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THE DESTINY THIEF: ESSAYS ON WRITING, WRITERS, AND LIFE By Richard Russo


I’m a fan of Richard Russo’s comic novels, The Risk Pool, Nobody’s Fool, and–my favorite–Straight Man. The Destiny Thief is a slim collection of Russo’s non-fiction, but his humor and wit shine through every essay in this book.

My favorite essay is “Getting Good,” as in getting good at writing. Here’s a little of what Russo says about that:

“Systematically removing potential naysayers–teachers, agents, other writers, editors–from one’s life might feel liberating, but its likely effect is to lengthen, not shorten your apprenticeship. John Lennon, playing eight-hour shifts in Hamburg strip clubs with his fellow Beatles, must have felt like a slave, and like every slave he must’ve resented his shackles, but he would’ve noticed which songs worked best and which parts of the songs garnered the most applause. Most importantly, when the drunks’ gaze drifted back to the naked girls, he would have heard that silence loud and clear, even over the thunder of his amplified guitar, and understood it as advice: Stop doing this, or Stop doing it this way, or Try something else, because this isn’t working.” (p. 90-91)

Russo, who loves music, also shares the story where he bought an excellent 12-string guitar. And, although he practiced and performed with it, Russo realized the instrument was better than his modest skills. He abandoned his dreams of a music career and focused on writing.

I enjoyed Russo’s “Address to the Graduates of Colby College” which is full of practical advice. After reading Russo’s praise of Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers” I wanted to drop everything and reread that classic! I had the same reaction after finishing “Mark Twain’s Non-Fiction.” “Imagining Jenny” tells a moving story of one of Russo’s friends who transitions from a male to a female with Russo’s support. And I really enjoyed Russo’s comments on Ross Macdonald and Eudora Welty especially their correspondence in Meanwhile There Are Letters in “The Boss in Bulgaria.”

All in all, The Destiny Thief delighted me with its wisdom and charm. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Destiny Thief 3
The Gravestone and the Commode 25
Getting Good 45
Address to the Graduates of Colby College 107
The Pickwick Papers 117
Imagining Jenny 131
What Frogs Think: A Defense of Omniscience 155
Mark Twain’s Nonfiction 177
The Boss in Bulgaria 193
Acknowledgments 207

THE CTHULHU CASEBOOKS: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SUSSEX SEA-DEVILS By James Lovegrove


The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Homes and the Sussex Sea-Devils is the third book in Jame Lovegrove’s trilogy of Holmes/Cthulhu adventures. You can read my reviews of Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows here and Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities here. Once again, Sherlock Holmes and Watson face dangers from the realm of H. P. Lovecraft’s monsters. Three women are missing and Holmes suspects they’re going to be used in a cult ritual to bring Dark Forces to our planet.

If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu you’ll find suspense, action, and a wild ending to this faux-Holmes trilogy. Hope you enjoyed another Sherlock Holmes Week! GRADE: B

THE HOUND OF JUSTICE By Claire O’Dell


Claire O’Dell presents Sherlock Holmes and Watson as African-American women in a near-future dystopia. The United States is beset by a New Civil War. The New Confederacy disrupts day-to-day activities. And cults like The Brotherhood of Redemption attempt to assassinate the President. Sara Holmes (aka, Sherlock) is suspended from her consultant role with law enforcement after her transgressions in the first book in this series, A Study in Honor (2018). You can read my review of A Study in Honor here.

Janet Watson, with a new high-tech arm, struggles to learn how to use it so she can return to being a surgeon at Georgetown University Hospital. But, Watson finds herself involved in the swirling plots that involve Nadine Adler and mass destruction. Claire O’Dell’s vision of a divided America and violent political movements is both accurate and scary. I’ll be counting the days until the third book in this series shows up! GRADE: B+

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #541: SON OF HOLMES & RASPUTIN’S REVENGE: THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN T. LESCROART


Before John Lescroat became a best selling novelist of legal thrillers like The 13th Juror, he wrote two Holmes pastiches. In Son of Holmes (1986) we meet Jules Giraud, a middle-aged spy who narrates the story. Giraud meets Auguste Lupa, child of Sherlock himself and Irene Adler. Lupa, working as a chef in a small French town, is actually a secret agent for the Allies during World War I. Together, Lupa and Giraud cooperate to solve murders that could affect the outcome of the war. I enjoyed the WWI setting and the mysteries swirling around this rural community.

Rasputin’s Revenge (1987) sends Auguste Lupa and Jules Giraud to Russia and the Court of the Czar. There they find a cunning conspiracy. Sherlock Holmes and Watson show up to assist in the unraveling of the complicated plot. If you’re in the mood for historical mysteries with a Holmes pastiche flavor, I recommend Son of Holmes & Rasputin’s Revenge. GRADE: B

THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS By Nancy Springer


I was only familiar with Nancy Springer’s fantasy novels before I accidentally found The Case of the Missing Marquess at a Library Book Sale. Nancy Springer introduces Enola Holmes, Sherlock Holmes’s little sister. Enola’s mother has disappeared and Sherlock seems uninterested so young Enola decides to undertake a search. The Case of the Missing Marquess is a Young Adult book, but adults can read this tangled story and find enjoyment. Nancy Springer went on to write five more stories in the Enola Holmes series. I’ll track them down, read them, and review them in the coming months. If you’re looking for a different type of faux-Sherlock Holmes adventure, you’ll mystery and suspense here. GRADE: B
The Enola Holmes Mysteries
The Case of the Missing Marquess (2006)
The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (2007)
The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (2008)
The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (2008)
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (2009)
The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye (2010)

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. CTHULHU: THE ADVENTURE OF THE NEURAL PSYCHOSES and SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. CTHULHU: THE ADVENTURE OF THE INNSMOUTH MUTATIONS By Lois H. Gresh


Two Sherlock Holmes pastiches for the price of one! Lois H. Gresh’s mashup of Sherlock Holmes and H. P. Lovecraft takes Holmes and Watson into three bizarre adventures. You can read my review of the first book–Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions (2017)–here.

Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Neural Psychoses (2018) sends Holmes and Watson to London’s drug dens to investigate mysterious devices called Eshockers which create addicts for electro-stimulation. Once again, Professor Moriarty and his gang of killers meddle with forces beyond this world and their understanding. Two women who are critical to summoning the sleeping Cthulhu–Amelia Scarcliffe and Maria Fitzgerald–fall into Moriaty’s clutches. Only Holmes and Watson can stop the Earth’s destruction. GRADE: B

In Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Mutations (2019) Holmes and Watson travel to America to fight the forces of Dagon, a creature who rules the waters around Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Moriarty attempts to channel the awesome powers of Amelia Scarcliffe and Maria Fitzgerald to create powers beyond human conception, but the incredible presence of Cthulhu comes into play. If you’re in the mood for excitement, thrills, and over-the-top battles with extraterrestrial creatures, the Sherlock Holmes Vs. Cthulhu series will cause you to scream for more! GRADE: B

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON


Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) is the fourth movie in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce series. Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous characters are “updated” to 1940s. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon is a very loose adaptation of Holmes short story, “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” (though the only element from the story used in the film is the “dancing men” code).

Less a mystery than a spy film with the background oF World War II, the move centers around the kidnapping of a Swiss scientist by Professor Moriarty. Moriarty plans to steal the new super bomb sight and sell it to the Nazis. Holmes and Watson have to crack a secret code in order to stop Moriarty and prevent the bomb sight from falling into the hands of the Nazis. Sure, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon is a step above wartime propaganda, but I’m a fan of these Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies. Do you like these Rathbone/Bruce movies, too? Do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes and Watson movie? GRADE: B

THE AFFAIR OF THE MYSTERIOUS LETTER By Alexis Hall


Welcome to another Sherlock Holmes Week! I’m starting out with a wild mash-up Sherlock Holmes pastiche called The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall. The novel is set in a future city of Khelathra-Ven. Chaptain John Wyndham (aka, Watson), after being injured in a war in another Universe, answers an advertisement for a lodger at 221b Martyrs Walk (aka, Baker Street). There Wyndham finds the enigmatic Shaharazad Haas (aka, Sherlock Holmes) and promptly finds himself involved in the adventure of a mysterious blackmail letter aimed at Shaharazad’s former lover.

Alexis Hall poses the questions: What if Sherlock Holmes practiced sorcery…and was a woman. The Affair of the Mysterious Letter answers those questions with a dazzling mix of SF aliens, vampires, powerful gods, and surreal technology. Alexis Hall delivers a rollicking thrill-ride as Haas and Wyndham scramble through Time and Space to solve the puzzling scheme. I can’t wait for the next Shaharazad Has adventure! GRADE: B+

THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS OF ALL TIME


I’m always amused by grandiose articles like like Paul Tassi’s “The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time” in FORBES https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2019/07/31/the-best-science-fiction-books-of-all-time/#65928cbc6896. At best, these articles supply a list of books that the writer likes without representing the entire Science Fiction genre. The books Paul Tassi claims are the “Best” are:
1. The Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson
Neuromancer (1984)
Count Zero (1986)
Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)
2. Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
Hyperion (1989)
The Fall of Hyperion (1990)
Endymion (1996)
The Rise of Endymion (1997)
3. Ender’s Game Quartet by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game (1989)
Ender in Exile (1991)
Xenocide (1991)
Children of the Mind (1996)
First Meetings (short stories) (2002)
4. Dune Series by Frank Herbert
Dune (1965)
Dune Messiah (1969)
Children of Dune (1976)
God Emperor of Dune (1981)
Heretics of Dune (1984)
Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)
5. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
The Fifth Season (2015)
The Obelisk Gate (2016)
The Stone Sky (2017)
6. Snow Crash by Neal Stehenson (1992)
7. The Expanse Series by James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)
Leviathan Wakes (June 15, 2011)
Caliban’s War (June 26, 2012)
Abaddon’s Gate (June 4, 2013)
Cibola Burn (June 5, 2014)
Nemesis Games (June 2, 2015)
Babylon’s Ashes (December 6, 2016)
Persepolis Rising (December 5, 2017)
Tiamat’s Wrath (March 26, 2019)
I find this to be a very odd list, heavily oriented to SF series. What are your favorite SF novels? What do you think of Paul Tassi’s list?

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (75TH ANNIVERSARY)


This is the 75th Anniversary of that great noir movie, Double Indemnity (1944). Directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity ignited a series of noir movies in the Post-World War II era. The screenplay was based on James M. Cain’s 1943 novel of the same name (which originally appeared as an eight-part serial in Liberty magazine, starting with the February 1936 issue).

Fred MacMurray portrays an insurance salesman who fails for the Wrong Woman. Crafty Barbara Stanwyck plays a provocative housewife who wishes her husband were dead (and that she had the insurance money, too). Savvy Edward G. Robinson plays an insurance claims adjuster whose job is to investigate suspicious claims. The term “double indemnity” refers to a clause in life insurance policies that doubles the payout in rare cases when death is caused accidentally.

Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Academy Awards yet did not win any. But today, Double Indemnity is considered a noir classic. Are you a fan of Double Indemnity?