Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty — Question for 08/09 (Day 9): Book Suggestions for the New Squares? Part 1: "Paint It Black"

Today’s prompt is for favorite horror reads; that not being much of my thing (outside, perhaps, the gothic classics and anything more edifying or funny rather than scary), I think I’m going to leave that prompt to Char, Bark’s Books (aka Bark at the Ghouls), and the site’s other horror fans.  Instead, I’m going to catch up on the prompt from the day before yesterday — I’m really, really excited about the new squares.

This is going to be another multiple-post reply … because come on, these covers are just too beautiful not to give them a space of their own!

                                                      

 

 

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Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty — Question for 08/02 (Day 2): Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies or Other?

Witches.

One of my very first literary heroine was a little witch who manages to get the better of all the bigger, older witches after having been put down by them — the heroine of Otfried Preußler’s Little Witch.  (In fact, I loved that book enough to write my very first fan letter to the author about it … and I still love it enough to have put it on MR’s “1001” list.)

Ever since, I’ve come to be interested in them because women are almost always maligned as “witches” when people are afraid of them because they — the women in question — happen to be better at something (or are merely perceived as being better at something) than others.  That’s true for the poor ladies of centuries past who just happened to know their herbs a bit better than their neighbors, potentially even better than the local monastery’s herbalist, and who, after having helped countless community members with every ailment from headaches to abortion, were duly burned at the stake for their troubles the second they even inadvertently stepped on someone’s toes.   And it’s still true for women who happen to be better at their jobs nowadays than their (mostly, but not necessarily male) colleagues.  Other slurs plainly denigrate — “witch” (and to a certain extent also “bitch”) implies an irrational element of fear.  In light of that, the transformation of witches — or their perception — from the worst of evil bogey(wo)men conceivable to a positive identification with the “women’s power” movement is a thing to behold; not least in literature.

Which, incidentally, is just one more reason why I love Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens.   And along the same lines, who wouldn’t love Mr. Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax and her coven?

Though, speaking of Pratchett, he has also created just about the only werewolf I can get behind (and for similar reasons) — Angua of the Night Watch.

And, well, yeah, in terms of stories that were films before they were books, Ladyhawke of course … which isn’t so much a horror as a “doomed lovers” story, obviously.

Vampires, though?  Hmm.  I mean, on the one hand, give me Dracula rather than Edward Cullen any day of the week (and I’m saying that as a confirmed non-horror reader).  On the other hand, I read Anne Rice’s vampire novels — until she turned BBA, that is — for just about everything but the horror aspect; in fact, if she’d ramped up that one I’d have been gone in a flash.  (Incidentally, Rice once revealed in an interview that Lestat’s character was inspired by Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of Etienne de Navarre in Ladyhawke.  Go figure.)

 

And zombies?  Leave me alone and get the hell out of here.  They creep me out so badly I won’t even go anywhere near them in a supposedly humorous context (like the “white trash zombie” novels that are currently all the rage).

 

 

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Books With a Difference

Responding to Moonlight Reader’s “call for papers (= titles / authors)” — there are quite a number of excellent lists out there already; anyway, here’s my contribution … or a first draft, at least.  Links go to my reviews (or status updates / summary blog posts / author pages) to the extent I’ve posted any.

Not necessarily in this (or any particular) order:

Dorothy L. Sayers: Are Women Human?
Sayers didn’t like to be called a feminist, because she was adverse to ideology for ideology’s sake, but nobody makes the case for equality and for the notion that a person’s qualification for a job depends not (at all) on their sex but solely — gasp — on their qualifications and experience more eloquently than she did in these two speeches.  (I gave up on the attempt to review this little book when I realized that I was basically fawn-quoting half its contents, but the BL book page lists two very good reviews by others.)  Sayers’s crime fiction is legendary, of course, but she’d totally be short-changed if she were ever reduced to that … even to a brilliant book like Gaudy Night (which transforms into fiction much of what she addresses here).  This should be taught and listed right alongside Virginia Woolf’s Room of One’s Own and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women.

Moderata Fonte: The Worth of Women
If you thought women in the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance didn’t know how to speak up for themselves, think again.  There’s Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Christine de Pizan … and then, there is 16th century Venetian Moderata Fonte.  The Worth of Women is, essentially, a witty, pithy conversation among several women preparing one of them (the daughter of another one of their number) for her wedding, and it covers everything from women’s daily life and struggle (as such, but in particular vis-à-vis the stupidity and inferiority of the other sex, which without any justification whatsoever has been declared “superior”), their wishes, desires, etc.  The young bride, who actually doesn’t much feel like marrying to begin with, is consoled over the fact that she really has to (the only alternative being the cloister) by the assurance that every effort has gone into finding her a good husband (i.e., the best specimen from an inherently inferior selection), and receives manifold advice on how to get around him.  The whole text reads refreshingly contemporary, very much to the point — and in part, it is just laugh-out-loud funny.  (“Moderata Fonte” was, incidentally, the pen name of a lady actually named Modesta Pozzo, which means … exactly the same thing: Modest Fountain.  [Or Fountain of Modesty.]  And yes, I probably should review this book at some point, too — God knows, I added enough quotes from it on Goodreads back in the day …)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun
One of my highlights of 2018 and the book that (in large parts) inspired my personal “Around the World in 80 Books” challenge; an insightful, heartbreaking, unflinching, and just all around amazingly written look at the 1960s’ Biafra war, post-independence Nigerian society and the human condition as such, by one of today’s most brilliant writers, period.  Eye-opening in so many ways.  (And yes, admittedly this one is on several of those published “must read” lists, too, but in this one instance I don’t care.  This really is a book that everybody should read.)

Aminatta Forna: The Memory of Love
My Half of a Yellow Sun of 2019; the book which alone would have made that “Around the World” challenge a winner even if I’d hate every other book I’ve so far read for it (which I don’t).  Trauma, fractured lives and society, love, betrayal, war and peace in post-independence Sierra Leone (1960s-70s and present day).  Forna is Adichie’s equal in every respect and then some.  For a bonus experience, get the audio version narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith: He transforms a book that is extraordinary already in its own right from a deeply atmospheric and emotional experience into visceral goosebumps material.

Xinran: The Good Women of China
Before she emigrated to the UK, Xinran was a radio presenter in Nanjing: Inspired by the letters she received by women listeners, she started a broadcast series dedicated to their stories, some of which she tells in this book.  Her broadcasts gave Chinese women — firmly under the big collective male thumb for centuries and still considered beings of a lower order today — a voice that they hadn’t had until then; now her books give non-Chinese readers a pespective on an aspect of Chinese society that most definitely doesn’t figure in the pretty picture of a modern high-tech society that China would love to present to the world.

Astrid Lindgren: Pippi Longstocking and Lindgren’s Wartime Diaries (“A World Gone Mad”)
Pippi Longstocking taught me, when I had barely learned to read, that girls can go anywhere and do anything they set their minds to. — Lindgren’s wartime diaries are tinged with the same sense of humor and profound humanity as her children’s books, in addition to containing a spot-on analysis of the political situation in the years between 1939 and 1945 and many insights into her daily life.

Lion Feuchtwanger: Die Jüdin von Toledo (Raquel, the Jewess of Toledo, aka A Spanish Ballad)
A bit hard to come by in translation, but absolutely worthwhile checking out (and an indisputable evergreen classic in the original German): Set during the medieval Spanish Reconquista (the era when Christian princes and armies were wresting the Spanish peninsula back from the Muslims), in Toledo, during a phase when Christians, Jews and Muslims were living together peacefully in Castile; the true-life story of — married — (Christian) King Alfonso of Castile and his love for a young woman of Jewish faith.  Lots of food for thought on multicultural societies, tolerance, broadmindedness and responsible choices that applies today just as much as it did then.  I first read this decades ago and it has stayed with me ever since.

Iain Pears: The Dream of Scipio
More on multicultural societies, tolerance, conscience and choices; set in the Avignon area of Provence during three distinct historical periods: the end / breakdown of the Roman empire, the medieval schism of the Catholic church (when the popes were residing in Avignon), and the Nazi occupation of France.  All three periods are linked by a mysterious manuscript, and in all three periods the (male) protagonists are guided by a woman who is their superior in wisdom and who becomes their inspiration.  Another one of those books that have stayed with me for years and years.

Wallace Stegner: Remembering Laughter
MR mentioned Angle of Repose, and I’d agree that is Stegner’s best novel (it’s also far and away my favorite book by him); but I do also have a soft spot for his very first novella, written as his (winning) entry in a writing competition, in which all of the hallmarks of his fiction are already present, most importantly the backdrop of his beloved Western Plains and the topic of people’s isolation from each other (even when they’re ostensibly in company).

Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)
100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera may be the books by García Márquez that the creators of those “must read” lists tell you to read (and I don’t exactly disagree), but this brief novella set in a small Columbian seaside town is every bit as worthwhile of notice: A deconstruction, in a mere 100 pages and in reverse chronology, of an honor killing and the society that has allowed it to happen.  Completely and utterly spine-chilling.

Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton
Actually, any nonfiction by Rushdie (for my money, most of his fiction writing as well, but part of that is on “those lists” anyway, and I know Rushdie’s style of fiction writing isn’t everybody’s cup of tea).  I’ve read some of his essays, but not enough of them yet to make for a full collection, so I’ll go with the one nonfiction book of his that I actually have read cover to cover: His memoir of the fatwā years.  Unapologetically personal and subjective, even if oddly — and to me, jarringly — written in the third instead of the first person; but definitely one of my must-read books of the recent years and one that I have every expectation will stand the test of time.

For completion’s sake: His essays are collected in two volumes entitled Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 and  Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002.  I’m hoping to complete both of them, too, some day soon.

Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana and John Le Carré: The Tailor of Panama
Two takes on essentially the same topic — corruption, Western espionage and military shenanigans in Central America –, both redolent with satire and featuring a bumbling spy against his own will as their MC.  I’m not a fan of either author’s entire body of work, but I find both of their takes on this particular topic equally irresistible … and unfortunately, they seem to have regained consiiderable topicality in recent years.

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Good Omens
By which I do not mean the recent TV adaptation but the actual book, as well as (by way of a companion piece) the full cast BBC audio adaptation.  Armageddon will never again be as much fun — but Pratchett and Gaiman wouldn’t be Pratchett and Gaiman if there weren’t a sharp-edged undercurrent, too: Unlike the TV adaptation with its squeaky-clean looks, the book does not shy away from taking an uncomfortably close look at religion and society.  And then, of course, there’s Crowley and Aziraphale …

(Honorary entry from Pratchett’s Discworld series: Hogfather.  Just because.)

Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch Series
One of the two ongoing crime fiction series that I’m still following religiously and have been, from very early on.  Connelly nails L.A., to the point that it becomes a character in its own right in his novels rather than merely a backdrop.  Harry Bosch is a Vietnam vet, your quintessential curmudgeonly loner with a big heart, fiercely loyal (motto: “Everybody counts or nobody counts”) and hates corruption, grift and nepotism in the LAPD more than anything else.  One of my all-time early favorite entries in the series is book no. 6, Angels Flight (which deals with the Rodney King riots and their fallout), but really, Connelly just keeps getting better and better.  The TV series starring Titus Welliver as Harry makes for great companion material, but to me the books will always come first.  (Even more so now that some of them are actually narrated by Mr. Welliver in the audio versions.)

Ian Rankin: Inspector Rebus Series
The other long-lasting crime fiction series that I’ve been following since pretty much forever; for similar reasons as Connelly’s Harry Bosh series: Edinburgh is a character of its own rather than mere backdrop; John Rebus (ex-S.A.S.) is Harry Bosch’s brother in spirit in virtually every respect — except that Bosch has a daughter, whereas Rebus has (or had, until recently) his booze — and like Connelly, Rankin does not shy away from addressing the social and political topics of the day in his novels.  For me, Rankin had found his Rebus legs, oddly enough, also in book 6 of the series, Mortal Causes (which deals with the “white supremacy” /  neofascist brand of Scottish nationalism), but he, too, just keeps getting better and better.

P.D. James: Inspector Dalgliesh Series
From the waning years of the Silver Age of detective fiction (post-WWII through the 1960s) all the way to the New Millennium, James was the reigning queen of British mystery writers, and for a reason.  Her friend (and rival for those honors) Ruth Rendell may have been more prolific, but every so often gave in to populism and cliché — not so James.  She was unequaled at setting a scene and creating a suspenseful atmosphere, and in the best tradition of the Golden Age masters, her mysteries always turned on psychology first and foremost.  Means and opportunity were important, but it was humans and their relationshp that she was chiefly interested in.   I have no doubt that her books will stand the test of time just as well as those of Conan Doyle, Christie, Sayers and their generation of mystery writers.

Joy Ellis: Their Lost Daughters
The second book in Ellis’s Jackman and Evans series; an absolute stunner in every single way.  Mike Finn and Jennifer(‘s Books) weren’t that enchanted with Ellis’s other series (Nikki Galena), and I have only read one other book by her so far (Jackman & Evans no. 1), but be that as it may, this one is completely worth it and then some.  Set in the Fen Country, dripping with dark atmosphere, with a likeable and fully rounded pair of detectives as MCs — and a veritable jaw-dropper of a finale.  Oh, and the audio version (of the entire series) is narrated by Richard Armitage.

Peter Grainger: An Accidental Death
New Fen Country crime fiction series no. 2, and every bit as atmospheric and well-written as Ellis’s Their Lost Daughters.  This is the first book in the DC Smith series, which centers on a formerly higher-ranking policeman who has chosen to stay on the job as a detective sergeant (rather than go into retirement), so as to be able to actually do hands-on crime solving work instead of being shackled to his desk dealing with police administration.  Again, highly recommended, and I am very much looking forward to continue reading the series. — With this series and those by Ellis, I’m also really, really happy to have found not one but several new series set in a part of Britain that has not yet been written to death.

Donna Andrews: Meg Langslow Series
I am not anywhere near a reader of modern cozies (and though Golden Age mysteries are often lumped into that category, to my mind few of them really belong there) — I quickly get bored by trademark kinks and similar forms of repetitive humor, and I often find their plotlines, characters and settings unconvincing, shallow and overly sugarcoated.  Donna Andrews is the exception to the rule: I probably still wouldn’t read too many of her books back to back, but visits to the crazy but comfortable world of her small-town Virginia have become a Christmas reading tradition in the last couple of years that I’ve really come to look forward to.  Favorite entries to date: Duck the Halls, The Nightingale Before Christmas, and Six Geese A’Slayin’.

Jennifer Worth: Call the Midwife
Midwifery in London’s East End, in the mid-20th century.  I’m not even a mother myself, but man, I’ve never been more grateful for the advances in modern medicine than after reading this book.  Well, and other social advances obviously.  Gotta love the Sisters, though …

 

Jared Diamond: Collapse and The World Until Yesterday
Diamond won a Pulitzer for Guns, Germs and Steel, but these two books (particularly: Collapse) are, to my mind, much more relevant to the world in which we’re living today; in analyzing both the state of our modern, globalized world (and its chances for a sustainable future) and the lessons to be learned from past societies: those whose choices led them to failure as much as those whose choices led to success and long-term survival.  Diamond is anything but a prophet of disaster, but being a scientist, he cannot and of course does not shrink from simple, indisputable facts and realities.  At no time have voices like his needed to be listened to and taken seriously as much as today.

  Full disclosure: I know Jared Diamond personally; he’s a longtime friend of my mother’s.  That doesn’t however impact my belief that his voice, and those of scientists like him, need to be heard now more than ever.

Stanley Wells, James Shapiro, Tarnya Cooper and Marcia Pointon: Searching for Shakespeare
Hard to believe this started life as a National Portrait Gallery exhibition catalogue, but it did: A lavishly, gorgeously illustrated, supersized, book-length (240 p.) showcasing of Shakespeare’s life and times; companion to the 2006 exhibition on the NPG’s examination of the authenticity of six portraits then believed to be of the Bard (of which only one, the Chandos Portrait, in addition to the famous First Folio cover of Shakespeare’s works and the statue in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church survived that scrutiny).  More informative in both text and images than many a Shakesperean biography or a book on the history of the 16th / 17th century.

Stanley Wells: Shakespeare and Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher and the Other Players in His Story
The world of Elizabethan theatre, by the grand master of British Shakespearean scholars and long-time chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  Equally engaging, informative and entertaining — and I’m pretty sure the Bard would have appreciated Wells’s not just occasionally pithy turn of phrase.

Antony Sher and Gregory Doran: Woza Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus in South Africa
The future artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and one of Britain’s greatest contemporary Shakespearean actors (himself born in South Africa) — off stage, a couple — take the Bard’s most controversial and violent play to Sher’s home country … in the middle of Apartheid.  Judging by their tour diaries (in essence, this book), it must have been quite a trip.

Final note, for those who are wondering: Golden Age mysteries have been covered by several other list creators here on BL already, so I decided not to replicate that (obviously, otherwise the better part of the entire canons of Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie and others would have shown up on my list, too).  Similarly, while Jane Austen, the Brontës, and several other 19th century writers are unquestionably part of my personal canon, they’re also on just about every published “must read” list out there, so there hardly seemed any point in including them here.  Ditto Greek mythology.  Ditto William Shakespeare (the plays themselves, that is).  Ditto Oscar Wilde.  Ditto John Steinbeck.  Etc. …

And now that I’m finally about to hit “post”, I’m probably going to think of a whole other list of books that I really ought to have included here!

 

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Good Omens: The Screen Adaptation


Ten Comments, Two Addenda and a Summary

So, I finally had an opportunity to watch this (binged on the whole thing last night).  A few comments:

1.  The kids: loved them.  The only people in the whole production who were visibly in it for the fun of the thing, not because it was a job.  Sam Taylor Buck was fabulous as Adam, but I almost loved his friends even more.

2.  Obviously a huge star vehicle for Michael Sheen and David Tennant, and both of them used it to the max.  Tennant wins in the coolness department, but then, bad boys who aren’t really bad always do.  As does tall, dark and handsome.  (As does, for the same reasons, Crowley in the book.)

3.  God bless Miranda Richardson.  And Jack Whitehall and Michael McKean — but chiefly, Miranda Richardson.  Besides the kids, the trio that really grounded the whole thing.

4.  Anathema as a mllennial Californian with a Latina mother — why, oh why???  She’s the direct descendant of a 17th century rural English witch, for crying out loud …

5.  Footnotes from the mouth of God — and not the Metatron, either, but God (Frances McDormand) herself?  Please.  I mean, I do love Terry Pratchett’s footnotes, but jeez.

6.  Adam and Eve: PC casting rather than inspired.

7.  The Four Horsemen: More PC casting, but I loved the looks.

8.  The (arch)angels and demons (except for Hastur):  More PC casting.  (What is one of the hallmarks of PC casting?  It goes to supporting and [relatively] minor characters who make up the background and “feel” of the production, rather than the starring roles.)

9.  Derek Jacobi as the Metatron: What a letdown.  No dice on Nicholas Briggs in the BBC audio production (nor, for that matter, on Alan Rickman in Dogma, but let’s not even go there).  The Metatron is many things, but decidedly not an elderly gentleman dragged out of semi-retirement.  Being a huge fan of Jacobi’s, it pains me to say this, but there we are.

10.  The Shakespeare scene was inspired.  Particularly so, the allusions to Tennant’s previous role as Hamlet and to the Bard’s mastery at appropriating source material from brains other than his own.  Loved seeing the actual [reconstructed] Globe Theatre as the setting, too.

11. Addendum 1:  The nurses and the switching scenes were fun.  Also, good old-fashioned stop-motion technology put to great effect in the winking exchange.

12.  Addendum 2: Benedict Cumberbatch was wasted as Satan’s voice.

Overall:  Gaahhh, this is slick.  Make no mistake, I instantly downloaded the whole thing so as to be able to watch it again (and again), for Tennant and Sheen alone.  And it’s enormous fun.  But it has a glossy, sleek, high tech surface that buries much of the rough, original force of the book under it; never mind that the essential plot remains unchanged and many of the lines are taken straight from the novel: It’s the visuals that get in the way.  And while in both the book and the BBC audio adaptation, for all the humor and downright slapstick comedy, there is a real sense of dread and impending doom towards the end, I never once had that feeling while watching this screen adaptation — even the end left me as cold as just about every blockbuster disaster movie produced ever since the early 2000s (which is why I don’t bother watching them).  I’m not sure less would have been more there — we’re literally talking about the end of the world, after all — but here, too, all I saw was CGI and other high tech effects being showcased for themselves, not in aid of the story.

This adaptation has all the makings of an instant classic, and there is much to love about it.  And most of its audience will probably not even think about, let alone be bothered by the things that are bothering me.  And I enjoyed it enough to want to watch it again, too, probably repeatedly.  And perhaps this is just the sort of production we have to expect, coming out of Hollywood, in this day and age.  Still — for however much I did enjoy it, for me it’s just a tad short of what it could and probably should have been.

P.S. My review of the book and the BBC full cast audio adaptation is HERE.

 

 

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Neil Gaiman & Jouni Koponen: A Study in Emerald

24 Festive Tasks: Door 13 – Advent, Book Short Story

Shout-out to Arbie and Moonlight, who mentioned this elsewhere, with Moonlight sharing the link to the free copy available on Neil Gaiman’s website.  Thank you both!

Also a huge shout-out to the story’s illustrator, Jouni Koponen, who created a Victorian newspaper / tabloid / penny dreadful look, complete with a set of cleverly done, frankly hilarious period style mock advertisements (which are actually the best part of the whole thing).

Gaiman likes to spin literature classics from other genres (notably mysteries) through the Cthulhu myth; I imagine the temptation to give Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon the Lovecraft treatment was irresistible.  That said, in-jokes and allusions to Conan Doyle abound in text, structure, plot and characters alike; all the way to the solution, which is patterned on that of one of Holmes’s most famous cases. — I’ll never like any pastiche anywhere near as much as the original, but as Holmes pastiches go, this one is well done; true enough to the original not to come across as disrespectful or mocking and at the same time with enough of a spin to make it clear that this cannot possibly be anything other than a pastiche.  From what little I know of the Cthulhu myth, I would hope that Lovecraft readers would say the same.

This came just in time for the Advent square in 24 Festive Tasks, so I’ll claim it as my read for that square.

 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1813978/24-festive-tasks-door-13-advent-book-or-short-story-actually

Black Cat Productions Presents: Bingos No. 12 & 13 and BINGO BLACK OUT!

 

 

 This has been enormously great fun; thanks to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for putting this together and hosting it!  I’ve loved following everybody’s reads – still sorry RL duties made me bow out for 2+ weeks smack in the middle of it all.  Most of my selections turned out to be enjoyable, many even great reads, and as a bonus I’ve discovered two new favorite series (James D. Doss’s Charlie Moon series and Peter May’s Lewis crime novels) and a new favorite character in an already-loved series (Angua, in the Night Watch subseries of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld).

 

The Books:
The Books:

Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi)
=> Bingos No. 1, No. 5, No. 6 & No. 12

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)
=> Bingos No. 6 & No. 11

Witches – Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens
=> Bingos No. 3 & No. 6

Genre: Horror – Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
=> Bingos No. 6 & No. 8

Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder
=> Bingos No. 4, No. 5, No. 6 & No. 9

Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues
=> Bingos No. 10 & No. 12

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw
=> Bingos No. 1, No. 10 & No. 11

Young Adult Horror – Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost
=> Bingos No. 3 & No. 10

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn
=> Bingos No. 4, No. 8 & No. 10

Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles
=> Bingos No. 9 & No. 10

Grave or Graveyard – Bram Stoker: Dracula & Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado
=> Final Bingo Square: Bingos No. 12 & No. 13

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse
=> Bingos No. 11 & No. 13

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse
=> Bingos No. 1, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 & No. 13

Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto
=> Bingos No. 8 & No. 13

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band
=> Bingos No. 9 & No. 13

“Fall” into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher
=> Bingos No. 7 & No. 12

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room)
=> Bingos No. 4, No. 7 & No. 11

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None
=> Bingos No. 3 & No. 7

Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery
=> Bingos No. 1, No. 7 & No. 8

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman
=> Bingos No. 7 & No. 9

Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay
=> Bingos No. 2, No. 4, No. 5 & No. 12

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire
=> Bingos No. 2 & No. 11

Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman)
=> Bingos No. 2 & No. 3

Pumpkin – Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
=> Bingos No. 2 & No. 8

Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe’en Party
=> Bingos No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 & No. 9

 

 

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Halloween Book Bingo 2016: Ninth Update – Catch-Up Post and BINGOS No. 6-9

So, after having spent the past weekend and the better part of last night and today tying up half a dozen half-finished bingo reads that, naturally, hadn’t shown any progress whatsoever while I was exiled on planet work overload, for the time being I’m back on track.  And thus I am happy to finally be able to declare my next bingos after all and present:

 

The Books:

Bingo No. 6:


Read by Candlelight or FlashlightE.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi) (read by flashlight, in bed)

A spooky mystery set in the 1680s, in the Paris of Louis XIV. Mlle. de Scuderi – an elderly gentlewoman who is in the confidence of the king and his maitresse, Madame de Maintenon – gets involved, very much against her own will, in the efforts to clear up a string of brutal robbery-murders, as well as the death of Paris’s most famous jeweller.  She isn’t actually the person to solve the crimes, but acts as a powerful intermediary on behalf of someone wrongfully accused, and her advocacy on his behalf eventually leads to the solution.

Those familiar with the real-life Edinburgh tale of Deacon Brodie may find some elements of this story familiar.

I read this in German; Hoffmann’s language is rather florid (and might well be too florid for me under different circumstances), but somehow it fits the setting and mood of this story very well.

 

 
Magical RealismIsabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)

Isabel Allende’s breakout success and still one of my favorite novels by her (surpassed only by Of Love and Shadows): A multigenerational allegory on the story of her native Chile – seen through the eyes of the novel’s female protagonists, the women of the Trueba clan; particularly the paranormally gifted Clara, as well as the Patrón, Don Esteban Trueba (Clara’s husband and the father and grandfather of their daughter Blanca and granddaughter Alba) – and at the same time, Allende’s attempt to come to terms with her own family’s involvement in Chile’s history.  A gorgeously lyrical narrative, as expansive as the plains surrounding the Trueba estate of Tres Marías; at times harsh, at other times, delicate, and a paen to the will to survive and to live exhibited by the Trueba women in the face of all adversity.  Of all books labeled as exponents of magical realism, to me this one, alongside Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, is the quintessential magical realist novel.

 


 WitchesTerry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s hilarious end-of-the-world spoof: Armageddon as foretold in the nice and accurate predictions of one Agnes Nutter, witch.  (Time of Armageddon: Next Saturday. Place: Tadfield, Oxfordshire.)  Starring one demon named CrawlyCrowley (who’s got just about enough of a spark of goodness inside him to be congenial company to one particular angel), one angel named Aziraphale (who deep down inside is just about enough of a bastard to get along like a house on fire with one particular demon), the Son of Satan (one Adam Young, 11 years old, resident of Tadfield) and his friends (think the Three Investigators and the Famous Five rolled into one; hellhound named Dog included), the Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse (and the Hell’s Angels got nothing on ’em), a Witchfinder Sergeant and his Private (father and son Pulsifer … that’s -ssssifer with a sharp “ess”), and of course the aforementioned Agnes Nutter (the last witch burned in England, by the great-great-great-great-grandfather of the aforementioned Witchfinder Sergeant Pulsifer) and her great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter Anathema (also a resident of Tadfield), who will run into the aforementioned Witchfinder Private Pulsifer (Newt to those who aren’t into witchfinding) just in time before Armageddon rolls around; and last but not least a self-proclaimed medium named Madame Tracy.

Tremendous fun, and I’m glad I simultaneously treated myself to the book and its BBC full cast adaptation, which was broadcast as BBC 4’s 2014 Christmas Special!

 


Genre: HorrorChange of plan: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein

Originally my entry for this square was supposed to be an assortment of stories by Edgar Allan Poe (all of which I actually did (re)read as well, together with The Fall of the House of Usher (see below)), but browsing on Amazon I was reminded of the audio version of Frankenstein read by Kenneth Branagh, which had long been on my TBR, and I took a snap decision to use that as my Genre: Horror entry instead.  And boy, am I glad that I did.  Branagh’s voice is almost too silkily gorgeous for so harrowing a tale, but if ever there was a spellbinding narrator it’s him (I found that the CD is best listened to with your eyes closed); and he does perfectly bring home the pain and despair of all involved – the creature’s, as well as that of his creator Victor Frankenstein – and the horror of the framework story’s epistolary narrator, Captain Walton, like few others could have done.  Mary Shelley’s tale is a marvel in and of itself (and let’s not even get into the fact that she was barely more than a teenager when it was published), but it is really lifted to yet another level by Branagh’s narration.

 


Black CatFrances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder

A murder investigation occurring in New York City’s martini- and cocktail-guzzling Greenwich Village “beautiful people” set, wherein a black cat named Pete (the titular Mr. and Mrs. North’s pet, who seems to be modelled on the authors’ own cat) is a witness to the murder and is ultimately also (unwittingly) instrumental in bringing the murderer to book.

I could never really get into this book; while it did have its amusing moments, by and large it read like the work of a cookie cutter, rather pedestrian mind trying to copycat Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles of Thin Man fame.  The writing dragged interminably in parts – e.g., I seriously did not need to know what the chief investigator, who isn’t either of the Norths but a police lieutenant called Weigand, had for every single one of his meals during the investigation.  (Obviously, it also didn’t help that I have actually just read the real thing, an honest-to-God Dashiell Hammett novel, for the Halloween Bingo, so Hammett’s own style and craftsmanship is still fresh in my mind at this point.)  This is the first book of a series that seems to have had quite a successful and long run, so I may eventually end up taking another look at the Lockridges’ writing at some later point, but it probably won’t be any time soon.

Now, if Asta were a cat and not a dog …

 

 

Bingo No. 7:


“Fall” into a Good BookEdgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher

I’ve never been much taken with the wan, ghost-like appearance of the near-death Madeline Usher – and though I suspect Poe was at least partly writing from experience in describing Roderick Usher’s symptoms of suffering, that doesn’t necessarily induce me to feel particularly sympathetic to him – but let’s face it: this thing is a masterpiece of gothic atmosphere and practically epitomizes, all by itself, the “haunted castle” variant of 19th century gothic writing.  So, full marks for style, even if I can only take it every so often and won’t necessarily be revisiting it very soon, either.  (On this particular occasion, I counterbalanced it by some of the other stories I’d been contemplating for the Halloween Bingo; including and in particular the ruthlessly poignant The Masque of the Red Death and The Pit and the Pendulum, which are among my all-time favorite short stories by Poe.)

 


Locked Room MysteryGaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune
(The Mystery of the Yellow Room)

This book is billed as the first-ever locked room mystery, which isn’t entirely correct, as by the time it was published (1907), there already were several very well-known mysteries relying on the same feature (Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sign of Four and The Speckled Band (see below and here)), even though their solutions are different than this book’s.  The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Speckled Band are, interestingly, expressly referenced here, and it is quite obvious that Leroux was a huge admirer of Sherlock Holmes and his creator, to the point that I couldn’t make up my mind to the very end to what extent he was copycatting and to what extent he was paying hommage.  By and large it’s an enjoyable read, though, and I can well believe that the book’s contemporaneous readership considered it a novelty and was seriously wowed by its solution.  (Side note: Grammar nuts reading this in French will have the rare joy of finding the chief narrative tense to be the first person plural passé simple, which greatly added to my personal reading pleasure.)

 


It Was a Dark and Stormy NightAgatha Christie: And Then There Were None

Ten people are invited to an island off the Devon coast by a Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen, who however never make an appearance themselves.  One by one, the invitees meet their death; not before, however, it is revealed that they themselves all have someone else’s death on their hands in turn and have gotten away with it. – One of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries: certainly her most-read nonseries book, and a hot contender with the likes of Murder on the Orient Express for the place of the one book that solidified her reputation as the Queen of Crime more than any others.  This one’s really got it all: a locked room puzzle (or several, actually), a sinister, secluded island location, Christie’s trademark use of nursery rhymes (this wasn’t the first such occurrence in her writing, but it’s unquestionably the most notable one), a cast that – in the absence of any recognizable “detective” character – seems to consist of ambiguous, unreliable characters only, and a turntable conclusion of the sort that only Christie could have come up with.

 


Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery

One of Jackson’s greatest masterpieces, the terrifying story of an annual lottery (by Jackson’s own account, set in her Vermont hometown, though the location is not actually named), which seems to begin as just another small town event, but is slowly and inexorably revealed to be a drawing for the victim of a ritualistic stoning.  No reason for the ritual is given and the story stops short of describing the stoning itself in great detail, but it doesn’t actually have to – you’re chilled to the bone by the end of the story regardless; which is precisely what Jackson was aiming for, of course: she wanted people to think about the casual violence we inflict on each other each day every day without even thinking twice.  (And indeed, many of Jackson’s original readers, who found the story on the pages of the New Yorker in 1948, took it for fact and asked, shocked and appalled, in what part of America rituals such as these were actually permitted to take place in the middle of the 20th century.)

 

 
Full MoonJames D. Doss: White Shell Woman

Oh dear God – why, oh why did I have Mr. Doss’s novels sitting on my shelves for ages without ever actually cracking a single spine while he was still alive and cranking out further installments to his series?  Man, am I glad to finally have remedied that omission, even if only after his death.  And to think that I actually first bought these books with the notion that they would probably appeal to me …

I originally selected White Shell Woman for the Full Moon bingo square because the hardcover edition I own has a full moon on the cover and the series’s protagonist is a Southern Ute (ex-)cop / tribal investigator named Charlie Moon.  Turns out, the novel’s title makes this one a match for that particular square as well, as “White Shell Woman” is actually the Ute name for the moon.

Some of the pro reviewer praise for this series runs along the lines of “what Tony Hillerman did for the Navajo, James D. Doss has done for the Ute,” but this actually short-changes Mr. Doss’s books in several significant ways: for one thing, judging by his author portraits, Kentucky-born Doss – unlike Hillerman – wasn’t Caucasian / white himself, but even more importantly, he didn’t merely copycat Hillerman; his no-nonsense, dry humor and spare but intensely atmospheric prose makes for a style all of his own, and his books’ protagonists (Charlie Moon, his best friend, [white] local police chief Scot Parris, and Charlie’s cranky old aunt, Ute shaman Daisy Perika) can easily stand up to Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee any time.

As a Halloween bingo book, White Shell Woman turned out an excellent choice, not merely on the strength of the writing and because it’s a perfect match for the Full Moon square on several levels: this is also, at least in parts, a fairly spooky read, which would equally well fit the “Dark and Stormy Night,” “Supernatural,” “Witches” (well, Anasazi shamans / wizards), “Vampires vs. Werewolves,” “Grave or Graveyard” and (if I’m right about Mr. Doss’s ethnicity) “Diverse Authors” squares, as the story concerns a series of murders and suspicious deaths occurring at night (at least one of them, during a violent thunderstorm) at a Southern Colorado Anasazi dig, with one of the victims being found semi-entombed in a pit house ruin, while a hound-like creature believed to be the shape-shifting ghost of an Anasazi priest-turned-werewolf is seen by several witnesses (or is he?) – and all of this, set against the background of an old legend concerning blood rituals and human sacrifices performed by Anasazi priests in order to placate the moon goddess (White Shell Woman) and overcome a prolonged and lethal draught.

Highly recommended – even if you’re not reading this for the bingo, if you’re at all interested in the American Southwest and its history, culture and archeology, do yourself a favor and take a look at this novel (and Mr. Doss’s “Charlie Moon” series in general).  It certainly won’t be the last book by Doss I’ve read – in fact, I’m glad I already own some of them! 🙂

 

 

 

Bingo No. 8:

Genre: Horror – Mary Shelley: Frankenstein

(See above.)

 


Scary Women (Authors)Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn

17 year old Mary has made a deathbed-side promise to her mother to go and live with her aunt and uncle Patience and Joss after her mother has died.  So she exchanges the friendly South Cornwall farming town where she has grown up for Uncle Joss’s Jamaica Inn on the Bodmin Moor, which couldn’t possibly be any more different from her childhood home.

From page 1, Du Maurier wields her expert hand at creating a darkly foreboding, sinister atmosphere, which permeates the entire story.  This being Cornwall, there is smuggling aplenty, and though there are a few elements and characters I could have done without (most noticeably, Mary’s infatuation / love affair with a “charming rogue” who is about as clichéd as they come, as is her final decision, which impossibly even manages to combine both of the associated trope endings – (1) “I’m the only woman who can match him in wildness and who can stand up to him, therefore I am the one woman who is made for him,” and (2) “I am the woman who will tame him and make him respectable, therefore I am the one woman who is made for him” – which in and of itself bumped the book down a star in my rating), the story’s antagonist (Uncle Joss) in particular is more multi-layered and interesting than you’d expect, I (mostly) liked Mary, and anyway, Du Maurier’s books are all about atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere, and as an entry for the “Scary Women Authors” bingo square this one fit my purposes quite admirably.

The real Jamaica Inn in its present-day incarnation:

 

 


GothicHorrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto

The grandfather of all gothic literature, madly dashed out in the space of a mere eight days. Intended as a (semi-)satirical response to the “Frenchification” of the 18th century English stage, where – under the influence of Voltaire’s criticism of Shakespeare – scenes considered unduly “rough” and “uncultured” (like the gravediggers scene in Hamlet) were often cut entirely, while at the same time actors highly emphasized emotions considered “natural,” Walpole’s Castle of Otranto simultaneously created the gothic genre and acted as its very first spoof.  This one has got all the ingredients that would come to characterize gothic writing from the novels of Ann Radcliffe, C.R. Maturin, Sheridan Le Fanu, and E.T.A. Hoffmann, to the late 19th century and 20th century “penny dreadfuls” and A-, B- and C-horror movies of classic Hollywood: An Italian setting, a haunted castle imprisoning rather than protecting its inhabitants, a walking / shape-shifting painting, ghosts and other preternatural phenomena galore, virtuous virgins (and wives) ruthlessly persecuted by a furious fiend, secret underground passages, abandoned orphans, lost princes, a clergyman with a colorful and sad personal history, dueling noblemen, and a young hero appearing in innocuous disguise but ultimately revealed as a white knight in shining armor.  To top it off, Walpole, in the book’s first preface also presented the tale as the alleged 16th century (geddit? Shakespearean-age!) translation of a medieval southern Italian legend (a sleight of hand technique that, inter alia, Umberto Eco also uses in The Name of the Rose, which bears many other, though not all elements of a gothic novel as well) … engendering a veritable shit storm – not least on the part of critical reviewers – when he revealed his bluff and stated his true purpose in the preface to the second edition.

Garrick as Hamlet 

18th century star actor David Garrick as Hamlet, depicted in the (in)famous pose upon seeing his father’s ghost (left: etching from Dramatic Characters, or Different Portraits of the English Stage, 1773; right, mezzotint after a painting by Benjamin Wilson, 1756): probably the single most prominent example of what was considered “natural” acting on the 18th century stage.  The “hair raising” effect was produced by a hydraulic wig.

 

Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery

(See above.)

 


Pumpkin – Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The classic Halloween (and pumpkin) story … need I say anything about it at all?!  This was a reread (albeit a bit unseasonable, in what was officially declared the warmest September of record hereabouts), and just as enjoyable as ever!  Poor Ichabold Crane …

 

 

 

Bingo No. 9:

Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder

(See above.)

 


Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

One of my favorite tales by Arthur Conan Doyle – man, I’d so been looking forward to the buddy read experience of this book.  Well, I did duly revisit it, and I’ll be making a belated mad-dash attempt to join the conversation, though I expect most of the others to be done with it at this point … it’s not that long a novel, after all! 😦

Buddy read “replacement post” (of sorts) here.  (Sigh.)

 


Creepy CrawliesArthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band

A.C.D. part 2, and another all-time favorite of mine.  One of the first-ever locked-room mysteries; if David Pirie (screenwriter of Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle and the Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes TV series and author of the novels based on that series) is to be believed, based on the solution to the mysterious death of an Edinburgh woman whose husband hadn’t introduced a snake but, rather, a poisonous gas into her bedchamber from a neighboring room, using the flue connecting both rooms’ fireplaces to the house’s ventilation system.  You’ll be looking for a swamp adder in your zoological dictionary in vain, incidentally – there is no such snake in India or anywhere else outside Arthur Conan Doyle’s fancy.  The most likely candidate he seems to have been thinking of is the Indian cobra, which famously has a “spectacled” pattern and whose venoms are extremely fast-acting neurotoxins and cardiotoxins, producing effects like those described in A.C.D.’s story.


Indian cobra (naja naja) (images from Wikipedia)

Review of my favorite screen adaptation starring Jeremy Brett HERE.

 

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman

(See above.)

 


Set on HalloweenAgatha Christie: Hallowe’en Party

One of Christie’s final Poirot novels, and one of the few books that stand out favorably among her final books overall.  There is the odd passage here and there where Christie reveals that she really was not – nor did she seem to want to be – in touch with the England of the 1960s, but the mystery itself is finely-crafted and holds up well; even if Christie in part revisits familiar ground (but then, she frequently did that).

Poirot is summoned to a village some 40 miles from London (in Miss Marple territory, it would seem in fact) by his friend, crime novelist (and Agatha Christie stand-in) Ariadne Oliver, after a young girl has been found murdered at a Halloween party that Miss Oliver happens to have attended.  The dead girl, during the preparations for the party, had proclaimed that she had once witnessed a murder – and though everybody is quick to declare her to have been a braggart and a liar who was probably just trying to impress the celebrity novelist in attendance, Poirot is reluctant to agree with that judgment, arguing that someone obviously took her words at face value and chose to kill her rather than running the risk of discovery.

 

 

Currently Reading:

Reservation Blues - Sherman Alexie
Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues

 

Finished – Update 1:

 

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire
Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery

 

Finished – Update 2:

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James Das Fräulein von Scuderi: Erzählung aus dem Zeitalter Ludwig des Vierzehnten - E.T.A. Hoffmann

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw
Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi)
(read by flashlight, in bed)

 

Finished – Update 3:

The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde, Inga Moore 

Young Adult Horror –
Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost
Pumpkin –
Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

 

Finished – Update 4:

The Dain Curse - Dashiell Hammett

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse
Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe’en Party (novel)

 

Finished – Update 5:

 Der Sandmann - Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn
Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman)

 

Finished – Update 6:


Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room)

 

Finished Update 7:

Feet of Clay (Discworld, #19) - Terry Pratchett
Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

 

Finished – Update 8:



Witches – Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None
Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder

 

Finished – Update 9:

La casa de los espíritus - Isabel Allende Frankenstein - Mary Shelley The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle, Anne Perry
 
Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)
Genre: Horror – Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

 

The Castle of Otranto - Michael Gamer, Horace Walpole The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan Poe White Shell Woman: A Charlie Moon Mystery (Charlie Moon Mysteries) - James D. Doss
Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto 
“Fall” into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher
Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman

 

TA’s Reading List:

Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi) (novella)

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits) (novel)

Witches – Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters (or possibly Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens (novel)

Genre: Horror – Edgar Allan Poe: The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether (short story); alternately E.A. Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart or The Masque of the Red Death (also short stories). Change of plan: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein.

Black CatNgaio Marsh: Black as He’s Painted (novel) (black cat central to the story and therefore also black cat on the cover of the stand-alone paperback edition) change of plan: Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder (novel)

Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun Possibly Edwidge Danticat (ed.): Haiti Noir (short story anthology); otherwise TBD Settled on: Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues.

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (novella)

Young adult horror – Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost (novella)

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn (novel)

Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles (novel)

Grave or Graveyard – Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado (short story); alternately Ngaio Marsh: Grave Mistake (novel) or Umberto Eco: The Prague Cemetery

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse (novel)

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (novel)

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band (short story)

“Fall” into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (short story)

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room) (novel)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (novel)

Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery (short story)

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman (novel) (full moon on the cover, and the protagonist / investigator is called Charlie Moon); alternately Dennis Lehane: Moonlight Mile

Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire (short story)

Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman) (short story)

Pumpkin – Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (short story)

Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe’en Party (novel)

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1482141/halloween-book-bingo-2016-ninth-update-catch-up-post-and-bingos-no-6-9

Halloween Book Bingo 2016: Eighth Update – TRIPLE BINGO (Nos. 3-5)!

 

The Books:
Bingo No. 3:


WitchesTerry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s hilarious end-of-the-world spoof: Armageddon as foretold in the nice and accurate predictions of one Agnes Nutter, witch.  (Time of Armageddon: Next Saturday. Place: Tadfield, Oxfordshire.)  Starring one demon named CrawlyCrowley (who’s got just about enough of a spark of goodness inside him to be congenial company to one particular angel), one angel named Aziraphale (who deep down inside is just about enough of a bastard to get along like a house on fire with one particular demon), the Son of Satan (one Adam Young, 11 years old, resident of Tadfield) and his friends (think the Three Investigators and the Famous Five rolled into one; hellhound named Dog included), the Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse (and the Hell’s Angels got nothing on ’em), a Witchfinder Sergeant and his Private (father and son Pulsifer … that’s -ssssifer with a sharp “ess”), and of course the aforementioned Agnes Nutter (the last witch burned in England, by the great-great-great-great-grandfather of the aforementioned Witchfinder Sergeant Pulsifer) and her great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter Anathema (also a resident of Tadfield), who will run into the aforementioned Witchfinder Private Pulsifer (Newt to those who aren’t into witchfinding) just in time before Armageddon rolls around; and last but not least a self-proclaimed medium named Madame Tracy.

Tremendous fun, and I’m glad I simultaneously treated myself to the book and its BBC full cast adaptation, which was broadcast as BBC 4’s 2014 Christmas Special!

P.S. My review of the 2019 TV adaptation is HERE.

 

The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde, Inga Moore
Young Adult Horror –
Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost

One of the stories that Oscar Wilde wrote for his own children; a haunted castle story as only he could have devised it – or on second thought, in light of some of my other Halloween Bingo reads, actually as Oscar Wilde, Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman could have devised it: the sense of humor here is actually very similar to Pratchett’s and Gaiman’s.  Take one no-nonsense American family and have them face off against a ghost who’s getting tired of haunting the castle that used to be his (not to mention being thwarted and frustrated in his efforts by the new American residents at every angle), a good dose of empathy, and one big-hearted unafraid young lady, and what you get is a Halloween story that’s not so much scary as very touching – while at the same time also being laugh-out-loud funny.

By the by, we are reminded that Britain has “really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”  Which would seem to explain the odd thing or other …

 

The Dain Curse - Dashiell Hammett
Free Space
Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

Hammett’s second novel; one of his “Continental Op” stories, concerning the (alleged) curse besetting a young San Francisco heiress who sees all persons close to her die a violent death within a very short space of time.  A classic noir tale, though the damsel in distress is actually not so much “damsel” as in genuine distress; with everything from an obscure cult that could give any of the more recent real-life ones a run for their money, a lonesome cliffside mansion, plenty of flying bullets and other sinister doings, and plenty of “saps,” “chumps,” and “swell” things and characters.  I like the Op’s narrative voice; it’s unsentimental and matter of fact, but without quite the level of cynicism of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. The Op also genuinely cares for the lady’s well-being and goes to quite a distance on her behalf, without claiming even half his well-deserved laurels at the end.

 


It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

Ten people are invited to an island off the Devon coast by a Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen, who however never make an appearance themselves.  One by one, the invitees meet their death; not before, however, it is revealed that they themselves all have someone else’s death on their hands in turn and have gotten away with it. – One of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries: certainly her most-read nonseries book, and a hot contender with the likes of Murder on the Orient Express for the place of the one book that solidified her reputation as the Queen of Crime more than any others.  This one’s really got it all: a locked room puzzle (or several, actually), a sinister, secluded island location, Christie’s trademark use of nursery rhymes (this wasn’t the first such occurrence in her writing, but it’s unquestionably the most notable one), a cast that – in the absence of any recognizable “detective” character – seems to consist of ambiguous, unreliable characters only, and a turntable conclusion of the sort that only Christie could have come up with.

 

Der Sandmann - Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann
Classic Horror
E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman)


The first of three Tales of Hoffmann that were (partially) used in the libretto of Jacques Offenbach’s opera of that name; one of the works that cemented Hoffmann’s rank among the progenitors of the horror genre and also one of the (pseudo-)scientific narratives that, over 100 years later, would inspire the steampunk genre:

The story of a student named Nathanael who, having seen his childhood and his family terrorized by a sinister attorney named Coppelius (the eponymous “Sandman”), years later believes that he has recognized as the self-same man a creepy barometer and eyeglass salesman named Coppola, who haunts his steps in the city where he has gone to study chemistry with a certain professor Spalanzani.  While at university, Nathanael falls in love with an enchanting, albeit a bit doll-like creature that professor Spalanzani one evening introduces into polite society as his daughter Olimpia.  Accidentally learning the truth about his presumed fiancée and two more sinister encounters with Coppola, however, eventually prove too much for Nathanael’s nerves and drive him into insanity.

Hoffmanns Erzählungen - Bilder - Theater Bonn: Hoffmanns Erzählungen - Bilder - Theater Bonn:
Jacques Offenbach: Les contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) – framework narrative and Olimpia episode (Bonn Opera, spring 2015)

 

 

 Bingo No. 4:


Black CatFrances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder

 A murder investigation occurring in New York City’s martini- and cocktail-guzzling Greenwich Village “beautiful people” set, wherein a black cat named Pete (the titular Mr. and Mrs. North’s pet, who seems to be modelled on the authors’ own cat) is a witness to the murder and is ultimately also (unwittingly) instrumental in bringing the murderer to book.

I could never really get into this book; while it did have its amusing moments, by and large it read like the work of a cookie cutter, rather pedestrian mind trying to copycat Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles of Thin Man fame.  The writing dragged interminably in parts – e.g., I seriously did not need to know what the chief investigator, who isn’t either of the Norths but a police lieutenant called Weigand, had for every single one of his meals during the investigation.  (Obviously, it also didn’t help that I have actually just read the real thing, an honest-to-God Dashiell Hammett novel, for the Halloween Bingo, so Hammett’s own style and craftsmanship is still fresh in my mind at this point.)  This is the first book of a series that seems to have had quite a successful and long run, so I may eventually end up taking another look at the Lockridges’ writing at some later point, but it probably won’t be any time soon.

Now, if Asta were a cat and not a dog …

 


Scary Women (Authors)
Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn

17 year old Mary has made a deathbed-side promise to her mother to go and live with her aunt and uncle Patience and Joss after her mother has died.  So she exchanges the friendly South Cornwall farming town where she has grown up for Uncle Joss’s Jamaica Inn on the Bodmin Moor, which couldn’t possibly be any more different from her childhood home.

From page 1, Du Maurier wields her expert hand at creating a darkly foreboding, sinister atmosphere, which permeates the entire story.  This being Cornwall, there is smuggling aplenty, and though there are a few elements and characters I could have done without (most noticeably, Mary’s infatuation / love affair with a “charming rogue” who is about as clichéd as they come, as is her final decision, which impossibly even manages to combine both of the associated trope endings – (1) “I’m the only woman who can match him in wildness and who can stand up to him, therefore I am the one woman who is made for him,” and (2) “I am the woman who will tame him and make him respectable, therefore I am the one woman who is made for him” – which in and of itself bumped the book down a star in my rating), the story’s antagonist (Uncle Joss) in particular is more multi-layered and interesting than you’d expect, I (mostly) liked Mary, and anyway, Du Maurier’s books are all about atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere, and as an entry for the “Scary Women Authors” bingo square this one fit my purposes quite admirably.

The real Jamaica Inn in its present-day incarnation:

  

 

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

(See above.)

 


Locked Room Mystery
Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune
(The Mystery of the Yellow Room)


This book is billed as the first-ever locked room mystery, which isn’t entirely correct, as by the time it was published (1907), there already were several very well-known mysteries relying on the same feature (Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sign of Four and The Speckled Band), even though their solutions are different than this book’s.  The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Speckled Band are, interestingly, expressly referenced here, and it is quite obvious that Leroux was a huge admirer of Sherlock Holmes and his creator, to the point that I couldn’t make up my mind to the very end to what extent he was copycatting and to what extent he was paying hommage.  By and large it’s an enjoyable read, though, and I can well believe that the book’s contemporaneous readership considered it a novelty and was seriously wowed by its solution.  (Side note: Grammar nuts reading this in French will have the rare joy of finding the chief narrative tense to be the first person plural passé simple, which greatly added to my personal reading pleasure.)

 

Feet of Clay (Discworld, #19) - Terry Pratchett
Vampires vs. Werewolves
Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Discworld #19)

Part of the Night Watch subseries and officially now one of my favorite non-Witches Pratchett novels.  And I also have a new favorite non-Witches Discworld character: the Night Watch’s resident female werewolf Constable Angua, who seriously kicks a$$ (or, um, prods bottom, as Sam Vimes would have it).

The members of the Watch have their hands full: An old priest and the caretaker of the Dwarf Bread Museum have been killed, and as if that weren’t enough, someone is slowly poisoning Lord Vetinari.  While it falls to Commander (Sir) Sam Vimes to take the matter of Vetinari’s health in hand personally (assisted by Sergeant Detritus (troll)), Captain Carrot (human) and his sort-of-love-interest, Constable Angua (werewolf) go after the killers of the priest and of the museum caretaker, assisted by Night Watch oldtimers Fred Colon and and Nobby Nobbs (humans), as well as newcomer / forensic scienalchemist Cheery Littlebottom (dwarf).  Meanwhile, Sam Vimes is persuaded to make an appointment at the Ankh Morpork Royal College of Heralds, to see its chief herald – the Dragon King of Arms, who is in fact a vampire – about the possibility of a Vimes coat of arms (the city’s latest fashion, which has (literally) extended to the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker); and much fun is poked at the conventions of the mystery novel, particular the golden age variety in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. – The titular feet of clay are those of the city’s golems, who play a pivotal role in the events and who, horror of horrors, seem to have begun to think for themselves.

I originally turned to Pratchett because (other than his books reliably being a hoot or two) straightforward paranormal stuff just isn’t my thing and, with the Night Watch being a mixed bunch of pretty much all sorts of creatures that Discworld has on offer, this seemed the most likely subseries where to encounter both a werewolf and a vampire in some sort of prominent role in the same book (I picked this before MM and OBD had clarified that either of the two would actually be enough for a book to qualify for the “Vampires vs. Werewolves” square).  Going in, I only knew that this would fit the requirements because one of the protagonists is a female werewolf and vampires feature in some fashion in the narrative (I checked by way of a keyword search using Amazon’s sneak peek feature), but as it turns out my selection was actually completely on point, because Angua (the werewolf) is a key member of team Watch (i.e., team “good”), whereas it becomes clear fairly early on that the Dragon King of Arms (the vampire) is the chief conspirator (i.e., the leader of team “bad”), even though the other members, as well as the aims and nature of the conspiracy are only revealed bit by bit.

 

 

UPDATE: Well, gosh darn.  I was over the moon for having gotten a double bingo (nos. 3 & 4), but it looks like I even nailed a fifth bingo without being aware of it — says here the four corners and the central square also count.  Woohee!!

So …

Bingo No. 5:


Read by Candlelight or Flashlight
E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi)
(read by flashlight, in bed)

A spooky mystery set in the 1680s, in the Paris of Louis XIV. Mlle. de Scuderi – an elderly gentlewoman who is in the confidence of the king and his maitresse, Madame de Maintenon – gets involved, very much against her own will, in the efforts to clear up a string of brutal robbery-murders, as well as the death of Paris’s most famous jeweller.  She isn’t actually the person to solve the crimes, but acts as a powerful intermediary on behalf of the person wrongfully accused, and her advocacy on his behalf eventually leads to the solution.

Those familiar with the real-life Edinburgh tale of Deacon Brodie may find some elements of this story familiar.

I read this in German; Hoffmann’s language is rather florid (and might well be too florid for me under different circumstances), but somehow it fits the setting and mood of this story very well.

 

 Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder

(See above.)

 

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

(See above.)

 

Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Discworld #19)

(See above.)

 


Set on Halloween
Agatha Christie: Hallowe’en Party

One of Christie’s final Poirot novels, and one of the few books that stand out favorably among her final books overall.  There is the odd passage here and there where Christie reveals that she really was not – nor did she seem to want to be – in touch with the England of the 1960s, but the mystery itself is finely-crafted and holds up well; even if Christie in part revisits familiar ground (but then, she frequently did that).

Poirot is summonned to a village some 40 miles from London (in Miss Marple territory, it would seem in fact) by his friend, crime novelist (and Agatha Christie stand-in) Ariadne Oliver, after a young girl has been found murdered at a Halloween party that Miss Oliver happens to have attended.  The dead girl, during the preparations for the party, had proclaimed that she had once witnessed a murder – and though everybody is quick to declare her to have been a braggart and a liar who was probably just trying to impress the celebrity novelist in attendance, Poirot is reluctant to agree with that judgment, arguing that someone obviously took her words at face value and chose to kill her rather than running the risk of discovery.

 

 

Finished – Update 8:

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie The Norths Meet Murder (The Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries) - Frances Lockridge, Richard Lockridge

Witches – Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens
Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

 

Currently Reading:


Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)
Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman

 

Finished – Update 1:

 

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire
Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery

 

Finished – Update 2:

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James Das Fräulein von Scuderi: Erzählung aus dem Zeitalter Ludwig des Vierzehnten - E.T.A. Hoffmann

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw
Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi)
(read by flashlight, in bed)

 

Finished – Update 3:

The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde, Inga Moore 

Young Adult Horror –
Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost
Pumpkin –
Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

 

Finished – Update 4:

The Dain Curse - Dashiell Hammett

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse
Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe’en Party

 

Finished – Update 5:

 Der Sandmann - Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn
Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman)

 

Finished – Update 6:


Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune
(The Mystery of the Yellow Room)

 

Finished Update 7:

Feet of Clay (Discworld, #19) - Terry Pratchett
Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

 

TA’s Reading List:

Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi) (novella)

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits) (novel)

Witches – Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters (or possibly Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens (novel)

Genre: Horror – Edgar Allan Poe: The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether (short story); alternately E.A. Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart or The Masque of the Red Death (also short stories)

Black CatNgaio Marsh: Black as He’s Painted (novel) (black cat central to the story and therefore also black cat on the cover of the stand-alone paperback edition) change of plan: Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder (novel)

Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Possibly Edwidge Danticat (ed.): Haiti Noir (short story anthology); otherwise TBD

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (novella)

Young adult horror – Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost (novella)

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn (novel)

Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles (novel)

Grave or Graveyard – Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado (short story); alternately Ngaio Marsh: Grave Mistake (novel) or Umberto Eco: The Prague Cemetery

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse (novel)

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (novel)

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band (short story)

“Fall” into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (short story)

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room) (novel)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (novel)

Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery (short story)

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman (novel) (full moon on the cover, and the protagonist / investigator is called Charlie Moon); alternately Dennis Lehane: Moonlight Mile

Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire (short story)

Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman) (short story)

Pumpkin – Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (short story)

Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe’en Party (novel)

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman: Good Omens


Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s hilarious end-of-the-world spoof: Armageddon as foretold in the nice and accurate predictions of one Agnes Nutter, witch.  (Time of Armageddon: Next Saturday. Place: Tadfield, Oxfordshire.)  Starring one demon named CrawlyCrowley (who’s got just about enough of a spark of goodness inside him to be congenial company to one particular angel), one angel named Aziraphale (who deep down inside is just about enough of a bastard to get along like a house on fire with one particular demon), the Son of Satan (one Adam Young, 11 years old, resident of Tadfield) and his friends (think the Three Investigators and the Famous Five rolled into one; hellhound named Dog included), the Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse (and the Hell’s Angels got nothing on ’em), a Witchfinder Sergeant and his Private (father and son Pulsifer … that’s -ssssifer with a sharp “ess”), and of course the aforementioned Agnes Nutter (the last witch burned in England, by the great-great-great-great-grandfather of the aforementioned Witchfinder Sergeant Pulsifer) and her great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter Anathema (also a resident of Tadfield), who will run into the aforementioned Witchfinder Private Pulsifer (Newt to those who aren’t into witchfinding) just in time before Armageddon rolls around; and last but not least a self-proclaimed medium named Madame Tracy.

Tremendous fun, and I’m glad I simultaneously treated myself to the book and its BBC full cast adaptation, which was broadcast as BBC 4’s 2014 Christmas Special!

P.S. My review of the 2019 TV adaptation is HERE.