APRIL 2021

~ For Your Amazement ~

How were the small words in English created?

When in Need of the Right Word, Great Writers Simply Make Them Up

Why Is Tower Records Coming Back Now, of All Times?

Dave Barry: Hiaasen’s retirement is good news for sleazeballs nationwide

clinomania: the excessive desire to stay in bed

Serious Stuff

Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts

A Dr. Seuss Expert Cuts Through the Noise on the Cancel Culture Controversy

Ransomware Gang Fully Doxes Bank Employees in Extortion Attempt

The Silent Trial of the Century

Opinion: Book sales are up, but bookstores are struggling. It matters where you shop.

Conspiracy Theories and the Problem of Disbelief – The Atlantic

New piece of Dead Sea Scrolls jigsaw discovered after 60 years

How Would the Publishing World Respond to Lolita Today?

Operation finds 150 missing children in Tennessee

Ransomwared Bank Tells Customers It Lost Their SSNs

Steph Cha: The Atlanta shooting is another reminder the cops are not our friends

Hiding in Plain Sight: How Criminals Use Public Perception to Commit Crimes

Michael Albrecht Was There When John Wayne Gacy Confessed. He Saw Through the Serial Killer’s Charm. (from Peacock’s new original docuseries John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise)

Ballistics work at D.C.’s crime lab criticized by forensic experts

True crime shows spotlight women as victims — but don’t help improve women’s safety

U.S. Special Operations Command Paid $500,000 to Secretive Location Data Firm

The big spike in murders in 2020, explained in 600 words

‘We have your porn collection’: The rise of extortionware

PNW Stuff

Portland underworld scandal in 1950s pitted gangsters against Hollywood; B-movie reshoots compare city then and now

One dead, five wounded in stabbing at Vancouver library, suspect in custody

For 10 years, Book Larder has thrived by mixing 2 of Seattle’s great loves: books and food

Convicted serial killer Joseph Duncan dies on death row

Adam Wood Reviews: 3 new crime novels transport readers across the world and back in time

Clyde Ford: How we should deal with Dr. Seuss books and cancel culture

Odd Stuff

Read a previously unpublished (New Yorker-rejected) poem about Superman… by Vladimir Nabokov.

Storied and Sordid: The History of Jeffrey Epstein’s Just-Sold Mansion

Back in 1986, the Castros helped retrieve Hemingway’s stolen Nobel Prize.

Philadelphia Is a Secret Spy Mecca

The Macabre Mystery of a British Family’s Skull-Topped Spoons

Take a look inside this rare, self-published Andy Warhol cookbook.

Octavia Butler is now officially on Mars.

Scientists Have Unlocked the Secrets of the Ancient ‘Antikythera Mechanism’

Murder Tourism in Middle America: The World of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

The Mariko Aoki Phenomenon: When You Need To Poop After Entering A Book Store

That Time Scientists Discovered a Creature in Loch Ness and Then Realized It Was a Sunken Prop from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Rare sneakers. Bots. Insider connections. This scandal has it all

Globe Trotter James Bond Sticker Collection ~ ONLY  $340

“Howl”: illuminating draft of Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem found

Japanese Man Scales Building to Steal Pokémon Cards, Gets Arrested

I’m Alone: How One Canadian Rumrunner Defied the U.S. Coast Guard and Sparked an International Scandal

Ten Savage Insults From Literary Icons

Mafia fugitive caught after posting cooking show on YouTube

Vincent D’Onofrio wrote a book, and it looks insane and wonderful.

Words of the Month

lachschlaganfall (n): a medical term for when a person laughs so much that they fall unconscious. (thanks to Ripley’s Believe it or Not!)

Department of SPECTRE

Activists sue big French retailer over Amazon forest damage

Amazon merchant kicked off website spent $200,000 to get justice

Amazon Has Become a Prime Revolving-Door Destination in Washington

A Kansas Bookshop’s Fight with Amazon Is About More Than the Price of Books

Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Amazon won’t let you.

Worker says Amazon hung anti-union signs in bathroom stalls

Amazon, contractors settle wage-theft lawsuit by Seattle-area drivers for $8.2 million

Amazon Illegally Interrogated Worker Who Led First COVID-19 Strikes, NLRB Says

Amazon Called out for Denying Workers are Forced to Pee in Bottles

The Amazon Union Vote Is Ending in Bessemer. Workers Are Already Preparing for the Next Fight.

Dear Amazon: Why can’t we sell our ebook on your platform?

Amazon started a Twitter war because Jeff Bezos was pissed

‘Fake’ Amazon workers defend company on Twitter

Twitter Is Banning Amazon ‘Ambassadors’ and It’s a Total Mess -The real Amazon ambassadors are fake too.

Chicago bookseller proposes class action lawsuit against Amazon over pricing (the law firm handling the suit is based in Seattle)

Awards

Here are the finalists for the 2020-21 L.A. Times Book Prize.

2021 The National Book Critics Circle Awards

Writers from 4 continents up for International Booker Prize

Book Stuff

Sara Paretsky on Dorothy B. Hughes and the Meaning of ‘Noir’

New Orleans is looking toward a hopeful future. A new bookstore is lighting the way.

Here’s the best writing advice from Colson Whitehead’s 60 Minutes interview.

My First Thriller: Tom Straw

How Kurt Wolff Transformed Pantheon into a 20th-Century Publishing Powerhouse

To Really Understand Agatha Christie, You Need to Know About Poisons

Books Hold The Key To Elly Griffith’s The Postscript Murders

My father was famous as John le Carré. My mother was his crucial, covert collaborator

The Best Books for Starting an Occult Library

Harlan Coben, 75 million books in print, and a new one coming out

Stephen Fry backs Sherlock Holmes museum campaign in Portsmouth

Scholastic Book Fairs Have Another Tough Quarter

Betrayal Is Timeless: The Evolution of George Smiley 

Dean Koontz: ‘Life is one long suspense novel’

On the Vast and Multitudinous Worlds of the Library

Authors fear the worst if Penguin owner takes over Simon & Schuster

Amanda Gorman brings the representation debate to the small world of book translation

Douglas Adams’ note to self reveals author found writing torture

‘Captain Underpants’ book pulled for ‘passive racism’ against Asians

HarperCollins will acquire the trade division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for $349 million.

New Yorker staffers vote to authorize strike amid tensions with Condé Nast

Jacqueline Winspear: How I Became A Mystery Writer While Breaking Every Rule

The Joys of Evaluating Books on Whether Their Plot Twists Are Surprising, Shocking, or Just Plain Bonkers

Other Forms of Entertainment

Mark Hofmann’s Deadly Web of Master Forgery Is at the Center of Murder Among the Mormons

Golden State Killer Investigator Joins ‘America’s Most Wanted’ Reboot

HBO’s true crime drama ‘The Investigation’ is slow and frustrating on purpose (and JB recommends the series!)

‘The Sopranos’: David Chase and mobster Johnny Sack on how they made a TV classic

David Simon headed back to Baltimore, HBO for new police corruption miniseries

Peter Falk’s ‘Columbo’: The TV Detective’s 1st Name, How It Surfaced in a Lawsuit, and What the Star Had to Say (there are a number of Columbo stories at this site this month)

Memento at 20: Christopher Nolan’s memory thriller is hard to forget

The Criminal Minds of Jim and Tim: The Clemente brothers went from the FBI to Hollywood murder consultants. Now they’re rebooting America’s Most Wanted.

Fifty Years Later, Get Carter Is Still the Iconic British Gangster Film

Why Are We Obsessed With Psychopaths?

Why the Coen Brothers’ Cinematic Sleight of Hand is So Good

Cutter and Bone: Two Masterpieces Deserve Their Proper Due

Inside the Twisted Making of Basic Instinct

Revisiting The Anderson Tapes, Sidney Lumet’s Wisely Paranoid Heist Film, 50 Years Later (JB recommends the original book AND the movie)

Hitchcock Presents: A Brief History of the Weird, Wild Hitchcock Shows That Once Dominated TV

Thief at 40: Michael Mann’s confident debut sent a message

Comfort in the Uncomfortable: How Christopher Nolan Uses Noir to Get Weird

Words of the Month

bad penny (n): This proverb has lived long in the language. It derives from the notion that some coins were ‘bad’, that is, they were debased or counterfeit.

The ‘clipping’ of coins was rife in the Middle Ages, long before standardisation of the coinage was reliably enforced. This example from the reign of Edward I shows the degree of ‘badness’ that pennies then endured.

The term ‘bad penny’ was established enough in English by the late 14th century for it to have been used in William Langland’s famous prose poem The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman, 1370-90: “Men may lykne letterid men… to a badde peny.”

thanks to phrases.org.uk

Links of Interest

March 2: I-5 Strangler Killed in Prison

March 3: A breakthrough technology allows researchers to see inside sealed centuries-old letters.

March 3: My Babysitter, the Serial Killer

March 5: My Novel Reopened A Cold Case. My True Crime Book Puts Ghosts To Rest.

March 5: Napoleon Has Always Fascinated Novelists, But His Life Really Was Fit for a Thriller

March 7: Wife’s Body Dug Up in Florida Backyard After Hubby Made Chilling Taunts

March 8: I Was Hired to Assassinate Pablo Escobar

March 8: Behind Enemy Lines: Women in Combat During World War II

March 9: Researchers Uncover Remains of Polish Nuns Murdered by Soviets During WWII

March 10: DNA study of 6,200-year-old massacre victims raises more questions than answers

March 12: Scientists unlock mysteries of world’s oldest ‘computer’

March 15: French Government to Seek Return of Klimt Painting Sold Under Duress During World War II

March 15: Mother ‘used deepfake to frame cheerleading rivals’

March 19: Greek bull figurine unearthed after heavy downpour

March 21: The Most Shocking True Crime Revelations, Every Year Since 1999

March 23: She had a ‘cool’ childhood babysitter. Four decades later, she learnt he was a serial killer

March 24: Israeli Spy Pollard Betrays America Yet Again

March 25 : The Murder That Stunned Gangland Philadelphia

March 25: The Actress, the Steward and the Ocean Liner: What Really Happened in Cabin 126?

March 28: True-crime fanatics on the hunt: inside the world of amateur detectives

March 28: A Biblical Mystery and a Reporting Odyssey

Words of the Month

to coin a phrase : Coining, in the sense of creating, derives from the coining of money by stamping metal with a die. Coins – also variously spelled coynes, coigns, coignes or quoins – were the blank, usually circular, disks from which money was minted. This usage derived from an earlier 14th century meaning of coin, which meant wedge. The wedge-shaped dies which were used to stamp the blanks were called coins and the metal blanks and the subsequent ‘coined’ money took their name from them.

Coining later began to be associated with inventiveness in language. In the 16th century the ‘coining’ of words and phrases was often referred to. By that time the monetary coinage was often debased or counterfeit and the coining of words was often associated with spurious linguistic inventions; for example, in George Puttenham’s The arte of English poesie, 1589: “Young schollers not halfe well studied… will seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin.”

Shakespeare, the greatest coiner of them all, also referred to the coining of language in Coriolanus, 1607: “So shall my Lungs Coine words till their decay.”

Quoin has been retained as the name of the wedge-shaped keystones or corner blocks of buildings. Printers also use the term as the name for the expandable wedges that are used to hold lines of type in place in a press. This has provoked some to suggest that ‘coin a phrase’ derives from the process of quoining (wedging) phrases in a printing press. That is not so. ‘Quoin a phrase’ is recorded nowhere and ‘coining’ meant ‘creating’ from before the invention of printing in 1440. Co-incidentally, printing does provide us with a genuine derivation that links printing with linguistic banality – cliché. This derives from the French cliquer, from the clicking sound of the stamp used to make metal typefaces.

‘Coin a phrase’ itself arises much later than the invention of printing – the 19th century in fact. It appears to be American in origin – it certainly appears in publications there long before any can be found from any other parts of the world. The earliest use of the term that I have found is in the Wisconsin newspaper The Southport American, July 1848: “Had we to find… a name which should at once convey the enthusiasm of our feelings towards her, we would coin a phrase combining the extreme of admiration and horror and term her the Angel of Assassination.”

thanks to phrases.org.uk

RIP

February 23: Edgar-winner Margaret Maron dead at 82

March 3: Marie Tippet, Widow of Dallas officer slain by Lee Harvey Oswald, dies

March 6: Lou Ottens, Inventor of the Audio Cassette Tape, Dead at 94

March 7: Judith Van Gieson: R.I.P.

March 7: Remembering Allan McDonald: He Refused To Approve Challenger Launch, Exposed Cover-Up

March 8: The Phantom Tollbooth Author Norton Juster Dies At 91

March 9: Roger Mudd, probing TV journalist and network news anchor, dies at 93

March 9: ‘Phantom Tollbooth’ Author Norton Juster Dies At 91

March 15: Yaphet Kotto, Bond Villain and ‘Alien’ Star, Dies at 81

March 16: Ronald DeFeo, Killer Who Inspired ‘The Amityville Horror,’ Dead at 69

March 19: Henry Darrow, ‘High Chaparral’ actor who fought to expand roles for Latinos, dies

March 23: George Segal, Leading Man of Lighthearted Comedies, Dies at 87

March 25: Jessica Walter, Play Misty for Me and beloved ‘Arrested Development’ star with a long resume, dies at 80

March 26: Children’s Author Beverly Cleary, Creator Of Ramona Quimby, Dies At 104

March 26: Larry McMurtry, bookseller and award-winning novelist who pierced myths of his native Texas dies at 84

March 29: Brian Rohan, San Francisco attorney for Ken Kesey, Grateful Dead and the counterculture, Dies at 84

March 31: G. Gordon Liddy, Watergate mastermind, dead at 90

Words of the Month

shot in the dark: The term ‘shot’ has been slang for an attempt since the middle of the 19th century; for example, this piece from Joseph Hewlett’s comic work Peter Priggins, the college scout, 1841: “After waiting for a little while, Ninny… made a shot, and went so near the mark.”

‘A shot in the dark’ is simply a hopeful attempt to hit an enemy that you can’t see.

George Bernard Shaw seems to have been the first to use it metaphorically, in The Saturday Review, February 1895: “Never did man make a worse shot in the dark.”

thanks to phrases.org.uk

What We’ve Been Up To

Amber

Ashley Weaver – A Deception At Thornecrest

Change is a tricky thing. Often uncomfortable, awkward, unsightly, and a difficult thing to manage gracefully. Whether it’s moving to a new house in a new city, purchasing a new car, or adopting a new pet, unexpected complications always seem to creep into the proceedings.

Books series are no different. 

Any author worth their salt, who endeavors for a successful string of books knows – eventually – they will need to change things up. Otherwise, the series stales and stalls. 

Elizabeth Peter’s efficiently handled this problem by sending Amelia Peabody to a different location in Egypt (generally speaking) for each installment. Patricia Moyes employed a similar tactic by sending her husband & wife team on vacation all over the world. J.K. Rowling sends her famous wizard off to school (or to defeat dark wizards every year.

In the case of Ashley Weaver’s A Deception At Thornecrest, she does the reverse – she sends Amory Ames and her husband Milo home.

And it works beautifully.

Over the past six books, neither member of our dynamic duo has spent much time at Thorncrest – so it’s the perfect place for Weaver to set her transition mystery. By mixing a bit of old with a bit of new, Weaver is all set to send our heroine into new and exciting directions in future books. Even better? She accomplishes this aim with such flawless skill it makes A Deception At Thornecrest a joy to read.

One of the most significant changes in Amory’s life? She’s about to become a first-time mother! A fact which both she and Milo are over the moon about, in their understated way. The only hitch in the giddy-up? During the annual Springtide festival, a stable hand is murdered…Amory, our remarkable amateur sleuth, is discouraged at every turn from investigating because of her “delicate condition”.

Fortunately for Lady Justice and us readers, Amory has zero interest in heeding their unsolicited opinions. 

A Deception At Thornecrest was a compelling historical mystery, one which I thoroughly enjoyed reading from beginning to end. Even better, if you’re not interested in reading the previous exploited of our heroine and her husband (but I would highly suggest you do as they are lovely), you don’t have to! Because this is a transitional book, so long as you aren’t starting with numero uno, you can start with this installment and be alright.

Honestly, I cannot say enough good things about A Deception At Thornecrest

Fran

It’s not her latest, but it’s the most recent one I’ve read, and holy cats, does J.T. Ellison have a twisty mind! Just one more reason to love her, honestly, just like you’re going to love Good Girls Lie.

The Goode School is an Ivy League feeder boarding school in Virginia, and there’s a long waiting list of girls hoping to be chosen. The Goode School accepts only 50 girls for each grade level, and each girl is properly and thoroughly vetted before acceptance. You know what I mean, right?

Ash Carlisle is a bit of an exception. She’s British, for starters. She was being considered before her parent suddenly died, and no one can say that the Goode School is without compassion.

However, Ash’s new classmates don’t take to her that well, and Ash has secrets, so she doesn’t want to make a fuss. The resulting dynamic of mean girls, vulnerable girls, and a certain amount of looking the other way by staff members leaves Ash in a precarious position.

Then things start to get really ugly. Even deadly.

J.T. Ellison attended a similar school, although it wasn’t as perilous, so her insights and knowledge about this setting give Good Girls Lie an added edge that, combined with J.T.’s fabulous writing, makes this novel deeply disturbing. And did I mention it’s twisty as all get out? You get to see events through multiple viewpoints, and very little of what everyone sees on the surface is real. Just like most social interactions, I suspect.

You don’t have to have attended a posh boarding school to appreciate Good Girls Lie, although if you have, I bet you’ll recognize some of the people. You’re in for a treat!

JB

The title alone gave me hope that the book would answer some of my questions about why there have been so many serial killers in the last decade. Peter Vronsky is a Canadian with a PhD in criminal justice history. I saw that he’d written a couple of other books on the subject and this new one, American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000, seems the most promising to address my curiosity.

Why so many? Why now? Why do many not fit the profile we’re always told about? And most strangely, why do some seem to quit?

Vronsky carefully explains what he sees as the roots – fathers who came back damaged from WWI, the great number of desertions by fathers during the Depression, and those effects on families and sons specifically. There were women who really should never have been mothers due to domineering personalities or mental health issues, the frequent element of head injuries and you have a pool ready for the birth of trouble. As youngsters, they were subjected to the social traumas of WWII, the revelations of horrors of the Holocaust, the dawn of the atomic age, and the movement of the population from the smaller towns where everyone was known to one another to the large cities and their anonymity, and evil can erupt. Mix in the interstate highway system… OK, so far I understand.

But he then begins to mix in the proliferation of true crime magazines in the 40s and 50s – when they’d begun in the 20s. I understand that many of the killers in the 60s, 70s and 80s mention them as formative with their lurid imagery. But I don’t see that had there not been these magazines, things would’ve been far different. It strikes me as a cheap target, like Bundy saying it all started with pornography.

Similarly, Vronsky puts blame on film noir and the pessimism and corruption they portrayed. He neatly glides by the fact that film noir was a direct outgrowth of the crime novels of the 20s, 30s and 40s. He doesn’t attempt a connection that the fiends were reading novels about sex and death, just looking at images of it. Municipal corruption was a massive menace well before the killers of the last half of the 20th C., but he gives little attention to the first half. I can make a couple of guesses as to why: killers could still travel around by jumping trains but the journalism may’ve lacked the ability to connect murders in different locales. He often points to the problem with killers crossing jurisdictions and police from one town/city/county/state not communicating with one another. Indeed, it still seems to be a problem – not every facet of law enforcement knew what was going on at the Capitol on January 6th, or 9/11.

Odder still, he spends an unnecessary amount of time and gory detail on crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer while mentioning that many others have been ignored in the study of serial killers. If we’ve never heard of them, he’s missed his chance to inform us.

But I could also guess that many killers in the century from 1850 to 1950 had easy outlets for their murderous ways – they had the Civil War where murder could easily be disguised as warfare, they had the Wild West where murder was cheap and easy, and they had the growth of Organized Crime where there were always opportunities for hired killers.

Over all, the book was interesting but frustrating. For an academic, he was flippant at time, snarky at others, and those instances felt out of place. It is one thing to be casual and entertaining. It is another to sound off key.

My largest question – why do some seem to stop – was answered in one quick paragraph about Gary Ridgeway: the thrill was gone. Really? That doesn’t feel adequate to explain why a monster who killed dozens of women would simply cease doing it. I hope to get an answer to that some day from a future author.


“This whole arduous process began with a monumental failure by the keepers of the public memory – the government and the press. Their failure remains with us. Over the past half century, this case has been filled with bitter arguments and wild conspiracy theories; government bodies papering over significant failures; junk science and ’eminence-based’ conclusions; sober, tenacious research and trumpeting blowhards. But over these same decades and despite many mistakes and reverses, a partial truth has been brought to light. That truth, however, leaves open many of the questions that should have been answered fifty years ago and in all likelihood cannot be answered now. Principally…who did it, and why?”

Another book that had great promise yet fell slightly short was Josiah Thompson‘s Last Second in Dallas. The philosophy professor who left academia to become a private eye in San Francisco had released one of the seminal books on the JFK assassination in 1967, Six Seconds in Dallas. It’s always been hailed as a scholarly work on the shooting and, while he stayed connected tangentially with the case, he’d published nothing else in the nearly 55 years since.

His new book is in the form of a re-examination and memoir. He situates his arguments amongst the developments in his life and the assassination evidence that has come out over the decades. He admits when he had something wrong and corrects it. It’s a fascinating thing to track.

Thompson has always focused on the evidence, the “what” of the case, not the “who” of the case. As the titles say, he’s focused on the seconds of gunfire in Dealy Plaza, not those who organized the crossfire or pulled the triggers. This narrow view allows him to delve deeply into what is known and can be proved and he does a masterful job of it.

“There is, however, one fact about assassination that has not changed in fifty years. It is its most obvious feature – the brutal effectiveness of crime… In this whole narrative, what was clear in 1966 is even clearer now. This was a highly sophisticated, devastatingly effective assassination: who bullets to the head and one to the back. Its very audacity is the most compelling feature. And speculation as to who did it and why must at least start with that fact.”

However, within those seconds of shots, he does allow some questions to go unanswered. He’s got four shots being fired. What accounts for that shallow wound in Kennedy’s back that didn’t penetrate far? The Dallas doctors could feel the end of the tract with their little fingers. What of the bullet or fragment or chip of cement that nicked James Tague? Tague and his wound are not mentioned by Thompson even as he has bullet fragments bouncing around the inside of the limo. Other than the gunman behind the picket fence, he’s non-committal about the location of the other shooters – one in the depository, the other… perhaps, like the identity of the participants, he’s leaving those questions to others. He also condescendingly dismisses the Garrison investigation, which was, after all, about the “who”s. That sounded unfair, tone-deaf, and short-sighted.

Still, Last Second in Dallas is a fascinating book and a worthy addition to my shelves of books on the assassination.

BUY SMALL ~ SUPPORT SMALL

Christie and Henching

Amber Here!

Question: Have you ever moved house/apartment/room and discovered you’ve inadvertently started a collection? Or perhaps you were aware of said collection but utterly unaware of its sheer size due to it being tucked away in odd corners/cabinets/drawers of your abode.

Or – in my case – on multiple shelves, in multiple bookcases, in multiple rooms. The collection in question? Agatha Christie, and Agatha Christie adjacent, books. 

In 2014, when I started my Christie blog, I quickly discovered photos make the internet go round. Meaning? I began posting cover art along with reviews.

And you can’t photograph the same cover art over and over again…

So over the past seven years, I’ve haunted little out-of-the-way used bookshops in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and biblio.com for foreign/vintage/obscure Agatha Christie mystery covers…when I wasn’t spending my SMB paycheck to augment and enhance my collection. 

Fast forward to March 2021. When we move into new digs (and for the first time ever), I’ve my own home office and finally gathered all my Christie’s into a single room. 

Though not a single bookcase. 

Fran (who I texted when I realized how marginally out of control my collection’s got) thought you guys might be interested to see part of what I’d amassed.

These are the vintage volumes…haven’t had time to put them in order yet…perhaps on a rainy day…
These are the modern editions and my Christie research books…

(Hilariously these photos don’t include the other book cases filled with other classic mysteries and general mystery related research books! My office is mostly shelves…and yet still not enough space…)

Now For Something Completly Different.

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

How many of you out there watched the Venture Brothers? (If you haven’t, you really should.) To narrow our focus further, how many of you recall The Monarch’s most trusted henchman Number 24 (aka Gary)? Yes. No.

Well, I love the series (and am still miffed Adult Swim axed its longest-running series last year), and I’ve watched every episode several times over. And when I first started reading Hench, Anna loosely reminded me of Gary…if his life were bleaker.

Much, much, bleaker.

Which initially made me want to set the book down and walk away…Because I thought I knew where the story was heading (especially when Anna accepted a contract with a villain named Electric Eel).

Boy, am I glad I stuck with it. (And finished it a day later.)

Because not only did I not see the direction Anna’s life would take…I found a clever, sarcastic, and compelling hench(woman) whose motivations were entirely understandable and relatable – but whose viciousness (in her revenge) is utterly and unapologetically unrestrained. 

Seriously, Hench is an excellent read. Because it’s more than just a tale of a single all-consuming revenge…

…sigh…

This review is so hard because I want to seriously gush about this book, but in gushing over it, I would ruin the layers, nuance, and sheer evil genius found within its pages. Hench is a book, if SMB were still open, I would simply put Hench in your hands* and say: 

“Trust me.” (Squinting at Fran.) 

Because if this is a first in a series (and I suspect it is or at least will have a follow-up), I CANNOT wait to see where Anna’s henching takes her next.

(Provided I knew you enjoyed reading gritty urban fantasy and/or sci-fi.)

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. 

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.

April 2020

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      Some Things

Our hearts go out ~

~ to Mary Daheim who lost a daughter. Mary sent this notice out: “…Barbara Daheim Resnick, who passed away Sunday at the age of 53. I also want to thank everyone who has contributed to the Go Fund Me site that Barb’s brother-in-law Paul Webber set up for her children, Flynn and Clara.”

~ to the family of Diana Mayabb, a staunch supporter of SMB for decades. She and her husband Jim were major collectors – though Jim collected mostly science fiction, we didn’t hold it against him and happily ordered those new releases for him – good friends and wonderful, kind and cheerful people. We miss them both terribly, and our thoughts are with Jim now. Dear Diana died early in March

~ to the world of mysteries, who lost Kate  Mattes, of Kate’s Mysteries in Cambridge, MA. Like so many of us, she was forced to close her shop years ago and had been living in Vermont. Her health had not been good and she was taken away by her heart on March 25th.

~ to past colleague Karen who suffered a catastrophic lost due to a flooded basement. Music, art, and her mystery collection, including – prepare yourself – a first edition Nero Wolfe. AAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGG!

And while it shouldn’t come as a surprise, it is still shocking when the virus creeps into your family. We hope everyone in your world is safe and not too bored being housebound. We hope this all might take your mind away from your worries.

It’s a long one, so settle back!

      Local Stories

From local writer J. Kingston Pierce: Seattle: Primed and Ready for Crime Fiction Fame ~Exploring the city’s history and character, through crime novels

      And some great news after a month of horror stories:

Powell’s Books rehires over 100 employees after surge of online orders

Love and labor rights in the time of COVID-19: The Book Workers Union forms at Capitol Hill’s Elliott Bay Book Company 

      Serious Stuff

Nazi name lists in Argentina may reveal loot in Swiss bank

Birmingham’s “Fifth Girl” survived a notorious hate crime. Now she wants resitution.

      Words of the Month

virus (n). late 14th C., “poisonous substance,” from Latin virus “poison, sap of plants, slimy liquid, a potent juice,” from Proto-Italic *weis-o-(s-) “poison,” which is probably from a Proto-Info-Eutoprsm root *ueis-, perhaps originally meaning “to melt away, to flow,” used of foul or malodorous fluids, but with specialization in some languages to “poisonous fluid” (source also of Sanskrit visam “venom, poison,” visah “poisonous;” Avestan vish “poison;” Latin viscum “sticky substance, birdlime;” Greek ios “poison,” ixos “mistletoe, birdlime;” Old Church Slavonic višnja “cherry;” Old Irish fi “poison;” Welsh gwy “poison”). The meaning “agent that causes infectious disease” is recorded by 1728 (in reference to venereal disease); the modern scientific use dates to the 1880s. The computer sense is from 1972. [thanks to etymonine]


JB admits he sometimes scans headlines too rapidly, and perhaps this was tinted by the times in which we live, but he thought “In case you’re stockpiling books this month, here are some gems you may have missed from February. | Lit Hub” said “some germs you may have missed…”


      Awards, etc.

Here are the finalists for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

      Book Stuff

David Goodis’ Bleak, Beautiful Vision of Humanity 

‘Freshly cut grass – or bile-infused Exorcist vomit?’: how crime books embraced lurid green

Simon & Schuster is for sale because it is not videos.

In 1899, Arthur Conan Doyle Took Dictation for His Dying Friend’s Mystery Novel

From ‘Wuhan-400’, the deadly virus invented by Dean Koontz in 1981, to the plague unleashed in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, novelists have long been fascinated by pandemics


The new documentary “The Booksellers” looks at the esoteric world of the antiquarian trade, and the passionate, eclectic and endangered characters who make it hum. 

Breathing New Life into Old Books


Woody Allen got a book deal. Staff at his new publisher have walked out in protest. 

Sixteen of the Most Perfect Murders in Crime Fiction 

The Fraught and Risky Business of Spotting a Historical Fake

Carolyn Wells, in the Library, with a Revolver: How a prolific mystery author with a penchant for collecting rare books helped to create the ‘biblio-mystery’ genre

8 Great Novels Where Things Disappear 

Stockholm, Are You Listening?Why Don DeLillo deserves the Nobel

The Complicated Literature of Daughters and Mothers

How Bookshops Are Helping With Isolation 

Dolly Parton is going to read us all bedtime stories.

       Other Forms of Fun

March 1: Star Trek: Picard borrows an unexpected concept from Sherlock Holmes

March 2: A new site for headline-inspired fiction launches today with stories by Carmen Maria Machado, Colum McCann, and more.

March 2: New HBO Doc Centers on the Atlanta Child Murders, Reopening of Case

March 3: Christopher and Bobby From ‘The Sopranos’ Are Starting a Podcast About the Show

March 4: Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ pushed back to November

March 6: Robert B. Parker’s (and Ace Atkins’) Spenser returns to TV in a Netflix movie starring Mark Wahlberg


March 6: Zodiac – The Most Dangerous Animal of All

March 6: The Zodiac Killer has been a mystery for 50 years – but one man thinks he’s solved it


March 10: ‘Briarpatch’ May Just Be the Coolest Show on TV

March 17: How Pretty Woman Erased Sex From Its Story

March 19: Coronavirus: Hallmark Channel plans feelgood Christmas movie marathon

March 25: The Artist Who Captured America’s Most Dramatic Courtroom Moments—And Was Hounded by the FBI

March 26: Remember Annie’s anti-book-banning speech in Field of Dreams?

March 27: Read a Deleted Scene From ‘Get Out’

March 27: The Crime Cinema Renaissance of 1990

March 31: Houseparty offers $1m reward for proof of sabotage

      Words of the Month

quarantine (n): 1660s, “period a ship suspected of carrying disease is kept in isolation,” from Italian quarantina giorni, literally “space of forty days,” from quaranta “forty,” from Latin quadraginta “forty,” which is related to quattuor “four” (from Proto-Indo-European root *kwetwer “four”). So called from the Venetian policy (first enforced in 1377) of keeping ships from plague-stricken countries waiting off its port for 40 days to assure that no latent cases were aboard. Also see lazaretto. The extended sense of “any period of forced isolation” is from 1670s. Earlier in English the word meant “period of 40 days in which a widow has the right to remain in her dead husband’s house” (1520s), and, as quarentyne (15th C.), “desert in which Christ fasted for 40 days,” from Latin quadraginta “forty.” [thanks to etymonine]

      Links of Interest

February 20: The Hollywood Con Queen -She tormented studio executives, actors, makeup artists, security guys, photographers, screenwriters, athletes, even bobsledders and scuba divers for years—until corporate investigator Nicoletta Kotsianas was put on the case.

February 28: Ireland has a secret tree carved with famous literary autographs.

March 2: Man Fined for Engineering Without a License Was Right All Along

March 2: Stolen hearse with body inside leads police on wild chase

March 3: Double Indemnity Isn’t About Bad People – It’s About Redemption

March 4: How J. Edgar Hoover Used the Power of Libraries for Evil

March 4: Online Sleuths, Cold Cases, and The Early Days of a Very Particular Hobby

March 4: WeeGee: Photos of a seedy Underworld

March 6: The Art of Letting Your Heroes Get Beat Up Now and Again

March 8: Can you really hire a hit man on the dark web?

March 11: The Poison Pen Letter: The Early 20th Century’s Strangest Crime Wave

March 11: Dr. Lise Meitner: The Mystery of the Disappearing Physicist

March 11: Making a killing: what can novels teach us about getting away with murder?

March 12: The playboy Serbian spy who inspired James Bond

March 13: Saviour of the dead: Burying the bodies India forgets

March 16: ‘GoldenEye’: Why Timothy Dalton Didn’t Return For James Bond 17

March 17: U.S. Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scroll Fragments Turn Out to Be Elaborate Fakes

March 17: In the Emergency Room, Doctors Need Detective Skills—And Empathy

March 18: Linda Fairstein Is Suing Netflix and Ava Duvernay For How She Was Depicted in ‘When They See Us’

March 18: Oldest bird fossil discovered, nicknamed ‘wonderchicken’

March 18: Your pictures on the theme of ‘reading’

March 19: ‘Roughing It’ on Seattle’s waterfront with Mark Twain

March 19: Harlan Coben Believes ‘PLANET OF THE APES’ is the Best Twist Ending in History

March 20: How Bad Times Bring Out the Best in People

March 20: Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Batman’s Sidekick, Robin

March 21: Victor Olaiya: Nigeria’s ‘evil genius’ trumpeter who influenced Fela Kuti

March 22: Cigarette leads police to Florida cold case murder suspect

March 23: Book retrieval effort gives grad student welcome relief

March 24: ‘The Laughing Killer’: The Bay Area serial killer who wasn’t

March 26: The Evolution—and the Future—of the Private Eye

March 27 (an old article but one we don’t remember): The Mobster Who Bought His Son a Hockey Team ~ A tale of goons, no-show jobs, and a legendary minor-league franchise that helped land its owner in prison

March 27: The Long Tradition of Writers Needing Ritual

March 29: Serial Killer Lonnie Franklin, Known As The Grim Sleeper, Has Died In Prison

March 30: Van Gogh painting ‘Spring Garden’ stolen from Dutch museum

March 31: Alpine ice sheds light on medieval murder

March 31: Bob Dylan’s New JFK Assassination Epic Couldn’t Be More Prescient

      Words of the Month

brigand (n): c. 1400, also brigaunt, “lightly armed irregular foot-soldier,” from Old French brigand (14th C.), from Italian brigante “trooper, skirmisher, foot soldier,” from brigare “to brawl, fight” (see brigade). Sense of “robber, freebooter, one who lives by pillaging” is earlier in English (late 14th C.), reflecting the lack of distinction between professional mercenary armies and armed, organized criminals.

brigandage (n): “highway robbery by organized gangs,” c. 1600, from French brigandage, from brigand. [hypothetically, as an example, oh let’s say Senators who dumped stock after a briefing on a pandemic before the public had the same info – you know, insider trading! – us] thanks to etymonline

      R.I.P.

March 1: Laura Cauldwell, attorney, activist, and novelist

March 2: James Lipton, writer, actor, host of the wonderful “Inside the Actor’s Studio”, dead at 93

March 7: BarbaraNeely died after a short illness at 79

March 9: Max Von Sydow: The Exorcist and The Seventh Seal actor dies aged 90

March 13: Andreas Brown, Longtime Owner of Gotham Book Mart, Dies at 86

March 17: Stuart Whitman, prolific film and TV actor, dies at 92

      What We’ve Been Up To

    Amber

goodrealjpg

Finder Of Lost Things

I AM NEARLY DONE WRITING SEASON 2! HUZZA!!!

I’ve got two scenes to go – then I start editing, uploading and photographing for the posts! (But the writing takes far more time than these three steps.) So Season 2 will be on its way shortly? Well, sooner rather than later…then it’s on to writing Season 3!

IMG_8327

The Greek Coffin Mystery – Ellery Queen

The Greek Coffin Mystery is the fourth novel in the overall series of Ellery Queen. Still a fledgling in the art of detection, this novel features a critical episode which informs all of Ellery’s later investigations, according to the man himself, which I won’t spoil by elucidating here!

This, I must admit, is one of the more unique classic mysteries I have ever read, from Ellery’s numerous brilliant yet incorrect solutions to his challenge at the end of chapter thirty.

What’s the challenge you ask? Well, Ellery, as the author of the mystery as well as being the detective within, breaks the fourth wall and addresses his readers directly;

“…ungentle reader, you now have in your possession all the facts pertinent to the only correct solution of the trinitarian problem…”

Now, Agatha Christie came a hairsbreadth away from breaking the fourth wall on occasion with Ariadne Oliver. Who’s memorable tirade on the frustration of inadvertently tying her writing career to her Finnish detective, Sven Hjerson – when she knew nothing or had any interest in Finland. But she never actually laid down an out and out, rather cheeky, challenge the way our author Ellery Queen does.

However, this feature, along with the clever mystery, and our intrepid sleuth combine together to create a page-turning and exciting book – I would recommend to anyone looking for an excellent classic mystery.

Though one note when reading if like me, you identify as female. The men in here are written as they were at the time of its original publication – 1932. Nothing inappropriate happens. But the way in which a few, but by no means, all, refer to or speak to women did have me doing a double-take. But it is such a small percentage of words within the book, other than rankling; it didn’t detract from the deductions taking place on the page.

    Fran

I had a dream about being a bookseller again. However, this time the shop was owned by Stephen King – yes, THAT Stephen King – and no one would let me ring them up. Only Mr. King could make the sale. I was allowed to put things in  bags. But the store was packed, so there’s that.

Meanwhile, Amber was stuffing books into somebody’s hands, JB was explaining to another person how the book they were describing wasn’t the book they were thinking of but another book altogether, and Adele was at the door to let customers in and out, and keep the zombies outside because they stank up the place. And wouldn’t buy anything.


I had planned all along to write this review for this month. I love this trilogy and wanted to share it with you.

But it starts with a worldwide pandemic. Yeah. Not the flu, exactly, and certainly not COVID 19, but still, I wondered if I should.

And decided yes, because while terrible things happen in The Chronicles of the One by Nora Roberts, much good and hope happens too.9781250122971

Okay, hang on now, don’t be shaking your head like that. What, you think I can’t hear you? “Oh, Nora Roberts. I thought it might be something serious.” You’re assuming it’s three books about heaving and steamy and brainless, aren’t you? Boy, are you ever wrong!

There is, however, magick. Not prestidigitation but actual magick. People develop Uncanny talents and traits, and many of them are flat-out evil. You see, in Year One, on a New Year’s Eve in Scotland, a very nice man stumbles and bleeds into a strange little rock circle. It’s innocuous and no big deal, and he along with his very nice family have a very nice New Year’s Eve. Except he unwittingly releases a plague that decimates the Earth, and survivors are as often as not changed, physically changed into otherworldly creatures. Not everyone; there are plenty of ordinary humans left, but enough so that there’s a deep schism. Not between human and Uncanny, although that happens, but between Dark and Light.

The trilogy is called The Chronicles of The One, because there is one leading figure who can truly challenge the Darkness, and the books tell her story, so it’s about Fallon Swift and what she can accomplish.

9781250123008The second book, Of Blood and Bone, is her coming-of-age book, and it is at times painful reading, but absolutely perfect.

And if I thought the last book, The Rise of the Magicks, was a bit too rushed, perhaps it’s because I didn’t want to lose touch with these people I’ve come to love and admire.9781250123039

If anyone’s read the JD Robb books, you know that Nora Roberts can be absolutely vicious, bloody, and brutal to her characters, and that’s certainly true here. Very, very bad things happen, and the good guys don’t always win. The comparison to Stephen King’s The Stand are inevitable because the trope is the same one – good versus evil – but these authors are completely different, and so is their approach. Both are excellent, mind you. Just variations on a theme.

As always, it’s the people who captured me, and I still think about them. Relationships change, and under pressure, we find out who we really are.

And that’s why I decided to go ahead and review a pandemic series. Granted, none of us are sprouting wings or are able to create burning swords, which is kind of a shame, but we all have the resiliency that Nora Roberts brings to life, along with the need to help one another out, even when we’re afraid.

Besides, they’re seriously good stories!


Fran found out – her and JB’s delight – that John Connolly will be releasing a new Charlie Parker story in increments on his website. “But I did feel bad that publication of The Dirty South was postponed due to the current unpleasantness, and some editions in translation have also been affected. I also wanted to offer readers some small distraction over the coming weeks and months, because if you’re a writer, the only thing you can really do for those who enjoy your work is to write.” Starting April 2nd, “The Sisters Strange” will be posted daily as he writes it. “‘The Sisters Strange,’ by contrast, will involve letting readers see something like a work-in-progress as it’s being produced, and once I’ve committed to posting an extract, I won’t be able to rewrite it. In addition, you and I will be uncovering the nature of the story and the characters more or less at the same time.”

Thanks, John ~ we can’t wait!


      JB

Earlier in March I had a dream that was very rambling. I don’t remember much now but Bill and his wife BJo were both in it. I think we were all in a big shop, a bookshop? Not sure. But they looked like they did when the shop first opened, spry and happy, and it was a gas to see them again!

On the morning of the 23rd I dreamt that I’d been away from the shop for a long time. No reason from the dream that I remember. I got back and found that the place was jammed with used paperbacks that were not only not needed but jammed in the shelves in odd places and out of the authors’ places. I had to run out to do something and passed Bill on my way back in. He was dressed in his usual all-tan outfit and smiled a goodbye. Back in the shop, I went into the office and Tammy followed me in. In the way that dreams make no sense, the office was my grandparents’ library, but there was crap all over the place, piles of books, junk on the floor. Tammy was drinking coffee and I don’t recall how the dream ended.

If you never knew her, Tammy was hired by Bill back in ’92 while I was on paternity leave (yes, Bill was just that hip!). Tammy had been one of his earliest book reps but was then unemployed. The three of us ran the place and she was a key member of the staff. The weekly newzines were her idea, for instance. The photo of the crow on the outdoor sign was her shot. But she and her family went through some tough times and she got sick of Seattle and they left town about a decade ago. We’ve had zero contact since, so it is very odd that she’d turn up in a dream out of nowhere. But wait – –

On the morning of the 31st, I dreamt that I was in a bookshop with a cafe. Maybe like an Elliot Bay but it wasn’t clear. I took in a stack of paperbacks to trade and handed them to this blonde woman. While she was looking at them, I got into a conversation with a couple of other booksellers, a very tall, skinny man and a shorter woman, and we commiserated about how hard it was for booksellers these days. I could see that the woman with my books was ready to talk but then my phone rang. It was Tammy. She wanted her job back. Evidently, she hadn’t heard that SMB had closed and we then got into a long conversation about how bad things were, how high rents were, and how impossible that seemed for a bookshop to be able to make it. We hung up and I went to the counter to find the woman with my books. She handed me a crumpled up piece of paper with the notes about the books. As I was trying to smooth it out, the booksellers from before called to me to join them at their table by the window. Then the blond woman shrilly whistled to get my attention – and her whistle ended the dream…..

9780307957009James Ellroy’s This Storm is the second volume in his projected new quartet. It follows closely on the heels of Perfidia, 9780307946676which took place between the attack on Pearl Harbor and New Year’s Eve, 1941.

This Storm continues to follow that cast into uniform and into new schemes and cons during the first three months of 1942, while adding to the cast. Mendacity, violence, and lust are the order of the day while a few of the less-crooked characters actually try to solve a web of crimes instead of simply getting rich. At the center is a load of gold stolen from a train in 1931 and an LA fire in ’33. Overlording it all is Dudley Liam Smith, LAPD sergeant and now Army Major. We’re only halfway through this quartet and I already think I need to go back and re-read Clandestine and the first quartet, starting with The Black Dahlia. Considering how thick the books are, I would have all of my reading planned out for the decade. But considering that I first read the start of the quartet about 30 years ago, it’s hard to recall how this Dudley fits into that Dudley.

But think of the audacity! Clandestine unnamedis the first book in which Dudley appears, 1982. The Black Dahlia was published in ’87. He’s got to make what is happening in books written now fit into what he wrote 38 and 33 years ago. No small feat! And re-reading it all would be daunting. I mean – that’s seven and a half inches of Ellroy!

Needless to say, This Storm is brilliant and utterly scandalous. There’s not an iota of political correctness in the story. It’s violent. It’s abrupt. It’s sexy. It’s evil. It’s a drug-induced romp.

NOT TO BE MISSED

 

this storm, this savaging disaster”, attributed to W.H. Auden, surely a title for our times.




During this ongoing nightmare, it is even more crucial to support your neighbors and friends by shopping with small businesses. 

SUPPORT SMALL, SAVE SMALL

Bookshops & The Virus, again ~ updated

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From The Seattle Times

How you can support Seattle-area bookstores — and have plenty to read! — during the coronavirus pandemic

if you don’t live in Seattle, call or e-mail your local bookseller to see what their options are.

DON’T ORDER FROM SPECTRE!

If you want your local booksellers to survive this crisis you have to support them!




The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC

is Now Closed for the Foreseeable Future

Dear Customers, Readers, Authors, and Friends,

Thank you for your years of patronage and your support in these troubling times. Today is the last day that the Mysterious Bookshop will be open for the foreseeable future. The state of New York has decreed that all nonessential businesses must close their doors until an end to this pandemic is in sight.

The Queen of Suspense

Mary Higgins Clark died on the evening of the last day of January, too late to be included in our February newzletter. But that’s ok. She deserves her own post.

Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins was born on Christmas Eve, 1927, in The Bronx. Her father owned an Irish pub and things got tighter as the Depression ground on. Things got far harder when her father died in his sleep when she was 12.

She began writing stories in grammar school and was encourage by the adults around her. She submitted her first story to a magazine at 16. It was rejected. Her first job was as a secretary but she was known for her beauty as well and did modeling – once with a young Grace Kelly. She was recommended to Pan Am and took the job as flight attendant because it paid more than modeling. She was introduced to Warren Clark at the night of her farewell dinner before she took off. She had known of him and he was immediately smitten with her and told her they’d marry in a year. She flew international routes for 1949 but did give it up to marry Clark two days after her 22 birthday.

She went back to writing to occupy herself, she studied at NYU, joined a writer’s group and learned to look through the newspapers for ideas. Finally, in 1956, after 40 rejections in 6 years, she sold a story to a magazine. In that time she also had 4 children and, after that first story sold, she began to regularly sell her fiction.

Starting in 1959, Warren Clark began to have health problems. A series of heart attacks left him unable to work by 1964. To be able to support the six of them, Mary asked a friend to get her work writing scripts for radio. On the day she was given her first job, her husband suffered a fatal heart attack. Her mother-in-law, upon finding him dead, herself dropped dead.

She kept writing though the short story market had nearly vanished. She kept writing for the radio. She turned her radio scripts – about George and Martha Washington – into a novel. It sold for a very modest amount and was, as she later joked, immediately remaindered. Soon after it was published, her own mother died. She kept working. She kept pressing her children to work at their education to ensure their financial health. She decided to show them by example. In 1971 she entered Fordham and, in 1979, graduated  summa cum laude with a BA in philosophy.

This was a woman who could not be stopped.th

Through more heartache and death and school, she kept writing and, finally, in the Spring of ’74, Simon & Schuster bought her novel Where are the Children? for $3,000. Three months later the paperback rights sold for $100,000. Her financial worries were over. Two years later, her second novel sold for $1.5 million.

We’re not even going to try to list her novels or even count them. There are the novels, the short fiction, the Holiday stories. And then there were the accolades. From wikipedia:

“Higgins Clark won numerous awards for her writing. In addition to those previously referenced, she won the Horatio Alger Award (1997) and the Passionists’ Ethics in Literature Award (2002), as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University Spirit of Achievement Award (1994) and the National Arts Club‘s Gold Medal in Education (1994). She was awarded eighteen honorary doctorates, including one from her alma mater, Fordham University. Her success was also recognized by groups representing her heritage. The American Irish Historical Society granted her the Gold Medal of Honor in 1993, and in 2001 she won the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. She was named a Bronx Legend (1999).[52]

Mary Higgins Clark served as the Chairman of the International Crime Congress in 1988 and was the 1987 president of the Mystery Writers of America. For many years she served on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America. Simon & Schuster, which have published all of Higgins Clark’s novels and in the late 1990s signed her to a $64-million, four-book contract,[30] have funded the Mary Higgins Clark Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America to authors of suspense fiction.[3][55] The announcement that an award would be given in her honor was made at the 55th Annual Edgar Allan Poe Awards, where Higgins Clark was inducted as a Grand Master.[55]

Higgins Clark was made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, and was honored as a Dame of Malta and a Dame of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.[30] The Franciscan Friars gave her a Graymoor Award (1999) and she was awarded a Christopher Life Achievement Award. She served as a board member for the Catholic Communal Fund and as a member of the Board of Governors at Hackensack Hospital.[56]

Higgins Clark was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in March 2011.[57]

In 1981, by happenstance, she was in DC the day President Reagan was shot. Again, from wikipedia,Because she had a press pass she was able to join the media waiting to hear the President’s prognosis. When the doctor finally arrived to start the press conference, Higgins Clark was one of the few people chosen to ask a question.[9]”

In 1996, she married John J. Conheeney, a retired CEO from the financial industry, and they lived in a number of homes her books afforded her to own. She died at one of them in Naples, FL. She was 92

Her website gives more details, as well as a number of videos.

Alas, she was one of the authors we never had the honor of hosting for a signing. We did get to have her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, back in the early 2000s.

R.I.P. Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Clark Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Conheeney

 

th2

December’s Newzine

sky final

JB would like to say how delightful it was to have Elaine W. wander into where he works. She was a long-time customer at SMB, really more of a family member. She’d been with us so long it is impossible to say how long. It was wonderful to see her!

      Awards!

The 2019 Shamus Awards were announced at the beginning of November at the annual Blouchercon, this year held in Dallas. Here are the lists of those nominated in four categories, with the winners in bright, bloody red. Congratulations to all!

Likewise, here are the 2019 Anthony Awards, nominees and winners, also announced at Bouchercon.

Donald Trump To Award National Medal of Arts To Jon Voight, Alison Krauss, James Patterson

Jack the Ripper victims’ biography wins book prize

Staunch Book Prize: Should writers ditch female victims? 

‘Mouthful by mouthful’: the 2019 Bad Sex Award in quotes

      Serious Stuff

Part 1: ‘Men without faces’ led teen girls down ‘primrose path to hell’ in 1950s Portland prostitution scandal, Part 2: Revenge of Portland’s ‘blonde babe’: Teen prostitute told all about reform-school lesbians during 1959 vice scandal 

Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell, a Stasi spy puzzle remains unsolved 

Privacy Issues Surrounding Popular DNA and Ancestry Tests

US domestic abuse victim pretends to order pizza to alert 911

      Words of the Month

miser (n): From the 1540s, “miserable person, wretch,” from Latin miser (adj.) “unhappy, wretched, pitiable, in distress,” a word for which “no acceptable Proto-Indo-Eeuropean pedigree has been found” [de Vaan]. The oldest English sense now is obsolete; the main modern meaning of “money-hoarding person” (“one who in wealth conducts himself as one afflicted with poverty” – Century Dictionary) is recorded by 1560s, from the presumed unhappiness of such people. The older sense is preserved in miserable, misery, etc. Besides general wretchedness, the Latin word connoted also “intense erotic love” (compare slang got it bad “deeply infatuated”) and hence was a favorite word of Catullus. In Greek a miser was kyminopristes, literally “a cumin seed splitter.” In Modern Greek, he might be called hekentabelones, literally “one who has sixty needles.” The German word, filz, literally “felt,” preserves the image of the felt slippers which the miser often wore in caricatures. Lettish mantrausis “miser” is literally “money-raker.”

      Books, Writing and Publishing

In 2018, Otto Penzler (owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC, publisher of the late, lamented Mysterious Press, and publisher of various presses still working) put his personal collection up for auction. See the photo below, and commence drooling.
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He now has a memoir about his years of collecting, Mysterious Obsession: Memoirs of a Compulsive Collector. At this link, you can read more about Otto and the collection.  At the far end of the lower floor, you can see a desk. On it, at the far corner by the window, you can see a Maltese Falcon statuette. ON the floor, leaning against the desk is what we assume to be the original art for the dust jacket of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia – published by Mysterious Press.

Oh to have had an afternoon to wander the shelves, look at the spines, and to possibly hold some of these books, the finest copies of legendary crime and mystery novels.

Garry Disher ~ Being a crime writer doesn’t mean I condone murder. Do I even have to say it? 

America’s First Banned Book Really Ticked Off the Plymouth Puritans


New Library Is a $41.5 Million Masterpiece. But About Those Stairs  

AND

The $41 Million Hunters Point Library Now Has A Leak Problem


Here’s Why You Should Preorder All of Books from Independent Bookstores 

Dublin Murders Makes a Murky Mess of Tana French’s Lyrical Crime Novels

Whodunnit in the Library: Someone Keeps Hiding the Anti-Trump Books 

‘Extraordinary’ letters between Ian Fleming and wife to be sold 

Dean Koontz reveals 6 new thrillers — and why you won’t find them in bookstores 

How the salacious double murder of a minister and a choir member in 1922 inspired one of the earliest legal thrillers. 

Why Penny Dreadfuls Scandalized Victorian Society—But Flew off the Shelves 

Martha Grimes Has Plenty of Style 

26 Years Later, Nicholas Meyer Is Returning to Sherlock Holmes. Why Now? 

Judi Dench appeals for public help to bring rare Brontë book to UK as auction looms 

Miniature Manuscript Penned by Teenaged Charlotte Brontë Will Return to Author’s Childhood Home

The Uncertain Future of the World’s Largest Secondhand Book Market 

After moving ‘about 20 feet,’ Burien’s Page 2 Books is reconnecting with its community

Shakespeare & Co. at 100 years 

Lin-Manuel Miranda Is Officially A Bookstore Owner After Purchasing The Drama Book Shop In New York City

12 Books Like ‘Knives Out’ For Fans Of Family Sagas, Murder, & Knitwear

Louisa May Alcott’s Forgotten Thrillers Are Revolutionary Examples of Early Feminism

Interview with an Archivist: Randal Brandt on Berkeley’s Legendary Detective Fiction Collection

The Rise of E-Books:The Last Decade Has Been Tumultuous For The Publishing Industry

      Other Forms of Fun

American Icons: The tales of Edgar Allan Poe

Jack Goldsmith discusses his book, “In Hoffa’s Shadow”, at Politics and Prose.

Serial didn’t invent true crime, but it did legitimize it 

The case for spoilers. Some people avoid them at all costs. I seek them out — and I’m not alone.

7 International True Crime Podcasts You Should Be Listening To 

Noah Hawley and Billy Bob Thornton Look Back at the First Season of Fargo 

Where does fake movie money come from? 

Shedunnit – how Agatha Christie became cinema hot property

Dutch police podcast unearths clues to decades-old murder  

Did you know about this deleted subplot in You’ve Got Mail featuring a creepy author?

‘Your throat hurts. Your brain hurts’: the secret life of the audiobook star

      Author Events

December 4: Warren C. Easley, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

December 7: Tamara Berry in conversation with M.J. Beaufrand, University Books, 3pm

      Words of the Month

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

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

      Links of Interest

November 1: Indiana woman found dead with python wrapped around neck

November 3: Musician Stephen Morris’ shock as lost £250,000 violin returned

November 3: Olivia Newton-John’s Grease outfit fetches $405,700 at auction

November 3: Kazimir Malevich: A mystery painting, either masterpiece or fake, puzzles experts

November 4: The World’s Oldest Recipes Decoded

November 7: Mystery of Napoleon’s missing general solved in Russian discovery

November 7: What is Collins Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year?

November 8: 75 books from university presses that will help you understand the world

November 9: Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks

November 10: Sesame Street at 50: Five defining moments

November 12: Lady in a Fur Wrap: Mystery of Glasgow painting revealed

November 13: ‘The Soprano’s’ Lorraine Bracco Shares Memories Of James Gandolfini: ‘I Have A Profound Love For Him’

November 13: HUNTER: Sementilli murder an echo of 1944 film noir classic?

November 14: ‘The Preppy Murder’ Has a Very Different Take on Linda Fairstein’s Legacy

November 14: Rembrandt theft foiled at Dulwich Picture Gallery

November 14: Switzerland’s plan to stop stockpiling coffee proves hard to swallow

November 15: ‘One in a million’ three-antler deer spotted in US

November 18: Police break up archeological crime gang in Italy 

November 18: The Secret Life of Plants as Murder Weapons

November 19: Professor who is expert on corruption charged with laundering money

November 20: What can 200-year-old DNA tell us about a murdered French revolutionary?

November 20: Marco Polo parchment sheds light on last year of his life in Venice

November 20: Film Noir Perfectly Captures the Mass Torment and Paranoia of the Mid-Twentieth Century

November 20: Owner reunited with cat found 1,200 miles from Portland home

November 21: Aya de Leon on ‘Hustlers’, social justice, and the complicated intersection of feminism and crime.

November 21: Detectorists stole Viking hoard that ‘rewrites history’

November 21: Cambridge’s ‘Pink Floyd’ pub Flying Pig saved from demolition

November 23: Egypt animal mummies showcased at Saqqara near Cairo

November 24: Don Johnson: ‘I didn’t expect to live to 30, so it’s all been gravy’

November 25: Dresden Green Vault robbery: Priceless diamonds stolen

      R.I.P.

November 4: Yvette Lundy, French resistance heroine, dies aged 103

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November 15: Remembering Russell Chatham, landscape painter and writer.

From what we remember, the story on Chatham’s Clark City Press was such that if he chose to publish an author, they got to pick which of Chatham’s paintings that would grace the cover   of the trade paperback. And then they got that painting as a gift. The one we remember was the only novel by noted PNW poet Richard Hugo (he memorialized in the name The Hugo House) which was the outstanding mystery,  Death and the Good Life. The current edition of the book has a different cover but I remember when we had this one in the shop. It was lovely. ~ JB

November 15: Inventor of the famed ‘Sourtoe Cocktail’ dies

November 20: Walter J. Minton, Putnam Publisher Who Defied Censors, Dead at 96

November 22: Michael J. Pollard Dies: Oscar-Nominated ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ Actor Was 80

November 22: Gahan Wilson, Vividly Macabre Cartoonist, Dies at 89

November 22: Jane Galloway Heitz dies aged 78

November 26: Soviet Spy who Foiled Nazi Plot to Kill Allied Leaders Dies, Aged 93

      Words of the Month

evagation (n.): The “action of wandering,” 1650s, from French évagation, from Latin evagationem (nominative evagatio), noun of action from past participle stem of evagari, from assimilated form of ex “out, out of” (see ex-) + vagari, from vagus “roving, wandering” (see vague).

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

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Last week on Finder of Lost Things…Marshmallows and music distract Phoebe from realizing something important is happening in Nevermore….

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Gail Carriger – Reticence

Weddings and funerals.

The two events which bring together friends, family, and tangentially attached relations together in one place then ply them with alcohol. What could go wrong? Add in werewolves, vampires, were-lioness, intelligencers, and inventors you’ve got the makings of a smashing party or a brawl.

Or both.

However, Reticence actually starts with a job interview and the hiring of a new doctor for the Spotted Custard. Then we segue seamlessly into a wedding.

It makes sense when you read it.

However.

For one to fully understand and appreciate Reticence, you need to have read the other three Custard Protocol books – plus the Parasol Protectorate & Finishing School series. As many, many of the main players from each of these other series pop up in this installment.

It’s what happens at weddings, everyone turns up to wine, dine, and dance to the happy couple.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Perhaps it felt a hair rushed at the end – however – Carriger does a beautiful job of winding up the series in an elegant and humorous way. Leaving herself just enough wiggle room, should the whim seize her, she could continue to write of Rue and her crew’s adventures. Or start an entirely new series set in the same universe.

Either way, Reticence won’t leave you disappointed. I know I wasn’t.

(And if you haven’t started reading Ms. Carriger’s books, you should! They are lovely, full of whimsy, tea cakes, supernatural creatures, the occasionally soulless, complicated inventors, steampunk, politics, and hats.)

Fran

November was kinda sucky for me. Let’s just say that I need two new knees, and our beloved but aged cat died.

I tend to read David Eddings when I’m down, 9780451488558but I found a “Death on Demand” book by Carolyn Hart I hadn’t read: Walking on my Grave (Berkley). It was the perfect read.

Okay, so I figured out who did it early on, and the big twist wasn’t really a surprise. But you know how it is when you visit old friends; sometimes you just need time in their company, listening to the old stories. Walking on my Grave reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, in the very best ways.

Granted, I still didn’t get the paintings at the end right, and I love that she always surprises me there. I’ll be Amber would have gotten them, though.

Oh, and be sure to read the chap-books at the end!

   JB

Shop dream: the shop was small, cramped, and we were running around looking for the Xmas books. Oddly, none of the usual ones were on the shelves. Authors’ books were missing those titles. Behind a bunch of movable displays, I saw that there was an alcove with a bunch of tables. The books on those tables badly needed to be returned. They were old and had dust on the jackets (so they were doing their jobs!).  Again, Amber was in the dream but not Fran. I really don’t understand why Fran isn’t in the dreams but the last couple have had the need to do returns, which probably goes back to trying to keep the place afloat.

Fran here – Yeah, why is that? I could help return books (after I snag the ones I want to keep, that is!)


Fran and I have had an on-going discussion about the cosmology in John Connolly‘s Charlie Parker series. Certainly, there’s a great deal of spirituality. There are figures of good and figures of great evil. There are actual spirits or should they be called ghosts? There are beings that are more – or worse – than human, whose lives are longer than those of normal humans. The figures of evil lay out their schemes and keep track of Parker. It is pretty clear that by now they’re afraid of him. Is it because he’s dangerous, or because he’s a figure of “good” who seems indestructible? There are “bad” gods, something unseen but referred to as The Buried God. Does that mean there’s a corollary Good God? I’m not a fan or a believer in organized religion but there’s a battle going on in these books between the destroyers and those who are out to stop them. I’m not ready to say that Parker, as well as Louis and Angel, are avenging angels in the classic, halo-wearing sense, but they certainly scare the shit out of the bad guys. And that is a great thing.

A Book of Bones is the 17th novel in the series. 9781982127510Fran and I would urge you to read them if you like lyrical prose and characters who are not all black or white. There’s lots of blood, sure, but gentle humor between friends as well as ribald laughs springing from the oddities of the human race. These are not books for the squeamish, but for readers who appreciate a challenge. If you do start the series, read them in order. That’s the best way to see the story lines unfold. If you do, you’re lucky, for you have a long line of books to consume. For us who have been following the series all these years, we have to endure the wait for next year’s book and pray it is a Parker book, not something else. Lord have mercy if we have to wait two years. Especially now, as  this latest book’s very last sentence is a twist you can’t see coming. It’s a game changer. Can’t wait to see where John takes us next!


Movie Review: The Irishman

I admit that I had high hopes for the new Scorsese movie. The cast would be stellar, the story interesting and, after all, it’d be a Scorsese mobster movie. The cast was great – Pacino as Hoffa was outstanding, Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino had a stunning stillness, Harvey Keitel appeared in a few scenes with a quiet menace, and De Niro was, well, DeNiro (I’ve always been a fan but just seems to be doing the same thing film after film – his expressions never change). But I must say it was a let down. It fizzled to it’s end and all you could say was “huh”. It is no Goodfellas.


Don’t judge a book by its cover. This cover is wrong. Don’t recall any trees in the entire story. This cover says “spooky”, even haunted”. Maybe so. But the spook is a good guy.

Evidently unsettled, too, by Reacher’s gaze, which was steady, and calm, and slightly amused, but also undeniably predatory, and even a little unhinged.”

Things are the usual with this book. Even normal. Except when they’re not. Reacher gets off a bus. He helps an old guy. He’s drawn into trouble. He gives better than he gets. Bad guys go down. There are some differences.

First, this reads like an homage to Red Harvest. Two rival gangs rule a town. They’re set against one another. Second, Reacher gathers a little team with whom he does his damage. Third, he talks about knowing someday he won’t win. Says he knows he’s old but not that old.  Lastly, he asks the woman to leave town with him. 9780399593543

Blue Moon – the title is as nonsensical as the cover art – but ignore it. This is one of the best Reachers in years. Good, hard, mean fun. It even touches on current issues. An easy triple. Maybe even an in-the-park homer.

But you should look up the meaning of “gamine”.


Shop dream: it was near the end of the month and I suddenly realized that the newsletter hadn’t been proofed, it wasn’t in the format for the printer and there was little time to get it done before it had to be mailed out… Did it have to do with needing to finish up this edition of the newzine as we near the end of November? WHO KNOWS!


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November’s Newzine

Wideer turkey jpeg

      Serious Stuff

My Family Story of Love, the Mob, and Government Surveillance 

Samuel Little: FBI confirms ‘most prolific’ US serial killer

How Did a Serial Killer Escape Notice? His Victims Were Vulnerable and Overlooked

The Green River Killer and Me

The British Spy Who Tried to Stop the Iraq War 

Cameron’s Books & Magazines, a Portland institution since 1938, is closing

New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail is to close 

Seattle hosts true crime event hunting for fresh clues in decade-old murder case 

Appeals Court Set To Weigh In On Request To Access Testimony From 1946 Lynching Cold Case. Can and Should Grand Jury Material ever be Made Public?

Famed NYC ME Baden Says Examination of Jeffrey Epstein Death Points to Murder

      Words of the Month

myrmidon (n): One of a warlike people of ancient Thessaly, legendarily ruled by Achilles and accompanying him to Troy, c. 1400, from Latin Myrmidones (plural), from Greek Myrmidones, Thessalian tribe led by Achilles to the Trojan War, fabled to have been ants changed into men, and often derived from Greek myrmex “ant” (from Proto-Indo-European *morwi (see Formica (2)), but Watkins does not connect them and Klein’s sources suggest a connection to Greek mormos “dread, terror.” Transferred sense of “faithful unquestioning follower,” often with a suggestion of unscrupulousness, is from c. 1600. (thanks to etymonline)

      Book Stuff

The Global War on Books, Redux: Governments are spending a remarkable amount of resources attacking books — because their supposed limitations are beginning to look like ageless strengths.

Author Jenny Lawson Aims to Create a Sanctuary With Nowhere Bookshop

Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed Through Infrared Imaging 

Light Billions of Times Brighter Than the Sun Used to Read Charred Scrolls From Herculaneum

Diary of a small town sensation: how the Wimpy Kid author built his dream bookshop

“Me Before You” Author Jojo Moyes Has Been Accused Of Publishing A Novel With “Alarming Similarities” To Another Author’s Book

From The Crime Hub – Some of the Best Legal Thriller Writers

Australia’s First Published Dictionary Was Dedicated to ‘Convict Slang’

Home on the Range ~ Craig Johnson – ‘Land of Wolves’ author moseys between stacks at the ranch 

Celebrating Elmore Leonard’s “Rules for Writing”

“My Ties to England have Loosened”: John LeCarré on Britain, Boris and Brexit 

John le Carré: ‘Politicians love chaos – it gives them authority’

Every Child Can Become a Lover of Books 

When True Crime Gets Personal 

Removing the Mystery From Mystery Writing: 13 Tricks Used by Acclaimed Novelists 

Tana French Is Our Best Living Mystery Writer 

One Neat Trick to Writing Great Mystery Plots (in which Charles Finch raves about Tana French)

The 20 essential L.A. crime books

New Hunger Games prequel gets a compelling title, book cover  

Oxford University professor accused of selling ancient Bible fragments 

The Booksellers is a fascinating look into the world of rare book dealers 

Writer Nicholas Meyer on the Inspiration Behind His Latest Sherlock Holmes Tale

How to Write Hercule Poirot in 2019 

Learning to Write Mysteries the Mystic River Way

The Crimes Never End: A Guide to Mystery’s Biggest and Longest-Lasting Book Franchises

What It’s Like to Build and Operate a Tiny Traveling Bookshop

Diaries Expose “Strong Brew’ of Ripley Novelist Patricia Highsmith’s Dark Thoughts

The State of the Crime Novel: A Roundtable Discussion with Crime Authors

The Hunt for Shakespeare’s Library: I Couldn’t Stop Looking If I Wanted To

      Words of the Month

Calliope : 1. the Greek Muse of heroic poetry 2. a keyboard musical instrument resembling an organ and consisting of a series of whistles sounded by steam or compressed air

With a name literally meaning “beautiful-voiced” (from kallos, meaning “beauty,” and ops, meaning “voice”), Calliope was the most prominent of the Muses—the nine sister goddesses who in Greek mythology presided over poetry, song, and the arts and sciences. She is represented in art as holding an epic poem in one hand and a trumpet in the other. The musical instrument invented and patented in the 1850s, played by forcing steam or compressed air through a series of whistles, was named after the goddess. Because its sound could be heard for miles around, the calliope was effective in luring patrons to river showboats, circuses, and carnivals, which is why the instrument continues its association with such attractions today.

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for the definition)

      Other Forms of Fun

ABC’s Stumptown is the scuzzy private-eye show we need right now  (it’s also ‘set’ in Portland)

Knives Out director Rian Johnson explains how to build a great whodunnit mystery

Kenneth Branagh’s Death On The Nile Starts Filming With An All-Star Cast

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Her Enduring Relavence 

Nancy Drew Is Not Who You Remember ~ The girl detective gets a CW reboot, but is she more than endlessly recyclable intellectual property?

The Seductive Power of the Femme Fatale

Is the time finally right for a “Friends” reboot?

Sesame Street to cover addiction with new muppet Karli

Marvel Comics at 80: From bankruptcy threat to billions at the box office 

Motherless Brooklyn Is a Warning About the Dangers of Unchecked Political Power 

true love meets true crime

      This ‘N’ That

Japan ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink

JUNIE B. JONES: NIGHTMARE CHILD OR FEMINIST ICON

       Author Events

November 1: Ann Cleeves, UBooks at University Temple United Methodist, 7pm

November 6: Curt Colbert (with Jake Rossiter!), Third Place/LFP, 6pm

Noveber 13: Warren C. Easley, Powell’s 7pm

November 13: Clyde Ford, Third Place/LFP, 7pm

November 15: Daniel H. Wilson (and the Andromeda Strain), Powell’s, 7:30pm

November 16: Clyde Ford, Village Books, 4pm

November 16: Rick E. George, Village Books, 7pm

November 23: Ace Atkins (with Spenser), Third Place/LFP, 6pm

      Words of the Month

Triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13

It’s impossible to say just how or when the number thirteen got its bad reputation. There are a number of theories, of course. Some say it comes from the Last Supper because Jesus was betrayed afterwards by one among the thirteen present. Others trace the source of the superstition back to ancient Hindu beliefs or Norse mythology. But if written references are any indication, the phenomenon isn’t all that old (at least, not among English speakers). Known mention of fear of thirteen in print dates back only to the late 1800s. By circa 1911, however, it was prevalent enough to merit a name, which was formed by attaching the Greek word for “thirteen”—treiskaideka (dropping that first “e”)—to phobia (“fear of”).

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for the definition)

      Links of Interest

September 26: Sold ~ Charles Dickens’s Liquor Log

September 30: Piece of missing L.A. Library sculpture found in Arizona. Where are the other two?

October 1: The Messy Consequences of the Golden State Killer Case

October 1: Japan’s last pagers beep for the final time

October 3: How Mary Roberts Rinehart, Queen of the Mystery Novel, Was Very Nearly Murdered  (And don’t miss Amber’s write up further along!)

October 3: Gandhi’s ashes stolen and photo defaced on 150th birthday

October 4: ‘Object, matrimony’: The forgotten tale of the West Coast’s first serial bride killer

October 4: Herculaneum scroll: Shining a light on 2,000-year-old secrets

October 5: Playing Catch a Killer With a Room Full of Sleuths – At a forensic conference in California, law enforcement officials grappled with how to avoid destroying one of the field’s biggest innovations in decades.

October 5: John Dillinger: US gangster’s body set to be exhumed

October 6: The peculiar bathroom habits of Westerners

October 7: The Comic That Explains Where Joker Went Wrong

October 7: Paul McCartney’s psychedelic Wings tour bus rediscovered

October 7: Saturn overtakes Jupiter as planet with most moons

October 8: Rube Goldberg: celebrating a remarkable life of cartoons and Creations

October 8: Here Are All the Aston Martins Confirmed for James Bond’s “No Time to Die”

October 8: Inside the abandoned Soviet base the Cold War left behind

October 8: See How The Foremost ‘50s Pulp Fiction Illustrator Anticipated Fake News In This Unusual Museum Show

October 10: Harry Potter first edition sells for £46,000 at auction

October 12: How to protect your books with medieval curses

October 14: After years searching, I found my sister next door

October 15: Blooming fakes: Amsterdam tourists hit by tulip scam

October 16: The art of doing makeup on a dead body

October 16: Would You Buy Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy’s Property?

October 16: Egypt archaeologists find 20 ancient coffins near Luxor

October 16: For Sale: Jane Austen’s Wince-Inducing Descriptions of 19th-Century Dentistry

October 16: The mysterious ‘inverted tower’ steeped in Templar myth

October 17: Why is Banksy vetting the customers of his online store?

October 17: Leonardo da Vinci feud: The ‘earlier’ Mona Lisa mystery

October 18: Fierce Australian dust storm turns day to night in seconds

October 18: Fearless, free and feminist: the enduring appeal of Jack Reacher

October 20: Longtime Universal boss Ron Meyer sues art dealer over ‘forged’ Mark Rothko painting

October 21: Australian newspapers black out front pages in ‘secrecy’ protest

October 21: Why Do We Rewatch Our Favorite Films?

October 21: Franco exhumation: Why is Spain moving a dictator’s remains?

October 24: Roy DeCarava’s photos of jazz greats

10/26: Defying the Cosa Nostra: The Man who Accidentally Bought a Mafia Stronghold

October 27: Kurt Cobain cardigan sells at auction for $334,000

October 27: Cimabue painting found in French kitchen sets auction record

October 28: Mystery of the skeleton hijacked by Nazis and Soviets

October 26: Ted Bundy Said an Entity Made Him Murder. These Ghost Hunters Went Searching for It

Oct 28: Want free barbecue for life? Help catch the burglars who stole from this restaurant

October 30: Australian police freeze multi-million dollar properties in Chinese crime link probe

      Words of the Month

Scaramouch: 1.  a stock character in the Italian commedia dell’arte that burlesques the Spanish don and is characterized by boastfulness and cowardliness 2a cowardly buffoon

In the commedia dell’arte, Scaramouch was a stock character who was constantly being cudgeled by Harlequin, which may explain why his name is based on an Italian word meaning “skirmish,” or “a minor fight.” The character was made popular in England during the late 1600s by the clever acting of Tiberio Fiurelli. During that time, the name “Scaramouch” also gained notoriety as a derogatory word for “a cowardly buffoon” or “rascal.”

Today not many people use the word (which can also be spelled “scaramouche”), but you will encounter it while listening to Queen’s ubiquitous rock song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in the lyric “I see a little silhouetto of a man / Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?”

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for the definition)

      R.I.P.

October 7: Rip Taylor Was In On The Joke

October 12: Robert Forster, Oscar-Nominated ‘Jackie Brown’ Actor, Dead at 78

October 13: Hitchhiker’s actor Stephen Moore dies aged 81

October 21: Nick Tosches, writer of great variety, dies at 69

October 28: Robert Evans, Chinatown producer, dies at 89

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

Squirrel jpeg

Today on Finder of Lost Things...Beatrice stuns Little Ben with a compliment of sorts, Phoebe gives him some much needed advice all before dinner arrives at their table!

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Miss Pinkerton – Mary Roberts Rinehart

When you start this mystery, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

One, Miss Pinkerton reads differently than most modern mysteries. Due in large part to the had-I-but-known writing device, Rinehart is credited with founding. Meaning? Sprinkled here and then in the narrative are tantalizing hints of what’s to come — placed there by Rinehart to keep her readers turning the page late into the night.

By today’s standards, this method of storytelling is considered old fashioned. But it makes sense as most of Rinehart’s work was initially serialized in magazines, so she used this style of foreshadowing to hook her readers into buying the next edition of said publication. Initially, until I read enough to understand her style, it felt very staccato. But now that you’ve been forewarned, this shouldn’t be a problem for you!

(I didn’t find out any of this background information until after I finished the book – because I don’t read introductions until I finish said story, due to the shocking number I’ve read which contained inadvertent spoilers for veteran readers.)

Second, Rinehart not only was a novelist but a trained nurse as well. This hands-on experience allows Rinehart to infuse nurse Hilda Adams with some real depth, allowing our amateur detective to rise above her cookie-cutter counterparts in other mysteries of a similar vintage.

Not unlike Agatha Christie’s Superintendent Battle, who uses his police uniform to dupe the unsuspecting into thinking him dull and slightly stupid. Miss Adams uses her crisp white uniform to fade seamlessly into the background of a household to become a police detective’s ‘man on the inside’ and help solve a murder or two.

Third, similar to Georgette Heyer mysteries, Rinehart adds several different types of love/romantic entanglements to her story. Each fitting well into the narrative, they add extra layers to the story and the characters.

This touch of romance didn’t bother me in the least as Rinehart wove it into the text seamlessly. However, I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m letting you know. (BTW – it isn’t sappy and provides motive – so if you’re on the fence never fear it only adds layers.)

Overall I enjoyed reading this book.

In fact, the byplay between Miss Adams and her police counterpart intrigued me enough I’m going to hunt down the rest of the Miss Pinkerton mysteries! Because I’d really like to know where Miss Adams’ story started and where it ends since Rinehart provided just enough hints to make me want to find out.

   Fran

9781501998096I know, I know, you’re going to say, “Oh look, Fran’s touting a book by William Kent Krueger. So what? She always does.” It’s true. I do.

But wait, hear me out! STOP SCROLLING, DARN IT!

Desolation Mountain (Atria) is somewhat different from the rest of the Cork O’Connor books, and in an intriguing – if dark – way. Now I’ll grant you, I’ve spent several years poking around the North Country with Cork and his family, so in the first chapter I knew who the two people talking were even before I read the names. And what’s exciting about Desolation Mountain is it taps into something Kent is really good at: coming-of-age stories.

Go re-read  Ordinary Grace and tell me I’m wrong.

Stephen is really growing up, and I can see him eventually taking Cork’s place as an investigator, even though that’s not his path. But in addition to becoming a Mide, Stephen has a powerful need to know, to understand. And he has to learn who he is first, hence the coming-of-age bit. Granted, he’s 20 now, but sometimes I still think he’s 6. It’s been a delight watching Stephen grow up under William Kent Krueger’s skillful hands, and he’s becoming a powerful character on his own, which is fantastic.

But the other seriously cool aspect to Desolation Mountain is that Kent brought in a character from his stand-alone book, The Devil’s Bed. Bo Thorsen is involved in the same investigation as Cork and Stephen, but he’s not necessarily their ally. It makes for some off-the-charts tension.

So yeah, I’m pushing a book by William Kent Krueger, and it’s not a surprise, but the book itself, Desolation Mountain, really is! And if you haven’t read any others and pick this one up to start with, like my wife did, you’re gonna want to go back to the beginning and start with Iron Lake.

*************************************

Note from the real crime world – I’ve been reading a lot of police reports in my job, and I can now definitively say that every crime, every last one, is made infinitely worse when you read, “The suspect was wearing a clown suit.”

     JB

Blowout came from an interesting question. 9780525575474

Rachel Maddow wondered why Putin would risk messing with the 2016 US election. In hindsight, we know they did and, to some point, it was worth it – but it clearly wouldn’t have been a sure  bet. Had Clinton won, the full weight of the US government would’ve been pointed at Russia in retribution. So why the risk? It is an interesting question.

“The meek may inherit the earth, but the bold could certainly screw it up in the interim.”

And that’s where the book goes. Along with way, she provides a succinct and entertaining history of the oil industry and the birth of fracking. She overlays it with the growth of Exxon/Mobil, the corporate rise of Tillerson, the political rise of Putin, the growth of Russia’s kleptocractic state, and the economic pit Putin drilled for himself and his country.

And the center of it all is Ukraine. The Ukraine of Crimea, and Manafort, and the crippling sanctions affixed by the Obama administration due to Russia’s interference in Ukraine and its elections, and their military incursions. Ukraine remains in the center of things, now thanks to Drumpf and his quid pro quo, Giuliani and his buddies, and, of course, Putin’s schemes. Power, money, oil, natural gas, and more power.

“Putin and his techno-warriors figured out what differences and disagreements and prejudices were corroding the health and cohesion of American society. They found the most ragged faults and fissures in our democracy: immigration, race, religion, economic injustice, mass shootings. Then they poured infectious waste into them.” Putin just hack America. She adroitly shows he fracked us.

It’s a book with a broad topic but written with confidence and comedy – that which makes no sense is not spared her wit and scorn. What is or was farce is clearly shown to be. You hear her voice in her words as clearly as if she was sitting at your side reading it to you.

Blowout is a gusher of info and a barrel of fun. It is also a serious work.

9780982565087A while ago, I wrote a couple of posts about a trip to San Francisco and taking the Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour. It took me a couple of weeks but I hunted down a copy of Don Herron’s out-of-print book about it. It is great fun. It provides an entertaining and informative biography of Hammett as the tour proceeds around the city, telling you what he did when he lived at this address or that address, why this building or that building is mentioned in The Maltese Falcon and what the support of that conclusion is (the late PI and crime writer Joe Gores plays a hefty part in the opinions), and includes photos and maps of the routes. If you find a copy, and it is the 30th Anniversary edition with forwards by Hammett’s daughter Jo and by crime writer Charles Willeford, snag it.

 

Lastly ~ My Latest Seattle Mystery Bookshop Dream!

Bill Farley and I were some kind of contractors, doing painting in someone home (certainly affected by my current work in a hardware store). We walked into the bookshop – which was in a dingy area of town but not on Cherry St, I don’t think, the street was level – and it was clear it had just moved into this smaller space. Empty bookshelves were stacked to the left side of the door in front of a big window. There were also some that were jammed with books – I think it was the beginning of the alphabet. There were shelves lining the walls and Amber was busy loading books into them. There weren’t very many people in the shop at that moment but more began to come in. I stepped behind the register to ring someone up and there was suddenly a long line of people plus a cranky old woman who wanted to ask question NOW. Then the space was much smaller and it was hard to move around the shelves that cluttered the space. and the jam of customers.

Once again, Fran wasn’t in the dream. Not sure what that means…

But it was nice to spend time with Bill again!



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