So what are you doing Friday night? I'm going to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ for their nineteenth anniversary celebration. It will be nineteen years to the date on Friday, Oct. 3, and I'm sure Barbara Peters, the owner, will have something special planned.
I know she has a special author coming. Dennis Lehane, author of The Given Day, will appear at 7 p.m. to talk about his book. I already have my first edition to get it autographed, and sometime on Saturday I'll have my event summary posted.
I'm looking forward to meeting Dennis again. It's been ten years, and he won't remember me, but I invited him to serve on a panel for the inaugural Lee County Reading Festival. He demurred at first, saying he didn't have a current book out to promote, but he was working on one. However, I talked him into it, and he served on a panel with James Hall and Jan Burke, which was moderated by Les Standiford. My most interesting memory, though, was emailing Dennis. He always answered me instantly, so I thought maybe he was looking for an excuse to stop writing. When he was on the panel, he summarized the book he was writing, Mystic River.
Dennis Lehane will be returning to Ft. Myers, Florida in March to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the festival that has grown to be the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. However, I'm glad I'll be able to see him Friday night. It will be a perfect way to celebrate the nineteenth anniversary of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore.
As part of Libraries Unlimited's Read On Series, Barry Trott has compiled a must read book for mystery fanatics, Read On...Crime Fiction: Reading Lists for Every Taste.
If you're a mystery geek, as I am, you'll want to read this book with pen and paper nearby. Trott says, "The titles listed give a sampling of the broad appeal of contemporary crime fiction." He's broken the books into broad categories, based on appeal. Those categories are crime novels that appeal to readers who enjoy story; ones based on character; mysteries in which setting is the main appeal; books that appeal to a certain mood; and ones in which language is important. Under each of those categories, the reader will find an assortment of books, many of them part of mystery series.
How can anyone who loves crime novels resist a book that not only provides lists of mysteries broken into categories, but summarizes those books with a succinct paragraph? Whether you read police procedurals, cozies, hardboiled detective novels, historic mysteries, or any other classification of crime fiction, Trott annotates books you might not have discovered. Read On...Crime Fiction: Reading Lists for Every Taste is a treasure for mystery lovers.
As another blogger so eloquently put it, we are actually not celebrating Banned Books Week. We're observing it from Sept. 27-Oct. 4. We are celebrating the Right to Read.
In 2006, the American Library Association observed the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week. At that time, they compiled a list of the most challenged books of the first five years of the 21st century. The 10 most challenged books are:
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
7. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. Forever by Judy Blume
According to the ALA, "There were more than 3,000 attempts to remove books from schools and public libraries between 2000 and 2005. Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."
As a reader, I object when anyone tries to tell me what I can't or shouldn't read. As a librarian, I recommend that parents supervise their children's reading. Know what your children read, but it's not your place to tell other children what they should or shouldn't read. On the other hand, authors probably love it when their books are challenged or banned. It stirs up interest in the book, and sales usually increase after a book is challenged. Controversy sells!
Have you read a banned book this year? Challenge yourself to read a banned book!
This week is Banned Books Week. On Friday, I'm reviewing the book that was the most banned in 2007. In the meantime, take time this week to check out some of the blogs that are talking about the right to read. There are outstanding ones out there. For instance, check out Kittling: Books for a personal viewpoint.
Or, check out this video, from the American Library Association.
Remember, everyone has the same right to read that you do.
If you've read my blog long enough, you probably know my political and social views, even though I don't talk about them often. But, Michael Moore's book, Mike's Election Guide 2008, does an excellent job summing up my viewpoint. It's a political book, heavy on the satire and sarcasm, but based on facts.
According to Moore, "Republican" has replaced "liberal" as the dirtiest word in politics, thanks to George W. Bush and his political friends. However, he warns that the Democrats are professional losers, and, if we aren't careful, we'll throw away another election that Democrats should win. He says, "For years now, nearly every poll shows that the American people are right in sync with the platform of the Democratic party. They are pro-environment, pro-women's rights, pro-choice, they don't like war, they want the minimum wage raised, and they want a single-payer universal healthcare system. The American public agrees with the Republican party on only one major issue: they support the death penalty."
Moore's book says, if the Democrats don't blow it before November, they have the chance to take control of the Presidency, the House and the Senate. He even has a candidate guide for the House and Senate races in which Democrats have a chance to take a Republican seat. It's interesting reading, particularly when you can read how many Iraq War veterans are running as Democrats since they oppose the war.
Mike's Election Guide 2008 is a call to action for Democrats to follow through for a change, and not throw away an election. But, even if you totally disagree with his book, it does have one valuable section. One chapter offers proposals to get people to vote.
So, Democrat, Republican, or Independent. It's important that Americans exercise our right to vote. Please vote. Vote early, or vote in November, but, please vote.
I had a lousy afternoon yesterday. I was fortunate that I was in our development, but my battery died in my truck yesterday. In hot climates, such as Arizona and Florida, there's no warning. You get in your car one day, and it's just dead. I walked all the groceries home, then called AAA. An hour and a half later, the AAA Battery Truck arrived. The young man changed my battery, but because there's an alarm system on the car, we still couldn't start the car, and the alarm continued to go off. LOUDLY! There's a whole long story, but eventually Jim got the alarm shut off, thanks to a close friend in Michigan who owns a garage, and I could bring my car home. For a while, though, it looked like I'd have to call AAA on Monday, and have them tow the truck, and have the dealer disconnect the alarm. Not my idea of how to spend a Monday morning.
Which leads me to the question, what do you use as comfort reads? What do you turn to when you've had a draining day, and need something to help you escape? I'm finishing up Steve F. Havill's forthcoming book, The Fourth Time Is Murder, and it was perfect for today. It's a Posadas County Mystery, set in the New Mexico border county. Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman is featured in this complex police procedural that involves a couple cases at the same time, with an interesting group of characters. It's a perfect comfort read, a book that takes me into another place.
Dennis Lehane's mystery series featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, private investigators in Dorchester, Massachusetts, worked well for comfort. I know that sounds odd, but the second book, Darkness, Take My Hand was so complicated that I forgot I was sitting in a hospital waiting room while I read it.
And, I recently mentioned Lee Harris' mysteries, beginning with The Good Friday Murder. The series features Christine Bennett, a nun who left the convent, and, while building a life for herself, ends up investigating a cold case, in order to help someone.
My comfort reads are interesting mysteries with well-rounded characters, whether they're amateur detectives, private detectives, or police. I choose to be dropped into a complex crime novel, and I'm happy to spend two or three hours watching someone unravel a mystery.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with books, but I'm so sorry that Paul Newman died. I've loved him as an actor, respected him as a man concerned about children, cancer, and the environment, and admired the relationship he seemed to have (from an outsider's point-of-view), with his wife, Joanne Woodward. And, when I went to see him The Color of Money with Tom Cruise, I kept saying to my husband, that's the sexiest sixty-year-old I've ever seen. I'm sorry. Paul Newman, you'll be missed.
Legendary actor Paul Newman dies at age 83 (From Associated Press)
WESTPORT, Conn. - Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as an activist, race car driver, popcorn impresario and the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money," has died. He was 83.
Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.
In May, Newman he had dropped plans to direct a fall production of "Of Mice and Men," citing unspecified health issues.
He got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Oscars 10 times, winning one regular award and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Exodus," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Verdict," "The Sting" and "Absence of Malice."
Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting."
He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages. "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in "The Long Hot Summer," and Newman directed her in several films, including "Rachel, Rachel" and "The Glass Menagerie."
With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. "I was always a character actor," he once said. "I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood."
Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.
A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for "The Color of Money," a reprise of the role of pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film "The Hustler."
Newman delivered a magnetic performance in "The Hustler," playing a smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — "Fast Eddie" is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but rather an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.
He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.
His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film "Road to Perdition." One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)
As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama "Empire Falls" and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, "Cars."
But in May 2007, he told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."
He received his first Oscar nomination for playing a bitter, alcoholic former star athlete in the 1958 film "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Elizabeth Taylor played his unhappy wife and Burl Ives his wealthy, domineering father in Tennessee Williams' harrowing drama, which was given an upbeat ending for the screen.
In "Cool Hand Luke," he was nominated for his gritty role as a rebellious inmate in a brutal Southern prison. The movie was one of the biggest hits of 1967 and included a tagline, delivered one time by Newman and one time by prison warden Strother Martin, that helped define the generation gap, "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."
Newman's hair was graying, but he was as gourgeous as ever and on the verge of his greatest popular success. In 1969, Newman teamed with Redford for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," a comic Western about two outlaws running out of time. Newman paired with Redford again in 1973 in "The Sting," a comedy about two Depression-era con men. Both were multiple Oscar winners and huge hits, irreverent, unforgettable pairings of two of the best-looking actors of their time.
Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed "Rachel, Rachel," a film about a lonely spinster's rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics.
In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1972 film, "Winning." After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.
"Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood," he told People magazine in 1979.
Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator. "It takes a long time for an actor to develop the assurance that the trim, silver-haired Paul Newman has acquired," Pauline Kael wrote of him in the early 1980s.
In 1982, he got his Oscar fifth nomination for his portrayal of an honest businessman persecuted by an irresponsible reporter in "Absence of Malice." The following year, he got his sixth for playing a down-and-out alcoholic attorney in "The Verdict."
In 1995, he was nominated for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in "Nobody's Fool." New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting "without cheap sentiment and self-pity," and observed, "It says everything about Mr. Newman's performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way."
Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend.
He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.
"If they're good you get a fat head and if they're bad you're depressed for three weeks," he said.
Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford's hallway — crushed and covered with ribbons.
"I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane," he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.
In 1982, Newman and his Westport neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman's Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company's profits are donated to charities. By 2007, the company had donated more than $175 million, according to its Web site.
In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.
He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor "Nell," Melissa and Clea.
Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte.
Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son's death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.
Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the second of two boys of Arthur S. Newman, a partner in a sporting goods store, and Theresa Fetzer Newman.
He was raised in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, where he was encouraged him to pursue his interest in the arts by his mother and his uncle Joseph Newman, a well-known Ohio poet and journalist.
Following World War II service in the Navy, he enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he got a degree in English and was active in student productions.
He later studied at Yale University's School of Drama, then headed to New York to work in theater and television, his classmates at the famed Actor's Studio including Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden. His breakthrough was enabled by tragedy: Dean, scheduled to star as the disfigured boxer in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Battler," died in a car crash in 1955. His role was taken by Newman, then a little-known performer.
Newman started in movies the year before, in "The Silver Chalice," a costume film he so despised that he took out an ad in Variety to apologize. By 1958, he had won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the shiftless Ben Quick in "The Long Hot Summer."
In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.
"I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious," he said. "Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore," he said.
Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.
If middle school readers enjoy Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko mysteries, they should try the new series, Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective. The authors, Nate Evans, Paul Hindman, and Vince Evans created a series aimed particularly at the hard-to-reach group, middle school boys. I'm not a boy of that age, but judging by the humor and cartoons, they'll succeed.
Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective in The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop introduces the character in that hardboiled style typical of detectives. "Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hardboiled Detective. I'm a good egg who always cracks the case." Here's the introduction of that book, from YouTube.
The cartoon illustrations will be enjoyed by adults as well as the audience for the books. The wordplay is fun for both groups, but there's definitely juvenile humor, from New Yolk City to eggs-tinction. Boys will enjoy the monsters, the grimy descriptions of snot and rotting-wart-flesh. And, all readers will enjoy Humpty Dumpty Jr.'s new sidekick, the homeless boy, Rat.
The first book in the series sends Humpty to Pat-A-Cake Bakery, where Patty Cake has disappeared, leaving behind a destroyed bakery. Although Rat and Humpty distrust each other, they team up to find their mutual friend. It's a fun mystery with humor, monsters, gross details, and great cartoons. Boys should love it.
The second book in the series, Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective in The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost finds Humpty and Rat arguing over school and baths, both of which Rat is against. However, when Princess Lily shows up, saying there are ghosts at Merlin's Institute for the Knowledge of Everything, the two have a new case. What more do readers want than villains from the Potty-Mouth Gang, the legend of King Arthur, magic, ghosts and the wordplay of this series? Is Rat really the reincarnation of King Arthur? Check out the YouTube video.
These books are both due out at the beginning of October. Try them books with your middle school readers. I'll be curious as to what they think about Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective.
Case of the Filthy, Furious Flapjack Flop (Humpty Dumpty, Jr., Hard Boiled Detective) by Vince Evans, Paul Hindman
Lee Harris, who is really Syrell Rogovin Leahy, published the first Christine Bennett mystery, The Good Friday Murder, in 1992. Although the last couple books in this series have been much weaker titles, this first title introduced an interesting character and a fascinating series.
Christine Bennett was a nun. In this first book, she's left the convent, after fifteen years, half her life, and moved into the house she inherited from her aunt. She also "inherited" her beloved cousin, Gene, who lives in an institutional home that he loves. It's because of Gene that she takes on the first investigation she's ever done, trying to clear a pair of retarded savant twins, who are now senior citizens, of their mother's murder on Good Friday years earlier.
I've always had a hard time describing Harris' Christine Bennett mysteries. The seventeen books in the series, with titles ranging from The Christening Day Murder to The Cinco de Mayo Murder are more complicated than most cozies. Christine always uses her knowledge of human character to delve into family mysteries that are involved. They are usually cold cases that have occurred years earlier, but still affect a family.
It's a pleasure to watch Christine change in the course of the series, from a thirty-year-old woman just out of the convent, and very insecure in the outside world, to a mature wife and mother. I always bought the new Lee Harris title the minute it came out, and saved it. These are books that have helped me through hospital waiting rooms, and difficult times. Christine Bennett was a character to reach to for comfort, both in her books, and, for me, in my troubles.
Start with The Good Friday Murder. Don't let the books by this very special author be forgotten.
The Good Friday Murder by Lee Harris. Random House Publishing Group, published 1992. ISBN 9780449147627 (paperback), 199p.
Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. David C. from Eden, NC won the autographed copy of Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred With Their Bones. Cassandra J. in Worth, IL won Margaret Coel's The Eagle Catcher. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.
This week, I'm offering two ARCs of mysteries by authors whose last name begins with W. Eugenia Lovett West's Without Warning tells the story of a woman's search for her husband's killer. Emma Streat, an ex-opera singer plunges into an international high-tech world when her successful CEO husband dies in a hit-and-run accident.
Michael Wiley won the PWA/SMP Best 1st Private Eye Novel Contest for The Last Striptease. Chicago Private Eye Joe Kozmarski just wanted a break from blood and bullets when he went fishing with Judge Rifkin. Instead, he found himself hunting for a killer of a Vietnamese beauty, and then, even the judge's killer. Sometimes a guy just can't take a day off.
So Without Warning or The Last Striptease? You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: email@example.com. Your subject line should read either Win "Warning" or Win "Last Striptease". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.
The contest will end Thursday, October 2 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!
If you've never heard the story of Kentucky's Pack Horse Librarians, pick up the beautiful picture book, That Book Woman by Heather Henson, with illustrations by David Small.
Henson's poetic storytelling style is evident from the first page when a young Appalachian boy, Cal, describes his home. "My folks and me - we live way up as up can get. So high we hardly sight a soul - 'cept hawks a-winging in the sky..." And, Small, who won the Caldecott Medal for illustrations for So You Want to Be President?, captures the isolation in the picture of a lone house perched high above the soaring hawks.
Cal works hard, and resents his sister who sits and reads, and wants to teach the other kids in the family to read. He has no interest. And, it's even worse when a Book Woman arrives on horseback, filling his sister's life with books that can be exchanged every two weeks. When "that Book Woman" returns regularly, in all sorts of weather, Cal begrudgingly admires her horse for making it. It takes a snowstorm to force him into admiration of the librarian, and entice him into trying to learn to read.
With a likable young boy, a poetic story, and gorgeous illustrations, this book is for a much wider audience than four to eight year old readers. Those of us who are librarians will be proud of those who came before us. And, book lovers will fall in love with That Book Woman.
If you're interested in what people are doing on the Internet, you'll find Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters by Bill Tancer to be a fascinating book.
I couldn't put this book down. Tancer, the general manager of Global Research for Hitwise, an online intelligence company, has access to the most fascinating data. His book, "sheds light on the topic du jour based on our Internet searches or visits to particular websites." He compiles a picture of the 10 million Internet users in the U.S. And, if you're a regular user of the Internet, you might find your own interests profiled.
Can the Internet predict who will win the next "Dancing with the Stars"? Tancer thinks he can predict it, based on searches on the Internet. Who uses online gambling sites? Why are prom dresses popular in January? Tancer covers everything from our phobias to our New Year's Resolutions with the information he's been able to gather from our Internet usage.
In an election year, I found it interesting to read why the pollsters could be wrong. And, Tancer charts the rise in popularity of social networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube. He shows how the Internet has expanded into our daily lives.
I also thought that Tancer's definition of Web 2.0 was the best I've read. He said, "Web 2.0 refers to those sites that allow users to generate their own content and share that content among other users."
I'm not in retail, but, if I was, I'd grab up this book, and contact Hitwise to look for the next popular trends. Tancer's company might not be able to predict the next hot thing, but it would put people on the cutting edge as to dealing with the hottest ideas.
For readers interested in the Internet, it's fascinating to find out how much companies can discover about us. Contrary to my expectations, I didn't feel intruded upon. Instead, I felt even more connected to others after reading the book. If you're intrigued by the Internet, and its possibilities, check out Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters.
I wish I could show the cover of this delightful book, Cat Signs: How to Know Your Cat's Personality by Russell Grant with illustrations by Susan Robertson and John Francis. But, it's twenty years old, and I found it in a book sale at one of our library branches. It was too cute to pass up.
It was fun to check the Zodiac signs of my cats to see if they fit the descriptions. Then, it matches the animal signs with the best signs for their owners. My Dickens, and his sister, Lammie, don't fit the Aries description at all. And, I do know precisely when they were born since they were born behind the bookcase in my bedroom.
But, Shadow and Josh certainly fit their descriptions as Cancer. Shadow, the cat on the couch, died earlier this year. But, according to the book, "The Cancerian cat is going to acquire itself a family, like it or not, so once you have installed a Cancerian in your home, prepare to play host to a cat refuge." Shadow was one of four brothers. Once we adopted him, he took charge of every new cat in the house, washing it, and taking care of it. We called him Uncle Shadow, and put him in the carrier with Dickens on the long drive from Florida to Arizona. That was the only way Dickens made it across country without going nuts.
Our newest kitten, Josh, is also a Cancer, and he shows the same tendencies. He pesters all of the cats, wants to be around them, and lays right on top of Dickens in order to wash him.
Our Nikki is a true Scorpio since that's "the sign that signals great intensity of feeling, though its outer image may be perfectly cool and calm. They say that sign is "a power-broker, the great manipulators behind the scenes." It also says, "These are not the kind of cats which make concessions; they expect the compromises to be on your side." There's a reason there's a plaque on our living room wall that says, "Nikki's World."
We don't really know when Stormy was born. She showed up on our doorstep during a rainstorm in Florida eleven years ago. But, she's a loner, so once I delve further into the book, I can probably find her sign.
Along with the extensive description of each sign, the book has charming illustrations and stories about a cat with that sign. Whether you're a believer or not, Cat Signs is a fun book for cat lovers.
Patti over at Patti's Pen & Picks "tagged" me, so I'm it in the quirky game. I am supposed to share with you six "unspectacular quirks" or random things about me. So, here we go!
The rules are: 1. Link to the person who tagged you 2. Post the rules on your blog 3. Write 6 random things/unspectacular quirks about yourself 4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them 5. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog 6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.
Quirky Things About Me:
1. I only got my ears pierced because my youngest sister bought me pierced earrings as a gift.
2. The second quarter of my Freshman year in college, I skipped Spanish class every Friday because I couldn't make it across campus from my previous class and still be on time. I went to class on Monday and Wednesday, but skipped every Friday. I would rather skip a class than be late for it. I hate being late for anything. I still got an A in the class.
3. I have mouse Christmas ornaments because when I was a page at the Huron Public Library, I used to enjoy reading the picture books with mice in them. I was still in high school, and the staff all bought me mice gifts for Christmas that year. I still have two of the crystal mice, and a couple of the ornaments they gave me.
4. When we were kids, we used to get to pick a restaurant to go to for our birthdays. My sisters picked a fancy restaurant, and I always picked Frisch's Big Boy. I loved their hamburgers and shakes.
5. I read three Wizard of Oz books in one day in the summer when I was a kid, and had such a headache afterward.
6. My college roommate, Jamie, and I used to sit up at night in our dorm room and play Boggle. I still love word games.
I'm tagging the following six people. Check out their blogs!
An appearance of mystery writers is perfect for Sunday Salon.
Three of the members of the Southwest Crime Ink writing group, Susan Cummins Miller, J.M. Hayes, and Elizabeth Gunn came up from Tucson as part of the Authors @ The Teague series. Gunn said they all write crime fiction, and they banded together for the same reason wolves do, to hunt in a pack. They all write mysteries, although their books are all very different.
Gunn writes straight procedures, and she researches relentlessly. Mike Hayes writes books that are a farces with marginal realism. His books are set in the Kansas flatlands. Susan Cummins Miller writes beautifully detailed geological mysteries. They all belong to the same critique group. Gunn said it's easier to go on a date like this as a group. She also said Margaret Falk, who writes as J. Carson Black, couldn't be there. She said Falk drops in and out of the group as she can stand it.
To some extent, Elizabeth Gunn acted as the moderator of the group, introducing them and their books. Her first five Jake Hines books were published by Walker; Tor did the sixth. Severn House, a British publisher, picked up the seventh, McCafferty's Nine because they were interested in her Tucson book. However, before Cool in Tucson could come out, McCafferty's Nine did so well, they offered her a contract for one more book in each series.
J.M. Hayes (Mike) said Walker & Co. was also his publisher for his first book, The Grey Pilgrim. However, when they dropped his editor, and then their line of suspense/thrillers, he reinvented himself. He started a series set in the Kansas flatlands, where he was from. His books are also police procedurals, beginning with Mad Dog & Englishman. The difference is, it's a poor, rural area, and the sheriff is always understaffed. Hayes' books all take place in just 24 hours. His small town sheriff is a Jimmy Stewart type of nice guy, doing his best. His brother is the village oddball, a born again Cheyenne. They are Cheyenne, but his brother, Mad Dog, wants to be a Cheyenne shaman.
Susan Cummins Miller says anthropology comes into Mike's books, and he has a degree in anthropology. She also had degrees in history and anthropology before going into geology. She uses her geological background in her books. The books are set in different settings, so she can include the geology and history. In her books, geology is a character. Her geologist is younger than her, and she's brilliant. But Susan lived in many of the places in her books. She believes conflict derives from place, and there are different types of conflict, depending on the place.
Miller's character Frankie McFarlane, is a field geologist, and teaches at a fictional college in Tuscon. Gunn pointed out that Miller avoids the Cabot Cove syndrome (killing off of too many characters in a town) by moving Frankie around.
Gunn said she does ride-arounds with the police. The last time she did one, on the east side of Tucson, she came away drained. She spent a little time talking about the police, saying she didn't know how they can do what they do. We ask a great deal of street patrolmen, and then her characters are now homicide detectives. It's hard to make the transition back to normal life after a work day. Elizabeth Gunn's nephew was the deputy chief of police in Rochester, Minnesota, so he was the first person to help her with the Jake Hines series. She said he was proud that he never had to use his gun to shoot anyone, but he was lucky. It's a paradigm that police only draw their gun if they must, but, if they must, they have to be prepared to shoot to kill. She said her Tucson cops live in a rougher, grittier setting than her Minnesota cops. Cops have to try to have successful lives as human beings.
Mike said he's an observer. He never saw anyone murdered, or even die, other than the victim of a hit-and-run accident. But, he did take a course offered by the coroner's office, "Medical Legal Death Investigation." It was grim. It showed the variety of methods of suicide. There were pictures of the wounds from various calibers of guns. It was bizarre, terrible stuff. But, he tries to show in his books that life is also full of absurdities, humor that borders on farce. He said there are grim, difficult things in life, but also kindness.
It's difficult to have an amateur sleuth in a series and have them involved in different crimes, according to Miller. That's why she moves Frankie from place to place. Frankie McFarlane is from a large, extended family. Miller's theory is that we're all just one degree removed from violent crime. About the time that Miller wrote Quarry, a mystery involving Frankie's academic world, one of Miller's mentors, a signer of her dissertation, was brutally murdered in Denver. He was a paleontologist, murdered for his collections in a drug-related crime. It was life imitating her book. There are echoes of real life in books. Her first cousin was shot and killed by her father-in-law, and then he killed himself. Even amateur sleuths are aware of the closeness to violent crime. It's less of a stretch today to write about amateur sleuths than it used to be.
Gunn agreed, saying their are mysteries in our own families. People disappear. Mysteries are structured so there are answers to violent crimes. However, there's often a lack of resolution in real life. People get great satisfaction from mysteries because they get solutions and answers. That's satisfying.
Hayes said he went to Wichita State, and later found out he was there at the same time as the BTK Killer. At the time, there was something grimly fascinating about the crimes because they were so troubling. When he was arrested, he proved to be the perfect example of evil, but so shallow and uninteresting. He tries to make his endings make more sense.
Gunn said it's challenging to use sleight-of-hand to hide facts in mysteries. In real life, you'd never get the answers to some crimes. She said she loves starting mysteries, but not resolving them.
Sometimes, the characters don't cooperate, according to Miller. In Quarry, she had a character that just wouldn't work the way she wanted her to.
Then, Miller want back to the topic of crimes and resolution. When Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini was at The Poisoned Pen, Susan asked Muller if her book, Vanishing Point was based on the disappearance of a woman named Nancy in northern California. Muller said yes, but that disappearance was unsolved. Muller set the disappearance twenty-two years earlier, and resolved it. Nancy was the sister of Susan Cummins Miller's brother-in-law. No one likes unsolved murders.
She went on to say she was living in Riverside, California at the time of the Zodiac Killer. She and her friends were haunted by those killings. Why were they not assaulted? Those cases are unsolved.
Elizabeth Gunn said the only time she used a real situation was in the Jake Hines mystery, Five Card Stud. She read a newspaper story about an event that happened in Tucson, when the body of a truck driver was found in one place, his cab in another, and the trailer in a third place. It was never resolved. However, she used that in Five Card Stud. Mystery writers start books with, what if.
Miller was asked about the title of Hoodoo. It's a form of rock in layers. And, it can be different types of rock, volcanic, sedimentary or metamorphic. But, it's layered rock.
Gunn mentioned that secondary characters sometimes get away from their authors. They develop into someone that you can't control. For instance, she mentioned the hybrid wolf/dog in Hayes' books. People wait to see what the dog will do next. She's almost mystical. Mike said she's the shaman's familiar, a spirit animal, a mystical dog. He said secondary characters can light up the story.
In Gunn's Cool in Tucson, the main character has a ten-year-old niece who needed help. But, she's a bright, tough girl who pays back as good as she gets. She's an important secondary character.
Miller commented that there are strong family elements in all their books, even when they're odd families. In Detachment Fault, Frankie gets a job in Tucson, setting up the curriculum. She's been gone for ten years, even though she visited, and now she's come home. She's picking up family relationships in her close family. The McFarlane name is from a Scottish clan. The murders in this book involve a sibling. Family is very strong in this book. It shows that part of Frankie's life.
Gunn said family helps the author round out the main characters. There's an absence of family for Jake Hines because he was an orphan, but he put together a family. Miller said we've all done it because we've all scattered. It's how Americans make families. We have lives we make up as we move on.
Mike's characters stay in Kansas, and have the relationship of brothers. He had no intention of making Mad Dog & Englishman until Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen Bookstore told him to.
It was a pleasure to host Southwest Crime Ink, Susan Cummins Miller, J.M. Hayes, and Elizabeth Gunn for Authors @ The Teague.
Ann Cleeves follows up the success of her award-winning Raven Black with the second mystery in the Shetland Quartet, White Nights. It would be hard to top the success of that first book, but White Nights is just as outstanding as the first book.
Cleeves takes readers to Biddista, a small Shetland Island community. Jimmy Perez, the local police officer, accompanies Fran Hunter to an art show at Herring House, where Fran is exhibiting a few pieces, along with the local star, Bella Sinclair. However, on this night, it's a stranger who stars in the show when he starts weeping, claiming he doesn't know who he is. When the stranger is found the next day, hanging in a shed, the community isn't too interested in Perez' investigation. Afterall, it was an outsider who died. It takes a second murder to threaten the peace of Biddista.
Ann Cleeves is an expert in bringing the isolated Shetlands to life. In White Nights, the long summer nights with no darkness can drive people into a frenzy. Perez, the islanders, and even the other police who arrive to investigate, find it hard to relax with the light. Cleeves vividly portrays the isolation, and the hardship of life. In this mystery, she almost creates a locked room mystery on an island. Although strangers come and go, there's really a limited group of people, bound together by their history, who could be suspects. And, that history allows them to keep their secrets. Jimmy Perez is skillful at digging into the lives and secrets of people he knows.
What does Cleeves do different that makes these books so outstanding? Perez is an interesting man, unsure of himself in his personal life, but quietly skillful at his job. He's not like most other detectives. And, she has an unusual setting for her books, islands that allow for isolation. That isolation forces her, and Jimmy, to discover the depths of the residents. Cleeves's secondary characters are deeper, and more interesting, than many featured characters in other books.
Readers who enjoy suspense, intriguing characters, and an atmospheric mystery, won't go wrong with White Nights. This one will be on my top five list for the year.
Elizabeth Gunn's Jake Hines books are atmospheric police procedurals set in fictional Rutherford, Minnesota. If you've missed this series, beginning with Triple Play, you've missed an intriguing police detective, intricate plots, and realistic, gritty stories.
In Triple Play, the first victim is found on home plate in a neighborhood park. The next victim wore an old softball uniform. It's up to Jake and the department to find the killer before he hits for a triple play.
These stories are more realistic than many series, as Jake and the department work on multiple cases, and deal with the city's problems, politics, and their own personal problems. Jake, himself, is a fascinating character who doesn't know his own origins. He was an orphan found in a dumpster, of mixed race. And, he stands out in whitebread Minnesota.
Gunn has written seven books in this fascinating series, and the stories and the characters grow more interesting in each book. Elizabeth Gunn's Jake Hines series is not as well known as they should be. I hope they're not forgotten.
Elizabeth Gunn has also written the first book in a new series, featuring Sarah Burke, a police detective in Arizona. It's Cool in Tucson. She'll be at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. with three other Tucson mystery authors. Don't miss her, and don't forget Triple Play, the first Jake Hines mystery.
Triple Play by Elizabeth Gunn. Dell, published 1998. ISBN 9780440226352 (paperback), 218p.
And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at www.pattinase.blogspot.com, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday's "Forgotten" Books.
Congratulations to the three winners of autographed ARCs of Alafair Burke's Angel's Tip. The books go to Janet M. of Afton, OK, Phyllis G. in Cheyenne,WY, and L.J. Sellers in Eugene, OR . They'll go out in the mail tomorrow.
This week, I have two historical mysteries as prizes, both of them autographed paperbacks. The Eagle Catcher is the first book in Margaret Coel's Wind River Reservation series, featuring Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden. If you're a fan, it's a chance to win an autographed copy of the debut book. New readers have the chance to discover the series.
Interred with Their Bones is Jennifer Lee Carrell's story of a Shakespearean puzzle. Kate Stanley, theater director and scholar, leads the reader on a hunt for a four hundred year old treasure, the answer to the greatest literary secret. If you win this autographed book, you can accompany Kate on her hunt from England to Spain to America.
You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subject line should read either Win "Eagle Catcher" or Win "Bones". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.
The contest will end Thursday, September 25 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!
Thanks to Betty Webb, I discovered Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko mysteries. What a fun discovery! Fourth graders should love this series, beginning with The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse.
Chet is a gecko who sees himself as a fourth grade private eye at Emerson Hicky Elementary School. This first book begins in the traditional clipped language of noir detective stories, introducing the private eye. "Who am I? Chet Gecko-Private Eye....I'm a lizard." Chapter one begins with "Some cases start rough, some cases start easy. This one started with a dame." Adult mystery readers will love the style with it's familiar comments from classic detective stories. And, there's humor only adults will understand.
At the same time, the book introduces young readers to the mystery format, and a fun group of characters. Chet Gecko is hired by a chameleon to find her missing brother. Clues lead to the school bully, and a plot against the football game. Boys will love the fact that Chet eats bugs, cockroaches, and stinkbug pie. And, he's upset about cooties when he gets kissed by girls. It's typical fourth grade humor, including jokes and riddles. Every kid will recognize the school bully, the feared teacher and principal, and the giggling girls. Hale introduces readers to mysteries within the familiar atmosphere of elementary school.
How can any mystery reader resist titles such as Farewell, My Lunchbag, The Big Nap, and The Hamster of the Baskervilles? If you're a fan of crime fiction, these books are perfect for introducing kids to mysteries. After finishing, The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse, I'm off to find the next one, The Mystery of Mr. Nice.
I fell in love with Vicki Myron's book, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. As a kitten, Dewey was left in the book return at the public library in Spencer, Iowa. As a librarian, and the owner of a kitten left at the library, Dewey touched my heart. Myron and her co-author, Bret Witter, relates the story of how Dewey touched people throughout the world.
Dewey was left in the bookdrop on a cold day in January, a day so cold that the kitten's paws were frostbitten. When Vicki, the Library Director, discovered him, she found a loving kitten who was quickly accepted, first by the staff, then the library board, and, eventually by the people of Spencer. He brought a polarized staff together, and helped townspeople reclaim their pride in their town.
Spencer, in northwest Iowa, is a small town that hasn't changed much since 1931. However, in the 1980s and '90s, the community was affected by the farm crisis, and industries that left town, and left unemployed people. Like now, the public library found itself a refuge and necessary place for people looking for jobs and assistance with job hunting. Dewey provided a welcome, and a warmth that the people appreciated, from children with disabilities to board members of the genealogy club. He was welcome at storytime, and welcomed everyone at the front door. Before long, Dewey became the heart of the library. And, when his photograph started to appear in newspapers, magazines and calendars, his fame, and that of Spencer, stretched across the United States, and to Britain and Japan.
Myron uses the book to tell the story, not only of Dewey, but also of the library, and small-town life in Spencer, Iowa. As a library advocate, she shows how the library, as well as the cat, touched the lives of so many people. She shows the value of libraries, and their importance in communities.
I won't lie and tell you that the book won't break your heart at the end. However, Dewey and Vicki spent more than nineteen years together at the Spencer Public Library. They shared a love for the library, and the townspeople, that resonates through the book. Dewey taught people to appreciate him, but, he attracted people who might never have come to the library, or might never have felt welcome there before. Anyone who loves cats, or small-town libraries, or small towns, should pick up this book, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.
Our cat, Annika Nicole, Nikki, was a library kitten. No, she doesn't spend her life at a public library. She spends it with two doting people who are readers and love books. But, like Dewey, she was found at the library on a very cold morning. Our library director found a wrapped box at the Main Library, and, in the box was a litter of kittens. The library staff fed these very young kittens, who were only about five weeks old, and publicized the need for homes. People from the city staff stopped in to adopt kittens. By the time Jim and I arrived in the afternoon, Nikki was the only one left, a kitten who kept crying until Jim picked her up. Then, she cuddled down and adopted her person. To this day, Nikki has doting aunts on the library staff who receive occasional pictures. Kittens should never be dumped, particularly kittens too young to be taken from their mothers. But, sometimes, those library kittens turn into very lucky, very special cats. Like Dewey. Like our Nikki.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'd like to thank my editor at The Glendale Daily Planet, Ed Sharpe. I'd like to thank Bette Sharpe, photographer, and Programming Librarian. I'd like to thank my husband, Jim Holstine, for all the support in my blogging. I'd like to thank my mother, for her support, and remember my father for all of his encouragement. Most of all, I accept this award in memory of my grandfather, Otto Smith, Farm News Editor of The Fremont-News Messenger, and the first journalist in the family.
Seriously, I would like to thank Ed Sharpe, and give him copyright credit for the photo as well. Ed has been very gracious and enthusiastic in allowing me to promote the Velma Teague Branch Library's book programs, such as Authors @ The Teague. He's also allowed me to reprint book reviews of books by Arizona authors, or featuring Arizona settings. The Glendale Daily Planet/KKAT-IPTV was a Gold Medal Winner of an AVA Award for 2007 in the category of Online and TV News Delivery. It also won Honorable Mention in the category of News Media - Creativity (News) for the 2008 Videographer Awards. Ed Sharpe, publisher, editor, and engineer for The Glendale Daily Planet was kind enough to include me in the award recognition as Book Topics Editor.
Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon was the book selected for Maricopa County's The Big Read, sponsored by The National Endowment for the Arts. We were fortunate enough to have Betty Webb, author of the Lena Jones noir mysteries, as our discussion leader at the Velma Teague Branch Library.
Before she started, Betty mentioned a series of books by a children's writer who is a fan of noir, the Chet Gecko series by Bruce Hale, who has written books with titles such as The Malted Falcon, The Possum Always Rings Twice, and Murder, My Tweet.
Webb said there were mysteries before Hammett. Agatha Christie wrote her Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot books beginning in the 20s. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes storie, and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe wrote Murders in the Rue Morgue. But, detective stories before Hammett were cozies with gentlemen detectives, such as Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey. Poison was a popular murder device because you didn't see blood.
Hammett, though, was a detective for the Pinkerton Agency, and he knew what real detectives were like. He served in both world wars, although he had tuberculosis most of his life. During the Red Scare in the 1950s, he was brought before Joseph McCarthy, and jailed for six months for refusing to name names. He was blacklisted, and never wrote again. There was a reason he did not trust authority.
Dashiell Hammett was thought of as an intellectual guy, but he dropped out of high school to go to work. He only had a 10th grade education. He bummed around at various jobs, and ended up at Pinkerton. He disliked the Agatha Christie type of cozies. He wanted to write about realistic detectives. He wanted to write about the type of criminals he knew. Christie's criminals were in polite society, part of it. Hammett's criminals didn't have redeeming qualities. But, he knew detectives could be crooked, too.
Webb called Sam Spade, Hammett's detective, the quintessential detective. He lies to everyone, to cops, his girlfriends, his partner. The first person killed in The Maltese Falcon was Spade's partner, Miles Archer. Spade had an affair with Archer's wife. It was hinted that he had an affair with his secretary, and it was obvious that he went to bed with "the woman", Brigid O'Shaughnessy. At the time they went to bed, Spade already knew Brigid was crooked.
Hammett's description of Sam Spade as a "blond satan" doesn't describe Humphrey Bogart, who played him in the movie. However, Bogart could portray a tough guy. He could give off the image of Sam Spade, and Spade's personality. Spade was a smooth talker, a smooth liar. No woman was safe with him; they all loved him. Hammett made him an anti-hero that everyone knew, but loved anyway. Men liked him as a tough man with answers. Women were tripping over him.
The term "noir" means dark and cynical. You'll never find a hopeful noir. Webb said her first Lena Jones' mystery is called Desert Noir because it shows the seamy underbelly in the desert. The desert has strong sunlight, but the strongest, darkest shadow is in the desert.
The internet description of noir describes a crime drama, emphasizing moral ambiguity. It's in black-and-white. The hardboiled school of crime fiction emerged during the Depression with Raymond Chandler and Hammett. Moral ambiguity meant the detective could lie and scheme, and still do the right thing. They could still be fair and good. In some detective stories now, the detective falls for a woman, who turns out to be the criminal, and he protects her. Spade doesn't. He had rules. "When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it." It's bad for business if you let the killer go free when you're in the detective business. And, it's nature. A detective is like a dog with a rabbit, that won't let the rabbit go. Sam Spade does the right thing, but is it for the right reason? He won't lie to himself about his reasons. He doesn't necessarily make "moral decisions." There is a certain amount of guilt.
Webb said her detective, Lena Jones, was found on Thomas Road in Phoenix when she was four with a bullet in her head. She lost consciousness, and, when she emerged from a coma, she didn't know her past, her name, where she was from, or who shot her. She spent her childhood in one foster home after another, and was raped and beaten in one of them. She wound up as a private detective. She does the right thing for the right reasons. She feels for the underdog, because she was one. She will lie and cheat to help women and children. Lena is not the most honest person. Lena and Sam Spade do not trust authority. Lena was once a cop, but she was shot in a screwed up drug raid. Lena and Sam Spade see no justice on earth. Lena believes there should be justice.
Betty Webb asked if we noticed there was no backstory on Sam Spade. We know nothing about any of the characters other than what happens in the duration of this one case. Hammett doesn't give the backstory. There are no preconceived ideas as to how Spade acts.
For him, the end justifies the means. Is he a mean person? He's a little cold. He doesn't plan to be mean. He doesn't go out of his way to hurt someone. Take Miles Archer's wife, who would be considered a stalker today. The easiest way for Spade to get out of situations with her is to say, "Sure, sweetheart." However, he does hurt people to get what he wants.
Webb said authors try to get things by editors by making mistakes, or putting something in the book that the editor will pounce on, and maybe they won't notice what the author really wants in the book. Hammett had the phrase "gooseberry lay" in the book. A gooseberry lay comes from tramps who would hide in the gooseberry bushes, and, usually on Monday when the laundry was done, steal the laundry and sell it. He used the phrase to draw the editor's attention away from the word he used, gunsel. Gutman had a hired gun, the boy, and the editor was to see him as a hired gun. However, the original definition means a young homosexual, the "female" in a relationship. Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, and the boy were all gay characters in the movie, and John Huston, the director knew it. He went ahead and let them use effeminate gestures. As one of the group members said, it ties into the mysterious lifestyle of crooks, the seamy underworld that Hammett portrayed. Did this show the possible homophobic leanings of Hammett? Even so, in the movie, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade was a man's man. Women loved him, and men admired him.
Webb and the group discussed cynicism, and why it retains its popularity. What draws us to cynicism? We all have to deal with the world every day. Webb mentioned that it's said that if you scratch a cynic, you'll find a disappointed idealist or romantic. It's someone who hopes for a better world, but a cynic says, not on this earth.
Spade didn't expect anything good. He kind of admires the way Brigid lies, and he always laughs at her. On the other hand, Effie, his secretary, is truly good. She believes in goodness. She sees the goodness in Sam, even though she knows he's a liar and a manipulator. What did Hammett leave out in this book? He never said Effie was in love with Sam. He knew his readers would get it.
It's debated as to who invented the clipped, pared-down writing style, Hammett or Hemingway. There's no description of feelings in their books. Why did spare writing come about when it did? The discussion mentioned the Depression, and there wasn't anything beautiful. With electricity and radio, the world was brought to us. People listened to the news. They had hard lives, in the city or on the farms. Life was hard, and they could hear on the radio that it was hard for others. The time was past for the flowery phrases of the Victorian years.
According to Webb, Hammett changed literary history. Up until then, women who were not virginal in literature died to atone for their sins. Nobody is terribly virginal in The Maltese Falcon. However, readers didn't feel contempt for Effie even though Hammett had a heroine who had sex out of wedlock, and didn't die. This was a momentous book, and other writers took note.
Dashiell Hammett also wrote The Thin Man, with Nick and Nora Charles. They were played by Dick Powell and Myrna Loy in the movies. Nora had money, and Nick was a drunk, and they had a dog named Asta. These were lighthearted mysteries about high society and fun. They were glamorous.
Why did Hammett write a book that was so different? Webb said she wrote five dark, noir Lena Jones books, and she's working on the sixth. But after her last one, Desert Cut, she was depressed. Each of the novels were based on a real case. She wrote something lighter and funnier, The Anteater of Death, that will be out November 1. She has a zookeeper detective named Teddy, and an anteater named Lucy. This is her "Thin Man" series, the lighter one. She has a dual nature. Part of her sees nastiness, and the other part volunteers at the Phoenix Zoo, and is cheerful. There is a dark and light side to nature, and Hammett knew the dark and the light.
We ended the discussion talking about Sam Spade doing the right thing, and turning Brigid in. I mentioned the Ellery Queen novels set in Wrightsville, and that I was never happy because they had ambiguous endings, and people didn't always get what they deserved. Webb said she almost let the killer go in her mystery, Desert Shadows, because she felt sympathy for the killer. But Lena, being Lena, did the right thing, just as Sam Spade did in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Vintage Books, published 1992. ISBN 0-679-72264-5 (paperback), 217p.
Ingrid Law gives the Beaumont family unusual gifts in the juvenile novel, Savvy. It's a fun story, and an interesting way to show pre-teens that everyone has a special talent or gift. It just takes some time to find it, and grow into it.
At the age of thirteen, members of the Beaumont family come into their savvy. Mibs' grandfather can move the earth. Her brother, Rocket, disrupted anything electric. Her brother, Fish, couldn't live near water because he could cause a hurricane. Mibs is looking forward to her thirteenth birthday, just a few days away. Unfortunately, her father has a car accident, ends up in the hospital in a coma, and then everything goes wrong.
It's too bad that Mibs' mother was in Salina when Mibs had her birthday. She might have been able to help her through it. Instead, their minister's wife showed up with her two children, Bobbi and Will. And, when she planned a birthday party at the church, Mibs was overwhelmed by the voices she could hear talking to her. Suddenly, ink and tattoos are speaking, and she can understand. Thinking she can help her father, she's frantic to get to him. It's the only reason that Mibs, Fish, Bobbi, Will and Mib's younger brother, Samson, hid away on a bus bound for Salina. Unfortunately, the bus took a wrong turn. What happens when Beaumont kids get upset? Anything can happen.
Savvy has its humorous moments, along with the tender ones. It's a fun book, with an underlying message. It doesn't take a Beaumont to be a special person. Everyone has their own savvy. It just takes time to grow into it.
I spent the whole week attending programs to listen to authors - Alafair Burke, S.M. Stirling, Margaret Coel and Jennifer Lee Carrell. That means I didn't get much read in the last week.
And, with the way I read, I tend to finish three or four books quickly, and then have a few days when I don't finish anything. I'm one of those readers who read at least three books at a time, so I can pick up something that fits my mood. Usually, it's a mystery or crime fiction, sometimes a nonfiction book, a novel, or a juvenile or children's novel.
Right now, I'm reading a perfect mystery for football season, The Green Revolution by Ralph McInerny, set at Notre Dame. I need to finish Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon before Monday when we discuss it for The Big Read. My review of Ingrid Law's Savvy will appear on Monday on the blog. It was a terrific juvenile novel that I just finished. And, I have Dennis Lehane's enormous novel, The Given Day, to finish by the end of the month. Lehane is going to be at The Poisoned Pen on October 3, and I want to have finished the book by then.
So, how do you read? Do you read one book at a time? Or, like me, do you read multiple books? Why? I read them to pick up one to fit my mood. Do you do it for the same reason, or some other reason? How do you read?
Thank you to A.D. Adams who passed on Robert Levandoski's obituary from The Akron Beacon Journal. Readers of this blog will know Levandoski as C.R. Corwin, author of the Morgue Mama series. I reviewed his last book, The Unraveling of Violeta Bell, on April 22. As a Kent State graduate, the Morgue Mama books were part of my past. I'll miss his books.
Obituary from the Akron Beacon Journal -
Robert C. Levandoski passed away suddenly on September 8, 2008.
He was born on June 5, 1949 to Clyde and Edna. Born in the historic area of Bennett's Corners Ohio, Rob grew up to cherish the memories and legacy of his family's century old farm. Throughout Rob's life he instilled the value of family and often spoke proudly and fondly of his ancestors. He carried their resolve of adversity to many areas of his life. Beginning his career in journalism, he worked at the Medina Gazette where he would meet lifelong friends and mentors. Rob continued developing his love for research and writing as managing editor for a national consumer magazine. Rob fulfilled his dream of publishing his first novel in 1997, Going to Chicago. He again displayed his love of family by telling the tale of his father and Uncle Corwin going to the World's Fair in 1934. As three novels followed, Rob perfected the art of visual analogy and the inner working of small town politics. He continued weaving tales in his mystery novels under the pen name CR Corwin. In 2004, Rob's novel Fresh Eggs was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His love of instruction was for all to see as he taught writing courses at the University of Akron. Rob was passionate about politics, equality, and learning. He passed the legacy of fairness and unconditional love unto his children. Forever in our memories is the strength Rob showed during family tragedy. He diligently cared for his father during his struggle with Alzheimer's and was a stronghold during his sister-in-laws battle with cancer. Preceded in death was his sister-in-law, Joyce Biliczky in 2003; and his father, Clyde in 2005. He leaves his beloved wife, Carol Levandoski; mother, Edna; brother, Donald (Linda); daughters, Jenifer Sperrazza (Charles), Kary Prince (Brian); grandson, Gabriel Remark; niece, Heidi Yatsko (George); and children, father and mother-in-law, Charles and Rose Bilickzy; friend and mentor, Sandy Lemasters; colleagues and friends at the Akron Beacon Journal, The University of Akron, and the Permanent Press Publishing Company, lifelong friends, Howard Cook, Paul Grant, Gary Hemphill, Jim Kerns, Dale Maharidge, and Ed Noga, and his mischievous dogs, Dudley and Nellie. Join us for reflection and celebration of Rob's life at Waite and Son Funeral Home, 765 N. Court St. in Medina, OH 44256, Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Family will receive friends Friday 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the funeral home. Burial Spring Grove Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the University of Akron Foundation, Akron, OH 44325-2603 for a scholarship in his name. This will continue Rob's legacy of learning to perfect the written word.
Chris Nardone, who has been a library page at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona for eighteen years, just published his first book, And Hell Followed With Him, and presented a copy to the library. Chris has had stories published in magazines and online ezines. He specializes in horror westerns.
Here's the summary of And Hell Followed With Him from the back cover. "Behold a Pale Horse...
Cowpoke Bel Jensen just wanted to live a normal life. But, there was so much of his life that was a mystery. He sees things...horrible things that drive him to the edge of sanity.
And his name that sat on him was Death...
When Bel becomes embroiled in the hunt for an outlaw gang, he comes to realize he's heading down a dark and tortuous path. Haunted by specters of the past, he must unlock the door to hell to preserve his future.
The Old West will never be the same."
I haven't read Chris' novel. I have read one of his horror westersn online, and found it fascinating. Congratulations to Chris Nardone for achieving a dream with publication of And Hell Followed With Him.
If you're an Anglophile, or enjoy biographies of queens, you undoubtedly know the story of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife. Catherine's sister was Juana of Castile, known in Spain as Juana la Loca. C.W. Gortner could have called his historical novel, The Last Queen, the lost queen or the forgotten queen. As he says in the outstanding commentary on his website, Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spain, is almost unknown outside of Spain.
It doesn't hurt to listen to his commentary before reading the book. It's well-done, sets the scene, and begins with the comment that history says she went mad with love, but history can be wrong. Gortner's story shows a woman with method behind her madness, a tragic, yet triumphant queen who never ruled Spain.
Juana of Castile, daughter of Isabella and Fernando was an Infanta of Spain. When she was thirteen, her parents conquered Granada, seizing it from the Moors, and uniting Spain. Her mother, who was actually the more powerful of her parents, sent her to Flanders to marry Philip, heir to the Hapsburg empire. There, she was a contented wife and mother. However, when her husband became greedy for power, and sought to unite his duchy with France, she refused to be a party to a union with Spain's enemy. As tragedy after tragedy befell her family, this young woman found herself on the path of destiny. Once she was named heir to her mother's throne, she would find herself pitted against the husband she once loved.
Gortner allows Juana to tell her story, looking back at her life. Her visit to her dying grandmother, who had been imprisoned for her madness, foreshadows the last years of her own life. For Juana, in pitting herself against her husband, and other men, became a target for the powerful men who wanted her throne. Her determination to save Spain led to her own downfall, but it kept the country intact for her son.
This book would be an excellent choice for book clubs, with its exploration of a life not really known in this country. It's as fast-paced and riveting as any thriller. The Last Queen is a beautifully written, well-researched story of an unknown queen. Gortner brings her to vivid life, as a lusty, strong-willed woman. Was Juana of Castile, Juana la Loca, really mad? Gortner says history isn't always kind to women. However, he gives voice to a strong woman, and allows her to proclaim her story.
Jonathon King's The Blue Edge of Midnight won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel of 2002. And, one of my co-workers from Florida recently reminded me that three of us pushed that book to every library patron we thought would read it. My library branch did an enormous circulation on the book, far beyond any other branch in the system. We admired it then. I still admire it, but it's harder to interest readers in Arizona six years later.
However, if anyone wants to understand Florida, they should read Jonathon King's books. He describes Florida as vividly as any other writer of crime fiction. King makes a reader feel the heat and humidity of Florida. Here's part of the opening paragraph of The Blue Edge of Midnight. "It was past midnight and a three-quarter moon hung in the South Florida sky. In the spillover behind me, tea-colored water from the falls burbled and swirled, roiling up against itself and then spinning off in curls and spirals until going flat and black again downstream. And I could see the outlines of thick tree limbs and dripping vine and the slow curve of water bending around a corner before it disappeared into darkness." And, "This time of year in South Florida, high summer when the afternoon rains came like a rhythm, this ancient river to the Everglades spread its banks into the cypress and sabal palms and flooded the sawgrass and pond apple trees until the place looked more like a drowning forest than a tributary."
I've never been a reader for setting and description, but King's Florida comes to life. And, of course, this is the novel that introduces his series character, Max Freeman, a former Philadelphia cop who fled to the Everglades when he killed a child in self-defense. Now, when he finds a child's body in the river, he's dragged unwillingly into a case involving a string of killings. Suddenly, Freeman is a suspect, a target, and the only one capable of finding a killer.
Maybe Jonathon King's books are just as popular in Florida as his one was in 2002. They should be. However, The Blue Edge of Midnight deserves to be read, and, not just one of Friday's "Forgotten" Books.
Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The Laughter of Dead Kings will go to Marilyn L. in Atlanta, GA. And, The Mercedes Coffin goes to Tonya K. in Panama City Beach, FL. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.
When I went to see Alafair Burke at The Poisoned Pen this week, I had three ARCs autographed of her latest Ellie Hatcher crime novel, Angel's Tip. NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher investigates a murder of a tourist at a posh club, but can't quite accept the suspect. It's a case that links to the past.
If you'd like to win one of the autographed ARCs, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: email@example.com. Your subject line should read Win "Angel's Tip." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.
The contest will end Thursday, September 18 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.