Sunday Salon, 4/28/19

Sunday Salon

Well, we had our first official 100 degree day on Friday, so here we go into the tough part of the year. I cross my fingers and hope I can stay productive.

Read

Love and Mr. Lewisham Hammers on Bone (Persons Non Grata, #1)

Finished Love & Mr. Lewisham this week and read the novella Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw. Hammers on Bone is the first in a loose series, the second of which was the first book I read this year. (That makes total sense…) I should have something to say about both later on in the week.

DealMeIn
Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

My Deal Me In story this week was “View from the Terrace” by Mike Marmer. I picked (at random, I swear!) 6; last week was 5. When writing mysteries, an author often has to skirt the line when it comes to being honest with the reader. This is especially the case when the mystery is being related from the point of view of a character who knows the truth. I think the key, really, is gently manipulating the reader into believing one thing by playing into their expectations. Basically, letting the reader pull the wool over their own eyes.

In “View from the Terrace,” Mr. Farnham takes a dive off the terrace of his 12th floor vacation condo. His newly minted widow is surprised when the police immediately refer to it as an accident. Had no one below saw what actually happened? And will the story she tells jive with the story her two children will tell? It’s a twisty little tale and I’m totally fine with being a little manipulated by it.

Reading

I plan on finishing up the book of Baroness Orczy’s  Lady Molly stories that I’ve been picking at and, yes, try to finish #SpringIntoHorror on a high note with The Hellbound Heart.

Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (Illustrated. Annotated. Includes all 12 stories + original essay "Who Was Baroness Orczy?") The Hellbound Heart

Listening

One of my favorite podcast lately is David Tennant Does a Podcast With… . The guests are great and sometimes unexpected. Tennant is a good interviewer asking questions that lead to more of a relaxed conversation than rapid-fire gathering of information. Also, I can’t help but think how much my friend Tania would have loved this podcast.

Did/Doing

“Classes”: I finished reading and working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I had been doing morning pages for nearly a year before I decided to purchase and read the book. Morning pages are three pages of long-hand free-writing and they are a core practice of Cameron’s system. Since I’m a very evidence-based person, following some of the faith-bound notions of  the book wasn’t ever going to work for me, but it did reinforce some things I know about myself: it’s good to spend some time alone outside of the apartment and it’s good for me to noodle with other art.

This week, I’m going to start using the time I had been giving to The Artist’s Way finish the watercolor class I started, like,  a year ago.

Writing: Was I not working because I was depressed or was I depressed because I wasn’t working? I don’t know. That’s a whole chicken/egg thing, though I had been thinking about switching projects a couple of weeks ago and just couldn’t quite. But this week, I’ve surfaced from my funk and decided to spiff-up and release David P. Abbott in the Open Court. This is a nonfiction book of articles I collected together: the articles that magician David Abbott wrote for the magazine The Open Court. I thought I only had the cover left to do, but instead I spent last week giving it new ebook formatting. This week, I’ll work on the cover and hope to release it by Friday or Saturday or something.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

The Black Cat, No. 7, April 1896

Welcome to the 7th issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

This issue felt a little light even though it contained six stories and was about the same overall length as other issues. Maybe it was because all the stories were roughly the same length without one longer story.

This was also the first issue without a good ghost story!

Stories

“The Mystery of the Thirty Millions” by T. F. Anderson and H. D. Umbstaetter

“The Mystery of the Thirty Millions” is set in 1903: this is near future science fiction! The main plot device of this story is the movement by the US government of $30 million dollars to Europe (England?) to right a trade imbalance. This is going to be done by literally loading up $30 million in gold on to a fast, unsinkable ship (that is also going to transport some dignitaries). The ship goes missing, but is later spotted adrift,  two weeks overdue. The crew and passengers tell of a strange moving lodestone that pulled the ship off-course. It’s never quite discovered what it is, but it seems that the Russians are behind it.

I don’t have any info on T. F. Anderson, but H. D. Umbstaetter, our intrepid Black Cat editor, is back here with co-writing credit. The zinger-ish ending has his fingerprints all over it.

“The Man at Solitaria” by Geik Turner

Solitaria is a “train station.” It’s a watering tank, a side-track, and a little hut with a telegraph line where a single man lives and takes care of the comings and goings of trains on this stretch of track. But he’s tired of his job. He wants someone to take a shift! He wants a life. So he takes matters into his own hands. I think this story is supposed to be humorous, but there isn’t anything funny about train wrecks.

This is Geik Turner’s first story for The Black Cat, but it won’t be his last.

“The Compass of Fortune” by   Eugene Shade Bisbee

Melville Barrett has recently come into a lot of money. How? wonders his old friend. Well, Barrett tells his tale. During a madcap adventure, he uncovers a skull with two sapphires for eyes. The eyes always look toward an ancient treasure it is tasked with protecting. This is a somewhat creepy story, but ultimately is a let down.

Eugene Shade Bisbee wrote a few other speculative fiction works and the novel The Treasure of the Ice.

“The Surgical Love-Cure” by James Buckham

James Buckham is back this month with a semi-followup to “The Telepathic Wooing.” In this case though, a handsome vicar wishes to be cured of the love he feels for a certain woman in order to better serve God. In this case, science doesn’t provide the solution.

“The Williamson Safe Mystery” by F. S. Hessletine

Mr. Williamson, a mysterious jeweler, has gone missing and after a period of time, his massive safe is being removed from his former place of business. Between the time of Williamson’s arrival in town and his disappearance, a series of burglaries and robberies have taken place, including Williamson himself being mugged. But after Williamson disappeared, the robberies stopped. What happened? And is the answer to be found in his safe? This is a solid mystery, and time is taken in the telling.

“How Small the World” by  E. H. Mayde

This love story is told in a series of letters and conversation snippets. While I more or less got the gist of what was going on, I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a bit confusing.

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Sunday Salon, 4/20/19

Sunday Salon

Read

Finished the April 1896 issue of The Black Cat. I’ll have a review of that on Thursday-ish. Otherwise, I didn’t finish anything other than short stories this week.

I picked 5 for Deal Me In this week: “Call for Help” by Robert Arthur from Alfred Hitchcock prestents: More Stories Not for the Nervous. This is the type of story I was expecting from the Not for the Nervous anthologies. Martha Halsey, age 80, is sure that her niece, Ellen, and nephew-in-law, Roger, are plotting the early death of Martha and her younger sister Louisa (younger, but past age 75). The sisters aren’t in the best health, but that’s because Roger, a pharmacist, is poisoning them. One of the ladies’ cats has already turned up dead and the other is missing. They’ve been moved out of their old house, away from friends,  and into Ellen and Roger’s place, which has no phone. (This is the 1960s and Roger says the phone it too expensive(?)) Louisa is in a wheelchair and the weather has turned frigid, how are the sisters going to escape? Well, Martha has a plan… I enjoy stories with older protagonists, though in this case, you wonder if Martha is as lucid as she seems.

Random fact: I had an Aunt Martha. I don’t remember her well other than when I was young I took a trip to Minnesota with my grandparents to visit relatives. We stayed in her house, which she lived in alone, in rural Minnesota, and told jokes about what to do when bears showed up on the doorstep. Seems like she was a pretty cool lady.

DealMeIn
Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

Reading

Part of the reason I didn’t finish any books this week is because I went to the library:

I’m still working on Love and Mr. Lewisham. Also started Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman.

Love and Mr. Lewisham Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (And Why We Don't Learn Them From Movies Any More)

Watching

College basketball is in the rear-view mirror which means it’s time for my “summer” sport to watch: ultimate frisbee. This year, in addition to club games and the AUDL (the pro league), there are two new pro women’s leagues. The Premier Ultimate League’s first games were Saturday. The league includes a team from Medellin, Columbia and they are fun to watch.

Did/Doing

Honestly, I’ve been a little out of it this week. It’s been hard mustering the enthusiasm to do much. I went to the library. I played some ultimate.

EverQuest 2: In these kinds of moods, the easiest thing is to play some video game or another. Right now, it’s EverQuest 2. It’s nice to hang out in a “world” where goals are easily defined and their difficulties are somewhat color-coded. (Writing lately is definitely ^^^ Heroic.)

Bullet Journaling: Also, when I get into these blah, sort of  aimless moods, I have a tendency to start a new task management app. I’ve been feeling sort of unmoored, so I decided to try bullet journaling again. I figure that maybe having things in a solid paper/pen form might help. Now, I’m not too worried about spreads and themes and such. This is a purely practical exercise right now; art can be done elsewhere. I’m using a composition notebook. If things go well and I stick with it, I might buy a dotted journal—Michael’s has a whole line of $5 journals.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Review ~ I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark cover

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer. (via Goodreads)

Common conversations between my husband and I over the last few years revolve around two true crime investigations/court cases. The first is the murder of Hae Min Lee and the incarceration of Adnan Syed, which was profiled in season one of the podcast Serial and more recently an HBO docu-series. The second is the  murder of Teresa Halbach and incarceration of  Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, the subject of the docu-series Making a Murderer. To me, both of these cases reflect the actions of a (at best) desperate and (at worst) corrupt justice system where putting someone in jail for a terrible crime takes precedence over discovering what truly happened.

A variation on this came up in The Man from the Train. When faced with the possibility of truly random murders, police and other investigators reached for whatever fall guy they could find even when evidence didn’t fit. In the case of the Man from the Train, not only were men and women falsely accused and imprisoned, but they ended up dead at the hands of lynch mobs.

We humans don’t like uncertainty. And we absolutely want closure.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is about the Golden State Killer, but it’s also about Michelle McNamara and a bevy of investigators who tenaciously pursued the truth in spite of uncertainty. They didn’t want “a” guy for the rapes and murders that occurred for over a decade in California, they wanted “the” guy. McNamara writes honestly about her obsession with this cluster of crimes that took place in the 70s and early 80s. She had no personal connection to those specific crimes; she grew up in Oak Park, Illinois and the murder of a girl in her neighborhood was the spark of her interest in the hows and whys of these types of crimes.

While McNamara’s narrative doesn’t shy away from details, it doesn’t revel in them either. To contrast, The Man from the Train was very specific about the details of each murder and how they overlapped, but there the author is laying out the case that murders were the work of one man. In I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, we’re stepping into a investigation in progress. McNamara doesn’t need to supply each and every detail. Instead, she is freer to tell the story of the investigations; where they failed in the past and what hope there might be for catching a killer by combing over every piece of information.

Michelle McNamara died suddenly before finishing this book. While writer Paul Haynes and journalist Billy Jensen organized her prodigious notes, the chapters that aren’t written by McNamara (they are clearly noted) provide information, but lack her deft touch as a writer. The third part of the book includes several methods that were being used to find the Golden State Killer, including the use of online genealogy tools to match DNA markers. Shortly after the book’s publication, Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for the murders, tracked down using a similar technique.

McNamara wrote this book fueled by uncertainty and never got closure. Some of the police who originally worked the case retired before seeing this breakthrough. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for the victims and their families. But it seems strange to me that I should find their patience and their resistance to finding “a” guy for the crimes to be downright heroic.

Publishing info: Harper Perennial, 2018
My Copy: Kindle/Overdrive, Tempe Public Library
Genre: true crime, memoir


All the Details: 2019 Nonfiction Reading Challenge

Sunday Salon, 4/14/19

Sunday Salon

For a while, I’ve been considering pivoting to a Sunday post. I’m usually in a more reflective mood on Sunday because that’s when I plan out my week. So, it makes more sense for me to do this kind of post  on Sundays. I’m also going to roll Deal Me In into my Sunday Salon. Lately, I’ve just had less to say about short stories.

Read

I finished I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. While I didn’t read it *right* after The Man from the Train, I will admit that the two have made me think about whether my door is locked at night. And during the day. I should have a review of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark on Thursday.

For Deal Me In this week, I pulled 10♣: “No Bath for the Browns” by Margot Bennett from Alfred Hitchcock’s Stories Not for the Nervous. Margot Bennett was crime/mystery a novelist and screenwriter. This slight three-page tale tells of the Browns who take out a ten year lease on a London fixer-upper. Mr. Smith, the previous tenant, disappeared abruptly leaving a rather curious bathroom project unfinished. It seems he moved the bathtub to the bottom of the stairs. And also the house has an odd smell. But everything is absolutely fine…


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

Reading

I’m really bad about sticking to a to-be-read list. Actually, I did pretty well last year, but it seems that any discipline I had was completely used up. This year has been completely wild and wahoo. What book have I picked up to follow I’ll Be Gone in the Dark during this #SpringIntoHorror month? Love and Mr. Lewisham, one of H. G. Wells’ non-genre works.

Book cover of Love and Mr. Lewisham by H. G. Wells featuring an image of a man holding a woman's hand and leaning in close.

Watched

There is an explanation for this reading choice. I discovered last week that CW Seed streaming service had the remaining episodes of Time After Time.

Time After Time is not a great show. It’s plot is a bit of a mess and the writers seemed to have no notion of bodily harm or, well, time travel. But it does have very appealing leads, a great cast of supporting characters, and a surprising amount of nods to Wells’ body of work. The show only lasted five episodes on TV, but the whole first season lives on via the internet.

Did/Doing

Writing: I’m at the point with Deal with the Devil where I’m fairly sure my characters are the most boring to ever grace a page. Needless to say, April hasn’t been a bang-up writing month.

Ultimate Frisbee: My league team is doing alright. We’re all very chill and capable; the kind of team I like. We have another 4 weeks left to the season, but for some reason I decided it was time to get the finals bracket worked out for the website.

Spring/Early Summer Cleaning: I’m intending to give the apartment a good mucking out over the next couple months. I did the bedroom the week before last and started on the kitchen last week. More kitchen this week.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Mini Reviews, Vol. 16 ~ Audio Edition

Trust Me, I'm Lying cover Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

DNF. I listened to maybe an hour and a half of Trust Me, I’m Lying. The first 60 minutes were interesting and a little sickening as Holiday describes how he (and others) create buzz, hype, and news stories out of virtually nothing. But then, the stories/explanations of how and why got repetitive. The audio book was recorded by Holiday. While the quality wasn’t bad, there was a lack of pauses at what would be section/chapter headings in a book; it all ran together.

Accidental Thief cover Accidental Thief by C.J. Davis & Jamie Davis

DNF too. I wanted to check out the phenomenon of LitRPG, which if you are like me old and out of touch aren’t familiar is a narrative with heavy RPG conventions including things like character stats. First, maybe this works better in non-audio format. Listening to the main character check his stats over and over again (“Name: Hal Dix. Class: Rogue. Level: 2. Attributes. Brawn: 8. Wisdom: 8. Luck: 18+5. Speed: 10+1. Looks: 18. Health 16/16. Skills… “) was not scintillating. Second, the tropes that are used are especially and purposefully (?) not unique. The protagonist is a boring guy stuck in a office job (with nice wife and young child) who is sucked into a mysterious game where he framed for a murder and ends up fighting spiders in the sewer with a mysterious stranger who is obviously a girl. Apparently, the challenges will become increasingly more difficult. But I’d rather spend my time playing an RPG rather than reading/listening to one.

Tesla cover Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney

Not a DNF! I read about half of this book and listened to about half of it. I had previously read W. Bernard Carlson’s Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age which emphasized where Tesla’s innovations fit within the technologies of the time. Cheney’s  book takes a much more personal look at Tesla, without being overly sensational or speculative. There is still science, but also things like letter excerpts from friends and colleagues that give a more human aspect to Tesla.


All the Details: 2019 Nonfiction Reading Challenge

It’s Monday, What Are You… (4/8/19)

…Reading?

Readathon was very relaxed for me, so I didn’t get too far into my TBR. You know what? That’s okay. What am I reading this week?

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer The Hellbound Heart

I don’t know if I’ll Be Gone in the Dark counts for Spring Into Horror, but, man, it should. Crime in the 70s and 80s was nuts. Also, a bunch of short stories. Will my TBR list change after my trip to the library tomorrow? Possibly.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!