October 2020

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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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