verb, ondrædan. Meaning “feeling of dread and reverence for God” is from c. 1400. To put the fear of God (into someone) “intimidate, cause to cower” is by 1888, from the common religious phrase; the extended use was often at first in colonial contexts:

“Thus then we seek to pu ‘the fear of God’ into the natives at the point of the bayonet, and excuse ourselves for the bloody work on the plea of the benefits which we intend to confer afterwards.” – Felix Adler, The Religion of Duty, 1950

(thanks to etymonline)

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Fran

I’m so sorry about last month. We’re moving from Washington State to New Mexico, which would be hectic at any time, but during COVID has been especially challenging. I can’t even begin to discuss the sheer volume of paperwork!

But my 60 boxes of books are packed, so there’s that. And I unearthed books from my To Be Read pile that honestly I’d forgotten about, 9781451649413which brings me to Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. It came out in 2018. I may be behind but I’m sincere in my efforts.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter spans time from about 1850 to 2017, with stops along the way. Our narrator is Birdie, also sometimes known as Lily Millington. She’s been around for a very long time. The other person we’re following mostly is Elodie Winslow, in 2017. Obviously their paths intertwine, but it’s how and why that is so fascinating.

Birdie, as Lily, was the model for an up and coming painter in the late 1800’s, Edward Radcliffe. She was and is a highly intelligent and curious and free-spirited young lady, with a shady past. Elodie archives records and memorabilia surrounding a different 1800’s person, James Stratton, as well as dodges her soon-to-be mother-in-law whenever possible.

How these two women’s lives overlap, along with so very many other people, is at the heart of the story, but make no mistake, this is a murder mystery. Frances Brown was murdered at Edward Radcliffe’s house in 1862, and everyone believes they know what happened.

They’re wrong. Almost no one does. And finding out what happened will keep you reading, I promise. Kate Morton is an accomplished author, and she manages the different voices skillfully and deftly. This is an absolutely lush novel, and I think it would be a gorgeous movie, but no film could ever capture the depth, the insights, the myriad layers of personality and history that are encompassed in this book.

As the weather darkens and the year winds down, I really do recommend The Clockmaker’s Daughter as a great fireside read on a blustery day!

   JB

While he’s written a ton a great books, I’ve always thought The Poet is Michael Connelly‘s best book. Granted, I’ve not read it in a couple of decades but it has stuck with me as singular – and I plan to re-read it very soon.

9780316539425So I was excited to learn that his newest book, Fair Warning,  brings back reporter Jack McEvoy and eager to read it.

While the plot is, as always, original and interesting, this was a boring read. A dud. (Even the cover is bad – his publisher put a raven on it and there is zero plot connection to the earlier McEvoy novels.) The writing was flat and uninteresting, McEvoy struggles with and inability to make intimate relationships work with women – as most of Connelly’s male characters do – and I finished it just to see how it’d end. I hadn’t read any Connelly books in years and I should’ve kept it that way. A sad comment about a favorite author and nice guy.


On the other hand – – –

“It was rampaging imbecility, and possibly unstoppable.”

GET A HOLD OF THE NEW CARL HIAASEN AS FAST AS YOU CAN!

“The boy looked up from the canal bank to see what he’d snagged, dialed 911, cut his
line with a knife, and walked away. It was the third dead body he’s found while fishing, but such was the reality of a childhood spent outdoors in Florida. It was a testament to the teen’s passion for angling that he’d never considered getting a new hobby”.
Fiction or memory?

Not only is this about the usual insanity of Hiaasen’s Florida home state, it’s the insanity of the current year: covid, the election, the current occupants of the White House, MAGA fans who call themselves the Potussies (because these decadently wealthy women find “POTUS pussies” might risk their cherished places on the social registry), stripper poles in beach cabanas, tanning beds that must be test run, record-length pythons, violent texts about immigrants and howling mobs, and even a certain ex-governor. Oh, and fabulously expensive conch pearls.

“The whole place smelled like the exhaust vent at a Burger King”

The winter White House on Palm Beach island – Hiaasen has dubbed it “Casa Bellicosa” – is the scene of most of the action after Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons vanishes from a fundraiser. Soon we’re into a hunt for her involving the Secret Service, the local chief of police and a young woman who removes creatures from buildings and returns them to the wild. Angie used to be a wildlife agent but was sent to prison for feeding the hand of a poacher to an alligator. The only regret she had was that the poor alligator had to be shot.

Hiaasen does not lower himself to use the actual names of the President and First Lady – he used Secret Service code names of “Mastodon” and “Mockingbird” but he is otherwise scathing in his portrayal of the recognizable Leader of the Free World. As you might imagine. “Up on the TV screen, Mastodon wearing a vast beet-colored golf shirt that hung on his upper frame like an Orkin termite tent. His long-billed cap had been yanked down tight to keep his hairpiece moored to its Velcro moonbase during gusts of wind.”

The First Lady is treated with respect – though he gives her a fondness for a “a specific massage oil – eucalyptus and bacon mint”. She actually comes off as the only sane one in family. She may’ve even found true love!

I frankly didn’t care if the other passengers on the plane looked oddly at me for laughing out loud while consuming the book. How could you not?9781524733452

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