Deal Me In, Week 48 ~ “What’s in a Name?”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“What’s in a Name?” by Isaac Asimov

Card picked: Three of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries

Thoughts: Many of Asimov’s mysteries are based on a single piece of information being the key to solving the mystery. This key clue is kept from the narrator (and the reader) until it’s revealed punch-line style at the end. This doesn’t work for me. Or, maybe it would if the action surrounding the key clue was better handled.

In the case of “What’s in a Name?”, our narrator isn’t the detective that canvasses the witnesses. That guy, Hathaway, probably should/would have mentioned the coincidence of names that ends up being the master clue. But in fact, the way the story is written, the suspect would have learned of it too if the second questioning of witnesses happened in any manner resembling reality. I would assume that the police aren’t unprofessional enough to refer to one of the witnesses as “the little German furrier” in conversation. That doesn’t mean that this story couldn’t work. We (the narrator and the reader) could know the pertinent information, with the ending being its reveal to the suspect.  In my opinion, that’s a better story.

And, thankfully, the zigger-ending would be lost.

Deal Me In, Week 47 ~ “Tap Dancing”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“Tap Dancing” by John Gregory Betancourt

Card picked: Ace of Spades
From: Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, edited by Marvin Kaye

Thoughts: Forty years ago, Martha Peckinpah was a star of stage and screen. She danced with the best in only the best productions. Unfortunately, her career was cut short by a car accident. Bitter about her situation and the failing state of dance on stage, Martha spends her time sneaking into rehearsals and silently criticizing new shows. That is, until one night when a young man in black leather and a silver earring in one ear, a soul in purgatory, asks her to remember how to live.

This is a very serviceable story. It feels like it could have been maybe a little longer, maybe a little more detailed.

Coincidentally, the tension between the old and new in this story reminded me of a videos that’s been going around (again):

Deal Me In, Week 46 ~ “A Day in the Life of Comrade Lenin”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“A Day in the Life of Comrade Lenin” by Carole Buggé Author

Card picked: Two of Diamonds – a WILD card!
From: Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, edited by Marvin Kaye

Thoughts: Vladimir Lenin, yes, that Vladimir Lenin, has a crisis of philosophy. He decides to head to America and search for the proletariat in New York City. What he finds is…not the proletariat…but an extraordinary selections of socks Bloomingdale’s and a beautiful punk rocker who seduces him. Did I mention that this is 1970s NYC? This story seems a odd choice, even for the anthology’s Miscellaneous Nightmares category. Then again, maybe that is precisely what Lenin’s nightmare might be like.

While this story didn’t induce fear in me, it was well written and fairly amusing. Poor Lenin is alternately confused and homesick, though in the end, he seems pretty happy with the “friends” he’s made.

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

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.

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.

Deal Me In, Week 43 ~ “Beyond the Wall”

20140105-160356

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“Beyond the Wall” by Ambrose Bierce

Card picked: Queen of Spades
From: Jay’s Top 10 Ghost Stories

Thoughts: I’m sorry to say it, but a relentless heat wave has zapped my Halloween spirit. (Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler. A high of only 93F!) My spooky reading has bottomed out. Thank goodness for this Deal Me In pick!

My favorite type of horror is the horror of the unintended consequence. Many supernatural tropes are based on the courting of the occult. Playing with a Ouija board. Chanting “Bloody Mary” into a darkened mirror. Studying non-euclidean geometry. In fiction, all these things are pretty much invitations for angry spirits to come visit. But for me, the more nerve-wracking horror is the sort that fills the world with unknown supernatural missteps. Playing party games. Watching a random video tape. Or flirting with the girl next door.

Who hasn’t let love (or, at least, lust or a crush) make them “be an unspeakable idiot”? I know I’ve had my moments. But what if an innocent act flirtation, knocking on a shared wall, leads to something not entirey sinister, but…unintended?

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