It’s Monday, What Are You… 4/9

…Reading?

I’m reading this book and that book and that other book over there…

Due to a research tangent I ended up reading The Castle of the Carpathians by Jules Verne last week. It was…probably not Jules’ best work. And I finished The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore. On tap this week, after my trip to the library:

The Deep The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini The Fifty Year Sword
  • The Deep by Nick Cutter – I’ve been inspired by Spring into Horror… …Inspired to leave my TBR behind!
  • The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski – See above. It is, of course, printed upside-down and backwards.
  • The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini by Ruth Brandon – Actually planned on reading this in April and I’m way behind on reading it now due to the above.
  • And short stories!

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

…Doing?

April is off to a hot start. Highs have been in the 90s. Been reading, organizing and formatting Our Past in the Uncanny Valley, playing some ultimate frisbee. All the usual stuff. And along those lines, I’m trying to decide on a plan for the upcoming 24-hour readathon. League finals are that day, but maybe I’ll do an unofficial 24-in-48 readathon that weekend (since I missed *that* for New Year Fest). I have two hobbies which shouldn’t overlap…

What Was I Doing?

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Deal Me In, Week 14 ~ “The Luck of Roaring Camp”

DealMeIn

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

“The Luck of Roaring Camp” by Bret Harte

Card picked: 8
Found at: AmericanLiterature.com

The Story
For a story set in a mining camp in 1850 California, this is an awfully sweet tale.

There was commotion in Roaring Camp.

The commotion is the birth of a baby to the only woman in the camp, Cherokee Sal. Sal doesn’t survive childbirth. While the men of the camp aren’t painted in entirely rosy colors, nothing is said about who the child’s father might be. The task of caring for the infant falls to “Stumpy” and his ass (as in donkey). It’s figured that Stumpy is the best choice since he already has two families…

After a month has passed and the little boy seems to be thriving under the care of his adoptive father, he is christened Thomas Luck, since his birth has heralded a measure of luck for the camp. All the men of the camp feel some measure of responsibility for Tommy, or “The Luck.” Gradually, Roaring Camp cleans itself up as everyone wants to be a little better and enjoy the world a little more for the child’s sake. Alas, there is ultimately not a happy ending, but one can hope that Roaring Camp’s luck didn’t completely leave it.

I didn’t remember putting some western short stories on my Deal Me In list, but I’m glad I did!

hosted by Nick @ One Catholic Life

Review ~ The Infamous Harry Hayward

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

Cover via Goodreads: Infamous Harry Hayward

The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis by Shawn Francis Peters

On a winter night in 1894, a young woman’s body was found in the middle of a road near Lake Calhoun on the outskirts of Minneapolis. She had been shot through the head. The murder of Kittie Ging, a twenty-nine-year-old dressmaker, was the final act in a melodrama of seduction and betrayal, petty crimes and monstrous deeds that would obsess reporters and their readers across the nation when the man who likely arranged her killing came to trial the following spring. Shawn Francis Peters unravels that sordid, spellbinding story in his account of the trial of Harry Hayward, a serial seducer and schemer whom some deemed a “Svengali,” others a “Machiavelli,” and others a “lunatic” and “man without a soul.”

Dubbed “one of the greatest criminals the world has ever seen” by the famed detective William Pinkerton, Harry Hayward was an inveterate and cunning plotter of crimes large and small, dabbling in arson, insurance fraud, counterfeiting, and illegal gambling. His life story, told in full for the first time here, takes us into shadowy corners of the nineteenth century, including mesmerism, psychopathy, spiritualism, yellow journalism, and capital punishment. From the horrible fate of an independent young businesswoman who challenged Victorian mores to the shocking confession of Hayward on the eve of his execution (which, if true, would have made him a serial killer), The Infamous Harry Hayward unfolds a transfixing tale of one of the most notorious criminals in America during the Gilded Age. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
19th century crime! In the Midwest! In a city that isn’t Chicago! (Not that I have anything against Chicago, but it gets a lot of attention. There are plenty of interesting cities between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains in the 19th century. Or in this case, on the Mississippi River.)

What Worked
This is a nice look into Minneapolis at the end of the 19th century. It was, like many Midwestern/Heart Land cities, on the rise full of hustle, bustle, excitement, and vice. Harry Hayward dabbled in many areas of crime and Peters gives each a good deal of background of their own. I especially enjoyed learning about the counterfeiting and money laundering schemes.

Another crime-adjacent subject important to the story is yellow journalism. Much of Hayward’s reputation as a “master criminal” was made in the press. Dueling newspapers didn’t entirely fabricate stories, but they certainly latched on to the juiciest, most lurid tidbits of the police’s initial investigation and Hayward’s trial. To an extent, the “Murder and Mesmerism” subtitle of this book has similar sensationalism. The mesmerism aspect of Hayward is really very minor. I hoped that this would be the story of an out-and-out charlatan performer, a hypnotist using his abilities to bilk and murder! Alas, not the case, though it seems strange that I should be disappointed by a charismatic con man and the murder of a young woman.

What Didn’t Work
A very minor thing: There was some repetition of details between the telling of what happened to Kitty Ging and Hayward’s eventual trial. This is a slight stumbling block with true crime: to tell about the crime accurately, an author ends up using facts based on the testimony of those involved.

Overall
Good telling of a historical true crime. Peters has a light touch with his presentation of details and keeps the narrative rolling.

Publishing info, my copy: ePub, University of Minnesota Press, April 3, 2018
Acquired: NetGalley, Feb. 2018
Genre: nonfiction, crime

hosted by Doing Dewey

April TBR & Spring into Horror

I wasn’t sure if I was going do Michelle’s Spring into Horror Readathon because I don’t have any horror on my set TBR list! But who needs to follow set lists, right? For that moment, this is what I plan on reading for Spring into Horror:

The Greatcoat The Valley of Fear Meddling Kids

I might add other titles if I end up doing something readathon-y later in the month.

I also have two books scheduled for my other challenges:

The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini Harrigan

Deal Me In, Week 13 ~ “The Dust Enclosed Here”

DealMeIn

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

“The Dust Enclosed Here” by Kage Baker

Card picked: 7
Found at: Infinity Plus

The Story
Will Shakespeare is a holographic educational entertainment exhibit at Southwark Museum’s Globe Restored. He is programmed to recite certain sonnets and soliloquies that are still allowed by the Tri-World Council for Integrity, to marvel at the technology of the modern world, and to encourage patrons to visit the Gifte Shoppe on their way out. But unlike a simple program trained with the works of the Bard and some scholar-agreed-upon personality traits, Will yearns to create new material and remembers a time when he had the freedom to do so. Will’s programming, it would seem, is different and maybe even illegal. And it might just take the hacking efforts of a strange and equally improbable boy, Alec, to let Shakespeare write again.

I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve read by Kage Baker, which makes me wonder why I haven’t read more of her work. This story was included in the collection Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers, so I assume that it’s part of Baker’s Company series. Now, I’ve only read a different collection of Company stories, In the Company of Thieves, back in 2013. I’ve found that you really don’t have to be familiar with the world to enjoy any of the related stories, though it probably helps. I kind of imagine that Shakespeare’s memories being part of the holo-program and Alec “setting him free” is a sideways plot to undermine whatever totalitarian government had put something like the Council for Integrity in place.

Wrapping March 2018

Reading

March got off to a rough start. It took me a while get into a groove.

  • Books Finished: 5 (though two were novella length)
    • Highlights: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (review to come), though Frankenstein Dreams is a strong runner-up.
  • Books DNFed: 2
  • Short Stories Read: 37
    • Highlights: Rereads of “The Dancing Partner” by Jerome K. Jerome and “Moxon’s Master” by Ambrose Bierce
  • Challenge Updates:
    • FrankenSlam! – Oh, Hi! Plutarch. I didn’t see you there.
    • 2018 Nonfiction Reading Challenge – The Infamous Harry Hayward (ARC, review to come) wasn’t on my reading list, but it was this month’s nonfiction title. Still maintaining over 30% nonfiction for the year.
    • 2018 TBR Challenge – I ended up DNFing three books in a row from my from the TBR Challenge pile. In the end, I read one of the shorter titles Monster in the Mists by Andrew Mayne.
    • Wild West Reading Challenge – No progress. Still 1/6
    • Shelf Maintenance – I acquired a copy of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens for a read-a-long that is starting March 31st. It’s going to follow the pace of the novel’s original serialization. Interested? Join The Pickwick Club. I also nabbed Thirteen Chocolates, a cozy mystery by one Agatha Chocolats.

Continue reading “Wrapping March 2018”

Writing Update, 3/28


How’s It Going?
It’s going well. I’ve done my first cull of stories I want to include in Our Past in the Uncanny Valley. I’m left with 19 stories which fall into roughly eight thematic periods. I’ve already formatted six of the stories. I’m still thinking about what I want to do for introductions. I also have a bit of supplementary reading that I’d like to do.

I’m going to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April in an effort to get at least the manuscript formatted by the end of April.

About This WIP
Our Past in the Uncanny Valley is a collection of automaton stories from 1810-1910. From the E. T. A. Hoffmann’s nightmarish Olimpia to the enigma of the mechanical chess-playing Turk and the plethora of humorous later-century robot maids, these stories show that our current fears about artificial intelligences—especially human-looking ones—aren’t that new at all.