Monday, June 8, 2015

The Books I Read On My Vacation


Hello Everyone, It has been a long time since I posted anything except news about my own books. I’m no longer able to do regular book reviews, but I miss sharing the books I’ve been reading, so I thought I would try something different and offer a digest style post about  the books I read while I was on vacation after finishing my last novel plus a few other things. So here we go:


I’ve been fascinated by unsolved mysteries since I was a little girl, and one of the cases that has long haunted me is the pitchfork murder of an elderly man named Charles Walton on Valentine’s Day 1945 while trimming hedges in a rural English village. From the start rumors of witchcraft and black magic attached themselves to the crime. Scotland Yard sent their greatest detective, Robert Fabian, known as Fabian of the Yard, to investigate, but he found the locals close-lipped and the case haunted him for the rest of his life as one of his rare failures. The story has long been a fixture in compilations of unsolved murders, which is how I first learned of it, and I’ve always wanted to read a more in depth account, so I was pleased to find two full-length books almost at the same time. THE CASE THAT FOILED FABIAN MURDER AND WITCHCRAFT IN RURAL ENGLAND by Simon Read and UNDER THE SHADOW OF MEON HILL THE LOWER QUINTON AND HAGLEY WOOD MURDERS by Paul Newman.




Mr. Read’s book shows that details surrounding the case, particularly those pertaining to the supernatural, have been greatly exaggerated, and he does a fine and thorough job of peeling away rumors, myths, and misconceptions that have attached themselves like barnacles to the crime since the start. It is admittedly a pity to see them go, such stories of ritual sacrifice, phantom black dogs, tales of Charles Walton being a warlock who harnassed giant toads to miniature plows to blight his neighbors’ crops, and the legends of the nearby Rollright Stones make this tragedy stand out among the many long cold cases. He also provides an excellent account of the life and fame of Robert Fabian and his feelings, and suspicions, about the case, including his private belief that he knew who the murderer was, but was unable to prove it and secure a conviction.




Mr. Newman’s book explores the various occult and conspiracy theories in great depth, even dragging in Norse Gods and Aleister Crowley, sometimes following these long and twisted occult avenues to such lengths that I feared he would never find his way back to poor murdered Charles Walton, but it is a fascinating book nonetheless. Those who have been following me know that I came to my love of history through a book of ghost stories, and I was raised on horror movies, so I was not at all bored reading this.


Both books also delve into an earlier unsolved murder in which the skeletal remains of a woman, dubbed Bella of the Wych Elm by journalists, were found in Hagley Wood in 1943. She was never identified and tantalizing rumors that she might have been a ritual sacrifice, a witch herself, or even a German spy kept interest in the case alive.





Years ago I read a novel called FORTUNE’S ROCKS by Anita Shreve, about a young girl in the early 20th century who has an affair with an older, married doctor and bears his child out of wedlock and is forced to give it up for adoption. It remains one of my favorite books and ever since I’ve wanted to read Ms. Shreve’s previous novels as well as each new release. But, for various reasons, with a couple of exceptions, the books just piled up.


I reviewed THE PILOT’S WIFE on this blog (http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com/2009/06/pilots-wife-by-anita-shreve.html), but it's not a book I like to think about now as it reminds me of a relationship I had with a man who was leading a double life unbeknownst to me; discovering the truth was very devastating so this story is a little too close to home for me to truly enjoy it.



I also read her historical novel ALL HE EVER WANTED but never got around to reviewing it; it's set in a similar time period as FORTUNE’S ROCK and I was hoping I would like it just as much. It’s the story of a college professor’s obsession with the wife who can never love him, which she tells him upfront before their marriage. I felt Ms. Shreve made a rather daring choice in her narrator, the professor’s tone is frigid, long winded, and pedantic, appropriately Victorian or Edwardian I thought, but despite his passionate obsession, hard for a modern reader to warm up to, and I know from personal experience it is always a gamble to write a novel with a narrator who is difficult to like. So while I respect her choice, I don’t recommend this novel as a starting point for anyone’s introduction to Anita Shreve; the style is very different from her other novels.


I still have a few more to go, but I was able to read the following Anita Shreve novels while I was resting between finishing one book and starting another.


EDEN CLOSE is the story of one tragic night when gunshots ended a man’s life and took his daughter’s sight. Years later the boy who lived next door, now grown up and divorced, returns to his hometown after the death of his mother and finds Eden a recluse, still living with her mother, still haunted by that night.


BODY SURFING revisits the same beach house that appears in FORTUNE’S ROCKS, SEA GLASS, and THE PILOT’S WIFE, it’s a modern day story of a young widow hired to be the summer tutor of a wealthy young girl. But things get complicated when she finds herself caught in a love triangle between the two sons of the family.


A CHANGE IN ALTITUDE explores how a single moment can change a person’s life forever. Newlyweds Patrick and Margaret decide to spend a year in Kenya. When they are invited by their hosts, another married couple, to climb Mt. Kenya a marital misunderstanding leads to a terrible accident for which Margaret is blamed.




TESTIMONY chronicles a scandal involving a sex tape at an elite private school from various viewpoints including the headmaster and several students.




A WEDDING IN DECEMBER is like a high school reunion. Seven former classmates, most of whom haven’t seen each other in decades, come together for a wedding. The occasion is especially poignant since Bill and Bridget were a couple in high school, but broke up and went on to lead separate lives, and married and had children with other people, until they met again twenty-seven years later. But how long their happiness can hope to last is questionable since Bridget is now suffering from breast cancer. Secrets are also revealed about a longtime affair between a teacher and his student and the night a promising athlete died. There is a historical novel set within this modern day story, because one of the main characters is writing it and it has a bearing on her own life, that I particularly enjoyed. Though I enjoyed the book as it is, as I was reading it I couldn’t help wishing that Ms. Shreve had expanded this novel within a novel into a book in its own right.




LIGHT ON SNOW is about a widower and his twelve year old daughter who find a newborn baby abandoned in the woods on a snowy night. When the mother shows up at their door and collapses they are faced with a dilemma—should they turn her in or keep her secret?




SEA GLASS is set in 1929, on the verge of the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression. It’s another chapter in the life of the beach house that appeared in FORTUNE’S ROCKS, THE PILOT’S WIFE, and BODY SURFING. The story is told from the viewpoints of several characters, all affected by layoffs, pay cuts, and strikes at the nearby mill, including the newlywed couple who are trying to hold onto their first home, and an heiress whose ultra conservative father has ensured that her fortune remains intact when many of the idle rich she has rubbed shoulders with all her life are left penniless by the crash.

 


I just could not get into RESISTANCE for some reason I even put it down and came back to it several weeks later; it may have been something about the book or it may just have been me, but I may give it another try next vacation. It's the story of the wife of a resistance worker living in a Nazi-occupied village in Belgium who has an affair with the wounded American pilot they are hiding in their attic.

If I do this digest format again, maybe after I finish my current work-in-progress I'll be able to say I've read all of Anita Shreve's novels to date, or I may decide to catch up on Jodi Picoult instead.

So far, FORTUNE'S ROCKS still remains my favorite Anita Shreve novel.


IF A MAN ANSWERS is a fun movie from 1962 starring Sandra Dee and her husband Bobby Darin, it’s the story of a young bride who learns, from her sophisticated French mother, that the secret to a happy marriage can be found in the pages of a dog training manual. I finally got my hands on a copy of the novel it's based upon, of the same title, by Winifred Wolfe, and it was a delight well worth waiting for. Except for the character of a cantankerous grandmother, who does not appear in the film, book and movie are very similar, and a lot of fun. I highly recommend both.

When I was a little girl one of my favorite movies was THE UGLY DACHSHUND so I was very curious to see how it compared with the 1938 novel it is based on. Well...Disney certainly took quite a few liberties with this one, and I think I approve.

THE UGLY DACHSHUND the book by Jane Austen scholar G.B. Stern takes place at a luxurious villa situated in sunny Provence.

Tono the Great Dane (Brutus in the movie) is a misfit among his family of Dachshunds, he doesn't understand why the Legs, as all the dogs call the humans, cuddle and coddle "the other Dachshunds," and even have the cook prepare special delicacies for them. His only consolation is occasional glimpses of the godlike Great Dog reflected in pools of water, mirrors, and the gleaming surfaces of walnut furniture. Unlike the movie, which shows the Great Dane's confusion and disastrous and often hilarious attempts to fit in, through his owners' eyes, the novel tells the story from the viewpoint of the various dogs, including a worldly know-it-all Brussels Griffon and a Hollywood platinum blonde Pomeranian, as well as Tono the Great Dane, and the Dachshunds, they even have conversations with each other, which seems more like a Disney film than the actual Disney film in which the dogs only bark. Actually, the only thing the movie has in common with the book is the idea of a Great Dane who thinks he's a Dachshund; Disney threw out the rest of the original story.


ALICE HARTLEY’S HAPPINESS by Philippa Gregory was an unexpected delight. If you only know this author from her historical novels, I urge you to give this laugh-packed slender novel a try. It took me completely by surprise. Alice Hartley is the wacky New Age faddist wife of a rigid cold fish of a college professor. When she discovers that he is having an affair with one of his students, she embarks on a new life of her own, picking up a none-too-bright college boy lover on the way, and opening a Growth Centre where open-minded people can go to explore alternative therapies and lifestyles. Alice Hartley is like a modern day British Auntie Mame and this was one of the funniest books I have ever read.


I don’t normally read romance novels or erotica, but WRECKED by Shiloh Walker caught my eye because the main characters are former child stars who have successfully avoided the usual pitfalls of stardom. Zach and Abigale have left Hollywood and show business far behind them but remain best friends. When Abigale is jilted by her fiancĂ©, her best friend, and former co-star, Zach gives her a special journal that encourages her to be more spontaneous. Unbeknownst to Abigale, Zach has been in love with her for years, and when he peeks inside the journal and learns she is longing for a hot, steamy affair, he can’t bear to picture her with anyone else but him. Predictable, but a fun, fast read.




After seeing the movie THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE I was curious to know more about her, and biopics always make me curious about how much is truth and invention, so I read THE REAL BETTIE PAGE THE TRUTH ABOUT THE QUEEN OF THE PINUPS by Richard Foster.


I found it to be a fascinating and well-researched book, but the subject remained tantalizingly elusive. It was interesting to learn what Bettie's life was like after she walked away from the spotlight, but sad to read of her struggles with religious mania and mental illness.



While I had the time, I decided to revisit one of my favorite true crime books, CLUELESS IN NEW ENGLAND THE UNSOLVED DISAPPEARANCES OF PAULA WELDEN, CONNIE SMITH, AND KATHERINE HULL by Michael C. Dooling. I previously reviewed this book on this blog (http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com/2011/10/clueless-in-new-england-unsolved.html) but I think it deserves another mention. I have been fascinated by mysterious disappearances almost all my life, and the case of Paula Welden has long intrigued me so this book was a must for me the moment I heard of it. Paula was a sophomore at Bennington College in Vermont in 1946 when she vanished while either hitchhiking or walking on the Long Trail. A few years later Connie Smith, a ten year old girl, tall for her age, vanished after she left her summer camp. She was last seen hitchhiking. It is unknown if these disappearances were related. The author also includes an earlier case, from 1936, when Katherine Hull, a young stenographer, vanished while out for a walk. Her skeletal remains were discovered by a hunter seven years later.  This book is a standout among true crime books in my opinion, the research is meticulous, and it is very well-written.


With the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of Mason City, Iowa television news anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit approaching, I decided to reread the only full-length book about the case, DEAD AIR THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JODI HUISENTRUIT by Beth Bednar. In the predawn hours of June 27, 1995, Jodi was rushing to get to work after she had overslept when she was abducted from the parking lot of her apartment building. The case remains unsolved. Updates are posted regularly on www.findjodi.com


Being from Beaumont, Texas I grew up hearing about the young women who vanished, and were later found murdered, along a stretch of highway between Houston and Galveston. DELIVER US THREE DECADES OF MURDER AND REDEMPTION IN THE INFAMOUS I-45 TEXAS KILLING FIELDS by Kathryn Casey tells the stories of the many girls who never came home again, their grieving families, and the various suspects.





As a classic movie lover, one of my favorite romantic screen teams is Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. From the time of their first on-screen pairing in the lavish operetta NAUGHTY MARIETTA in 1935 they were known as “America’s Singing Sweethearts.” But, despite their movie stardom, their lives were hardly the stuff of fairy tales, their real life romance was complicated by the interference of movie moguls, relatives, spouses, and their own fears and ambitions.







While outwardly both were happily married to other people, they carried on a decades long secret love affair, fully documented in Sharon Rich’s excellent non-fiction book SWEETHEARTS which I previously reviewed (http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com/2014/06/sweethearts-timeless-love-affair-on-and.html).




When I heard that novelist Diana Taylor had written a trilogy reimagining their lives with a much happier outcome, the one they and their adoring fans might have wished for them, I had to read it.



The first volume ‘TIL THE END OF TIME chronicles their courtship and marriage and the birth of their children.


The second volume MELODY IMMORTAL shows them in middle age, occasionally in frail health but with perpetually healthy libidos, as their children grow up and leave home.



The final book in the series, LOVE IN ANY LANGUAGE,  has the happy couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary with a trip to Europe while their children, all grown into happy, well-adjusted adults, get on with their own lives and loves.

I read all three books in a row, so that may be why I came away feeling it was all a bit much. I honestly can’t quite put my finger on why I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. Maybe Ms. Taylor’s happily ever after story would have worked better in one volume? Of course, the real MacDonald and Eddy should have had a happier life together than they actually did, and I've always felt sorry that they couldn't find a way to make that happen, but maybe all the angst and drama of star-crossed lovers fighting to be together in a world that seems determined to keep them apart makes for a better book or film than a couple who rides off into the sunset, lives happily ever after, and whose love overcomes every obstacle?



Another author, Jean Hull Herman, had a similar idea. Her novel is called WHEN I'M CALLING YOU A  HAPPY ENDING FOR HOLLYWOOD'S JEANETTE MACDONALD AND NELSON EDDY this novel tells the story of their romance in the form of diary entries written by Jeanette's secretary/confidante and seems at first to offer a more realistic, fact-based version of what a happy resolution for Mac and Eddy might have been like until things take a bizarre twist with the introduction of magician Harry Blackstone.


 Shortly after creating this blog, I reviewed an earlier fictionalization of the MacDonald/Eddy romance FAREWELL TO DREAMS by Diane Goodrich and Sharon Rich http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com/2009/05/farewell-to-dreams-by-diane-goodrich.html which offers a more fact-based version of their affair.




Another Hollywood tragedy that has long fascinated me is the mysterious death of actor George Reeves, best known as television's Superman. I try to read every book about the case and I have previously reviewed two on this blog, SPEEDING BULLET http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com/2013/06/speeding-bullet-life-and-bizarre-death.html and HOLLYWOOD KRYPTONITE http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com/2013/06/hollywood-kryptonite-by-sam-kashner-and.html the latest to come to my attention is HOLLYWOOD MURDER MYSTERY! THE NIGHT SUPERMAN DIED SOLVED! by Lee Saylor.


Stylistically, this was a strange book to read, the author repeatedly refers to his book as a novella, but it certainly doesn't read like one, although the author often makes such presumptions as "I know what was going through George's mind," and he has a very in your face style, often hammering home his points repeatedly. Despite these quibbles, it is definitely worth reading as Mr. Saylor had the opportunity to interview one of the key suspects Leonore Lemmon, George Reeve's party girl "fiancee" and he makes many good points that are well worth considering.


Another curious story I’ve wanted to know more about and finally had the time to explore is the Voynich Manuscript. I was fortunate to find the excellent book THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT THE MYSTERIOUS CODE THAT HAS DEFIED INTERPRETATION FOR CENTURIES by Gerry Kennedy and Rob Churchill. The Voynich Manuscript is a bizarre manuscript book filled with peculiar drawings of plants, voluptuous naked nymphs cavorting in pools of green water, and astrological symbols, written in a language that, to this date, no one has ever been able to decipher. Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Churchill have written an excellent history that explores the various theories about its creation and purpose and the many who have tried, and failed, to decode it. The theories are fascinating. Is it an alchemical text; a symbolic account of human reproduction or how the soul unites with the body; a coded guide to contraception and abortion, or even infertility treatments; a quack’s book of gibberish designed to impress ignorant and gullible patients; the work of a mystic seer; a hoax for profit or just for the fun of it; a piece of outsider art; or even the work of someone suffering from mental illness or in the throes of migraine induced hallucinations? Nobody knows.




Although I am not a religious person, I find the history of relics fascinating. While I was flipping channels I happened across the CNN series FINDING JESUS which spotlights six relics significant to Christianity. Based on reviews, I believed the book, FINDING JESUS:FAITH, FACT, FORGERY SIX HOLY OBJECTS THAT TELL THE REMARKABLE STORY OF THE GOSPELS by David Gibson and Michael McKinley, delved into the subject in greater depth. It doesn’t really tell much more than the six episodes of the TV series, but it’s a very interesting read with an emphasis on history and science, which I prefer, rather than faith-based beliefs. The six objects explored are the bones of John the Baptist, the James Ossuary, Mary Magdalene (her gospel, relics, and the controversy over the exact nature of her relationship with Jesus), the Gospel of Judas, pieces of the True Cross, and the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo (the cloth that covered Jesus’s face after his death) share the same chapter.

 


My mother loved Stephen King, and it’s still hard for me to read his books or watch the movies based on them, without thinking of her, but I was drawn to JOYLAND, it made me think of my favorites THE GREEN MILE and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. As an old man, Devin Jones looks back on the summer of 1973 when he was a brokenhearted virgin who got a summer job at an amusement park that changed his life forever. Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part coming of age story, it has that same nostalgic feel to it, but it’s not as powerful a story.


I am fascinated by the lives of the great courtesans, and I also love period films, so when I found a DVD of the movie CHERI starring Michelle Pfeiffer in the bargain bin I had a feeling I wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s the story of an aging courtesan at the end of her career who embarks on an affair with the son of her best friend, a nineteen year old boy known affectionately as Cheri. I found it to be a worthwhile film with a good cast and gorgeous costumes. Afterwards, I was curious to read the novels it is based on, CHERI and THE LAST OF CHERI by Colette. Prior to this, I was only familiar with Colette’s GIGI,



both as a book and one of my favorite classic movie musicals.


CHERI is one of those rare occasions when, in my opinion, the movie beats the book. Though based on both the original novel and its sequel, except for a voice-over at the very end, the movie largely ignores the second book, and, I think that was a very wise decision. Maybe I just don’t like Colette’s style, or maybe it was the English from French translation, but I can’t honestly say I cared much for either book. I found Cheri vain and superficial, his rejection of Lea because she was aging stung, and I didn’t feel much sympathy for him in the second book, but I liked Lea enough to wish for a happier outcome for her. But the movie has a permanent place in my DVD collection. It’s beautiful and knows just when to abridge and stop.


 An online friend recently gave me a copy of SAVAGES by Shirley Conran, this is one of those novels I might never have chosen to read myself, but am so glad someone introduced me to. It's the story of five privileged wives of corporate executives who are accustomed to life's every luxury and comfort. After their husbands are assassinated by terrorists during a tropical vacation the women flee into the jungle and are forced to fend for themselves while they await rescue. As every vestige of civilized life is stripped away from them and a variety of perils threaten them--storms, sharks, poisonous plants, lice, and terrorists--they discover strengths they never knew they possessed.





I like the unexpected in non-fiction, the kind of book where a writer happens upon an unusual artifact or story and follows the trail wherever it leads. THE LAMPSHADE A HOLOCAUST DETECTIVE STORY FROM BUCHENWALD TO NEW ORLEANS by Mark Jacobson is just such a book. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans the author was given a lampshade reputedly made of human skin that a friend found at a garage sale. DNA testing confirmed this was true. This book chronicles the author’s journey to trace the sad history of this curio of human cruelty back to its likely origins at the concentration camp of Buchenwald where the Nazis made numerous items, such as gloves, handbags, book bindings, house slippers, and lampshades from the skin of Jewish prisoners, and his attempts to dispose of it in the most respectful fashion.




SHOW DOG THE CHARMED LIFE AND TRYING TIMES OF A NEAR-PERFECT PURE BRED by Josh Dean is a much happier, and more fun, non-fiction book. The author records a year in the life of Jack, an Australian Shepherd, and his rise to stardom in the colorful, competitive, and eccentric dog show world. This book offers a great deal of insight into what it is like to be an owner, handler, breeder, or judge of show dogs. It was a lot of fun to read. If you like the movie BEST IN SHOW I think you will enjoy this.


 The Cottingley Fairies is one of my favorite stories. For those unfamiliar, in 1917 two English schoolgirls, Frances Grittiths and her cousin Elsie Wright, created a sensation when they supposedly photographed real fairies. The fairies were actually drawings made by Elsie with long hatpins glued to the backs so they could be stuck into the ground and posed for the camera. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was convinced the photographs were genuine and even wrote a book about them. What began as a schoolgirl prank got out of hand and haunted the girls for the rest of their long lives.


Frances began writing her autobiography but never finished it and her daughter, Christine Lynch, published it with some supplemental information in a book called REFLECTIONS ON THE COTTINGLEY FAIRIES FRANCES GRIFFITHS IN HER OWN WORDS WITH ADDITIONAL MATERIAL BY HER DAUGHTER. If the story interests you at all, I highly recommend it. It's also an interesting account of what life was like for a young girl growing up in a rural English village during World War I.





 WHO WAS DRACULA? BRAM STOKER'S TRAIL OF BLOOD by Jim Steinmeyer was one of the books I collected while doing research for THE RIPPER'S WIFE, but I never got a chance to read it until last week. I bought it not only because of the subject matter but because I try to read all of Mr. Steinmeyer's books, which usually deal with the history of magic and the lives of famous magicians. In this book he theorizes that the character of Dracula was based on a quartet of larger than life men, all familiar to Stoker, who lived their lives shrouded in the swirling mists of fame and scandal. Stoker's boss, the imperious actor Henry Irving; the poet Walt Whitman whose poetry expressed such bold carnality that it aroused Stoker's admiration; Oscar Wilde whose fame turned so fast to infamy when a scandalous trial publicly exposed his homosexuality; and the murderous fiend Jack the Ripper. Stoker may actually have known one of the suspects, Dr. Francis Tumblety, and even if he didn't, the Ripper's reign of terror was front page news throughout the autumn of 1888.
I found this to be a fascinating book, I learned a lot about the life and work of Bram Stoker and many of his contemporaries as well as the history of vampire fiction.

I also watched several movies while I was on vacation, in particular those starring one of my favorite leading men from classic Hollywood, Dennis Morgan.



With his dark wavy hair, crooked smile, and beautiful tenor voice, Dennis Morgan was one of the top leading men at Warner Bros. during the 1940s. Though musicals were his first love, he also did comedies, dramas, war pictures, and westerns. I first noticed him in CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT.


 I normally don't watch Christmas movies because my depression tends to worsen around the holidays, but this is the one Christmas movie I watch year round and never miss if it comes on TV during my waking hours.

I was overjoyed to see that the 1943 version of THE DESERT SONG was FINALLY released on DVD; I LOVE this movie



the ringtone on my cellphone is Dennis Morgan singing LONG LIVE THE NIGHT from THE DESERT SONG that's how much I love this movie.




If any other Dennis Morgan fans happen to read this and have any of his recordings and are willing and able to make copies on cd please email me. I love to hear him sing and would love to have a cd.

I've also been trying my hand at a little gardening. This is the flowerbed I designed, it's filled with rainbow carpet sedum and some hen and chickens plants and at the center is a fountain of Saint Francis of Assissi. Right in front is a frog statue holding a gazing ball and behind is an artificially antiqued copper rooster weathervane. When I bought the Sago Palm in the background, shortly after my mother died, it was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and now its fronds are almost up to my shoulders.



I also have some multicolored coneflowers and Popsicle lilies in another part of the yard but the photos didn't come out well. The colors are actually much brighter.






 After I got my copper rooster weathervane I discovered I'm very fond of roosters, our neighbors have a red one named George and he visits us often. Sometimes I bake him raspberry muffins from the Jiffy mix since those seem to be his favorite.




And here's Tabby! She's wearing her gardening hat and inspecting some vegetables from my father's garden. It's a poor showing this year, because we've had so much rain most of his tomatoes rotted.


Well that's all for now. I've always been a terrible multi-tasker so I have to devote myself to research and writing for the next few months, but comments and emails are always welcome, except SPAM, and I'll be back whenever there's any news to report about my work.



THE SECRETS OF LIZZIE BORDEN will be released January 26, 2016 and I plan to do another Virtual Book Tour arranged by Amy Bruno.

For any interested book reviewers, I have a few copies of THE RIPPER'S WIFE left over,


if you would like to do a review on your blog please contact me. This novel is based on the Ripper Diary and the lives of James and Florence Maybrick. But be aware, this is the story of Jack the Ripper, a man who was not very kind to women, so there are some graphic descriptions of violence, mutilation, and murder.