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.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Star Featured Review for The Boleyn Wife at Manic Readers

This review was posted at
Thank you Cheryl for the glowing review, I am glad you enjoyed my book.
"You know her name…Anne Boleyn. You know her story but do you really know what happened? This is the story of King Henry the eighth and Anne Boleyn from the angle of someone who was there from the beginning…Lady Jane Parker.

Jane was the wife of George Boleyn, Anne’s brother. Jane only had eyes for George, even though her father despised him. He warned her that she would never be able to change him and he would only cause her heartache. Jane didn’t care what her father said, she planned to marry George. What Jane didn’t realize at the time was that she would always play second string for her husband’s affections as he showered Anne will all his love.

I really enjoyed this book. The Boleyn Wife is not only deserving of royalty but it also rules as one of the best new books for 2010! This book transported me back in time to a place where kings ruled and the ladies shined in beautiful gowns. I had a very hard time putting this book down. In fact, I think the longest I went without holding this book in my hands was a few minutes. Experiencing things through Jane’s eyes was a nice twist on a classic story. This book takes the readers through King Henry’s wives from Catherine of Aragon to Katherine Howard. Author, Brandy Purdy did an excellent job with The Boleyn Wife. I would gladly read another novel by her."

Trick or Treat! Little Tabby All Dressed Up For Halloween

Dressing up is hard work! I think she'd rather nap instead.

My Halloween Monster Marathon

I usually spend Halloween curled up in bed in my dark bedroom watching my favorite movie monsters stalking across the silver screen. Despite all the advances in special effects since the dawn of moviemaking, I don't think Hollywood has ever done it better than with the original Universal Studios Movie Monsters, those beloved icons of classic horror films that still fuel our imaginations and are loved by legions of film fans to this day.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON has always been my favourite movie monster. There's just something about "The Gill Man" that touches me; when you look past the gills and green scale-skin, and fearsome, sharp claws, he seems so lonely.

The Creature dwells in a peaceful lagoon untouched by modern civilization until scientists invade his territory, arousing his ire and--when he sees the beautiful brunette they have brought with them--his lust. The subliminally erotic pas de deux underwater scene where the Creature watches the white-bathing-suit-clad object of his obsession swim, and even joins her, swimming below her, without her knowing, is, in my opinion, one of the most memorable scenes ever filmed. It is a film that proves once again that the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, whatever the era, costumes, or whether it be set in a French chateau or an isolated lagoon, is a formula for success.

In the sequel, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, the Gill Man is transported back to civilization and put into a public aquarium/fun park, sort of a 1950s Sea World, where he becomes the main attraction to be gawked at by inquisitive camera-toting tourists. To gauge his intelligence, scientists poke him with an electric cattle prod. Naturally, the Creature objects to such cruel treatment, and when he escapes he runs amok like some sort of (rightfully) outraged aquatic King Kong and tries to carry his new female fancy (a blonde this time) back to the sea with him.

THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US is, in my opinion, the weakest, as well as my least favorite, of the three films. When scientists pursue the Gill Man back to his peaceful lagoon habitat he is accidentally burned. To save his life, they perform radical surgery that removes his damaged gills, and makes him more man than fish, and thus a freakish outcast in a world of human beings. Removed from the water, the gracefully swimming Gill Man becomes ponderous, clunky, and awkward, wearing clothes and staring wistfully at the sea, yearning for the underwater home he can never return to. Without his gills, the water that once was his life now means death.

THE MUMMY (and its four sequels of increasingly lower quality) with its special blend of horror and romance, is another favorite, perhaps dating back to my interest in Ancient Egypt which began in early childhood. It's always great fun watching the Tana-leaf-fueled Mummy dragging his dirty linen behind him, lumbering clumsily across the screen in search of the modern reincarnation of his ancient love, and making short shrift of anyone who dares try and stop him. The original film, which starred Boris Karloff as The Mummy was inspired by the continuing fascinating with the discovery of King Tut's treasure-laden tomb and the enduring rumours of a curse that would strike down anyone who disturbed the Pharaoh's rest.

Subsequent films in The Mummy series--THE MUMMY'S HAND, THE MUMMY'S TOMB, THE MUMMY'S GHOST, and THE MUMMY'S CURSE--disintegrated into rather cheesy B-grade horror movies, more laughable perhaps than thrilling, but still good fun.

And there was never a better screen incarnation of the monster created by FRANKENSTEIN than Boris Karloff nor a more famous movie monster makeup than that Jack Pierce, the brilliant head of the Universal Studios Makeup Department, designed for him. Despite his grotesque, lumbering appearance, there is a poignancy about Karloff as Frankenstein's misunderstood, misbegotten creation that touches the heart at the same time as it strikes terror into it. The childlike innocence that causes him to unintentionally kill the little girl who befriends him is heartbreaking, and the scenes with the blind hermit who offers him shelter and friendship are also quite touching.

The sequel BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is one of the rare examples of a sequel that can actually hold a candle to the original.

Elsa Lanchester's makeup and Nefertiti-inspired hair, with the white streaks up the side reminiscent of lightning, are as instantly recognizable and iconic as the face and form of her intended mate, Frankenstein's monster.

Several sequels followed, including SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, with Basil Rathbone in the title role, GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, and HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, but, as is often the case, quality began to slip, and when Karloff dropped out of the series it was never quite the same; no other actor could give the monster that bittersweet touch of pathos.

Though it plays fast and loose with werewolf lore, freely inventing where it will, THE WOLF MAN, and its sequel FRAKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, is nonetheless a treat even when it isn't Halloween. Larry Talbot, portrayed by the son of "The Man of a Thousand Faces," Lon Chaney Jr., is more to be pitied than scorned as the decent, good guy who is bitten by a werewolf and becomes one himself, for "even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."

And Bela Lugosi found true immortality to be both a blessing and a curse as DRACULA. Despite the liberties taken with the Count's appearance and Bram Stoker's novel, Lugosi's Dracula is in our blood; his suave, dapper interpretation of the fiendish, blood-sucking Hungarian Count is the screen vampire that lingers most in human imagination.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ghost Ship The Mysterious True Story of The Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew by Brian Hicks

Brian Hicks' "Ghost Ship" gives a marvelously fresh look at the most famous mystery in maritime history--the Mary Celeste and her missing crew. Most accounts focus solely on the mystery, and Mr. Hicks does not neglect that in any way, he explores the various theories in a candid, matter-of-fact style purged of sensationalism and supernatural trappings, but he also gives us much more. For the first time, the cast of characters in this tragedy do not appear as merely names printed on the page, they emerge as real people, with feelings, hopes, and dreams. For example, we learn that Captain Briggs longed to give up the seafaring life as it cost him so much precious time out of his son's childhood, but feared he could not earn enough money to properly support his family.

The mystery began on the afternoon of December 4, 1872 when the crew of the Dei Gratia, a brigantine out of Nova Scotia bound for Gibraltar, spotted a ship meandering aimlessly, bucking like a bronco in a rodeo, atop the white-capped waves. For over an hour they watched her erratic progress and even tried to signal her before Captain Morehouse decided to send three of his men to investigate. What they found would fast become a legend, that would soon take on a life of its own, growing and gaining embellishments in the years to come.

There was not a soul on board the Mary Celeste. The ship was completely seaworthy, with only minimal weather damage obviously suffered after the mysterious disappearance of her crew, there were no signs of a struggle, violence, or any discernible reason why the ship should have been abandoned. The log was still in place, the last entry dated November 25, 1872 showed all was well aboard the Mary Celeste. In Captain Briggs' cabin the impression of a child's sleeping form still marked the mattress, and a sewing machine, a child's toys, and Mrs. Briggs' prized melodeon (a small piano-like instrument), and feminine apparel showed that the Captain had been traveling with his wife and child. In the sailors' quarters their sea chests were found undisturbed and their foul-weather gear oilskins, were found hanging on the wall pegs, and, most chilling of all, for sailors never went anywhere without them, their pipes had also been left behind. And the cargo, 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol bound for Genoa, Italy, lay in the hold undisturbed. But of the ten souls who sailed aboard the Mary Celeste there was not a trace nor conclusive proof of their fate.

Scores of theories have been advanced, from the ludicrous to the logical, and there have been numerous hoaxes throughout the years, but to this day the mystery remains unsolved. Pirates, mutiny, murder, insurance fraud, waterspouts, a disappearing island, fear of an imminent explosion in the cargo hold due to the alcohol, UFOs, a giant squid plucking the crew off the deck one by one, sailing into another dimension via a vortex in the Bermuda Triangle, or some connection to the lost city of Atlantis and the Great Pyramids of Egypt, have all been advanced at one time or another to explain the mystery, but all ultimately fail to fully convince. Mr. Hicks explores the various theories and the hoaxes, both intentional and unintentional, including the furor created and confusion caused by the publication of the short story "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" by Arthur Conan Doyle three years before he found lasting literary fame with his creation of Sherlock Holmes. He also offers a theory of his own, which I will not spoil for prospective readers by revealing here, I will merely say it is entirely logical, but logical does nothing to dispel the tragedy.

Mr. Hicks also relates the history of the ship after it became famous, or rather infamous. The Mary Celeste went on to garner a reputation "as wholesome as that of a haunted house," finding a crew willing to sail on her became a serious challenge, and she changed hands several times, always being sold at a loss and failing to earn a profit for her owners. She ended her life in 1885, intentionally impaled on Rochelais Reef, off the coast of Haiti, as part of an insurance scam. Her scant remains were found on the reef in 2001 by divers in an expedition funded by novelist Clive Cussler. In warm, crystal clear Caribbean blue waters her remains lie on white sands amidst coral, conch shells, and schools of tropical fish; when she died the Mary Celeste truly did go to paradise.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Mary Celeste. If you only know the story from brief chapters in books of unsolved mysteries, I urge you to let Mr. Hicks tell you the whole story from the Mary Celeste's conception, her life story through her infamous immortality, and the squalid years that followed and ended in a blatant act of fraud within sight of the island of voodoo.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Barnes & Noble Now Taking Pre-Orders for The Boleyn Wife

Barnes & Noble is now taking pre-orders for my novel The Boleyn Wife.
Click Here to Order! or visit my website for more information.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" is as delicious a mystery novel as the custard pies featured prominently in the plot are vile. Except for the murderer's rather gruesome method, this is a thoroughly charming book with a delighful young sleuth.

In 1950, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is a precocious pigtail wearing, bespectacled little girl with a passion for chemistry, particularly deadly poisons. When the housekeeper finds a dead bird lying on the doorstep with a postage stamp impaled upon its beak, and Flavia herself discovers a dead man in the cucumber patch at Buckshaw, the family's decaying manor house near the quaint little village of Bishop's Lacey, it is the most thrilling moment of Flavia's life thus far.

Brimming over with enthusiasm, she mounts her trusty bicycle, christened "Gladys," and eagerly sets out to solve the mystery, and clear her father's name when he is accused of the crime. She soon uncovers a connection to the theft of a rare postage stamp during his schooldays and the mysterious and tragic death of a popular teacher that followed soon after.

As usual where mysteries are concerned, I prefer to keep my reviews brief, rather than risk giving too much away. So, suffice it to say, I enjoyed this one thoroughly and hope young Miss de Luce will again grace the pages of Mr. Bradley's future books. The cast of characters is memorable and colorful, there are no bland, cardboard cutout characters here, and he does a fine job of capturing the class system that still existed in England at the time in the way that the villagers defer to the de Luce family.

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" is a real page-turner that, if I weren't already an insomniac, would have kept me up all night.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Early Review of The Boleyn Wife

Author and historical fiction reviewer Heather Domin posted a detailed review of my novel "The Boleyn Wife" today at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Case of the Cottingley Fairies by Joe Cooper

In England, 1917 in the quiet little Yorkshire village of Cottingley, two young girls, Frances Griffiths aged 10 and her cousin Elsie Wright aged 17, took a series of five photographs that remain the subject of controversy to this day. The photographs showed the girls posed with fairies that they swore were real. To many eyes, the alleged fairies look like homemade paper dolls, drawn, coloured, cut out and secured in place, perhaps with hatpins, sticks, or string, but they garnered such distinguished supporters as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, devout spiritualist and famed creator of Sherlock Holmes, and Edward Gardner, a leader in the then popular Theosophist movement founded by Madame Blavatsky. Both Conan Doyle and Gardner were utterly convinced of the photographs' authenticity and penned books in their defense. After the pictures were published in the Strand Magazine in 1920, they became the subject of intense public scrutiny and debate that continued for decades.

Researcher Joe Cooper had the opportunity to spend time with, question, and interview both Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright as elderly women during the last years of their lives. And though he seems somewhat predisposed to believe them, and admits to having a personal belief in fairies and nature spirits, his book does a good and thorough job of documenting the history, mystery, and controversy of the Cottingley Fairies episode from start to finish, and it makes an interesting read for anyone with an interest in spiritualism, fairy lore, spirit photography, or the Cottingley Fairies in particular. Apart from the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edward Gardner, this is the only book-length account of the case I have read, though it is frequently featured in books about unexplained and paranormal or supernatural phenomena.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Murder of King Tut The Plot To Kill The Child King A Nonfiction Thriller by James Patterson and Martin Dugard

I wanted to like this book, I really did. In fact, I was so eager to read it that I pre-ordered it over a month prior to its release, so I am very sorry to report that it was a colossal disappointment.


This book is presented as non-fiction, and Mr. Patterson, via reading and the Internet, and his co-author, Martin Dugard, via actually traveling to Egypt, claim to have done extensive research. Well, suffice it to say that this reader, who is by no means an expert but has been fascinated by Ancient Egypt, especially the Amarna era, since childhood and eagerly reads about it and watches just about every documentary about Egypt and mummies that comes on television, was surprised by such eye-popping revelations such as the, as far as I know, never before revealed "fact" that the "Heretic Pharaoh" sun-worshipper Akhenaten died in the act of sexual intercourse with that shaven-headed siren of the Ancient World Queen Nefertiti. "He died in a burst of happiness. His heart was so filled with joy that it exploded," Nefertiti discreetly explains to young Tut, the heir apparent. Well, if this is indeed how Akhenaten died, one hopes that his final climax was enjoyable.

Being only half-royal, the son of secondary wife, Kiya, who had supplanted the beautiful Nefertiti in Akhenaten's bed and affections before conveniently dying in childbirth, Tut is urged to marry his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten (best known today as Ankhesenamen), a fully royal-blooded daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, to cement his claim to the throne. Happily the two are best friends and soon fall in love. And watching over it all is royal scribe, later vizier, Aye, who lusts after Nefertiti and longs to be Pharaoh himself. But Tutankhamen is fated to become Pharaoh, so Aye poisons Nefertiti and she dies a slow and painful death as she stoically continues to educate Tut to be a great King, unlike his late father, who is presented as a rather idiotic and possibly insane man who advised the great warrior General Horemheb to give up the military and take up painting and writing poetry instead.

But Aye continues to covet the throne. And after Ankhesenpaaten gives birth to two stillborn children and Tut fails to impregnate a concubine put into his bed by the oh so helpful Aye, it is obvious that Tut is shooting blanks, and as he lies drifting in and out of consciousness following a chariot accident Aye and Horemheb make a deal for the good of Egypt. Aye is an old man and he just wants his fifteen minutes of fame, to rescue Egypt from weak pharaohs, like Akhenaten and Tut, and restore it to its former glory, so if Horemheb will help him become Pharaoh, he will name Horemheb as his successor then he can have his turn at the throne too. Well, what ambitious man could resist a bargain like that? And soon a one-eyed assassin named Abdul is creeping into the King's bedchamber, planning to bash his brains out with an ebony and stone war club. But the sight of that pathetic seventeen-year-old boy lying there whimpering for his mother in his sleep is such that Abdul can't bear to bash his head in so he strangles him instead.

Naturally, everyone suspects the Queen of murdering her husband. And in the seventy days that follow as Tut's mummification and burial are hastily arranged, Aye plots to force Ankhesenpaaten to marry him since he has no royal blood but she does. The desperate young woman, grieving for her beloved husband, tries to scotch Aye's plan by writing to the King of the Hittites, Egypt's enemy of longstanding, and begging him to send one of his sons to Egypt to be her husband and thus become Pharaoh. But Aye and Horemheb, aided by a spying lady-in-waiting, intercept the Hittite Prince and murder him and his entourage. As a colourful touch, they bring his severed head in a bag to Ankesenpaaten.

At the wedding feast, Aye poisons Ankhesenpaaten, after all, he already has a wife his own age, and now that the crown is his he has no further use for a pretty young teenage bride, and her body is unceremoniously thrown to the Nile crocodiles.

And in a hasty chapter that ties up the loose ends, Horemheb in turn murders Aye and takes the throne for himself and orders the names of his predecessors stricken from the records and erased from the monuments. Oh, and by the way, we learn that Ankhesenpaaten was part of this trio of conspirators who all double-crossed each other. Ankhesenpaaten, James Patterson says without presenting any proof for it, wanted power all for herself. Though, to my mind at least, her plan to marry the Hittite Prince and make him Pharaoh does not show the ancient equivalent of an Elizabeth I in the making.

Alternating between these vivid scenes of Ancient intrigue, James Patterson inserts chapters about Howard Carter and his search for, and eventual discovery of, King Tut's tomb. Curiously, while Patterson doesn't hesitate to take us into the bedrooms of the Ancients, he draws a discreet veil over the relationship between Howard Carter and Lady Evelyn Herbert, daughter of his wealthy mentor, Lord Carnarvon.

If this book had been presented as fiction I might have been more favorably disposed towards it. I don't believe in putting historical fiction under a microscope and nitpicking for accuracy, and after all so little is known about the kings and queens of Ancient Egypt that there is ample room for speculation and opportunity for a novelist to weave and embroider a tale upon the existing framework of known history. But it is not presented as a work of fiction, it is called and categorized as non-fiction. Curiously for a non-fiction book about a period of history that has spawned whole libraries of non-fiction books, both scholarly and popular, it doesn't have a bibliography in back. I wonder why?

In the end, the only good thing I can really say about this book is that it is a swift and somewhat entertaining and interesting read despite its questionable points. The font is of a larger size and the spacing in between generous so it is also gentle on the eyes. And since it is written in a fast-paced and readable style, it just might be a good way to introduce someone to the fascinating world of Egyptology, there is definitely enough here to kindle an interest and desire to learn more.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Possessed The History & Mystery of The Watseka Wonder by Troy Taylor

In 1878 the sleepy little farming community of Watseka, Illinois woke up when events occurred that remain unexplained to this day.

Fourteen year old Lurancy Vennum began to suffer mysterious spells in which she would fall into an eerie, corpse-like catatonic trance during which she claimed to converse with angels and spirits. Sometimes she would speak in unknown voices, supposedly those of the deceased. These peculiar spells lasted anywhere from two to eight hours and Lurancy's health suffered as a result, often she was assailed by sharp, stabbing stomach pains that made her double up and scream in agony. Her desperate parents consulted doctor after doctor in search of a cure, but none could discern a physical cause for Lurancy's suffering. In the end, the insane asylum--in that era a fate worse than death--seemed the only realistic alternative.

Before Lurancy could be sent away, her father received a visit from a Mr. Roff who implored him not to make the same mistake he had and send his daughter to the asylum. Mr. Roff went on to explain that he had had a daughter named Mary who had been similarly afflicted, though in a much more violent fashion than Lurancy. Mary had suffered violent seizures from infancy and had also developed a compulsion to cut and bleed herself (bloodletting was still a common and acceptable medical treatment at the time). Like the Vennums, the Roffs had spared no expense to find a cure for their daughter, she had even spent 18 months at a fine sanitarium taking the then fashionable "Water Cure" (immersion in tubs of hot or cold water as the doctor prescribed, tight wrapping in sheets soaked with cold water, and ice water douches) before the family was forced to conclude that the asylum was their only choice. In the 19th century, insane asylums were unsanitary, inhumane places that did not treat the mentally ill, but restrained and imprisoned them instead, incarceration behind their walls was literally a living death in a very real and horrible hell on earth. Mary Roff died in the asylum in 1865 at only 18 years of age. Afterwards, her desolate parents turned to spiritualism for consolation.

Mr. Roff begged Mr. Vennum to allow him to bring a spiritualist doctor, a certain Dr. Stevens, to see Lurancy and Mr. Vennum, willing to do anything that would save his daughter, agreed. When he called, Dr. Stevens found Lurancy in the grip of spirits, an old woman and a tormented young man alternately possessed and spoke through her. She later told the doctor that she disliked these spirits taking control of her as they were troubled and bad. In the presence of her distraught parents and Mr. Roff, Dr. Stevens hypnotized Lurancy and told her that she had the power to control which spirits took over her body and, if she must play hostess to spirits of the dead, she should invite a good entity in. After reviewing several possible candidates, Lurancy announced that there was a young woman who wanted to come in and that she claimed that she could help her in a way no other spirit could and "her name is Mary Roff."

The following day Mary Roff took over the body of Lurancy Vennum for a possession that was to last for several months. She treated Mr. and Mrs. Vennum with courtesy but as strangers, she failed to recognize them as her parents or their house as her home, nothing from Lurancy's life seemed familiar to her. She exhibited signs of severe homesickness and begged repeatedly to be allowed to go home. The Vennums could not bear to see her suffering and allowed her to go home with the Roffs.

When she saw Mary's mother and sister Minerva, Lurancy fell on them in a heartfelt frenzy of weeping, kissing, and hugging. She seemed to know everything about the Roffs, little known family anecdotes and history, things that only Mary and her intimate family would have known, and she recognized Mary's possessions and friends. According to witnesses, not once was she ever mistaken or deceived.

Some months later a quiet struggle began as Lurancy began to re-exert control of her body. Mary announced that Lurancy would soon return, healthy and completely cured, and go home to her parents, and this indeed is what happened. It all ended as suddenly as it began and Lurancy returned to her parents a healthy, happy young woman with little memory of the past months beyond a feeling that she had passed them in sleeping or dreaming.

Troy Taylor's book, which begins with a lengthy (51 pages) chapter on the history of spirit possession, is a quick and intriguing read (136 pages altogether) that does not solve the mystery of "The Watseka Wonder," but presents all the known evidence and allows the reader to make up their own mind. It also includes several photographs of people and places involved in the mystery and letters from the participants, family members, and investigators.