Deadwood

Dexter, Pete. Deadwood. Random House, 1986.

Reason read: the Dakotas were issued into statehood in the month of November.

Things you need to know about Deadwood: most of the characters are real. Some of the events are real. Pete Dexter is funny AF in Deadwood, but take caution because there are just as many of disturbing scenes to match. Taking place in mid 1870s, readers plop themselves down in the middle of the Dakotas during the Gold Rush era. Violence and prostitution rule the plot. This should not be a surprise as Wild Bill Hickok, Charley Utter, Calamity Jane, China Doll, and Bill’s wife, Agnes, all get a chapter in Deadwood. Confessional: I didn’t see much of a point to Deadwood. I never connected with any of the characters and I got weary of all the gunslinging.

Is it a spoiler to say I was surprised Wild Bill died as early as he did in the story?

Lines I liked, “The war didn’t leave anybody the same” (p 30). Isn’t that true of any war?

Author fact: Dexter wrote The Paperboy, which I read in 2007 and Train, which I plan to read in November of 2031. Yes, I plan that far out.

Book trivia: There is a television series of the same name, as well as a movie. Neither are connected to Pete Dexter’s novel.

Playlist: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “I Know My Redeemer Liveth”, “The Days of the Forty-Nine”, and “Beautiful Dreamer”.

Nancy said: Pearl called Deadwood well written and funny. Agreed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Great Plains: the Dakotas” (p 105).

Fury

Ford, G.M. Fury. Avon Books, 2001.

Reason read: Washington became a state in November. I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge for the categories of book with a one-word title and title with an emotion in it.

Meet former journalist and perpetual liar Frank Corso. He resembles Stephen Segal as a big man with a black ponytail. Meet Leanne Samples, another liar; only her lies occured under oath as a witness in a death row case. Together, with the fellow outcast and heavily tattooed photographer Meg Dougherty, they try to prove the innocence of a criminal on death row. What a bizarre group of characters. I had to ask myself if I would like any of them. We meet them six days before the execution of Walter Leroy Hines. He was convicted of murdering eight women based on the testimony of one woman who survived…you guessed it, liar Leanne Samples. Fury is a hour by hour, play by play of the unfolding drama. Can they save Hines or did he actually do it because Leanne recanted her recant. The only complaint I have about Fury is the fact that the twist at the end wasn’t a twist at all. As soon as the timeline started to count back up you know there is more to the story. Totally predictable.
One of the best things about Fury is the introduction to Washington state: the Elliott Bay, the Bainbridge Island ferry, Myrtle Edwards Park, Puget Sound, the spring rains that last until August. Is King County Jail on the corner of 5th and James?

I have to ask. Is it possible to tattoo someone from head to toe in 36 hours? I guess it is if the artist is crap…

Author fact: Ford died in 2021. He was 75 years old.

Book trivia: Fury starts a new series for Ford.

Playlist: Billy Preston’s “Nothin’ From Nothin'”, Doobie Brothers, Lynryrd Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, Del Shannon’s “Runnaway”, Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana’s “Smooth”, Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff’s “The Glory of Love”,

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Fury.

BookLust twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).

Oryx and Crake

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Read by Campbell Scott.

Reason read: Atwood was born in the month of November. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library reading challenge for the categories of speculative fiction and a book I have read before.

I need to condense the plot of Oryx and Crake for simplicity’s sake. There is a lot going on in this dystopia drama. Here is the shortest recap ever: Snowman was once a boy named Jimmy. He lived in a world dominated by bioengineering companies capable of creating new species of nonhuman lifeforms and genetic modifications for future humanoids. Jimmy befriends a boy named Glenn (who becomes Crake). During their pubescent years Jimmy and Crake spend an inordinate amount of time doing drugs, playing over the top violent video games, and watching live videos of murder, beastiality, and child pornography. This shapes Crake’s future invention of a health and happiness pill with an unadvertisized side effect of sterilization. Another result of this happiness pill is a lethal and extremely contagious global pandemic. When Jimmy goes to work for Crake he discovers a woman he recognizes from the porn videos he and Crake used to watch. Crake introduces her as Oryx and Jimmy becomes smitten. Does he dance with the devil? Yes, yes he does.

Confessional: I had completely forgotten how disturbing Oryx and Crake is.
Second confessional: I read Oryx and Crake while our world is still struggling with Covid-19. I couldn’t help but make comparisons to O&C.

Lines I liked, the phrase “turn memory into white noise” was the best.

Author fact: Atwood has called Oryx and Crake as romance. She is both brilliant and twisted.

Book trivia: Oryx and Crake is the first book in a trilogy. While this is a reread for me, I have not read the other two books in the series.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anthing specific about Oryx and Crake except to include it in the list of other dark and stormy novels.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “It was a Dark and Stormy Novel” (p 129).

God of Small Things

Roy, Arundhati. God of Small Things. Random House, 1997.

Reason read: God of Small Things won the Booker Prize, a prize that is normally awarded in October.

The God of Small Things opens with a lush description of the monsoon season of Ayemenem and the statement, “Baby Kochamma was still alive” (p 4). The simple statement hooks your breath back into your lungs while your mind jumps the rail, “what do you mean still alive?” Still? As in to imply not supposed to be of this earth? As reader, be prepared to bounce between time and space. In one chapter we will cremate a woman, in the next she will be alive and flirting.
Rahel and Estha, twins who are separated after tragedy. Death is a tragedy. Divorce is one, too. But lack of social standing is the most tragic of them all. Like a pervasive black and choking smoke, the ancient Indian caste system hangs dark and poisonous in the air. The ongoing separation of Paravan and Brahmin, touchable and untouchable, inhaled through nostrils and accepted as common as air to breathe. I was reminded of Dr. Seuss and his star bellied Sneetches. But like all unfair systems, the order of life doesn’t always work when there is a tilt, an upset in the balance. Especially when opposites attract. I don’t know how to review this book without giving too much away so I speak in circles. Jusr read it.

Quotes to quote, “On their shoulders they carried a keg of ancient anger, lit with a recent fuse” (p 67). I love it when writers take the intangible, like anger, and make it something touchable. Here’s another, “Shadows gathered like bats in the steep hollows near her collarbone” (p 154). One more: “They were not arresting a man, they were exorcising fear” (p 293). If that doesn’t say it all about racism…

Author fact: Roy studied to be an architect. she decided to write a book. God of Small Things is her first novel and wouldn’t you know it? she wins the Booker Prize.

Book trivia: I watched a short Ted video on why one should read God of Small Things. I don’t know if the makers of the video had this intention but I thought it was cute.

Nancy said: Pearl said God of Small Things was “simply glorious.”

Playlist: Elvis Presley, Handel’s Water Music, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “The Sound of Music”, “Baby Elephany Walk”, “Colonel Bogey’s March”, Little Richard, “Ruby Tuesday”, “My Favorite Things”, “So Long Farewell”,

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Scenes from Sri Lanka” (p 197).

Italian Days

Harrison, Barbara Grizzuti. Italian Days. Worldenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

Reason read: there once was talk of going to Italy in September or October. Read in memory of that aborted excursion. Also, some people celebrate Italian Heritage Month in October. Read in the offchance that is a thing.

From the very first few pages I knew I was going to enjoy Italian Days. Harrison is funny, witty, smart, and even a little sarcastic at times. She peppers her prose with interesting personal annectdotes about her connections to Italy. Sometimes it is about motherhood or her marriage. She comes alive when writing about her daughter Anna. Other times she talks of old lovers and new friends with such a sensuality there is an undertone of sexuality to her confessions, as if to say “I know I am beautiful. What of it?”
Harrison’s observations about Italian people and places are spot on. She has a running commentary on everything from feminism in Milan to artificial insemination by an unknown donor. She enjoys movies and references them from time to time.
It is obvious Harrison has an appreciation for the words of others who have written so beautifully about Italy’s charms. There are lots of quotes from Stendhal, Ruskin, George Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, and Henry James, but mostly Italian Days is a thoughtful blender concoction of cultural, spiritual, historical, and personal observations. Art, science, food, family, architecture, memories, religion, philosophy, and society swirl on every page. You’ll pick up a little Italian in the process. My favorite phrase was “qui sono felice” or “Here I am happy.”
Interesting that Piazzare Loreto bears no recognition of Mussolini’s demise.
As an aside, since Italian Days was published in 1989 I have to wonder if Milan is still as dependent on America as some seemed to think.
Thanks to Harrison’s descriptions of Italy there are a few places I would like to go: the church of Santa Maria Sacravia with its basalt stones; Rome, the city of Saints Peter and Paul (does anyone else think of Josh Ritter’s “Girl in the War” when hearing those names?); the Capuchin Cemetery to “cultivate a taste for the memento mori” (p 300). I now want to see the statue of David just to see his curiously small…ears.

As an another aside, remind me never to try the chocolate panforte – Harrison’s description of it sounds absolutely awful. Who would want to eat a spongy rock impregnated with gravel? On the other hand, when I go to Italy I want to try every flavor of gelati and I want to find the final resting place of Patrician Cecilia, the virgin patron saint of music and musicians. Supposedly, she is buried in a catacomb on the Appian Way.

Favorite lines: First, this is the one that made me laugh, “I have never but once had the occasion to threaten to knock someone’s pearls down her throat” (p 5). Then came, “It is very hard to be charming in a foreign language” (p 13), and “I have always wanted to live in an enclosed world, but when I did, I wanted to get out” (p 348). Spoken like a true cat. Meow.

Author fact: Everyone has their “thing” that makes them nervous. It was interesting to learn Harrison does not like masks or puppets.

Book trivia: there is a nice section of black and white photographs.

Setlist: Bach, Prince, Ben Webster, Ethel Merman, Mario Lanza, Tina Turner, Mozart, Vivaldi, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, “Once There Were Three Marys”, “Amapola, My Pretty Little Poppy”, “O Sole Mio”, “Arriverderci Roma”, “Be Silent Mortal Flesh”, “Edelwiess Forever”, Frank Sinatra’s “New York”, “Agnis Dei”, “Puff the Magic Dragon”, “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus”, “Day is Done”, “Little Boxes”, “Love Walked In”, “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”, “Jesus is My Friend”, “Tea for Two”, “Ave Maria”,

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Italian Days other than to outline what the book is about.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).

Kindred

Butler, Octavia, E. Kindred. Read by Kim Staunton. Audio Books, 2007.

Reason read: The audio book for Kindred was released on September 12th, 2007. Read in honor of that event. I also needed a book with a one word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

This was a hard read. I know what Butler was trying to do and it worked almost too well. Even just reading the fact that nigger was not a derogatory term in southern Maryland in 1815 was painful. I didn’t know how I would get through the much, much, much harsher treatment of slaves, but I did. Dana, a modern woman from the 1970s, finds herself time-traveling back to pre-Civil War Maryland. At first it seems as if Dana is going back in time to protect the future of her very existence. It’s much deeper than that. There were many themes introduced in Kindred. Probably the most profound theme surrounded literacy. The ability to read was controversial in the mid 1800s. Seen as a threat to whites, cherished as a secret communication for slaves, the ability to read symbolized power and a different form of freedom. Confessional: after Dana’s first jump I was disturbed by her early acceptance of time travel. She wasn’t as freaked out about time jumping between present day Los Angeles and slave era Maryland as I thought realistic. Add in the fact she accidentally took her white husband with her and a whole other dynamic gets introduced. Another confessional: I read this so fast I can barely remember the details except to say the violence stayed with me for a very long time, even if the entire plot didn’t.

Author fact: Butler passed away in 2006.

Book trivia: I could picture this being a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl only includes Kindred in a list of books about time travel one might enjoy.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 221).

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Flagg, Fannie. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. McGraw Hill, 1987.

Reason read: August is Friendship month.

After reading Fried Green Tomatoes you will swear you just made a whole bunch of new and memorable friends. The characters will stay with you long after the last page. At the heart of Fried Green Tomatoes is the story of a friendship between two women. Mrs. Threadgoode, living out her old age in a nursing home, befriends Evelyn who is only there to visit her ailing mother. Held captive by the incessant chatter of Mrs. Threadgoode, middle aged and weary Evelyn is introduced to 1930s Whistle Stop, Alabama and its ecclectic community. The more Mrs. Threadgoode talks, the more Evelyn wants to know what happened next. She begins to visit more and more, bringing gifts each time. Between the present day nursing home and the flashbacks is Dot Weems and her weekly “Whistle Stop Bulletin” full of town gossip and humor. Despite its feel good narrative, startling examples of bigotry and violence are a reality. The very real thorns among the roses. But, back to the heart of Fried Green Tomatoes – the characters: Tomboy Idgie Threadgoode was by far my favorite. She is passionate, wild, and carries a great sense of humor and love in her heart.

Author fact: I had to look this up to confirm Fannie Flagg was an actress, screenwriter, director, comedienne, as well as author.

Book trivia: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe was made into a well-known movie starring Kathy Bates as Evelyn and Jessica Tandy as Ninny Threadgoode.

Playlist: Art Tatum’s “Red Hot Pepper Stomp”, Bessie Smith’s “I Aint Got Nobody”, “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, “Buffalo Gal, Won’t You Come Out Tonight?”, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Hank Williams, “I’m going Home on the Morning Train”, “I’m in Love with the Man in the Moon”, the Inkspots, “In the Baggage Car Ahead”, “Jingle Bells”, “Life is Just a Bowlful of Cherries”, “Listen to the Mockingbird”, “Nola”, “On the Good Ship Lollipop”, “Red Sails in the Sunset”, “Sheik of Araby”, “Smoke Rings”, “Stars Fell on Alabama”, “Sweet By and By”, “Tuxedo Junction”, “Wedding March”, “When I Get to Heaven, I’m Gonna Sit Down and Rest Awhile”, and “White Birds in Moonlight”.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Fried Green Tomatoes as another book exploring women’s friendships.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Women’s Friendships” (p 247). Also in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Friend Fiction: Alabama” (p 205).

Mrs. Westerby Changes Course

Cadell, Elizabeth. Mrs. Westerby Changes Course. William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1968.

Reason read: July is Ice Cream Month. Ice cream makes most people happy. Mrs. Westerby Changes Course is supposed to be a feel-good book even though it is a little dark.

I think I would like Miss Gail Sinclair if I were to meet her as a real person. As a secretary for a London publishing company she exudes humor and vitality, even if her offer to chauffeur one of the publishing company’s newest author to a cottage in the English countryside turns more than a little crazy. Gail never dreamed she would find herself caught up in a dark drama; let alone come out of it with a budding romance. Recently widowed Mrs. Anita Stratton needs someone to accompany her to her former sister-in-law’s cottage. There, she hopes to collect her family’s heirloom furniture from her husband’s sister, Mrs. Westerby. It’s a strange situation. Widow owns the furniture. Deceased man’s sister owns the cottage. Keep in mind, this is in an era of ear trumpets and good graces. Polite decorum is a must, yet sister-in-law Mrs. Westerby is a loud and obnoxious individual who is always showing up wherever Gail and Mrs. Stratton seem to be. This is not how Gail knows her to be. Tagging behind Mrs. Westerby is her godson, Julian. Why does he need to keep an eye on Mrs. Westerby and why does she act so strange around Mrs. Stratton? The story gallops along so readers won’t have to wait too long to find out.

Author fact: Cadell has written a bunch of books. I am reading three for the Challenge: The Corner Shop, The Toy Sword, and of course, Mrs. Westerby Changes Course.

Book trivia: the cover art for Mrs. Westerby Changes Course combines humor and society. Cute doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Nancy said: Pearl called Cadell a writer of gentle reads.

Book Lust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 50).

Castle

Macaulay, David. Castle. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977.

Reason read: so in the month of June Kisa took me to a castle in Colorado. I’ll never forget Castle Marne because it is where we got engaged. Read Castle on honor of that memory.

Despite the fact the castle and surround community are imaginary, the construction of the castle itself, in 1286 Wales, is a realistic blueprint. A lot of detail went into explaining the process, complete with a layout of all the tools for a carpenter’s trade as well as the weapons of war. And speaking of war, I have to admit I had to look up the difference between a siege and an attack. I had heard them used interchangeably on the news. Thank you, Mr. Macaulay. All of the illustrations are spectacular. As an aside, I loved the little culprit sitting in the dungeon. Equally amusing was how they disposed of human waste. Yes, I have that kind of humor sometimes. I heard that Castle was also made into a documentary.

Author fact: Macaulay also wrote about the construction of cathedrals (which I already read), mills, pyramids, and mosques. I am reading about them all for the Challenge.

Book trivia: the dedication is to the past – farewell!

Nancy said: Pearl said all of Macaulay’s books are wonderful but Castle is her favorite.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Building Blocks” (p 38).

Jitterbug

Estleman, Loren D. Jitterbug. Tom Doherty Associates Book, 1998.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state.

Confessional: sometimes reading Doyle gives me the sensation of being dropped into a foreign city at rush hour. People are buzzing with energy all around me, all coming and going, going and coming. Worst case in this scenario, I’m blindfolded and spun around until I can’t walk straight. There are so many characters and side plots I’m bumping into everything. So far, Jitterbug is my favorite. It is the least chaotic. I like the viewpoint from the serial killer masquerading as a soldier. Police think the killings are mafia related because someone is targeting citizens who hoard ration stamps. Is it a punishment of sorts? I also liked the time period of life during World War II, a time when desegregation was an attempt to support the war effort, yet racism and prejudice still thrive. Some of the murders are a little hard to take because Estleman lets you into the victim’s life enough so that you begin to care. You learn a little about their struggles before they die and that makes their demise a little harder to take. (Kind of like Game of Thrones when you like a character and are completely bummed when they are killed off too early in the series.) True to form, Estleman brings back well known characters, like my favorite Connie Minor.
Be warned – Estleman uses language of the time to describe ethnic groups. It isn’t always pretty.

As an aside, I loved the reference to Myrna Loy. Who remembers her? Josh Ritter wrote a song titled “Myrna Loy.” Is it about the actress? I’m not sure.

Author fact: Estleman is the author of over forty novels. This is the penultimate one for the Challenge list.

Cars: Auburn, Chrysler, De Soto, Dodge, Ford, GM, Lincoln Zephyr, Model T, Nash, Oldsmobile, Packard Clipper, Plymouth Coupe, Pontiac Torpedo,
Fashion: argyles, bow tie, beanie, bobby sox, cloche hat, coveralls, cowboy boots, cummerbunds, cordovan loafers, denim, evening gloves, fedora, gabardine, galoshes, kupperheimer tropical suit, khakis, leather vests, linen, peg tops, poncho, rayon pajamas, saddle shoes, seersucker suit, tweed, trench coat, wingtips, worsted wool, Wittnauer, zoot suit,

Playlist: Artists – Anita O’Day, the Anderson Sisters, Benny Goodman, Bessie Smith, Billy Eckstine, Billy Holiday, Bing Crosby, Blind Lemon, Bob Eberly, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Earl Fatha Hines, Frank Sinatra, Fritz Kreisler, Glenn Miller, Helen O’Connell, Hot Lips Page, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Dorsey, Kate Smith, King Oliver, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong (Satchmo), McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Red Onion Jazz Babies, Sidney Bechet, Scrapper Blackwell, Xavier Cugat, Yuhudi Menhuhn, and Zue Robertson,
Songs – “Amapola”, “Cielito Lindo”, “Contrasts”, “Cow Cow Boogie”, “Cuban Pete”, “Don’t Be That Way”, “Gimme a Pig Foot”, “God Bless America”, “Green eyes”, “In the Mood”, “Let Me Off Uptown”, “Lost Your Head Blues”, “My Shawl”, “Saint James Infirmary”, “Song of India”, “Swanee”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “South of the Border”, “Tangerine”, and “White Cliffs of Dover”

Nancy said: Pearl called the entire series sweeping and gritty.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest, Michigan” (p 25).

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me

Farina, Richard. Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. Penguin Classic, 1996.

Reason read: I just finished the biographies of Farina, Baez, and Dylan. This seemed like the natural choice for the next book to read.

Which is better? To know more about the author than his work or vice versa, especially when starting to read his debut novel? I had just finished reading a biography that included Farina and it seemed like a natural progression to dive into his novel. But before I began I questioned, was this a good idea? What if my reading and interpretation would be skewed by knowing Farina’s life more intimately than not? Pynchon admits Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me is transparently autobiographical. Gnossos Pappadopoulis (“the G is silent”) is Richard Farina in more ways than probably the author intended. Art imitates life in this case. There is a collision of blood with the manic boo to make everything a little more celestial in its demise.
In addition to being autobiographical, Been Down So Long is a tribute to the culture of the late 1950s. Drugs, relationships, music, college, sex, religion, all show up and parade past the reader waving their colors of glory. Amidst the electric blue imagery seethes black comedy. There is a jaunty style of half lying that simply cannot be believed. Buzzy. I am sure with all the farmland there are plenty of rainbows and you should not forget about the umbro horrors rocks in the roots that fall down like marshmallows in cloudlike wisps. Gnossos, like Farina, was the king of tall tales, as he says “ovarian doom waiting to be fertilized” (p 12).

Quotes to quote, “Wise mother, though, hanging on in Athene, existence through academic osmosis, eluding the asphalt seas outside” (p 106). Amen. Another, “In the cobalt night he dreamed of disaster to come and cursed her sweetly into the sulfur cauldrons of hell” (p 233). Sure. Last one, “The loose beads of perception seemed to be falling through a hole in the tangible surface of the world and spilling all over the four-dimensional floor” (p 303). My favorite.

Author fact: Farina died in a motorcycle accident two days after the publication of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.

Book trivia: Thomas Pynchon wrote the introduction to Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.

Playlist: Harry Belafonte, Corelli, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis (the best of all the jazz cats), Peter Yarrow, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Buddy Holly, Leadbelly, Mose Allison, Weill and Breck, and of course Mimi Baez. “Peggy Sue” and “Silent Night”.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me because he is the subject of a memoir from the 1960s. Been Down So Long… shouldn’t be in More Book Lust (or at least the chapter on the 1960s).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s In Fact and Fiction” (p 178).

Name of the Rose

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. Everyman Library, 2006.

Reason read: Religion = Easter. Easter = Religion.

Author fact: Eco looks every part the crime writer. He could even star in his own crime movie thriller.

If you can ignore the reviewers who point out historical inaccuracies, The Name of the Rose is a great postmodern murder mystery set in 1327. How many debut novels can boast of a serial killer thriller set in that medieval era? The book opens with Brother William of Baskerville and his scribe, Adso of Melk, traveling to a wealthy North Italy monastery to attend a heresy hearing. Soon after their arrival strange deaths start piling up, a total of seven in all. William of Baskerville (with an obvious nod to Sherlock Holmes) must catch the killer before the entire monkhood is murdered. This was a reread for me.

As an aside, the image of a man murdered and drowned in a vat of pig’s blood has stayed with me since the first time I read the book.

Book trivia: The Name of the Rose was Eco’s first novel and it was made into a movie in 1986, starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater. If that wasn’t enough, The Name of the Rose was also brought to life on the theater stage, as a radio program, in video games, and even referenced in music. A miniseries also came out in 2019. I’ll have to look that up.

Nancy said: Pearl said The Name of the Rose “simply should not be missed” (More Book Lust p 87).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: the Family of the Clergy” (p 86).

Edson

Morrissey, Bill. Edson. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Reason read: June is the month a lot of small towns celebrate different things. Just yesterday Kisa and I went to an asparagus festival.

While I was reading Edson I had the sense that the town and the story of the main character were partly autobiographical in nature. Center stage is Edson, a small New Hampshire town with a cast of quirky characters. Most intriguing is former singer/songwriter Henry Corvine. Recently returned after a divorce and a disastrous stint on a fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, Henry didn’t want the divorce and he couldn’t maintain even the smallest passion for the ocean. Acting as his refuge, Edson is where Henry returns to start over. Doing just what, he doesn’t know. The tiny town of Edson is brimming with other characters, including Caroline, a young waitress with her eye on bigger and better things and Pope Johnson, a singer who has stolen Henry’s former Edson life, right down to the songs Henry wrote and used to perform on a nightly basis. Resigned to the fact time has erased the true creator of the lyrics (think Dave Matthews singing “All Along the Watchtower”), Henry lets Pope take his former spotlight while Henry meanders from one job possibility to another. He may be lost in Edson, but it’s still the place to which he keeps coming back.
As an aside, the Edson mill closing down in the dead of night was exactly like Josh Ritter’s “Henrietta, Indiana” song. There are probably hundreds of stories about factories shuttering their doors without warning and putting thousands out of work.

As another aside, there is lot of smoking and drinking in Edson.

Author fact: Bill Morrissey is a real life singer-songwriter. I had a chance to listen to some of his performances on the internet. I would definitely go to a bar to hang out to enjoy his music.

Book trivia: this should be a movie. Josh Ritter could play the lead.

Playlist: Mississippi John Hurt, Joni Mitchell, Grace Paley, Johnny Hodges, the fictional Tyler Beckett, Righteous Brothers (“Unchained Melody”), Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly,

Nancy said: Pearl explains some of the plot.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Small-Town Life” (p 203).

Stress

Estleman, Loren D. Stress: a Novel of Detroit. Warner Books, 1996.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January when Michigan became a state.

There is always some kind of special assignment in an Estleman book. This time, it’s a cop going undercover in the STRESS (Stop The Robberies Enjoy Safe Streets) unit: a plain clothes undercover commando unit accused of using less than law abiding tactics to take crime off the streets. Charlie Battle, nephew to a pro wrestler from an earlier book, tries to make sense of the violence. I like the way characters reminisce about incidents and characters described in earlier books. Their memories tie past books together because the plots are not continuous. The real constant is the biography of the Motor City and the cars on its streets. You can also count on Estleman to make reference to real people and historical events (like Jane Alpert and the New York City bombings in 1969). Mix in gun dealers and a child abduction and you have a different story altogether.

As an aside, Estleman must have had fun with the fashions of the 1970sd with all of its corduroy, wide lapels, crushed velvet, and bell bottoms.

Quote to quote, “If being rich meant having to listen to live music all the time, Kubicek would just as soon take his $300 a week and an eight-track player” (p 3). Thanks, but no thanks!

Book trivia: Stress is the fifth book in the series.

Author fact: Estleman is an authority on American West history.

Playlist: Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”, Tennessee Ernie Ford, “Sixteen Tons”, Stevie Wonder, James Brown’s “Mama Don’t Lie”, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, “I Could Have Danced All Night”, “Thank you Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin”, and Elvis.

Nancy said: Pearl called the entire series sweeping and gritty.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest – Michigan” (p 25).

Orchard

Watson, Larry. Orchard. Random House, 2003.

Reason read: Wisconsin became a state in May.

Don’t be fooled by the simple plot. This is more than a story about a husband and wife. This is a historical piece. [The reader will drop in on 1947 and 1954 and learn about emerging technologies, and my favorite – how to be unladylike (chew gum, smoke, drink alone, swear or sweat).] It is a cultural commentary on what it means to be a foreigner in a strange land, language barriers and all. This is a heartbreaking romance. It is what happens when grief complicates a marriage, misunderstanding about propriety tangles it, and opportunity finally destroys it. The grief of losing a child to an avoidable accident serves as the catalyst for a downward spiral for all involved. Orchard begs the question who is the bigger betrayer, the one who builds an emotional obsession or the one whose carnal desires explode in a single act? Is emotion infidelity more of a sin than a physical one? Larry Watson is becoming one of my favorite authors.
I have read a few reviews that mention this scene, for better of for worse. I myself held my breath when Sonja went to the barn to shoot the family horse. the scene was only seconds long but I seemed to be suspended in dread forever.

Favorite lines (and there were quite a few), “You wanted stillness, but not the repose of a cadaver” (p 5), “Desperation did not enter one room of a family’s house and stayed out of others” (p 18), “Thus do our own fantasies cripple us” (p 39).

As an aside, I am sorry I read a review which mentioned Andrew Wyeth’s Helga paintings and the similarities to Watson’s Orchard. Now I cannot reconcile Sonja’s face as her own now that I see Helga in my mind’s eye.

Author fact: I am also reading Montana 1948 by Larry Watson.

Book trivia: This should be a movie.

Playlist: Nat King Cole’s “Pretend”, Eddie Fisher, “O Mein Papa”, and, “Joy to the World”.

Nancy said: Orchard is not given any special treatment by Pearl.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (p 21).