Thursday, December 17, 2009

The French Blue by Richard W. Wise

Almost everyone has heard the legend of the cursed Hope Diamond, but did you ever wonder how it all began, who was the man behind that alluring behemoth blue diamond, what is the truth behind the myths that have been set like the ring of smaller white diamonds that surround the glittering blue mystery on display at the Smithsonian? Well, thanks to Mr. Wise, we now have a novel that nimbly toes the line between truth and literary invention and tells the life story of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier; "The French Blue" is a novel that adheres to the known facts with just a little fiction thrown in as garnish and to fill in the unknown gaps in Tavernier's life.

The son of a cartographer (mapmaker) who never got to visit the far-off and exotic places he incorporated into the maps he made, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, his wanderlust fueled by the tales of travelers who visited his father, grew up to be a savvy multilingual world traveler, a canny gem merchant with a brilliant eye for the finest stones, and a shrewd bargainer, adept at getting the best prices and reaping a profit.

Like the boy Tavernier sitting by the fire listening to a traveler's fantastical tale, "The French Blue" gives the reader the same feeling. Through Tavernier's words, this leisurely and engrossing novel gives readers a window to the 17th century, and lets us peep into a world of battlefields, bedrooms, court and diplomatic intrigues, and experience the perils of travel in the days before automobiles, airplanes, and trains, and hear the merchants, the buyers and sellers, bargain, barter, and haggle. And we get to see the cultures and customs of Persia, India, and other exotic lands, strange and unknown, sometimes even bizarre, to European eyes and ears. And then there are the gems--turquoise, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds--rough and unpolished, brought up from the bowels of the earth to be cleaned, cut, and faceted, transformed into sparkling wonders to be marveled at, gasped and sighed over, coveted and adored.

This exhaustively researched novel, assembled with the same care as a gem-cutter faceting a precious stone, has the authentic feel of a traveler's journal, however, those readers who prefer a more emotional, soul-baring narrator, may find it lacks the "poetry of the soul." But those who prefer a more factual tone, and deplore the more fantastical and lascivious embroidery worked by historical novelists, may find that "The French Blue" is precisely their cup of tea. As for myself, I just like a good story, and I found "The French Blue," with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket, to be a good companion on these cold winter nights.

Special Thanks to Richard W. Wise for sending me a copy of his book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mary of Nazareth by Marek Halter

After penning a popular trilogy about lesser known women from the Old Testament (Sarah, Zipporah, Lilah), Marek Halter now turns his pen to the most famous biblical female of all--The Virgin Mary.

Halter spins a dramatic tale of a bold, spirited, temperamental, free-thinking, strong-willed young woman who sharply contrasts the pale and placid beauties artists have been painting for centuries to depict the beatific, serene Virgin. Halter's Miriam--she is called Mary only in the title of the book and in the final pages--lives in a time of crippling taxes, rampant poverty, and bloodshed during the reign of King Herod, a cruel and unjust monarch, who, wielding his might through his army of mercenaries and tax collectors brings great suffering to the Jewish people. The mercenaries regularly descend on Nazareth to pillage, burn, destroy, beat, rape, capture, and kill. During one such nighttime raid, young Miriam saves the life of Barabbas, a biblical version of Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to the poor.

When Miriam's beloved carpenter father, Joachim, one of the kindest and gentlest men who ever lived, kills a soldier and wounds a tax collector during a skirmish in which he tries to defend an elderly woman trying to safeguard her most precious possession--a Hanukkah candlestick--he is sentenced to crucifixion. Ignoring the entreaties of her mother, Hannah, and their friends, Miriam travels to Sepphoris and seeks out Barabbas. Remembering the young girl who once saved his life, Barabbas arranges a daring nocturnal rescue and one of his most devoted followers, Obadiah, the young leader of a dirty, ragtag band of street-Arabs, snatches Joachim right off the cross.

Unable to return to Nazareth and resume their old lives, Miriam and Joachim join Barabbas to organize the oppressed people of Galilee in a rebellion against Herod and free Israel, once and for all, from the yoke of Rome. But negotiations break down when the leaders of the various sects (Zealots, Essenes, Sadduces, Pharisees) and Barabbas cannot agree. Out of the various candidates not one man emerges who is clearly capable of uniting and leading the Jewish people to freedom. And they part ways, agreeing only that they disagree. But before he goes, Joseph of Arimathea is greatly impressed by Miriam and her conviction that war is not the answer--violence and pain beget only more violence and pain--and arranges for her to study with the learned women in Magdala, where she acquires a lifelong friend, Mariamne (Mary Magdalene).

Two years later, Barabbas comes back into Miriam's life when he appears in Magdala with the mortally wounded Obadiah. They journey to Damascus to seek the aid of Joseph of Arimathea, a renowned healer and leader of the Essene brotherhood, but arrive too late. Obadiah dies in Miriam's arms, after confessing his love for her and promising to be her angel. Indeed, he never truly leaves her; according to Miriam, he begins to visit her in visions, bringing her comfort, and jokingly calling himself her "little husband." Concerned friends begin to suspect that losing Obadiah has caused Miriam and her sanity to part company.

The final chapters cover Miriam's return to Nazareth and her rather atypical pregnancy and the reactions of her family, friends, and the villagers. The book ends rather abruptly and, to my mind, unsatisfyingly. In an epilogue that, in my opinion, has a tacked on feel, the author explains that while visiting Warsaw he met a woman named Maria, who saved 2,000 Jewish children from the Nazis, and had a son of her own named Jesus who perished in the holocaust. Before they parted, this Maria gave Mr. Halter a scroll, handed down for generations, called "The Gospel of Mary," and it is with this gospel, written in Miriam's own words, that Mr. Halter ends his novel.

Based on other reviews I have seen for this book, many readers have been offended by it, but I was not one of them, perhaps because I am a very open-minded person and I accept fiction as fiction regardless of the genre and amount of facts mixed in. To me, this was just another novel to pass the time, I found it neither shocking or especially memorable; I liked the author's earlier novel "Sarah" much better. I found "Mary of Nazareth" to be a quick and interesting read, not at all ponderous or pushy, but ultimately lackluster. Besides the abrupt ending, the one glaring fault I did find was the usage of some very modern words, such as "chat" and "kid" and expressions like "for sure" that just seem really awkward and out of place in a biblical novel; a ragamuffin boy commenting on Joachim's ordeal on the cross observes "a whole day up there must really knock you out." However, as most of these "slips" come from the mouth of Obadiah, the leader of a gang of roving street-urchins, I am guessing this may be intentional on either the author's or translator's part, to perhaps make the character seem more like his modern-day counterparts.

The Preservationist by David Maine

This was a delightful little book, a clever, fresh, humor-infused retelling of the story of Noah's Ark, without the preachiness or solemnity that sometimes mar novels set in Biblical times. The cast of characters come alive as vibrantly human, with all their faults and foibles. There is Noe (Noah), the stern, unyielding patriarch; The Wife, whose name has been forgotten, a fatalistic, pragmatic woman; and their three sons: obedient, superstitious Sem; grumpy, gloomy, sullen but sensible Cham, who, by a fortuitous coincidence just happens to be a shipbuilder; and snickering, slugabed, horny teenager Japeth who tries to avoid work as if it were the plague. The boys' wives are equally individual: buxom, brown-skinned, barren Bera, whose father sold her into slavery as a child; tall, albino-fair Ilya, an educated woman, particularly knowledgeable about cosmology, astronomy, weather patterns, and the natural sciences, from a land of snow and goddess-worshiping tribes ruled by matriarchs; and petite and timid Mirn a shy, soft-spoken teenager usually dismissed as having an empty head but a lovely body.

The story begins when 600 year old Noe comes home late for supper and announces to his long-suffering wife "I must build a boat," despite their being nowhere remotely near the sea. While out in the mustard field God spoke to Noe and informed him that because the world has become riddled with sin and corruption on such a rampant, widespread scale He has decided to destroy it with a great flood and start over fresh. And he wants Noe and his family to survive and repopulate the world with people and animals. In order to do this Noe must build an ark, a great ship, 300 cubits long, by 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits tall, and fill it with breeding pairs of every species of animal from the tiniest to the towering.

After years of putting up with Noah and his special relationship with God, his wife has learned to just nod and go with the flow. And so, trusting God to provide, Noe sets about making God's words a reality.

While he and sons labor to construct this titanic floating barnyard, their wives are given the onerous task of collecting the necessary animals; the non-domestic varieties not readily at hand.

Bera journeys back to her homeland where she finds her estranged father dying; repenting selling his daughter into slavery, he makes her a gift of his private menagerie, which includes such exotic specimens as apes of all sorts, including monkeys and baboons, various jungle cats, crocodiles, hippos, gazelles, elephants, ostriches, anteaters, rhinos, armadillos, giraffes, and zebras. As she is on the verge of departing, Bera receives an even more precious gift, a pair of newborn twins, a boy and girl, whose mother died in childbirth, leading their grief-stricken father to despise them. A miracle then occurs, the barren Bera's breasts begin to spout milk to provide her newly acquired children with sustenance.

Impersonating a priestess of Oda, a blood-drinking goddess, to save herself from rape and enlist the aid of a group of wolfskin-clad barbarains, Ilya returns to the northlands where she was born and brings back a fine collection of foxes, wolves, bears, and deer.

Mirn stays close to home, to help her mother-in-law and gather the little creatures that often provoke shudders of revulsion and are generally regarded as pests--insects, snakes, and rodents.

Meanwhile, a crowd gathers, setting up temporary quarters in hastily constructed shanties, to gape, gawk, and jeer at the great boat rising out of the desert sands. They heckle and laugh at Noe, dismissing him as a crackpot, and touched in the head, but when the rains begin and the flood waters steadily rise they quickly change their tune. Then it is Noe's turn to gloat and heckle them. Even the sight of innocent children condemned to a watery death fails to tug at his heartstrings. The world is being washed clean of sin and corruption and Noe and his family are the chosen ones, privileged to start anew with a clean-wiped slate, and Noe feels only joy and honored to be chosen by God.

For forty days and forty nights they suffer the ceaselessly falling rains and rocking waves. Noe likens Hell to their existence belowdecks. In the close quarters of the family cabin, hemmed in by animals on all sides; animals to the right and left of them, animals above and below them, the odors of dung and urine, both human and animal, pervade and mingle with the miasma of unwashed bodies, vomit, smoke from the cookstove, and the scent of sex when the young couples take to rutting away their boredom.

Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character, and we see how their ordeal upon the raging floodwaters changes and affects them. The philosophical Ilya thinks often of the nonbelievers, especially the innocent children who died, and wonders "Why them and not me?" Bera ponders "Why did God do it?" Each person has a different answer to this question, no two are alike, and in the end it all boils down to "The Lord does what He wants, when He wants to;" any search for deeper or greater meaning is, in the end,just theological debate.

The youngest son, Japeth, sums it up best with his oft repeated words: "We'll have a Hell of a story for the grandkids!" And this reader, for one, thinks he's right; David Maine's The Preservationist is a great new spin on an old, old tale.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Thirteen-year-old Kyra is an unwilling, unhappy member of the polygamist cult known as "The Chosen Ones." A sect which believes that God created women to serve man, and it is up to their men to discipline them and keep them, and their children, in line, those feeble in body and mind are unworthy of heaven and deserve to be put out of their misery like wounded dogs, long hair modestly braided, long sleeves and long-skirted dresses are derigueur, The Bible is the only suitable reading matter, all other books are the work of Satan, modern medical treatment is banned even though women suffer through the complications of repeat pregnancies, and a man cannot attain Heaven unless he has at least three wives. The cult lives on an isolated desert compound with its own police force, known as "The God Squad," to enforce the rules laid down by the Prophet and the leading members of his church, known as the Disciples.

Kyra finds an unexpected window into the world when she is befriended by Patrick, the kind-hearted driver of the library's bookmobile. He stops every week to give her a fresh book, which she keeps hidden and devours like a starving person, relishing each and every word. Through the richness of literature--everything from "Anne of Green Gables" to "Harry Potter"--she discovers a whole new, magical world that changes her forever.

Kyra also unexpectedly finds love with Joshua, a slightly older boy, who shuns the cult's polygamist beliefs and wants to choose Kyra to be his one and only bride. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her sixty-year-old uncle, Hyrum, a brutal man who even disciplines a baby for crying in front of the Prophet by making its mother hold it down in a basin of ice water until it turns blue, Kyra must choose between her beloved family and breaking free into the outside world.

Although brief, "The Chosen One" is a gripping tale of the crimes that are committed in the name of religion and the cult leaders who set themselves up as self-styled demigods and rule their followers with fear and an iron glove. And the abuse that is meted out to women and innocent children in God's name, and how religious beliefs are made into shackles that chafe, bind, and strangle, and sometimes kill those who strain against them trying to break free. 

Note: Though marketed as suitable for young readers, there are some disturbing scenes of violence in "The Chosen One." Parents who monitor their children's reading matter might want to review this one first before putting it in young hands.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Boleyn Wife / The Tudor Wife, Brandy Purdy / Emily Purdy -- Why The Name Change?

It has been brought to my attention that my UK publisher's decision to change both the title of my second novel and my own first name is causing some confusion and misconceptions so I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the matter.

First of all, the novel in question, known as The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy in the USA and The Tudor Wife by Emily Purdy in the UK started out as a self-published, print-on-demand book that was published by iuniverse under the title of Vengeance Is Mine. This edition was withdrawn from publication when Kensington bought the rights. Besides giving my book professional editing and allowing me to revise and add additional content, they also decided to change the title, thus it became The Boleyn Wife. When Harper/Avon UK purchased the rights for a British edition, they also decided that a name change was warranted. Since Harper also publishes the works of Philippa Gregory, who has written two novels with the name Boleyn in the title, they changed the title of my book to The Tudor Wife to avoid confusion with hers.

As for my own name, Brandy Purdy is my real name, however, for cultural and marketing reasons, Harper/Avon deemed it wise to change my first name. Apparently Brandy lacks Brit appeal, at least where historical fiction is concerned. The marketing department decided that a more traditional English name like Emily would be more appropriate. And I've never been overly fond of Brandy myself, so...

However, there has been some speculation online that this change is intended as a makeover, to conceal my true identity and the existence of my first novel, The Confession of Piers Gaveston, and previous incarnations of the book that has caused all this. This is definitely not the case. As a reader--and I was a reader long before I was a writer--more than once I have had the annoying experience of buying a book only to discover that I had already read it under a different title, so I have always tried to make it very clear on both my website,, and this blog that a work of mine is available under different titles.

Thank you for reading this. I hope I have been able to end the confusion and satisfy any curiosity about this matter.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Want To Read The Boleyn Wife Now?

Would you like to read my novel The Boleyn Wife before it hits store shelves on January 26th? If you have an established blog that features book reviews, are located in the USA (sorry, I can't ship outside the U.S.) and are able to post a review before or around the release date, email me at bkpbooks at yahoo dot com. First come, first serve.

Cover Art For The Tudor Wife (UK Edition of The Boleyn Wife)

The Boleyn Wife will be published in the UK as The Tudor Wife, under my British pen name, Emily Purdy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another Review of The Boleyn Wife

You can read Celtic Lady's review of The Boleyn Wife at

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

This wonderful, hard-to-put-down novel charts the life of Elizabeth Tudor from the death of her mother, Anne Boleyn, in 1536 to the day Elizabeth becomes Queen of England in 1558. Historian Alison Weir does a wonderful job of capturing the mind and voice of Henry VIII's clever red-haired daughter even when her head and body churn with confusion and contradictory desires and longings.

The primary focus of the story is Elizabeth's infatuation with her stepfather, Thomas Seymour, the handsome, virile husband of Catherine Parr, a colourful and hot-headed rascal suffering from the disease of soul-devouring ambition as he schemes to snare a royal bride and wrest the power of Tudor government away from his brother, the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour.

One controversial aspect of this novel is that Alison Weir, although as a historian she believes Elizabeth remained a virgin in the full physical sense her entire life, chose in the pages of her fiction to let Elizabeth succumb to Seymour and become pregnant as a result of their one and only sexual encounter. While some historical fiction fans have not liked this, I thought it was an excellent twist and very well done, seamlessly blending with an old tale from Tudor times about a midwife being taken blindfolded to attend the young Elizabeth in childbed.

The novel also vividly recreates the clash of wills between Mary and Elizabeth. As Mary's fanatical determination to restore England to the Catholic fold leads to the burning of Protestant "heretics" and turns England into a country fraught with fear, and her subjects' love for her dwindles and dies, Elizabeth becomes the people's beacon of hope, the woman who will lead the way to a more enlightened future. And Mary's fragile mind becomes increasingly suspicious of Elizabeth, seeing her as the figurehead of every Protestant plot, and placing Elizabeth in danger at the hands of the sister who once loved her as if she were her own child.

"The Lady Elizabeth" is a vivid portrait of the perils this courageous and clever young woman faced on the long, winding, and often rutted and bumpy road to the throne, with a stay in the Tower of London and many brushes with danger along the way.

I have read many novels about Elizabeth I over the years, but this one ranks alongside "Legacy" by Susan Kay as my favorite so far.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dust and Shadow An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson by Lyndsay Faye

In 1939, fifty-one years after the atrocities of 1888, perpetrated by the fiend known to history as Jack the Ripper, Dr. Watson takes up his pen to reveal the role his friend the brilliant consulting detective Sherlock Holmes played in the investigation of the most infamous killer of all time. He begins with the tantalizing statement: "At first it seemed the Ripper affair had scarred my friend Sherlock Holmes as badly as it had the city of London itself.'

The reader is then transported back to the London of Queen Victoria, hansom cabs, and gaslights to hear a tale peopled with peasoup fogs, penny whores, perplexed police officers, yellow journalists, street urchins, and over-vigilant vigilantes that bear more resemblance to a lynch mob. The story takes Holmes and Watson from the comfortable environs of 221B Baker Street to the dangerous streets of Whitechapel, a world of grinding poverty, dark alleys, pubs, doss houses, and opium dens. They are aided in their investigation by an enterprising streetwalker who was friends with one of the victims and a young man who is not at first what he seems, and are hampered by a muckraking journalist who casts suspicion on Holmes himself.

The game is indeed afoot as readers follow Sherlock Holmes and the loyal Watson through Whitechapel on Guy Fawkes Night as, amidst the celebratory firecrackers, bonfires, roasting potatoes, and burning effigies, the clues begin to fall into place like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and it is a race against time to try to prevent the next murder and bring the killer to justice.

Ms. Faye does a fine job of recreating the style of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories and evoking the sights, sounds,and smells of Victorian London, and the alternately plucky, pathetic, violent, and colourful denizens of the East End slums.

This is a Ripper story unembellished by the outlandish theories and conspiracies that are all too common in the literature, even that labeled as non-fiction. And although it is never made quite clear in the pages of Ms. Faye's novel what exactly drove the Ripper to kill and mutilate his unfortunate victims, it is nonetheless a fine addition to the shelves of Sherlockiana.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Being Elizabeth by Barbara Taylor Bradford

This novel by bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford (A Woman of Substance) takes the always enthralling Tudor saga and transplants Elizabeth I to the 20th century as young, brilliant, auburn-haired, marriage-phobic Elizabeth Turner, heiress to Deravenels, an old and esteemed multi-million dollar corporate trading company. Her sister, the late but not lamented Mary Turner-Alvarez, (Mary Tudor) almost ran the company into the ground with a $75 million gift to her husband, Spanish tycoon Philip Alvarez, to use on his overly ambitious building projects. Now that Mary is dead, it is up to Elizabeth, aided by her loyal secretary Cecil Williams (Sir William Cecil), and her childhood friend and lover, Robert Dunley (Robert Dudley), to restore Deravenels to its former glory. Along the way she faces a life threatening illness, competition from rival claimant to the Deravenel-Turner fortune, Marie Stewart (Mary, Queen of Scots), a deluded none too bright Scottish-French mantrap, and rumors about the mysterious death of Robert's estranged wife, Amy Robson (Amy Robsart). But don't worry, there's a happy ending tacked on at the end.

While the premise sounds intriguing, it was enough to make me buy the book without a second thought, somehow, uprooted from 16th century Tudor England, it doesn't really work, the story loses some of its luster and magic. Another problem I had with this book was that every crisis that looms up, making the reader think "now we're getting somewhere" is settled easily, with little muss or fuss, usually within a few pages of first rearing its ugly head, so throughout the book one is left with the feeling of waiting for something to happen.

I find most novels with contemporary settings to be swift reads for me, but this one just seemed to drag. I kept looking at the page count and marveling at my lack of progress; at less than 350 pages I should have been able to fly through this book in a couple of days but instead found myself plodding through it for over a week wishing that either something really engaging would happen or that it would just end.

I really wanted to like this book, I applaud any new spin on the oft-told tale of the Tudors, but despite its clever concept this one was rather a dull and dreary read. I'm sorry to say that I honestly can't even recommend it as mind-cotton-candy happily-ever-after beach-read fluff.

Fear The Worst by Linwood Barclay

"Fear The Worst" is a gripping thriller about an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

Divorced used car salesman Tim Blake of Milford, Connecticut is delighted when his seventeen-year-old daughter Sydney comes to spend the summer with him. After an early morning tiff at the breakfast table, Tim tries to atone with a pizza for dinner, only to discover that his daughter is not working at the front desk of the Just Inn Time hotel as she claimed, and no one there has ever heard of her. So begins every parent's worst nightmare.

Sydney Blake seems to have fallen off the face of the earth and her mysterious disappearance seems destined for the cold case file. The drama escalates as Tim follows up on an Internet tip that his daughter has been seen in a Seattle teen shelter. A photo sent via email seems to prove the tip is legitimate and Tim races to Seattle to investigate. But when he arrives at the teen shelter he discovers that no one by the tipster's name works there or ever has and no one has ever seen his daughter. Frustrated and bewildered, Tim returns home to find his house trashed and cocaine hidden in his pillow and himself the subject of police suspicion.

The story becomes even more tangled and bizarre as Sydney's best friend, the promiscuous party girl Patty, also vanishes, Tim himself almost becomes an abduction and murder victim, the blood of a shady character known to deal in human trafficking, bringing illegal immigrants into the USA and hiring them out as his virtual slaves, is found in Sydney's abandoned car, and when Tim's kookie, self-absorbed on-and-off girlfriend Kate is found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in Tim's house, the spotlight of suspicion is taken off finding Sydney Blake and fixed glaringly on her father. And Tim finds himself running a race against time, to find his daughter before he is arrested.

"Fear The Worst" is a gripping edge-of-your seat thriller and I hope to read more of Mr. Barclay's books in the future.

Unmasked The Final Years of Michael Jackson by Ian Halperin

Sometimes I surprise myself. This wasn't a book I expected to read as I have never been much of a Michael Jackson fan, though I have liked the occasional song over the years, but when I found myself in a busy optometrist's waiting room waiting for my father to have his glasses adjusted, and me without a book to read, I nipped over to the nearest store, and this was the most enticing volume on the rack.

The stories that have swirled around Michael Jackson over the years have always reminded me of something straight out of a carnival sideshow. I can't say how much is fact and fiction, hyperbole and sensationalism dreamed up by journalists in need of a tabloid tall tale to sell more papers, and outright lies or muddied truths told by disgruntled employees, discarded friends, and extortionists, all I can say is that Michael Jackson was a man who marched to his own drum, even if that meant marching right off the edge of a cliff.

Although the truth is murky, the evidence, as presented by Ian Halperin, tends to suggest that Michael Jackson was innocent of the child molestation charges that have dogged him for so many years. Mr. Halperin makes a good case for this in his book, though in my personal opinion we will never know for sure; a disturbing niggling doubt will always cling to Mr. Jackson's reputation. However, even after putting these highly distressing episodes behind him, Michael Jackson continued to put himself in a position that both courted and supported the widespread suspicions of guilt; leading many to conclude that there is no smoke without fire. He may very well have been an innocent child-like man, a Peter Pan trapped in an adult male's body, but in a world peopled with predators and monsters who prey on children it is hard to see a middle-aged man having sleepovers with little boys as entirely innocent, pure, and wholesome; and that is the only genuine truth I fear that we can glean out of these murky waters.

Mr. Halperin's book also presents some interesting theories about the role the cult of Scientology may have played in the marriage between Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson, and also offers some evidence, supposedly obtained from former lovers, of Jackson's alleged homosexuality. He also claims Jackson's health in his final years was worse than the general public suspected, and that he suffered from a debilitating genetic lung disease known as Alpha-1.

Although this book was updated after Michael Jackson's death, it went to press before the autopsy results became known, and there is no mention of the role the surgical sedative Diprivan may have played in his demise. Instead, Mr. Halperin makes a tantalizing claim that Jackson's death was tantamount to assisted suicide. Burdened by debts and failing health, and faced with a series of concerts he lacked the stamina for, Halperin proposes Michael Jackson simply gave up and went quietly into the night.

Mr. Halperin's book is a swift and intriguing read, but neither emotionally or factually earth-shaking or ground-breaking. I've read better biographies and I've read worse. For me, this was just a swift read to pass the time in a waiting room and it served its purpose.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Two More Reviews for The Boleyn Wife

Here are two more reviews by historical fiction bloggers to whom I sent Advance Reader Copies. My apologies for the delay in posting these.

Elizabeth at found the book a tad too risque for her personal tastes, but enjoyed the ghosts of Anne Boleyn and her brother George that appear in the Tower of London to torment Lady Rochford. To read her full review please visit

Robinbird at found Jane Boleyn (Lady Rochford) to be an interesting and thoroughly unsympathetic villainess. To read her full review please visit I also did a brief interview with her, it can be read at

The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy will be published in the USA on January 26, 2010 by Kensington Books, and in the UK on April 1, 2010 by Avon/Harper under the title of The Tudor Wife by Emily Purdy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

Michelle Moran's third novel tells the story of Kleopatra (Cleopatra) and Marc Antony's sun and moon twins--Alexander Helios and Kleopatra Selene (Cleopatra VIII). Ten years old at the time of their parents' deaths and Rome's conquest of Egypt, they are taken to Rome as Octavian's prisoners/guests. Too young to pose any real threat, they are adopted by Octavian's kind sister, Octavia, the wife Marc Antony spurned for the Queen of Egypt, to be raised and educated alongside her children while they await their monumental fifteenth birthday, the age at which they will be considered adults, and when Octavian will decide their fate--will they live or die?

Although the characters are interesting, this novel lacked a certain something, to me the pace felt somewhat slow and the emotion and drama lacked the necessary depth and emphasis to make the story truly sparkle. For example, although it is mentioned repeatedly that Selene suffers the pangs of unrequited love for Octavian's nephew and heir apparent, charming, generous, handsome Marcellus, I never truly felt the angst of a teenage girl in the throes of her first love. And the siblings' transition from Egyptian royalty to Roman citizens went a little too smoothly, in my opinion, to be completely believable. Though the young are adaptable and said to heal quickly, I think the twins would have suffered more through their various ordeals and life-altering changes. Nonetheless, though not of the same caliber as Ms. Moran's previous novels, "Cleopatra's Daughter" is still an engaging and enjoyable read especially for fans of Ancient Egypt and those who are fascinated by its most famous queen and have wondered what fate befell her offspring.

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

"I'm just a leftover princess from a dynasty of heretics," bewails brilliant but childishly rambunctious Princess Nefertari, niece of the infamous Nefertiti, wife of the "Heretic Pharaoh" Akhenaten, and daughter of the ill-fated Mutnodjmet (see Ms. Moran's first novel "Nefertiti" for her story). Regarded as an omen of misfortune by most of the court, who superstitiously shun anything associated with the heretical reign of Akhenaten, Nefertari is only tolerated because she is the closest friend of the crown prince, future Pharaoh Ramesses the Great.

But when Ramsesses falls under the spell of a court beauty, Iset, Nefertari sees her dreams of becoming Ramesses' wife crumble, until she is taken under the wing of Woserit, the wise Priestess of Hathor, in sort of an Ancient Egyptian version of "My Fair Lady," and tutored in the ways and manners that become a queen.

Happily, love conquers all, and Ramesses marries Nefertari, but problems persist, because of the people's mistrust of Nefertari's heretical heritage, Ramesses bows to pressure and delays naming a Chief Wife, a queen, so the rivalry between Iset and Nefertari persists, and it is up to Nefertari to win the people's trust and respect and prove herself a capable queen and helpmate in the Audience Chamber where she hears petitioners and her fluency in several languages stands her in good stead.

"The Heretic Queen" is a worthy successor to Ms. Moran's first novel, "Nefertiti," and I encourage fans of Ancient Egypt to give both a try.

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Though the title is "Nefertiti" this is really the story of two very different sisters. Nefertiti is the beautiful one burning with ambition, the star destined to rise high and shine bright. Mutnodjmet, the narrator of this tale of blind ambition, religious turmoil, and royal intrigue in Ancient Egypt, is the plain one who longs only for love, a husband and a child and a quiet life tending her medicinal herbs and dispensing them to those in need. But circumstances force Mutnodjmet to live in her sister's shadow and play handmaiden to her ambition.

When Nefertiti is chosen to be the Chief Wife of the young mentally unbalanced Pharaoh-to-be Amunhotep the Younger, whom history would remember as Akhenaten "The Heretic Pharaoh," everyone hopes she will curb his foolish excesses, and put an end to his insane obsessions with worshipping the sun disc Aten, setting him above and abolishing all other gods and goddesses, especially Amun, and destroying the all-powerful priests of Amun. But rather than displease her royal husband and see herself relegated to the dim recesses of the royal harem with all the other women who live only for the Pharaoh's pleasure, and shut away where her beauty can no longer shine, or be forced to play second fiddle to her rival, Secondary Wife Kiya, Nefertiti supports her husband 100% in his mad folly, egging him on to greater acts of audacity and daring, dominating him, and transfiguring herself into an icon, and a living goddess, along the way. Thus the stage is set for tragedy; it's plain from the start that this story cannot end happily.

II thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Moran's rendition of this controversial era in Egyptian history; she makes the characters come vividly and sympathetically to life. Even those who have few likable characteristics are still human beings readers can in some way relate to, even if it is only sibling rivalry or jealousy, or a case of the grass looking greener on the other side, Ms. Moran's characters come off the page as real people with wants, needs, ambitions, desires, and dreams.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Name Change for UK Edition of The Boleyn Wife

My UK publisher Avon/Harper has decided to change both the title of my book and my own name for their edition of THE BOLEYN WIFE which will be published in the UK on April 1, 2010. It will be published as THE TUDOR WIFE by Emily Purdy, instead of under my real name, Brandy Purdy. More details, including cover art, will be posted when they become available.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Looking For Little Egypt by Donna Carlton

After reading Emily Leider's biography of Mae West, which mentions that she saw Little Egypt dance at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (World's Columbian Exposition), I started thinking about how many times the famed belly dancer's name has cropped up in my reading, yet I knew nothing about her beyond her stage name and that she was a star attraction at the above mentioned fair, so I decided to go on a fact finding mission. That search led me to Donna Carlton's slim but fascinating volume.

I was surprised to learn that Little Egypt and her association with the famous fair is a myth, a popular oft-repeated American legend, as are most of the stories told about her. For instance, Mark Twain did not suffer a coronary after seeing her dance, Thomas Edison did not film her, and she did not popularize the zipper. There is not one contemporary shred of evidence, no newspaper articles, photographs, advertisement, or souvenir book from 1893 to prove that Little Egypt danced at the Chicago World's Fair. It is inconceivable that if she had been the star attraction we have been led to believe she was that she would not have been prominently featured and promoted. All stories linking her to the fair date to years after that world famous event.

In fact, there were dozens of women, both serious practitioners of the danse du ventre (belly dancing) and bastardized hootchy-cootchy versions, who billed themselves as "Little Egypt." The name was practically a generic term for dancers of this type. After one such dancer, Ashea Wabe, who is pictured at the top and bottom of this review, became an overnight sensation after performing at a notorious bachelor party, the number of Little Egypts plying their trade on the various carnival, circus, sideshow, burlesque, and vaudeville circuits skyrocketed; every sideshow and amusement park midway had its own Little Egypt, they seemed to breed like bunnies.

Donna Carlton presents all the details known about that notorious bachelor party, hosted by a nephew of the great showman P.T. Barnum, which became notoriously known as "that awful Seely dinner" and the two trials it spawned and the theatrical parodies that made "Little Egypt" famous. Though it is not known if Ashea Wabe ever danced at the Chicago World's Fair, or when she began using "Little Egypt" as her stage name, she is undoubtedly the one who made the name notorious with risque connotations. Ashea Wabe was a petite, pretty Algerian who spoke a mixture of French and English, beyond this and the role she played in the scandalous Seely dinner and her starring role in Oscar Hammerstein's parody "Silly's Dinner," nothing else is known about her. I did an Internet search after finishing this book in the hope of finding out a little more about her, but found nothing, not even a birth or death date.

Ms. Carlton also presents a rival contender for the title of "the original Little Egypt," one Fahreda Mahzar Spyropoulos, who most likely did dance at the Chicago World's Fair, but not as a star, or under the name of "Little Egypt," but just one of the many dancing girls; in fact, she seems to have only claimed the name as hers after the Seely scandal made it famous and myths about "Little Egypt" being a star attraction at the fair began to crop up.

Though it is always a trifle sad to learn that a good story is just that a good story, Ms. Carlton's book is nonetheless a fascinating journey to the past, taking readers back to the fair, which did indeed introduce the art of belly dancing to the American public, and that esteemed Middle Eastern art form's evolution into the bawdy shimmy or hootchy-cootchy.

Becoming Mae West by Emily Wortis Leider

More than a biography, Ms. Leider’s book is a fascinating window to the lost world of burlesque and vaudeville, giving modern-day readers a tantalizing glimpse of the color, eccentricity, clamor, personalities, customs, and superstitions of those long ago show people and their journey from a time when actresses were often equated with whores, and those in the theatrical profession were regarded as “the offal of society,” and the “wicked stage” where they earned their bread and butter was seen as “the porch of pollution,” to a time when celebrities were feted like royalty and courted and fawned over by high society.

It is also a fascinating word-portrait that chronicles the changes of social mores, sexuality, and women’s roles from the 1890s to the late 1930s, with all sorts of fascinating facts and tidbits thrown in. And at the center of it all, the battles between the entertainment industry and censors who considered themselves crusaders against vice and were determined to keep America’s morals wholesome and pure. And in the middle of it all was Mae West, caught in the crossfire of bullets over what was considered indecent and morally corrupting on both the stage and the screen.

Even if you are not a Mae West fan—and here I have to admit I like her costumes better than her character—you may still find this book interesting; I myself was motivated to read it after reading the author's excellent biography of silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, and I am glad that I did. It is not a traditional from the cradle to the grave biography, instead it is a portrait of an era as well as a personality and how she honed her craft and created a persona that remains an enduring camp icon to this day. From start to finish, “Becoming Mae West” is a journey of the ups and down on the bumpy road to fame.

See Mae West in action on the silver screen in her most famous film "She Done Him Wrong"

Also available a five film box set

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Lost Flight of Amelia Earhart A Novel Based on Historical Evidence by Carol Linn Dow

Fascinating though the subject matter is, this book strikes me as the literary equivalent of a multiple personalities case. Although the book is subtitled "A Novel Based on Historical Evidence," well...let's just say this does not read like a traditional novel. Some pages read like encyclopedia entries or a school report on Amelia Earhart. Other pages dramatize or fictionalize incidents, such as Amelia and Fred Noonan in the cockpit of the doomed Electra or imprisoned and subjected to brutal treatment by the Japanese, or a group of reporters discussing the mystery over Chinese food in a restaurant conveniently run by a supposed witness to their capture. Then there are pages that read like an article from a scientific magazine about radio frequencies and technology of the era. There are also several photos, footnotes, and over 100 pages of supportive notes and evidence in back. When dramatized scenes do appear, awkwardly plunked down between these lengthy factual sections, the dialogue is written in a very minimalistic style, more suitable to a playscript than a novel.

(Major) Moto, "You spy! You Amelican (American) spy. You spy for Navy. You fly over islands to spy on Japanese."
Earhart, "No, no I'm not a spy."

Descriptions between dialogue are sparse and kept to a minimum, like notations to set the scene in a play or movie. Perhaps this has to do with the author's plans to make a movie and this novel was born of a pre-existing screenplay?

I was eager to read this book and wanted to enjoy it, but regrettably its choppy, distracting style proved an insurmountable barrier, and there is nothing new or groundbreaking about Earhart's fate to help overcome this. The Japanese capture theory has been around for a long time and explored and depicted with greater depth and drama elsewhere.

If Ms. Dow's book is indeed made into a movie, I am sure it will be quite interesting to watch, but as a novel I am sorry to say it leaves much to be desired. But I commend the thoroughness of her research and dedication to the project and finding a solution to one of America's most enduring and famous unsolved mysteries.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time by the Editors of Time-Life Books

I have a definite weakness for books like this dating back to when I first learned to read, so when I saw this brand new, up-to-date tome about unsolved mysteries I HAD to have it.

How could I resist such a tantalizing array of cases like the Voynich Manuscript, Lizzie Borden, Jack the Ripper, The Black Dahlia, The Lost Dauphin, Mary, Queen of Scots and the murder of Lord Darnley, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, Lord Lucan, the fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia, the murder of acclaimed silent film director William Desmond Taylor, the mysterious disappearance of West Point Cadet Richard Cox, and of course Amelia Earhart, D.B. Cooper, Ambrose Bierce, and Judge Crater, and even the inclusion of more recent cases like JonBenet Ramsey and Natalee Holloway?

Even with the strange omission of the Mary Celeste and her vanishing crew, this book seemed tailor-made for me. Yet, with great regret, this book turned out to be a colossal disappointment. Each mystery is explored in only one to three pages, one of which is usually all photos or illustrations. As much as I regret to say this about any book, if you are looking for any depth or detailed exploration and debate of possible solutions and theories about the mysteries included here, this book is a complete waste of time, I have read better encyclopedia entries about some of these cases. It doesn't even have the saving grace of a bibliography for further reading in back. What a shame; this could have been a great book if only some real effort had been put into it, it is certainly beautifully put together, but looks aren't everything.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli

As a longtime fan of Marilyn Monroe I've found that almost every new biography claims to be THE ONE to reveal the REAL truth about her, to reveal the heretofore undisclosed and to blast the lies and secrets away like bursting bombshells. That said, Mr. Taraborrelli's book did indeed contain some unexpected surprises. Instead of giving in to sensationalism and conspiracy theories as the title might reasonably lead readers to suspect, he instead paints a portrait of a sad and lonely woman grappling with the demons of her own mind, a borderline paranoid schizophrenic, terrified that, like her mother and grandmother before her, she would end up institutionalized.

The life of Marilyn Monroe is a fascinating study in contradictions. She was the woman every man wanted and every woman wanted to be, but that was just a beautiful illusion. The real Marilyn, despite her breathtaking beauty and genuine talent, was a bedeviling blend of insecurity and fear barely glued together by drugs and alcohol which made her behavior and mental state even more erratic. She was a woman who used sex to affirm her desirability and usually chose badly, either to boost her career or stave off loneliness, when it came to the men in her life. She also had a distressing tendency to surrender herself to the power of strong, Svengali-like personalities, such as her acting coaches Natasha Lytess and Lee and Paula Strasberg, and her last psychologist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, a man often cast as the villain in the saga of Marilyn Monroe, because of the control he exerted over all aspects of her life and the unorthodox and unprofessional choices he made in her treatment.

To my surprise, Mr. Taraborrelli, while admitting anything is possible, largely debunks the web of conspiracy, sex, and murder that has been spun around Marilyn and her relationships with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert "Bobby" Kennedy. He maintains that Marilyn was basically a weekend fling, just another conquest--bedding the ultimate Hollywood blonde--to JFK, and that poor deluded, drug-addled Marilyn became obsessed with him, doggedly pursuing the President and pestering him by phone, wanting their relationship to be more than it actually was or could ever be, maybe even going so far as to imagine herself as First Lady someday. When Marilyn refused to face the facts, Bobby Kennedy was dispatched to tell her to back off and stop calling. Though many believe this confrontation evolved into a love affair, the evidence presented by Mr. Taraborrelli fails to support this, and one is left with the feeling that while they make fascinating reading the conspiracy theories that abound about Marilyn and the Kennedy brothers are more fiction than fact.

Although a genuine air of mystery enshrouds Marilyn's death, and there are questions that remain unanswered and probably always will, in Mr. Taraborrelli's account suicide seems more likely than murder. For many years, I was a devout believer in the murder conspiracy, but as I have gotten older my mind has given greater consideration to the suicide theory. I used to be one of those who believed that Marilyn would never have intentionally taken her own life, she had too much to live for; things were looking up, she had a bright future ahead of her and some great projects in the works. But I know now that having talent that suggests a bright future lies ahead is not always enough to chase the darkness of the soul away. Attaining success, or even stardom, is not a cure, and these things bring their own share of problems that can compound pre-existing ones. Admiration, adoration, and accolades aren't enough, they are not chicken soup for the soul. In the end, Marilyn Monroe couldn't escape the encroaching darkness, she was a woman fighting a losing battle with her own mind and inner demons; she could not save herself and no one else could or would either.

Whatever the truth about Marilyn Monroe's last night on earth, and whether she departed via malice, accident, or intent, Marilyn Monroe didn't die that night, sad, lonely, frightened, lost little girl Norma Jeane died, her glittering platinum and diamond creation, with the breathy little girl voice and marshmallow-soft but oh so fragile heart and soul, the legendary Marilyn Monroe lives on.

I found Mr. Taraborrelli's book to be a refreshing, down to earth, unsensationalized look at the life of Marilyn Monroe, the woman and the movie star. The only issue I had with it was that he omitted to mention either the cosmetic surgery or abortions that form an oft-repeated part of the Marilyn Monroe story and appear in numerous books about her. To me, the book would have felt more complete if he had explored these issues, regardless of whether it was to affirm or disprove them. That said, I would still recommend this book to any casual reader or devoted Marilyn fan.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Delectable Dollies: The Dolly Sisters, Icons of the Jazz Age by Gary Chapman

The Dolly Sisters were a pair of dainty dark-eyed, dark-haired identical twins, born in Budapest in 1892, who took Broadway by storm, dancing their way to fame and fortune, starring in the Ziegfeld Follies and other shows on Broadway and in London and Paris in the early 1900s to the late 1920s when they retired.

The Dollies were the darlings of New York cabaret society, Parisian cafe society, and the London Smart Set. They were spoiled rotten by Diamond Jim Brady and wined and dined by millionaires and royalty who showered them with jewels and sables; one smitten suitor even had a matched set of large blue diamonds set in the shells of a pair of live tortoises and gave them to the twins. Their evening gowns and theatrical costumes were almost as famous as they were, designed by the likes of Lucile (a.k.a. Titanic survivor Lady Duff Gordon), Molyneux, and Patou. Their jewels were legendary, one observer commented they were "behung with baubles like a couple of Christmas trees," and equally legendary was their addiction to gambling and their feats of daring at the casinos and race track; staggering sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were habitually wagered on a single turn of the roulette wheel.

But as alike as they were on the outside, inwardly the Dollies were quite different. Rosie was regarded as the more reserved and stable twin, "the lucky one," who, after two divorces, found love and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and settled down to enjoy a happy life of travel and socializing in a marriage that lasted until her husband's death twenty-one years later. Jenny was the more emotional and reckless of the pair, "the unlucky one," despite her fabulous jewels and famous luck at cards. Jenny was a wild pleasure-seeker who kept two wealthy suitors, both wanting marriage, dangling until it was too late and her luck ran out after the 1929 Stock Market Crash forced almost everyone, including millionaires, to cut back on luxury goods like keeping beautiful women in jewels, designer gowns, and furs and paying their gambling debts. After a car accident left her wracked with pain and hideously disfigured, it took seventeen costly and painful operations for plastic surgery to restore her beauty, but it was only a mask; inside, Jenny was never the same again. Her fabulous jewel collection, rumoured to be the largest in private hands, had to go up on the auction block to pay for the costly surgery and settle other debts, but only sold for a pittance of its actual value. And in 1941 Jenny, broken in spirit, took her life, hanging herself from a curtain rod one Sunday afternoon. Her twin lived on for another thirty years, though in later years, after the loss of her beloved husband, Rosie also suffered from depression and unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Rosie died, an invalid suffering from complications of a hip injury and the flu, of a heart attack in 1970.

"The Delectable Dollies" is the first full-length biography of the famous sister act. It is a fascinating rags to riches saga of the love and rivalry, devotion and duplicity between sisters amidst the glitterati of high society, royalty, and stars of the stage and screen. It is also the tale of the lucky twin and the unlucky one, and perhaps proof of the old adage "lucky at cards, unlucky in love."

Classic movie fans may have seen the 1945 lavish Hollywood musical bio-pic "The Dolly Sisters," starring leggy All-American blonde glamour girls Betty Grable and June Haver as the singing and dancing sisters in a story that is more fiction than fact, but Mr. Chapman's book presents the truth behind the fables and tells the real story of "The Delectable Dollies."

The 1945 movie musical is not exactly a gem of accuracy, but entertaining nontheless.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Breathe The Sky A Novel Inspired By The Life of Amelia Earhart by Chandra Prasad

Of the three novels about Amelia Earhart I have read recently, "Breathe the Sky" is my favourite. It paints a revealing portrait of the dark side of fame. Courting the public and press was a necessary evil in the life of Amelia Earhart; in order to finance her flights speaking engagements, writing books and magazine articles, product endorsements, and public appearances were a must. Ms. Prasad's novel shows us the private Amelia, a woman approaching forty but still bedeviled by feelings of inadequacy, a need to prove herself, to push herself to achieve more and break records, egged on by her husband/manager G.P. (George Palmer Putnam) the ringmaster presiding over the circus of her life. This Amelia is a tired woman, intensely aware of the pressure to keep up appearances, who feels spread too thin between her various commitments to flying, fame, and family. This is a woman who sometimes pulls her car over to the side of the road to catch a quick nap or checks into the hospital for recurring sinus infections just to snatch a little peace and quiet away from the clamor of grasping hands and the adoring masses. Even her mother and sister take advantage of her and even sell stories about her to press.

The novel shifts between the story of her ill-fated last flight and revealing vignettes from her past. Through these tantalizing windows we catch glimpses of her beloved ne'er-do-well drunken father; her friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who pays for secret flying lessons with baskets of blueberry muffins at Amelia's request; her harrowing solo flight across the Atlantic through thunderstorms and equipment failures; we go inside an illegal doctor's office with Amelia when she has an abortion; attend the funeral of a dead cat with G.P, Amelia, and the socialite wife he would divorce in order to wed Amelia; the six marriage proposals it took before she would say "yes"; and we see firsthand how G.P. bamboozled the President of Purdue University into buying Amelia a new plane with a bottle of cognac he claimed was 100 years old but was actually made in a none too clean bathtub not even a year ago.

And there are vivid scenes recreating that famous last flight. Unlike many other accounts of that voyage into oblivion and enduring mystery, this is not a chronicle of details and data or mishaps and misadventures inside the cockpit of the gleaming new Electra, readers get to eavesdrop on conversations between Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan, in whom Amelia sees the shadow of her alcoholic father, and upon whom Amelia has what she describes as a "ridiculous, even masochistic little crush," as the pair share exotic meals and go see the sights during their pitstops in South America, Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, India, and Australia. We see Amelia vexed with the unfamiliar new gadgets in her new plane, including the radio, which Amelia, with her live and learn philosophy, cannot be bothered to take the precious time to master, and we see Noonan battle the demon rum that has him in its thrall. Then there are stomach upsets, romantic tensions, and monsoons to contend with before the couple vanish into the realm of real-life mystery.

If you are fascinated by the enigma of Amelia Earhart, I highly recommend you give "Breathe The Sky" a try; I don't believe this slim little novel will disappoint.

I was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

This surrealistic little novel was the book I was reading, or rather trying to read, when my mother died back in 2002. With the buzz about the new Amelia Earhart movie roaring like an airplane engine and feeding my longstanding fascination with her still unresolved fate, I decided to give this tiny volume another try.

In its pages, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, find themselves marooned on a desert island. Here time, without calendars and clocks, proves elusive and as slippery as an eel, darting randomly between past, present, and future, and this may confuse readers to some degree. The narrator, Amelia Earhart, with her hair grown long as it was before she became famous, thinks of her former life as like a dream, almost as if it had all happened to another person, hence the title: I WAS Amelia Earhart.

She sees herself and Noonan as two damned souls; the drunk navigator who didn't care where he was going and the reckless pilot who didn't care if they ever got there. The two dislike each other almost from first sight, and they alternate between constant bickering, giving each other the silent treatment, and separate accommodations on opposite ends of the island. But circumstances force them to come together; on this minuscule godforsaken little island, which they jokingly name "Heaven," each other is all they really have. Noonan, who began his career as a kitchen boy when he went to sea at fifteen, cooks their dinner every night on the beach, serving up the catch of the day--fish or crabs--or, in times of empty-bellied desperation, stringy rats, all washed down with toothachingly sweet coconut milk. Afterwards, he plays his harmonica and Amelia sings Shirley Temple's theme song "On The Good Ship Lollipop" or advertising jingles. Sometimes the two even make love, but "it's understood that it doesn't mean anything," even when they both know that it does.

The whole book has a hallucinogenic quality; reality blurs and time drifts and shifts. The tale told within its pages could just as easily be a hallucination suffered by the aviatrix flying at too high an altitude, or it might all be a waking fantasy or a sleeping dream, or, as the immortal bard once said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," it might even be true. After all, stranger things have happened, and the castaway theory is not new to the list of possible fates for Amelia and Fred.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Harry Potter Parody

Some years ago during the height of the Harry Potter hype and mania I stumbled across the fan fiction phenomena and was rather amused by all the speculation about who Harry would end up with romantically (if he survived to adulthood of course) and I penned this as a joke. The characters are all the creation and property of author J.K. Rowling and I derive no profit from this at all, so please, don't sue me.

by Brandy Purdy

It all began with the most lavish wedding of the season. Everyone who was anyone was there, friends of the bride and groom, the wizarding world elite, and even a few Muggles too. The Daily Prophet and the Quibbler had even sent reporters and photographers to cover the event.

The month was June, and the radiant bride eighteen-year-old Miss Hermione Granger, stood at the altar wearing a beautiful flowing full-skirted white gown trimmed with delicate pink that came all the way from Paris, France as her mother was fond of telling anyone who would listen. Beside her stood the groom Mr. Ronald Weasley, also aged eighteen, tugging nervously at his pink bowtie while his eyes darted about as frantically as the Golden Snitch during a Quidditch game. Indeed, bets were being placed regarding whether and, if so, when, he would faint or vomit on the bride's Paris gown.

All of a sudden, Ron Weasley burst into tears; loud, wracking, blubbering sobs that liberally watered the pink gardenia on his lapel.

"I...I'm s-sorry, Hermione," he stammered, "but I just can't go through with it!" Then he turned to his best man, who, like all the rest of the audience, was regarding him with wide-eyed incredulous wonder. "I LOVE YOU HARRY!" he cried, seizing hold of his best friend. dipping him back, and kissing him with years of pent-up passion.

This was quickly followed by two loud thuds as both the mother-of-the-bride and the mother-of-the-groom fell senseless to the floor.

Meanwhile, in Ron's arms, Harry Potter recovered from the shock that had momentarily left him speechless and paralyzed, and came vibrantly to life, returning Ron's kiss wholeheartedly.

Gasping for air, the two broke apart.

"Absolutely brilliant timing, Ron!" Harry exclaimed sarcastically as his green eyes surveyed the dumbstruck crowd. "What, you REALLY couldn't find a better time to tell me?"

In response, Ron blushed and grinned sheepishly. "Better late than never," he shrugged as he grabbed Harry's hand and broke into a run, dragging him down the aisle as the befuddled organist, uncertain what to do, reprised the Wedding March.

Through it all, Hermione just stood there, her face flushed a furious shade of red, so angry she couldn't even speak, her mouth gaping open and closed just like a fish out of water.

There was a rustling in the pews as a few people started to rise, to come forward to comfort the abandoned bride.

"Right!" Hermione shouted, holding out a hand to stay them like a hot-tempered Muggle traffic cop, "Don't ANYBODY move! I came here to get married and that's just what I mean to do! NEVILLE!"

Neville Longbottom, seated in the third row beside his ancient grandmother, nearly jumped out of his skin at Hermione's piercing shriek. Stumbling and stammering, and treading on several people's toes, he hurried to her side. And moments later they left the chapel as man and wife. The happy moment was almost spoiled when several tiny white mice were thrown upon the bride. When the bride's parents had explained the Muggle marriage custom of throwing rice Arthur Weasley had apparently misunderstood and thought they said "mice" and had equipped his family accordingly.

Much to the surprise of everyone, Mr. and Mrs. Neville Longbottom defied the odds and enjoyed the happiest of marriages. Had they been given a silver Sickle for every time someone confidently asserted "it won't last" they would have been millionaires many times over. It was like the marriage between an affectionately exasperated drill sergeant and a bumbling but lovably inept private. Neville was even nicknamed "Yes, Dear!" by their friends because that was the way he always responded, snapping to attention, at his wife's commands.

Hermione relentlessly pursued her law degree and after attaining it she resurrected S.P.E.W. (The Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare), swearing that she would dedicate her life to the liberation of house elves. Dressed in stylishly tailored suits with her wild bushy hair braided and coiled into a chignon at the nape of her neck in the style made famous by Evita Peron, she delivered rousing speeches on balconies, platforms, and street corners, and showered the populace with badges and informative literature.

In time she even forgave her two best friends. The truth was she missed them, and it was just too bloody hard to hate two people who were so very much in love. Harry and Ron were obviously meant for each other and she should have seen it from the first. Besides, it was just plain selfish to squander her thoughts and energy on anger, which was such a draining emotion, when the house elves clearly needed her! Harry in particular became her most trusted confidante, and when she launched S.P.P.T.A.M. (Stop the Prejudice of Public Transportation Against Merpeople) and demanded that all buses and trains provide suitable accommodations for mermaids and mermen, he was right there beside her, telling her how utterly absurd it was. After all, why would a mermaid even want to ride on a bus? But Hermione insisted that he was missing the point--by denying them the opportunity society was trampling on their rights and something had to be done about it.

With her rigorous campaign schedule, Hermione decided early on that motherhood was not in her future, but she and Neville adopted a grindylow whom they christened Irving, and a boisterous two-headed, two-tailed ginger-haired pup called Rupert. And everyday when he came home from work after a busy day spent wrapping joke sweets in the packaging division of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Neville would distribute the cookies their housekeeper baked to the garden gnomes and read them interesting items from the newspapers while they clambered over his lap.

On the whole, it was a happy life, but happiness is rarely lasting. After seventeen years of wedded bliss, Neville went out on his sailboat and never came back. Hermione had invited a group of centaurs over to discuss the shackles of societal prejudice that had kept them imprisoned in magical forests for centuries instead of allowing them to take their rightful places as full-fledged citizens, and Neville was severely allergic to horsehair--it made him break out in hives--so he kissed his wife goodbye and went fishing. His boat was found at noon the next day, drifting aimlessly, with Neville lying on the deck in a pool of blood, impaled upon the sword of an immense blue and silver swordfish. Hermione had that fish preserved and mounted above the fireplace where the urn containing Neville's ashes sat upon the mantel; had he lived Neville would have been so proud of that fish.

Hermione was bereft. No balm it seemed could soothe her grief. Dressed entirely in black, she made countless journeys out to sea, to fling flowers, always pink gardenias like they had had on their wedding day, on the spot where Neville had been found. She watched the pink petals bobbing on the blue-green waves and cried until she had no tears left. Thus, in the face of such profound grief, everyone was astounded when , exactly a year and a day later, Hermione Granger Longbottom became a bride again at thirty-six.

Oh yes, it was a shining moment in the history of the House Elf Liberation Movement when Hermione married Dobby! Guards had to be stationed outside the chapel to keep the bride's parents and the white-coated Muggle doctors clutching a straitjacket and net from swooping down the aisle and whisking their daughter away to some facility where they felt she could get the help she so desperately needed.

Given her previous marriage, the bride didn't feel it was appropriate that she wear white, so with Harry's help she selected an elegant satin suit the colour of pumpkin juice with a chic pillbox hat with a short net veil and high-heeled shoes to match. And Dobby was so overcome that he couldn't decide which of his pastel silk neckties and jeweled stickpins to wear so he wore them all, all two dozen. Silver thread glistened on his white silk brocade waistcoat, and diamonds twinkled like stars on his white spats and the buttons of his black velvet coat, the tails of which dragged along the floor, sweeping up rose petals, dust, and other debris. But he was proudest of the tall, gleaming black silk top hat that Harry and Ron had given him, and raved about it all through the ceremony. Privately Harry and Ron were convinced that Hermione had gone bonkers, but they loyally stood by and offered what support they could.

But, alas, the marriage was doomed from the start, if it could rightly be called a marriage since despite Hermione's vigorous campaigning the wizarding world did not recognize inter-species marriages any more than the Muggle world did a marriage between a man and a golden retriever. For how could their union be expected to prosper when the groom's whole existence revolved around making sure Harry Potter and "his Wheezy" were served breakfast in bed each morning? Dobby was utterly devoted to Harry, and after three months Hermione had no choice but to issue an ultimatum--"Harry's morning cup of tea or me!" Dobby was thrown into such deep despair that he landed in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Hermione kept vigil at his bedside, stroking his hands and pointy ears. The poor little fellow was just pining away and she couldn't bear it, so finally she sent for Harry.

"I'm sorry," Harry said sincerely as he took her place at Dobby's bedside and prepared to speak the magic words: "Oh Dobby, I don't know what I am going to do!" he sighed. "Ron bit the buttons off my charcoal grey trousers and like an idiot I tried to sew them back on and ended up stabbing myself with the needle and now not only do they have no buttons but they are spotted with blood as well!"

And in that instant a miracle occurred, Dobby rose from his bed in the full bloom of health, vowing that Harry Potter's trousers would be restored to pristine condition within the hour. Watching by the door, Hermione smiled weakly, and while Dobby went home with Harry and Ron she went to speak with her attorney. By nightfall this marriage of questionable legality had been dissolved.

After that came the actor. Author J.K. Rowling had turned Harry's life story into a series of seven highly successful novels and, as is often the case in the Muggle world, film versions inevitably followed. Hermione paid little attention to the Harry Potter mania that was taking the world by storm. In fact, she didn't even see the first three films. 'Honestly, Ron," she exclaimed, "how can I go to the cinema when merpeople are being denied proper facilities on trains?" Then during a visit to her parents' dental practice when Hermione, ever the perfectionist, was straightening a stack of magazines in the waiting room her heart received such a jolt she felt as if she had been struck by lightning. That was the moment when she saw "Ravishing Rady" on the cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine. Sweet sixteen, with a mop of unruly dark hair, a zig-zag lightning bolt scar painted on his forehead, and the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen staring out at her from behind the lenses of a pair of round-rimmed glasses. Except for the difference in eye colour, the resemblance to Harry as a teenager was uncanny. Hugging the magazine to her heart, Hermione swooned into the nearest chair. The next thing she knew her father was slapping her hands and her mother was holding a vial of smelling salts under her nose.

Still clutching her treasured copy of Entertainment Weekly, Hermione went straight to Harry and demanded that he arrange a meeting. Naturally, he resisted. Even though Hermione, despite her many misfortunes, was still quite beautiful, there was no escaping the fact that she was forty and young Mr. R. was in the legal sense still a child, though most articulate and mature for his age and impressively polite. But in the end she wore him down, and, against his better judgement, Harry picked up the phone.

A series of highly publicized court appearances followed where guards armed with tape measures rigorously enforced the ever increasing distance Hermione was required to keep from her "Darling Daniel," and all 3,000 of her love letters were submitted into evidence with several choice passages being read out in court. And afterwards a Muggle postman would deliver a large bill from the young man's personal therapist to Hermione's house every month for many years to come. In the end, Hermione decided that the noble thing to do was file for divorce, which turned out to be rather difficult since they had never been married in the first place. But Fred and George Weasley could always be counted on to help out in a crisis and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes soon supplied her with an official looking certificate of divorce that spat gold stars into the air and played the theme music from the Harry Potter films every fifteen minutes without fail. Hermione hung it on the wall just below Neville's swordfish and beside her wedding portrait with Dobby and decided to move on.

Her next stop was Vegas. Hermione decided that a holiday was just the tonic to cure all her ails. And so to the gambling mecca of the United States of America she went. She was enthralled by the vast array of festive drinks with provocative names and decided to try them all. Then at three o'clock in the morning across the roulette wheel she came face to face with an old enemy--Draco Malfoy. The haughty patrician blonde had also apparently fallen under the spell of Las Vegas bartenders, and gazing deep into each others' eyes they realized that two people couldn't possibly hate each other as much as they did without secretly being in love. Ten minutes later they were joined in holy matrimony in The Little Chapel of Neon Love by a minister who did double duty as an Elvis impersonator.

Thirteen hours later when they woke up together, stark naked in a heart-shaped pink satin bed under a mirrored ceiling surrounded by garish pink flamingos painted on all four walls, they realized that they had made a huge mistake. Two people really could hate each other as much as they did without being secretly in love. So, to the immense disappointment of bartenders and blackjack dealers, Draco and Hermione pooled their remaining funds and purchased a quick annulment. After they had each signed the papers with Draco's fourteen carat gold fountain pen they exchanged vows--both of them swore NEVER to speak of this ever again to anyone, in sickness and in health, as long as they both lived.

At the age of forty-two Hermione Granger Longbottom Dobby Radcliffe Malfoy plunged once again into the matrimonial pool. This time she found the love of her life in Fred Weasley.

Hermione took over management of the legal department of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, though her devotion to the house elves and merfolk never for a second faltered. In fact, her husband's factory became the first major corporation to employ house elves on equal terms with humans, and a special tank with glass walls was even constructed so that a team of merfolk could test the performance and durability of their merchandise underwater.

Fred was the most indulgent of husbands, he humored his wife's political activism, allowed her to hang the swordfish that had killed Neville in the place of honor above the mantel in their sitting room, and didn't even object when she had their bedroom wallpapered with photographs of Daniel Radcliffe. Their marriage lasted twenty years until the sad day when Fred perished of a candy related fatality. A Too Salty Saltwater Taffy totally dehydrated his body and left him as dry and shriveled as an Egyptian mummy in less than five seconds. There was nothing anyone could do.

Hermione's grief for her husband knew no bounds. And George's grief for his twin was equally intense. They continued to take their meals together in the mansion they shared, always setting a place to honor Fred, and every evening they sought solace in each other's company, talking when they needed to talk, reminiscing about Fred and all the good times they had shared, or just sitting together in silence. No one was surprised when a year later they married. Nor was anyone surprised thirteen years later when George was also killed by a piece of candy. The Too Salty Saltwater Taffy that had ended his brother's life had haunted him throughout the years. Grief had put the project on hold, but as time passed George felt that finishing his brother's work was the only way to truly honor him. When George didn't come home for dinner that night, Hermione went to his office. All that was left of George was a pile of dust and a candy wrapper.

Two years later she walked down the aisle again, a lovely silver-haired bride gowned in silver lace, determined to find lasting happiness. After all, she and her husband-to-be were both seventy-eight, so statistically speaking lasting happiness for them probably wouldn't have to last all that long. She smiled tenderly at the sight of him nervously pulling on his gray silk bowtie, his red hair now faded to a pale peach streaked with white.

All their friends and family who remained, feeble, gray, and white-haired in their old age, smiled as Hermione took her place at Ron's side and a hush fell as the minister began to speak.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and woman..."

He was interrupted by a loud, pain-wracked, heart-rending sob.

"I...I'm s-sorry, Hermione!" Ron sobbed. "But I just can't go through with it! I've tried, but I just can't live without Harry!" And then, before anyone could stop him, he pulled out his wand and put the tip against his temple. There was a loud crack and Ron fell to the floor. "Harry!" he sighed, a beatific smile on his lips and lighting up his eyes before he closed them forever.

Hermione's shoulders sagged in defeat and tears rolled down her cheeks. But a moment later her chin shot up at the sound of panicked voices and running feet as every eligible bachelor bolted from the chapel. Heaving a deep, doleful sigh, Hermione Granger Longbottom Dobby Radcliffe Malfoy Weasley Weasley slowly walked back up the aisle. Alone.