Fantastic and fascinating book that is an absolute must-have for anyone with interest in the Golden Age of mysteries, crime, and detection. The GoldenFantastic and fascinating book that is an absolute must-have for anyone with interest in the Golden Age of mysteries, crime, and detection. The Golden Age is one of my favorite periods for detective novels and it was an absolute delight to get an inside view of the Detection Club. It is just a real shame that the Club did not have an Archivist before Martin Edwards and that the Minute Book and other materials from the time of the Club's inception through the Blitz have disappeared. What a treasure trove of information that would have been. Edwards gives us a detailed look at the original members of the Club--tracing their careers and investigating certain mysterious circumstances in their lives. And even though many of the authors' mysteries were already familiar to me (as a long-time reader of Golden Age crime fiction), Edwards managed to discover new and interesting tidbits about even the most well-known of the Golden Age writers. Pacing is just a tad slow in places and there a tendency to revisit some of the key events (Christie's disappearance and Sayers' secret shame, for instance), but overall a definite winner that all mystery lovers need to have on their reference shelf. ★★★★ and a half.
Glenn Ford was a under-appreciated actor with a career spanning over 50 years. He starred in such classic films as Blackboard Jungle, 3:10 to Yuma, GiGlenn Ford was a under-appreciated actor with a career spanning over 50 years. He starred in such classic films as Blackboard Jungle, 3:10 to Yuma, Gilda, and the Rounders. His rugged good looks and tough, straight acting made many a western film what it was. In 1958, he was rated number one at the box office by the Quigley Publishing Company's Poll of Film Exhibitors and was consistently ranked highly from 1955-1962. And yet this actor who seemed to always have a project going throughout his acting career never collected an Oscar, never was recognized for a Life-Time Achievement Award, and was never even recognized by his native Canada because, in the words of his son Peter, "The people in charge [of the Toronto Hall of Fame where native Canadians are honored] said they had never heard of him."
In his acting career, Ford was a quiet, dedicated actor who made the most of his roles--even in films that are now long-forgotten. His fellow actors remember him as a colleague who would always help them orient themselves in a scene or with a character, or, for those just starting in the business, within the business itself. He was a man driven to act and, perhaps, continued acting long after most celebrities would have rested on their laurels. Despite the lack of recognition from award-granting entities, he had a large body of fine work upon which to rest.
The face that Ford's public and co-stars saw, wasn't always the same as the private one. Glenn Ford: Life is a very honest and open biography by Ford's son Peter. It presents the many sides of Ford from humble beginnings through his rise to celebrity, from fairly inept father to yearning, but unfaithful husband to non-stop ladies' man and romantic adventurer. Using exclusive interviews with family, friends, and colleagues as well as pieces from the family collection of diaries, letters, audiotapes and photos, Peter Ford presents his father as the great and flawed human being that he was. The result is a biography that gives the reader all the glitz and glamor of Hollywood with a balance of hard-hitting truth.
If I've got my show biz/standup comedy terminology down, then the title of this book ought to start I Died instead of I Killed: True Stories of the RoIf I've got my show biz/standup comedy terminology down, then the title of this book ought to start I Died instead of I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics. Because this thing died on stage. And apparently lay there for a week or two before anybody noticed. Definitely no belly laughs here, maybe a brief flicker of a smile or two. Maybe. But overall this is not a funny book. I refuse to tag it as humor on Goodreads. It would seem that Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff, our comic hosts for this little tour, think that four letter words and sex with waitresses, strippers, and whoever else might have been available to lonely comics on the road (and the four letter word for sex) are the funniest things their fellow comedians could tell us and a close runner up is how ineptly and/or forcefully said comedians dealt with hecklers and horrendous gigs.
I chose this book primarily because it helped me with Clue #3 in my Super Book Password Challenge. But I also sincerely thought I would enjoy it. With promises of stories from the likes of Jay Leno, Mike Myers, Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Tim Allen, Joan Rivers, and others, I expected better...and funnier. I was sorely disappointed. Not recommended. ★ is, I think, generous and I only give it one star in honor of the few funny bits--nearly all of which were by or in reference to older comedians (Bob Hope, Red Buttons, Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters....).
Although the edition I found at my local library's used bookstore is out of date, it was interesting to read through and see the variety of bookshopsAlthough the edition I found at my local library's used bookstore is out of date, it was interesting to read through and see the variety of bookshops available in London in 1999. It also makes me sad to know how many of these shops are no longer in business. I only hope that when I finally manage to make a trip to England the rest will still be going strong. I'll have to get the most up-to-date guidebook then....more
The Films of Sherlock Holmes (1978) by Chris Steinbrunner and Norman Michaels is an interesting look at the Great Detective in film from the earliestThe Films of Sherlock Holmes (1978) by Chris Steinbrunner and Norman Michaels is an interesting look at the Great Detective in film from the earliest days of silent movies--with the detective's first onscreen adventure lasting only a few minutes--through Nicholas Meyers' The Seven Percent Solution. There are lots of black and white pictures--a surprising amount from the early years considering how few of those films have survived--and the synopses of the movies are detailed. Some might say too much so because the endings are revealed. Fortunately, I have seen nearly all of the Holmes films that are available so not many were spoiled for me. It was great fun to read through this and remind myself of all the Holmes films I have watched over the years...and if I weren't trying to beat the 2014 time clock to squeeze in enough books to "outdo" my number read in 2013 I would be tempted to watch a few of these.
Contrary to expectations from the title, this is not a how-to book on the disposal of all those extra, annoying, moneyed people (w 3.5 stars, actually
Contrary to expectations from the title, this is not a how-to book on the disposal of all those extra, annoying, moneyed people (who have willed you their goodies) in your life. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder & the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum is a detailed examination of the development of forensic science and the growing importance of the chief medical examiner in the early twentieth century. Until Charles Norris took over the position, corruption ran rampant in the coroner's offices--obvious violent deaths were often written up as "heart failure" or "natural causes" or even multiple choice causes of death such as death due to "either assault or diabetes" or "diabetes, tuberculosis or nervous indigestion." Norris, with the help of toxicologist Alexander Gettler, set about cleaning up New York's forensic examination system as well as making trailblazing discoveries in within the science itself--from the development of a new scale to determine alcoholic intoxication (based on brain saturation) to more and more precise tests for various poisons in the body. Gettler very often had to create a test where none existed before.
The basic premise is a very interesting one. The book is divided up into chapters based on various poisons with each poison characterized through a newsworthy event featuring the potent substance. Not limited to murders--though there are plenty of those here--we also have the systemic poisoning of the drinking crowd of the Roaring Twenties (and 30s) by none other than the government Prohibition enforcers. Prohibition did nothing to make "moral" men and women out of persistent tipplers. Those who craved the buzz of alcohol were willing to drink absolutely anything--no matter what toxic substance the regulators insisted be added to any liquid containing alcohol. Bootleggers made their money out of people who were quite literally dying for drinks. Also included is the famous case of the "Radium Girls"--women who earned their living painting watch dials with luminous paint containing radium. Women who began dying because they sharpened the points of their brushes with their tongues.
The stories of murder and other deaths by poison were intriguing. My main complaint about the book is that there are only so many times I needed to be told how Gettler ran his tests. Once you've read about how he gathered up all the major organs in the body, pulverized bits of them in various substances, and distilled the resulting ooze in order to measure the amount of thallium, arsenic, cyanide, [insert your favorite poison here], you really don't need to be told the process again. Honest, I'm not the most scientific person in the world, but I got it the first time. It would have been far more interesting to have had greater detail on each of the cases and about the relationship between Norris and Gettler...and they with with their forensic team than to have spent so much of the book on chemistry lectures. At ★★★ and a half, it is still a fascinating book. It revealed a lot of details about the effects of Prohibition that I had not previously heard.
American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White The Birth of the 'It' Girl, and the 'Crime of the Century' by Paula Uruburu (2008) tells the story of [FloAmerican Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White The Birth of the 'It' Girl, and the 'Crime of the Century' by Paula Uruburu (2008) tells the story of [Florence] Evelyn Nesbit who was a beautiful, popluar chorus girl, artist's model, and budding actress at turn of the century (19th to 20th) whose long-term liaison with renowned architect Stanford White led to her identification as "The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing" as well as her involvement in one of the early 20th Century's most notorious murder trials. She rose from humble beginnings in Philadelphia to a model whose face and figure were used in newspaper and magazine advertisements, on postcards and calendars. Her celebrity hit before she was 18 years old. Once she started in the chorus, she found herself the object of many men's fantasies and the recipient of the attentions of "Stage Door Johnnies." Among her admirers were several millionaires, but she ignored them until Stanford White came along. He showered presents on her and her family and introduced her to a side life she only dreamed of. Then he seduced her. But his support--both financially and in the theatre world continued and she kept in touch with him.
When Harry Kendall Thaw, son of the very wealthy Thaw family of Philadelphia family, became interested in Evelyn, she had no idea that he had another agenda in mind other than making her his own through marriage. He had heard of White's association with her and he hated White with a passion. Thaw had no compunction about using the beautiful young woman to wreak havoc on the evil man he believed White to be. He married Evelyn in April of 1905 and just over a year later he took her to the Madison Square Garden rooftop theatre--the playground of her former lover--and shot White to death. White thought he was a hero for revenging his wife's innocence. Given his treatment of her and his behavior leading up to the murder, I'd say he was a bit crazy.
************* I have to say that I was disappointed in this. When I was looking for a true crime novel to read to fulfill a couple of challenges, the name Stanford White caught my eye. In 2012, I read a book of White's letters to his family and my comment at the end of that review was that "I think I would have been far more intrigued by one of the books which covered this high-profile murder than I was by the collection of letters." And here one of those books is. And I remain fairly un-intrigued. For all the billing on the cover about the "Crime of the Century"--less than one-third of the book is devoted to writing about the crime, trial, and aftermath (very brief info on the aftermath) combined. The rest of the book takes a very long and rambling (particularly for a non-fiction book) trip through Evelyn's early life and journey to become Thaw's wife. Uruburu is repetitive in descriptions and, most noticeably in the first half, given to writing sentences in which it sounds like she's producing the most adjectives with the most of syllables possible. Throwing $10 words around as my relatives used to say. All to no purpose.
She gives us a fair overview of the time period and attempts to represent Evelyn as a young woman misrepresented by history. But she never made Evelyn a real person to me and she never made me really care about her story. I was horrified by what she went through--but horrified on principal and because the events were, indeed, horrifying. Not because I made any real connection with Evelyn Nesbit as a person. ★★
I have often enjoyed programs offered up by Mystery! over the years--everything from Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes to David Suchet's Poirot; from JoaI have often enjoyed programs offered up by Mystery! over the years--everything from Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes to David Suchet's Poirot; from Joan Hickson's Miss Marple to Francesca Annis's Tuppence Beresford. So, when I saw a near-perfect edition of Mystery! A Celebration: Stalking Public Television's Greatest Sleuths* sitting on the shelf at our Friends of the Library Bookstore last October, I had to make it my very own. It would be worth it for the illustrations by Edward Gorey if nothing else, but Ron Miller does a fine job highlighting the various programs and mixing it up with interviews with authors and actors who have given us some of the world's finest detectives and mysteries. It was great fun to look at pictures from behind the scenes and learn about the factual crimes behind several of the featured programs. I felt nostalgic as I was reminded of programs that I hadn't seen for quite a long time. My only quibble--keeping the book at a ★★★★ rating rather than five--is that there are several prime actors who are still living (Patrick Malahide as Inspector Alleyn, for example) who seem to receive rather short shrift. It's not clear if those not interviewed were passed over or if they just weren't available. Okay, so Miller probably couldn't interview absolutely everyone...but it would have been nice.
Overall, a great read and it was especially nice to finish it while snuggled up in a blanket--home sick with whatever nastiness is going round. Reading for healing....that's my motto.
Depressed and pushing thirty with a biological clock ticking away and a "syndrome" (if ever explained, I missed it) that might prevent having babies,Depressed and pushing thirty with a biological clock ticking away and a "syndrome" (if ever explained, I missed it) that might prevent having babies, Julie Powell is dissatisfied with life and her dead-end secretarial job and decides that cooking, over the course of one year, every single one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it will make her life complete. It nearly drives her and her husband and her friends and family crazy...at least before she somehow, magically, becomes famous for her frantic French cooking and suddenly has reporters and news shows begging to interview her, offers to make her blog into a book, and a movie deal following the book.
So....I read this little "gem" for the Summer Semi-Challenged reading challenge [read a book by a blogger]. I can remember watching Julia Child's cooking show The French Chef occasionally back in the 70s and thought this one might be my best bet of the blogger books that came up on a search. Sidenote: If I hadn't already read the latest India Black book by Carol K. Carr, I totally would have read that instead....and enjoyed myself a heck of lot more. Because you see, I have a love/hate relationship with Powell's book. I loved it enough that I gleaned some nifty quotes from it. But I hated how she treats her very supportive husband about 90% of the time. I hated her whiny, poor-me-I'm a lowly secretary complaints. And, quite frankly, after the descriptions of her kitchen, I wouldn't want to eat a single dish that she prepared--I don't care if it tasted like heaven on earth. Hordes of flies? Maggots in the sink? Cat hair stuck everywhere? Dead mice for your python? Seriously?
I was expecting some serious--but seriously funny as well--descriptions of the food. Because that's what this is about, yes? Cooking the hundreds of recipes. But, honestly, there's very little time spent on the food--what it tasted it like, how it looked when prepared, preparation in general. Long, in-depth description about killing lobsters. Big, emotional melt-downs when things aren't going perfectly. A bit of time spent on eggs (because she hated them before). Very little in-depth about the whole cooking like Julia experience. LOTS of complaining about working as a secretary and how delightful it was when she played hooky. Makes a major big deal over the hunt for a marrow bone. Lots of detail about discovery her dad's Joy of Sex book and how she somehow transferred that experience into thinking how sexual the whole food experience was. In fact--I come away from this book believing that Julie thinks WAY more about sex than about food. She's constantly telling us who her friend's latest "boy" is and how amazing (or not) the friend's sexual encounters are. She envies her friends who are footloose and fancy free. She even envies the one who got divorced and took up with the British punk rocker. She fantasizes about cheating on her long-suffering, devoted husband while telling us how common it is to cheat on one's spouse/partner/whatever. And, of course, her favorite word in the universe is the f-bomb. Because sex.
The longer I think about this review and the more I write the more I realize I didn't enjoy this book even as much as I thought I did. I enjoyed small doses of her sarcastic wit and I enjoyed the brief vignettes with Julia, so I was prepared to round up to three stars....but actually, I'm sticking a ★★ fork in it and calling it done. Two stars for the concept and all the quotes I've grabbed along the way.
In The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw brings to life the stories of a generation of people who taught America what courage really is--from the front-In The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw brings to life the stories of a generation of people who taught America what courage really is--from the front-line heroes and heroines to the workers and loved ones at home. Each teaching us about sacrifice, honor, and bravery in their own way. Brokaw brings us profiles of the ordinary men and women who answered their nation's call and who returned home to continue their quiet lives with dignity and a sense of community spirit. He also highlights the lives of more prominent veterans whose service to their country didn't end when the war was over--men and women who served in high levels of government and the armed forces even after the peace treaties were signed.
The stories are poignant and and touching--revealing the depths of sacrifice behind each profile. They are stories of loss and love, friendship and valor. They touch on the challenges that the women who served (or worked at home in place of the absent men) faced when the war was over. The difficulties in being forced to return to pre-war expectations. They also highlight the discrimination that all Americans of color faced even as they volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country.
This is a very moving account that brought tears to my eyes at times and made me proud of the generation who came together for a common cause in the name freedom. How very different our world might be if the men and women of the 30s and 40s had been less dedicated, less resolute in their determination to serve their country (and the Allies) in a time of great need. My only quibble with the book is that it seems so very formulaic--introduce the hero/heroine, give a brief history pre-war, give another brief synopsis of their war-time assignment, and then tell what productive lives they had afterward. A bit more personal attention and a feeling of story-telling, rather than rote recital would bring this up to five stars....as it is: four stars.
Ships of the Line by Doug Drexler and Margaret Clark (eds) with Michael Okuda providing text is a gorgeous book of Star Trek artwork. It features beauShips of the Line by Doug Drexler and Margaret Clark (eds) with Michael Okuda providing text is a gorgeous book of Star Trek artwork. It features beautifully drawn images from the Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendars and was put together as part of the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek. The artists have taken various ships from all points of the ST universe (through 2006) and rendered them in scenes from both the series or movie from which they came as well as from their own imaginations. The result is a delight for Trek fans.
The book was a serendipitous find for me...just sitting there on the featured books shelf of our Friends of the Library bookstore waiting for me to bring it home. As any good Trek fan would, I did. And promptly sat down the same day (May 1) and read it straight through. And somehow forgot to write up a review--so here it is, better late than never. Highly enjoyable--I spent a delightful evening flipping through the pages and reading the descriptions of each piece. Now I'll be passing it on to my son.