These green books are poisonous—and one may be on a shelf near you
Words of the Month
astonish (v.): c. 1300, astonien, “to stun, strike senseless,” from Old French estoner “to stun, daze, deafen, astound,” from Vulgar Latin *extonare, from Latin ex “out” (see ex-) + tonare “to thunder” (see thunder (n.)); so, literally “to leave someone thunderstruck.” The modern form (influenced by English verbs in -ish, such as distinguish, diminish) is attested from 1520s. The meaning “amaze, shock with wonder” is from 1610s. (etymonline)
Watch for this new documentary, “Hello, Bookstore”
Want to See the Weirdest of Wikipedia? Look No Further.
Debunking the Mechanical Turk Helped Set Edgar Allan Poe on the Path to Mystery Writing
Scottish university cruelly cancels poor, defenseless, under-read Jane Austen. England panics.
Turns out, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an episode of Veronica Mars.
One of the greatest legacies left by “The Godfather” was basic instructions on how to make dinner
In California, you can borrow state park passes from your local library
Earliest evidence of Maya calendar found inside Guatemalan pyramid
Scientists find earliest record of aurora in ancient Chinese chronicle
A Mysterious Sarcophagus Discovered Beneath Notre-Dame Will Soon Be Opened
An Inside Look at Judith Jones’ First Notes for Julia Child
Rare proof sheets of first Harry Potter book expected to sell for £20,000
‘We got a kick out of it’: art forgers reveal secrets of paintings that fooled experts
Original Death of Superman Artwork Sells for Over Half a Million at Auction
Man Upset Over ‘Gay’ Superman Accused of Terrorizing ‘Woke’ Companies
‘Captain America Comics’ No. 1 Sells for $3.1M
Words of the Month
confound (v.) c. 1300, “to condemn, curse,” also “to destroy utterly;” from Anglo-French confoundre, Old French confondre (12th C.) “crush, ruin, disgrace, throw into disorder,” from Latin confundere “to confuse, jumble together, bring into disorder,” especially of the mind or senses, “disconcert, perplex,” properly “to pour, mingle, or mix together,” from assimilated form of com “together” (see con-) + fundere “to pour” (from nasalized form of PIE root *gheu- “to pour”).
From mid-14th C. as “to put to shame, disgrace.” The figurative sense of “confuse the mind, perplex” emerged in Latin, passed into French and thence to English by late 14th C. The Latin past participle confusus, meanwhile, became confused (q.v.). The meaning “treat or regard erroneously as identical” is from 1580s.
confounded (adj.) as an intensive execration, “odious, detestable, damned,” 1650s, past-participle adjective from confound in its older sense of “condemn, curse,” which came to be considered “a milder form of imprecation” [OED]. It is perhaps a euphemism for damned. The sense of “put to mental confusion” is recorded from mid-14th C. [etymonline]
:A Ukrainian book publisher is collecting donations to get books to refugee kids.
Waterstones launches scheme to raise £1m for Ukraine
:Russian Nobel-winning editor says he was attacked with red paint
:US Government Disrupts Botnet Controlled by Russian Government Hackers
:Tchaikovsky’s house destroyed by Russian army in north-east Ukraine
:Finnish customs seizes millions of dollars’ worth of artwork headed to Russia
:Finland Returns $46 M. In Detained Artwork to Russia, as France Continues To Hold Russian Paintings
:Navalny review – extraordinary documentary about the attempt to kill Putin’s rival
:Why Putin Is Itching to Get His Hands on This Ex-American Banker
>Book Banning Efforts Surged in 2021. These Titles Were the Most Targeted.
>Democrats must hit back hard at GOP book bans. Here’s a start
>More books are banned than ever before, as Congress takes on the issue [oh good, we’re saved...]
>New York Public Library makes banned books available for free
>The Brooklyn Public Library is giving eCards to teens nationwide to challenge book bans
>Banned Books Are About to Be the New Pussy Hats
>‘Out of touch’: children’s authors describe increasing censorship of books on diversity
>Censorship battles’ new frontier: Your public library
>Florida rejects 54 math books, claiming critical race theory appeared in some
>Oklahoma library cancels adult romance book club after board bans sexual content
>Oklahoma public library’s sexual content ban also cuts abuse prevention program and Pride displays
>Llano County faces federal lawsuit over censorship in library system
>California Man Arrested for Alleged Threats to ‘Shoot Up’ Merriam-Webster for Defining ‘Woman’
>GOP Tennessee lawmaker suggests burning inappropriate books
>Florida activist seeks to ban Bible from schools for being too ‘woke’
>Tennessee Republican says he would ‘burn’ books censored by bill
>Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ was banned — and cost him his federal job
The Female Spies Who Helped Win World War II
Two men arrested after targeting Secret Service agents in influence operation
Canadian government introduces legislation to force online giants to compensate news outlets
What We Get Dangerously Wrong About Psychopaths
A Driver Took Her Final Photo. Now She’s on a Long List of Missing Women.
–Son of novelist Paul Auster charged with homicide over baby daughter’s fatal overdose on heroin and fentanyl
–Son of acclaimed author Paul Auster dies of overdose while awaiting trial for daughter’s death
Newly formed board to review Civil Rights-era cold cases faces time crunch
Abraham Bolden: Ex-Secret Service agent pardoned by Biden [for a fuller account of Bolden’s case]
He caught the Golden State Killer, but the obsession took a toll [see signings!]
Report: Hackers Have Been Sexually Extorting Kids With Data Stolen From Tech Giants
First missing, murdered indigenous alert system created in U.S.
Oregon Bandits on the Run With $1 Million in Stolen Fake Cash
Iowa survivalist who faked death to avoid trial arrested in Washington state
The Oregonian: ‘Threat Dictionary’ showcases power of words and how they’re used to spread, combat fear
Local author’s ‘Skid Road’ is a look at Seattle’s homeless past
Beachcomber stumbles across body partially buried in the sand near Lincoln City
Vancouver’s Black Dog Video closing for good
Melvin ‘Pete’ Mark’s heralded collection, featured at Oregon Historical Society, goes to auction
Lateness, Cursing, a Broken Sink: Starbucks Keeps Firing Pro-Union Employees
Very Oregonized Crimes ~An atlas of Oregon crime fiction.
My First Thriller: Robert Dugoni
The Oregon literary community is pissed off about poet Carl Adamshick’s $10,000 fellowship.
Words of the Month
confusion (n.) c. 1300, confusioun, “overthrow, ruin,” from Old French confusion “disorder, confusion, shame” (11th C.) and directly from Latin confusionem (nominative confusio) “a mingling, mixing, blending; confusion, disorder,” noun of action from past-participle stem of confundere “to pour together,” also “to confuse” (see confound).
Meaning “act of mingling together two or more things or notions properly separate” is from mid-14th C. Sense of “a putting to shame, perturbation of the mind” (a sort of mental “overthrow”) is from c. 1400 in English, while that of “mental perplexity, state of having indistinct ideas” is from 1590s. Meaning “state of being mixed together,” literally or figuratively, “a disorderly mingling” is from late 14th C.
confuse (v.) From the 1550s in a literal sense “mix or mingle things or ideas so as to render the elements indistinguishable;” from mid-18th C. in the active, figurative sense of “perplex the mind or ideas of, discomfit in mind or feeling,” but not in general use until after c. 1800. From 1862 as “erroneously regard as identical.” It took over these senses from its older doublet, confound (q.v.).
The past participle confused (q.v.) is attested much earlier, in Middle English (serving as an alternative past tense to confound), evidently an adaptation of Old French confus or Latin confusus, “with the native ppl. ending -ED and the present stem a much later inference from it” [OED]. (etymonline)
QAnon Surfer Who Killed His Kids Was Radicalized by Lizard People Conspiracies
In Minnie Mouse’s Dress, Right Wingers See a Penis — and a LGBTQ Conspiracy
David Mamet Comes Out as Right-Wing Culture Warrior, Claims Teachers Are Inclined to Pedophilia
Man Inspired by QAnon and Hopped Up on Caffeine Purposefully Derailed Train
Gender-Neutral Words Like ‘People’ and ‘Person’ Are Perceived as Male, Study Suggests
Shelf-promotion: the art of furnishing rooms with books you haven’t read
Goldfinger Onesie, anyone? Yours for only $545! Not the one from the movie…
Sinaloa Cartel Suspect Arrested in Colombia Thanks to His Date’s Facebook Pics
Twice Accused of Murder, This Writer Later Foresaw the Sinking of the Titanic
He Created the First Known Movie. Then He Vanished.
D.C. police arrest seven people found with dog taken in armed robbery
The Business of Fake Martian Dirt Is Blasting Off
A New Electronic Nose May Help Sniff Out Counterfeit Whiskey
The CIA’s ‘Torture Queen’ Is Now a Life Coach Hawking Beauty Products
Two Charged After Pet Duck Helps Solve Murder Mystery
The One American Serial Killer Whose Star Won’t Stop Rising
Walter Sickert review – serial killer, fantasist or self-hater? This hellish, brilliant show only leaves questions
Words of the Month
puzzle (v.) 1590s, pusle “bewilder, confound, perplex with difficult problems or questions,” possibly frequentative of pose (v.) in obsolete sense of “perplex” (compare nuzzle from nose). To puzzle (something) out “resolve or discover by long cogitation or careful investigation” is by 1781. Puzzling (adj.) “bewildering, perplexing,” is from the 1660s. Bepuzzle (v.), to “perplex,” from the 1590s, from be- + puzzle. (etymonline)
Amazon plans to block words including “union,” “ethics,” and “restroom” from its employee chat app
Amazon Discussed Banning the Words “Fairness” and “Pay Raise”
>A Cinderella Story: How Staten Island Amazon Workers Won Against the Multi-Billion-Dollar Company
>He was fired by Amazon 2 years ago. Now he’s the force behind the company’s 1st union
>Amazon seeks to undo Staten Island union victory
Delivery company files class action on behalf of 2,500 Amazon-branded partners
Working at an Amazon Warehouse Got Even More Dangerous in 2021
Amazon CEO Blames New Workers for the Company’s High Injury Rate
How Barnes & Noble Went From Villain to Hero
What You Don’t Know About Amazon
From Amazon to Apple, tech giants turn to old-school union-busting
9 Ways to Imagine Jeff Bezos’ Wealth (a visual presentation, best viewed seated)
Words of the Month
boggle (v.): 1590s, “to start with fright (as a startled horse does), shy, take alarm,” from Middle English bugge “specter” (among other things, supposed to scare horses at night); see bug (n.); also compare bogey (n.1), boggart. The meaning ” hesitate, stop as if afraid to proceed in fear of unforeseen difficulties” is from 1630s; that of “confound, cause to hesitate” is from 1640s. As a noun from 1650s. Related: Boggled; boggling; boggler (from c. 1600 as “one who hesitates”). [etymonline]
Rabih Alameddine takes home the 2022 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Announcing the winners of the 2022 Whiting Awards.
This year’s International Booker Prize shortlist is led by women
38th annual B.C. and Yukon Book Prizes shortlist announced
Vancouver poet makes short list for top Griffin poetry prize
The winner of this year’s Story Prize is Brandon Taylor’s Filthy Animals
The National Book Foundation has announced this year’s 5 Under 35
Here’s the very first Chowdhury Prize in Literature winner.
Lauren Groff has won the 2022 Joyce Carol Oates Prize.
Interview: Evelyn Araluen wins $60,000 Stella prize: ‘I was one paycheck away from complete poverty’
Women’s Prize for Literature Shortlist showcases global talent
Here are the winners of the 2022-2023 Rome Prize in literature.
Here are the winners of this year’s LA Times Book Prizes.
Remembrance of Bookstores Past
‘Stolen’ Charles Darwin notebooks left on library floor in pink gift bag
The Library Ends Late Fees, and the Treasures Roll In
What Kind of Bookstore Browser Are You? We booksellers have seen it all.
Why a Bookstore’s Most Quiet Moments Are (Sometimes) Its Most Important
Tokyo’s Manuscript Writing Cafe won’t let you leave until you finish your novel
Why the Color Red Carries so Much Weight in Film and Literature
Gillian Flynn’s Anti-Heroines And The Dark Side of Feminism
Brandon Sanderson’s Record-Breaking Kickstarter Is the Exception, Not the Rule
Ebook Services Are Bringing Unhinged Conspiracy Books into Public Libraries
The book that sank on the Titanic and burned in the Blitz
Interview: Don Winslow ~ ‘I’m a cupcake. I certainly couldn’t be a leg-breaker’
Dope: On George Cain, New York City, and Blueschild Baby
A Treasured Mumbai Bookstore’s Colorful Makeover, and Other News
On the (Secret) Crime Novels of E.L. Doctorow
Lost Charlotte Brontë Manuscript Sells for $1.25 Million
Holocaust Survivors Ask Israel Museum to Return One-of-a-Kind Haggadah
The Charming Mid-Century Murder Mysteries and Rich Interior Life of Edith Howie
UK publishers take £6.7bn in sales as TikTok crazes fuel purchases
Waterstones launches scheme to raise £1m for Ukraine
‘I can’t leave all 10,000 to my son’: the bookshop selling one man’s lifetime collection
Interview: Stella Rimington: ‘I fell into intelligence by chance’
Library of Congress Acquires Neil Simon’s Papers and Manuscripts
Four times more male characters in literature than female, research suggests
Why is the second hand book business booming?
Dispatches from this year’s New York International Antiquarian Book Fair
Why the Mystery Novel Is a Perfect Literary Form
Don Winslow on New England Roots, Greek Poetry, and Clams in Broth
How Dorothy B. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place Brought a New, Disturbing Kind of Noir to the Postwar American Experience
Lost and Found: Rediscovering E.C.R. Lorac’s Two-Way Murder
6 Thrillers That Will Fool the Most Seasoned Readers
The State of the Crime Novel: A Roundtable With The Edgar Nominees Edgar Awards Nominees Reflect On How The Pandemic Has Changed Their Writing Lives
The State of the Crime Novel in 2022, Part 2: Genre, Publishing, and What to Read Next
Famous first lines, rewritten with a thesaurus.
Find books set in your hometown with this neat tool
Industry trend? Jon McGregor just did his book tour by bicycle.
In-Person Author Events
May 3: Seanan McGuire, University Bookstore, 6pm
May 4: : Paul Holes, Powell’s, 7pm
May 17: Christopher Moore, Powell’s, 7pm
May 18: Christopher Moore, Third Place Books/LFP, 7pm
May 23: Adrian McKinty, Third Place Books/LFP, 7pm
Other Forms of Entertainment
Sherlock Holmes May Be Coming to Streaming Thanks to Robert Downey Jr.
Mugshots of the Real Peaky Blinders
Bruce Willis’s Minimalist Star Power
15 years ago, Tarantino released his worst movie — with the most incredible stunts
Jason Isaacs: ‘Daniel Craig is more comfortable naked than with clothes on’
A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes audiobook review – vintage crooks and conmen (read by Samuel L. Jackson)
My streaming gem: why you should watch Scarlet Street
“Operation Mincemeat”: the startling story of deception that fooled Hitler and helped win the war
‘Operation Mincemeat’: The Welsh drifter who helped end WW2
Serial-Killer Clown John Wayne Gacy Speaks in New Docuseries
~Peter Berg on Being Linda Fiorentino’s Sex Toy
~Kathleen Turner Made the Modern Femme Fatale
‘Killing Eve’ EP Sally Woodward Gentle on How Going With Her Gut Shaped Four Seasons and a Finale
Podcast: Run, Bambi, Run Profiles Playboy Bunny Turned Milwaukee Police Officer Turned Killer
Looking back on one of the scariest serial-killer films ever made, 10 Rillington Place
– Hugh Laurie brings Agatha Christie murder-mystery to TV [his favourite, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?]
– On the Genuine Delights of Hugh Laurie’s Murder Mystery Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
The Hound of the Baskervilles review – tongue-in-cheek sleuthing
= David Simon, Jon Bernthal and the Makers of HBO’s ‘We Own This City’ on Dirty Cops, the Drug War and the Legacy of ‘The Wire’
=‘We Own This City’ Brings George Pelecanos Back to Baltimore
Sam Peckinpah’s ‘The Osterman Weekend’ Finally Comes Home
‘Villanelle will be back!’ Killing Eve’s author speaks out over the catastrophic TV finale
‘Shining Girls’: Elisabeth Moss Tracks a Time-Traveling Serial Killer
‘The Offer’ review – the making of The Godfather makes for hit-and-miss TV
Thomas Perry’s The Old Man comes to TV staring Jeff Bridges on June 16
The True Story Behind ‘The Untouchables’
Insiders Call B.S. on ‘Tokyo Vice’ Backstory
James Patterson: “The Hollywood adaptations of my books suck”
Words of the Month
amaze (v.)”overwhelm or confound with sudden surprise or wonder,” 1580s, back-formation from Middle English amased “stunned, dazed, bewildered,” (late 14th C.), earlier “stupefied, irrational, foolish” (c. 1200), from Old English amasod, from a- (1), probably used here as an intensive prefix, + *mæs (see maze). Related: Amazed; amazing. (etymonline)
A farewell to long-time customer John Cunningham who died March 2, 2022
Mar. 30: Paul Herman Dies: ‘The Sopranos’, ‘Goodfellas’ Actor Was 76
April 2: Thomas F. Staley, Dogged Pursuer of Literary Archives, Dies at 86
April 5: Alan J. Hruska, a Founder of Soho Press, Dies at 88
April 6: Nehemiah Persoff Dies: Prolific Actor Of ‘Yentl’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Gunsmoke’ & Many More Was 102 (he was in EVERY crime show in the 60s, probably more than once!)
April 10: Bestselling author Jack Higgins dead at 92
April 9: Mimi Reinhard, secretary who typed ‘Schindler’s List,’ dies at 107
April 14: Letizia Battaglia, pioneer photographer who defied the Mafia, dead at 87
April 1`5: Christopher Coover, Auction Expert in the Printed Word, Dies at 72
April 30: Neal Adams death: Batman comic artist dies, aged 80
Links of Interest
Mar. 31: This Father-Son Team Helps People Brute-Force Their Lost Bitcoin Wallet Passwords
Mar. 31: St. Louis’ Murder Total Has Fallen, but Some Killings Went Uncounted
Mar. 31: More Than a Dozen Antiquities Linked to Disgraced Dealer Seized from Yale’s Art Gallery
April 2: Jack Ruby Is the Key to the Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Theories. So Why Have We Forgotten About His Trial?
April 2: Man Sentenced to 650 Years in Prison in Brutal 1980s Sex Crimes
April 2: Did Body Found on Somerton Beach Belong to Cold War Spy?
April 5: Mob Hit Man Who Escaped as Sentence Neared Its End Is Recaptured
April 5: Hackers Hijacked Crypto Wallets With Stolen MailChimp Data
April 5: The novelist who wrote “How to Murder Your Husband” is now on trial for murdering her husband.
April 6: Investigating the Cold Case That Inspired ‘Twin Peaks‘
April 7: Yakuza Boss Bagged at Steakhouse in Rockets-for-Heroin Plot
April 8: Alex Jones Accused of ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Scheme to Hide Money From Sandy Hook Families
April 8: Former Goldman Sachs banker found guilty in 1MDB scheme
April 8: D.C. Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Steal More than $31 Million in COVID-19 Funds
April 8: Cops Nab Five Alleged Ringleaders of Scam-Filled Assassin Marketplace on Dark Web
April 9: Florida Man Stole Almost $600K in Crypto While Setting Up Security System: Cops
April 10: Man Finds “Priceless” Napoleon Memorabilia Stolen in Museum Heist — on eBay
April 11: Police Discover More Than 1,000 Stuffed Wild Animals in Giant Taxidermy Bust
April 12: Aides to Texas County Judge Indicted in $11M Vaccine Contract Scandal
April 12: Law Enforcement Seizes RaidForums, One of the Most Important Hacking Sites
April 13: Gangs are following and robbing LA’s wealthiest, LAPD says
April 13: US federal alert warns of the discovery of malicious cyber tools
April 14: Coca-Cola Enterprises boss admits taking £1.5m in bribes
April 14: Meet the Blockchain Detectives Who Track Crypto’s Hackers and Scammers
April 14: One hundred years ago, the British spy was caught in what appears to be the Irish Republican Army’s only authorized attack on American soil
April 15: QAnon Leaders Push Followers Into Multi-Level Marketing
April 15: How Cryptocurrency Gave Birth to the Ransomware Epidemic
April 15: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Is Changing His Tune on Crypto
April 16: How An Alleged Rapist And Former Twitch Streamer Helped Build An NFT Startup By Hiding Behind A Pseudonym
April 20: Cops Arrest COVID-19 Vaccine Scammer With ‘Top Secret’ Clearance Hookup
April 20: He Was a Penniless Donor to the Far Right. He Was Also a Russian Spy.
April 21: Shiba Inu Memecoin Launches Metaverse, Someone Creates Swastika Immediately
April 21: Supreme Court ruling aids family seeking return of painting confiscated by Nazis
April 21: After Pardon for Bannon, 2 Admit Bilking Donors to Border Wall
April 22: EXCLUSIVE – Washington man arrested for impersonating agent left trail of defaults and debt
April 22: Jeffrey Epstein, a Rare Cello and an Enduring Mystery
April 23: U.S. hasn’t stopped N. Korean gang from laundering its crypto haul
April 28: Ten men from same family arrested in Amsterdam for money laundering
April 28: Meta Found Snooping on Student Aid Applicants
April 29: Val Broeksmit, Deutsche Bank, and the Birth of a New Conspiracy Theory
April 29: Cops Kill Man Over Stolen Pokemon Cards in Target Parking Lot
Words of the Month
bamboozle (v.) “to cheat, trick, swindle,” 1703, originally a slang or cant word, of unknown origin. Perhaps Scottish from bombaze, bumbaze “confound, perplex,” or related to bombast, or related to French embabouiner “to make a fool (literally ‘baboon’) of.” Wedgwood suggests Italian bambolo, bamboccio, bambocciolo “a young babe,” extended by metonymy to mean “an old dotard or babish gull.” Related: Bamboozled; bamboozler; bamboozling. As a noun from 1703. (etymonline)
What We’ve Been Up To
Murder Maps: Crime Scenes Revisited 1811 – 1911 — Dr. Drew Gray
There are many reasons why Murder Maps makes an excellent read. One of which is the selection of crimes featured in the book. Namely, most cases highlight a new forensic technique, first conviction using said technique, and/or new methodology police use to catch the perpetrator. We take techniques like fingerprinting, crime scene photography, and criminal profiling for granted – however, they aren’t nearly as old as one might think!
The second reason why I loved reading this book was the crimes Dr. Grey decided to detail. Of course, the covered period 1811 – 1911 includes the notorious crimes of H.H. Holmes, Crippen, and Jack the Ripper. However, rather than sticking to the stock descriptions of these heinous crimes, Dr. Grey includes often overlooked details. Including the five other possible victims of Jack the Ripper, the pioneering techniques the police used during the Ripper’s spree, and their failures.
Besides coving the most notorious crimes and culprits, Murder Maps also includes all kinds of other murders, including examples I’ve read repeatedly in fiction but never imagined having a real-life counterpart! Such as this old trope: an innocent actor unwittingly wields a real weapon instead of a prop and kills a fellow actor while on stage during a performance….
Speaking of the crimes detailed in Murder Maps, it reminds me of one of my favorite podcasts, The True Crime Files. The book gives you just enough details of the crime: who the victims were, where it took place, if/how it was solved, and how the judicial system dealt with the perpetrators (if they were, in fact, guilty). So if, for one reason or another, one of the crimes sparks your interest, you’ve enough information at your disposal to look it up for yourself.
Then there are the maps.
Each entry in Murder Maps, no matter how big or small, contains at least one illustration (usually from one newspaper or another) or photo (mug shots and/or crime scene photos), a brief description, and a map. Now, I must admit (for me), the maps containing only a single point (where the crime occurred) were only somewhat helpful. However, the maps where Dr. Grey put multiple features of interest, such as where the killers lived, worked, or were born in relation to where the victims were worked, attacked, or found – provide a wealth of information.
I can honestly say it’s been a very long time since I’ve enjoyed a piece of true-crime writing as much as I’ve enjoyed Murder Maps.
I would highly recommend Murder Maps to anyone who would like to dip their toes into the genera or to an aficionado looking for a new case to obsess over, new details/perspective on an old fave, and/or appreciates a well-laid-out book.
Seriously, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
A Touch of Home
Since we moved back to New Mexico, I’ve been drawn to re-reading some of the authors that made New Mexico home. I know, you’re thinking about Tony Hillerman, and you should since he was fantastic, and I hope you’ve followed his daughter, Anne’s career.
But looking at these mountains out my front door has led me down more non-traditional paths.
So I decided to read some Walter Satterthwait. Granted, his Joshua Croft books are set in Santa Fe, which this absolutely is not, and there’s a definite rivalry between northern and southern New Mexico, but for a good, solid story, Walter Satterthwait is spot on.
“But outside town, the countryside is still spare and uncluttered, the sunlight still reels down from a clear blue silky sky, the mountains and the buttes still soar wild and reckless from a landscape so nonchalant about its lean rugged beauty, so indifferent to the passage of time, and the passage of man, that it takes the breath away. Driving through this country can be, should be, an exercise in humility; and that may be one of the very best exercises possible.“
One of the things that I like about Joshua Croft is that his cynicism extends to himself. He questions everything, including his own impressions of people and events, and that is brilliantly showcased in The Hanged Man, where Croft is asked to investigate the murder of a man who just paid an undisclosed but enormous amount for a single Tarot card.
The cast of characters and suspects is just as colorful as any Tarot deck, and the delight of Satterthwait’s writing is that the people come close to being cartoonish, almost caricatures, and then he brings them back down to earth in some commonplace way that resonates.
The Hanged Man was written in 1993, and the delight of it is that, while much of New Mexico has urbanized and changed, the bones are still the same. I know these dusty roads, and back ways, and the way that people here can seem more open when they’re really quite secretive.
Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s the fact that you can trust a rattlesnake to be more honest than a human being half the time, but whatever it is about living in New Mexico, and about looking into the shadows, Walter Satterthwait is well worth your time.
National Portrait Gallery exhibition looks at Watergate 50 years later
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