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Bookends: Little Books about Feelings March 17, 2018

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Bookends: Little Books about Feelings

By Dan Davidson

October 18, 2017

– 676 words –

 

Snow Friends 

Snow Friends

Story by M. Christina Butler

 

Illustrations by Tina Macnaughton

Skyhorse Publishing

18 pages

$9.99

 

As the first snow comes down to stay, it seems an appropriate time for this little board book.

Little Bear wakes up to find the world has been blanketed in snow. He plays in it for a while, doing all sorts of fun things you can do my yourself, but then he gets lonely, so he decides to make himself a friend, a snowman.

While he is making his snowman, he is joined by a young Otter and a Rabbit. Together they make the “best snowman ever” and then they spend the rest of the day playing together.

As evening comes on, they suddenly realize that once they go home their snowman will be all alone, so they make him a smaller snowman to be his friend.

They watch as the two snowmen turn silver in the moonlight and decide that it’s a good thing to have friends.

 

This is a clever little story with friendly feeling illustrations.

 

I Am (Not) Scared

I Am (Not) Scared

Story by Anna King

Illustrations by Christopher Weyant

Two Lions

32 pages

$17.99

I’m not quite sure what the two fuzzy looking critters in this book are. One is small and purple; the other is large and orange. The question that puzzles them both is whether or not they are scared. Just why they might be becomes clearer as you turn the pages. They are trying to decide if they will ride the Loop of Doom at the fair.

The topic of scaredness leads them to a discussion of things that are probably scarier than the rollercoaster: snakes, hairy spiders, hot lava, fried ants and green aliens. Just then, the roller coaster comes to a stop with a frazzled looking snake in one of the cars.

“Let’s be scared together,” says the orange critter, and so all three of them ride the loop, are well and truly scared, but come through it safely and decide to do it again.

They must have better inner ear balance and stronger stomachs than I have. I haven’t been on any rides like than since my kids were young, and don’t have any plans to. Still, the book is fun, and you can see why things might work out that way.

The creators of this book are a husband and wife team. There have been two other (Not) books with the same characters, and the first one received the Theodore Seuss Geisel Award.

 

Lucy Loves Sherman

Lucy Loves Sherman

Written by Catherine Bailey

Illustrated by Meg Waters

Sky Pony Press

32 pages

$16.99

Lucy and her Nana are visiting Flotsam’s Fish Market when Lucy met Sherman the Lobster, waiting to be sold in the big tank. Lucy falls in love immediately and begs Nana to buy him as a pet. Nothing doing, Nana says, no way.

It’s a little bit later when Lucy finds out that Sherman is destined to become a lobster dinner at a local restaurant. She is horrified and starts a one girl campaign to save his life. After all Sherman was an eighty year old specimen, weighing in at 18 pounds.

Her campaign becomes front page news and people flock to the store to see the famous lobster, which actually works out so well for Mr. Flotsam’s business that he gives in and lets Lucy take the lobster home.

She has a still better idea, and sets Sherman free in the ocean.

Apparently this story was inspired by some real life lobster rescue operation along the Atlantic coast of the USA. The book ends with a page of lobster facts, except for one rather crucial one.

.Sherman is depicted throughout the book as being red, which we all know is what happens to green, orange, blue, grey or yellow lobsters after they have been cooked. Apparently live red lobsters are one in thirty million. Maybe that was another reason Sherman was special, but the book doesn’t say that.

 

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Bookends: A trio of animal stories about good habits March 17, 2018

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Bookends: A trio of animal stories about good habits

By Dan Davidson

October 11, 2017

– 670 words –

                                                      

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite

Mr. Fuzzbuster

Story by Stacy McAnulty

Illustrations by Edward Hemingway

Two Lions

38 pages

$17.99

 

Mr. Fuzzbuster, the cat, was quite sure he was Lily’s favorite. She had told him so many times and “they’d been together since he fit in a teacup and she

 

fit in diapers.” They did many things together and their life together was perfect – until, with the passage of time, four more pets joined the household.

Now, Mr. Fuzzbuster had to share her with a goldfish, a bird, and a lizard, which wasn’t too bad, because they all lived in their habitats and couldn’t do they things he could. But there was also a puppy. And, each of the other animals claimed to be Lily’s favorite.

Mr. Fuzzbuster was so upset not to be her ABSOLUTE favorite that he almost ran away, but them he reconsidered and came to the conclusion that as long as he was her favorite cat it would be alright.

This is a clever little story about sharing; nicely told and humorously illustrated.

 

Gus’s Garage

Gus's Garage

 

By Leo Timmers

Gecko Press

28 pages

$24.27

 

Gus the Pig has a lot of things in his garage. You’d almost be tempted to call him a hoarder. But the difference is that Gus finds ways to help others with the things he has salvaged, and by the end of the book his garage is just about empty.

Various animals come to see Gus at his garage: a rhino on a motorcycle with a seat that’s too small; a giraffe in a convertible that needs an enclosed he

 

ating system; a walrus that needs some way to drive while being moisturized; a penguin whose car is just too hot; a rabbit whose truck is just too slow.

To each of them – and I have to say that while this repetition is a bit boring for adult readers, kids will probably like it – Gus chants the same refrain.

“Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job.”

And he swiftly solves each problem, leaving only the need to design a way to clean himself up after all that dirty mechanical work. Of course, he solves that one too.

This book is all big, colourful double page spreads with just a bit of text along the bottom, What I quoted takes up two pages.

This is a translation of a book originally written in Flemish.

 

Benny Shark Goes to Friend School

Benny Shark

 

Story by Lynn Rowe Reed

Illustrations by Rhode Montijo

Two Lions

32 pages

$17.99

 

Benn Shark is a bully, the result of which is that he has no friends. He can’t even bully the other fish into having anything to do with him. Janice Jellyfish takes pity on him and tells him he needs to go to Friend School.

The following pages are about the lessons the school teaches, the five important rules.

Rule #1. A friend is a good listener.

Rule #2. A friend always tells the truth.

Rule #3. A friends shares.

Rule #4. A friend takes turns.

Rule #5. A friend is a good sport.

Each of the rules has a short little example to illustrate it, but the real payoff of the lessons comes during a race the young fish have at the end of the day. Benny has to chose between winning the race or helping Janice, who had, after all, helped him earlier.

Benny makes the right decision, losing the race, but winning the bigger prize. And in the end, he does something kind of embarrassing for a bull shark to do, but he had promised, and …

Rule #6: A friend always keeps a promise.

This is a clever little story, with some good teaching points for younger kids, though you do have to get past the idea that an actual shark would simply have eaten his classmates.

 

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Bookends: Four Seasons on Back Roads in the Deep South March 2, 2018

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Bookends: Four Seasons on Back Roads in the Deep South

By Dan Davidson

October 4, 2017

– 853 words –

 

Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads Deep South

By Paul Theroux

With photographs by Steve McCurry

Kindle edition

451 pages in print

Penguin Books

2015

 

Before the 2012 federal election in the USA, travel writer, novelist and essayist Paul Theroux decided to spend four seasons travelling in the Deep South of his country. It took him the better part of two years to complete all four trips. While he has written about traveling on nearly every continent and has set his fictions in many of them, he hadn’t written much about America, so he left home one fall day for the first of four extended journeys.

“I had driven from my home in New England, a three-day road trip to another world, the warm green states of the Deep South I had longed to visit, where ‘the past is never dead,’ so the man famously said. ‘It’s not even past.’ Later that month, a black barber snipping my hair in Greensboro, speaking of its racial turmoil today, laughed and said to me, in a sort of paraphrase of that writer whom he’d not heard of and never read, ‘History is alive and well here.’”

What history? How alive? What words can be used to describe it?

First of all, he was going to places where, as one of his many interviewees put it, “you gotta be going there to get there”, places you might never find otherwise.

Secondly, he was going places where certain words are still in use, and the first of several digressions, after he spends most of a chapter detailing the foibles of the history of travel writing, is about That Taboo Word that begins with “N”; 14 pages worth of discussion and variation.

Thirdly, he was going places where most of the people he met, unless they were also writers, had never heard of him and, balking at his last name, tended to introduce him to other people as “Mr. Paul from New England”.

Theroux was 26 when he published his first novel in 1967 and has produced 34 others (novels and short story collections), along with 19 volumes of non-fiction, including the travel writing for which he is perhaps best known, since then. He was an interesting, if somewhat pretentious, keynote speaker at the 2017 edition of the Northwards Writers’ Symposium in Skagway.

One is clearly left with the impression that he was surprised to be quite so anonymous during his four seasons of travel.

To no one’s surprise he finds that the memory of the Civil War and its aftermath is still very strong in the South, and he sees a number of those statues and flags, which have become such items of national debate and contention over the last six to eight months. In a book published in 2015 he did not see anything like Donald J, Trump on the horizon, but he did visit a number of gun trade shows and got a clear sense of how important gun culture is in that part of the nation.

Race relations are a big part of the book, and the winter trip is called “Ones Born Today Don’t Know How it Was” with just that topic in mind.

The next interlude is an 11 page critique of the life and work of William Faulkner. In between trips he did a lot of reading and re-reading of Southern literature, and the final 7 page interlude section is called “The Fantastications of Southern Fiction”.

To some extent, the reader is left feeling that the two things complement each other; his view of the South is informed by his reading, at the same time as his travels give him a new perspective on the writing.

While he had earlier derided the idea of the travel narrative as an analog for self-discovery, Theroux fond that this was so for him.

“It dawned on me slowly over months that to them (most of the people he interviewed) I was an old man, who didn’t really count for much, but who needed to be humoured or grudgingly respected.”

And finally, the world traveller, with so many miles under his belt, found himself faced with an odd epiphany: “Because the paradox of it all was that though I had come so far— miles more than I ever had in Africa or China— I had never left home.”

The book concludes with a selection of 26 colour photographs by Steve McCurray. The pair did not travel together and, while some of the pictures are of places and people mentioned in the book, others are simply representative of the same type of place. They are useful in setting the scene, but it might almost have been better if I had looked at them before I read the book.

If you’re reading this on a Kindle device, as I did, I’d recommend looking at the pictures using the Kindle software that’s available for either a Mac or a PC. They’re much more effective on a larger screen.

 

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Bookends: Tales of Bold Adventurers March 1, 2018

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Bookends: Tales of Bold Adventurers

By Dan Davidson

September 27, 2017

– 833 words –

This column is about two fairly similar characters, whose adventures shared some common elements and who appeared in print at close to the same time.

 

The Saint in New York

The Saint in New York copy

by: Leslie Charteris

Narrated by John Telfer

Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins

Unabridged Audiobook

Audible Studios

Print Length: 292 pages

Published in 1935

 

Leslie Charteris first gave us the character of Simon Templar, The Saint, in 1928, in a book originally called Meet the Tiger. Writing until 1963, he would produce about 100 books featuring the character, and would authorise its continued use by a number of other writers after that. The character was the lead item in a monthly magazine for decades and, of course, has been portrayed on screen by Roger Moore (his best role, in my opinion), Ian Ogilvie and Val Kilmer (probably the least successful version), as well as some lesser known older movies.

Most of the books, which I used to own in paperback editions, were short story or novella collections, three to eight stories in a book. There were a few novels, and The Saint in New York was probably the most famous.

In most of the stories, Templar is a good-hearted thief or con-man, usually carrying out his capers at the expense of “the ungodly”, as he often referred to the really bad people on whom the preyed.

This one’s a little different. He is hired by a very rich American to clean up New York as revenge for the killing of this man’s son. In this case, cleaning up actually refers to a series of targeted assassinations.

Charteris wrote the Saint as a larger than life individual, very savvy, very robust, almost a comic book character in terms of his stamina and ability to get out of scrapes and turn the tables on his foes.

This is a fast paced adventure with quite a few twists and turns as he pursues the “Big Fellow” who is the anonymous criminal kingpin, working his way through the pecking order and eliminating them one by one.

The police are baffled by this one man anti-gang war, and the one officer we spend narrative time with is sorely tempted to let it continue, though he is annoyed that he can’t have a hand in it, and actually does strike up a deal with the Saint part way through the story.

There are a couple of close calls in the book and Simon is saved at least twice by the intervention of the mysterious Fay Edwards, who has taken a shine to him, even though she is the Big Fellow’s mouthpiece.

John Telfer gives this one a good reading.

 

Versus the BaronVersus the Baron copy

Written by John Creasey as Anthony Morton

Narrated by: Philip Bird

Length: 4 hrs and 41 mins

Paperback: 162 pages

Unabridged Audiobook

Audible Studios

 

John Creasey gave us 44 books about John Mannering, The Baron, beginning in 1937. These were just some of the 600 plus books that he wrote, using 28 different pen-names. The Baron and The Toff were two characters that bore some resemblance to Simon Templar.

Mannering started out as more or less a cat burglar who left a calling card. Initially, he was a thief who preyed on the upper classes, those who could afford to lose jewels and other priceless objects, but as he built up a considerable fortune of his own, he parlayed his loot into honest cash and no longer needed to activate his alter-ego.

When he does so in this book, published in 1940, it’s because he, as Mannering, was almost suckered into being a receiver of stolen goods. When the man he was to have bought them from is murdered, he decides to come to the rescue of that man’s daughter and her fiancée.

He also cooperates with the police. Several members of the force are positive that he is the Baron, but they have never been able to tie him to anything, They make it very clear that he, as Mannering, can be involved in this case, but if any trace of the Baron shows up (not that he ever admits to that) they will be after him.

In the process of helping the girl he, as Mannering, is captured by the head of a criminal gang. This unsavoury individual also has the girl, and Mannering has a hard time staging an escape for both of them, after escaping once on his own and coming back for her later.

The Baron is less of a superman than the Saint, and has to work much harder at what he does, but they are cut from a similar pattern, one whose template I trace back to the character of A.J. Raffles, a fictional gentleman thief in a series of books by E. W. Hornung, written between 1898 and 1909, and therefore likely to have influenced both Charteris and Creasey.

Philip Bird gave this book a solid reading.

 

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Bookends: Some Adventures on the Road to Glory March 1, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Robert Heinlein, Science Fiction, Uncategorized.
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Bookends: Some Adventures on the Road to GloryGlory Road 1

By Dan Davidson

September 20, 2017

– 945 words

 

Glory Road

Written by: Robert A. Heinlein

Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot

Length: 9 hrs and 34 mins

Blackstone Audio, Inc.

$23.07

320 pages in paperback or hard cover

available in 43 different formats, including e-books

 

As the 1950s rolled over into the 60s, Robert Heinlein produced three quite different novels, each of which shared some common themes. Starship Troopers seemed to glorify the military life. Stranger in a Strange Land suggested that making love was better than making war, and became a kind of hippie bible for some of my friends. Then there was Glory Road, which was the SF grandmaster’s earliest approach to a fantasy novel. There were fantasy elements, and even horror, in some of his earlier short stories, but he tended to stick to straight science fiction until his last half dozen books.

In common with Troopers, it has a soldier as its protagonist, but he has none of the gung-ho enthusiasm of that novel. E.C. “Scar” Gordon served his time in Viet Nam for the express purpose of being able to use the GI Bill to finance his education later on, only to discover, when he was discharged, that this war had never been officially declared so that option didn’t apply. It did, later on, but by then Gordon had left the planet.

It is while he is living in France, using up some of his accumulated leave before going home to the USA, that he meets the woman he would come to call Star, and finds himself recruited for a mission that is literally out of this world. He is hired to be her champion. The first 56 pages of the book lead up to the moment that he and Star, along with a strange little fellow name Rufo, leave the Earth.

The next 150 pages are the adventurous portion of the novel, involving a number of battles, Oscar’s difficulties in dealing with otherworldly customs and morays, some monsters and a clutch of dragons. Some of this is quite funny. Some of it seemed quite risqué when I first read it back in 1966, but seems extremely tame now. RAH would get to be much more explicit 20 years or so later.

Apparently, the original publishers would have liked to have had the book end at the point where the quest (for it was that sort of story) came to an end, but Heinlein had other ideas: thoughts about relationships; an examination of duty and human nature, an expansion of Arthur Clarke’s dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology might as well be called magic; and a running commentary about all the things that he really didn’t like about the society he had grown up in.

So the last 80 pages or so mark, for me, anyway, the beginning of the “Heinlein as philosopher” part of his career, where there were a lot of conversations about this and that, and there was usually some “wise old man” character on hand to puncture everyone else’s illusions. Much to my surprise, this turns out to be Rufo in this book.

Glory Road foreshadows those later books, and introduces the notion of the multi-verse which is key in his last novels. Indeed, the character of Star, who turns out to be someone even more impressive than our narrator, Scar, thought she was, would go on to make a cameo appearance in RAH’s next to last novel, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

The last chapter bookends the novel, taking Oscar back to Earth, where he tries very hard to fit in, finds, ultimately, that he cannot, and embarks on some other version of the Glory Road, returning to his happiest identity as a knight-errant.

One of the reasons why this last section of the book matters is that it is made clear just exactly how long and to what degree, the young E.C. Gordon was groomed, almost from birth, to become the man who would answer the strange newspaper and magazine ad that sent him on his way. That it would describe him perfectly turns out to be no accident.

“Are you a coward? This is not for you. We badly need a brave man. He must be 23 to 25 years old, in perfect health, at least six feet tall, weigh about 190 pounds, fluent English with some French, proficient with all weapons, some knowledge of engineering and mathematics essential, willing to travel, no family or emotional ties, indomitably courageous and handsome of face and figure. Permanent employment, very high pay, glorious adventure, great danger. You must apply in person, 17 rue Dante, Nice, 2me étage, apt. D.”

Scar, or “Os-car”, as Star calls him, cannot be anything but the man described in that paragraph, and he is no longer suited for the quiet life once the adventure is over.

This book is wonderfully narrated by an actor named Bronson Pinchot, who captures perfectly the voices of our narrator, Oscar, and the two other central characters, while still having vocal space for the others who are less important. All the way through the book Rufo refers to Star as H-h-her and Sh-sh-she, and I wondered why until I dug out my 1966 paperback edition and discovered that her pronouns were almost always in italics when he said them.

Finally, the book is full of witty little aphorisms, and this one probably says a lot about the ideas behind the story: “The person who says smugly that good manners are the same everywhere and people are just people hasn’t been farther out of Podunk than the next whistle stop.”
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Bookends: Beating back against the Apocalypse March 1, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Beating back against the Apocalypse

By Dan Davidson

Fuller MemorandumSeptember 11, 2017

– 749 words –

 

The Fuller Memorandum

By Charles Stross

Ace

320 pages

Kindle edition: $8.99

 

 

This is how Bob Howard warns us not to read this book.

“This is the story of how I lost my atheism, and why I wish I could regain it. This is the story of the people who lost their lives in an alien desert bathed by the hideous radiance of a dead sun, and the love that was lost and the terror that wakes me up in a cold sweat about once a week, clawing at the sheets with cramping fingers and drool on my chin. It’s why Mo and I aren’t living together right now, why my right arm doesn’t work properly, and why I’m toiling late into the night, trying to bury the smoking wreckage of my life beneath a heap of work.”

Bob, an agent name picked for its resemblance to the writer Robert E, Howard, creator of Conan, and member of the Lovecraft circle of American fantasy writers, is an agent in an arcane branch of the British Secret Service which is known as The Laundry. It deals in sorcery and magic or, as Bob prefers to term it, a branch of applied mathematics.

You don’t apply to join the Laundry; you get drafted (or killed) after you’ve accidentally almost done something very dangerous with numbers, generally (these days) involving the use of a computer, although such things have been done in the past without them.

Stross’s Laundry novels are what happens when eldritch fantasy of the Cthulhu type gets dumped into a literary blender with various sorts of spy/thriller fiction. Each one is a little different than the one before it, with the ghosts of assorted spy master authors from Green to Fleming and others lurking between the lines. In addition there’s always a healthy dose of bureaucratic spoofing of the “Yes Minister” or Farley Mowat (the first chapters of Never Cry Wolf) variety.

As a 21st century sort of magician, Bob carries a loaded PDA around with him instead of a grimoire, with incantations pre-inscribed and ready to cast at the push of a button. About midway through he has to replace it and trades up for a tremendously amusing spoof of a certain Apple product. At the office, he’s sort of the local IT expert, but he’s also a field agent, as is his wife, Mo.

While Bob is more of a traditional magic user, Mo is bonded to a particularly powerful demon that appears in our reality as a bone white violin. When she plays it, with bleeding fingers, spells are cast and, generally, nasty people die.

This book is partly about what happens when Mo’s work follows her home. She’s been on an assignment. Imagine something like Israel taking out an Iranian nuclear facility, only make it an attempt to breach the protective walls that are keeping some proto-nasty beings from crossing over into our dimension. They used to rule here, and they’d like to come back. Mo put an end to that, but the human agency working with them decides to take its revenge back in London.

It doesn’t work, but the implications are bad. To get to Bob and Mo and pass the wards around their home implies inside knowledge, which means the Laundry has been infiltrated – again. On top of this, Angleton, Bob’s top boss and the head of the agency, vanishes, after sending Bob off on a routine sounding investigation that turns out to be anything but.

As a result, an apparently innocent human being is killed in an eldritch burst of power. Bob is held responsible for this and placed on kind of administrative leave, pending a review of his actions – kind of like a police officer being investigated for having discharged a firearm.

This leads Bob to the question of the existence of a document called the Fuller Memorandum, which outlines how a extremely powerful entity, with the lovely name of The Eater of Souls, was bound into symbiosis with a human agent, and how, if the bad guys in this story manage to gain control of this being, they could invite all the elder gods to come and sample the buffet on planet earth.

Bob’s job – on leave pending an Audit or not – is to figure out just what the ungodly have in mind and prevent it from happening. It is a tale with many twists and turns, no small amount of sarcastic humour, and moments of both sheer terror and tenderness. I highly recommend the series.

 

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Bookends: A Serial Rapist Steps up His Game March 1, 2018

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Drowned Girls

Bookends: A Serial Rapist Steps up His Game

By Dan Davidson

August 30, 2017

– 829 words –

 The Drowned Girls

By Loreth Anne White

Montlake Romance

512 pages

$15.88

When Detective Angie Pallorino decided to scratch her sexual frustration itch by resorting to a one-night (well, part of a night) stand with a hunky stranger in the bar where she usually goes to solve this problem, she had no idea that the man would turn out to be her new partner/superior the very next day.

The same could be said of former RCMP officer James Maddocks, who actually went to that bar looking for a friend of his, but could not resist the offer this woman was making when his buddy didn’t show up. It’s not certain who was more surprised the next day.

White presents us these characters in alternating chapters in which the pair reflect on events that we have already seen from one or the other’s point of view.

Pallorino has a lot of issues. She is somewhat estranged from her father. Her mother is in a care home, suffering from dementia, and Angie is worried that it might be part of her genetic heritage. In addition, she lost a partner in the on the force a while back while they were investigating a case in which there seemed to be a man committing serial sexual assaults. She hasn’t really recovered from the PTSD of that case. To top it all off, she is viewed negatively by a lot of her peers and people don’t really want to work with her. She has avoided long term relationships most of her life, and especially since her partner’s death, but she is strongly attracted to Maddocks.

Maddocks, on the other hand, has left the Mounties and signed on with this city police force is order to be closer to his daughter, from whom he is somewhat estranged as a result of the ongoing divorce proceedings with his wife. He has settled for a job at a lesser rank than he had with the RCMP in order to deal with his family issues. He was not looking for a relationship and has never been one to seek casual sex before (it was that job that cost him his marriage), but he finds Angie hard to resist.

The perpetrator Pallorino was trying to find two years earlier seemed to have stopped his spree – which is unusual – until a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, with a distinctive cross etched into her forehead. That’s not quite enough to ring bells, but when the body of a drowned young woman, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, floats up in the Gorge, the hunt for a serial rapist become a hunt for a killer.

Pallorino desperately wants to get onto the homicide squad, and her background history with this case means that her superiors agree with her on that, but the awkward part is that she is partnered with Maddocks. Both of them have trouble being a properly functioning team because of their attraction to each other. There are some incidents where this becomes really difficult.

There are some other points of view in this story. One of them is that of the rapist/killer himself, who has a definitely delusional/religious take on why he is acting out. He started by just assaulting women and them marking them with a cross symbol, rather than carving it into their skin, to absolve them of what he perceived to be their sins. Eventually this accelerated to more extreme measures.

In his earlier phase there are some victims that the police don’t know about, because they never reported the assault for one reason or another, One of these was a former street person and addict, who straightened out her life and became a reporter after she survived the assault. Several chapters are from her point of view and she contributes a number of vital clues to the case during her interactions with Pallorino.

Loreth Anne White is an award-winning, bestselling author of romantic suspense, thrillers, and mysteries who lives in the Pacific Northwest. While she has worked in Canada, according to her bio, and is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada, the vagueness of her address suggests she lives in the USA. From what I can see of her other output, her most recent books follow this habit of mixing genres. (Earlier ones show a lot of bodice ripping, bare chested romance covers.) This one certainly fits under the outer edge of the publishing umbrella of Montlake Romance, and several of her other books seem to have a similar genre mystery/thriller/romance mix.

This is the first volume in a series. While the case was solved, there were lots of personal loose ends left untied in The Drowned Girls, and I expect some of these to be tied off in The Lullaby Girl, due out in November.

 

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Bookends: The tale of the Immortal Man February 17, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, fantasy, Whitehorse Star.
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Man of LegendsBookends: The tale of the Immortal Man

By Dan Davidson

September 5, 2017

– 824 words –

 

The Man of Legends

By Kenneth Johnson

47 North (Amazon)

413 pages

$21.95

This story begins with a batch of seemingly random encounters. A number of quite different people, with an assortment of different personal issues, are approached by a man who makes a suggestion to them or nudges them in a specific direction, and when they follow his urging they find that it makes a positive difference in their lives.

The man is named Will or, at least, that’s one of the many names he has used during his extended lifespan. He appears to be about 33 years of age, and has seemed to be that old since about 33 AD. There are various legends about immortal men that are linked to that date. They are always connected to the crucifixion of Christ. One is the story of the Wandering Jew. Another is linked to the Roman soldier who stabbed Jesus with spear while he was hanging on the cross, in order to check whether or not he had died. In both cases the men are said to be cursed to live until the Second Coming.

The character who becomes Will is not either of these fellows, but has been similarly afflicted due to something he did to Jesus while Christ was carrying his cross along that uphill climb to Calvary. We don’t learn what this was right away.

Will’s curse has been tampered with by another agency, a former angel who also goes by a variety of names. Will can only stay in one place for three days at a time before he experiences extreme pain and must move a fixed distance away. Further, once he has been in a particular place, somewhat more than three centuries must pass before he can be there again.

This curse has caused him to lose everyone he has ever loved. He saw his original family grow old and die. All of his important friendships must, of necessity, be ephemeral in nature. This is a bit of a plot problem, for we are asked to believe that he has been an important factor in the lives of a number of significant historical personages over the centuries, and it would have been hard for him to sustain any long term relationships for the length of time needed to form strong relationships.

The three day factor also applies to his health. Early on, when the full import of what had happened to him began to sink in, he attempted suicide a number of times. He failed. His body repairs itself from any sort of damage within three days.

Twice in his long life he has lived in hope of his time coming to an end. The first time was at the end of the first millennium AD, which some texts had prophesied would mark Christ’s return. The second time is where we pick up the story, approaching the end of the year 2000, and the real beginning of the 21st century in 2001.

It’s New Year’s weekend when an aspiring journalist named Jillian Guthrie, who is working for one of those tabloid supermarket “papers” while looking for a way out, discovers a series of pictures while putting together a spread for her paper. The same man, looking the same age, stands alongside Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gandhi in three different photographs spanning eighty-five years of history. More to the point, she has recently seen this man in the flesh. She persuades a colleague to help her track down this mystery man.

At about the same time, Will is busy saving some people from a burning building. He is horribly burned himself and becomes a news story. Jillian recognizes his face in the newscasts and haunts the hospital where he has been taken.

Not far away is the dapper young man who has often turned up in Will’s travels over he centuries – his original name usually rendered in English as Lucifer Morningstar.

Also nearby is an agent of the Vatican, tasked with a generations old task of tracking down the nameless immortal whose existence is so perplexing and perhaps troubling to the Roman Catholic Church.

Finally, there is Hannah, an elderly former UN Envoy with whom Will had enjoyed his last romance many decades earlier, from whom he had to flee the last time that Vatican agents got this close to him.

We learn a lot of Will’s personal story while he is slipping in and out of delirium in the hospital. Some we get from the Vatican agent, some more from Hannah.

The story builds to a climax of supernatural proportions, in which many of the bit players we met at the beginning of the book play a significant role.

Quite often fantasies of this nature don’t take matters of good and evil seriously. This book was refreshing in that it did.

 

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Bookends: The Saga of Mr. Mercedes Comes to a Suitable End February 16, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, Science Fiction, thriller, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: The Saga of Mr. Mercedes Comes to a Suitable End

By Dan DavidsonEnd of wATCH

July 10, 2017

– 888 words.

 

End of Watch

By Stephen King

Scribner

$14.16 (paperback)

$10.99 (Kindle)

448 pages

 

In at least one previous book, Rage, first published under his nom de plume, Richard Bachman, Stephen King described a high school shooting spree. He wrote it in the early 1970s and it was published in 1977, before such things became nearly annual horror shows. Not surprisingly, there were people, who want to blame this sort of behaviour on anything other than the vast American home arsenals just waiting to be misused, who blamed the book for inspiring such atrocities. In response, King allowed the novel to go out of print.

I have to hope that the Bill Hodges trilogy won’t meet the same fate. End of Watch brings the Hodges saga to a satisfying conclusion, but adds a touch of the paranormal that was not present in Mr. Mercedes or Finders Keepers, both of which were pretty much mundane mysteries with a touch of the thriller genre mixed in.

It’s the set-up sequence in each novel that might give the books a bad reputation. In each of the books, people are dealing the ramifications of Brady Hartsfield’s decision to steal a lonely woman’s Mercedes automobile and drive it into the midst of a large group of victims waiting in line for a chance at a job fair.

We have recently had a spate of these activities in England, France and other European countries, but I don’t think you can blame them on King. He didn’t invent the idea. There were such cases in he USA, and at least one in Canada, before he wrote the first book.

The killings in the book were inspired by an actual event which had taken place at a McDonald’s restaurant. King ramped up the body count and spent quite a bit of the book guiding us through the mad mind of the killer, who followed up his original evil deed by taunting the poor woman whose car he had used until she killed herself.

His big mistake was going on to taunt former homicide detective Hodges, who had been unable to solve the case before he retired. Energized by the attack conducted by telephone and e-mail trickery, Hodges, along with some young associates, does solve the case, and Hartsfield is institutionalized with brain damage as a result.

The book won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award in 2015.

Finders Keepers ,which is the name of Hodges’ private eye practice, goes off in an entirely different direction, but still deals with people whose lives were impacted (sorry, couldn’t resist) by the original crime, which is recapped from a different point of view in the opening chapter.

End of Watch returns to the villain of the first book, whose brain has been altered by the events of his capture, and by some very unethical experiments that one of the doctors tending him has been conducting. Hartsfield slowly discovers he has the ability to project his consciousness into the mind of a person who has been slightly hypnotized by a certain frequency of flashing lights. Eventually he is able to control such persons – first a slow witted hospital orderly, and eventually the doctor – and walk around using them as his meat puppets.

Add to this the discovery that a certain brand of defective hand-held video games can emit this frequency, lure victims to log on to a special website, and thus extend his reach beyond his sick room, and Hartsfield is ready to take his revenge on the people who stopped him when he attempted to be a suicide at a boy band rock concert several years earlier. He arranges to buy up a stock of the units and us them to target people who are connected to Hodges and his young friends, people who were his immediate targets at that concert. There is a sudden spate of suicides and it takes a while for Hodges to make the connection.

Hodge is distracted by the fact that he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While he does not want to die, having found fulfillment in his new career, he is more worried about his autistic partner, Holly, who has blossomed so much while working with him.

He has always suspected that there was more to Hartsfield than the seeming vegetable in that hospital bed, but getting anyone else to think seriously about his suspicions is an uphill battle. Finally his old partner does offer some encouragement, but even that is limited. By this time Hartsfield has left his original body, which dies, and is fully in the mind and body of the neurosurgeon whose unethical use of drugs has boosted his powers of telepathy and telekinesis.

Hartsfield’s attempts to draws Hodges into his plot so he can mind control him as he has done his other victims backfire in the same way as in the first book, but with far more terminal results.

The title has a number of possible meanings, and most of the ones I can think of fit the story well. So, I do hope the books don’t do out of print, and this is a trilogy that make a good set of movies.

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Bookends: Robbie Robertson and the story of The Band February 16, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in autobiography, Bookends, personal, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Robbie Robertson and the story of The Band

By Dan Davidson

August 9, 2017

– 860 words –

 

Testimony: A Memoir 

Testimony

By Robbie Robertson

Vintage Canada

512 pages

$21.15

Kindle: $16.99

“I was introduced to serious storytelling at a young age, on the Six Nations Reserve. The oral history, the legends, the fables, and the great holy mystery of life. My mother, who was Mohawk and Cayuga, was born and raised there.

“At the age of nine I told my mother that I wanted to be a storyteller when I grew up. She smiled and said, ‘I think you will.’”

Robbie Robertson is another one of those mixed race persons who have decided that their primary identity is to be found in the First Nation side of their genetic heritage.

One wonders what might have happened if Robertson’s biological father, a Jewish professional gambler named Alexander David Klegerman, had lived. But Robertson was still an infant when his father died in a hit and run accident, and he was adopted by his mother’s second husband, James Patrick Robertson. It was only many years later, when that marriage was in trouble, that Robbie learned the truth about his background.

We get clues as to how that night have gone later in the book, when he meets some of his shadier relatives, but this book really begins with 16 year old Robertson heading south from Toronto to Fayetteville, Arkansas, about to try out as a bass player for the Hawks, the backing group for the legendary Rockin’ Ronnie Hawkins. By then, Robertson had been playing in bands since the age of 14, and had worked in a travelling carny circuit for parts of two summers, as well as at the Canadian National Exhibition.

It was the years with the Hawks, though, that would be his major training ground, and the changing composition of that band woiuld move him from the bass to lead guitar, and surround him with most of the individuals that would later become the Band.

We meet them all, one by one, and though the late Levon Helm painted a nasty picture of Robertson in his book about The Band, Robertson can’t say enough positive things about his former band mate. In a touching CBC interview that was recently rebroadcast, Robertson regretted never having been able to patch things up with Helm.

The years with Hawkins were followed by the years with Bob Dylan, for when Dylan decided to go electric, he picked the Hawks as his backing band. Initially the first half of the shows on the tour were vintage Dylan acoustic, and then he would bring out the Hawks. Some people were delighted, but Robertson remembers it as a hard three year (1965-68) tour, and being on the receiving end of a lot of anger.

In 1967, the members of the band relocated to Woodstock, living in the house that would come to known as Big Pink, and that’s where they merged the rockabilly blues of their Hawks years with the folk-rock of the tour and developed the unique sound that would make them into The Band.

First, though, there were the Basement Tapes, which is an interesting section. Imagine Bob Dylan, recovering from his motorcycle accident, upstairs in the house, pounding out lyrics of a typewriter, handing the pages off the group and saying something like lets’ see what we can do with this. The Basement tapes CDs have a lot of minor stuff on them, but they also have “This Wheel’s on Fire”, “You Ain’t Going’ Nowhere”, and “Tears of Rage”, some classic stuff often covered by other people. There were eventually 138 songs.

The story moves on to the group’s first solo album, Music from Big Pink, and the rather offhand way they ended up with that name and the name The Band.

Robertson takes us through the recording of subsequent albums, but it becomes clear in the narrative that some of the guys aren’t having as much fun as they used to without chemical assistance. Not that Robertson abstained; there are numerous tales of this type in the book, though not as many as in Mick Fleetwood’s memoir, which I reviewed here a few months back.

What the two books have in common is that both Robertson and Fleetwood came to feel that they were responsible for keeping their groups together, and that put a strain on the kind of communal energy that had created the Band in the first place.

There’s quite a bit of space devoted to the creation of The Last Waltz, the Martin Scorsese film and 3-LP (you do remember records, right?) that actually became their swan song. Getting the record together was a near thing. The day they were supposed to start working on it at their Shangri-la studio, Robertson got there early, expecting to get to work, By 3:30 that day no one else had shown up.

“Waiting there as the sun went down, it finally hit me – what I had been in denial about: this train we’d been riding so long was pulling into the station, not just for touring, not just for recording, but for everything.”

 

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