A truly varied mix of strange tales -- if I have to rate it, I'd go with a 3.5 or so. You can be content with what's here or click to go to my readinA truly varied mix of strange tales -- if I have to rate it, I'd go with a 3.5 or so. You can be content with what's here or click to go to my reading journal for a bit more.
I discovered this little book quite by accident. In one of my online groups we were discussing a short story by F. Marion Crawford, "The Upper Berth," and at some point the main character wonders if he was experiencing some pretty creepy stuff because he had eaten Welsh Rarebit for dinner the previous night. That wasn't the case, but it seems that there's a special sort of quality connected to Welsh Rarebit -- it is supposed to induce some crazy dreams or even hallucinations after eating it. So for some weird reason I got caught up in the strangeness of Welsh Rarebit and doing a little digging, came up with Welsh Rarebit Tales, by an incredibly obscure author named Harle Oren Cummins. As far as I can tell, this was his one and only book.
There are fifteen very short stories in this little book; the gimmicky part of the collection is discovered in the preface. The author notes that he was a member of a "certain literary club" that held meetings every now and then, where each member would read his newest work since the previous get together. The others would comment, creating "much mutual benefit" to all. At one such meeting, it seems that the members had "run short of first-class plots" so they decided to engage in an experiment, and sat down to a dinner of
"1 Large Portion Welsh Rarebit, 1 Broiled Live Lobster, 1 Piece Home Made Mince Pie, 1 Portion Cucumber Salad."
The following meeting of the club had to be postponed "on account of illness of fourteen of the members," but at the next, "the accompanying tales were related." He notes also that
"By unanimous sentence of the other fourteen members, and as a punishment for having been the originator of the scheme, mine was chosen as the unlucky name under which the Tales should appear."
Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I thought that was just the coolest buildup to a book of short stories that I've ever read. What a great way to bind all of these tales together, since in large part, they're very different. They are a mix of science fiction, horror, dark crime and all reveal something about the nature of the characters. Some are sad, some are downright pathetic and some I could take or leave, but for the most part, in combination they make for fun reading.
This one more than satisfied my craving for obscure, off-the-wall reading; it certainly won't appeal to everyone, but I'm beyond happy at having discovered it. ...more
goodreads people, you need to get your act together re book editions. Mine is NOT the kindle version, but the ISBN says it is. Arr3.7 or thereabouts;
goodreads people, you need to get your act together re book editions. Mine is NOT the kindle version, but the ISBN says it is. Arrgh.
original publication date: 1939 more about plot, etc., here .
Murder in Stained Glass is the opener of a new series of old titles all falling under the heading of "American Queens of Crime", issued by Pepik Books. Claire Theyers, the owner and director of this small press, has stated that "only quality fiction" that she's read and "truly enjoyed makes it into the series." Bravo for her -- and good for me, since like Ms. Theyers, I am constantly on the lookout for books from authors whom, as she notes, are "long forgotten about and their stories gathering dust in bookshops and charity stores."
The blurb on the back cover of this book notes that "If you like Agatha Christie then you'll love Miss Trumbull," and while this book may definitely appeal to Miss Marple fans, Miss Trumbull is a delight on her own, and certainly no elderly sleuth with a knitting bag. She is quite independent, both in terms of money and personality, and doesn't let little things like an attempt on her life or potentially dangerous situations get in her way. The novel also has one of the best twists that I must say I never saw coming -- and in this book, there are a number of potential suspects as well as a few well-placed red herrings that will keep any reader guessing. Yes, it's a bit dated but once in the mindset of the period, it became a fun, interesting and delightful read. Recommended for vintage crime readers. ...more
The Narcotic Farm is a companion book to a PBS documentary of the same name. The film itself is available on Vimeo -- I watched it yesterday and justThe Narcotic Farm is a companion book to a PBS documentary of the same name. The film itself is available on Vimeo -- I watched it yesterday and just sat here sort of spellbound the entire time. I've posted more about this book on the nonfiction page of my online reading journal if anyone is interested.
I first heard of this book while reading Sam Quinones' Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic - up to then I had absolutely no clue that this place even existed. The United States Narcotic Farm opened in 1935, just outside of Lexington, Kentucky; it was, as the book notes,
"an anomaly, an institution where male and female convicts arrested for drugs did time along with volunteers who checked themselves in for treatment."
In the 1920s, increasingly-strict drug laws and "aggressive enforcement" led to addicts being sent to prison "in droves," where they proved troublesome -- bringing drugs inside and getting non-addict prisoners hooked. The authors note that by the late 1920s, about "a third of all federal prisoners were doing time on drug charges." Social progressives of the time also took issue with the arrest of addicts, believing it to be "unjust" - so in 1929 two "government bureaucrats" lobbied for a measure that would create prisons just for convicted addicts, and by 1932, the construction of first of these institutions (the other in Ft. Worth) was underway. Its administration fell under both the US Public Health Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons - and on the day it opened the first director, Dr. Lawrence Kolb stated that addicts would not be sent to prison for what was basically "a weakness," but they would be able to receive
"the best medical treatment that science can afford in an atmosphere designed to rehabilitate them spiritually, mentally, and physically."
The book and the documentary together detail the story of Narco (as it was known by the locals) from its beginning in 1935 through its final days forty years later. Some interesting highlights of its history include a few notables who passed through its doors -- both William S. Burroughs senior and junior, as well as a host of jazz musicians including Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, and Sonny Rollins. Both Burroughs, father and son, wrote books about their time at Lexington: Senior in his Junkie, where there's an entire section about him signing himself in," and Junior with his Kentucky Ham (which I'm planning to read soon) detailing his time as a patient there.
Good book -- eye opening to say the least, especially when some very disturbing facts about the research going on there are revealed. ...more
What a fun book! Fantomas is one seriously evil genius, and his nemesis, Inspector Juve, is one determined policeman. Not only is this book fun, but iWhat a fun book! Fantomas is one seriously evil genius, and his nemesis, Inspector Juve, is one determined policeman. Not only is this book fun, but it ends in a complete cliffhanger so I had to buy book two, The Exploits of Juve (Juve contre Fantômas), just to see what happens. I have this feeling that I'll end up with the entire set of Fantômas novels if the ending of book one is any indicator.
A series of heinous crimes leads Inspector Juve of France's Criminal Investigation Division to believe that they are all the work of a single mysterious evildoer: Fantômas. Trying to catch him, though, is going to be tough. There are some people who even doubt as to whether or not there actually is a Fantômas; one magistrate tells Juve that
"Fantômas is the too obvious subterfuge, the cheapest device for investing a case with mock honours. Between you and me, you know perfectly well that Fantômas is merely a legal fiction -- a lawyers' joke. Fantômas has no existence in fact!"
But Juve thinks he knows better -- he is obsessed with finding this elusive figure and has been after him for years. Events just may prove him right, as they put him on the trail of this mysterious and sinister crime genius, but in this book, nothing is ever as it seems.
for more of a look at this novel, you can click here to get to my reading journal's crime page; otherwise, I'll just say that I'll most definitely recommend the book to people who are into old classics or into fun sort of pulpy mysteries or to those who want something very much off the beaten path. This book (if you'll forgive the trite phrase) held me spellbound the entire time I was reading it -- and I can't think of a better recommendation for a couple of days' worth of sheer reading enjoyment. ...more