{Book + Short Stories} What Went Back to the Library Today

Took a couple of #RIPXIV / #somethingWickedFall books back to the library today:

Cover via Goodreads

The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill

Two chilling ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black, both set in crumbling English houses that are haunted by the spirits of thwarted children.

In The Small Hand, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn and stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house with a lush, overgrown garden. Approaching the door, he is startled to feel the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, almost as though a child had taken hold of it. Plagued by nightmares, he returns with the intention of figuring out its mysteries, only to be troubled by further, increasingly sinister visits. In Dolly, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his forbidding Aunt Kestrel at Iyot House, her decaying home in the damp, lonely fens. With him is his spoiled, spiteful cousin, Leonora. And when Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful doll is denied, she unleashes a furious rage which will haunt Edward for years afterward. (via Goodreads)

Read both The Small Hand and Dolly. I enjoyed them well enough, but really don’t have too much to say about them. Neither was as good as the other Susan Hill book I’ve read, The Woman in Black, but that *is* considered a ghost story classic. I probably liked Dolly better because The Small Hand felt a little padded out. Still, some nice reading for autumn nights.

Cover via Goodreads

Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub

From the incomparable master of horror and suspense comes an electrifying collection of contemporary literary horror, with stories from twenty-five writers representing today’s most talented voices in the genre.

Horror writing is usually associated with formulaic gore, but New Wave horror writers have more in common with the wildly inventive, evocative spookiness of Edgar Allan Poe than with the sometimes-predictable hallmarks of their peers. Showcasing this cutting-edge talent, Poe’s Children now brings the best of the genre’s stories to a wider audience. (via Goodreads)

I find it funny that a this anthology of “new” fiction is over 10 years old at this point… It’s my habit when I go to the library to pluck a couple books from shelves, give some a 10-page test, and maybe read a short story from a random anthology. A few weeks back I picked up Poe’s Children and started reading “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” by Thomas Ligotti, since I hadn’t read any Ligotti before. Unfortunately, it was a too long to finish at the library. So, I took it home. I meant to read a few more of the stories, but I only fit in one more. “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” was clever with an excellently twisted ending. The other story I read was “The Bees” by Dan Chaon. The setting was great but I thought the ending was a little flat.

Happy Halloween from The Black Cat, Vol. 1


For the past year, I’ve been reading through issues of The Black Cat, a magazine that began publication in October of 1895. It might sound a little sadistic, but I wanted to read popular literature from the turn of the 19th century, but not just “the good stuff” that has survived to be anthologized. Some of the stories I’ve read in the past year were not very good. Some were very…problematic. And some were quite good. Not all the stories were speculative, but many were and almost every month included a “spooky” story. I figured October would be a good time to share some of my favorites. Below are links to five stories and I’ll post another five later in the month.

Our unnamed narrator rents the Chateau Blanc in hopes of curing his melancholy. The house appealed to him due to the strange picture of the previous owner that hangs in the bedroom and the stuffed pet swan that somewhat floats on the lake. He’s sure there is a mystery to these objects…

Link to “The Secret of the White Castle” by Julia Magruder

Our narrator assures us that he never would have thought to go into the house if the lady he were with hadn’t confidently let herself in. They go upstairs and sit down to dinner. Around the table are a group of strange characters including a man that our narrator thinks is his old friend, Bill, from college. Except Bill has been dead for eight years…

Link to “The Interrupted Banquet” by Rene Bache

Our narrator falls in love with the beautiful Aidu. When he meets her she seems to be in some trouble. She agrees to help (and later to marriage), under the condition that she be allowed her freedom and she not be followed when she leaves the house. Aidu is a strange woman; she is never seen eating and once a week she goes for a walk alone and returns re-invigorated. Of course, we know how this story goes. Our love-struck narrator, follows her one evening…

Link to “Aidu” by Hero Despard

A friend finds Mr. Paul Fancourt in a state. What’s wrong? Fancourt tells of his marriage to the lovely and tempestuous Leila. His wife’s temper drove him away for five years and, when he returned, Leila was a different woman. Possibly, quite literally.

Link to “The Little Brown Mole” by Clarice Irene Clinghan

It’s a “very attractive modern house with a history.” The (presumably) first owners of the house die mysteriously, leaving behind a tale and ghosts.

Link to “To Let” by Alice Turner Curtis

Find out more about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 12, September 1896

Welcome to the September 1896 issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

Over the last month or two, I’ve wondered if continuing with the Black Cat Project is worthwhile. Some issues have been…not so great. But then there are issues like this one with two really interesting stories and one that’s pretty fun.

Stories

“The Reapers” by Batterman Lindsay

A man and woman on the run settle in a deserted Boom Town. Their crimes are never enumerated, but they have a good-sized box of money. Their plan is to lay low in this town for a year and then head to South America. Everything is fine for a while. The couple obviously love each other and enjoy the freedom of having a whole town at their disposal. But when they are forced to move into the old hotel, the woman starts hearing a small voice asking, “Mama?”

This is perhaps the most well-written story I’ve read in The Black Cat. I couldn’t find much biographical information on (Annie) Batterman Lindsay, but she does have a novel Derelicts of Destiny that I’m interested in reading

“A Kindergarten Hold-Up” by Mabell Shippie Clarke

Young career criminal Sam Murphy coincidentally meets up with this sister who was put into a foster home after he left home and their mother died. And it turns out he’s not such a bad guy after all.

Was Clarke’s other tale this sentimental?

“The Guardian of Mystery Island” by Dr. Edmond Nolcini

An old salt, Tom, tells Sam (Lenartson, this time) of a treasure on Mustery Island (in Maine, according to Google). It’s guarded by a dorg, in Tom’s words, which Sam assumes to mean “dog,” but said with a really bad accent. After braving a squall to reach the island, Sam does encounter a dog, a fairly friendly one, that leads him to a dilapidated mansion. There he finds a invalid  woman with dimentia. She believes she’s a refugee from the French Revolution and goes on about some devil-weed on the island, protecting the treasure. It all seems too fantastical to Sam…until he meets the devil-weed…

There are a lot of things in this story that I would consider Jamsean or Lovecraftean if this story were written 40 years later. According to Urban Dictionary, which I’m not sure is reliable, there is a thing called a dorg. It “bears similarities to both a plant and a canine animal.” There’s no other information though.

“A Mental Mischance” by Thomas F. Anderson

One day Albert Reeves finds that he can read minds. What does one do with that ability? Crime fighting? Journalism? Stock trading? It’s always good to remember that sometimes thoughts are fancies.

“The Barber of the Alpena” by J. Harwood

J. Harwood provides a harrowing little tale. A barber, with a very strange visage, attends a dissection class and becomes a little obsessed with the potential to flay a client’s face instead of giving them a nice close shave. He confesses this tale to a group of travelers, one of whom meets the Barber of the Alpena again… or does he?

Like many of the horror stories in The Black Cat, this one doesn’t really “pay off” but it gives plenty of chills in the meantime.

“Which Was Like a Woman” by William Albert Lewis

This is another one of those inconstant women stories. Dorothy Moore’s husband is in prison for life. With three kids to support, she takes in a male boarder, which is unseemly. So, Dorothy procures a divorce (or rather the legal status of widow) and marries her boarder Brian Lett. Brian’s a good guy. Her kids like him. Everything is going well. Until her first husband is pardoned. And Dorothy is made to feel bad—how horrible that she should have sought a secure future…

Advertisements

The ad is for Mellin’s Food, which was a infant formula.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. #, Month, Year

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 11, August 1896

Welcome to the August 1896 issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

I will admit, I’m a tiny bit disappointed in this issue of The Black Cat. Usually, I can rely on the magazine to provide at least one creepy story or one with a speculative fiction bent. This issue does provide the solution to “The Mysterious Card,” but as the second part of a bigger story, it’s not entirely satisfying.

Stories

“The Mysterious Card Unveiled” by Cleveland Moffett

Remember “The Mysterious Card” from issue 5? Yeah, me either. I had hoped the original story had to do with a magic trick, but it did not. Instead, the plot involved a man, Richard Burwell, who was given a card by a mysterious, beautiful French woman. Burwell can’t read French. Everyone he shows it to who can read French immediately shuns him. The beautiful woman dies before he can find out from her what it’s all about. We, the readers, are never told what is on the card and apparently Burwell doesn’t have access to a French to English dictionary… Which brings us to “The Mysterious Card Unveiled.”

We catch up with Burwell a decade later. While the first story was narrated by Burwell, this one is from his doctor’s point of view. It seems that Burwell has had blackouts in the past, has some sort of weird color blindness that leads to hallucinations, and has some very strange lines in his palm. But generally, Burwell has led a philanthropic life in New York. Therefore, the doctor is surprised that Burwell is shot in an altercation. On his death bed, he tells the doctor about the card, but when he does die, a mysterious Indian prince shows up and tells the doctor what has been going on this whole time. One one hand, I was kind of impressed with the occult twist of story. On the other hand, I still feel like there was some literary shenanigans.

“Mrs. Bilger’s Victory” by Emma S. Jones & Geik Turner

Geik Turner is a veteran Black Cat writer with two zinger stories in the past, both involving solitary people standing up against big, bad industry. This story is similar. “The railroad had killed her muley cow, and the railroad had got to pay for it…” Mrs. Bilger is a very resourceful woman and this story is much funnier than the others. I can only guess that Ms. Jones had something to do with that.

“A Defender of Faith” by John D. Barry

George Bird is having lady problems. Or maybe it’s religion problems. His girl, Alice, believes that his literature should have some moral lessons to it. (Or maybe she just doesn’t like him all that well since she used to write scientific articles…?) Bird and his friend go for a walk in Hyde Park and see an atheist on a soap box haranguing Christianity. While Bird isn’t very religious, he does think it unfair that no one steps up to defend God and Christ. He does so, pointing out the comfort and charity that Christianity provides. George thinks he made an ass of himself, but Alice thinks otherwise… So, I guess she likes him after all.

Barry is new to the magazine. A Google search reveals a John D. Barry, who was a Confederate officer and newspaper editor, but he died in 1867. Another John D. Barry is, at the time of this blog post, the CEO of Jesus’ Economy.

“Tim’s Vacation” by L. E. Shattuck

This was a maudlin, sentimental story about a poor young man named Tim who works as the elevator operator in the building of the Morning Post. Everyone love Tim and shows it by giving him extra work to do. Alas, tragedy befalls Tim before he’s able to take the vacation granted to him. And that’s the story.

“Wet Horses” by Alice MacGowan

After setting two eagles free, a cattle man in the Texas panhandle recounts his time as a horse rustler and a prisoner in a Mexican jail. And that’s that story. I was pretty surprised about a horse rustler not really getting his just deserts, especially considering he really wasn’t particularly remorseful of those acts.

Alice MacGowan collaborated with her sister Emma to write over two dozen novels and about a hundred short stories. According to Wikipedia, they lived for a time in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, a literary enclave populated by Jack London, among others. Tantalizingly, though well-liked, she also had several attempt on her life…

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 11, August, 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

Sunday Salon, 8/18/19

Sunday Salon

Reading and Such

I focused on working on the VOTS archive this week and that’s pretty much all I had the overhead for. So, not much reading was done. I’m behind on all my readalongs. I’m looking forward to participating in Bout of Books starting tomorrow.

During my bi-weekly trip to the library, I ended up reading “There’s a Hole in the City” by Richard Bowes (from Ghosts: Recent Hauntings, ed. Paula Guran, but also found at Nightmare magazine) while looking for Glen Hirshberg fiction. It’s a rather good ghost story, told in the wake of 9/11.

For Deal Me In, I picked my last wild card, 2. I went to my list of bookmarked stories and picked “Two Years Dead” by Kathryn Kania from Fireside Magazine. Yes, another ghost story. This one very sweet. Opening line: “When I opened up my OKCupid profile, I was already two years dead.”

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

There is definitely a trend occurring with my reading. Along with my classic readalongs I’m also reading lots of mysteries and ghost stories. I’m far away from the end of summer, but September is coming. And R.I.P. is coming…

TV of the Week

I said I was swearing off cinematic universes, but I guess I made an exception for a literary universe. I’m a sometimes Stephen King fan. Some of his work, I’ve liked; some, not as much. Castle Rock was pretty okay as far as  horror TV goes. I had recently tried to watch the first season of Channel Zero, but I didn’t really didn’t care for it. It seemed to go all over the place without doing a good enough job of world-building. I’ve usually liked American Horror Story, but each season seems to go on about five episodes too long at which point it goes off the rails. Castle Rock, of course, has a world in place and was restrained, for what it could be.

Other Stuff

I finished over half of what I had left of the VOTS archive. I would have gotten further, but we opened Fall League registration as well. So, more reformatting this week along with Bout of Books festivities.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Two Nonfiction Mini Reviews

Unmentionable Cover via Goodreads

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era?

Ladies, welcome to the 19th century, where there’s arsenic in your face cream, a pot of cold pee sits under your bed, and all of your underwear is crotchless. (Why? Shush, dear. A lady doesn’t question.) (via Goodreads)

So, there’s this movie called Kate & Leopold. It came out in 2001, starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman. In it, Jackman’s gentlemanly, but smart Leopold falls through a time hole linking 1876 and 2001 and falls in love with Ryan’s successful, but lonely ad exec Kate. All in all, it’s one of those generally smart, funny rom coms that populated the 90s, but died out in the 2000s. It has a great supporting cast (Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Bradley Whitford) and a soundtrack song by Sting. I would utterly adore this movie (did I mention Hugh Jackman in a rom com?)…except for the ending. Spoiler for an 18 year old movie: Kate goes back to 1876 with Leopold to stay. She obviously hadn’t read Therese Oneill’s Unmentionable.

I love reading newspapers from the late Victorian era and I’ve been interested in the manners/health books of the era, but haven’t had the time to get into them. Oneill has done that work for me. Unmentionable goes into all the distinctly un-romantic aspects of being a woman (and really a white, upper-class woman) in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. The snarky tone is mostly funny, especially paired with illustrations and advertisement from the period. My one nag is that I wish dates were used a little more.

Original Publishing info: Little, Brown and Company, 2016
My Copy: OverDrive Read, Tempe Public Library
Genre: history, pop culture

Cover via Goodreads

The Spectacle of Illusion: Deception, Magic, and the Paranormal by Matthew Tompkins

In The Spectacle of Illusion, professional magician-turned experimental psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins investigates the arts of deception as practiced and popularized by mesmerists, magicians and psychics since the early 18th century. Organized thematically within a broadly chronological trajectory, this compelling book explores how illusions perpetuated by magicians and fraudulent mystics can not only deceive our senses but also teach us about the inner workings of our minds. Indeed, modern scientists are increasingly turning to magic tricks to develop new techniques to examine human perception, memory and belief. Beginning by discussing mesmerism and spiritualism, the book moves on to consider how professional magicians such as John Nevil Maskelyne and Harry Houdini engaged with these movements – particularly how they set out to challenge and debunk paranormal claims. It also relates the interactions between magicians, mystics and scientists over the past 200 years, and reveals how the researchers who attempted to investigate magical and paranormal phenomena were themselves deceived, and what this can teach us about deception. (via Goodreads)

The Spectacle of Illusion was published to coincide with Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic, an exhibit at the Wellcome Collection in London. (The exhibit is open until Sept. 15th, so if you’re in London and interested, you’re lucky and should go.) The book delves into how from the 18th century through the present we have approached the paranormal (a relatively recent term) from the point of view of science. The problem, though, is that science hasn’t always been good at dealing with human deception. Enter those masters of deception: the magicians. Of special note are the debunkers, like Maskelyne and Houdini, and the modern discipline of experimental psychology which investigates how our brain experiences non-normal experiences like magic tricks and “paranormal” events.

A Goodreads reviewer referred to this book as “specialist” and it occurs to me that I might have read so much on the above subjects that I don’t know what that means anymore. I think Thomkins provides a good introduction to these subjects without going too deep. This book didn’t break new ground in my knowledge base, but I highly enjoyed it.  The strength of The Spectacle of Illusion is the hundreds of pictures and illustrations found throughout. It’s a beautiful book, more on the coffee table book end of the spectrum than dry academic text.

Original Publishing info: Distributed Art Publishers (DAP), 2019
My Copy: Hardback purchased from Amazon
Genre: history, psychology, magic

The Black Cat, No. 10, July 1896

Welcome to the July 1896 issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

This issue of The Black Cat features five writers new to magazine—unless there are some pseudonyms among the bunch. We’d have to go back to issue 6, in March, to find the previous issue of “newbie” writers.

Stories

“On the Last Trail” by H. W. Phillips & Rupert Hughes

The local marshal of Rapid City, a frontier town, forbids the possession of guns within town limits (due to the high death rate). This does not go over well—many of the town’s citizens become paranoid about being unarmed when someone *with* a gun comes to town. Bolande is that man. He’s friends with the Marshal, but that doesn’t make any difference. When Bolande refuses to give up his weapon, the Marshal calls him out. They duel, each shooting and mortally wounding the other. But before they die they agree that they’re still friends.

The story ends with “They were Americans… Of such were the builders of the West.” And I really can’t decide if this story is satirical or not.

While H. W. Phillips is noted in a 1908 issue of The New England Magazine as a writer magazine readers are familiar with, I couldn’t find any other credits. Rupert Hughes was a novelist and early filmmaker.

“A Message from Where?” by L. Francis Bishop

A locked trunk in the attic, a gravestone with his name on it, and lovers kept apart by the Civil War. This story was my favorite of the month due to its gloomy Southern Gothic nature. Mostly, it’s just a tale of a young boy discovering the truth of his history, of learning that the people around him all had lives before he was born.

“The Man with the Box” by George W. Tripp

“The Man with the Box” is science fiction-ish story. The box in question, when calibrated and pointed at someone, will make the target believe he is drinking a chosen beverage rather than a mundane one. For example, if the target were to choose Guinness ale from the dial on the box and then point and fire the box at himself, he’d taste Guinness when drinking a glass of water. But there is also a weird “snake” setting on the box… Shenanigans ensue. I also found this story interesting for its use of kodak and kodakist (in lower case form), presumably to denote the fad of photography and those annoyingly obsessed with it.

The only George W. Tripp I was able to locate with Google died as a high priest in the Church of Latter-day Saints. Same guy? Seems odd, but possible.

“What the Moon Saw” by Isabelle Meredith

This is the second sort-of creepy story in this month’s edition. Ned French has bet a large amount of money that Albert Turn will not at midnight pound a nail into the coffin of a recently buried man. The narrator of this story comes upon them as Turner is about to be lowered into the opened grave (dug up by servants), nails in hand. Not surprisingly, things don’t go well.

“In Miss Polly’s Pew” by Ellen Frizzell Wycoff

Jack Harrold returns after many years to the small town that was his childhood home. Many things have changed, and many things haven’t. He finds the initials he carved into a tree when he was a teenager: “J. H. + M. R.” It takes him a while(!) but he finally remembers who M. R. is—a.k.a. Polly—and how much he loved her(!). As luck would have it, Polly still lives in town and is single. And Jack’s still single too!

Ellen Frizzell Wycoff has a few other short story credits and may even show up again in the Black Cat.

Advertisements

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 10, July 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project