Posted in Male Author, Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 21 ~ “Blood Doesn’t Come Out”

20140105-160356

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Blood Doesn’t Come Out” by Michael Crichton

Card picked: Jack of Clubs

From: McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon

Thoughts: Thrilling Tales have not been so thrilling lately…

This is the semi-hard-boiled noir-ish story of Los Angeles private detective Ray Chambers. Ray isn’t having a good day. He’s screwed up his current investigation, his car payment is late, and his actress girlfriend Janis has left him. Janis’s main accusation is that Ray is stuck in the past. She can’t even move the photo of Ray’s mother on the piano without Ray getting annoyed. Thing is, Ray doesn’t even like his abusive mother. She’s been in a home for a few years, but maybe she still holds sway over Ray’s life. Ray decides to do something about that.

Ray isn’t a sympathetic character or even an interesting character. His life doesn’t seem *that* bad and he doesn’t really blame his screw-ups on his mother’s attitude toward him. As a reader, we see that she’s always been an abusive alcoholic, but we’re only given a one day look into Ray’s life (one morning, really) and the incidents feel singular. These isn’t much of a build-up to a life gone wrong.

About the Author: In light of the 1990 blockbuster novel Jurassic Park, it’s easy to forget that Michael Crichton published his first novel in 1966 (under a pseudonym). In light of this short story, I think longer works with a good dollop of science and technology probably suit him better than semi-hard-boiled noir-ish private detective character studies.

Posted in History

ROW 80 ~ Wednesday Update, May 20th

Update, since May 10th

Writing

  • Finish In Need of Luck
    • Finish chapters in progress. Right wrongs. Let’s say, min. 500 words/day. – 705 on Sunday, 505 on Monday, nothing on Tuesday. I have a problem with Tuesdays.
    • Talk with Eric about remaining chapters. – Haven’t yet.
  • For May/June – Scene rewrites for PHYSICa.
  • For May/June – Transcribe free write bits that might be useful to Abbott project. – Eric came up with an interesting angle for the Abbott project and I’m probably going to turn my eye toward what might be useful for that.
  • Daily free write. – Wrote Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.

Reading, related to writing

  • Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands
    by Michael Chabon. – 53% done.
  • For May/June – The Call of Stories by Robert Coles.
  • Finish reading River City Empire (related to next possible writing project) by the end of April.
  • On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown by Theodore Wheeler (also related to the possible Abbott project)

Publishing

  • Look for new promo options. – No movement
  • EntangledContinua.com – Better mobile design. – I’ve been reduced to floating elements….
  • EntangledContinua.com – Add excerpts. – No movement until I get redesign done.
  • New descriptions/categories/tags for Weordan books. (April 15th)
  • List of reviewer contacts.

Personal Growth

  • Next Python class starts May 23. Review by doing a project related to book promo info. – No movement.

ROW80LogocopyROW 80 is a blog hop!

Please, check out how other Round of Words participants are doing with their goals.

Posted in Male Author, Novella

Review ~ On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown

On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown by Theodore Wheeler

Cover via Goodreads

The story of an immigrant boy who’s caught up in a race riot and lynching, based on events surrounding the Omaha Race Riot of 1919. While trying to find a safe place in the world after being exiled from his home during World War I, Karel Miihlstein is caught in a singular historical moment and one of America’s most tragic episodes.

Written in the tradition of the historically-set work of Don DeLillo, Denis Johnson, and Colum McCann, On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown depicts its characters in deep personal detail and wide social panorama—from a contentious Interrace baseball game on the Fourth of July to the ear-splitting clatter of a race riot—while revealing the folly of human nature in an age of astonishing ambition. (via Goodreads)

Last week I wrote about Orville D. Menard’s River City Empire, a book about Omaha’s political and criminal boss Tom Dennison. During the 1918 elections, reformists gained a political foothold after over a decade of Dennison’s picks being elected, namely perpetual mayor Jim Dahlman. In response, crime seemed to increase in the city. The lesson: Dennison’s brand of corruption was better for the city than unchecked activity. Of course, there is also evidence that Dennison and his cronies were behind some of the high profile incidents, including men in blackface assaulting white women. Dennison had influence over the Omaha Bee daily newspaper and it reported on the assaults as well as racial unrest around the country in shrill detail. Add to that, preexisting tensions in the city due to unemployment. The accusation against Will Brown—of raping 19-year-old Agnes Loeback—was the match that lit the powder keg. A mob of thousands of white men laid siege to the Douglas County Courthouse until Will Brown was turned over to them.

Into this historical event, Theodore Wheeler places Karel Miihlstein. Karel is an immigrant, as many were in culturally diverse Omaha. He’s a good kid with four sisters, no mother, and a father focused very much on his own work as a repairer of violins. Karel has some knack at baseball, a sport that is nationally popular and an important entertainment. I don’t know how much of the July 4th baseball game is fact or fiction, but it feels real; it feels like an event that could get lodged in a young man’s mind and could lead to bad decisions later. Wheeler does a wonderful job with the setting, but an even better job giving his characters motive for behaving as they do.

Publishing info, my copy: Edition Solitude, Kindle Edition, 2015
Acquired: Amazon
Genre: Historical
Previously: I came across Theodore Wheeler while, surprise, doing research into Tom Dennison and early 20th century Omaha. According to his webpage, there is a novel length version of this novella in the works.

Posted in History

ROW 80 ~ Sunday Update, May 17th

Update, since May 10th

Writing

  • In Need of Luck
    • Outline the chapters we have. – Done.
    • Review Eric’s notes. – Done.
    • Finish chapters in progress. Right wrongs. Let’s say, min. 500 words/day.
    • Talk with Eric about remaining chapters.
  • For May/June – Scene rewrites for PHYSICa.
  • For May/June – Transcribe free write bits that might be useful to Abbott project.
  • Daily free write. – Wrote Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

Reading, related to writing

  • On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown by Theodore Wheeler (also related to the possible Abbott project)Finished on Monday. Review coming on Tuesday.
  • Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands
    by Michael Chabon. – 37% done.
  • For May/June – The Call of Stories by Robert Coles.
  • Finish reading River City Empire (related to next possible writing project) by the end of April.

Publishing

  • May 13th – Take a look at Luck for Hire‘s meta data (ahead of May 16th promo). – Done.
  • Look for new promo options. – No movement
  • EntangledContinua.com – Better mobile design. – Going to shoot for a responsive design rather than a redirect. Need to figure out what to do with my sidebar menu.
  • EntangledContinua.com – Add excerpts. – No movement until I get redesign done.
  • New descriptions/categories/tags for Weordan books. (April 15th)
  • List of reviewer contacts.

Personal Growth

  • Next Python class starts May 23. Review by doing a project related to book promo info. – Figured out what info I want to isolate. Haven’t done any actual coding yet.

ROW80LogocopyROW 80 is a blog hop!

Please, check out how other Round of Words participants are doing with their goals.

Posted in Male Author, Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 20 ~ “The Albertine Notes”

20140105-160356

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Albertine Notes” by Rick Moody

Card picked: Queen of Spades

From: Thrilling Tales, ed. by Michael Chabon

Thoughts: At week 20, I have come upon my first DNF story of the year. More of a novella than a short story (weighing in at 61 pages), I gave “The Albertine Notes” twenty pages to keep me interested. Honestly, I only made it seventeen pages.

The premise seemed good: After an atomic bomb is detonated in New York City, many disenfranchised people turn to the drug Albertine. Albertine allows for perfect and immersive recall of memories. And even the ability to “remember” the future. I was willing to suspend disbelief; memory doesn’t work like this, but I’d go for a speculative fiction ride. Unfortunately, the telling of this story is really muddy and repetitive.

Kevin Lee, our narrator, is a journalist tasked with investigating the claims that surround Albertine. There are long circular explanations of how the drug might work and how it might have been connected to the bombing mixed in with paranoid conspiracies involving the government and drug dealers. It reminded me of Danielewski’s House of Leaves, but without the weird feeling of impending doom. It just didn’t work for me.

About the Author: Rick Moody is pretty notable in the realm of literary fiction. Alas, I’m only familiar with his works via a movie adaptation. The Ice Storm is rather good.

Posted in Male Author, Nonfiction

Review ~ River City Empire

River City Empire: Tom Dennison’s Omaha by Orville D. Menard

Cover via Goodreads

More than any other political boss of the early twentieth century, Thomas Dennison, “the Rogue who ruled Omaha,” was a master of the devious. Unlike his contemporaries outside the Midwest, he took no political office and was never convicted of a crime during his thirty-year reign. He was a man who managed saloons but never cared for alcohol; who may have incited the Omaha Race Riot of 1919 but claimed he never harmed a soul; who stood aside while powerful men did his bidding. His power came not from coercion or nobility but from delegation and subterfuge.

Orville D. Menard chronicles Dennison’s life in River City Empire, beginning with Dennison’s experiences in Colorado mining towns. In 1892 Dennison came to Omaha, Nebraska, where he married and started a family while solidifying his position as an influential political boss. Menard explores machine politics in Omaha as well as the man behind this machine, describing how Dennison steered elections, served the legitimate and illegitimate business communities, and administered justice boss-style to control crime and corruption. The microcosm of Omaha provides an opportunity for readers to explore bossism in a smaller environment and sheds light on the early twentieth-century American political climate as a whole. (via Goodreads)

Of the mixture of Omaha history and magic history that I’ve delved into in the last couple years, Tom Dennison might be the oldest ingredient from a research standpoint. According to Evernote (which is probably more or less accurate for this tidbit of information), I first bookmarked Omaha’s entry at AmericanMafia.com back in September 2012. I had done a search on the Mafia and Omaha and had been surprised to find any thing at all. But that is because I didn’t know my history.

At one time, “nice” Omaha, Nebraska was known as an “open” city. Its fast growth in the mid- to late- 1800s allowed for all sorts of vices to flourish, and for organized crime to move in and take advantage. Tom Dennison was a force in Omaha from the early 1900s until the mid-1930s. As the blurb says, he never held office and he was never convicted despite being the head of a political machine that allowed gambling, bootlegging, and prostitution to thrive. That isn’t to say that crime went unchecked in Omaha. It was actually quite well controlled, to benefit Dennison, of course.

River City Empire is an incredibly information dense book and well-researched. Menard tries to hit every facet of political bossism at play. Unfortunately, the organization isn’t intuitive. After a few biographical chapters, Menard tackles individual topics in a sort of chronological manner which leads to jumping back and forth through the timeline. I sort of feel like I need to reread this book to get things properly sorted in my head. It was a very interesting read, but not an easy or fast one.

Publishing info, my copy: University of Nebraska Press, 2013, paperback
Acquired: Amazon
Genre: Non-fiction, history.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Bout of Books 13!

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

On the one hand, I’m behind on a lot of work, and I’ve been low on energy lately.
On the other hand…

Bout of Books Lucky-Number-13!!!

Can I resist?
You know that I can’t.

BoB13

I’ve been enjoying short works lately, so I’m not going to buck the trend. My plan:

  • The novella On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown by Theodore Wheeler. Finished!
  • The “Other Stories” in Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier. Finished!
  • A couple of essays from Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon. Ended at 37%, which is about where I intended.
  • Rick Moody’s “The Albertine Notes” for Deal Me In from Thrilling Tales, edited by Mr. Chabon. This didn’t go so well… I DNF after 17 pages.

And hopefully I’ll hit a Twitter party too. 😉 Missed the Twitter parties, but read more than I expected. 646 pages total!

Updates

Sunday: 161 pages. Finished the de Maurier collection and the rest of October Faction.

Saturday: 149 pages. Finished the Vivi Andrews, a couple more essays from Maps and Legends, “Underneath” by Kealan Patrick Burke, and “Swift, Brutal Retaliation” by Meghan McCarron (which, it turns out, I’d read before). In need of a graphic novel break, I started October Faction Vol. 1 and remembered how annoying comics are to read in ePub form.

Friday: 151 pages. Finished Chabon’s essay on Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series and a less supernatural du Maurier story. Decided in the evening to jump in on #crushYourTBR and read some old Kindle acquisitions. Read “Overtime” by Charles Stross and half of The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo, & the Poltergeist Accountant by Vivi Andrews.

Thursday: 41 pages. I could have sworn it was more than that. Finished another du Maurier story and Chabon’s essays on Sherlock Holmes and Norse mythology.

Wednesday: 16 pages. Couldn’t get going on anything on Wednesday! Pft.

Tuesday: 27 pages on the next story in Don’t Look Now. Du Maurier has a lot of water and a lot of dead people in her stories.

Monday: 101 pages read! Finished On the River… . I’ll probably review that next Tuesday. Read “The Breakthrough,” which was more sci-fi than I was expecting from du Maurier. Read “Maps and Legends” from the Chabon book and started his lengthy essay on Sherlock Holmes. Also read a few poems from Chicago Poems by Carl Sandburg.

Continue reading “Bout of Books 13!”