Monday, September 28, 2015
Following on the heels of his mega selling debut thriller Before I Go To Sleep London based author S. J. Watson delivers another psychological tale that keeps us awake turning pages. It’s a complex story that keeps us guessing as we meet a woman who ostensibly loves her husband yet is obsessed by a stranger.
Julia Wilding, our narrator, is a former art photographer and a recovering alcoholic. One of her photographs, a picture of a nude man called Marcus, has received notice and is in fact on display in an upscale London gallery. She no longer captures such images but is happy to make family portraits. Her life now is different - she enjoys a comfortable existence in London, is married to a cardiac surgeon, and they have a son, 13-year-old Connor. Well, not really their son, he is the offspring of her younger sister, Kate, who became pregnant at 16. She was not able to care for a child so Hugh and Julia took the baby in and cared for him, have loved him as their own.
The serenity of the family’s days is shattered when Kate is murdered in Paris, found dead in an alley. All they know is that she had been alone in a nearby bar, and was evidently murdered on her way home. Remembering their childhood together and how as an older sister she had looked after Kate, thinking of how close the sisters had once been Julia becomes almost obsessed with finding Kate’s killer. She goes to Paris where she meets Kate’s roommate, Anna, from whom she learns that Kate had spent time on the internet visiting chatrooms and having both virtual and physical sex with those she met.
Julia convinces herself that if she goes online pretending to be Kate she may be able to
learn the identity of Kate’s killer. It is there that she meets Lukas who may or may not have known her sister. Julia soon becomes involved with him and eventually life begins a dangerous downward spiral.
It takes a while before a shocking conclusion is reached, but once again Watson offers a dark, disturbing tale.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Sunday, September 20, 2015
When one thinks of such tales as The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, surely American classics, many would assume that the author was a fascinating character. That may have been true yet much of what we know about Dashiell Hammett is fiction itself as stories that he told have been proven untrue and little of his early writing may be found today. Even suppositions by Ward have scant basis, such as his speculation that working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency where he was required to submit operative reports sharpened Hammett’s ability to write. However, none of Hammett’s reports can be found in the Pinkerton archives. Nonetheless, The Lost Man is satisfying reading for as his granddaughter notes it gives us a vivid picture of Hammett’s life and times and his early family life (pre-Hellman) as she puts it. The pre-Hellman being a reference to Lillian Hellman to whom Hammett became attached later in his life.
One finds little promise in the young Hammett who left school at 14 in order to help his family financially. He tackled everything from office messenger to paperboy to dock worker, jobs from which he was usually fired. Some five years later he ran across what someone called “the company’s blind recruitment ad,” he replied and was hired by the Baltimore office of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. “Gumshoeing” as he called it was what he really liked, and there can be no doubt that this experience provided material for his future novels.
After a stint in the service he developed tuberculosis and was no longer able to work as a detective, but by that time he had a wife and family to support. What could he do? He wrote. And we are the better for it as his creation of Sam Spade not only gave us great pleasure but was an example for crime writers for years to come.
Nash traces Hammett’s personal life but primarily focuses on his works as he becomes a popular author. Attention is paid to the time he spent in California as the Thin Man movies were being filmed, and his blacklisting. The book ends rather abruptly in 1935 when Hammett was at the peak of his fame, yet it is a fascinating and satisfying examination of this author’s life.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Well, if you’re not a cat lover now you surely will be after one or two pages. If you’re not an admirer of the work and imagination of artist Susan Herbert you definitely will be as her water color paintings have been created not only with paint but with charm, affection and rich imagination.
Cats Galore A Compendium Of Cultured Cats is a book I’ve returned to again and again not only for my own pleasure but to share with friends - none of whom could select a favorite as all of the paintings delight viewers.
The subtitle is apropos as Susan Herbert has given us feline versions of unforgettable works of art as well as well remembered scenes from the theater, opera and films. Words cannot describe the surprise and pleasure found in seeing Goya’s The Clothed Maja in feline form or a scene from The Red Shoes with a blue-eyed kitty on point. Regarding films one finds the famous beach scene in From Here To Eternity, the full cast of Casablanca and more. There are 326 illustrations in all, each bringing appreciative smiles.
I am grateful for Ms. Herbert’s talent and in awe of the gifts she has given us. My copy of Cats Galore is already well thumbed and surely much enjoyed. Highly recommended!