Deal Me In, Week 3 ~ “The Ghost-Extinguisher”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

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

“The Ghost-Extinguisher” by Gelett Burgess

Card picked: Ace of Hearts
From: Introduced to me by Tim Prasil at The Merry Ghost Hunter. Published in Cosmopolitan in 1905, you too can read it online.

The Story

My attention was first called to the possibility of manufacturing a practicable ghost-extinguisher by a real-estate agent in San Francisco.

Our ghost-hunting narrator Garrish learns about an ancient Japanese* method of ridding properties of “ghosts” or rather the astral remains of the recently dead. Garrish sciences-up the ritual and devises a way to capture and store ghosts. When the ghost hunting business runs dry in his local area, Garrish takes a trip to England, thinking that the old country should be lousy with ghosts. Unfortunately, in England having a ghost in your house is sort of a status symbol, so no one wants their ghosts busted er, extinguished. Ever a capitalist, Garrish realizes he has a supply that is in demand. Not surprisingly, things don’t go as planned…

This is fun story. It brings to mind, of course, Ghostbusters, but also The Frighteners, in which hauntings are levied for fun and profit.

* Early 20th century racism alert!

The Author

Gelett Burgess was an artist, art critic, and humorist of some note. In addition to “The Purple Cow,” he also coined the term “blurb,” thus giving authors everywhere something to seek or be pestered for depending on which side of fame that author stands.

Deal Me In, Week 2 ~ “The House of Aunts”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

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

“The House of Aunts” by Zen Cho

Card picked: Jack of Clubs
From: Available online at GigaNotoSaurus

The Story

The first time she saw the boy across the classroom, Ah Lee knew she was in love because she tasted durian on her tongue. That was what happened–no poetry about it. She looked at a human boy one day and the creamy rank richness of durian filled her mouth. For a moment the ghost of its stench staggered on the edge of her teeth, and then it vanished.

She had not tasted fruit since before the baby came. Since before she was dead.

After school she went home and asked the aunts about it.

“Ah Ma,” she said, “can you taste anything besides people?”

Ah Lee is seventeen. She lives with her six aunties—her grandmother, her great-grandmother, and four of their daughters. All the women aside from Ah Lee are over age 55, the generation “gap” is more like a chasm. The aunties want Ah Lee to be a good student, to get a scholarship, to get a career, and to be an independent  woman. These were all things that weren’t as possible for them. All Ah Lee wants is to be an average teenager, which is already complicated by being dead. Ah Lee and her aunties are pontianak, entrail-eating “ghosts” of women who died while pregnant. Ah Lee develops a crush on Ridzual, the new boy at school. Both are on the outskirts of social circles at school and they become friends…until Ah Lee tells Ridzual her secret.

Here I am, two weeks into the year, I have a strong contender for my 2017 Top Ten. Cho does a wonderful job with the aunties’ cross talk and tangents and their firm belief that they are doing the right things for Ah Lee. Ah Lee is pitch perfect too, full of all the frustrations and small secrets of being a teenage girl.

The Author

Zen Cho‘s “Monkey King, Faerie Queen” was one of the highlights of my July 2016 #24in48. She is a London-based Malaysian author and editor. Her debut novel is Sorcerer to the Crown.

♣ ♣ ♣

I have a soft spot for any magic involving birds that isn’t a dove act. Here is Malaysian magician Andrew Lee and his beautiful assistant Snow.

Review ~ Blackwater Lake

Cover via Goodreads

Blackwater Lake by Maggie James

Matthew Stanyer fears the worst when he reports his parents missing. His father, Joseph Stanyer, has been struggling to cope with his wife Evie, whose dementia is rapidly worsening. When their bodies are found close to Blackwater Lake, a local beauty spot, the inquest rules the deaths as a murder-suicide. A conclusion that’s supported by the note Joseph leaves for his son.

Grief-stricken, Matthew begins to clear his parents’ house of decades of compulsive hoarding, only to discover the dark enigmas hidden within its walls. Ones that lead Matthew to ask: why did his father choose Blackwater Lake to end his life? What other secrets do its waters conceal? (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Picked it up free from Amazon in November 2015; wanted to read more self-pubbed authors especially in the horror and thriller genre. Read it now because I wanted something short for Bout of Book that would be a contrast to Moby-Dick.

What Worked
Good pacing and short chapters kept the story moving along.

What Didn’t Work
I don’t read many thrillers, so maybe what didn’t work for me is a function of the genre rather than a deficit on the writer’s part. In a mystery, I feel like there should be a balance between the gathering of clues (the reveal of information) and the characters working to construct a narrative from those clues. In Blackwater Lake, Matthew’s only job is to uncover the clues in his mother’s hoard of stuff. The clues are presented in rather neat narrative order. Instead of a puzzle to be solved, this story is more like train tracks being revealed on a sunny day after a light snow. Is the reveal of information more important in thrillers than the puzzle is in mysteries?

Pet Peeve Alert: There was also the use of “(for really no good reason) I can’t go to the police,” which was only used as a later stumbling block.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, Orelia Publishing, September 27, 2015
Acquired: November 17, 2015, Amazon
Genre: suspense

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Generator Points Earned: .5 (only a novella)
Generator Points Total: 3

Deal Me In, Week 1 ~ “Haunted”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

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

“Haunted” by Joyce Carol Oates

Card picked: Queen of Spades
From: The Architecture of Fear, edited by Kathryn Cramer and Peter D. Pautz

The Story

Haunted houses, forbidden houses. The old Medlock farm. The Erlich farm. The Minton farm on Elk Creek. No Trespassing the signs said, but we trespassed at will.

This is a rare case of a Deal Me In reread for me. I own Joyce Carol Oates’ anthology Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, which is named for this story. I started reading it in 2010, but I’m not sure I finished it. 2010 seems long, long ago. At that time, I wasn’t ready for Oates’ manner of telling stories. Rarely are they directly told and almost always there is a feeling of corruption and decay.

In “Haunted,” Melissa, now an old woman, tells of the sins of her youth and of her best frenemy, Mary Lou. One of the girl’s favorite activities was visiting the abandoned farms in their area. All had sad stories of deaths and bankruptcy behind them, but none quite as intriguing as the Minton farm. There, Mr. Minton beat his wife to death before committing suicide.

Adolescence intrudes on the girls’ relationship—beautiful Mary Lou suddenly has an interest in dangerous boys—and Melissa visits the Minton farm alone. There she has an encounter with something that might be the ghost of Mrs. Minton. The spirit demands that Melissa send Mary Lou to visit. Mary Lou goes missing, her body eventually found in Elk Creek. As is usual in a Joyce Carol Oates story, what happened is open to interpretation. The world is a dangerous place, especially for girls.

The Author

I’m starting the year off with a Deal Me In repeat offender. Last year, I read through Oates’ Wild Nights! for Deal Me In, as well as reviewing one of her latest anthologies, The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror as an ARC. I think there’s been a story of hers in nearly every genre anthology I’ve read for this challenge. In fact, her “The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza” was my Week 1 story in 2015. Oates is very prolific and the winner of many awards both literary and genre.

♣ ♣ ♣

Much of “Haunted” takes place in deserted farmhouses, full of objects left behind or discarded. Maybe such object as these:

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These are printing blocks for gaffed cards, currently up for auction at Ebay. There are quite a few more images of this lot including a close up of the 3½ of Spades. (source: iTricks)

Review ~ The Long Way Down

Cover via Goodreads

The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer

Nobody knows the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas like Daniel Faust, a sorcerer for hire and ex-gangster who uses black magic and bullets to solve his clients’ problems. When an old man comes seeking vengeance for his murdered granddaughter, what looks like a simple job quickly spirals out of control.

Soon Daniel stands in the crossfire between a murderous porn director; a corrupt cop with a quick trigger finger; and his own former employer, a racket boss who isn’t entirely human. Then there’s Caitlin: brilliant, beautiful, and the lethal right hand of a demon prince.

A man named Faust should know what happens when you rub shoulders with demons. Still Daniel can’t resist being drawn to Caitlin’s flame as they race to unlock the secret of the Etruscan Box, a relic that people all over town are dying — and killing — to get their hands on. As the bodies drop and the double-crosses pile up, Daniel will need every shred of his wits, courage and sheer ruthlessness just to survive.

Daniel Faust knew he was standing with one foot over the brink of hell. He’s about to find out just how far he can fall. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Urban fantasy in Las Vegas. Luck for Hire and its I-swear-I’ll-finish-it-one-day sequel In Need of Luck are set in Vegas and I’m interested in how other authors treat the setting. Daniel Faust also has a tinge of magician to him, using playing cards as his sorcerous focus and knowing some sleight of hand.

What Worked
I liked Schaefer’s Las Vegas. Early in the novel Faust investigates where the young woman’s body was found: in the flood channels under Las Vegas. These tunnels really exist and are haven for a number of otherwise homeless people. The glitzy Vegas is there too, though some of the casino names have been changed.

The story also really moves. Faust is an unlicensed PI and the story start with a pretty standard plea for help from a client. It then dives right into the investigation and keeps a good pace throughout. It was a fast read despite some set backs.

What Didn’t Work
My first worry was that the magic system for this world wasn’t completely worked out. It’s a tricky thing to lay down the rules while avoiding info dumps, but I was never comfortable that sorcery wasn’t being created on the fly as needed.

Regardless, I was with with book until about the 60% mark. Then, unneeded plot difficulties popped up. And a super cliché romance kicked into high gear. And by the ultimate show-down Daniel Faust seemed to forget about his magic cards. Overall, there wasn’t quite enough of Faust using his magic in his way. There is a bit at the end that is reliant on Faust using a palming techniques and it would have been nice to see that skill in used previous to that moment.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, Demimonde Books, April 25th 2014
Acquired: January 20, 2016, Amazon
Genre: urban fantasy

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Generator Points Earned: 1
Generator Points Total: 2.5

Deal Me In, Week 52 ~ “Mad House”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“Mad House” by Richard Matheson

Card picked: Ten of Diamonds
From: I Am Legend, and other stories

Thoughts:

Oh, Richard Matheson. You are the king of writing a whole story to support one line…

Chris Neal is an angry man. He’s a writer who has no time to write (despite a good four hours in the morning). His wife spends all his money (although she’s leaving him due to his anger issues). He is college English teacher, who will never be given tenure because the administration doesn’t like him (because he’s capricious toward his students). Most days, it feels to Chris that his every house is out to get him. In fact, on some days, it seems like Chris’s very house and belongings are out to get him. Rugs trip him. His shaving razor cut him. His typewriter maliciously sticks and pinches his fingers. A scientist at the university doesn’t think that this is such a crazy idea. He believes that Chris’s anger has infected everything around him.

Chris Neal is one of the more loathsome characters that I’ve met in a while. Thirty-four pages was much too long a time to spent with him. He deserves the end he gets:

Died of self-inflicted wounds.

And there we are, the finish of my second third Deal Me In! Ending with a story about a failed 40-something writer is a little uncomfortable, but that’s 2016 for you. Time to go pick my first card for 2017!

Review ~ Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

This book was provided to me by University Press of Mississippi via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey by Melissa Daggett

Modern American Spiritualism blossomed in the 1850s and continued as a viable faith into the 1870s. Because of its diversity and openness to new cultures and religions, New Orleans provided fertile ground to nurture Spiritualism, and many seance circles flourished in the Creole Faubourgs of Treme and Marigny as well as the American sector of the city. Melissa Daggett focuses on Le Cercle Harmonique, the francophone seance circle of Henry Louis Rey (1831 1894), a Creole of color who was a key civil rights activist, author, and Civil War and Reconstruction leader. His life has so far remained largely in the shadows of New Orleans history, partly due to a language barrier.

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans focuses on the turbulent years between the late antebellum period and the end of Reconstruction. Translating and interpreting numerous primary sources and one of the only surviving registers of seance proceedings, Daggett has opened a window into a fascinating life as well as a period of tumult and change. She provides unparalleled insights into the history of the Creoles of color and renders a better understanding of New Orleans s complex history. (via Goodreads)

I was attracted to Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans because I hadn’t considered that there might be regional differences in how Spiritualism was approached. I had thought of the rise and popularity of Spiritualism in this era as a mostly homogeneous experience, with at most rural/urban differences. Of course, I was wrong.

At its beginnings, Spiritualism was regarded with suspicion in the Confederate South. It was seen as just another Yankee “-ism,” along with abolitionism and feminism. Spiritualism did notably take hold in the Creole community, especially among free men of color.  Beautifully, from a research point of view, these séance circles kept detailed logs of their sittings. Though written in French, the logs of Henry Louis Rey survived to present day and offer a wonderful primary source. The spirit guides were often important personages  to the community, lost during the war, and their hopeful messages often reinforced the political issues of the day.

Melissa Daggett grounds her look at Spiritualism in the life of Rey and the history of New Orleans. That is this book’s strength, but also its weakness. Occasionally, I felt bogged down in the general history of the era. Additionally, while based on an incredible primary source, no translations of the log were extensively quoted. That seems to me to be a missed opportunity.

Publishing info, my copy: PDF, University Press of Mississippi, Jan. 3, 2017
Acquired: NetGalley
Genre: nonfiction

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Generator Points Earned: .5 (I started this book a little early.)
Generator Points Total: 1.5