The Black Cat, No. 5, February 1896

Welcome to the fifth issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

Happily, no. 5 was not missing pages, though some of the scanning was iffy.

Stories

“The Mysterious Card” by Cleveland Moffett

While in Paris, Richard Burwell is given a card written in purple ink by a beautiful woman. Burwell doesn’t read French and everyone he shows the card to has a very bad reaction to it. He’s driven from his hotel and ultimately from France. When he shows it to his wife and his best childhood friend, they both disown him. And alas, the beautiful woman dies before she can tell him the meaning of it. It’s all very melodramatic. Cleveland Moffett was a journalist and writer of some note. “The Mysterious Card” was his first story and brought him some note mainly due to the unresolved aspect of the mystery. Alas, the literary shenanigans don’t work for me.

“Tang-u” by Lawrence E. Adams

Tang-u is a Chinese boy who ends up on a Japanese naval ship (during, I assume, the First Sino-Japanese War). He is of rat-catcher “heritage” which means his eyes are very keen even in the dark. And this is the brief story of how he becomes an honorary admiral in the Japanese navy due to those attributes.

“The Little Brown Mole” by Clarice Irene Clinghan

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.  This is Clarice Clinghan’s second story for The Black Cat. Her first, “The Wedding Tombstone,” was my favorite of issue no. 2.

This was my favorite of the month.

“The Telepathic Wooing” by James Buckham

Another tale of love for this February issue of The Black Cat. Dr. Amsden is hopelessly in love with Miriam Foote. Despite being quite good-looking, Amsden is terribly shy around women and can’t approach Miriam. Instead, he chooses an unconventional manner of “wooing” her: lucid dreaming. This is Buckham’s second story for the Cat. His first was the photographic evidence story “The Missing Link.”

“The Prince Ward” by Claude M. Girardeau

“The Prince Ward” was the longest story of the issue, a spine-tingling tale about a haunted hospital ward. Often hospital hauntings is due to, not surprisingly, the suffering and death of sick people, but here Girardeau gives us a spurned wife who is surprisingly sick and suddenly dies. There are maybe shades of Charlotte Perkins’ “The Yellow Wallpaper” and a few chilling moments, but the writing is very clunky.

 “A Meeting of Royalty” by Margaret Dodge

The Great Man, a young train baron, is visited by a little girl who is wandering around the train while they are delayed at the station. The little girl is dressed as a princess (which I thought was a much more modern thing). She tells the Great Man about the Queen she knows who is very sad. Of course, the Queen isn’t a queen, she’s an actress. But she is sad—the train delay will cause them to miss an important performance and she’s has a lost love who looked down on her career because he’s a business man, but she misses him. The Great Man realizes that he knows who the Queen is and what he can do to make her happy.

Advertisements

No ads in this issue, but at least the issue was complete!

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 5, February 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

Review ~ Ashes to Ashes

This book was provided to me by Repeater Books via NetGalley for review consideration.

Cover via Goodreads

Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016 by Chris O’Leary

From the ultimate David Bowie expert comes this exploration of the final four decades of the popstar’s musical career, covering every song he wrote, performed or produced from 1976 to 2016.

Starting with Low, the first of Bowie’s Berlin albums, and finishing with Blackstar, his final masterpiece released just days before his death in 2016, each song is annotated in depth and explored in essays that touch upon the song’s creation, production, influences and impact. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Like many people of a certain age, I was ensorceled by David Bowie as the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1987). My parents listened to the local rock/classic rock radio station, so I was familiar with Bowie’s hits, songs like “Space Oddity,” “Ziggy Stardust,” and “Changes.” But after Labyrinth, I became a fan. Never Let Me Down (1987) was one of the first albums I bought on my own. I lucked out; starting in the 90s Rykodisc started releasing his back catalog.

What Worked
Ashes to Ashes is an incredibly comprehensive look at David Bowie’s works from 1976 (the album Low, one of my favorites) to the end of his career (2016’s Blackstar, an album I still haven’t listened to very much). Every song that Bowie wrote, sang, covered, co-wrote, co-produced, or hummed a few bars on a television show is given an entry. I might be overstating, but only a little. By going through each of the songs in the order of their creation (or performance), O’Leary provides a very through biography of Bowie.

Each song has an entry that contains information on the song’s writing, production, and the musicians involved in its recording. There are also stories attached and, in the case of the first songs recorded for a new album, information about the album. The 700 page work (the second of two volumes) contains an amazing number of crunchy tidbits.

What Didn’t Work…For Me
I don’t know much about music and music theory, so some discussions about the musical makeup of songs went over my head. O’Leary is also not an entirely objective reporter. He definitely has opinions about certain songs and certain albums. And occasionally these views differed from my own not-objective opinions.

Overall
I read Ashes to Ashes over a series of months, listening to each album, each song as I read about it. I learned a great deal about David Bowie’s solo work and many collaborations and I gained new appreciation for albums both familiar and relatively new to me. As a fan, I consider Ashes to Ashes worth the time I spent on it.

Publishing info: Repeater Books, released 2/12/19
My Copy: ePub, acquired through NetGalley
Genre:
nonfiction

Mini Reviews, Vol. 15

The Wedding Date cover The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

I don’t read a lot of romances, but I will probably have some romantic elements in the story I’m writing. Hence, I’m going to make an effort to read a few. I picked The Wedding Date because it was available and it sounded fun. And it was! Pro: Alexa’s growth as a character wasn’t directly linked to her relationship with Drew. Con: The ending was very tidy. But I’ll allow it.

The Cure for Dreaming cover The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

For some reason I thought this was book was going to be a heavier romance than it was. Due to its mesmerism plot, it had come up on my radar anyway. All in all, The Cure for Dreaming was okay. The protagonists were fairly young, which is a minus for me, but there were a few fairly scary bits.

Black Klansman cover Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth

And now for something completely different… I became interested in Ron Stallworth’s story due to the current coverage that the movie is getting. Stallworth was the first black police officer in Colorado Springs in 1972 and spearheaded an information gathering task force investigating the local Ku Klux Klan in 1978. In an era when background checks were not easily done, Stallworth placed three officers in the Klan and had personal contact over the phone with Klan members, including speaking with (and ending up as personal security for) David Duke. The writing is occasionally repetitive, but it’s a pretty amazing story.

Review ~ Laurant

Laurant: Man of Many Mysteries

Laurant: The Man of Many Mysteries by Gabe Fajuri

In 1896, Eugene Laurant became a professional magician. 21 years earlier, as Eugene Greenleaf, he was born on the frontier, in the horse and buggy town that was Denver, Colorado.

Billed as the “Man of Many Mysteries,” Laurant spent almost 50 seasons on tour. His stage-filling magic show brought wonder and delight to millions of spectators across North America.

The bulk of Laurant’s career was spent not in major metropolitan centers, or hustling, bustling cities like New York. Unlike his contemporaries—Houdini among them—Laurant, for the most part, confined his routes to rural America. It was there that he made his mark. Eugene Laurant was, arguably, king of the small town showmen.

Laurant carried a full compliment of assistants, livestock, baggage and thousands of pounds of equipment-the tools of mystery making-over the rough-and-tumble back roads of America. He logged millions of miles on the road.

His greatest successes were made on the Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits, which enjoyed immense popularity between 1900 and 1920. During those years, Laurant headlined for the most prominent organization in the business, the Redpath Bureau.

Drawing on Laurant’s own unpublished writings, scrapbooks, and new research, this book paints a revealing and complete portrait of this early American magician. From his earliest dime-museum days, to Wild West adventure, vaudeville shows and much more, Laurant: Man of Many Mysteries tells the tale.

via Squash Publishing

Quick Review

When I ordered Laurant as a late Christmas present / “let me get this guacamole seasoning shipped for free” add-on item, I didn’t entirely realize how relevant it would be to the book I’m currently writing. I was somewhat aware of Eugene Laurant as one of the many magicians of the early 20th century, but I didn’t know that his career was mainly as a performer in the Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits. Not only is this book a well-detailed biography of Laurant, but it has lots of crunchy details about the workings of the Chautauqua.

My one beef is that the book is rather slim for the price, but it is a very nice hardback, glossy and full of pictures. Perfect for my second read of the year.

Other Info

Genre: biography, history
Published: Squash Publishing
Release Date: May 31, 2005
My copy: hardback purchased via Amazon

#DealMeIn2019, Week 3 ~ “With the Best of Intentions”

“With the Best of Intentions” by Paul Doherty and Pat Murphy

Card Picked: Ace♥️
From: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July-August 2017

People like to think in terms of cause and effect. We want things to be simple: You do X and you get Y.

But then it comes to natural systems, it’s just not that simple. You do X and you get a cascading alphabet of effects. And some of those double back to become new causes.

I ended up switching out the story I originally had planned for the Ace of Hearts; I realized I had already read it. When setting up my Deal Me In list, I slotted in the short stories from my remaining unread issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, but I’d forgotten that I’d already read a few from the July/August 2017 issue. So, instead, I decided to read the science essay from that issue.

“With the Best of Intentions” is about bees. Honeybees and bumblebees mostly. We tend to value the honeybee because, well, honey, but over look the contributions to pollination by the fuzzy, buzzy bumblebee. If we project a future with less pollinator bees, we could have less fruits like apples, but also less birds who eat fruits like apples, and less small predators who eat birds, etc.

I don’t mean to be a denier of these possible outcomes, but I am also an inherent optimist. While our authors acknowledge that we have problems predicting outcomes, they stick to dire consequences. I take a more Ian Malcolm approach:

Jurassic Park Life Finds A Way GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

#DealMeIn2019, Week 2 ~ “A Dog’s Story”

“A Dog’s Story” by Gardner Dozois

Card Picked: 3♥
From: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July-August 2017

He was old, and his hip hurt him these days, and he had long ago quit bothering to bark at cars, but his still-restless spirit wouldn’t let him go to sleep without tasting the night…

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a tale titled “A Dog’s Story” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. There are some fantastical elements to it, but also a dollop of horror.

During the course of his night wanderings, Blackie finds the body of a murdered young woman in an alley. She reminds him of his special human Emily, who has been gone for several years. It’s implied that Emily has died; Blackie’s current human has been listless since Emily has been gone, but as a dog, Blackie only know that there is no more Emily. He decides that some justice should be done for this woman. His nose isn’t good enough to track the killer, nor would he be able to attack the man once he’s found, but Blackie is old enough to know other animals, like Talking Pete, a geriatric cat who knows many languages and can talk to the city’s rats. Through favors and deals, justice will be served.

This is a slip of a story, only just over 1500 words. (I love that F&SF includes word counts.) I can imagine that other writers would do more with the other animals, but indeed, this is a dog’s story and Blackie gets all the screen time.

Review ~ Harmony in Light

This book was provided to me for review consideration by WordFire Press & the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America via NetGalley.

Harmony in Light

Harmony in Light by Walter H. Hunt

In 1880s Paris, a doctor encounters a statuette that can drive men mad, secret societies, and a bridge between worlds that threatens disastrous consequences. Throughout, he is assisted and opposed by historical figures such as Charlie Dickens, the son living in his late father’s shadow, a young Sigmund Freud and the ghost of the Marquis de Sade.

Why was I interested in this book?

On NetGalley, I’ve been auto-approved by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This means I can read any of the titles they are currently promoting via NetGalley without going through any approval process. It’s a bit of perk. I hadn’t reviewed anything for them in a while and Harmony in Light sounded like it might be interesting, despite my general avoidance of fiction with historical celebrities.

What did I think?

I was a little dubious going into Harmony in Light. Using historical personages in fiction is hard to get right. Often, a reader has a notion of the personage’s character and that can clash with the author’s version of that character. In this case though, I have very little opinion of Charles Dickens, Jr., Sigmund Freud, the Marquis de Sade, or Guy de Maupassant (who is also there). I didn’t even know if Dickens had children. He did, in fact, have 10 children.

Actually, Hunt errs on the other end of using historical celebrities: I’m not sure that the names and reputations they brought to the story were necessary. But perhaps I’m missing some connections. There are a lot of characters and names to keep track of.

I did enjoy the central mystery of the plot. Dr. Sauvier is a good investigator and the skeptical foil to the statuette’s weirdness and the societies of mesmerists looking to control it. Occasionally, the narrative felt a little padded out, but Hunt’s occult Paris is a diverting enough setting. I also rather liked the ending. Hunt has written some alternate history in the past, but he side-steps messing with future history here.

Other Info

Published: Nov. 26, 2018 by WordFire Press
My copy: PDF/Kindle ARC