Deal Me In, Week 44 ~ “The Case of the Nazi Canary”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Case of the Nazi Canary” by Michael Moorcock

Card picked: Seven of Spades
From: Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon

Thoughts: This “short” story was on the long side and caught me on the wrong week. Therefore, this is a little late.

I’m not too familiar with Moorcock despite his being a founding father of the sword and sorcery genre. This story is not part of that genre. Instead, it is one of a series involving “metatemporal” detectives  Sir Seaton Begg and Dr. Taffy Sinclair. Metatemporal would seem to refer to Moorcock’s propensity to drop these characters into whatever time period or setting he wants. (This isn’t evident to someone whose only experience is this story. I kept waiting for something timey-wimey to happen…) In the case of “The Case of the Nazi Canary,” Begg and Sinclair are sent to investigate the death of Adolph Hitler’s half-niece, Geli Raubal, in an alternate history Nazi Germany.

Hitler is the prime suspect, though Geli’s death is initially called a suicide. It’s rumored that his relationship with Geli was not entirely familial and he was possessive enough of her to forbid her leaving to Vienna. (This is all based on historical fact. Geli Raubal, Hitler’s half-niece died by a self-inflicted shot to the lung, which seems to be an odd method of committing suicide.) Begg and Sinclair are charged with, incongruously, clearing Hitler’s name.

“The Case of the Nazi Canary” is sort of a detective story parody. Begg and Sinclair investigate all the leads, interview all the suspects, and then, of course, are led back to the crime scene by Begg’s arch-nemesis to find the only real clue in the case. It was entertaining, but felt a little forced.

Is This Your Card?

Speaking of forces…

Magic Monday ~ A Dare, Dancing Hank, a Trip to 1933, and more


I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature. I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

Magic Monday is back, but I’m a little off my video game. Instead, here are a few links:

Dean Carnegie has a piece on the history of the Dancing Handkerchief. I’m always intrigued by the history of “small” magic tricks and how they are used in various acts.

Writer  Richard Worth and artist Jordan Collver of Water Closet Press are creating a graphic nonfiction work about the friendship between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle. They have a sample mini-comic for A Certain Symmetry.

Finally, Neil Tobin recently opened a show in Chicago called Palace of the Occult. Billed at the most sensational event of 1933, Tobin takes on the persona of Erik Jan Hanussen, a Jewish clairvoyant and publicist who gained influence in the Nazi party. Haunssen’s story is an interesting bit of history and a portion of the show’s proceeds will benefit the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.


What Am I Reading?


Keeping with Nonfiction November (unofficial), I picked from my shelf The Magician and the Cardsharp by Karl Johnson. Eric read it a while back and liked it.

I will also be reading “Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly” by David Eggers and “The Demon Lover” by Elizabeth Bowen.

On the Blog


I should have a Deal Me In catch-up post tomorrow and a Lunar Extra as well.

Also, 2016 is going to be the last year for the TBR Triple Dog Dare at James Reads Books. Need to work on your TBR stack(s)? I dare you to sign up and read only books you already own from January to April 2016.

#ROW80 ~ November 22nd Update

Round 4, Week 7 Update


I’ve more or less bailed on NaNoWriMo, which is okay. I got out of it what I wanted: a couple weeks of free writing on various aspects of the One Ahead series. That said, it wasn’t a very good week. Lots of anxiety.

Time to rework my goals and head forward.

Week 7:

  • Write First. Five days out of seven, 1 hour of work/500 words before noon. – Still only making it about 4 days out of 7.
  • Continue averaging 1000 words a day for this week. It’s not NaNo level, but it’s more than I have been doing. – Started rewriting on One Ahead #1.
  • Reorganize my document and maybe get these stories into better shape without editing or rewriting. – Irrelevant.
  • Edits/additional writing on One Ahead #1 & #3 as needed. – Working on this. Rewrote about 800 words and added about as much additional to One Ahead #1.

Goals for Week 8+:

  • Write First. Five days out of seven, 1 hour of work/500 words before noon.
  • Rewrites on One Ahead #1 – Wednesday, 11/25
  • Rough draft of One Ahead #2 – 12/13
  • Rewrites on One Ahead #3 – End of the round.

Continue reading

Deal Me In, Week 47 ~ “Ghost Dance”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Ghost Dance” by Sherman Alexie

Card picked: Nine of Spades
From: Thrilling Tales, ed. by Michael Chabon

Thoughts: The unjust murder of two Indians by racist cops sets in motion the return of the 7th Cavalry from the grave. On the night of the murders, FBI Agent Edgar Smith dreams of the Battle of Little Big Horn and of Custers’ death at the hands of a Cheyenne woman. This gives Smith a sort of psychic connection to the victims and survivors of the 7th’s rampage.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this story. Alexie does not provide the symmetry I expect from a revenge tale. The inciting event leads to the zombie 7th killing, well, everyone in their path. And maybe *that* is Alexie’s point. The violence is only going to breed violence. Or maybe that’s the message I want to see in it today. The ending is left pretty open. Smith realizes how the 7th might be stopped (by appealing to their training as soldiers), but an FBI guy who is seeing visions isn’t exactly seen as a reliable source of information.

Review ~ The Witch of Lime Street

This book was provided to me by Crown Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

Cover via Goodreads

The 1920s are famous as the golden age of jazz and glamour, but it was also an era of fevered yearning for communion with the spirit world, after the loss of tens of millions in the First World War and the Spanish-flu epidemic. A desperate search for reunion with dead loved ones precipitated a tidal wave of self-proclaimed psychics—and, as reputable media sought stories on occult phenomena, mediums became celebrities.

Against this backdrop, in 1924, the pretty wife of a distinguished Boston surgeon came to embody the raging national debate over Spiritualism, a movement devoted to communication with the dead. Reporters dubbed her the blonde Witch of Lime Street, but she was known to her followers simply as Margery. Her most vocal advocate was none other than Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed so thoroughly in Margery’s powers that he urged her to enter a controversial contest, sponsored by Scientific American and offering a large cash prize to the first medium declared authentic by its impressive five-man investigative committee.

David Jaher’s extraordinary debut culminates in the showdown between Houdini, a relentless unmasker of charlatans, and Margery, the nation’s most credible spirit medium. (via Goodreads)

This book covers a lot of ground.

It begins with Arthur Conan Doyle’s conversion to spiritualism after the deaths of several family members before, during, and after World War I. In a way, Jaher sees Doyle as a prototypical convert for the time: a previously semi-religious man who finds solace in a new belief system that emphasizes life after death. Doyle has a run-in with the prototype from the extreme other end of the spectrum, the zealous skeptic Harry Houdini, but remains unchanged. Houdini’s militant debunking, on the other hand, was due to the frauds he found in the wake of his mother’s death.

The second portion of The Witch of Lime Street is about the formation of the American Society for Psychical Research and Scientific American‘s contest. By the late 1910s and early 1920s, it seemed that spiritualism might provide scientific proof of the afterlife and Scientific American was covering some forms of mediumship under the guise of theory. Partly to put the issue to rest and partly as a publicity device, the magazine offered $2500 to any medium that could produce phenomena under controlled circumstances. Jaher details the members of SA‘s control and judging committee (which includes Houdini) and outlines the early contenders for the prize. We also meet Mina (or, later Margery) Crandon, a beautiful socialite who begins to channel her dead brother Walter after her husband takes an interest in spiritualism. It isn’t really until the halfway point of the book that we get to Mina’s tests and the committee’s experiences with her.

This is a very well researched book. I knew the basics of the Margery/Houdini kerfuffle, but few of the details. The Witch of Lime Street is full of details. There are in fact many, many names and many, many sittings with Margery. There are passages and phrases that seem repetitive. (Since I was reading an uncorrected proof, I wonder if some of that changed in the final publication.) While mostly presented chronologically, some details of certain people’s background are held back and only brought out when especially sensational in terms of the rest of the story. All in all, though, Jaher is fairly neutral in his treatment of all parties involved.

Publishing info, my copy: ARC/Uncorrected Proof, Crown Publishers, 2015
Acquired: NetGalley
Genre: Nonfiction

#ROW80 ~ November 15th Update

Round 4, Week 6 Update


Week 6:

Man, this week… It was mostly my fault.

I had a good writing day last Sunday, I wasn’t too far behind, but then I had a lazy Monday. Not a killer, I figured, I’ll make it up. Except, my computer had other plans. My boot drive has some reliability issues. It goes along fine until too many bad sectors cause a crash. Usually this is “fixed” by running a CHKDSK/repair, formatting, and reinstalling everything. Which took up a lot of time on Wednesday and Thursday. Since the fix only holds 10 months or so, Eric has ordered a new solid state drive for my computer which will necessitate a repeat of the reinstall process later in the week.

Also, we decided to change the way we’re selling and promoting the Weordan books. Queue stress freak-out since I had planned to promo Model Species next weekend. I also have to update information on those books around the web.


  • Write First. Five days out of seven, 1 hour of work/500 words before noon.  – Well, I at least have a two day streak going…
  • Average 1667 per day. (Or rather 1736 if I want to make up time.) – I’m averaging 1000 a day for the month thus far. I’ve been playing with three different ideas for One Ahead stories, two of them new, so I’ve gotten what I wanted out of NaNoWriMo.
  • Edits/additional writing on One Ahead #1 & #2 as needed. – Haven’t needed. There’s a detail I’m probably going to eventually change in story #1.

Goals for Week 7+:

  • Write First. Five days out of seven, 1 hour of work/500 words before noon.
  • Continue averaging 1000 words a day for this week. It’s not NaNo level, but it’s more than I have been doing.
  • Reorganize my document and maybe get these stories into better shape without editing or rewriting.
  • Edits/additional writing on One Ahead #1 & #2 as needed.

Continue reading

Deal Me In, Week 46 ~ “The Queen of Spades”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Queen of Spades” by Alexander Pushkin

Card picked: Ace of Hearts
From: Great Russian Stories, selected by Isai Kamen, Vintage Books, 1959

Thoughts: This tale begins, as many Russian short stories do, with a group of soldiers wrapping up a long night of card-playing. To cap off the evening, one of the men, Tomski, relates that his grandmother, the Countess X, knows of an unbeatable trio of cards to play. Why she doesn’t gamble more often, he doesn’t know. She’s only shared the secret with one other man, who won a fortune, but was sworn to only play the cards once. He died in poverty, but surely that happened because he was famously bad with money…

The Countess’s secret lodges in the mind of Herman, a Russified German who never gambles. While Herman has a nice fortune, he doesn’t feel he’s rich enough to “waste” money. He thinks that if he had the Countess’s secret, he could live more comfortably and loosen his purse strings. He hatches a plan to get into the Countess’s household by wooing her young ward, Lizaveta, and then forcing the secret from the old lady. He sends Liza a letter.

The letter contained a declaration of love; it was tender, respectful, and copied word for word from a German novel.

Luckily (for Herman), Liza knows nothing of German novels. After some indecision, she sets up a tryst with Herman. Instead of meeting Liza in her room after a ball, Herman visits the Countess. She will not reveal her secret. He threatens her with a pistol, but the old woman’s heart gives out. Herman comes clean to Liza and she helps him sneak out of the house, even though he’s only sorry for the lost secret and his lost potential fortune.

The day after the Countess’s funeral, her ghost appears to Herman. She gives him her secret card combination in exchange for two things: he only plays one card a day and he marries Lizaveta. Herman has no problems with the first part of the promise. As to the second stipulation…

I really enjoyed “The Queen of Spades.” I’ve had a rough patch with the Russians lately. Obviously, you give me a ghost and I’m halfway to happy right there. Herman is a heel. As soon as we’re told he has a fortune (that he will not spend), but he wants the Countess’s secret, we pretty much know he’s going to get his just reward in the end. What that reward is going to be is the good part.

Is This Your Card?

I am amazed that no magician, on YouTube at least, has adapted this story into a narrative card trick.