Monday, June 21, 2021

Lonely Magdalen: An Inspector Poole Mystery by Henry Wade

 Here are some lovely Baroque Concertos.


I've been painting my birds, but have not been happy with the product.  This is my latest effort at Hercule's portrait in acrylic.  Better than anything I've done so far, but I may paint over it.  What do you think?








This was a great mystery and also an original one.

We start at a bar where a news broadcast interrupts the normal programming to announce that the body of a woman has been found strangled in a park. The woman is described with a burn mark on her face. Any information as to the identity or witnesses who may have seen anything etc..

The people in the bar become quiet. The park is not too far from the bar, but that is not why the patrons of the bar have become quiet. A hulking man sitting by himself turns white. At first they all laugh, thinking something is in his beer, but his violent reaction causes them to shy away and they soon forget about him. The bartender and owner of the bar, who happens to be an ex-policeman, suspects more.

The story then embarks on a thorough investigation with Inspector Poole, a young detective, with his superior officer, Inspector Beldam, to obtain the identity of the woman and hopefully trace the whereabouts of the murderer.

The story is unusual in that it starts off as a normal detective story, but interrupts itself to give a background of specific people involved by going twenty years in the past, before returning to the present.

The present is 1939, when Europe was on the brink of war. The middle part goes back to the First World War.

While Poole, Beldam and their men are fastidious, the story is never boring. Wade writes in an engaging way that envokes sympathy for all the players involved, even the victim and perhaps the murderer.

I'm not sure the story ends with both feet on the ground, because it leaves questions. I believe this was the author's intent, but it is not my favorite way to conclude the story because there's not absolute closure.

Still, I rank this up with one of the best mysteries I've read.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Why Cats Paint by Heather Busch and Burton Silver

 Listening to some Schumann.

I was talking on the phone with my dad the other night while I walked around outside.  I happened to look up and see the full moon.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee.  How Great Thou Art!!

This is one of the best satires on modern art that I've ever read. The authors use the exact same pretentious language to describe "Fluffy's" efforts at filling space with his marks that I've read in so many books on modern artists. The only thing they left out was political correctness. I guess cats aren't interested in Social Justice, Sexual Orientation or Racial Identity.

I guess because the authors never wink throughout the book, some people take it seriously. They don't ask themselves how the writers of the book know the thoughts and motivations of an animal.

Here's an example:

"The typical pose of a cat when sitting at a Point of Harmonic Resonance: the eyes are slightly closed and the cat will generally purr and may rock gently back and forth.

Almost all cats that paint spend at least ten minutes in resonance prior to commencing a work, which suggests they derive some inspiration power from these invisible low frequency force fields."

Here's another one:

"Misty's popularity as a painter is due mainly to the figurative nature of her images. The elegant, bi-colored forms that sometimes extend up to ten meters in length, are immediately evocative and invite a wide range of projective interpretations. In a recent work, A Little Lavish Leaping, the surface is heavily built up with short black verticals to produce an elongated curvilinear mass that is at once dense yet strongly nuanced with movement.

Tension gathers at the base and builds upwards, flowing to a release in the upper ovoidal form."

Man, I wish I could write like that. I'm not even sure they're using real words.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Titanic: Legacy of the World's Greatest Ocean Liner by Susan Wels

 Still listening to Schumann.

Josh and I went to a nearby town to get our Cuckoo Clock fixed.  The only Clock shop this side of Dallas that fixed Cuckoo Clocks belonged to an ancient little man in Jefferson.   And he only took cash so it was with some trepidation that we handed over our clock to him.  Spoiler alert:  He fixed our clock but it took forever to find him and finally get our clock back. 

His store is like something out of a movie.  This is parked out front.  It is for sale if you're interested.

Back home and merrily cuckooing and playing The Happy Wanderer while the tiny couples dance.

I always like learning about a famous historical occasion and really getting into the point by point time line and detailed information.

This large book with its glossy photos and illustrations does not disappoint. Susan Wels provides contemporary photos of the Titanic on the bottom of the Atlantic, historical photos of the ship and passengers, and several of the artifacts that have been uncovered by the teams that have developed the technology to make it happen.

Wels first provides a history from the building of the ship to the landing of the survivors in New York.

The second section provides a detailed description of the the efforts to find the Titanic's resting place through the years and then the science, technology and scientists who made it finally happen.

Interesting to me are the people who think the Titanic should be left alone on the bottom of the ocean. Their argument is that way the ship and her possessions will belong to all and honor the memory of the dead.

Baloney. Such arrogant presumption to speak on behalf of people who have been gone for over a hundred years.

I'm glad that International Treaties have been created to make sure that individuals don't pirate the treasure of the Titanic, but I think it honors the memory of the passengers, both living and dead (although I doubt any are alive now) by preserving the artifacts in a public museum so we can all come into contact with the past.

I sincerely hope they are able to bring the three sections of the ship up before it finally dissolves into the ocean. 


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Trotsky: a Biography by Robert Service

Here's Bach's Cello Suite.


This is a thorough yet engaging biography of the man who might have been, but never was the leader of the Soviet Union.

I have heard pro-communists say that Communism would have worked under Trotsky and the Soviet Union would have achieved its Marxist goals if the crazy, paranoid Stalin hadn't made it to power.

Those people should read this book. Trotsky was every bit as ruthless and inhumane in his tactics in his tireless efforts to create a "Communist Utopia" as Stalin was. The difference was Stalin had more people on his side.

What fascinated me was Service's description of Trotsky's single-mindedness. His entire life was consumed in making a Soviet. He had no conscience about destroying a country, including starving out the people he claimed to be fighting for.

He wanted liberty from the aristocracy, but he did not want anyone to have freedom from him.

Due to his general lack of diplomacy, he succeeded in alienating even those who might have sided with him.

While in Mexico there were many artists and poets and philosophers from Europe, Mexico, and America who saw what they wanted to see in him and made him a poster boy for their cause.

These people were not enough to get him into power, primarily because they were armchair socialists, more concerned with mimicking the fashionable prattle of the day about socialism than actually doing anything to undermine their personal wealth.

Frida Kahlo became quickly bored with him, as she did with all her lovers, and she and her husband Diego Rivera, never practiced what they preached. They were contemporary virtue signalers.

In America H.L. Mencken wanted to donate much of his library to Trotsky, something Trotsky wasn't interested in. Other supporters were John Dewey, (of the decimal system fame, not to mention doing his best to integrate Marxist values into the American educational system-do you wonder why our young people voted for Bernie Sanders?)

In the end, Stalin got him, but I don't know if Trotsky cared. He was slowly disintegrating, bit by bit, anyway. I think the end, as gruesome as it was (why a pick ax, for peter's sake?) must have come as a relief. 


I've been preparing a slide show for my mother's memorial service.  This is a favorite.  A young mother trying to keep track of her three children.  I'm the oldest.



Monday, May 24, 2021

The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin

 Here are symphonic poems by one of my favorite composers:  Dvorak.


 This book was written by the author of The Last of Philip Banter, a book I reviewed earlier. This book actually precedes Philip Banter, but only one character connects the two books and he plays a minor role in the later novel.

A Psychologist, George Matthews, meets a young man named Jacob Blunt, who informs him that he performs certain bizarre duties in order to get paid by, wait for it....Leprechauns.

Now what Blunt wants to know is, are the Leprechauns real or is he crazy? Quite a conundrum, eh?

Matthews does not believe for a moment there are Leprechauns toddling about in the world, but does wonder if the man is hallucinating or is someone playing a strange hoax on him and if so, why?

Matthews and Blunt go to a bar where the Leprechaun is supposedly waiting for them and will assign the man his next task.

Indeed there is a dwarf there and he is dressed like a Leprechaun. In fact he insists he is a Leprechaun. He angrily hops up and down on his bar stool as he gives his geneology dating back to Old Ireland (the story takes place in New York City).

Then the Leprechaun tells Blunt that his next assignment is to deliver a Percheron to a famous Broadway actress who lives in Manhattan. In fact the Percheron is waiting outside.

Incidentally, for those of you who aren't horse people, Percherons are large draft horses.

Matthews thinks the whole thing is off and tries to persuade Blunt to refuse the task. The man laughs it off and, even though he is quite rich and has a trust fund, he enjoys making his own money. Apparently the Leprechaun pays him well.

Blunt delivers the horse only to find the actress dead. He is then arrested for the murder, even though he insists he didn't do it.

Matthews arrives at the jail to bail him out, but a different man comes out to meet him, claiming to be Jacob Blunt. Matthews insists this is not Jacob Blunt the man he was counseling and that is the last thing he remembers as something crashes over his head from behind.

When he comes to, Matthews is in a mental hospital and he discovers that it is nine months later. He cannot remember anything between the time he was knocked out and the time he wakes up in the hospital.

This story is a brilliant tale of psychological displacement. You question everything, not knowing what is real or not until the very end. Even then, things seem to fly apart. I only know that Matthews somehow survives because he has a brief role in the next novel.

I highly recommend this sort of story for those who love Psychological Crime Noir written during the Golden Age of Mysteries. 

 Am I the only one who finds piggy rumps adorable?

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America's Loch Ness Monster by Robert E. Bartholomew

 Listening to Mendelssohn.

 How I get to look at the computer.





This book is written by someone who really wants to believe in a sea monster living on Lake Champlain, but doesn't want to be suckered.

The result is a book that thoroughly explores every legend connected to some sort of sea creature that has been reported in the Lake from Native American legends, the European discoverer of the Lake, Samuel Champlain to sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is also a book bent on debunking every eye witness report.

That's not a bad thing and I think that Bartholomew is honest in his accounts, because he doesn't out and out call anyone a liar, however, he does point out discrepancies in reports and contradictions between eye witnesses. He wants to believe, yet he can't.

Because of his skeptical approach the overall tone comes across as snarky. It would have been a more pleasant read if he simply treated the Lake Champlain monster as a legend and narrated all the stories as such. Maybe there's something there, maybe not. Who knows? The stories are still interesting to read.

The fact is, with all alleged monster sightings, eye witnesses aren't always trustworthy and with CGI these days, anything can be shown in a photo or footage.

Until someone provides a body or skeleton, sea monsters will remain mysterious and legendary.




Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Last of Philip Banter by John Franklin Bardin


I am listening to Bach's Short Preludes and Fuges for the organ on my record player.  You can listen to them here on Youtube.


 This was a rip roaring good story. The quality of the writing exceeds the average entertaining mystery. It was like a cross between The Lost Weekend and characters of Crime Noir with a dash of Girl on a Train, except the writing was far superior to the latter.

It was superior to most mysteries as far as writing style and plot development are concerned.

Without giving anything away here is the premise:

Philip Banter has a serious drinking problem. He knows this. He knows he's a louse to his wife and narcissistic enough to believe that every woman he winks at wants him.

The story starts with Banter waking up at his desk in the office where he works as an advertising executive. In front of him is his typewriter, uncovered and recently used. Who used his typewriter? Was it him or someone else? Where was he last night and how did he end up here?

His wrist is bandaged. It wasn't bandaged last night. On the desk is writing. Fifteen pages. He reads it. Written in the first person, he reads about events that happen from his point of view: According to the paper, he goes home to his wife, who surprises him with an old friend and his girlfriend coming over.

It speaks of him having an affair with the woman and then coming to his office. Is that what happened last night?

Except. The date on the writing is for the following night. How can he or anyone have written about the future. He forgets about it.

Then. That night, everything starts happening as the writing predicts. Sort of. Not exactly.

So what is happening? Is he crazy or is someone trying to persuade him that he's crazy?

This is a well written compelling psychological suspense mystery without any down time.

Unfortunately, John Franklin Bardin only wrote a couple of really good mysteries, but I am going to read them because he is now one of my favorite mystery authors.