Book Report: Dark Love edited by Nancy A. Collins, Edward E. Kramer, and Martin H. Greenberg (1995)

Book coverThis was the second book suggested to me by the kittens who were sequestered in my office for a time, and they suggested books for me to read by knocking them off of my to-read bookshelves. But they might as well have knocked this book into their cat litter, for I did not like it very much, and I am no longer taking recommendations from the kittens.

The front cover bills it as Twenty Two All-Original Tales of Lust and Obsession. Given that it’s headlined by Stephen King, I thought it would be a horror collection, but really, it’s a more crime fiction with a lot of wetwork and a bunch of sex (deviancy is a plus to the editors). It’s not horror but horrific. Many of the stories try to get into the minds of the insane, who then have deviant sex and murder people.

It took me a while to get through the book, reading several others in between the stories. Because many of the stories were very similar. Breaking it up kept it a little fresher.

And as this book is from 1995, it does contain the two baddest words in the universe: Trump and, you know, the other one. Which could be used in print in living memory as a marker that whomever spoke it was backward and not a good person. But no more.

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Book Report: Time to Time by Don Pendleton (1988)

Book coverWell, make this my year of completing sets, or at least groups of books that I have. I mean, I finished all of the books in the Executioner series that I own; I finished the set of James Blish Star Trek books I had on my to-read shelves; I finished the Doubleday children’s books I’d picked up, perhaps for my children but never shared with them. Since I only had three books in the six-book Ashton Ford series, why not?

Okay, so I did not know what to expect when I read the first in the series, Ashes to Ashes, in 2018. And when I read Life to Life in October, I thought maybe the series had an arc it was completing–after all, in it, Ashton impregnated a televangelist while she was in jail and they were getting it on in the astral plane, so I expected something to come of that. Maybe in the fifth book, but not here.

In this book, Ashton follows an unidentified flying object into the hills above town and discovers a nude woman. It’s an acquaintance of his, an actress of some reknown, and he helps her. He discovers that she’s involved with what might be some extraterrestrials and might be an alien.

So basically, that’s the schtick of the books: a pedestrian suspense plot with an overlay of woo-woo. In this case, it’s an alien civilization advanced of ours, monitoring ours and hoping to have us rejoin them in the future, but right now, it’s dolphins (the original heirs to this world), rebirth, and UFOs.

We get pages of Ashton thinking these things through again. Whereas Mack Bolan sometimes would go a couple of paragraphs or a page or so into philospophy or morals; however, in these books, Pendleton gives Ashton a lot of room to muse on the paranormal, and it detracts from the mundane plot or even the woo-woo.

You know, when reading these books, I cannot help compare them to the later Heinlein, where he turned toward free love and whatnot. Both Pendleton and Heinlein were Navy men in World War II, and their books took a different tone when they got older and as they faced their own mortality. I should like to say my books might take a similar turn, but I don’t have a body of work from my youth the mark any differences as I age.

At any rate, I can understand why this series did not go very far. It’s a little wordy, and Pendleton does not balance or blend the woo-woo with the normal plots very smoothly. But perhaps he pioneered the way, a bit, for modern urban fantasy. He certainly didn’t hinder it.

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Book Report: The Lilac Lady by Ruth Alberta Brown (1914)

Book coverAs I mentioned, gentle reader, we have taken in some kittens, which means that they spent the first couple of weeks at Nogglestead sequestered in my office while the other cats got used to their smell and presence and until the veterinarian could pronounce them with a clean bill of health. As such, it has been quite an adventure, as they scamper and romp, most excitingly among the cords and cables that power my QA laboratory–many mornings, I would come into the office and have to troubleshoot what they turned off or unplugged overnight before I could get to work. They’ve also made some book recommendations by knocking the books off of the bookshelves, so I have started to take their advice and read what they’ve knocked down, starting with this book.

This book is the middle of a trilogy, apparently–and the first book, At The Little Brown House, ends in the moments before this book begins, so it took me a minute to figure out who the people are. The story centers on Peace Greenfield, a middle child in a set of six orphaned sisters. As the book begins, they’re adopted by a university president who is grandparent aged, and they go to his house and learn various and sundry lessons there.

Peace likes to give to the poor, and she’s often duped by ragamuffins and hoboes who show up for a handout, but she learns that some individuals who arrive are not in desperate straits but want the money to fund their non-working lifestyle or for alcohol. So her adopted father explains she should give to charities that can filter and follow-up on giving.

She meets the Lilac Lady, an injured and dying former singer from a well-to-do family who lives next door but behind vast hedges. The Lilac Lady shut herself off from the world after her accident that left her invalid, but Peace comes over and gets her to open up. Peace meets kids at the local orphan home and gets an inside view after briefly changing places with a resident who looks like her. She then gets the Lilac Lady to host a party for the orphans to the benefit of both.

When she returns to her old town to visit old friends, a scarlet fever outbreak at her new home forces her to live with her friends for a number of months, and she makes friends and has adventures there, too.

So it’s not a single plot piece, but some of the elements come together at a big Independence Day party at the end (as I assume happened in the first book, as they are leaving a party early on). But it’s a series of smaller adventures with little life lessons in them an examples of a child having a good heart. She’s like an older generation Ramona Quimby.

So this is a children’s book, presumably geared to little girls, perhaps even to be read to little girls. But let’s look into the language used, ainna?

Having a naturally light-hearted, merry disposition, Peace did not find it hard work to “smile and talk,” but it was hard, very hard, to restrain her generous impulses to give away everything she possessed to those less fortunate than herself, and it soon became a familiar sight to see her fly excitedly into the house straight to the study where the busy President spent many hours each day, exclaiming breathlessly as she ran, “Oh, grandpa, there is a little beggar at the door in perfect rags and tatters! Just come and look if she doesn’t need some clothes. And she is so cold and pinched up with being empty. Gussie has fed her, but can’t I give her some things to wear? I’ve more than I need, truly!”

This is not diction from a children’s book in the 21st century.

So a good book to read to your kids, but also a good artifact of the way we were.

The book itself only bears the copyright date, 1914, but not a printing/publishing date–but it doesn’t look as though this would have been in print for decades. So the pages are a bit brown, but the binding is tight, and it’s not disintegrating like The Saint Meets His Match. So that’s kind of nice. And helpful considering how it was suggested to me.

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Book Report: The Broken Snare by R.D. Symons (1970)

Book coverWell, I seasoned this book well enough. I bought it in October 2012 at the Friends of the Christian County Library book sale. It must have been on the shelves at the Christian County Library for a while, as it has pockets for the cards they used to use for checkouts and it has the bar code for computer checkouts, which meant that it was probably on the bookshelves in a small southwest Missouri library for nearly forty years. Hopefully, they put it into the book sale to make more room for books, albeit by 2012, books were well into being pushed aside for computers.

I have to admit that I’ve confused this book with The Broken Spears, a book about the Spanish conquest of the vulgar Aztecs that I bought in 2008. I’ve gone looking for that book a time or two on my shelves, but did not find it. I must have found this book at one point, as it had one of my bookmarks in it (no Found Bookmarks post–it was a Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale whose date was after I owned the book), but I abandoned it as a bit dry. Which must mean I delved into it last before I went through the Little House books in, what, 2018-2019? Maybe those children’s books prepared me for this volume.

So, the “plot”: A Canadian, his urban English wife, and two young boys (later joined by a much younger sister) homestead out in the western part of Canada. The father finds a nice valley where he can stake a claim, and they build a ranch over time, which starts with living in tents but culminates in a cabin. It also goes into the accumulation of cattle, which is less dramatic than in Bendigo Shafter–the cattle and horses are built over time, dealing with local “horse traders” who are probably also horse thieves. And the book also changes point of view to two anthromorphized animals: a cow moose bearing young and an old wolf with a three-pawed wife who bedevil the family known as “The Man”, “The Woman”, “The Kid”, “The Boy”, and eventually “Small.”

So some of it is clearly fictional and some is not, but the actual balance is unclear–if you look for the author on the Internet, you don’t get a big presence–remember, this book was from when ARPANET was three or so–but you do get stories about his impact on art and the west (akin to Charles Russell, which is to say significant among people who knows who he is), but you also get comments from people who knew him as a park ranger or in his other pursuits. So, again, like Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks, we have some history overlapping with the present, or with people you know in the present.

But: In spite of this book containing horses, pack mules, and eventually cars and bulldozers, this book takes place 50 years(!) after the little house books. I mean, the book mentions the Depression in passing, but when The Kid decides to join the military, he goes to the Korean War. By that time, my elderly church associate had already stopped trick-or-treating at the elderly Laura Ingalls Wilder house in Mansfield.

At any rate, an interesting read, and proof that sometimes I have to be ready to read a book when I read it. The previous time, I was not, but I read it through this time. Not at a great rate like an old timey (less than 300 pages) suspense novel which I could read in a day (this book, at 224 pages, took me a bit), but still interesting, and a connection to a past that I would say is forgotten, but it’s a past that’s unimagined by kids today.

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Book Report: Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks by Randy H. Greer (2022)

Book coverI got this book at ABC Books during a book signing in August, and I delved right into it. Well, relatively–sometimes books go into the Nogglestead stacks for decades (I have a couple of books I bought in college that I still have not read, so within a couple of months is instantly when it comes to reading a book I bought).

So Buff (short for a longer nickname Buffalo) was a circus rider and driver who ended up a town marshal in his early 20s who parlayed that into becoming a sheriff’s deputy and then getting elected sheriff of Christian County, Missouri, for a long time and in non-consecutive terms. He served at the same time as Mickey Owen (former big league baseball player turned Greene County sheriff whose reelection notepad I still have on my desk, albeit not on the surface but in a cubby with notepads). He was a bit of a womanizer, married many times, and had a couple of children from whom he became estranged. He was a larger than life character, but his bluff and bluster and occasional brutality made Christian County safer, but it took a toll on the man and his family.

I have probably mentioned before, gentle reader, that I only went on one travel vacation in my youth (I did mention our trip to Rockaway Beach in a post about a vacation in Wisconsin). The trip to Rockaway Beach would have been when I was in middle school or high school, so the middle 1980s; my mom and my brother stayed at some cabins where my mother had stayed with her family at one time. Rockaway Beach, although it is close to Branson and is on Lake Taneycomo, one of the three lakes that gives the Tri-Lakes area its nickname, was deserted. And one of the proprietors of the few amusements on the main road through town said that in the 1970s, within recent memory, the town was taken over by bikers and had not recovered. Although Rockaway Beach is in Taney County, when the Taney County sheriff called for help when one of the biker parties got out of hand and turned into a riot, Buff Lamb and his deputies joined in the clearing of town. So that account connected up with something I knew.

So this book straddled a line between history and current events (well, events current to my lifetime) in a way that history books generally don’t. Another connection was that a deputy whom Buff promoted and backed but then turned on when he wanted to be sheriff again was appointed interim sheriff in 2012 when the then-current sheriff was ousted for corruption. I remember that. And I’m surprised that it was ten years ago already.

I guess that’s how it happens: The older you get, the more you’ve lived becomes history.

It looks as though the author has been making a lot of appearances in support of the book, including talks here and there. It’s a pretty good book. A couple of typos, including a passage where a person’s name is spelled both Francis and Frances (prompting this post). But he’s fair in his treatment of the subject, and it was an enjoyable read.

It makes me hope that the kittens soon knock down the other book of his that I bought at the same time.

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Book Report: The Saint Meets His Match by Leslie Charteris (1931, 1944)

Book coverThis might have been only the second Saint book (or is it The Saint book?) that I’ve ever read. The first would have been a modern paperback (well, then modern) that I read in high school or thereabouts. It was one passed onto us by my Aunt Dee right about the time we moved into the house down the gravel road. We got a small stack of books from her–less than I would buy if I went hog wild at a church or friends of the library book sale–but my aunt introduced me to Ed McBain, Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire, which is the only Anne Rice I’ve actually read), and, perhaps The Saint. So it’s been a while.

In this book, which was apparently published originally as She Was a Lady and then as Angels of Doom before appearing with this title, The Saint pursues a woman who runs a gang who help criminals, but the woman is actually the daughter of a disgraced and deceased policeman wrongfully accused of corruption. She’s using her life of crime to go after those who set her father up, and Simon Templar, the Saint (or is it The Saint?) joins her in her quest. The Saint himself is a roguish, doing good but outside the law, figure himself, but he briefly joins the police force to get some information he needs. And they fall in love, of course.

It’s an interesting bit. It’s from the Depression era, but it’s set in England, and urban England at that, so it feels more hardboiled than an Agatha Christie book, with fights and a little gunplay here and there. The pacing, though, is more British than pulp, and it took me a longer time to read it than it would have a comparable hard boiled pulp. Although the density of the language probably mirrors Chandler more than Hammett, the argot is just foreign enough. So I won’t go out of my way to grab other books of the sort.

This edition is a late World War II hardback (I think). It is in an inexpensive binding similar to a Walter J. Black or other book club edition–and it’s possible that The Saint even that early had a Saint-of-the-month club (Remember, gentle reader, Doc Savage had a monthly “magazine” with a short novel every month). But this was an inexpensive edition even then–the title on the cover and on the title page are The Saint Meets His Match, but the tops of the pages say Angels of Doom. It’s a Triangle Books edition from the U.S., and the edges of the pages flaked off as I read it–I’ve never seen a book do that, and the pages are very dark. Probably inexpensive paper, anmd perhaps the book got wet at some point.

Still, better than a Jack Reacher novel.

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Book Report: John Donnelly’s Gold by Brian J. Noggle (2011)

Book coverWell, there you go again, you might say, but in my defense this is only the second time I’ve read my novel since I published it in 2011 (the first book report on it appeared in 2016, eight years ago.)

So, unless you’re new here, you know the plot: Four laid off tech workers decide to stage a heist and steal the gold bar that their vainglorious CEO bought and put into his house with a live video feed. The tech is slightly dated, but not too bad, and the zeitgeist might just be circling around as tech company layoffs are on the rise again.

It’s got funny moments–after eight years, some of them still catch me by surprise and I chuckle–but about three quarters through I just trudged to the ending and the humor kind of leaks out of the book. Still, I like reading it more than many of the other books I read.

But what gets me, eleven years after I published it and almost twenty years after I wrote it: How easily the writing came to me then. Even more so when I was in my 20s. I could, with confidence that arose out of, I dunno, youthful ignorance, I wrote piles of prose and poems effortlessly. These days, when I sit down to write a short story, it’s excruciating, the second guessing and the wondering if it’s worth it and whether anyone will read it anyway. As John Donnelly’s Gold and the light traffic to this blog indicate, the answer is probably no.

I remember when I was in my Existenialism class, and the discussion came around to careers, and the S.J. running the class said that our vocation would be to serve others, and I, hopped up on the Ayn Rand, demurred. He asked what I wanted to do, and when I said, “Write,” he asked if I would be happy sitting somewhere and writing without others. I said no, because you need an audience. And I still think that’s true.

I think perhaps I would have been more successful as a writer if I were compelled to write, and I would be happy to have written even suspecting that I would burn all my writings before death. Or maybe I just think that because I’m not, and I’ve not had a lot of success otherwise. But, hey, I wrote a poem the other night that is okay, not that anyone will ever see it.

At any rate, I did get this book off of my desk and onto the shelf with the collection of proofs of this and other books I’ve published to no fanfare.

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Book Report: Star Trek 11 by James Blish (1975, 1977)

Book coverWell, having just finished the Doubleday children’s books I own with 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, I might as well move onto polishing the books in this series I have on my to-read shelves. So I read this, the penultimate volume I have of James Blish’s series of books that present the original Star Trek episodes as short stories. As I have mentioned, I also have several of the Star Trek Log books where Alan Dean Foster does the same with Star Trek: The Animated Series, but I’m not sure if I will jump right into that series after I finish Star Trek 13 someday in the near future.

At any rate, when I started this book, I noted that it was in exceptional shape. The spine is not cracked, the cover is cherry, and this despite the fact that previous owners(?) have written their names in the front and back cover. The front cover has Richard S. Musterman (?) Dec 2 1979, and the back cover has Steve Laube (?). How they wrote their names without cracking the spines… a mystery for the ages.

This book collects the following episodes as stories:

  • “What Are Little Girls Made Of”, the one where the Enterprise beams down to an inhospitable planet to find Nurse Chapel’s former flame has discovered technologies of an ancient civilization to build androids–and the Enterprise team learns that Korby, the aforementioned flame, is an android himself with the consciousness of the human transferred to it.
  • “The Squire of Gothos”, wherein the Enterprise encounters a rogue planet and investigates. Kirk and Sulu disappear from the Enterprise, and when an Enterprise away team beams down to the planet, they find an old castle with a seemingly omnipotent figure there. So it’s a bit of “Catspaw” and “For the World Is Hollow, And I Have Touched The Sky” from Star Trek 8 blended with Under the Dome, but that came later.
  • “Wink of an Eye”, the one where the crew beams down to a planet that had an advanced civilization, but the people are gone, and the crew hears an insect like buzzing. When they beam up, they hear the buzzing on the Enterprise, and something seems to be taking over the ship. Kirk learns, as he is accellerated by the former residents of the planet, they have been “sped up” so that they move faster than humans–and the queen of the planet has sped-up Kirk to make him her mate. But an ordinary injury will kill him, as all the time he has spent sped-up will cause him to rapidly age with any wound. I actually remembered this episode.
  • “Bread and Circuses”, wherein the Enterprise finds the wreckage of a merchant ship and are kidnapped by residents of the planet where they found it. A planet where the Roman Empire did not fall, and the Enterprise landing party will fight the gladiators. Kirk discovers a friend of his, a crewman on the merchant ship, has been elevated to leadership by the real powers in the Empire, and that a small group of Christians have arisen later that will change the planet forever.
  • “Day of the Dove”, wherein the Enterprise responds to a distress call but finds no sender–and then a damaged Klingon battle cruiser appears, believing the Enterprise responsible for the damage. Everyone, Klingons and all, end up on the Enterprise, and they eventually discover an alien form that feeds on hostility–not unlike the alien that feeds on terror in “The Wolf in the Fold” which I read, again, in Star Trek 8.
  • “Plato’s Stepchildren”, wherein the Enterprise finds a seemingly omnipotent group of humans whose leader has developed a simple infection that they cannot treat because they’ve spent their lives improving their mental powers, but they’ve lost their understanding of the physical world–so they compel the Enterprise people to tend them and to entertain them. Which includes Nurse Chapel’s declaring her love for Spock and That Interracial Kiss between Uhura and Kirk.

So I remembered clearly one of the episodes, but by this time and through repeated viewings in my youth, it’s easy to understand why so many were immemorable: they shared so many tropes and shuffled similar concepts and conceits.

Well, as I might have mentioned, I have but one to clear from my to-read shelves that I know of, the last, Star Trek 13. Blish died in the middle 1970s, so this series proved to be his most lasting contribution to science fiction. I’m not knocking it–as you might know, gentle reader, I have published a couple of books and have sold maybe 150 total. So I cannot cast aspersions upon any writer, especially writers with big house contracts who sold piles of books.

This book, unlike Star Trek 8, had a table of contents and a preface by the author. I must wonder if these features come from later printings and not the originals.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about Sherry Jackson.
Continue reading “Book Report: Star Trek 11 by James Blish (1975, 1977)”

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Book Report: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (1869, 1961)

Book coverWow, has it been five years already since I read The Best of Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days, Robur the Conqueror aka The Clipper in the Clouds, and Journey to the Center of the Earth). I guess it has been that long. Man, time passes.

At any rate, the book starts out a little like The Clipper in the Clouds, wherein the news contains stories of various sightings of a great crusteacan in the sea causing damage among other ships. WHen an American schooner goes a-hunting for it, the crew brings along a French undersea biology naturalist, his servant, and a Canadian harpooner join them. When they find the beast, they–the trio last mentioned–go to attack it, only to find themselves cut off from the schooner–and they discover that the beast is actually a submarine piloted by Captain Nemo, a man who has quit the world above the sea along with his crew of similarly minded men. The trio are taken prisoner, basically, and travel 20,000 leagues around the oceans–to be honest, I thought up until reading this book that they went 20,000 leagues deep–but they went 20,000 leagues east to west and north to south, mostly not that deep.

They have a series of adventures, which are mostly visits to exotic and often underseas locations. They visit Atlantis, are attacked by giant squid, visit the wrecks from various sea calamaties, and make their way to the South Pole. After the attack of the giant squid, though, Nemo goes a little mad and the submarine wanders until it is caught in a whirlpool off of Norway just as the dry landers escape–which is convenient and a bit abrupt as Verne was meeting his word count or number of episodes to serialize account.

It’s an okay book. It understood submarine travel, although the dimensions of the Nautilus do not represent the dimensions of any actual submarine–too spacious. And the book relies an awful lot on the main character going into catalogues of undersea life that add nothing but word count to the story–this book appeared after Moby Dick, so I wondered if it had some sort of deeper meaning to the verbosity like Melville tried with his work, but I suspect Verne was only trying to make word count.

This book is the last of these Doubleday editions that I’ve read this year–Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates, Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, and Heidi being the other four). I bought these at some point, perhaps thinking I would read them to my children, but I did not. Ah, well, at least I have read them before my children have left me. Which is some small consolation.

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Book Report: Star Trek 8 by James Blish (1972)

Book coverYou know, I did not have this particular volume of the series before I picked this one up, unlike so many of the others for whom I wrote book reports in 2005. So I don’t have to add appendixes to the filenames for the image or the book report text file on my desktop. Which I did anyway out of habit.

This book was first published when I was but months old, fifty years ago come November (the book’s publication, not my enumerated rings). The paperback is read and worn, with some tears on the cover and a broken spine, but it’s in readable shape. I wonder if those who produced it during the first Nixon administration (spoiler alert: He would be re-elected the month the book appeared) ever thought of those of use who might read it five decades hence, earthbound, but that the stories that it spawned would still be made fresh and new. Probably not: It was just a job to them.

At any rate, the book collects:

  • “Spock’s Brain”, the one where the women who are the Morlocks to the men’s anti-Eloi steal Spock’s brain to power their supercomputer that runs their underground society–the men live on the surface of the brutal ice world after the high civilization collapses–and Kirk and an away team (they called them “landing parties” in the swinging 60s) try to get it back.
  • “The Enemy Within”, the one where a teleporter malfunction splits Kirk into two, one the brutal, decisive, id-driven half of his personality and one that’s, well, not. The crew first has to discover the two Kirks and then figure out a way to fuse them before the rest of the landing party remaining on the surface of another inhospitable frozen world die.
  • “Catspaw”, the one where the Enterprise landing party encounters aliens whose science is sufficiently advanced enough to seem magic, and they have to rescue Sulu and McCoy from servitude. You’re forgiven if you think this sounds a lot like…. wait, no, it doesn’t sound like something from the first seven Star Trek books, it sounds like something from the one I’m reading now.
  • “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, where the Enterprise tries to go through the “galactic barrier” with dangerous results, including madness. Somehow, this became canon, the “galactic barrier”–or at least it was canon in a text-based Star Trek game I played in the last century.
  • “The Wolf in the Fold”, the one where Scotty, on shore leave, is accused of killing a prostitute woman of a pleasure-seeking planet. It turns out that an alien that feasts on terror did it. Which also sounds like a story/episode in the volume I am currently reading
  • “For the World is Hollow, And I Have Touched the Sky”, wherein McCoy diagnoses himself with an incurable disease, and they then land on a rogue planet built by an advanced civilization, but it’s a generation ship taking the remnants of a civilization to a new home, but it’s on a collision course with an occupied planet. The Enterprise crew has to contend with the super computer controlling the ship, and McCoy wants to live out his short remaining life by marrying the high priestess. It sounds a lot like many other episodes, including not only “The Apple” in Star Trek 6 and “The Paradise Syndrome” in Star Trek 7 but also “Spock’s Brain” that kicked off the book.

Below the title of each chapter, we see the writer credited with the script, including Robert Bloch, who wrote the “spookier” stories in “Catspaw” and “The Wolf in the Fold”, and if you get one of the screenwriters like Gene Coons, you know it’s going to be more planned for television.

I’ve also noted in compiling these book reports that some of the volumes have tables of contents, but others, like this one, do not, which makes it a little harder to come up with these brief summaries as I have to basically page through the book to get the episode/story titles and to review the content of each. Ah, but I will put that effort in for you, gentle reader, for you.

So although the volumes have been contiguous to this point, I do not have the whole set, so we’ll be skipping ahead to volume 11 in a book report in a couple of days. I do have 9 and 10 on my read shelves, but I shan’t be going through them again for purity and completeness’ sake. That effort, gentle reader, is beyond me. Besides, they’re not on my to-read shelves, and I have too much to re-read books on my read shelves. Although I will re-read if I get another copy, at which point the duplicate is on my to-read shelves. Yes, gentle reader, my rules are arbitrary, but they are my rules, and not universal moral statements.

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Book Report: Life to Life by Don Pendleton (1987)

Book coverIt’s been four years since I read the first book in Don Pendleton’s Ashton Ford series, Ashes to Ashes; in it, I said I had another in the series, the third. However, I must have been mistaken or I might have not put that in the series grouping the last time I deeply cleaned and reorganized my to-read shelves six years ago, as this is #4 in the series, and I also have picked up #6 somewhere.

In this book, Ashton Ford investigates murders occurring around a new Age style preacher who, with some wealthy production backers, is building a worldwide multimedia organization. And she’s gorgeous and also gifted on the paranormal spectrum. As Ashton mucks around, he finds that church members, the woman’s family, and a group of early Hollywood actors and actresses are intertwined, with the results leading to murder which might or might not be precipitated by other worldly spirit guides including maybe the father Ashton never new.

So it’s less action-packed than other investigative or suspense series that Pendleton did, and it’s a little woo-woo for my tastes. As Ashton has astral sex with the woman while she’s locked up in jail and seemingly impregnates her leaving her still a virgin, one wonders if the next two volumes in the series have a big wrap-up story line that I’ll only get when I pick up the last book in the series four years from now.

It reminds me of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books–they started out with a premise and they could have been episodic, but they moved into being parts of an overarching story with the pregnant woman in Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse. Which is where I kind of wandered off. I read Odd Apocalypse being eight years ago, and although I bought the last/latest book in the series, in 2018, I haven’t bothered to pick up the in-between book, Deeply Odd, in the interim. I wonder if I could find it if I looked in the fiction sections at the book sales I go to every year. Maybe, but I will likely not think of it in the spring.

So as to the Ashton Ford books, I’m glad I only have one remaining. It’s not a series I’d follow in real time. But by the time all is said and done, I will have read half of the series.

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Book Report: Bendigo Shafter by Louis L’Amour (1979)

Book coverGentle reader, I have been reading, although not as much as normal over the end of the summer, and I have been really slow at writing up my thoughts on the books I have (I have read three and almost five in the last month). I finished this book on September 13, and I am only now getting around to typing up my thoughts which are likely to be even more brief than my normal book reports as I have probably forgotten what I want to say.

As I mentioned when I reviewed A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L’Amour, I said this looked, based on the quotations in the aforementioned compilation, that the L’Amour book I would like to read first. And as I picked it up in Kansas Labor Day weekend, I dived right into it.

A brief synopsis: Bendigo Shafter and his brother are working on a wagon train on the Oregon trail, but the they decide they will not make it through the mountains before the winter seals the passes, so they build a town in Wyoming. Some unsavory characters appear, Shafter saves an Indian’s life and the Indian vows revenge, a known gunman protecting two children wides up one winter night, and various other things happen, challenging the good men of the town. One local man finds a little bit of gold, which makes him the target of some bad men. Shafter is chosen to take a pool of the townsfolk’s money to Oregon to buy cattle for them, a trip that takes him almost a year. He starts alone but befriends a couple of Indians on the way, and they join the town. When Shafter returns, he finds some of the bad men have basically gotten themselves put into positions of authority until Shafter and his brother intervene. Then Shafter finds some gold, goes back east to New York City looking for the now-grown little girl he earlier saved, and when he returns to Wyoming he goes with the aged Indian he met on his cattle drive to an ancient Indian monument of some sort.

It’s basically a coming of age story telling about how Bendigo grew to be a man, which give L’Amour time to pontificate on manliness in spots. They’re akin to the little asides that Pendleton put into his Executioner novels, a bit of philosophizing to add depth, although L’Amour does more of it. And although Friar said the last third of it was a bit weak–I’m not sure whether that’s after the cattle drive or not–I did not find much of it dramatic. I mean, in the tense scenes and trials, Bendigo pretty much knows what to do and does it, so I didn’t feel like he was ever in any danger. I don’t know–your mileage may vary. I have several other L’Amour books on my to-read shelves to review, and I will learn if that’s just the way he wrote.

I cannot help but compare the arc a bit to My √Āntonia in that the main character, the young man who gets educated, goes back east and compares it to his experience in the west. Unlike that book, though, Bendigo Shafter ultimately prefers the west. Which is because this is a Western and not literary fiction.

At any rate, I flagged a couple things ago a month ago. Let’s see if I remember why.

Bendigo is better read than I am.

Fixing myself a cup of coffee, I then went up the ladder to my bed and got the book I was reading. Only this time she had given me two at the same time, and I decided to take both of them down. The first was the Essays of Montaigne. The second was the Travels of William Bartram.

As you might recall, gentle reader, I started the Montaigne five years ago and only made it a couple of essays in, after which it remained on my dresser for a year or two before I put it back into the stacks. Which is not the longest a book has been unread on a book accumulation point. I’ve not made it through the Classics Club collection on Plato nor the first volume of Copleson’s History of Philosophy in far longer periods of time.

I Have Been To The House

When they had gone old Uruwishi came out of the brush with his old Hawken rifle.

The Hawken House, where the maker of the Hawken rifle lived, is in Old Trees, Missouri, and is home of the Historical Society. I actually have the commemorative tile from being a member prominently displayed on my desk.

Everybody Goes To Delmonico’s.

On his New York trip, Shafter does.

We met at Delmonico’s. It was, at the time, the most favored eating place in the city.

Come to think of it, this book takes place at the same time as Clarence Day’s Life with Father sketches. They went to Delmonico’s, too.

Mindfulness in the 19th Century As Told In The 1970s.

It is my great gift to live with awareness. I do now know to what I owe this gift, nor do I seek an answer. I am content that it be so. Few of us ever live in the present, we are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone, and this I do also. Yet it is my good fortune to feel, to see, to hear, to be aware.

Buddhism was making some inroads in the 1970s. I wonder if this influenced L’Amour.

So it was an interesting read, and I will not avoid the other L’Amour books when I’m going to the bookshelves for something to read.

And I cannot help but note that I have metamorphosed into a man who reads Louis L’Amour books. What kind of man is that? Oh, yeah, an old man.

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Book Report: A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller (1955, 1988?)

Book coverWell, gentle reader, I asked in my Good Book Hunting post from this weekend if you could guess which of the books I would read first from the stack.

It was this play, and maybe I should actually make a point of buying plays to read in hotel rooms when I travel; you might remember (but if not, the blog is semi-forever) that I read The Marriage of Bette and Boo in a hotel room right after I bought it in Leavenworth, Kansas at a book store that might be named Half Price Books but is also possibly not related to the book store I visited this weekend. It definitely had a different vibe.

I’ve read The Death of a Salesman, but apparently not in the last 19 years or since I’ve started reporting on books on this blog. This play, which premiered in the middle 50s, deals with a family of Italians in a tenement in New York City: A husband, his wife, and their niece. When they agree to shelter the wife’s cousins, illegal immigrants from Italy, everything goes awry. One of the brothers is a hard worker on the docks with the husband, but the other brother, who does not even look Italian, likes to sing, has home skills like sewing, and starts dating the young niece. The husband doesn’t like it because the boy is different and perhaps because he has romantic feelings for her himself, or at least does not want to let her grow up. Things come to a head when the husband calls the immigration authorities to remove the men.

I have to wonder if it was a bit anachronistic in the 1950s, hearkening back to a past from that point in time. A fairly simple play, not very clever but very serious in its indictments of tradition and the patriarchy.

You know, back in college, I read David Ball’s Backwards and Forewords, and one thing still sticks with me: He said that every character in every scene has his or her own agenda, his or her own goal, and that you should have that in mind when writing every scene. The characters in this play seem a little thin: I cannot figure out, really, what the wife wants, or the older of the cousins wants aside from the broadest of strokes. I read it, and I get a sense that the playwright had a story to tell and maybe at a bit of sacrifice of real characters.

At any rate, not bad, but not great. It’s not what Miller was known for.

Which reminds me: The author has an introduction to this play written for this edition, thirty years from its original run. As is my wont, I did not read it before I read the play, and I should remember to read it now that I have read it.

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Book Report: Star Trek 7 by James Blish (1972)

Book coverSo, apparently, as I worked my way through this set of books eighteen years ago, my book report for Star Trek 7 was the first one where I enumerated the episodes that were included in the book. So I’ve already done that in a previous post, but I’m going to do it again.

I was speculating that the most popular and recognized episodes would be included in the first volumes of the series, as Blish was not working in series order but rather worked a bit off of what fans wanted. But in this seventh volume, we’re still getting recognizeable episodes. Well, episodes I recognize anyway.

The book contains:

  • “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, the one where a giant hand in space grabs the Enterprise, and they find an ancient Earth god who wants followers again and who woos a crewwoman. C’mon, man, that’s one you remember, ainna?
  • “The Changeling”, where an old lost and damaged probe merged with some alien technology and confused its programming to elimination of imperfect life. Kirk has to do one of his logic tricks to shut down the computer (which he also does in a Harry Mudd episode). You might recognize the plot because it was recycled into Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and a bit of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). I’d like to point out it’s been a whole week since I’ve seen an allusion to this episode elsewhere.
  • “The Paradise Syndrome”, another one of the Enterprise finds a simple native culture who needs help of a forgotten alien technology (very similar to “The Apple” in Star Trek 6). In this one, Kirk loses his memory after interacting with it and lives a bit of another life while the Enterprise limps back to the planet on impulse power.
  • “Metamorphosis”, where the Enterprise away team are brought to be companions of the lone survivor of a wreck who has befriended an alien intelligence that provides his needs–and when he said he needed companions, the alien brought the Enterprise. The character here is Zefrim Cochrane, who is seen again in Star Trek: First Contact.
  • “The Deadly Years”, where the Enterprise visits a planet where the young humans have aged–and the away team starts aging as well, just in time for a confrontation with Romulans. In 2005, I equated this episode with an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where this happens to Dr. Pulaski, but 18 years later, I cannot remember that episode. Which is a testament either to the staying power of the orginal series or to the fact that I periodically revisit it.
  • “Elaan of Troyius”, where the Enterprise is sent to pick up a woman who is to marry into the ruling family of a rival planet to end years of warfare, but she’s a brat, and the women’s tears enthrall men, and she enthralls Kirk, but his duty makes him stronger than her tears.

So a quick read, the book equivalent of catching one of these episodes (well, all of them, actually) on television and continuing to watch it. A bit like brief binge watching, I guess. I have a couple more of these on my to-read shelves, and by the time I finish them, I will have almost the full set (apparently, I lack 12). Maybe I will look to complete the set. Afterwards and into next year, perhaps I will get into Alan Dean Foster’s adaptations of the animated series. Or maybe it will be back to men’s adventure fiction. But for the nonce, the old school science fiction, including the Asimov and even the Bradbury are what I need right now.

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Book Report: I Sing The Body Electric! by Ray Bradbury (1969, 1971)

Book coverI actually started reading this before I started Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov; after finishing another book, probably Red Snow and Death Had Yellow Eyes, I hit the stacks and the hardback Asimov collection caught my eye, so I read it instead of completing this collection, which underwhelmed me.

First and foremost, it is not a collection of science fiction stories. It seemed like the book was only a third science fiction, but a review makes it clear that it was not that little. The book contains:

  • “The Kilimanjaro Device”, wherein a stranger in a time-traveling truck is seeking Ernest Hemingway, hoping to help him to a better death (the plane crash in Africa) than the one Hemingway eventually got.
  • “The Terrible Conflagration Up At The Place”, wherein a group of locals decide to burn the lord’s house, but when they find him there, he convinces them in a roundabout fashion to not by asking that they keep the treasures and heirlooms safe after the house burns.
  • “Tomorrow’s Child”, wherein a couple discover that new birthing technology has trapped their baby in another dimension–he only appears weirdly in this one–and although scientist cannot solve the problem yet, they can send the parents to join the child.
  • “The Women”, wherein a man and his wife are at the beach, and something in the water calls the man, and the wife knows and tries to keep him from going into the water.
  • “The Inspired Chicken Motel”, wherein a Depression I-era family stays at a motel with a chicken with the gift of prophecy, and the chicken gives them hope.
  • “Downwind from Gettysburg”, wherein an actor named Booth shoots an animatronic Lincoln.
  • “Yes, We’ll Gather At The River”, wherein the owners of buildings along main street on the highway spend the last night before the authorities open the new highway that bypasses their town.
  • “The Cold Wind and the Warm”, wherein strangers visit an Irish town and inspire the locals to look at things differently.
  • “Night Call, Collect”, an old man left on Mars as a young man after the rest of the population returned to Earth to fight in the atomic war keeps getting phone calls that he programmed into the system to keep himself company. After decades, he hates it.
  • “The Haunting of the New”, wherein a wealthy but decadent woman invites a frequent visitor to the debaucheries at her manor because it burned, and she reconstructed it completely the same, but this new manor does not want the orgies to continue.
  • “I Sing The Body Electric”, wherein a recently widowed man orders a robotic grandmother for his children, to help take care of them and to tutor them.
  • “The Tombing Day”, wherein a town has to move the graves in a cemetary because the highway is coming through, so a woman has the coffin of a man, her beau, who died 60 years ago, brought to her house. She discovers his body perfectly preserved at 23, and she laments her own aging.
  • “Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby’s Is a Friend of Mine”, wherein a conman lodging in a boarding house on the prairie pretends to be Charles Dickens and pretends to write the author’s works using his photographic memory. Even after the ruse is discovered, a boy in the house wants to believe.
  • “Heavy-Set”, wherein a mother worries about her 30-year-old son who is still at home and who avoids most social interactions even though people and girls invite him places–with incest only hinted at. Just kidding! It’s more than a hint–it’s the twist at the end of the story.
  • “The Man in the Rorschach Suit”, wherein a psychologist finds a learned professor purportedly dead on a bus wearing a special shirt. The not-dead research psychologist asks people what they see in his shirt.
  • “Henry the Ninth”, wherein climate change (global cooling–remember, this was the end of the world for most of the middle 20th century, child) has driven the population of Great Britain south except for one man who wants to remain.
  • “The Lost City of Mars”, wherein a rich man takes an eclectic party on a yacht to search for the Lost City of Mars. They find it, and many are sorry they did.
  • “Christus Apollo”, a poem about space travel as the eighth day of creation.

So it has seven science fiction short stories (out of 18 total works), two of which are set on Mars and could have been in The Martian Chronicles but might have been written too late. Include the “weird” stories with a fantastic element, and you get another one or two. The others are contemporary or historical fiction that appeared in mainstream magazines. I have to guess fans of Bradbury’s science fiction would have been disappointed, but perhaps by 1969, they had realized that he was not a science fiction writer by that time but a writer who sometimes wrote science fiction. Personally, I wonder if he punched above his weight in scientific circles based on a couple of early bestsellers (The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451).

He did have all the right opinions, though, compared to Asimov, who escaped the Soviet Union, and Heinlein, who was something else. In “I Sing The Body Electric”, for example, the robot grandmother has a chance to rant about cars being bad and guns being bad. In the early part of this century, gentle reader, we had a term “Sucker punch” for that moment in a book where an author dropped in a little homily about a progressive talking point. Strange, we don’t talk about that a decade or fifteen years later–I guess we presume that is just a feature of contemporary fiction.

There’s also a bit where the grandmother sez (only a page after the anti-automobile sermon):

Tell me how you would like to be: kind, loving, considerate, well-balanced, humane… and let me run ahead on the path to explore those ways to be just that. In the darkness ahead, turn me as a lamp in all directions. I can guide your feet.

This seems an allusion to the biblical (Psalm 119:105, given here in the King James Version which features italics not found in the NIV):

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Coupled with the last poem where technological advance supplants God, and I think we’ve found another who thinks technology (and expertise) will somehow overcome human nature. Which has not proven to be the case.

When I read The Illustrated Man 12 years ago(!), I was similarly unimpressed.

I don’t think I have a lot of Bradbury floating on the to-read shelves, fortunately.

But the list of books also available in the back:

… reminded me I had started working my way through the James Blish Star Trek books earlier this year. I’d probably better hop onto that if I’m going to finish before football season brings monographs and chapbooks and the Christmas season brings the obligatory Christmas novel.

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Book Report: Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov (1959)

Book coverI bought this book fourteen years ago during an especially gluttonous trip to a book sale not long after my youngest was born. It would have been the autumn after my mother’s diagnosis and but, what, four months before her death? Eleven months before our move to Springfield? A long time ago, to be sure, but sometimes (often) books languish on the to-read shelves for decades. I got 94 books that weekend, and I wondered if this was the first of that lot that I read. Apparently not, as I have already read:

I also started Linda Chavez’s Betrayal for one of the library reading challenges this year in the Hispanic author category, but I didn’t get too far into it because the early 2000s concern about the power of unions in politics seems a little quaint now.

So, at any rate, this book collects nine short stories from Asimov’s magazine work in the 1950s. We’ve got:

  • “I Just Make Them Up, See!”, a poem about where he gets his ideas.
  • “Profession”, wherein future humans get tested for professions and get instantly trained for them, but one young man is told he cannot be taught this way, so he goes to a special home where the residents learn from books. Later, he learns that this is not without status, but has the highest status of all, as he can think creatively.
  • “The Feeling of Power”–in the far future, a lowly technician has a weird hobby–doing math by hand–and he is brought before the elites who do not believe that a mere human can replicate the magic of computers. The story was very familiar to me, and I thought that I might have recently read it. Well, when you get to my age, recently can be 8 years ago.
  • “The Dying Night”, a murder mystery wherein one of a trio of astronomers who have been stationed off-planet has killed an old classmate who apparently learned the secret of teleportation.
  • “I’m in Marsport Without Hilda” wherein a secret agent of sorts is on Mars without his wife. He plans an assignation with a local woman, but he’s roped into an assignment looking into drug-running.
  • “The Gentle Vultures”–a spacefaring race that generally swoops in to help societies after their nuclear wars in exchange for tribute grows frustrated as Earth’s nuclear war has not occurred.
  • “All the Troubles of the World”, a young boy is sent on a series of tasks ultimately designed to destroy the super-powerful computer, and the ultimate planner who almost leads him to success turns out to be the computer itself.
  • “Spell My Name with an S”–a scientist goes to see a “numerologist” to become successful, and the numerologist suggests he spell his name with an S–which leads to a series of investigations and events that averts a nuclear war and leads to a plumb professor position.
  • “The Last Question”, wherein mankind asks Multivac and its successors how to reverse entropy, and the far-evolved computer ultimately does. I’d read this story as a young man, and I’ve remembered the last twist since then.
  • “The Ugly Little Boy”, wherein a company has learned to create a stasis field that can grab something from the past and maintain it in the present. They demonstrate by grabbing a neanderthal child, and they bring in a nurse to help with the child. Over time, as their funding and success grows, the boy becomes less important to the company.
  • “Rejection Slips”, a poem about rejection slips. I bet my collection dwarfs Dr. Asimov’s.

So great classic science fiction. A lot of worry about nuclear annihilation that we don’t tend to fear as much since the 1980s. But imaginative and quick to read.

I marked a couple of things. The first was the main character in “Profession” is named George, and it mentioned that he grew out of “Jaw-jee” and into the monosyllabic “George,” which made me think about how I pronounce the name. I guess it’s a dipthong, eeor, and technically that’s one syllable, but it feels like it should be two.

In “I’m In Marsport Without Hilda”, I got an allusion:

Of course, the one I wanted might be the first one I touched. One chance out of three. I’d have one out and only God can make a three.

That’s a pun based on the movie Groundhog Day. Asimov was so future-sighted, he made an allusion to a film that would be made forty years in the future!

Just kidding. It’s from a Joyce Kilmer poem, as I am sure you remember.

I liked the book, and, man, am I reading the science fiction short stories this year or what (the rest are the James Blish Star Trek books, but still).

And please remind me, if anyone were to ask me whom I would invite to dinner if I could invite anyone living or dead to dinner, that after my departed family, I should choose Isaac Asimov.

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Book Report: Red Snow and Death Had Yellow Eyes by Lester Dent (2011)

Book coverI picked this book up in June in Baraboo, Wisconsin. It contains two Doc Savage stories from the eponymous magazines from 1935 and 1944 respectively.

In The Red Snow, a strange phenomenon, a very localized red snow, completely vaporizes anyone caught in it, and a series of important chemists, engineers, and whatnot get caught in it. Savage is in Florida coincidentally, but gets drawn into investigating it when he’s framed for murder. He discovers foreign agents sowing discord before a planned invasion.

In Death Had Yellow Eyes, Savage investigates the strange disappearance of one of his associates, and is forced into working from the shadows as he is framed for a bank robbery. He discovers foreign agents using an invisibility cloak to sow discord. I forget if it preceded a planned invasion that Doc Savage averted.

Originally, they were novellas in a monthly, then quarterly, pulp magazine, so they’re kind of like precursors to the men’s adventure novels from the 1960s and 1970s (and beyond) that I often read–a house name (Kenneth Robeson) with an editor and outlines provided. Most were written by one man, Lester Dent, but sometimes other people contributed. As I come from a pre-computer age, the stories don’t seem that anachronistic to me, but I wonder how they would play with younger audiences today. Perhaps not too bad if they read anything from the Before Times.

Doc Savage is a polymath and a bit of a Mary Sue, but he does get knocked on the head a time or two.

So they’re quick enough reads, a bit of light adventure fiction, but one does not see the magazines nor the eventual reprintings of the stories in paperback (from the 1960s to the early 1980s) in the wild. Or I do not–but, as I said, I don’t tend to go into “the wild” (book sales) as often as I did in the St. Louis area, and when I do, the book sales are big enough that I focus on areas other than mass market paperbacks. So maybe the world is rife with them, but they’re outside my field of view. Perhaps I will remember to take a look at ABC Books or the upcoming fall Friends of the Library book sale. But probably not.

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Book Report: A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L’Amour Compile By Angelique L’Amour (1988)

Book coverWhere the heck did I get this book? A quick search of Good Book Hunting posts does not yield a result. It does not have an ABC Books sticker. It does not have a price penciled on the first page which might indicate another used book store. I certainly did not buy it new as a sixteen-year-old. So I must have picked it up at a garage sale. Perhaps this year’s Lutherans for Life garage sale–I don’t see a Good Book Hunting post for that particular sale this summer, which might mean it was one of a couple books I might have picked up. Without a picture, I have no memory.

At any rate, this book is a what it says: A group of quotations, from a line in length to a couple of paragraphs, grouped in topics like Life, Opportunity, Hard Work, Family and Home, Women, Indians, Honor, the Law, and Justice, and Yondering and Dreaming.

The quotations all share a common flavor and theme, of course: The stoic Western hero on the frontier, skeptical of the soft Eastern ways, manly but not afraid to love and nurture in family ways, which includes education and discipline. It seems like some of the quotations are repeated in different chapters/topics, but it might be because they are so similar–or perhaps they repeat; I did not go back to check. Even though they’re genre and they deal with Men, someone not familiar with genre or prehistoric (that is, pre-social media) writings might be surprised at how in-touch the Western hero was with the environment and how much he respected Indians (that is, Indigenous Peoples, as the current lexicon goes, with its expiration date later in the decade).

Although Louis L’Amour had 101 books in print when this book appeared (maybe just 100, as the book list includes this volume), the quotes are taken from what seems to be a handful of them. But it did help me narrow down which of his books I would most like to read: Bendigo Shafter, The Lonesome Gods, and maybe Conhager. I have read a couple of Zane Grey books, but no L’Amour. And the country was crazy with them in the olden days–I suspect they both had their book clubs in the 1980s. I would say that “I haven’t seen them in the wild,” but let’s be honest: My “in the wild” these days is the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale and ABC Books for the most part, and I tend to skip over the Western and/or fiction sections entirely. In earlier days, with smaller book sales, I would be more likely to breeze over the paperback and/or fiction sections where I might see these titles. Perhaps I’ll wander over to the Western section next month at the library book sale to look for these titles.

So a nice thing to read whilst reading other books with longer narratives or themes. Something to spend a few minutes on out on the patio, petting the newly outdoor cat at sunset, staring down the raccoons who are not afraid of humans and want the remainder of the day’s cat food. And then to pick up later.

I did flag a couple of quotations for quick comment.
Continue reading “Book Report: A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L’Amour Compile By Angelique L’Amour (1988)”

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Book Report: The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray by Robert Schnackenberg (2015)

Book coverI bought this book for $10 at Rublecon last month because it’s BFM, man. Its subtitle says A Critical Appreciation of the World’s Finest Actor, which is a bit of hyperbole, of course, but the book is not so much a critical appreciation of Murray’s work, but rather an encyclopedia of alphabetical entries about movies and shows he has appeared in along with topics on his relationships with other people, including his wives and his family. Interspersed with the encyclopedia entries, we get stories about Murray’s hijinks crashing parties and spontaneous appearances with normal people.

So we agree that Groundhog Day and Lost In Translation are amongst his best films, but I disagree with the book about The Man Who Knew Too Little–I think that’s a funny movie, and I not only saw it in the theaters, but I’ve watched it many times since then on home media. I am quite a bit behind on Murray films–I mean, I’ve never seen The Razor’s Edge or Quick Change, for example, not to mention most of the Wes Anderson collaborations (although I did see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, again, in the theaters).

The book also portrays Murray as a complex individual. Although it has its moments of homerism (such as the subtitle), some of the disputes and fallings out he’s had, not to mention a couple of bad divorces, and a reputation of being difficult (Dan Ackroyd called him The Murricane because of his mercurial nature). I mean, I guess anyone who’s been paying attention to Murray as a celebrity probably knows all this. But I somehow haven’t paid attention even though I like his work.

So a pleasant read in between chapters of other things I’m kinda reading, which really means they’re just stacking up on the table beside my reading chair. Informative. And I’m kind of pleased as well that I have so many Bill Murray films yet to see.

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Book Report: Serenity: The Official Visual Companion by Joss Whedon (2005)

Book coverThis book completes the four books I bought at Calvin’s Books the last time I went there. I was afraid that they were closing, as the Firefly books were only three dollars each, but they were not that inexpensive because they were closing. But they closed never the less.

At any rate, I read the Firefly scripts in Firefly: The Official Companion Volume One and Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two last summer and Firefly: Still Flying in January (when I thought it might count as a collection of short stories for the library’s Winter Reading Challenge, but it’s not really).

So this book means the end of the road unless I find some of the comic books or the recent novels cheap. So I am a little sad to come to this end. I’m sure some of that is mixed in with missing Calvin’s Books as well, although I need more books like I need more sunny days without rain here at Nogglestead.

So: It’s the shooting script for the film Serenity. As a reminder, this film came out three years after the television series, so if you watched them altogether as we did, you’ll notice things. Jewel Staite, for example, lost some weight (she said she had to eat a bunch to keep at Kaylee weight for the series in one of the previous books). And they played the characters a little different, and it was cut without some of the humor and playfulness of the television series. So the tone was a lot darker–although it might have been more in the acting and editing than the scripting. And they try to answer a lot of the questions from the television series in a fashion that’s disappointing, not on the Lost scale, but still

The book also has some inside looks at the making of the film, as the previous book does, but having read Star Trek Memories earlier in the year, I notice quite a difference in tone in the descriptions of making the film, even the nitty gritty technical aspects of it. In Star Trek Memories, making a television show is a more blue collar affair, with discussions about hitting budgets and physically doing the work, whereas these books are more about artistic vision, and the people who worked on the show take themselves very seriously. Perhaps it’s a difference in the elapsed time between the books and the television show/movie they depict (26 years have elapsed between Star Trek and its book, whereas these books came out within a couple of years). Maybe it’s a generational shift between the movie makers or between the fandoms. I dunno.

The book talks about a possible movie franchise, but that did not pan out. Maybe killing a couple of the main characters and tweely solving all the mysteries will dim that prospect for you–at least in the Star Trek movies, they only got into the habit of blowing up the ship every movie.

But, you know what? It’s been almost twenty years. Maybe it’s time for a reboot.

As I said, I was a bit sad to come to the end of the books, so I started re-watching the television series. Time will tell if I make it through again and if I watch Serenity. I invited my boys to watch, but they were not interested. So I guess I should stop making allusions to the show since perhaps nobody younger than forty-something will get it or even care.

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