CITY OF SECRETS By Stewart O’Nan

city of secrets
As I read Stewart O’Nan’s City of Secrets I kept looking at the cover thinking, “Did they put the wrong cover on this book? Is this really Stewart O’Nan?” City of Secrets is NOT Last Night at the Lobster and is 180-degrees from The Odds. City of Secrets, set in 1945, follows a Jewish refugee named Brand as he reaches Palestine. Brand drives a cab provided by the underground determined to set up Israel. Little by little, Brand becomes involved in missions with other refugees. There’s a train robbery. But, after reading one chapter, I knew how this novel was going to end. City of Secrets was more of an Alan Furst book. O’Nan’s approach produced a story that didn’t create any suspense. I figured the secrets in this book out very quickly. You will too. GRADE: C

MY LAST FIRST DAY OF CLASSES

Professor giving a lecture.
After 40 years of teaching, I’m retiring. Under the conditions of the Retirement Incentive I’m accepting, I have to teach the Fall Semester. My last day will be December 30, 2016. I’m experiencing mixed emotions. I have one of the Best Jobs in the world. I love teaching. I enjoy working with eager students and my colleagues. But as Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman sing it’s “Time to Say Goodbye.”

MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING: HOW FINANCE MADE CIVILIZATION POSSIBLE By William N. Goetzmann

money changes everything
Yesterday I reviewed Charles Stross’s space operas that explored the nature of money in the Future. Today, I’m celebrating a wonderful history of money by William N. Goetzmann. Financial history can be dry and dull, but Goetzmann’s writing is lively and insighful. And Goetzmann shows how money developed in China (usually ignored). I completely agree with Goetzmann’s assertions that money and cities are essential to developing a civilized society. Most readers will find Goetzmann’s chapters on the emergence of global markets most relevant to their financial decision making. If you’re interested in money (and who isn’t?), Money Changes Everything provides a clear, detailed history. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction
PART I FROM CUNEIFORM TO CLASSICAL CIVILIZATION 15
PART II THE FINANCIAL LEGACY OF CHINA 137
PART III THE EUROPEAN CRUCIBLE 203
PART IV THE EMERGENCE OF GLOBAL MARKETS 401
Conclusion 519
Notes 523
Bibliography 541
Illustration Credits 555
Index

SATURN’S CHILDREN and NEPTUNE’S BROOD By Charles Stross

saturn's children
neptune's brood
Charless Stross is one of the few science fiction writers concerned with money in the future. In Saturn’s Children (2008), humanity has died out but androids with artificial intelligence continue an advanced civilization. Freya Nakamichi-47 is chased throughout the solar system by various evil groups. Stross said that Saturn’s Children was his tribute to Robert Heinlein (specifically, Heinlein’s late novel Friday). Saturn’s Children was nominated for a Hugo Award. Between Saturn’s Children and Neptune’s Brood Stross published a story set in the same universe: “Bit Rot” in Engineering Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan (2010).

Neptune’s Brood (2014) celebrates banking. Yes, banking is the star of this space opera. Krina Alizond-14 is a “post-human” who, with her “sister” Ana, discover a financial plot 2,000 years old. Of course, this knowledge attracts murderous competitors eager for the millions of bitcoins up for grabs. I found Stross’s monetary theories of fast money, medium money, and slow money fascinating. Obviously, this type of high finance of the Future isn’t for everyone. But, Neptune’s Brood was also nominated for a Hugo Award. GRADE: B (for all three)

OUR LITTLE SISTER

our little sister
Our Little Sister is a Japanese film (with subtitles) based on the graphic novel Umimachi Diary by Yoshida Akimi. Three sisters travel to Yamagata for the funeral of their father. There, they are surprised to find a 13-year-old half-sister, Suzu, whose mother has died. The oldest sister, Sachi (a nurse), realizes Suzu cared for their dying father. Impulsively, Sachi invites Suzu to come on live with her and the other two sisters in Kamakura. Suzu–for reasons we learn later–agrees. The Koda sisters are very different from one another. Sachi, played by Haruka Ayase, is having an affair with a married pediatrician. Middle sister, Yoshino (played by Masami Nagasawa) works for a bank but drinks too much and always seems to fall for the Wrong Guy. Chinko (Kaho) is a free-spirit. She works in a sporting goods store and dates a guy who lost six toes attempting to climb Mount Everest.

No explosions, no gunplay, no violence. But drama enters every scene as the sisters learn about each other’s problems and fears. This is a quiet film that will stay with you long after you walk out of the theater. GRADE: A

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #386: DETECTIVES A TO Z Edited by Frank D. McSherry, Jr. Martin H. Greenberg & Charles G. Waugh

detectives a to z
As Patti Abbott’s Special FFB on Anthologies approaches, I’ve been surveying the possible contenders in my book collection. Dozens of books. I’ve unearthed several candidates. Dectectives A to Z: 26 Stories With a Sleuth for Every Letter of the Alphabet is a wonderful anthology from 1985. Check out the stories and authors in this volume. Great stories and great fun! I’ve chosen another book for the September 9 FFB, but Detectives A to Z was a strong possibility. Do you see any of your favorite stories on this list? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
A: Lew Archer, “Midnight Blue,” Ross Macdonald
B: Father Brown, “The Sign of the Broken Sword,” G. K. Chesteron
C: Steve Carella, “Nightshade,” Ed McBain
D: C. Auguste Dupin, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Edgar Allan Poe
E: Tricky Enright, “Why Shoot a Corpse?” John K. Butler
F: Gideon Fell, “Invisible Hands,” John Dickson Carr
G: Colonel Anthony Gethryn, “The Wood-For-The-Trees,” Philip MacDonald
H: Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I: I, “I,” Edward Wellen
J: Samuel Johnson, “The Disappearing Servant Wench,” Lillian de la Torre
K: Kennedy, “Take It and Like It,” Frederick Nebel
L: Captain Leopold, “Captain Leopold and the Arrow Murders,” Edward D. Hoch
M: Inspector Maigret, “Inspector Maigret Pursues,” Georges Simenon
N: “Nameless Detective,” “A Killing in Xanadu,” Bill Pronzini
O: Patrick Michael O’Bannon, “The Maimed and the Halt,” Joe Gores
P: Patrick Petrella, “The Happy Brotherhood,” Michael Gilbert
Q: Ellery Queen, “The Lamp of God,” Ellery Queen
R: Rumpole, “Rumpole and the Expert Witness,” John Mortimer
S: The Saint, “The Man Who Liked Toys,” Leslie Chareris
T: Virgil Tibbs, “Virgil Tibbs and the Fallen Body,” John Ball
U: Dr. Wendell Urth, “The Singing Bell,” Isaac Asimov
V: Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, “The Phantom Motor,” Jacques Futrelle
W: Nero Wolfe, “Instead of Evidence,” Rex Stout
X: Monsignor Xavier, “The Sweating Statue,” Edward D. Hoch
Y: Trygve Yamamura, “Dead Phone,” Poul Anderson
Z: Sidney Zoom, “The Case of the Scattered Rubies,” Erle Stanley Gardner

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #65: ATLANTIC SOUL LEGENDS (20-CD BOX SET)

ATLANTIC SOUL BOXSET
I found this bargain by accident as I was browsing AMAZON. This box set of 20 CDs was going for $39.90! That’s about $2 per disc! I was a big fan of Soul music back in the 1960s and actually owned the vinyl versions of some of these albums. I played Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters until I wore out the grooves! In the Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett was a big favorite of mine! And I even made a tape of Booker T & The M.Gs so I could listen to Green Onions in my Dad’s car. If you’re a fan of Soul music, this box set delivers hours of listening pleasure. Great music at a great price!
ALBUM LIST:
1. RAY CHARLES – What’d I Say (1959)
2. BOOKER T & THE M.G.s – Green Onions (1962)
3. BEN E. KING – Don’t Play That Song! (1962)
4. SOLOMON BURKE – If You Need Me (1963)
5. RUFUS THOMAS – Walking The Dog (1964)
6. THE DRIFTERS – Under The Boardwalk (1964)
7. DON COVAY and THE GOODTIMERS – Mercy! (1964)
8. OTIS REDDING – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)
9. WILSON PICKETT – In The Midnight Hour (1965)
10. PERCY SLEDGE – When A Man Loves A Woman (1966)
11. SAM & DAVE – Hold On, I’m Coming (1966)
12. BAR-KAYS – Soul Finger (1967)
13. EDDIE FLOYD – Knock On Wood (1967)
14. ARTHUR CONLEY – Sweet Soul Music (1967)
15. WILLIAM BELL – The Soul Of A Bell (1967)
16. ARETHA FRANKLIN – Lady Soul (1968)
17. DONNY HATHAWAY – Everything Is Everything (1970)
18. CLARENCE WHEELER & THE ENFORCERS – Doin’ What We Wanna (1970)
19. HOWARD TATE – Howard Tate (1972)
20. SAM DEES – The Show Must Go On (1975)

SKYSHIPS OVER INNSMOUTH By Susan Laine

skyships-over-innsmouth
Okay, I confess. I bought Skyships Over Innsmouth because I liked Stef Masciandaro’s moody cover. Susan Laine is best known for her LGBTQ erotic romances. Yes, it’s disconcerting when characters are being chased by the deadly minions of Dagon yet find time for some romantic hanky-panky. A Cataclysm destroys civilization as we know it. The few million survivors gather in Canal City (aka, New York City) and send steam-punk skyships into the wilderness to find any refugees. One skyship travels to Innsmouth and the crew confronts Lovecraftean horrors. This is basically fan fiction so factor that in. GRADE: C+

MUSCLE SHOALS [Blu-ray]

muscle shoals
Back in the late 1960s, a record producer by the name of Rick Hall started his own recording studio in out-of-the-way Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Hall gathered together some incredible musicians and started turning out hit records. Eventually, Big Name singers and groups–like Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones–came to Muscles Shoals to record their classic records. If you’re a fan of Percy Sledge (“When I Man Loves a Woman”) or Clarence Carter (“Slip Away” and “Patches”) or Etta James (“Tell Mama”) you’ll hear the stories of their songs from their own lips. I loved every minute of Muscle Shoals. A great music documentary! GRADE: A
CAST:
Gregg Allman
Bono
Clarence Carter
Jimmy Cliff
Aretha Franklin
Donna Jean Godchaux
Rick Hall
Roger Hawkins
David Hood
Mick Jagger
Etta James
Jai Johanny Johanson
Jimmy Johnson
Alicia Keys
Ed King
Spooner Oldham
Dan Penn
Keith Richards
Percy Sledge
Candi Staton
John Paul White
Steve Winwood

TRAVELER OF WORLDS: CONVERSATIONS WITH ROBERT SILVERBERG

Traveler or Worlds FULL cover  TEST.indd
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro conducted hours of interviews with Robert Silverberg and the result is this wonderful Traveler of Worlds volume. I’ve been reading Robert Silverberg’s work for almost as long as he’s been writing science fiction: 60 years. Silverberg talks about writing his first stories in the 1950s. Silverberg left the SF field and had a successful writing career producing non-fiction books. Fredrik Pohl lured Silverberg back to SF in the late Sixties and in the 1970s Silverberg wrote a staggering number of award-winning stories and novels. In the 1980s, Silverberg turned to writing the Majiapoor series starting with Lord Valentine’s Castle. In terms of sales, Majipoor books became the best selling books Silverberg wrote.

In addition to talking about his long and successful career as a writer, Silverberg talks about his travels, his book collection, and his health. Silberberg is 80-years-old and suffered a heart attack. I was moved by Silverberg’s candid comments on his health and his mortality. Robert Silverberg is a giant in the Science Fiction field and this book shows why. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction by Gardner Dozois
◾The Vividness of Landscape
◾Aesthetics
◾In the Continuum
◾Enwonderment
◾Libraries
◾Potpourri
◾After the Myths Went Home
◾Afterword: Travels With Bob by Karen Haber