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!
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
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…”
Here are the finalists for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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!
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…..
James Ellroy’s This Storm is the second volume in his projected new quartet. It follows closely on the heels of Perfidia, which 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 is 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