Forgotten Book: The Department of Dead Ends by Roy Vickers

this is the 254th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Department of Dead Ends by Roy Vickers, © 1949, my copy: a 1955 Penguin paperback

dodeVickers has here selected his “ten best” DoDE stories. These are all “inverted” mystery stories; the reader knows from the start the murderer, the motive, the details of each crime.

An investigation is made but the files find their way to the Department of Dead Ends, the repository of cases not solved, clues which led nowhere. Then eventually, sometimes many years later, some small fact or occurrence comes to the attention of Inspector Rason who finds a connection and solves the case.

I got this paperback second hand some years back and let it sit on the shelf for some time before picking it up to read. That was foolish. Once started I couldn’t put it down. These stories are terrific!

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Non-fiction | 13 Comments

Jigsaw Puzzles

I’ve mentioned in the last couple of Short Story February posts that my reading was down some because my wife have been working on jigsaw puzzles. So I thought I’d share pictures of one we recently finished and another nearing completion. Click images to see them larger.

Something about this time of year seems right for doing puzzles and we enjoy the challenge of it, but it does eat up a lot of time.

img_4121 img_4124


Posted in At Home in Portland | 9 Comments

Short Story February – Week 3

Here’s week three (Feb. 13 – 19) listed in story-author-source format.
         * An asterisk indicates a story I particularly liked.

  • miniaturesDeath in December * – Victor Gunn (Edwy Searles Brooks) – Crimson Snow edited by Martin Edwards

From Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi (entire contents)

  • Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results *
  • Pluto Tells All
  • Denise Jones, Superbooker *
  • When the Yogurt Took Over *
  • The Other Large Thing
  • The State of Super Villainy
  • New Directives for Employee-Manxtse Interactions
  • To Sue the World
  • How I Keep Myself Amused On Long Flights
  • How I Keep Myself Amused On Long Flights Part II
  • Life On Earth: Human-Alien Relations
  • Morning Announcements at the Lucas Interspecies School For Troubled Youth *
  • Your Smart Appliances Talk About You Behind Your Back *
  • The AI Are Absolutely Positively Without A Doubt Not Here to End Humanity
  • Important Holidays on Gronghu
  • Cute Adorable Extortionists
  • Penelope
  • The Queen of Air and Darkness – Poul Anderson – Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volume 2: The Queen of Air and Darkness edited by Rick Katze (NESFA)
  • Industrial Revolution * – ibid
  • Operation Afreet * – ibid

A few thoughts:
Twenty-one stories this week, with the majority very short ones.

Over at Bitter Tea and Mystery short stories are being read. See Tracy’s short story post HERE.

When I laid out a dozen books from which to read short stories, as a way of organizing things, one of them was the Scalzi, which I’d recently gotten. It’s a thin book, of very short stories, and as expected I read it straight through. I liked a few stories (asterisked) but over all it was just so-so. I like his novel length science fiction much better.

 I have long been a fan of Poul Anderson’s stories since first reading them in Astounding Science Fiction back in the old days. I’ve been buying the collected short works volumes as they were published by NESFA Press. I read the first one, and the rest look nice on the shelf, but it was past time I started reading the second one. I said last week it had been too long since I read any Hemingway. The same goes for Anderson.

With this week I’ve come back around to the beginning of the row of books I set out. However, three books have been pulled and replacements made, so you will notice the new sources as you look at the lists for the next two weeks.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Short Story February | 20 Comments

No Friday Forgotten Book Post (again)

Sorry, I’m missing FFB again this week. I’ve just been too busy as well as a little under the weather.  I will have my short story reading up Monday, such as it is.

Posted in At Home in Portland, Friday Forgotten Books, Science Fiction | 12 Comments

Short Story February – Week 2

Here’s week two (Feb. 6 – 12) listed in story-author-source format.
* An asterisk indicates a story I particularly liked.

  • complete-short-stories-of-ernest-hemingwayA Place In the Shade – Robert Reed – Worldbuilders, SF Adventures in Terraforming, edited by Gardner Dozois
  • The Border-Line Case – Margery Allingham – The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler
  • The Bradmore Murder – Melville Davisson Post – ibid
  • The Man Who Liked Toys – Leslie Charteris – ibid
  • The Ashcomb Poor Case – Holbert Footner – ibid
  • The Little House at Croix-Rousse  – Georges Simenon  – ibid
  • Glitch Mitchell and the Island of Terror – Philip Harris – The Jurassic Chronicles edited by Samuel Peralta
  • The Bird in the Hand * – Erle Stanley Gardner – The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler
  • The Gulverbury Diamonds – David Durham – ibid
  • The Short Happy Life of Francis Mcomber – Ernest Hemingway – The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway 
  • The Capital of the World – ibid
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro ** – ibid
  • The Man At the Bridge – ibid
  • The Screaming of the Tyrannosaur – Stant Litore – The Jurassic Chronicles edited by Samuel Peralta 
  • Ugly – Laxmi Hariharan – ibid
  • Cryptoscience – Emily Mah – ibid
  • Victor Mula’s Earth Dream – M. J. Kelley – ibid
  • The Ghost’s Touch – Fergus Hume (Fergusson Wright Hume) – Crimson Snow – edited by Martin Edwards 
  • The Chopham Affair – Edgar Wallace – ibid
  • The Man With the Sack *- Margery Allingham – ibid
  • Christmas Eve * – S. C. Roberts ibid

A few thoughts:

Twenty-one stories in seven days. I’ve slowed just a little, but in my defense some of the stories were a bit long. Then too, the sun came out, so I was outdoors just a bit. Also, we’ve been working on a jigsaw puzzle, which does eat up time.

It seems I’ve been reading The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries forever. In truth, it’s probably been a year or more, because: a) it’s a really thick book and b) I read a few of the stories and then set it aside for something else, and get sidetracked, as we all do. It’s always nice to get back to it, and it’s just possible I’ll finish it this month (no promises, though).

It has been a long time since I read any Hemingway. I didn’t like the first two stories in the collection very much, as I don’t much care for hunting or bull fighting. Then I came to “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, and it really grabbed me. The style, so typical and iconic it’s often parodied, but so effective. I read the story as an assignment in high school, and again on my own in my late Twenties, and thought, yes, okay pretty good. But that was more than 40 years ago. My viewpoint is different now, and the story was very affecting. The next morning I re-read it, a rare thing.

The Jurassic Chronicles collection seems to have been front loaded, with fewer stories I liked as it went along. 

I enjoyed the Allingham story in Crimson Snow, though I’d read it before, despite the rather obvious plot it’s a fun story. As far as I’ve read in the rest of the anthology, it’s quite nice.

I’m really enjoying reading lots of short stories. I hope everyone else who is joining in Short Story February is liking it too!

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Short Story February | 23 Comments

Short Story February week 1

Here’s my first week (five days, Feb 1-5) of reading, in story – author – source format. An asterisk indicates a story I particularly liked

the-jurassic-chroniclesAlien Animal Encounters * – John Scalzi – Miniatures
Bring Bring * – Conrad Aiken – Collected Stories of Conrad Aiken
The English Adventure – Paul Theroux – Paul Theroux, The Collected Stories
After the War – ibid
Words Are Deeds – ibid
Ghostweight – Yoon Ha Lee – Clarkesworld Year 5, edited by Neil Clarke
Perfect Lies * – Gwendolyn Claire – ibid
Tying Knots – Ken Liu – ibid
The Reckoning of Sins – Alison Joseph – Motives For Murder, edited by Martin Edwards
The False Inspector Lovesey – Andrew Taylor – ibid
The Walrus and the Spy – Catherine Aird – ibid
Dreaming of Rain and Peter Lovesey * – Ann Cleeves – ibid
Death In Pasig * – Raoul Whitfield – West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar
Red Hemp – ibid
Signals Of Storm * – ibid
Fatal Mutation ** – Anthony Melchiorri – The Jurassic Chronicles edited by Samuel Peralta
Noble Savage – Terry Maggert – ibid
An Implant And A Hard Place * – Zen Dipietro – ibid
In the Desert Like A Bone – Seanan McGuire – The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien
Underground – Karen Tidbek – ibid
Even The Crumbs Were Delicious  – Daryl Gregory – ibid
The Super Ultra Duchess of Fedora Forest – Charlie Jane Anders – ibid
Szcar’s Trial – Harry Manners – ibid
Shall We Take A Little Walk – Gregory Benford – Worldmakers, SF Adventures In Terraforming edited by Gardner Dozois
The Catherine Wheel – Ian McDonald – ibid
Sunken Garden – Bruce Sterling – ibid
Out of Copyright * – Charles Sheffield – ibid

A few thoughts:
I read 28 stories in five days, which I think is pretty good! While reading one of the stories, “Signals of Storm”, wind and rain lashed at the windows beside my chair, while the characters were chasing a killer as a typhoon came onshore. Perfect!

Although I had high expectation for The Starlit Wood, after the first 6 of 13 stories I was disappointed, so I’m not going to continue reading it.

My favorite story of the week was “Fatal Mutation” by Anthony Melchiorri, the first story in The Jurassic Chronicles, which I downloaded as an ebook purely by chance. A solid anthology so far.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Short Story February | 28 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton

this is the 253rd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

xlbalba-murders-oldThe Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton, Berkley Prime Crime, 1997, paperback, a Lara McClintoch archaeological mystery

“The beginning of this journey was a phone call from Dr. Heran Castillo Rivas, a scholarly gentleman whose enthusiasm and knowledge of the ancient civilizations of Mexico have inspired in me a lifelong interest in that part of the world.

I’d had this and the next book in the series sitting around here for a long time. I had a vague feeling I’d read a review of it that wasn’t too positive, but I wasn’t sure and figured if I didn’t like it I could always stop and toss. However, though I had a few problems with it, I liked it pretty well.

I especially liked the main character and the setting. The book has a lot of background and information about Mayan culture which I found interesting. The writing was good, the plot was fine. The rest of the cast were adequately three dimensional.

Those problems: Lara McClintoch did some things that didn’t make sense; she put herself in jeopardy unnecessarily which I suspect was the author’s way to get past a kink in the storyline and move the story along. There were a couple of instances when she took pretty unreasonable risks. Well, she’s certainly not the first, nor will she be the last, to do that.

I figured out the identity of the “bad guy” a lot sooner than she did, and I think the clues were there for her. From that point on, for me, it was a matter of watching her figure out what I already was pretty sure of. Of course there could be a twist…

The ending was a little abrupt, but I have no qualms and in fact enjoyed the book. It’s background and characters are good enough for me to recommend it to a reader who might like an archeological mystery. I went ahead and read the next two in the series, and enjoyed them too.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 8 Comments

Short Story February gets underway

keep_calm_and_focus_on_short_storiesHere we go

February 1st is the start of Short Story February, during which I’ll be reading pretty much exclusively short stories. Starting next Monday, and continuing through the end of the month, I’ll be reporting on my short story reading, and hoping you comment on yours, here and/or on your blog, if you have one. Give us a link in your comment.

Each week I’ll pick a cover of one of the collections/anthologies from which I’ve read during the week.

note: Barbara isn’t much of a short story reader, so we’ll catch up with her reading in March.

Posted in Books & Reading, Short Story February | 19 Comments

Current Reading: Earley, Camilleri, Child

snack-thiefI finally finished Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, by Cay Van Ash. I’d had it on the shelf, intending to read it for more than a decade, perhaps even two, and now that I’ve read it, I have to say I’m disappointed. It felt overwritten, with whole scenes – even chapters – that could easily have been omitted. The character of Dr. Petrie stumbled about, dumber than the dumbest screen Watson, while Holmes seemed to pull solutions out of a hat. I’m not sorry I read it, because now I can “check it off” as it were, but I wouldn’t bother reading it again, nor can I recommend it.

I read two books by Tony Earley, Jim the Boy  and The Blue Star. These are YA books about a young boy (Jim the Boy) and then a young man (The Blue Star) growing up on a farm in North Carolina in the Twenties and Thirties and then on the eve of WWII. They were good enough to keep me reading.

Now I’m reading The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri, the 3rd in the Inspector Montalbano series. These are always enjoyable. I’ll try to finish it before Wednesday, February 1, when Short Story February begins.

make_me_-_bookcoverBarbara is reading Make Me by Lee Child, a Reacher novel. She’s enjoying it but it’s taking a while as she has been busy making a baby quilt for a neighbor.

She’s also feeling some pressure as she has a stack of books from the library crying out to be read.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

I hope you’ll be joining me in reading short stories in February. If you do, please post a comment on the Short Story February post (here) and let us know!

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 24 Comments

February: Short Month, Short Stories!

Short Story February

benefits-of-reading-short-storiesLast year I tried focusing on short stories during the month of February, and I read a lot of stories. I picked a dozen collections and anthologies and cycled from one to the other throughout the month. I didn’t finish all those books, but I had a good time reading the stories I did get to.

It worked so well, I’m doing it again this year.

Starting February 1, I’ll be reading (almost) exclusively short stories. Of course, something else may come along that demands my reading attention, but I’m going to try to spend as much of the month as possible reading short stories.

I have lots of collections and anthologies here, with stories ranging from literary through science fiction, fantasy, pulp and, of course, mystery. My Monday Current Reading posts will include lists of stories I read and the book they were in.

How about you?
I hope you’ll be joining me this “short story February”
by reading some short stories.

If you do, post them on your blog, (if you have one) and
add a comment below to let us know!

As the month gets underway, here are some of the things I’ll be dipping into:

Posted in Books & Reading, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction | 23 Comments