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THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

17 Oct
Originally published in hardcover by Crown Publishers 2003 First Vintage Books Edition/a Division of Random House, Inc. 2004 Non fiction soft cover - 424 pages including Notes and Sources

Originally published in hardcover by Crown Publishers 2003
First Vintage Books Edition/a Division of Random House, Inc. 2004
Non fiction soft cover – 424 pages including Notes and Sources

This is the true story of Herman Webster Mudgett aka Dr. Henry H. Holmes, the first documented serial killer in the U.S.; and Daniel H. Burnham, architect of the great World’s Fair of 1893 Chicago. Foremost, this is the true story of the madness that cloaked them both.

Real people, real places, real photographs, and very real events written in novel form.

“….. However strange or macabre some of the following incidents may seem, this is not a work of fiction. Anything between quotation marks comes from a letter, memoir, or other written document.” ….. “I beg forbearance, too, for the occasional side journey demanded by the story, including excursions into the medical acquisition of corpses and the correct use of Black Prince geraniums in an Olmstedian landscape.”*

‘Black Prince geraniums in an Olmstedian landscape’ – this is where Mr. Larson caught my attention.

We first meet Daniel Hudson Burnham in April of 1912. We are aboard the R.M.S. Olympic of the White Star Line.** This is where the story ends. Then we go back into the mid to late 1800s where Dr. Holmes is living a quiet unassuming life. This is where the story begins. This is a book mostly about these two men, yet all about one narrative. This is a book about two separate events having taken place in Chicago, Illinois during the same years. One story is about an architect and the making of the World’s Fair; the other, a mild mannered sociopath and the women he kills. These two stories, woven together, create one time-line. These separate accounts in history do not intersect. Ever.

This is a good book if you like reading about historical events and real people. Whilst this is a book with two stories, they are not separated one from the other. Both stories are told concurrently. You’ll have to know how to compartmentalize your thoughts if you want to enjoy this one.

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*Taken, in-part, from page xi [of this book]
Evils Imminent (A Note)
Erik Larson
Seattle

**for those of you who are historians, the significance of this time and place will not have escaped you.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON

3 Sep
IMG_3129 (2)

Penguin Group 1987 soft cover 621 pages including Afterword – non fiction politics and the AIDS epidemic

For the past month or so, I’ve seemingly been in a delirium with regard to reading anything other than that of a spiritual nature. Interesting how we tend to gravitate toward the sacrosanct when life doubles you over with a sucker-punch. Anyway, in looking through my up-stairs’ personal library for something to read other than that of a soul searching kind, I’ve come across many non-fiction books (didn’t realize how many I had until I started assimilating through the masses). These are my scavengers: the strays without a home who have somehow found a way to congregate amongst their own kind. So, having prefaced with this anomaly, I now continue onward with one of the non fiction books I’ve been reading when I haven‘t been immersed in the study of religious theories.

And the Band Played On is the true story about how the Aids (Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic began and how it was swept under the rug by government bureaucracy for years. This is a true story about my generation. We, who lived through it, and we who didn’t.

During the late 1970s, as I recall, while I was still in California, the baby boomer generation was just beginning its transition into a new decade as a hushed plague was making itself comfortable. Something out there was killing us – singeing and torching lives before anyone noticed and certainly before anyone wanted to notice. The hub of the matter, in California, was in San Francisco, not far from the maddening crowd, as they say.

Randy Shilts (1951-1994) was the first openly gay journalist to work for a mainstream newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. The book, as it turned out, was to be his own uncanny prophecy. On the day he gave his manuscript for publication (1987), he also learned that he had tested positive for HIV, which later turned into full blown AIDS.

The story chronicles some of the individuals who were ill at the time, and the scientific community who were trying to put a face on a serial killer. Obviously, since its publication, more light has been shed on this disease, but at that time, the yawn of indifference spoke volumes. No one cared. This was, at the time, not a mainstream concern.

All that changed in 1985 when the spotlight shinned so bright that the executioner could no longer hide. This is the story of the inception of a lethal dose of a reality being swept under the rug. Not only by the politics of the time, but by the scientific community as well. This book is a tour de force piece of journalistic writing. It gets down and dirty. It name’s names and makes no excuses for it.

Yes, I know. You already know all about it. Do you? Do you really?

WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE

10 Aug
Papier-Mache Press 1991 Soft cover 181 pages Anthology on aging

Papier-Mache Press 1991
Soft cover 181 pages
Anthology on aging

This book takes it’s cue from the poem written by Jenny Joseph:

Warning

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter……” (in-part)

Warning is the first poem in this anthology of essays, photographs and poems, and was the inspiration for my own poem posted here.

When I am an Old Woman is a compilation of sentiments regarding midlife and beyond. A varied semblance of authors and photographers sewn together by it’s Editor, Sandra Martz.

Ruby at the Fair photographer Lyn Cowan

Ruby at the Fair
photographer Lyn Cowan

One of my favored poems in this book, is –

The Thugs
written by Mura Dehn

“The years don’t serve their time,
they’re runaways, they bump each other off
sun up, sun down.

Time, master mugger,
snatched this century
out of my hands
and fled.”

Two Grandmas photographer Therese Becker

Two Grandmas
photographer Therese Becker

IMG_3039

Photo by Rod Bradley

This is the type of book that comes back to visit like an old friend you haven’t heard from in years. The kind where not a beat is skipped in the conversations and laughter between you as you see each other again. As though time had stood still.

The photographs depict women in their aging years, and the words overflow with a passion that not everyone can relate to. Except, of course, if your youth has been spent. To those of you who still own the young years of your life, take heed to appreciate that you too carry your book inside until it’s time to let it go.

Ruth Harriet Jacobs said it best in her poem:

Becoming Sixty

“….. A book flowed from my life
to those who needed it
and love flowed back to me…..” (in-part)

Stunning photographs; Passion; and a road shared by all of us. Sooner or later.

GUYS LIKE ME

3 Aug
Librairie Artheme Fayard 2007  First published in French as Les Types Comme moi New Vessel Press 2015 French to American translation by Howard Curtis Soft cover novella fiction 144 pages

Librairie Artheme Fayard 2007
First published in French as Les Types Comme moi
New Vessel Press 2015 French to American translation by Howard Curtis
Soft cover novella fiction 144 pages

You ever read a book and turn the last page knowing absolutely nothing about what you just read, yet, the entire time you were reading you just couldn’t stop?

This is the story about a working class guy with whom we are never introduced. He is our nameless first person voice. This is a quiet story about three middle-aged friends who live in a suburb just outside Paris, and find that they are ‘similarly adrift’. This is a story about any one of us –

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The melody from Fabre’s writing emanates off every page. A soothing melody that finds itself in seamless alliance with the three characters who want nothing more than something else. A flawless subdued tone that keeps the reader engaged.

La Quinzaine Litteraire says Dominique Fabre is “An author who lays bare the essence of Paris.” I say, Dominique Fabre is “An author who lays bare the essence of ….. [humanity].”

OPEN HOUSE

29 Jul
 McGraw-Hill Book Company 1985 Hardcover (Book Club Edition) 181 pages Psychological Murder Mystery/fiction


McGraw-Hill Book Company 1985
Hardcover (Book Club Edition) 181 pages
Psychological Mystery/fiction

This is a book I read about a month ago, and it’s been hanging around, I suppose, to garner some attention before retiring to its proper shelf. This was an okay story. One of those that can be read through without having to think too much. Light entertainment even though the story-line is dark. Keep in mind that this crime drama is set in the 1980s so putting aside your 2015 attitude is essential for your reading pleasure.

A rash of murders with no traceable clues; a detective assigned to find the murderer whom, it appears, all the victims knew; and a young woman who begins receiving anonymous gifts in the mail …

This page turner, even though the reader sees early-on what the author is up to, is suspenseful at every turn. The story unfolds through the voices of the three main characters: the killer; the detective; and the young woman who has caught the killer’s attention.

Enjoyable thriller.

A DOG’S RANSOM

20 Jul
Alfred A Knopf 1972 First American Edition Hard cover 275 pages/deckle edged  Thriller suspense fiction

Alfred A Knopf 1972
First American Edition
Hard cover 275 pages/deckle edged
Thriller suspense fiction

A Dog’s Ransom is written by the same woman who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley. So yes, I was a bit intrigued whence otherwise I would not have been.

“A dog disappears.
A ransom is demanded.
The well-meaning, middle-aged New York couple-childless, generous-pay up. And pay again.
The kidnapper-angry, perhaps psychotic- tricks them.
The decent young policeman, obsessed with the case, falls deeper and deeper into involvement with the criminal, and with his victims.
A “minor” crime inexorably grows into an agonizing and violent tragedy.” -book jacket

This is not your typical crime fiction. What appears to be a ‘simple’ misdemeanor dog-napping turns into a psychological suspense thriller with a side of slow-burn.

Great crisp character studies that just jump off the pages, and a thread of a story that has a life of it’s own. You won’t be able to stop reading.

THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIR WHO GOT TRAPPED IN AN IKEA WARDROBE

22 Jun
A Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf 2015 Originally published as L’Etraordinaire Voyage du Fakir Qui Etait Reste Coince dans une Armoire IKEA - by Le Dilettante, Paris 2013  Translated from French by Sam Taylor - First Edition 302 pages Fiction - romantic comedy

A Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf 2015
Originally published as L’Etraordinaire Voyage du Fakir Qui Etait Reste Coince dans une Armoire IKEA – by Le Dilettante, Paris 2013
Translated from French by Sam Taylor – First Edition 302 pages
Fiction – romantic comedy

Here’s another French author I’m going to enjoy reading. Romain Puertolas effortlessly plucks us out of our own lives and slips us into the life of Ajatashatru Oghash “(pronounced A-jar-of-rat-stew-oh-gosh!)” or “( ….. A-cat-in-a-bat-suit)” or “( ….. A-jackal-that-ate-you)”, among other such illustrious pronunciations, depending on what situation the Fakir may find himself in at the moment.

With quirky humor, we set off with a professional con-artist from India, who has only one thing on his mind, get to the Ikea in Paris, purchase a Bed of Nails, then exit the country as quickly and quietly as possible.

Ah, if things were only that simple.

Armed with a fake 100 Euro-note in his pocket, the Fakir catches a Taxi outside Charles de Gaulle Airport, and instructs the driver to take him to Ikea. When they arrive, the Fakir gives the driver his fake 100 Euro note, distracts him long enough to take back the note, then exits the taxi. The Fakir, after all, is a master of deception. By the time the driver realizes he’s been stiffed, the Fakir is already long gone.

While the driver plots his murderous revenge, Aja orders his Ikea bed but must wait ‘til morning to take possession. So, with no real money in hand for a hotel room, Aja decides to ‘hide-out’ inside the Ikea over night. He’ll just sleep under one of the beds, he reasons, and come morning he’ll pick-up his bed and leave. But things don’t always work out as planned, and the Fakir finds himself hiding inside one of the wardrobes to avoid a couple of Ikea employees who arrive, after hours, to crate the wardrobe for shipping.

A jolly jaunt of a journey with delightful likeable characters.

Most entertaining.

QUEEN OF THE TRAILER PARK

16 Jun
First published in French as - Un palace en enfer - via Kindle Direct Publishing Platform 2013 Translated from French by Alexandra Maldwyn-Davies Soft cover published by AmazonCrossing 2015 334 pages Mystery Fiction

First published in French as – Un palace en enfer – via Kindle Direct Publishing Platform 2013
Translated from French by Alexandra Maldwyn-Davies
Soft cover published by AmazonCrossing 2015
334 pages – Mystery Fiction

Rosie Maldonne is an unemployed part-time, when-she-feels-like-it waitress who lives with three children and a cat in a run-down one bedroom trailer. She has no money. No money, that is, until she finds an envelope with cash in it. Lots of cash just hangin’ out in a trash bin behind a fast-food joint.

This is the first time I’ve read Alice Quinn so I didn’t know what to expect. I was drawn-in by the cover, and the blurb was kind of intriguing, ’how bad could it be?’ I thought. Well, let me tell you, this book is a roaring good time. A light fare set before me with nothing better to do than to entertain. And entertain it does. Rosie is an outspoken character who only wants what we all want in life, love and happiness. But things just keep tripping her up – like that stash of cash and a cop just a little too good to be true.

If you get on this ride, be sure to tell Rosie, the Wordman said, hey!

SKYWRITING BY WORD OF MOUTH

12 Jun
Harper & Row 1986 First Edition 200 pages including Afterword by Yoko Ono  Surreal humor -Autobiography

Harper & Row 1986
First Edition 200 pages including Afterword by Yoko Ono
Surreal humor – Autobiography

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past, oh 50 or so years, John Winston Ono Lennon (1940-1980) was the singer, song-writer who founded the band, the Beatles, and then, after he met Yoko, ended it. “I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.”

After Lennon’s assassination the manuscript for this third installment of the “other writings” trilogy was stolen, then later recovered and published in 1986 posthumously by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono. The other two members of this trilogy are: John Lennon In His Own Write; and A Spaniard in the Works.

This writing, Skywriting By Word of Mouth includes The Ballad of John and Yoko, and in my opinion, the only reason anyone would even want to read this book (MY opinion). John Lennon’s voice is there and the genius who wrote the words behind the songs jump off the page.

The ballad talks about the infamous Bed-In; Lennon’s brush with American law; falling in love with Yoko; divorcing the Beatles; and Lennon’s mysterious withdrawal from public life. The prevailing theme is that of Lennon’s silent years off the grid. “The reality behind the mystery is simply that we are doing what we want to do. Period.” Lennon was in love with Ono, and nothing else mattered. Nothing.

The gobbledygook that is Skywriting is a compilation of words. Some don’t even make sense. And it’s not like I can tell you what Skywriting is about because I don’t even think Lennon knew.

“Words are flowing out like endless rainbow mixed grilling baron von oil field marshall tucker band wagon-ner rear end zone what you reap van winkle of an eyelid of grass blowers convention centre forward march hair raising the flag of truce is stranger than friction of a second helping.” page 114 “Be were wolf of limitations,” or … “The spirit of boogie be upon you”

And so it goes.

The pages of paragraphs that have no connection to one another – just the ramblings of what appear to be someone high on something, obviously meant something to Lennon. I don’t know. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m the one who‘s high.

If you want to get to the truth, however, The Ballad of John and Yoko will get you there.

JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL; & ILLUSIONS

8 Jun

I first read Jonathan during the summer of 1970 when he had just begun his quest for perfection. Jonathan, you see, is a Seagull, and he doesn’t like what’s going on in his flock. He wants to fly high and circle the clouds and dive-bomb and, and ….. Well, needless to say, the others are having none of it. They are perfectly content to just fly down, pluck a fish or two from the ocean, and then just perch all day long in the glorious sun light. But not Jonathan. Jonathan the rebel wants to soar!

Before you start wondering, no, this is not a children’s book nor is it a self-help mantra. Quite simply, this is the story about a Seagull and the power of choice.

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” *

I was young when I first met Jonathan so, of course, a book about a Seagull was hardly going to be of any consequence. But they, you know the ones, kept badgering me to read it. I did so reluctantly, as a mere diversion, mind you – I didn’t get it.

Throughout the years, however, I began to remember things about Jonathan – so, the other day when I was rummaging through some of the overflow books I keep in the attic, I came across two of Bach’s books, which I promptly set on my night-table in anticipation of a re-read. Very glad I did.

* Jonathan Livingston Seagull via the voice of Richard Bach

Jonathan Scribner Book Company 1970 Hardcover 112 pages Spiritual (fantasy) adventure ~~~ Illusions Dell Publishing Co., Inc. 1977 Hardcover edition-Delacorte Press/Eleanor Friede 1978 -144 pages Mystical adventure

Jonathan
Scribner Book Company 1970
Hardcover 112 pages
Spiritual (fantasy) adventure
~~~
Illusions
Dell Publishing Co., Inc. 1977
Hardcover edition-Delacorte Press/Eleanor Friede 1978 -144 pages
Mystical adventure

One day, long after Jonathan, and during one of my solo flights, I met ‘the Master’. The one ‘ … with power over the illusions of the world..’

“….. we magnetize into our lives whatever we hold in our thought …..” **

This book is about ‘…a Master come to the earth, born in the holy land of Indiana, raised in the mystical hills east of Fort Wayne.’ ***

A stunningly visual portal into what it would be like to live today, on Earth, alongside the King of Kings, the Messiah. Of course He would have to be one of us.

This book skirts along the edge of non-fiction as the main character is our narrator and author, Richard Bach. “In the cloud-washed airspace between the cornfields of Illinois and blue infinity, a man puts his faith in the propeller of his biplane. For disillusioned writer and itinerant barnstormer Richard Bach, belief is as real as a full tank of gas and sparks firing in the cylinders…until he meets Donald Shimoda, former mechanic and self described Messiah …..” overview from Barnes and Noble

If you are a first timer to Mr. Richard Bach the man who, by his own admission, does not enjoy writing – wow, are you in for a treat!

Suspend your disbelief.
Let your Freak Flag fly!

And on that note, I’m off to see what kind of mischief I can get myself into today!

** the voice of Richard Bach via Illusions

*** first page/first (Journal) paragraph
Illusions The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

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