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Category Archives: books

OF COURSE We Need More Books!

I don’t know how well I will do with my writing for the foreseeable future. You see, Steven and I just returned from the Book Sale at Basloe Library in Herkimer, NY, and now I have some serious reading to attend to.

To be completely honest, our finances are not in the best shape these days, and our house is getting rather crowded with stuff. In other words, we don’t need to be running out and buying more books. Who am I kidding? Of course we do! Additionally, this is a library book sale. Good prices and a good cause, that’s a win/win to me.

So we took a drive to the library, parking in the Prospect Street parking lot and walking through the little park to the library on Main. The sale was in the little back room, where Guitar Group meets on Saturdays and Herkimer Now meets once a month. There were several tables covered with books. I was in my element.

At first I did not see anything I had to have, although I enjoyed browsing the variety of titles. Then I saw a Dominick Dunne book I haven’t read, People Like Us. I was delighted. Dominick Dunne is one of my all-time favorite writers. I continued to browse, feeling that if I left with only that book I would be happy.

After a while, Steven told me he had seen another Dominick Dunne book.

“I already have An Inconvenient Woman,” I said. He said it wasn’t that one, but he couldn’t remember which it was. “Oh, here, it is,” I said, spotting Dominick Dunne on a spine. “Too Much Money. I don’t have Too Much Money!”

“Neither do I,” Steven said. I had not realized till I said it how it sounded. I laughed loudly for about ten minutes.

I went on to find several more books. Steven found one book and a DVD of Good Night and Good Luck, about Edward R. Murrow and Joseph McCarthy. We were very happy with our purchases. The sale continues till Friday, so we may return. Or we may make our way to Frankfort Free Library, which is also having a book sale. So many books, so little time.

That Damn Book

This is going to be another Tired Tuesday post, because I fulfill both criteria. I feared that would be the case, since my husband Steven and I planned on doing laundry after I got off work. Therefore, I went to work determined to write something while at work. Something not too long.

I guess no words at all is not too long.

Well, let me explain how the fates conspired against me. You may say I did myself in by succumbing to my own addiction. Potato, po-tah-to. A friend at work had told me about a book she had read that she thought I might like. It is a novel based on a local murder case which happened many years ago.

“Oh, I’d love to borrow it,” I told her.

Who knew she would be so prompt? The book was by my work station when I got to work this morning. How very kind of her. I would begin reading it at the first opportunity. First I had a blog post to write. I did, in fact, look at the blank page with a pen in my hand for, oh, a good three or four minutes before I thought I could read just a little bit…

I get to work a half hour to forty minutes early so that I have time to write and sometimes socialize a little. I did neither this morning. Oh dear. Well, there was still the nine o’clock break. And lunch. And the 2 p.m. break. And sometimes two or three minutes at the end of the day while I’m waiting to punch out.

I don’t really need to tell you I read during all of those, do I? Determined to make up for my profligacy, I left the book in the SUV at the laundromat and brought my notebook in with me.

And wrote one paragraph, which I immediately despised.

“It’s no use,” I told Steven. “I’m going to read that book and just write something off the cuff when we get home.”

And, I’m afraid this is it. On the brighter side, the book is about a murder that took place in the Mohawk Valley. Perhaps when I finish it I could write a book report for that day’s blog post.

Isn’t It Romantic?

Oh dear! It is happening again! I want to make my blog post NOW and I haven’t written anything yet, and I want to write it quickly.

How annoying. I had even thought of a good Friday Lame Post, complete with headline. But I didn’t write it while at work, because I was reading a romance novel.

I really want to clarify the term “romance novel.” Steven (my delightful husband) refers to them as romance novels, and I suppose at heart they are. However, they are not the soulless, stupid generic romance novels. I don’t want to mention specifics of authors or publishers, because I just don’t want the hate, but you must know what I mean. I shan’t even elaborate. But I will mention what I like: Regency Romances by Georgette Heyer, and Gothic Romances by Victoria Holt or Phyllis Whitney (and gothic has nothing to do with young people wearing all black and heavy eye-liner. Just saying).

Today was Victoria Holt. I would just like to mention that I often say I don’t read these books, I eat them. To me they are like potato chips. You start and you just can’t stop. You know they are not good FOR you, but they are JUST SO GOOD. You can’t stop. And sometimes you hate yourself in the morning.

In fact, I hate myself less for novels than I do for potato chips. Let’s face it: any reading probably does your brain some good. Junk food, not so much.

So now I am over 200 words. That makes a post, by my own self-imposed rules. I’m going to go ahead and enjoy my Friday. Hope you all have a happy weekend.

Can’t Have Too Many Books

There ought to be a saying about those with too many books are apt to buy more. It’s quite true. Steven and I proved it Tuesday at the Basloe Library Book Sale in Herkimer, NY.

Basloe is located on Main Street. There is a public parking lot on Prospect, which is one street over. You walk through a little park next to the building to get to the library.

The sale was in a room off the main part of the library. Several large tables covered with books beckoned. There were even more books on the floor underneath. I was in my glory.

I started out in non-fiction, because lately I’m really into history and biography, but I checked out the fiction too. I found a historical romance and a trashy romance. I picked both up, but told Steven I would probably hate myself in the morning. I won’t mention the authors’ names, because I don’t want to start anything. The historical lady brags on how much research she does and how accurate she is, but I’ve read the history. She takes liberties. But compulsively readable. I can’t put her books down, and then I read them again. The trashy writer, also compulsively readable. I’ll save them for a treat. If I ever deserve one.

Soon I had a small armful of hardcover books. Then I found a small pile of Writer magazines. Magazines were five cents apiece. Of course I picked them all up. Steven offered to carry my hardcovers for me. The gentleman working the sale said he could put them near the cash box so we wouldn’t have to carry them around.

I decided I had chosen enough before Steven was done looking, so I sat in a handy chair and started reading one of the magazines. He found a DVD of Ruthless People, a silly movie we had just been talking about the other day.

When we checked out, I counted 18 magazines, but told the guy to count it as 20, to make it an even dollar. Our purchases added up to $4.50. I said, “Let’s make it an even five, since it’s for the library.” He graciously agreed. I said, “If this was a garage sale with a person, I might have said, ‘Can we make it four?’ For the library, I’ll make it five.” I do love libraries.

For you local readers, the library sale continues through Friday. Frank J. Basloe Library is located at 245 N. Main St., Herkimer, NY. Phone number 315-866-1733. Or you can go to www.midyork.org.

But I Don’t Really Like Serial Killers

Some time ago I blogged about getting a book by M. William Phelps through interlibrary loan. that was a well-deserved shout out (I love that expression) to the Mid-York Library System. Today I’d like to give a shout out to M. William Phelps.

I first encountered Phelps on an episode of one of my favorite crime shows, Snapped. he had written a book on the case being covered and was giving background. In addition to finding his comments informative, I noticed he was fairly gorgeous. Oh, I know, the informative part is the most important thing, but I can enjoy the scenery while I’m at it, can’t I?

I discovered M. William Phelps has a Facebook page. That was where I learned about his new series on Investigation Discovery (one of my favorite cable channels), Dark Minds. I’m always ready to check out another crime show. Dark Minds is on past my bed time (I definitely need my beauty rest), so I have been DVRing them to enjoy at my leisure.

The show is about serial killers. I must confess that serial killers are not my favorite kind of murderer. I like a nice, personal murder for a good reason, like greed or jealousy. Something anybody could understand. I don’t mind hearing about real serial killers, though, as long as it’s a well put together show. Just as an aside, I’m bored by the fictional ones, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Phelps concentrates on unsolved murders. By investigating and publicizing, he tries to heat up cold cases. What Dark Minds has that other cold case shows do not is 13. 13 is an incarcerated serial killer who through remorse or self-aggrandizement works with an FBI agent tracking other serial killers. The agent talks to 13 over a speaker phone with Phelps present. We don’t see 13’s face or even hear his real voice. It’s a little creepy, and the viewer gets a delicious sense of getting real inside information, especially when we see the shots of the corridors of the maximum security prison.

I have to confess, I’m not enamored of 13. He must be in control at all times. When he’s done he says, “That’s all” and breaks the connection. No options. In one episode, Phelps expressed his frustration to the FBI agent. I was glad to know I was not the only one. Some of 13’s insights I’ve heard before from FBI profilers and others. For example, why did the killings stop? The killer died or moved or is in prison for another crime. Still, 13 has a perspective that few of us (I hope) share.

Normally when I DVR a show I like, I watch several episodes in a marathon. I don’t do that with Dark Minds. I find it too disturbing. But it is a compelling show, and I intend to catch every episode.

The book I read, Too Young to Kill (Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011), is not about a serial killer but a sad story about a teenager killed by two other teens. It is thoroughly researched, including background on teen subculture that can’t have been easy to come by. Phelps also brings you right into the emotional experience of the victims’ parents. It is a gripping, moving story.

Phelps knows about the suffering of victims’ families from personal experience. His sister-in-law was murdered and the case is still unsolved. This puts him in the same category as two other of my most admired people, John Walsh and Dominick Dunne (at least, Dunne’s daughter’s murder was solved; I don’t know about Walsh’s son’s). All three suffered tragic losses at the hands of criminals and all three became passionate victims’ advocates. They turned their sorrow into service to others. I can’t think of a better thing to say about anybody. It also makes me think. I have blessedly never suffered such a tragedy. Do I have to wait for something terrible to happen before I try to help others? I hope not, and I’m looking for things I can do to help. In the meantime, I’m enjoying reading Phelps’ books and watching his TV show.

Last Woman Hanged

Tuesday I attended a lecture sponsored by the Herkimer County Historical Society. Does that sound cultured and intellectual? It may have been. It was also a great deal of fun.

James M. Greiner, author of Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse, was talking about the famous case. I have many times noticed the historic marker outside the 1834 Jail and wanted to learn more about the local murderess. Last December, Greiner was at the Historical Society signing his book, but I missed it, which was too bad, because I had previously told my entire family NOT to buy me Christmas presents, because I was buying myself the book (they got me presents anyways, but that’s a whole other blog post).

Tuesday’s talk took place at the Herkimer County Courthouse, at Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners, a favorite walking place of mine and Tabby’s. I walked over, because Steven planned to drive straight from work (always fun to have a rendezvous). The event drew a large crowd. I could have gotten there much earlier and saved us seats closer to the front. Then again, with such a large crowd, some people may have taken exception to my saving a really good seat for somebody who may not arrive on time. Our seats in the back turned out to be fine, however; we had no problems hearing.

Greiner’s book is all about the facts of the case. Apparently everybody who grew up around here “knows” that Roxalana Druse fed her husband’s dead body to the pigs and was hanged on the hook in back of the jail, neither of which, it turns out, was the case. I have to confess, I didn’t know (or “know”) any of that. You see how much I missed out on, growing up in Rome.

We heard a lot about the true case and about the research Greiner undertook to find out about it. He is an excellent speaker, very organized and articulate, and obviously passionately interested in his subject. He says he follows the rule “Write what you love.” I wrote that one down.

He had previously published two books on the Civil War and wanted to do something different. He said he called up the Historical Society and said, “I want to do a murder.” (I wrote that one down, too.) He said the historical society lady’s response was to the effect of, “Not Gillette, he’s been done to death!” I must confess that made me feel a little vulgar, because I can’t get enough of the Gillette case. I don’t think any disparagement was meant, only that Greiner wanted to explore uncharted territory. As pointed out on the back of Greiner’s book, the Gillette case has overshadowed the Druse case. This book helps to even up the score.

I was able to purchase the book Tuesday. Several people attending had already read it and told me it was an excellent read, impossible to put down. After the talk, I went to the front of the room to get the author to sign it.

“Oh, I signed all of them.” He showed me where he did.

“Oh, I’m silly.” I did feel silly, especially as I was debating in my head whether to say Cindy or Cynthia when he asked me who to make it out to. That’s what author’s at book signings in movies always do.

I was really happy I was able to attend the talk and to buy the book. I look forward to reading it. Copies are available at the Herkimer County Historical Society, 406 N. Main St., Herkimer, NY. For more information call 315-866-6413.

True Crime at the Library

Thursday I made my way to Basloe Library in Herkimer, NY, to pick up a true crime book by M. William Phelps.

This was kind of a big deal for me, because I had requested the book through http://www.midyork.org. I am not very computer savvy (although a past master of understatement), but I am just about able to find something through midyork.org if I know title and/or author (I used to use the card catalog with all those drawers, remember that? I was pretty good at that).

I had in fact been meaning to look for books by Phelps for some time now, ever since I first saw him on Snapped, giving background on a case he had written a book about. I have a lot more to say about him, but I think I’ll wait till I’ve read the book and do a whole blog post. In the meantime, suffice it to say, I typed his name into the box at midyork.org and selected one of the titles that popped up, Too Young to Kill.

In due course, the library left a message on my answering machine that the book was there, and in due course, my husband remembered to tell me about the message (just kidding, he told me about it that same day). Thursday I stopped at the library on my way home from work. I felt a little clunky in my steel-toed work shoes, but even so it was difficult to resist the temptation to wander the shelves looking for more books I might like. I resisted that temptation, but not the temptation to look over the book sale. For one thing, I thought I might find something Steven would like. After all, I owe him a Valentine present (and a full Valentine dinner; see earlier post).

Of course I found things I would like. It would be germane to the title I gave this post to say I found several true crime books, but alas I did not. I did find a book about The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain. That will no doubt include Richard III, who any Shakespeare buff can tell you murdered his young nephews in his quest for the throne. Historical crime, what’s not to like? I finally selected Duane’s Depressed by Larry McMurtry for Steven. It is the third book in the trilogy that includes The Last Picture Show, a book which Steven owns. I also got a collection of Dorothy Parker. Who doesn’t like Dorothy Parker?

The three books came to $1.75. They were hard pressed to make change for a ten, which is what I had.

“Oh wait, maybe I have correct change.” I dug in my pocket for my coffee out of the vending machine money. “Here’s a ripped one. Maybe you can tape it.” I counted out three quarters while the librarian got out the tape.

I was so pleased to be in a library again and wondered why I’m not there on a regular basis, looking for books or just sitting at a table writing. I could have written this whole blog post there and saved myself some time in front of the computer. Have to keep that in mind for next time. In the meantime, I’m busily reading the book by Phelps and will report back.

Book about a Bloody Battle

Previously I blogged about going to Weller Library in Mohawk and looking for books on local history. Then I blogged about renewing the book I found. I am so glad I renewed that book! I finished it today. What a good book! Liberty March: The Battle of Oriskany by Allan D. Foote with James Morrison, Joseph Robertaccio and Alan Sterling, illustrations and maps by David Yahnke.

After a prologue about the centennial of the battle, Foote gives us background on all the battle participants: The Iroquois, the Loyalists and the Patriots (not to be confused with the ball team) (sorry, couldn’t help saying that). I was absorbed by the story of the Palatines. I could hardly believe all the crap they went through getting here from their native Germany, and all the crap they went through once they got here. Of course, Foote uses more scholarly terms than crap and goes into a lot more detail. Hey, I’m just trying to get you to read the book.

It’s always interesting to read about the background and beginnings of the American Revolution. Sometimes we get the impression that the pilgrims came over and a few weeks later Sam Adams was dumping tea into the Boston Harbor. It was a whole lot more complicated than “No taxation without representation.” The American Revolution, Foote says, was really our first civil war. We rightly feel stirrings of patriotic pride when we hear of the heroic actions of the founders of our nation, but the story is in many ways a sad one. Neighbor fought neighbor, and families were often divided.

It is a brutal story as well. The Battle of Oriskany was the bloodiest battle of the American Revolution as well as one of the bloodiest battles ever. As a percentage of all participants, more were killed or wounded at Oriskany than at Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn. Even more brutal was the treatment of many of those captured.

I noticed when reading “About the Author” on the last page that the book has one of those old fashioned check out cards. The librarian would write the patron’s card number in a column marked “Borrower’s Name” and stamp in the due date. I was pleased to see this book has been checked out a lot. I encourage you to check it out as well.

Renewing Local History

I recently gave a shout out (I love that expression) to Weller Library in Mohawk, NY (just two weeks ago, in fact), but I think a plug to a local library is always in order.

I have been enjoying the book I checked out, Liberty March: The Battle of Oriskany by Allan D. Foote (North Country Books, Utica, NY, 1998). I’ve been reading it in the break room at work, where several people have expressed an interest. One young man had seen a presentation by Allan Foote. Almost everyone has been to the Oriskany Battlefield. I mean to re-visit it myself one day soon.

The book was due Tuesday, and I wanted to renew it. I drive right by Weller Library on my way home from work, so I figured I was all hooked up. Had the book with me since I was reading it at work, library card on my key chain which I would have if I was driving, all set. Then I remembered — and felt really stupid for forgetting — I had gotten out two books two weeks ago. MacBeth was sitting on my coffee table. Damn! I wondered if modern technology could help me. When I got to the library, I explained that I wanted to renew the book in my hand and hoped to also renew the book on my coffee table. It was no problem. Let’s hear it for computers!

Actually, I could be exaggerating the role of technology here. Now that I think about it, I remember that Jervis Library in Rome, NY had renewal by phone when I was a little girl. In those days, when you checked out books they stuck a card which kept was in a pocket on the inside of the book’s cover into a machine that went ka-CHUNK. In the school library, you wrote your name on the card. For my younger readers, that was a history lesson. For my older readers, a stroll down memory lane (look at me pretending I have all kinds of readers).

I was sorry to see the library was practically empty, and even sorrier that I couldn’t stay. I mean to go to Weller Library to sit and write sometime. It is the most beautiful setting. For anyone who missed my original post about Weller Library (and who reads every post? Not me), I’ll re-iterate that the library was originally the Weller family home. I don’t know from architecture, so I can’t say the style or period, but it is gorgeous.

I thanked the library lady for helping me solve one problem so easily, then headed home. Now I can continue to enjoy reading about Mohawk Valley history. Perhaps a future blog post will be a book report.