Archive for the ‘Books and Reading’ Category

Any Charles Todd fans out there?

Friday, June 25th, 2021

The most recent Charles Todd book in the Ian Rutledge SeriesIt’s been a while since I’ve belonged to a book club and I can’t rightly remember if we ever read any of Charles Todd’s books.  Ours was a no-name mystery book club so Charles Todd’s stories would have fit right in.  Plus, I think we would have been quite fascinated with the author — a mother/son duo, Caroline and Charles Todd, who live in North Carolina and Delaware, respectively.

They are best known for a series of novels, set in post World War I England. The books deal with the cases of Inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the European campaigns who is attempting to pick up the pieces of his Scotland Yard career. However, he must keep his greatest burden a secret: suffering from shell shock, he lives with the constant, cynical, taunting voice of Hamish MacLeod, a young Scots  soldier he was forced to execute on the battlefield for refusing an order.

Thus far there are 23 in the Ian Rutledge series — all published by Harper Collins.  I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first 22.  I love the authentic feel of Great Britain in the twenties — from the distinctive British language that is used (surely one of the duo has spent much time with elderly Brits to get the nuances so perfectly) right down to the descriptions of villages, the “motor cars,” the interactions between people.   It all rings true in each and every book.

Even with number 23, A Fatal Lie, which I’ve just completed, I can find no fault with the setting, the characters, or the plot — except that there were too many.  Too many characters.  Too many towns.  Too many roads.  Too many possibilities.  Halfway through I wished I had kept, at a very minimum, a list of characters and, perhaps a rough map and the trips and return trips Rutledge was making.  But, by then it already seemed too late.

The latest in the Bess Crawford series — also by Charles Todd

By the end of the book, I really didn’t care whodunnit and, in any event, I certainly couldn’t have told you why.  I wish I knew if it was my aging, drifty mind, or if this book really was different.  If only our Mystery Book Club was still meeting (or maybe it is, but it’s a mystery to me), perhaps I could find out if anyone else felt the same way.

Barring that, I looked up a few reviews.  Most seemed pretty boiler-plate-straight-from-the-publisher, but one by L.J. Roberts said:  One does need to keep track of who is where. Between the character names and Ian traveling from place to place, and back again, it can become confusing. Pulling up a map proves helpful. It is also a challenge to follow the timeline. There is a lack of clarity as to when things happened as there can be the impression of something happening in the past only to realize it is in the recent past. Follow the trail of bodies which are always one step in front of Ian. Yet it seems to take a while before any real progress is made and then, after all the to-ing and fro-ing, there is the great and complete confession. Good grief.



It’s out! Get your copy while they last!

Monday, June 21st, 2021

Cover: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

It’s June 21st at last — the official publication date of Historic Hauts of the Long Beach Peninsula!  The books are on the shelves of your nearest booksellers!  On the Peninsula, those outlets include Time Enough Books, the gift shops at the Cape D Interpretive Center and the North Head Lighthouse and the Heritage Museum in Ilwaco; BOLD and the Cranberry Museum in Long Beach; Adelaide’s in Ocean Park.

Also, of course, through Amazon, but I urge you to support our local booksellers — and, besides, I do better financially when you buy from the places I supply.  (Is this called full disclosure?)  I make close to a dollar a book if you buy from the stores I’ve listed, but only a few cents per book from other outlets.  Just sayin’…

But… more importantly, I’m hoping for feedback — especially from local readers.  The very first story in the book, for instance, is about the cadre (Yes! Cadre!) of ghosts at the erstwhile Lamplighter Restaurant.  My question:  After you have read the information about each of these persistent spirits, where do you think they’ve gone (or have they?) now that the restaurant is closed?

Another question is one I, myself, posed in the continuing saga of Mrs. Crouch — the ghost Nyel and I have lived with for twenty-plus years.  The question is the title of the story, itself:  “Closure for Mrs. Crouch?”  I’m interested in knowing what readers think about the additional information concerning the suspect in her murder — if, indeed, it was a murder.  And does that information provide answers for Sarah Crouch that will satisfy her after all these years?

Or… does the book pose still more unknowns?  Should I be starting yet a third book about the ghosts here at the beach?  I’m eager for your input after you’ve read Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.  (But please don’t give anything away to those who have not yet read it!  Message me or email me privately with any revealing thoughts!  But “book reviews” and encouragement to other potential readers would be great!)

Treasure In Plain Brown Wrapping

Monday, June 7th, 2021

A Package for The Author

It sat on the bench by our front door — a small, unprpossessing package addressed to me.  It had apparently been left by FedEx during our Friday Night Gathering and no one had noticed it as they left.  There it was, waiting patiently, on Saturday morning.

The minute I saw the return address, I knew the contents of that little package!  The first five hot-off-the-press copies of Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula!  Nestled in bubble wrap and with a packing slip tucked inside, there they were at long last!  As I always do when those first books arrive, I wondered how Arcadia Publishing arrived at “five” as the magic number for the free copies that the author gets before the books are sent out to retail outlets for presentation on the publication date — in this case, June 21st.

The Ten Stories in Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

Twelve would be a better number — at least for this book.  One for Ralph whose research about Reverend Crouch prompted me to write the book; one for Cate who wrote the Foreword; one for Paul who drew the map; one for Vicki who took a specific photo for me (and did a drawing, besides); and one each for Colleen, Charlotte, Tiffany, Johanna, Michelle, Shelly and Doug, and Stephanie and Dave — all of whom were generous in telling me their stories and in sharing their experiences.  And maybe one for me.

But, eventually, those I’ve ordered will come and my thank-yous can be given!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  I hope everyone likes this one as much as I do!  (Especially Mrs. Crouch!)


Ta dah! The cover is perfect… book to follow!

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Cover: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

A proof of the cover for my up-coming ghost book has arrived and it couldn’t be more perfect!  I love it!  The parsonage (Mrs. Crouch’s place) is in the foreground with the Oysterville Church (where you-know-who used to preach) peeping from behind.  It says it all — especially if you already know the basic outlines of Mrs. Crouch’s story!

The new book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, is not exactly a sequel to Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula (2024).  But sort of.  First of all, The History Press doesn’t do sequels — they told me so, themselves.  Nevertheless, this is the second book they’ve published by me about the ghosts of our area and it does contain a follow-up story (just one) about the only ghost I’m sure actually lived here. In this very house (where Nyel and I now live) from November 1, 1892 – July 22, 1893 — the final nine months of her short,   20-year-old life.

In the new story, “Closure for Mrs. Crouch,” readers will learn more about her preacher husband and what happened to him after he left Oysterville some months following his young wife’s death.  You will remember that he left “under a cloud” — a warrant was out for his arrest — and, until recently, there was little information about what happened next.  But, thanks to Cuzzin Ralph and his penchant for following the constant updates in digitized information, I was able to tell a great deal more of Josiah Columbus Crouch’s horrifying story.

My own experiences with Mrs. Crouch began with this ancient typewriter.

If you haven’t read the first story, “Mrs. Crouch, The Preacher’s Wife” in the 2014 book, I suggest that now is the time.  The “sequel” will be available on June 21st — just a few weeks hence.  Stay tuned for where it will be available and for possible Fourth of July book-signings — depending upon Governor Inslee’s soon-to-be released decisions about “re-opening” the State.

That damned walrus!

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Farmers’ Bulletin No. 2130
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1959

For some time now in this household, a periodic topic of discussion has been “downsizing.”  Not for traditional reasons as in we are considering a move to smaller quarters.  No.   And not even for reasons of kindness as in whoever comes next shouldn’t have to deal with all this — although that is part of it.  No.  The real “reason” has something to do with Lewis Carroll and Alice Through The Looking Glass and that pesky walrus of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” fame.  In a nutshell (or in this case, perhaps, an oyster shell):  “The time has come…”

We are beginning ever-so-slowly to purge the back storage area where several shelves of vases and partial sets of dishes and extra waffle irons that might-be-useful-someday reside.  And then there are boxes of my folks’ photographs — so many people we wouldn’t know even if names were on the back.  Which, of course, they aren’t.  And all those boxes labeled “Sydney’s School Stuff” that I sure was going to go through for book-writing fodder.  And on and on.  There are also a lot of books — mostly paperbacks or thrift store finds belonging to Nyel — that there wasn’t room for in the house.  He hasn’t looked at them in twenty years which, of course, is neither here nor there when it comes to getting rid of them.

Edited by the Staff of Yanke Magazine, Dublin New Hampshire, 1971

Even I am having trouble relegating some of those titles to the Friends of the Library box.  So many of them conjure up memories of something incredible Nyel has been able to jerry rig or build or repair — a tool he’s made for singular purpose or a formula he’s applied to solve a particular problem.  The time he found a way to repair my grandmother’s old Oriental carpet.  Or the deer hide he tanned using cow brains he ordered from the butcher at Jack’s…  The memories are endless and just seeing the book titles conjures up a story or two.

It’s not so much that he’ll never need to build that stone wall.  Or even want to.  And it’s certainly not that we couldn’t find most of the information on line.  No.  It’s just that the walrus was right.  It’s time.  I wonder if either Nyel or I will ever be totally convinced.

Louise Penny and Me!

Monday, April 19th, 2021

At Three Pines, 2016

Perhaps you know Louise Penny, author of the award-winning Armand Gamache series and founder of the almost-real village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships of Canada.  A few years back — well, almost five — we went with friends on a trek to Montreal and Quebec City and many points in between to find the places, actual and imaginary, that Louise Penny writes about.  We also hoped against hope that we would meet a few of her characters and, I must say, we came home thinking that maybe — just maybe– we had!

To say that I am a huge fan of Louise Penny’s is a flat-out understatement  To imply that I have anything in common with her is totally nuts.  But… this morning, just for a minute, I felt a sort of kinship.  It happened when I saw that my new book (as yet coverless), Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, is due to be published on June 21st and it is now offered for pre-sale on!  Wow!  Just like Louise Penny’s yet unpublished books.  Wow some more!

Of course, if you live locally and intend to get the book, it would be better for me and for our local booksellers if you got Historic Haunts right here on the Peninsula.  And, if you time it right, you might even connect with a book-signing event — Just like the people of who attend Brome Lake Books in Knowlton for all of Louise Penny’s book launches.

See?  Only a national border and a few dozen degrees of separation between Louise and me!  At least in my wildest imagination!


A Wonderfully Humbling Experience

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, American lepidopterist, writer, teacher, and founder of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

We received an invitation from Bob Pyle yesterday to “attend” the PEN America annual literary awards “at a gala ceremony to be announced live in NYC and sent out virtually to everywhere that people love books,” said Bob.  In a “normal” year we, like so many others, would never have had this opporutunity.  But, yesterday at 4:00 PDT, there we were.  OMG!  It was wonderful and totally disconcerting at the same time!

Not only had I read NONE of the books nor seen any of the plays,  I was totally ignorant regarding the authors, the playwrights, and, in some cases, even the genres — except, of course, for dear Bob and his many books.  It was hugely humbling and incredibly enlightening all at the same time.

You can check it all out by watching yesterday’s ceremony, yourself.  Just go to 2021 PEN Awards Youtube.  You’ll see what I mean… or maybe not.  Maybe you’ve read the books and know the authors.  If so, don’t tell me.  I am slowly coming to grips (AGAIN!) with the fact that I am so NOT well read and so NOT intellectual and so NOT well-informed.

Bob was nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay — “For a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work and preserves the distinguished art form of the essay.”  He was among the five finalists vying for the $15,000 prize and the priceless prestige that goes with such an award.  Although I’ve not yet read Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays, I am fairly confident that I have read several of the sixteen collected essays in this new (September 2020) book.  That Bob was a finalist did not surprise me in the least.  He is not only an expert in his field, but has won numerous other literary awards over the years.  I find that reading anything Bob writes is not only a delight but is likely to expand my horizons in unexpected ways.

Nominated for the 2021 Pen America Award for PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay

But, I have to admit that my confidence in Bob’s ability to win wavered just a bit when actor Kara Young, host of the awards ceremony, pointed out in her opening remarks:  “We stand in solidarity with all those who are threatened by anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Trans hatred.”  I just couldn’t help the errant thought that Dr. Robert Michael Pyle is (sorry, Bob!) “an old white guy.”  Did he have a chance in this year of women and people of color?  As it turned out, it was Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Had I Known: Collected Essays, who won the “Art of the Essay” category.

Disappointed doesn’t half describe my feelings.  However, I was bursting my buttons with pleasure and pride at knowing Bob, and so glad for this virtual stretch into the world of literature.  My must-read-list has expanded exponentially.  I wonder how many of those winning authors’ books I can read before the 2022 PEN America Awards roll around.  I doubt that I’ll be lucky enough to attend the ceremony next time — much less know one of the finalists!  Thanks for inviting us, Bob! We loved “being there!”



Books, covers, and what you can tell…

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

The “Sequel” is Coming

So… the publisher has sent the book cover for my approval and, thus far, I’m having a love/hate reaction.  I love how it looks — the Oysterville Church, gorgeous as always, and with a rather ominous background that seems ghostly, indeed.  But I hate the implications with the picture situtated, as it is, right below the title: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.

Perhaps I’m being super-sensitive, but the insinuation (at least to me) is that the church, itself, is haunted. It is not. Never has been.  Nor has there ever been an idle rumor to that effect.  But, sure as shooting, if the book wears that cover, the “reports” will begin and before you know it the TV cameras and the ghost-busters will arrive…  Or, that is my fear.

I expressed my concerns to my editor who, I hasten to say, has been great!  She is in consultation with the cover designer to see what can be done.  I thought it might be easier to change the title than to find a different, more suitable photograph but she said that it’s too late.  It’s been “finalized and logged for their retailers” which I guess means the word about the book is being circulated as we speak.

Stay tuned for Book Launch information!

Maybe that old adage “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover” will hold true and people will realize that there are no stories in this one about the church being haunted.  On the other hand, perhaps the article by Corinne A. Kratz of Emory University in the May 1994 Cultural Anthropology journal is right.  In “Telling/Selling A Book By It’s Cover” she wrote:  “… a cover is a marketing device, an aesthetic prduction, and a representation that may relate to the book’s content. What picture can help sell a thousand books?”

Or maybe my concerns are for nothing.  Maybe I should just be content with the thought that the reading public has more sense than we credit them with.  Maybe…

Reading The Shelves

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

The Willapa Country — 4th from rt.

Nyel is good at it.  I’m not.  It probably hearkens back to the years that he worked in the library at the University of Washington — in the sixties when he was working on his undergraduate degree.  Reading the shelves is a skill necessary to library and bookstore workers — especially when there are “open stacks” where patrons and customers can browse at will.  No matter how careful folks are, there is plenty of room for a mis-shelved book and you know the old library expression — a misplaced book is a lost book.

In our personal, four-generational library , the story is  the same.  Or worse.  For one thing, we don’t have a card catalog or inventory of the books in this house.  I don’t even have an idea of how many there are.  Three thousand?  Four thousand?  More?  Of the 12 (or 14, depending upon how you count) rooms in the house, 6 contain serious book shelves and 3 others have books tucked in the nooks and crannies.  When I’m looking for a specific title or author, I call on Nyel.  Even from his wheelchair, he can manage far better than I.

East Room- SW Corner

But just happening upon a book is another matter. As in, I didn’t know I was looking for The Willapa Country: History Report until I ran cross it this very morning on a shelf in our East Room.  It looks to be brand new, never opened.  Yet it was published by the Raymond Herald & Advertiser, Raymond, Wa in 1965!  Has it been in this house all those years?  Why did it just hop out at me now?

I’m so happy to make its acquaintence, though, despite the timing.  I could have used it bigtime when researching the article I turned in to the Observer  just a few days ago — the second one in my “Doctoring in Early Pacific County” series.  In this compact little book is fantastic historic information about the medical communities in the Raymond Valley, Tokeland, and Brooklyn areas — places for which even minimal information was hard to come by.

I was relieved, however, to find (after a quick perusal) that the information I did come up with was accurate and representational.  Yay!  But you can bet that the fabulous facts, figures, and statistics about all manner of North County history contained in this tidy little book, edited by Virginia “Ginny” Olsen (1913-1981) will show up in future articles.  It is a treasure trove and, even more interestingly, was updated and corrected  by Virginia, herself, ten years after it was published.  Those corrections were published in the Spring 1981 issue of the Sou’wester magazine.  I can scarcely believe that the original book has been right on our bookshelves all this time!

Ramona Quimby, Age… 74 ??

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

It’s not so hard for me to realize that beloved author Beverly Cleary has died.  After all, she was almost 105 and, as my friends and I frequently observe these days, it’s not as though any of us will live forever.  Besides, truth to tell, I wasn’t aware that Mrs. Cleary was still living in Carmel Valley, California right where she was the last time I “checked” — which was probably the last time one of my classes wrote her some fan mail after we had read one of her books.   Maybe in the 1980s.

Like Mrs. Cleary’s beloved Klickitat Street characters, she seems a part of my own, personal, literary lexicon.  She, herself, has been a larger-than-life personage in my mind since I first “met” her in the 1950s.  Perhaps she has never seemed quite real.   No… the hard part is to realize that, in non-fiction time,  Cleary’s beloved Klickitat Street characters (visually immortalized by illustrator Louis Darling) would be in their seventies and eighties now!  Thank goodness fictional children — especially those who have become real in the minds of millions of readers — remain young forever.

Thus far, her books have sold more than 91 million copies and I have no doubt that many of the readers feel a kinship with her characters and with Mrs. Cleary, herself, just as I do.  Klickitat Street, of course, is in Portland and, like the “Henry Huggins Neighborhood,” has probably been visited by many of Cleary’s fans — like us.  Years ago, we went to admire the statues (by artist Lee Hunt) of her characters — Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy, and his friend Ramona — in The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children, at Grant Park.    I recently learned that there is also a map of Henry Huggins’s Klickitat Street neighborhood on the lobby wall of the Multnomah County Librarry, Hollywood Branch.  We sprobably should have checked that out beforehand.

I imagine there will be a resurgence of visitors now with the news of Mrs. Cleary’s death.  And, I suspect, there will be an uptick in readership of her wonderful books. She wrote 30 books for children and young adults.  In 1981, she won the National Book Award  for Ramona and Her Mother  and, in 1984, the Newberry Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. For her enormous contribution to American literature throughout her lifetime, author Cleary was awarded with the National Medal of Arts as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal by the  American Library Association.

But, mostly, Beverly Cleary won the hearts of generations of children and adults with her books about Henry Huggins and his friends.  I’m pretty sure they’ll “live” forever!