January 2022

The stuffed toys that inspired A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh.”

NYC Public Library’s Cabinet of Wonders Opens Wide

Words for the Month

pilpul (n.) A pointless argument. (Says You! #919)

HUH? Stuff

A first edition of Harry Potter is now the most expensive modern work of fiction ever sold.

On the Murder Mystery Movie Written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins

The Underappreciated Genius of William Lindsay Gresham’s Nightmare Alley [the remake by Benicio Del Toro comes out soon]

See the Real Live Man Who Grew Up in a Carnival

Nuclear Experts: Hey, So, Those Anti-5G Radiation Necklaces Are Actually Radioactive

Wait, is ‘Die Hard’ a remake of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’

Can you solve the very first published crossword puzzle?

Indiana Jones’ Rabbi Thought He Found the Ark of the Covenant and Nearly Started a War

The Most Scathing Book Reviews of 2021

Did Philip K. Dick discover the real-life Matrix in 1977?

Serious Stuff

Retail Theft Has Gotten Very Organized

Israeli spyware was used against US diplomats in Uganda

The CIA Is Deep Into Cryptocurrency, Director Reveals

10 Books Texas Officials Want to Ban From Schools

Crime Prediction Software Promised to Be Free of Biases. New Data Shows It Perpetuates Them

To Investigate Serial Killers with the FBI, First She Had to Pass the Test

The FBI’s Legendary Mindhunter Wonders, Did He Get It Right?

‘JFK’ at 30: Oliver Stone and the lasting impact of America’s most dangerous movie

Inside the Disastrous Conspiracy Roadshow That Likely Killed a COVID-Denying Ex-CIA Agent

The meaning of words: Orwell, Didion, Trump and the death of language

Local Stuff

‘You don’t know how to grieve’: Loved ones of missing Federal Way teen gather 24 years later

Cold case detective, forensic DNA scientist hope to inspire others after solving infamous Spokane crime

Oregon-based Dark Horse Comics sold to Swedish video game company

Rethinking mugshots: Online era means they live forever so states, including Oregon, are moving to limit release

Words for the Month

oojah (n.) An object whose name one can’t remember. (Says You !#916)

Odd Stuff

Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story

How the CIA Took Over a Florida Island

Hackers Are Spamming Businesses’ Receipt Printers With ‘Antiwork’ Manifestos

TikTok isn’t just for tearjerkers—it’s also for obscure 1930s literary puzzles, apparently.

Who Owns a Recipe? A Plagiarism Claim Has Cookbook Authors Asking

The ‘Home Alone’ house could be yours for a night

Ransomware Jerks Helped Cause the Cream Cheese Shortage

Ohio police ask for help finding thieves who stole entire bridge

He was close by for three presidential assassinations. Including his dad’s.

Man Who Tried to Kill the Queen With a Crossbow Made Darth Vader Terror Video Before Breaking into Palace

9 Spine-Tingling True Crime Relics Sold in 2021

SPECTRE

Amazon’s Dark Secret: It Has Failed to Protect Your Data

What Happened to Amazon’s Bookstore?

Complaint to FTC: Amazon search results full of potentially deceiving ads

Most of Amazon’s Pollution-Spewing Warehouses Are Built In Communities of Color

This Amazon program has funneled thousands to anti-vax activists during the pandemic

Amazon Delivery Workers Threatened With Firing, Told to Keep Driving During Tornadoes

Words of the Month

cumberground (n.) Totally worthless object or person; something that is just in the way. (fishofgold.net)

Awards

Here are the winners of the 2021 Hugo Awards.

Hugo Awards Host DisCon III Apologizes for Taking Money From Defense Company

Martha Wells continues run of female Hugo award winners

Survey says: the Booker is the most important literary prize in the world.

Book Stuff

Emma Straub on Opening Her Bookstore, Books Are Magic

Millions of followers? For book sales, ‘it’s unreliable.’

Feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four approved by Orwell’s estate

Library audio and ebook loans in 2021 reveal unexpected stars

Chris Cuomo’s Upcoming Book Pulled by HarperCollins

Penguin Random House Defends Effort to Buy Simon & Schuster

Lawrence Block: The Thrill of Discovering the Novels of Fredric Brown

Co-founder of independent bookstore in Hong Kong, Jisaam Books, shares why she continues even if it makes no profit

True Crime Is Changing (And That’s A Good Thing)

Nothing Like a Mad Woman: 11 Unexpected Thrillers About Female Rage

The New Outliers: How Creative Nonfiction Became a Legitimate, Serious Genre

Writing Sex Scenes in the Realm of Mystery

‘Don’t start a sex scene when your mother-in-law is visiting’: how I wrote a novel in a month

The Books Briefing: The Quiet Skill of Mass-Market Novels

Lost library of literary treasures saved for UK after charity raises £15m

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem: A Town with a Dark History of Brutality and Murder

Poor, Black and in Real Trouble: The Baltimore Noir of Jerome Dyson Wright

One of world’s smallest books sold at auction for £3,500

How Many Books Does It Take to Make a Place Feel Like Home?

Inside Yu and Me Books, Manhattan’s first Asian American woman-owned bookstore/café.

Politics and Prose employees moved to unionize—then the store owners hired an anti-union law firm.

This village was a book capital. What happens when people stop buying so many books?

Other Forms of Entertainment

8 True Crime Podcasts You Need to Listen to This Winter

‘I’ve healed. I don’t want to be the badass’ – Noomi Rapace on beating her Dragon Tattoo trauma

How HBO’s Love Life addresses the whiteness of the publishing industry

James Bond: acclaimed writers explain how they would reinvent 007

Sylvester Stallone to Star in Taylor Sheridan/Terence Winter Contemporary Kansas City Mob Drama for Paramount+

Mannix Was Vintage TV’s Perfect Savvy PI

Our 15 Favorite Underrated Film Noirs

The Real Story Behind ‘Casablanca’

The Best Crime Movies of 2021

Dirty Harry at 50: Clint Eastwood’s seminal, troubling 70s antihero

Vincent D’Onofrio on Wilson Fisk’s Hawkeye Return: “He Wants His City Back”

Rat Pack Crime Cinema

Spectre Cut Twist Would Have Revealed Ralph Fiennes’ M As Blofeld

The Black Neo-noirs of the ’90s

10 Best Neo-Noir Thrillers To Watch Like Nightmare Alley

Words of the Month

vada (n.) Damp or moist (Says You #1025)

RIP

Dec 1: Here’s our tribute to G.M. Ford

Dec 1: Philip B. Heymann, 89, Dies; Prosecuted Watergate and Abscam

Dec 5: Martha De Laurentiis, Producer on ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Red Dragon,’ Dies at 67

Dec 11: Anne Rice, who spun gothic tales of vampires, dies at 80

Dec 15: Trailblazing feminist author, critic and activist bell hooks has died at 69

Dec 23: Joan Didion has died at 87

Dec 27: Sarah Weddington, attorney who won Roe v Wade abortion case, dies aged 76

Dec 27: Andrew Vachss died at 79. At this time we have no details

Dec 29: David Wagoner, prolific poet of the Northwest, is dead at 96

Dec 30: Assunta Maresca, first female boss in Camorra mafia, dies aged 86: Maresca, known as Pupetta, or ‘Little Doll’, found fame when she shot dead her husband’s killer in Naples at the age of 18

Links of Interest

Nov 30: Inside the FBI’s Unlikely Undercover Operation Infiltrating a Radical Militia in Kansas

Dec 1: Serial killer’s confessions have LA detectives chasing ghosts

Dec 1: Dickens letter brings Victorian dinner drama to life

Dec 2: A Prolific Art Thief Got an Incredible Sentence

Dec 3: The Ponzi of Paris: The Greatest, Wildest Confidence Artist in French History

Dec 4: Police may have discovered source of the “bags and bags” of money in wall of Joel Osteen’s church

Dec 7: Hedge Fund Billionaire Surrenders $70 Million in Looted Art

Dec 9: Encrypted Phone Company Backdoored by FBI Will Lead to ‘Years’ of Arrests

Dec 9: Mom Charged for Telling Daughter to Punch Opponent in High School Basketball Game

Dec 9: The Tragic Misfit Behind “Harriet the Spy”

Dec 11: Secret Customs and Border Protection Unit Snooped on Journalists, Gov’t Officials

Dec 14: N.Y. Ethics Board Tells Former Gov. Cuomo to Return Book Money

Dec 14: Mysterious 40-Year-Old Remains ID’d as Member of Soul Outfit the O’Jays

Dec 14: OJ Simpson a ‘completely free man’ after parole ends in Nevada

Dec 15: Meet MS-13’s ‘Black Widow’ Who Tricked Men Into Marriage and Killed Them

Dec 16: The lawyer who tried faking his death, and the writer exposing his crime dynasty

Dec 26: 6 of the Biggest Crypto-Heists of 2021 – Gizmodo

Words of the Month

ultracrepidarian (adj.) Noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise. (fishofgold.net)

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

Liz Ireland – Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide

What do you get when you take Christmas, Halloween, murder, and whiz it up in a blender?

This book.

Okay – now you need to trust me on this one.

April Claus married into one of the most famous families in the world, which initially didn’t impact her life a whole lot – as her husband was heir to the mantle of Santa Claus. Sadly, thru a series of unfortunate and murderous events, both she and her husband were thrust into the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus on a strictly interim basis. (The details of how this came about are detailed Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings.)

Now having a whole year of Mrs. Claus duties under her belt and being the new blood of the clan April is keen on introducing the elves of Christmastown to another holiday, her (previous) favorite Halloween, an idea which proves somewhat controversial in a town dedicated to all things Christmas.

A small but vocal contingent of elves believes Christmastown should remain a single celebration city. The most vocal critic of All Hallows Eve is Tiny Sparkletoes – who unfortunately – is found dead not long after a greenhouse full of pumpkins is vandalized…

Now I picked up this book based on the mash-up of holidays promised in the title – and it did not let me down. In fact, it utterly beat my expectations! The setting of Christmas town, the entertaining character names, and the reindeer (oh, the reindeer!) are treated so off-handedly that it successfully neutralizes the sweetness that could’ve crept into this narrative. April Claus just happens to live at the North Pole with her husband in Kringle Castle.

No big deal.

It also helps that April finds herself hip-deep in investigating a case of vandalism but a potential murder. Then there’s the problem of her best friend’s creepy boyfriend, drunk reindeer, and a mother-in-law who isn’t ready to cede her status as the numero uno – Mrs. Claus.

Seriously, Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide is a well-paced and surprisingly nuanced themed mystery that will have you turning the pages quicker and quicker to find out whodunit!

Fran

HAPPY MERRY JOLLY!

So, how was your holiday season? We spent ours being all trendy, having the newly fashionable COVID Christmas, and it was just as spectacular as you might imagine.

I hope you didn’t participate, and if you did, I hope you’re feeling much better. We are, thank you for asking. That’s very sweet of you, but we’re vaccinated and boosted, so we were just unhappy, not in danger. Mostly we were blearily waiting for Barnaby to solve the Midsomer crime of the day. He’s reliable, is Barnaby. We needed that. Thank you, Caroline Graham!

I didn’t read a lot during this time. Brain fog is a real thing, hence the need for Barnaby to solve the cases. But I did read a YA book that was tons of fun, and perfectly suited my mood – Maureen Johnson’s Devilish.

While I never attended a religious prep school on the East Coast, any high school student will be able to relate to the issues facing Jane Jarvis, who doesn’t quite fit in, is too smart for her own good, and is worried about her bestie, Allison Concord. See, Ally’s changed, and while on the surface it seems to be a good thing, Jane is concerned because the changes in Ally are so radical. I mean, who gets a scholarship that pays for you to go shopping? To change your entire personality and become the Cool Kid? Something is suspicious, and Jane is going to find out what.

What I love about Maureen Johnson’s writing is how very relatable all her people are. While I’ve never been in the circumstances Jane finds herself in – and I’m grateful for that, by the way! – I know her, and Ally, and Owen, and Elton, and even the nuns.

Devilish is a quick read, which is perfect for this time of year, and definitely worth your while. If, however, you decide to save it for a summer beach read, I totally understand. The important thing is that you read it. Which you will, right?

BEST OF THE NEW YEAR TO ALL!

BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL

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