Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Seventh Birthday Tabby! And A Gift for You--A Giveaway! Win a Copy of The Ripper's Wife

Tabby: I know this is last year's dress, but it matches my cake so well!

It's Tabby's seventh birthday and she would like to give some gifts as well as receive them. Since my seventh novel, The Ripper's Wife, is soon to be released this seems like perfect timing for a giveaway. So Tabby is going to give away two copies, and I'll sign and mail them. To enter, leave a birthday comment for Tabby and make sure to include your email address. US residents only; I'm sorry, I cannot ship outside the USA. Tabby will pick the winners on September 27th. Want some extra entries? Post a link to this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter, and get an extra entry for each.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RT Book Reviews Gives The Ripper's Wife Four Stars

“Purdy takes the supposition that Jack the Ripper was really English cotton merchant James Maybrick and turns it into a gripping story of a man’s descent into madness and a woman’s emotional journey to murder. Purdy slowly lures the reader into these characters’ minds in a dark and compelling way as they fall into depression, drug addiction, unhappiness and violence. Fascinating reading for anyone intrigued by Jack the Ripper.”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lotions, Potions, And Deadly Elixirs Frontier Medicine In America by Wayne Bethard

While researching The Ripper's Wife I had to do some research about the fascinating history of patent medicines and I was pleased to discover this wonderful book, written by an actual pharmacist. It is scholarly, lighthearted, and entertaining all at the same time, and filled with amusing anecdotes and stories, like a real life Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman who wore her hair short, gave birth to fifteen children, and wore as a good luck charm a necklace made from the bullets she removed form her patients. Then there's Benjamin Franklin's well-intentioned attempt to make flatulence smell like violets via the ingestion of turpentine pills. There are tales of traveling medicine shows and numerous examples of their colorful advertisements and an eighty-three-year-old woman who consulted a doctor about unbearable cramps only to discover that she was carrying a calcified fetus--the sad result of an ectopic pregnancy she had  unknowingly suffered as a teen.

The book also contains a lengthy, conveniently alphabetized, section with entries on various remedies, including herbs and drugs, that were in common use from the eighteen into the twentieth century.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pharmakon by Dirk Wittenborn

Pharmakon is a Greek word that can mean either cure or poison, and that’s a very apt description for Dr. Friedrich’s wonder drug that figured in these pages.

It’s 1951 and the brilliant neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. William T. Friedrich is a thirty-three-year-old untenured professor slaving away in the psychology department at Yale. He’s a man who has devoted his life to the study of unhappiness. After inventing a scale used to measure the progress of mental patients, to determine whether their condition is improving or deteriorating, he was snapped up by Yale. While his career shows promise, privately he is saddened by what the statistics show—remarkably few people with mental problems show any significant improvement after embarking upon treatment. Dr. Friedrich wants desperately to change this, and his red-headed colleague Dr. Bunny Winton, the first female psychiatrist at Yale, might hold the key.

Dr. Winton spent time in New Guinea where she discovered that the shaman of the Bagadon tribe fermented Kwina leaves, brewing a drink the natives took called Gai Kau Dong, or “The Way Home,” to imbibe after enduring stressful events or experiencing depression. Dr. Friedrich and Dr. Winton believe that these special leaves may hold the key, if they can isolate the psychoactive ingredients, they might be able to make a pill that will markedly improve the treatment of depression.

As their research and experiments progress, they advertise for human volunteers. Amongst these human guinea pigs is a young man named Casper, a pimple-faced geek with poor people skills; Dr. Friedrich’s wife persuades him to include Casper in the test after the young man, despondent over a lost love, attempts suicide. The drug has a miraculous effect on Casper, he becomes confident, his appearance improves, he makes friends, and gets a job as a bartender at a yacht club. But the drug has an unforeseen effect, Casper loses the capacity for empathy, his ego swells, and he becomes an unrepentant social climber who thinks nothing of using people, even friends, to get what he wants.

After the trial ends and the drug is withdrawn, Casper falls apart, he becomes paranoid, begins keeping a “Death List” and he’s serious about it, he actually kills Dr. Winton and possibly Dr. Friedrich’s little boy, Jack (it’s uncertain whether his death was murder or an accident).

Casper is sent to a high security mental hospital and Dr. Friedrich and his family try to start over again. They relocate to New Jersey and he takes work as a consultant for a drug company developing antidepressants. But they can never escape the ghost of Casper, eventually he escapes and comes after them.

Ironically, it is Casper’s escape and capture that rejuvenates Dr. Friedrich’s marriage and family life. The rest of the book, which follows the family from 1951 to 1994, tells the story of the children’s sibling rivalries and how their father alienated each one of them. His daughter rejects a career in psychology and instead runs off to work at a poor orphanage in Morocco.  She marries a British surf bum who ironically turns out to be a millionaire; his eldest son, a jock track star, turns out to be gay and moves to Italy to study art; while the youngest dabbles in drugs all the while keeping up the appearance of being a star student, he goes on to become a successful screenwriter but loses it all to drugs when he becomes a full-blown addict.

I enjoyed this book, tying in the story of drug developments to fight the battle against depression kept this from being what might otherwise have been just another dysfunctional family saga.  This is also a good novel for those interested in the history of science and medicine, especially the drug industry. It's one of those novels that you can read, enjoy the fictional story, and also feel like you learned something.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Never List by Koethi Zan

For years, after surviving a car accident, best friends Sarah and Jennifer have faithfully kept “The Never List,” a list of all the horrible fates that can befall the human race, until, one night, as college sophomores, against their better judgment, they accept a cab ride. They spend the next three years naked and chained up in a sadist’s cellar alongside the other girls he has abducted.

Ten years later, Sarah, is struggling to lead a “normal” life. She is a thirty-one-year-old recluse who works at home for an insurance company and rarely leaves her apartment. She has her groceries delivered and her therapist makes house calls.  She is still trying to come to terms with the fact that Jennifer died and she survived.

When their abductor comes up for parole and begins sending taunting letters to her and the other survivors from jail, Sarah forces herself to face her past, and the other girls, who hold a grudge against her, and read the letters in the hope that he will slip up and reveal where he buried Jennifer. But is he really playing a game of cat and mouse and trying to lure the girls who got away back into his web?

Sarah’s quest for closure leads her across the country into a perverted and scary world of BDSM, secret societies, religious cults, and torture chambers, and she discovers there may have been more victims than the police realized, and that her abductor may not have acted alone.

This was a very gripping novel. I could not put it down until I reached the final page. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Russian Edition of The Queen's Pleasure

I've just learned that a Russian language edition of The Queen's Pleasure, my novel about the tragic love triangle between Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, and his wife Amy Robsart Dudley, will be published sometime in December. I'll post more details when I have them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Case of the Pederast's Wife by Clare Elfman

The year is 1895, the place is Victorian London. Famed wit and playwright Oscar Wilde is quite the scandal. His dalliance with Lord Alfred Douglas is poised to destroy all that he has achieved, change his fame to infamy, and lead to criminal charges and a prison term. No wonder his wife, Constance, is falling apart.

Enter Martin Frame, an ambitious young gynecologist fascinated by the burgeoning science of psychology, but burdened by an old-fashioned father who thinks hysteria is best treated with ice water, morphine, or, as a last resort, a hysterectomy. Martin, however, prefers to take a gentler approach with his patients; he talks to them, and, more importantly, he listens, trying to discover what distress is presenting itself in the form of physical symptoms.

When a mutual friend, Robbie Ross, asks him to see what he can do for Constance Wilde, Martin agrees to see her. He becomes convinced that the terrible back and leg pains Constance insists are the result of an accidental fall are in fact symptomatic of her emotional turmoil and denial of her husband’s homosexuality. But the clock is ticking, a quack surgeon, more butcher than healer, is trying to convince Constance that a simple operation to remove a troublesome bone that is pressing against a nerve in her back will cure her completely.

This was a very interesting little novel, I loved the way it used a well-known subject, Constance Wilde, and her situation, as a case study to illustrate the nascent practice of psychotherapy and what it might accomplish against the often barbaric and unfeeling horrors of Victorian surgery and gynecology, a world where doctors believed operating on a woman was no worse than a farmer neutering a pig and that women would flock to a handsome young doctor for the sheer pleasure of the pelvic exam. If you have an interest in Oscar Wilde and his wife or the evolution of medicine I highly recommend this novel.