PaperBackSwap Blog


Mystery Monday – The Case of the Dangerous Dowager

June 26th, 2017

 

The Case of the Dangerous Dowager by Erle Stanley Gardner 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Self-styled “hard bitten old hellion,” Matilda Benson hires lawyer Perry Mason to obtain IOU’s from the operator of a gambling ship, Sam Grieb. The IOU’s were signed by her impetuous granddaughter Sylvia. Her brute of a husband, Frank Oxman, wants the IOU’s to prove that Sylvia can’t manage money or her impulsive gambling so she can’t possibly raise their daughter properly. Matilda wants to scare and thus save Sylvia.

When Mason gets to the floating casino, he finds Matilda Benson on board. He also finds Sylvia in the waiting room of an office where Sam Gieb is slumped behind his desk, dead from a gunshot to his head. There are two witness that have seen a woman throw a handgun thrown overboard. Is Sylvia or her dowager granny a murderer?

This is worth reading because it is a locked room mystery, one of the few in the 70 or so Mason mysteries. Though the number of suspects is small, the reveal is a genuine surprise. This novel was published in the 1930s so Perry Mason plays very fast and loose as an officer of the court. There is no courtroom climax. Instead – surprise! – all but one of the suspects are gathered into a room. Gardner was not usually strong on describing people, places, or atmosphere. But in this he does get in nice atmospherics: the fog, the garish lights, the speed boats plying between shore and gambling ship.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Doomsters

June 19th, 2017

The Doomsters by Ross Macdonald

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

I’ve been reading and re-reading Ross Macdonald’s mysteries since I was a teenager in the middle 1970s. I think that Macdonald could do things in the mystery genre which Raymond Chandler couldn’t. In contrast to Chandler’s too convoluted plots, Macdonald constructed well-crafted plots with no extra screws lying around. For Macdonald, plot unfolds as characters struggle toward their goals, dogged by their fallibilities. The Doomsters covers three kinds of psychological pathologies, various sins like lechery, gluttony, despair, and lesser failings such as social envy and social climbing.

Most importantly, Macdonald’s PI Lew Archer has a heart and soul compared to man-device Phil Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s stories. In the climax of The Doomsters Archer says to the perp “I don’t hate you,” and thinks “I was an ex-cop and the words came hard. I had to say them, though, if I didn’t want to be stuck for the rest of my life with the old black-and-white picture, the idea that there were just good people and bad people, and everything would be hunky-dory if the good people locked up the bad ones or wiped them out with small personalized nuclear weapons.” For Macdonald, the source of pain and pathology lies not in lousy neighborhoods or bad friends, but in family history.

The Doomsters is a turning point in the Archer novels. After this novel, Macdonald was to return again and again to large themes of justice, choice, and alienation. Released in 1958, but the theme that families and their troubles are never what they seem is timeless. Unhappy in their own fashion, indeed.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Private Wound

June 12th, 2017

The Private Wound by Nicholas Blake

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Yessir, from page one we get Anglo-Irish poet and classicist meets The Postman Always Rings Twice:

When I remember that marvelous summer of 1939, in the West of Ireland almost thirty years ago, one picture always slips to the front of my mind. I am lying on a bed drenched with our sweat. She is standing by the open window to cool herself in the moonlight. I see again the hour-glass figure, the sloping shoulders, the rather short legs, that disturbing groove of the spine halfway hidden by her dark red hair which the moonlight has turned black. The fuchsia below the window will have turned to gouts of black blood. The river beyond is talking in its sleep. She is naked.

I’m always game for a mystery melodrama if it is as well-written as this. And the writing ought to be fluent and engaging since Nicholas Blake was the pen-name of Cecil Day-Lewis, who wrote this, his last novel, while he was Poet-Laureate of the UK in 1968.

Last novels are occasionally sad products of exhausted creative energies, but this is worth reading and savoring. A young writer wants to save his pennies and pounds so he rents a house in rural Eire. He knows the war is inevitable and he wants to get one more book out. He meets his neighbor’s wife, an attractive, sexually insatiable and deceitful woman.

I’m saying as little about the story as possible. But know that the local scenery, the national character of the Irish at the time, and the theme of being a foreigner (aka the object of intense curiosity) all contribute effectively to the mystery story.

 

 

 

And the Winner is…..

June 11th, 2017

 

 

Jennifer F. (jfarr5)

Congratulations Jennifer! Your books will be on the way to you soon.

Thank you Mary Potter Kenyon for your interview and for providing the books for this give-away!

Mary Potter Kenyon Book Give-Away!

June 6th, 2017

You have until tomorrow to comment on the Interview with Author and Member Mary Potter Kenyon to be entered to win our Book Give-Away.

 

Mary Kenyon Potter has generously offered a brand new copy of each of her four books to a member who comments on the interview.

 

You can see the interview and leave a comment here: Link

 

A winner will be chosen at random, tomorrow, June 7, 2017 at 12 noon, EDT.

 

Mystery Monday – The Pew Group

June 5th, 2017

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The Pew Group by Anthony Oliver 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This genial whodunit was the 1980 debut novel of an art historian who was an expert in pottery. Oliver literally wrote the book on The Victorian Staffordshire Figure. Before his early death in the late Eighties, he wrote four mysteries, in which he used his knowledge of the business and obsession of collecting antique pottery.

More lust and bawdy couplings than is usual in a cozy mystery do lead to lapses in taste. However, far outweighing this quibble is that this is a genuinely British comic mystery. That is, it features eccentric characters in the English village of Flaxfield, an irrepressible Welshwoman, and a scamp of an Irish tinker. Other funny characters in the Dickensy tradition include a vicar that does spend awful lot of time in conservations with the Creator; a randy spinster; a widow who got that way through murder; gay partners in an antique shop, one of whom is nicknamed “Betsey” Trotwood; and an American millionaire who’s mad about a fabulously valuable Staffordshire figurine called The Pew Group.

The Pew Group goes missing during a wake, which in my English is the feasting and drinking held after the funeral and burial, not the vigil held at the bedside of somebody who has died. Inspector Webber, born in Flaxfield, has returned there for a rest cure and a vacation from a shaky marriage. He teams up with Mrs. Thomas, the incorrigible woman from Cardiff, to identify the thief.

In the first quarter or so of the book the tone is more tetchy and acerbic than I like. The waspishness brought to my mind Robert Barnard, whom I don’t read anymore because his parodies of the conventions of the cozy mystery seem mean-spirited. However, to my relief, Oliver’s tone got more amiable as the book went on. It’s more in the English spirit to be nice, as this reader is totally down with Big Bang Theory Bernadette’s motto, “Being mean is lame, what’s cool is being nice!”

Oliver is a clever, imaginative, and first-rate storyteller. I highly recommend this literate mystery.

 

 

 

Author interview & Book Give-Away with Mary Potter Kenyon

May 31st, 2017

Interview with Author &

PaperBackSwap Member

Mary Potter Kenyon

 

Mary Potter Kenyon is the author of five Familius titles:
Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession, Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace, and Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink, (with co-writer Mary Jedlicka Humston), and a grief journal slated for publication in early 2018.

Mary has graciously offered to be interviewed here on the PaperBackSwap Blog.

 

Welcome Ms. Kenyon and thank you for agreeing to this interview!

Thank you for featuring me and my books.

 

You wrote your book, Refined by Fire in the two years following the death of your husband of 34 years. Where and how did you find the courage to share such a personal journey?

I’d already written about caring for my husband David during his cancer treatment in my book “Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage.” Our marriage relationship was revitalized through that cancer journey, and David was a five-year survivor when he had a heart attack. After writing my way through caregiving in 2006 it seemed only natural to write my way through grief, too. Within months of my husband’s death, I was facing the loss of grandson who was battling terminal cancer. Writing and reading is how I’ve always faced things, even as a teenager. I wrote “Chemo-Therapist” because every book I picked up about caregiving through cancer ended in the death of the cancer patient. I wasn’t about to read those, so I wrote my own, a story of love, hope, and a revitalized marriage relationship. My husband always told me it was a love story, not a cancer story. David had been the biggest supporter of my writing. “Coupon Crazy” was his idea, “Chemo-Therapist” was our love story, and “Refined By Fire” was written because of the loss of him. Pieces of my personal journal and blog appear in “Refined By Fire,” revealing the rawness of grief. I wrote it with blood, sweat, and tears, and it is the book I am most proud of. I knew I wouldn’t be able to help others in their own journey if I wasn’t willing to be completely open and honest in my writing. 

 

In your book you quote many other authors on the theme of loss and grief. One of my favorites is by Anne Lamott:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Do you have a go-to quote? One that usually helps you to put things in perspective?

For years, I’d utilized my personal journal to jot down quotes or paragraphs from books I was reading, words that inspired me or said perfectly what I was feeling or experiencing. I’d noticed other authors using quotes at the beginning of their chapters, particularly in non-fiction, and I wanted to do the same thing. The idea was that if that author’s words spoke to the reader, they’d want to read more. I love leading readers to other books and authors. Lo and behold, one day I learned that there was actually a term for the quotes at the beginning of a chapter; epigraph. Now, I use epigraphs in all of my books. I don’t have a single favorite quote. Depending on what is going on in my life, it changes. At various times, I’ve even taped a quote to my desk, or carried one in my purse, usually when I am struggling with something and need inspiration or encouragement. I’m also drawn to journal, calendars, wall plaques and stationery with inspiring quotes.

 

What would you like to share with others who are going through grief and loss?

In my upcoming journal, I write about how many weeks went by after our downstairs and upstairs hallway lightbulbs burnt out. I couldn’t bring myself to haul out the ladder and replace them. That was something my husband had always done. I didn’t ask anyone else to do it, either. In fact, my teen daughters thought something had gone wrong with the switches. We adjusted to the newly darkened hallways. We’d leave the light on and the door open in the upstairs bathroom so we could see the steps at night. We’d open the downstairs bathroom and turn on that light to illuminate the dark hallway closet. We lived that way for months until one of my older daughters was helping me clean out the closet and wondered out loud why the hallway light wasn’t working. My daughters were horrified when I admitted I hadn’t gotten around to changing the lightbulbs. My point? It is a very dark night of the soul when we lose a loved one. But there are things we can do for ourselves during that dark period; read books by those who have gone down the path before us, attend support groups, reach out to others in our newly discovered empathy, or by journaling. We have the ‘lightbulbs,’ or the tools for healing available to us. We just have to utilize them. 

 

You are Senior Services librarian at the Dyersville, Iowa library. Have books always been a part of your life?

As a child growing up in poverty, I thought only rich people owned books. I learned to read before I attended school, and spent hours learning to print my name so I could obtain the coveted library card. It was a rite of passage in our family. During the summer, my two younger sisters and I would check out five to six books each on a Friday, and by Monday morning we’d have finished our own and be trading with each other. I worked at the same little local library as a teenager every summer, and again (with the same boss!) for a couple of years before my eighth child was born. When I needed to find work after my husband’s death, my first job was as a director of a small library. Then I worked as a newspaper reporter for eighteen months, what some would consider the perfect job for a writer. But it felt as though the endless meeting coverage, Beef and Pork Queen, corn stories, and legislative coffee coverage was killing me creatively. Now I’m back in a library, doing all my favorite parts of the job, without the responsibilities of a Director, and working on a book about using creativity in everyday life. I always dreamed of being an author or a librarian when I grew up, and now I’m both. 

 

How did you find PaperBackSwap? Any special memories?

I’ve always wanted to own a lot of books. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have shelves of books in their home. As a teen, I saved every penny of my babysitting money to purchase cheap Scholastic paperbacks. When I began homeschooling in 1992, I had a wonderful excuse for buying books. And for a short while, my husband and I even operated a used bookstore, so I had ready access to books. During that period of time, I was bartering books for clothing, toys, and educational materials for my children, so the idea of swapping books was nothing new to me. I’ve been a member since shortly after its inception, so I can’t even remember how I discovered it.  

I’ll never forget the day a man came to our door, a book in his hand, his wife waiting for him by the car. His name was Pete, and though I can’t remember what state he’d traveled from, he was passing through Iowa to go to a wedding and he’d decided to hand-deliver the children’s book I had ordered. My husband and I stood on the porch together, listening to this man’s story. He’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he’d consciously made the decision to live every day of the life he had left. His wife came up on the porch and talked to us, too, with tears in her eyes. Their time together was limited, and this man was hand-delivering books to other book lovers, just to touch their lives in some way. He touched ours. After the couple left, David and I sat on the couch and held hands, quiet. His cancer treatment had given us a whole new perspective on life, but meeting Pete gave us a renewed determination to appreciate life and each other. I wrote him later, to tell him how much his gesture had meant to us. It was the next year that I lost David, and I have wondered since about this couple and the gift they had given us in the reminder to cherish each other.

 

Did you read as a child? What was your favorite book growing up?

I was an avid reader as a child, reading anything I could get my hands on. I’ve collected some of my favorites and have a shelf full of childhood reads; books by Lois Lensky, Jean Little, Elizabeth Enright. I loved anything I could identify with and even spent a summer spying on my neighbors, thanks to “Harriet the Spy.” As a teen working at a library, I started with the “A” authors, working my way through the alphabet and the shelves full of adult fiction, certain that by the time I’d graduated, I’d read every book in that library.

And now, what do you read? Do you read for entertainment? For escape? For knowledge? How many books are there in your To Be Read Pile?

I do a lot of research when I am working on a non-fiction book, so right now, I have 12-15 books on creativity in my to-read pile, but when I need a break from non-fiction, there are 10 fiction books in another pile, waiting to be read. I am a big believer in life-long learning, so I read a lot of non-fiction. I keep track of the books I read (and want to read) on Goodreads.com, and my (modest) goal this year is to read 50 books. I read 65 last year, approximately 60% non-fiction. 

 

Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Psychology. She is Senior Services librarian at the James Kennedy Public Library in Dyersville, and a certified grief counselor. She is widely published in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. She is the author of six books, including the award-winning Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace,” and a grief journal slated for publication in early 2018. Mary is a popular public speaker and workshop instructor. See her website at www.marypotterkenyon.com.

 

       

Mary Potter Kenyon has generously offer a copy of 4 of her books to a PaperBackSwap Member who comments here on the blog. A winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!