Posted in Male Author, Novel

Review ~ Holmes on the Range

Cover via Goodreads

Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes.

When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin'” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery. (via Goodreads)

Earlier in the year, I had high hopes for a Western about two brothers. That one didn’t work out for me. The Sisters Brothers is a fairly literary work and, to be honest, I like my fiction more on the genre side of things.

To me, genre is a set of plot-related tropes. Story consumers of all types know the tropes, and story producers aim to create narratives that use the tropes as faithfully or creatively as needed. Genre is somewhat separate from setting, but many genre categories can be settings as well. “Western” (like “science fiction” and “fantasy”) can be either. If you put Western tropes in a science fiction setting, you end up with something like Firefly. Other genre categories are really only genres; “mystery” is one of those. Mystery has enough flexibility in its tropes to go anywhere.¬†Holmes on the Range is a great Western set mystery.

I put¬†Holmes on the Range on me TBR list during one of my Holmesathons. For some reason, I was under the impression that it directly features Holmes—that this books partially filled in his Great Hiatus. (I have a cover blurb mental block, I swear.) It is not.

Instead, this is the story of two brother Otto (Big Red) and Gustav (Old Red) Amlingmeyer. Big Red, despite his size and obvious physical cow-hand traits, is the educated of the two, the Watson of the story. Old Red, who has been relegated since early life to labor, is illiterate but loves hearing the stories of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Old Red casts himself into Holmes’ mold and aims to solve the murders at the Bar VR ranch.

The relationship between the brothers isn’t always sunshine and light, but there is steadfast loyalty between them which rings true considering their backstory. Hockensmith also does a really good job with time-period slang. Slang can be distracting, but the narrative here is seamlessly in Otto’s voice. The plot is a solid mystery with pleanty of nod to Holmes stories.

I highly recommend¬†Holmes on the Range. It’s the beginning of a series; I’m looking forward to reading the others.

Publishing info, my copy: Trade Paperback, St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2006
Acquired: Book Mooch (I believe)
Genre: Mystery

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

#NonFicNov ~ Book Pairings

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Hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review,
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, and Julz at Julz Reads

It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it‚Äôs a historical novel and you‚Äôd like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

The Prestige The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer"

A fictional wizard war and the biography of a magician who performs completely as someone else. Even if you’ve only seen the movie The Prestige and not read Christopher Priest’s novel,¬†Jim Steinmeyer’s The Glorious Deception is a great companion piece.

American Gothic The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Years before Erik Larson became a favorite of mine with his tale of H. H. Holmes as The Devil in the White City, Robert Bloch used the setting and the serial killer as inspiration for G. Gordan Gregg in American Gothic. When I read the novel I thought the “murder castle” was an out-there idea. Little did I know…

Posted in History

What Else, Week 45

WhatElse

Writing

Still anxious and lacking motivation. I’m pretty much through the rewrites. What’s left will probably lead to a lot of new words. I’m still going to shoot for 10K words for the month, but that means I need to actually buckle down and do some work this week. Eric (who is working on rewrites and edits of earlier books in the PHYSIC series) joked that we are putting the NO in NaNoWriMo.

Reading

Judas: The Most Hated Name in History¬†I read a grand total of 181 pages last week, mostly finishing up¬†Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith.¬†The Man Who Knew Too Much by David Leavitt wasn’t working out for me so I moved on to¬†Judas by Peter Standford. For Deal Me In this week, I’ll be reading “A Day in the Life of Comrade Lenin” by Carole Bugee. Intriguing considering that it’s in¬†Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown.

Blogging

Not much has been going on blog-wise either. I’m in a bit of a review slump. So I decided to change my theme and revive What Else as a weekly post. Last week:

Fitness

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Fall League 2016 – ChewBlockYa on Halloween

Fall League finals were yesterday, so I played ultimate frisbee three times last week (Tues, Weds, Sat). I think Eric and I managed sprints a couple times as well (Sun, Thurs). I checked my workout log and realized that I hadn’t filled in anything for last week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Women’s League is going to happen. Eric and I intend to keep up with sprints, but I’m going to need to do something on days he has Men’s League.

Classes

The low-motivation has extended to my Econ reading as well. It’s been nearly two weeks since I read anything.

Other Life Stuff

Obviously, the elephant in the room this week (no pun intended) is the election. Emotions are high on every side, to an extent that for my own well-being I’m not going to engage for a while. But, I do think it’s good to remember that there are¬†valid reasons why someone might have voted for Trump. I can’t do that better than these two articles written before the election:

Posted in Comics, Graphic Novel, Male Author

Mini Reviews ~ Two Graphic Novels

MiniReviews

My recent impulse checkouts from the library included two graphic novels:

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist: Volume 1

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist: Volume 1 by Michael Chabon, Glen David Gold, Bill Sienkiewicz (Artist), Howard Chaykin (Artist), Gene Colan (Artist), Steve Lieber (Artist), Eric Wight (Artist), Kevin McCarthy (Author)

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist presents the fictional history of the Escapist, the creation of Kavelier and Clay, the main characters of Michael Chabon’s novel. Yes, this is sort of meta. Chabon provides an introduction as a fan, treating The Escapist¬†as one of those venerable comics that dates back to the 1940s. The stories in this volume represent a survey of issues from throughout that history. As such, there are some very representative of themes and art and writing styles that pull from the broader history of comics in general.

My favorites “issues” in this collection deal with Luna Moth, Kavalier and Clay’s female superhero. The art in all three of Luna’s stories is distinctive and beautiful. Jim Starlin’s “Reckonings” is a lovely story about Luna making a deal with death on behalf of someone else. Also included is “The Lady or the Tiger” penned by Glen David Gold, the author of Carter Beats the Devil—the spiritual brother of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA

Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman, Niko Henrichon (Illustrator)

I was intrigued by this title. An alt-world history where Barnum, travelling with his circus, is an agent for the government? Sounded interesting. Niko Henrichon’s art is fabulously detailed and full of movement. Unfortunately, I didn’t get beyond chapter two. The main villain is Nikola Telsa and his paramour, Ada Lovelace. That’s just a level of alt-history that I’m not going to jump to. Plus, there was sort of an anti-science vibe that I didn’t care for. You can’t win them all.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

#NonFicNov ~ Why I Read the Nonfiction that I Read

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Hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review,
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, and Julz at Julz Reads

Welcome to the second week of Nonfiction November! This week’s topic is:
What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? Do you have a particular writing style that works best? When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.

Roughly, what nonfiction books I choose fall into two categories, one fairly specific and one very broad. The two books I have on my stack for November are fairly illustrative.

Judas: The Most Hated Name in History The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer

Authors: The Specific Category. As with fiction choices, there are certain nonfiction authors that I keep an eye out for. Erik Larson, Mary Roach, Jim Steinmeyer, Tom Standage, Michael Lewis, and probably a few others I can’t remember are all on this list. So is Peter Stanford. I’ve never given Judas much thought, but I will. They all write knowledgeably about their subjects. That, over tone, is probably what I value most from them.

Subjects: The Big, Vague Category. There are just certain subjects I want to know more about. Statistics, economics, and death have had periodic appearances in my reading stacks. The history of ¬†magic and spiritualism is a big subject for me. Technologies, innovations, and the people behind them is another. While I’ve read a bit of David Leavitt’s fiction, Alan Turing is the reason I chose¬†The Man Who Knew Too Much. Why these subject? Pft. I don’t know. I find a weird selection of things fascinating.

Posted in History

#ROW80 ~ Sunday Update, 11/6

Goal

Add 3125 words per week on Wicked Witch, Retired.

Update Round 4, Week 5

Man, some weeks.

Occasionally, I get a little overly neurotic. And every-so-often I get really worked up. This past week was every-so-often.

I didn’t finishing rewriting what I wanted to rewrite. I don’t know how many words have been added to the manuscript. I intend to finish the rewrite tomorrow ¬†and get a good four days of writing in. Saturday is fall league finals.

Research of the Week

  • History of the use of “hotel” as a word and concept
  • Plural of faux pas
  • Parts of an umbrella

ROW80LogocopyA Round of Words in 80 Days on Facebook

Posted in Male Author, Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 44 ~ “The Lost Room”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“The Lost Room” by Fitz-James O’Brien

Card picked: Three of Hearts
From: Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, edited by Marvin Kaye

Thoughts:

“Queer house, isn’t it?”
“I have only found it quiet.”
“Hum! But you will find it queer, take my word for it.”

“The Lost Room” begins with a lengthy description of the room in question and what its contents mean to our narrator. Through his possessions, we learn that he’s lost his lady love, that his family was duped of its fortune, and his friends don’t visit as often anymore. But truly, he seems to be content in his quiet room. Alas, maybe the room isn’t his after all…

The best part of Deal Me In is finding new authors to investigate. O’Brien was an author in the mid-1800s and is credited with writing some of the first science fiction. Based on how readable “The Lost Room” is, I’m looking forward to reading some of that!

Is This Your Card?

A transformation as quick as our poor narrator’s room.