Current Reading: – – –

There is Fall pruning and clean-up in the garden, especially now that the leaves are falling. There has been baseball darn near every night, but that ended with the awful showing of the Dodgers (Gaaa!).

I’ve either been busy or not in the mood to read. I said a week or two ago I’d read short stories, and I have been, but they are oldies, so – if I ever manage to finish a collection or anthology, I’m trying to save them for Friday forgotten.

So for various reasons, I have, once again, nothing to share for my current reading post. Sorry.

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading | 10 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Private Lives of Private Eyes, Spies, Crime Fighters and Other Good Guys

The Private Lives of Private Eyes, Spies, Crime Fighters and Other Good Guys edited by Otto Penzler, Grosset & Dunlap, 1977 oversized trade paper

While reading some introductory material in another book, this was mentioned, and I knew it was familiar. So I went to the shelves, and sure enough I had this copy.

It purports to be “the lives and times of the world’s 25 best-known crime fighters. Illustrated “biographies” of the famous super sleuths”.

Each of the featured persons is given about four pages, including – as of 1977 –  a bibliographic listing and, if appropriate, a filmography.

If you’re looking to refresh your memory about any of these characters, or receive a brief introduction with biographical information of both character and author, this is for you. I initially wanted to look up Dr. Thorndyke, but soon found myself browsing through the rest of the book, often saying “oh, I’d forgotten that” or “I must read that” to myself.

Who is included, in alphabetical order:

  • Lew Archer
  • Modesty Blaise
  • James Bond
  • Father Brown
  • Nick Carter
  • Charlie Chan
  • Nick and Nora Charles
  • Bulldog Drummond
  • C. August Dupin
  • Mike Hammer
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Jules Maigret
  • Philip Marlowe
  • Miss Jane Marple
  • Perry Mason
  • Mr. Moto
  • Hercule Poirot
  • Ellery Queen
  • The Shadow
  • John Shaft
  • Sam Spade
  • Dr. Thorndyke
  • Philo Vance
  • Lord Peter Wimsey
  • Nero Wolfe
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 10 Comments

Current Reading: Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe

Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe, Orbit Books, June 2019 trade paper

I read a September 6th post on the Black Gate blog about this book in which John O’Neal said:

“The last book in [her previous] series appeared in 2017, so I’ve been keeping my eye out for something new from her, and it finally arrived early this summer. And it looks like space opera, my favorite genre!”

Plot: The last thing Sanda Greeve remembers is her ship being attacked by rebel forces. She’s resuscitated from her evacuation pod missing half a leg — and two centuries — as explained to her by the AI of the rebel ship that rescued her. As The Light of Berossus — aka Bero — tells her, she may be the only living human for light-years around, as the war wiped both sides out long ago. Sanda struggles to process her injuries and her grief but finds friendship with the lonely spaceship itself.

But there are two other plots, mingled together with Sanda’s story. One is a flashback narrative about the war’s effects on her brother, Biran,  the second is about a heist gone terribly wrong for small-time criminal Jules.

So, three locations, three time frames, three sets of characters, between which the novel jumps at will. That’s not my favorite set-up, as many of you might know. I prefer straight-ahead storytelling.

Kirkus said this was “Meticulously plotted, edge-of-your-seat space opera with a soul; a highly promising science-fiction debut.”

Well, no. I got a copy from the library and was glad it was free. I’d rate it just okay.

Have you read this book? What are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Science Fiction | 18 Comments

Forgotten Book: Norman Rockwell – 332 Magazine Covers

Norman Rockwell – 332 Magazine Covers edited and text by Christopher Finch, Abbeville Press/Random House 1979 oversized hardcover (12 x 15.5 inches, over 2 inches thick), 455 pages

Blame it on George Kelley. His post last week made me go to my oversize shelves to find this book, which I then spent a couple of days reading and studying.

This 1979 edition (11 7/8″ X 15 1/4″ X 2″) is a larger book than the later 2013 edition and 455 pages vs. 400 pages. It is the cover art from the 332 Saturday Evening Post covers, not the Post covers themselves, i.e. no Post banner, no words across the art saying what was inside that particular magazine, and so on. The format has a section of thumbnails of the covers in each section, with a commentary on each, followed by the full-size, color paintings, one to a very large page. The commentaries are accurate and insightful.

The book is divided into eleven sections:

  • Overview: Norman Rockwell Portrayed Americans as Americans Chose to See Themselves
  • From the Very Beginning Norman Rockwell Had An Uncanny Knack of Knowing What the Public Wanted – Saturday Evening Post Covers May 20, 1916–June 28 1919
  • Although Still Under Thirty, Rockwell Was Rapidly Becoming The Post’s Premier Cover Artist – Saturday Evening Post Covers August 9, 1919–September 9, 1922
  • Things Were Changing Too Fast and Rockwell Gave People Nostalgic Glimpses of the World They Had Left Behind – Saturday Evening Post Covers November 4, 1922–December 5, 1925
  • Again and Again Rockwell Fell Back on Tried and Tested Themes – Saturday Evening Post Covers January 9, 1926–February 16, 1929
  • Rockwell Was One of the Lucky Few Who Was Not Much Affected by the Depression – Saturday Evening Post Covers March 9, 1929–June 17, 1933
  • Rockwell’s Work Was Becoming More Personal – Saturday Evening Post Covers August 5, 1933–February 19, 1938
  • Rockwell Was Now on the Verge of a Major Breakthrough – Saturday Evening Post Covers April 23, 1938–July 25, 1942
  • Rockwell’s Authority Was Based on the Trust of the American Public – Saturday Evening Post Covers September 5, 1942–November 16, 1946
  • During the Postwar Years Rockwell Could Hardly Pick Up a Brush Without Producing a Memorable Image – Saturday Evening Post Covers December 7, 1946–January 3, 1953
  • Rockwell’s Style Puts It’s Distinctive Mark on Everything – Saturday Evening Post Covers April 4, 1953–May 25, 1963

What the book does not include are the well known covers he painted for Look magazine, including the one of the Federal Marshalls escorting the small black girl to school. Neither does it include the Rockwell series of the Four Freedoms. But what it does include is well worth your time. Well conceived and executed, this is a must for the fan of periodical covers, the Saturday Evening Post and fans of Rockwell’s art.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 6 Comments

Red Canoe puzzle

This is one of the reasons I haven’t gotten a lot of reading done recently. This 1,000 piece puzzle was extremely difficult, and, while we usually finish a 500 piece puzzle in a week and a 1,000 in two, this one took us almost three weeks!

Posted in Books & Reading | 7 Comments

Current Reading: Still not much

I’m still not reading much. Gloomy, rainy, windy weather may be part of that, but it’s mostly my distractions with football (a lot of college games on Friday and Saturday, and the pros on Thursday, Sunday and Monday) and an extremely difficult jigsaw puzzle which eats up much time.

I started a library book and only got through 35 pages before quitting. I started another library book and, though I like it, I’m inching forward at a snail’s pace. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m going to have to bear down and just set aside a day to do nothing but read.

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading | 13 Comments

Forgotten Book: City of Corpses by Norvell Page

City of Corpses, the Collected Weird Mysteries of Ken Carter by Norvell Page, Black Dog Books, February 2009 trade paper, 206 pages, pulp fiction. note: the scene on the cover does not occur in the book.

Here are six pulp “novels” from 1933, and a short story 1935, all from Ten Detective Aces magazine. I put the word novels in quotes because pulp length novels are short, really novella length. Though the title names them as weird mystery, only three really have a weird element to them, and then not much. However, the novels are quite entertaining, and Statues of Horror and Gallows Ghost are especially enjoyable. The short story, “Satan’s Sideshow” is both mercifully short and forgettable.

I bought this from Black Dog Books a decade ago, but have just now gotten it off the shelf to read, and I’m glad I did. This is a lot of fun, and it’s still available from Black Dog Books.

In addition to the novels, there’s a 1935 article by Norvell Page detailing his approach to writing, which I found very interesting.

CONTENTS

  • Introduction by Robert Weinberg
  • Hell’s Music
  • City of Corpses
  • Statues of Horror
  • Gallows Ghost
  • The Devil’s Hoof
  • The Sinister Embrace
  • Satan’s Sideshow

APPENDIX

  • “How I Write” by Norvell Page
  • About the Author by Tom Roberts
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 15 Comments

Current Reading: not much

I’m still not reading much. Gloomy, rainy, windy weather may be part of that, but it’s mostly my distractions with football (a lot of college games on Friday and Saturday, and the pros on Thursday, Sunday and Monday) and the Ken Burns  film (Sunday through Wednesday last week and this week).

About the best I’ve done is some short stories and short pulp “novels”, really novelettes. One of those collections will show up as a forgotten book(s) soon. I did recently read a coffee table book, Covering the New Yorker: Cutting-Edge Covers from a Literary Institution, Hardcover – October, 2000 by Francoise Mouly Lawrence Weschler, if that counts, which had some interesting text and a lot of covers. Enjoyable, but light.

As far as the short stories go, I’m still plodding along in The Best of Manhunt edited by Jeff Vorzimmer. I’m finding many of the stories rough, in the sense of subject matter, not writing quality, which is pretty good for pulp stuff. So I’ve set it aside.

I now have a couple of SF novels just coming in to the library, which I’ll pick up in a day or two, and perhaps one or both of them will give me a positive reading jolt. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading | 13 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Man In My Grave

 The Man in My Grave by Wilson Tucker, © 1956, Rinehart & Co. [Detective Book Club edition] hardcover mystery (other edition pictured)

man in graveWilson Tucker is known mostly for his science fiction writing. However Tucker did write a few mystery novels, and this is probably the best known of them. Perhaps because it was reprinted by the Detective Book Club in an edition with Victor Canning’s Burden of Proofand Helen Nielsen’s Borrow the Night, it had a wider audience than the paperback printing.

The first thing one notices is the catchy title, which leads right into the beginning chapter of the book. A man on a train, reflecting on the view out the window, and then on a small book of epitaphs culled from graveyards across the country. One of them is his own:

HERE LIES BURIED
B. G. BROOKS
DEAD AS A DOORNAIL-
of course

Since B. G. Brooks knows he’s alive and well, he’s gone to investigate, but the epitaph isn’t the only reason. Brooks, who goes by the nickname Beejee, is a field agent for The Association of American Memorial Parks, or so his business card says. In reality, he is a government official tasked to investigate “burking”, the practice of diverting bodies from mortuaries to sell them to medical schools and other “customers”; the illegal sale of the dead. Coffins are loaded with sand or graves are left just empty.

Brooks is investigating such an operation in the area of rural Illinois where he was raised. A network of mortuaries is funneling bodies to large medical schools in Chicago.

The novel has a light tone and Tucker displays a sense of humor, especially when Brooks and the town Marshall’s girlfriend follow clues while at the same time the Marshall tries to keep up with town doings. The residents of Rocky Knoll haven’t seen such excitement in years, and they don’t want to miss a thing. In their enthusiasm they overrun the local graveyard, clog roads with their cars, overwhelm the newspaper office in hopes of hearing he latest rumor. The poor Marshal is overwhelmed and it makes for some pretty funny scenes.

This isn’t a long book at 126 pages in the DBC edition, and was a fast read. I enjoyed it.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 11 Comments

Current Reading: short stories

Novel reading ennui has struck me. Nothing seems to strike my fancy, and though I have some things coming from the library, and a house full of books, it seems there’s not a novel I feel like reading just now.

So the obvious solution is to read short stories. I have many collections and anthologies on hand, and I’m dipping into some of those.

However, since I haven’t finished any of them, I have nothing specific to say other than to list some titles:

The Best of Manhunt edited by Jeff Vorzimmer – 39 stories which appeared in the magazine between 1953 and 1957. Update: about half way through, good so far.

Deep Waters edited by Martin Edwards – a variety of older stories all set on oceans or lakes. British Classic Crime Library. Update: have only read one story so far.

City of Weird edited by Gigi Little – 30 stories set in and around Portland, Oregon. I started this one more than a year ago, then it got set aside for other things. Time to read more of it. Update: finished it, and found it disappointing. It went in the donate box.

See the Updates above.

Also: I read The Curse of Capistrano in the last few days, the first Zorro novel, and two short stories in that volume.

So, what are you reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction, Mystery | 10 Comments