Lou's Reviews Volume 9

What Jane Austin Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist - the Daily Life in 19th-Century England; Daniel Pool                                          (nf)
            A while back I noted, with enthusiasm, a book by Poole on books and related matters in
Victorian England. I saw this one at the library, and was delighted to see that the author had written
another book about the 19th century. Then I was startled to see that it was published in 1993! In
fact, it is his first book, not his latest. However, it is just as fascinating as the second one. The first
two thirds of the book consists of narrative, arranged as topical essays packaged into six larger
sections. The author covers, in great detail, the world in which the 19th century English lived, the
way in which they lived, and the cultures of the times - plus the changes that gradually happened.
He cites situations from classic Victorian novels, e.g. Wuthering Heights, Middle March, Tess of
the d'Urbervilles etc. to illustrate the facts being related. Some will probably be far more than you
wish to know - but you simply skip past  the hierarchy of servants, the long ranking of titles etc.,
and the rest will have you reading intensely, and enjoying it a great deal; and doubly so if you are an
Anglophile. He covers every angle of life  money, activities, jobs, social affairs, education, poverty,
sex, class, estates, peerage, and other items too numerous to detail here. The last third of the book is
a glossary of terms - each of which has been dealt with in detail in the narrative; and the book has
an index! A solid reference book, and a gold mine for anyone concerned with 19th century England;
and a very fascinating read whether you are concerned or just browsing. Do give it a try.
  Pool,D.; What Jane Austin Ate and Charles Dickens Knew;$25;416pp;Simon & Schuster; NY;
ISBN 0--671-79337-3

The Immaculate Deception; Ian Pears                                         (series)
             Pears is an Oxford graduate who is an art historian, and a good storyteller to boot. His
mystery stories, laid in Italy, center around the art world, and involve an art historian and dealer,
Jonathan Argyll, and Flavia di Stefano, a detective in Italy's Art Theft Squad. The series has
generally been good, and some stories very good. It strikes me that this is the best of the lot, and
probably the last with the regular format. As this book opens,  Flavia and Jonathan have been
married for several weeks. Flavia is now acting head of the Art Theft Squad, and hoping to get the
job permanently. General Bottando, former head of the Squad, and Flavia's mentor, was moved to a
useless high level position prior to his imminent retirement, and Flavia is enjoying the job. Until she
gets summoned to the office of the Prime Minister, who informs her that a well-known painting, on
loan from England, has been stolen from the National Museum, and that he wants it recovered with
absolutely no fuss, and no one to know about it. Should it need to be ransomed, and should she
happen to have the money available, she should get it back - even though paying ransom is illegal in
Italy! Her new husband gets involved in tracing the provenance of an old painting that Bottando had
hanging on his wall. Their separate efforts are told alternately, and gradually the seemingly two
completely unrelated matters begin to coalesce in a remarkably convoluted but intriguing story.
There is a great deal of ingenious ratiocination and clever police work. A complicated, well told
story, that ends with a glimpse of what the future stories in the series will hold.
  Pears,I.; The Immaculate Deception;$25;217pp;Scribner,NY;2000;ISBN 0-7432-1257-6

Stalker; Faye Kellerman                                                      (series)
          I puzzled over this a bit before I noted it as a series. True, the characters are all those who
have appeared in the many preceding Rena Lazarus - Peter Decker novels, but this one is different.
The real protagonist is Decker's daughter, Cynthia, who is now a rookie cop in the Los Angeles
Police Department (LAPD). True, the first person we meet is Cynthia's father as he gets involved in
a continuing series of car hijackings, and only secondly Cynthia, when she is involved in a domestic
hostage situation, and manages to resolve it against orders, thus vastly irritating her superior,
Sergeant Tropper. However, the story mainly follows Cynthia's activities as she learns the ropes in
the LAPD, and gradually learns the problems that women officers face, and the special problems
that she faces because of her intelligence, her Ivy League background, and her "attitude." We do
watch Decker as he and his detectives work the hijacking problem, but the emphasis is on Cynthia,
who, after the story is underway for a while, discovers that she is the target of an expert stalker.
Rena,  Hannah, and the boys enter the story at times, and Decker's ex-partner, Marge, also plays a
part in the gradually developing story that intensifies with time. There is some father-daughter
conflict as Cynthia strives to handle her problems without the aid of her father, and Decker keeps
inserting himself in the picture to help her. It is a good, interesting, and even informative story, with
a suspenseful climax. A yarn well worth reading even if it is not QUITE part of the series! I suspect
that we shall see more of Cynthia. By the way, you can get into the story even if you are not familiar
with the series; no previous acquaintance with the characters is required.
  Kellerman,F.; Stalker;$25;406pp;William Morrow;NY;2000; ISBN 0-688-15613-4

River King; Alice Hoffman
        A very different (Bette says "strange") book. The time is today. The place is Haddan, a small
town in Massachusetts, and the location of the prestigious Haddan School, a very upper-class
boarding school established in 1856 for children of wealthy families. The School, whose graduates
are eagerly sought after by Ivy League Universities, looms as the center of action of the story. In
fact, one of the characters in the story is Annie Howe, the wife of one of the most esteemed
Headmasters of the school. Mind you Annie is dead, she committed suicide. But she lives on, in
some ghostly ways that matter to the story. The town of Haddan is a classic example of "town and
gown"  two totally disparate cultures, the upper-class, wealthy academic, and the common,
relatively-poor village, coexisting with ill-concealed antagonism. We meet Betsy Chase, a klutz,
and photographer, who was initially hired to take the School yearbook-photos, and Eric Herman, a
history teacher  with whom Betsy sleeps. They plan to marry. To the new term  come Corin
Leander, who has made her escape from a hated family situation by getting a swimming
scholarship, and August Pierce from New York. The meet on the train to Haddan. Gus, a young
man of outstanding ability feels that he is a loser in life, that everything always goes wrong for him.
To his surprise, Corin is attracted to him; they are destined to become friends. As time goes on, they
meet at night, away from the school. Gus gets crosswise with the ruling clique at Chalk House, his
school residence, and the boys secretly beat him, and torture him with lighted cigarettes. One early
morning, Gus is found drowned. The local police department is quick to label it accidental, but
Abel Grey, one of the officers who first encountered the body,   begins a careful investigation
careful investigation. He is charged with harassment and told to lay off, but becomes convinced that
Gus was killed by a group led by Harry McKenna, one of the senior students. There is no legal
evidence, and Abel is fired from the Police Force. In the mean time the reader learns more about the
complicated characters, about what really happened to Gus, who keeps leaving ghostly
manifestations for Corin, and about a developing love between Abel and Betsy. Finally, Abel leaves
his lifetime home, Haddan, after secretly arranging a very satisfying retribution for Guss's slaying. I
don't think I like this book; it was certainly very difficult for me to read. I identified with too many
distressed characters. Yet, I'm glad I read it. However I shall be very careful about future Hoffman
 Hoffman,A.; River King;$23.95;324pp;G.P.Putnam's Sons;NY;2000;ISBN 0-399-14599-0

Irish Love; Andrew Greeley
           Well, I suppose it had to happen. Father Greeley has located Nuala Anne McGrail, her
husband, Dermot, their children Nellicoyne and Michael, and pregnant Irish Wolfhound Fiona, to a
residence in Connemara, Ireland. The author is thus able to have almost all conversations sprinkled
very liberally with what I have taken to calling "Irishisms": Phrases and inflections that
stereotypically identify the "Irish" to readers who assume that all Irish converse thusly. Sigh... The
book is a straight, formulaic yarn, and the formula is, in fact, stated by Greeley in an Author's Note
at the end  "...Nuala Anne and her trusty spear carrier, Dermot Michael, must solve a mystery from
the present, a mystery from the past, and surmount a new crisis in their love." Let me add that the
story must also be filled with Irishisms, the delightful words "friggin" and "focking" must be
sprinkled liberally in casual conversation, there must be steamy erotic scenes, and Nuala Anne must
use her gifts as one of "the dark ones" - fey, if you will. In each book she is getting better at the
latter; and her precocious three year old daughter has the same gift (as well as an earthy
vocabulary). Nuala Anne is a bundle of fears and uncertainties, with periodic bouts of depression.
Ripe for a psychiatrist, who holds out hope for her. Sometimes I think Dermot may need even more
help - in coping with Nuala Anne. The "present" mystery is presented in the present tense. The
"past" mystery is presented in an old manuscript, which is luckily found in successive installments.
The book is not much of a story in general, although the English attitude toward the Irish is
powerfully evidenced in the  "past" mystery. Only if you like the series, or Greeley. I really do know
better when it comes to this series, but "och, sure isn't it that Hope springs friggen eternal..."
Greeley,A.;Irish Love;$24.95;301pp;Tom Dohery Associates;NY;2001;ISBN 0-312-87187-2

After the War; Alice Adams
         I gather that this is a sequel to Adams's novel  A Southern Exposure, which I have not read.
The latter was laid in the small college town, Pinehill, located in "...the middle South," during
WWII. The current novel (Adams's last) presumably follows the same characters through and after
the end of the war. To one who has not read the first story, this seems like a gradual introduction to
a fairly large number of characters, and a study of their lives, loves, and interactions. One gets the
strong impression of a set of intermingled people and situations that were tangled and confused by
the war, and which are now crystallizing into new forms as the churning of war fades. There is no
plot. It is rather a series of increasingly revealing vignettes about increasingly interesting people. I
began with some degree of impatience about the seeming lack of direction, and the need to learn
about the characters, but I gradually got caught up in the lives of the people in those times. There is
no possible way to summarize the book here. It must suffice to say that the worlds of Southern
racial ambiguities, anti-Semitism, postwar communist activities, etc., are lightly but effectively
stirred into the various worlds of appealing characters. I enjoyed the book very much, and I shall
read the first one. I suggest any interested reader read the first one first, even though I did not.
 Adams,A.; After the War;$25;306pp;Alfred A. Knopf;NY;2000;ISBN 0-375-40683-2

Emerald; Elisabeth Luard                                     (pb)
        Described by the British bookstore WHSmith as a "thumping good read," this is a well told,
scrumptious Romance ( I think)  with a fascinating premise, and lots of twists and turns, all
centering on the enchanting Emerald - an illegitimate child of English nobility. The child is a vast
embarrassment for the parents, who never acknowledge her, and a source of potential problems for
the British government. The interests of the latter are, from Emerald's birth, the responsibility of Sir
Anthony Anstruther, who becomes her "...guardian angel and devil."  Emerald is placed in a foster
home, with a foster brother. The two are sent to the  Hebrides, survive a shipwreck, and grow up on
an island. The foster parents did not survive WW2. The story follows Emerald through unusual
situations and major relocations as she develops into a striking, brilliant, confident and successful
young woman, while various people try to maneuver her life. A quote on the cover says that Kirkus
Reviews describes the book as "Brain candy with a pedigree" (brain caviar, perhaps?) It is; and a
great yarn of the type. Don_t miss it if you like the type, viz. a sprawling, soap-opera,
slightly-purple-prose romance. I wouldn_t have thought that I did, but it seems I do!
  NOTE  The book was originally published in 1994. This edition is published by the Alkadine Press
as A Common Reader Edition. The Common Reader is a mail-order bookseller that sells
off-the-beaten-track books. I have dealt with them for some years, and read about this book in their
catalogs, but it was a great surprise find it in the local Baltimore County public library. It is NOT a
well known book. The author was unknown to me in 1994, and she is essentially unknown to me
today. The book gives no information about her, except in the Acknowledgments where she notes
that her children are Caspar, Francesca, Poppy, and Honey. I think I'm glad I didn't know that
earlier; I might have skipped the book. I make the mild suggestion that the reader NOT read the
blurb on the back of the book; it gives away what would otherwise be an  interesting surprise.
 Luard,E.; Emerald;$19.95;573pp;The Akadine Press;Pleasantville,NY;1999; ISBN 1-888173-62-9

Natural Law; D.R. Schanker
      I think this is the second book in a new series, but I'm not quite sure, thus I have not so listed it.
If so, the first one was "A Criminal Appeal," which I shall certainly read. There are two
protagonists: Nora Lumsey, a deputy public defender, and Luther Cox, a detective in a rural area;
both in Indiana. This is a strikingly written, well told, very unusual story that is equally about crime
and people, with a vivid background that has much to say about society. This is not a fun, detective
story. It is a gritty examination of unpleasant situations, individuals trapped in addiction,
corruption, etc.. It is also a story of philosophy, integrity, compassion, and hope. The language is
often of the gutter; the emotions are strong. It is a fascinating, disturbing read. The story centers
around the two protagonists, and we follow them in two separate, alternating stories that gradually
come together and yet remain separate. The crime that starts the story is the brutal murder of a
professor of criminal law who is on the staff of the Indiana University School of Law. The
mutilated body is found in the country, and Cox gets the case. There seems to be a vast amount of
physical evidence on the scene, none of it seems to be helpful. Cox, a talented artist, who is still
suffering from the past suicide of his emotionally disturbed wife, and nagged by his part in a past
police cover-up, begins to dig into the past life of the victim. Nora, a defender who finds herself
identifying with and sympathizing with her clients whom she sees as stubbornly in contempt of
authority, and being stubborn herself, she is both repelled and attracted by them. She had also had
an affair with the murder victim, and realizes she had better reveal that to the investigating
authority; thus she meets Cox. One of Nora's clients is a cocaine-addict, a prostitute  connected with
individuals who seem to have been connected to the victim, and as time goes on seems to be a more
and more important player, and the source of frequent interactions between Nora and Cox. I found
it a gripping story, with provocative looks at some modern beliefs and opinions. Not for everyone,
  Schnker,D.R.; Natural Law;$22.95;242pp;St. Martin's Pres;NY;2001; ISBN 0-312-26684-7

Rhode Island Blues; Fay Weldon
         Not quite what I expected from reading the short jacket blurb. It indicated the story was about
Sophia Moore, a 34 year-old film editor living in Soho, London. It mentioned that she travels to
Rhode Island to help her grandmother settle into a retirement center, and that she learns unexpected
things about her family history. And that is how it was for 60 or 70 pages. Sophia is telling the story
in the first person, with the acerbic, wicked wit of Fay Weldon, and she and the story are intriguing.
Then the story quickly splits into three stories: that of Sophia, in the first person, that of her
grandmother, Felicity, in the third person, and, also in the third person, that of the Golden Bowl
Complex for Creative Retirement, and Nurse Dawn who essentially runs it. Felicity, whose
relationship with Sophia has been a love-hate one, and who is very wealthy, decides to move into
Golden Bowl, and Sophia is glad. Felicity casually mentions that Sophia's mother, Angel, was not
her first child; that at the age of 14 she was impregnated, and was delivered of a girl on her 15th
birthday - in England, a child she gave up for adoption. Sophia is dumbfounded, and sets out to
locate her unknown aunt. As Sophia unravels a family history she didn't know she had, and finds
relatives that she was unaware of, Felicity begins to discover that Golden Bowl is not quite the
place she thought it was, and Nurse Dawn discovers that Felicity is a disturber of the atmosphere
that Dawn has created at Golden Bowl. The story takes the readers deeper and deeper into the
psyches of the characters, their complicated past lives, their horrendous childhoods and familial
connections, and their often unpleasant interactions. Gloria starts sleeping with an American
producer, tries to keep Felicity straightened out, and discovers gradually that she might have been
much better off if she had  decided to not uncover her relatives. Felicity encounters a man who lives
in a different retirement community, falls for him, carries on with him without the knowledge of the
domineering Nurse Dawn, and then discovers that he is addicted to gambling. Nurse Dawn, a sexual
dominatrix, becomes increasingly heavy handed with Felicity.  If you are thinking of moving into a
retirement community do NOT read this book. The descriptions are vividly on the money for many
such places. Although the retirement community where Bette and I now live is absolutely not a
Golden Bowl, creepy similarities did keep appearing! Disturbing. This may be more than you want
to know about the characters too; their emotional baggage is somewhat of an overload. The story is
in the usual, brilliant, Weldon prose - the reader keeps reading selected sentences to any available
listener - and it will certainly hold your attention. It is not for fast reading, and  to keep track of the
yarn,  note the family tree that Sophia uncovers.
 NOTE: I was a tad intrigued to find that the ancient Oriental system for divination, the I Ching,
shows up in this story as well as the preceding one. This was made popular by Jung, and was the
rage in the fifties or so. Maybe it is undergoing a comeback.
 Weldon,F.; Rhode Island Blues;$24;325pp;Atlantic Monthly Press;NY;2000; ISBN 0-87113-775-5

A Thin Dark Line; Tami Hoag                                             (pb)
       A somewhat dark, slightly gritty, thriller-suspense, police procedural laid in a parish in the
French Triangle of Louisiana. Deputy Annie Broussard  finds the body of a woman who was
viciously mutilated and murdered. The main suspect, Marcus Renard, freed on a technicality, is the
target of hate by the public and by the victim's father who wants to kill him. Detective Nick
Fourcade, who established the case against Renard, believes absolutely  that the man is guilty.
Annie is unsure, and decides to pursue the case. Fourcade gets drunk one night, waylays Renard,
and is beating him mercilessly when Annie intervenes, stops the beating, and arrests Fourcade. She
is ostracized by her colleagues, gets caught in a police cover-up of the arrest, and removed from
active duty to a clerical job. She refuses to stop investigating the murder however, and she and
Fourcade end up working together. The complicated story follows the activities of the two, the story
of a serial rapist on the loose, the contempt that Annie receives from the males on the force, and the
reader is led deeper and deeper into strange twists and turns, and is surprised by the ending. A long,
complicated, fascinating story that deals with matters above and beyond the mysteries involved.
The depiction of the nasty problems that a woman can have in a world of men who resent her
presence among them is very revealing, and disturbing.
  Hoag,T,;A Thin Dark Line;$7.50;590pp;Bantam Books;NY;1998;ISBN 0-553-57188-5

The Fury of Rachael Monette; Peter Abrahams
          An old book that I found on the shelves of one of the reading rooms here at Charlestown, our
retirement community. It is dated (no joke intended) in the sense that when it was written WWII
was only 35 years in the past, so that many individuals who had participated in the events of that
time were still alive and active. Rachael Monette is a successful producer of TV documentaries.
She returns home one day to find her husband dead, and her five year old son gone. Neither the
local police or the FBI can figure out why anyone would kill the pleasant university professor, who
had just win a prestigious prize for his book about Jews in France during WWII, and then kidnap
the child. Rachael, driven by a deep cold rage, won't rest till she finds out the answers, and the book
is of her quest, and her ultimate revenge. A methodical, far flung recounting of her quest. It was
interesting, and different, but I found it not as gripping as I anticipated.
  Abrahams,P.; The Fury of Rachael Monette;$10.95;310pp;Macmillan;NY;1980;ISBN0-02-500130

Suddenly Sixty: And Other Shocks Of Later Life; Judith Viorst              (poetry)
        This is the newest ten-year-mile-marker celebrated by the prolific and talented Viorst, who has
previously noted ages of 20,30,40, and 50 with slim volumes of poetry. This is another such. There
are 30 poems divided into five categories. A number are modest variations of well worn themes:
Husbands won't stop to ask directions, the irritating activities of a retired husband, an alphabet of
aches and pains, etc.; some are determined to be funny, and some are just plain wonderful. It is
quite a mix. The shortest poem is "A Very Very Brief History of Marriage: 1963 - Niagra/ 1999 -
Viagra." (I have probably violated some copyright law by noting this!) The most utterly charming
surprise is the second poem: "The Blissful Couple." Two real lump-in-the throat ones are: "Did I Do
Something Wrong?" and "Old Friends." A very touching one for this grandparent is: "When I
Watch." It strikes me that it is, like some of her other books, an uneven work, and one to read. You
may not want to buy it at the price, but do check it out of the library - if you are 60 or older of
course! However, I think you will find the second poem delightful regardless of your age. I suspect I
shall buy it when it appears in paperback.
  Viorst;J,;Suddenly Sixty;$15;79pp;Simon&Schuster;NY;2000;ISBN 0-684-86763-X

IBM And The Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most
Powerful Organization; Edwin Black
                 In the Introduction, the author's first sentence is "This book will be profoundly
uncomfortable to read." I found it so. Elsewhere in the Introduction he admonishes the reader not to
skip around or skim, rather, he says "...do not read the book at all." That gave me pause. The book is
the result of a truly mammoth research effort into history, and involved hundreds of cooperating
people. It has 426 pages of dense text, and 62 pages of voluminous detailed notes in small print.
There follows a 12 page listing of sources. It has the heft of a scholarly historical treatise. I was not
sure that I wished to read it with care. But after I started, I did; and I must say that it took me quite a
while. Not only was the reading slow, but it was often mind-numbing, and I'd have to quit for a
while. I gradually realized that it was not really a scholarly History, rather it is as described in the
very first sentence: "...a book of history." In fact, it is an historical polemic, a screed. The author has
an obsessive (his term) agenda. First: To show that IBM played a conscious and major role in
facilitating the Holocaust. Second: To demonstrate that IBM's founder and head, Thomas J. Watson,
was an ardent supporter of Hitler's goals and desires, while being quite aware of the vicious attacks
of the Third Reich on Jews, and sold Hitler technology that Germany wanted to use to exterminate
Jews. The reader is advised to be aware of these aims, but also aware that the author makes two
interesting, flat statements: "If you believe that somehow the Holocaust would not have occurred
without IBM you are more than wrong. The Holocaust would have proceeded - and often did
proceed - with simple bullets, death marches, and massacres based on pen and paper persecution."
(p11) and "Watson was no Fascist." (p69). The author's thesis is that IBM's Hollerith punch cards
and card sorters were used to identify, locate and persecute Jews, for the "ultimate solution."- i.e.
made the Holocaust an efficient procedure, and that the European IBM companies (especially the
German one, which was strongly allied with Hitler) with full knowledge of Watson and IBM,
eagerly set up procedures, equipment and training to allow the SS and others to use the Hollerith
technology to those ends. In the course of the book, the author deals with those subjects, as well as
discussing Watson, the IBM company, the Hollerith technology, the history of Dehomag (the
German IBM subsidiary), the use of Hollerith cards in all aspects of the German government and
German industries, the author's belief in the unwillingness of IBM to give up profits in Germany
and Europe for any reason, what he sees as IBM's carefully orchestrated, third-party shipment of
crucial supplies to Germany after Germany went to war, IBM's subversion of the U.S. Department
of State, how IBM salvaged all its European assets after WWII, and the startling paucity of any
records that might indicate that IBM was dealing with the enemy. In addition, he provides many
distressingly graphic accounts of various episodes in the Holocaust. Many pages are in almost
purple prose, and there is often innuendo when there is no hard evidence. I leave it to the
determined reader to decide if Black proves his theses (be aware that there is at least one published
disagreement.) What does appear, I think, is an example of the phrase Hannah Arendt used about
Eichmann: "the banality of evil." Because, in the long run, it was all just a matter of money. In a
brilliant, incisive review of the TV series, "The Sopranos," the SUN's David Zurawik notes it
portrays "...the gangster as ultimate capitalist - willing to literally kill to make a buck..." Watson,
while not the ultimate capitalist, was a business man, and making a profit was what mattered. He
was a ruthless, tyrannical salesman; the bottom line was what counted, and the German Reich (like
the USA) was expanding the use of Hollerith technology into every aspect of government. The
author's argument - that certainly Watson must have known of Hitler's excesses - is generated by
quoting many New York Times articles that described them, and indicating that thus the excesses
were known. I do not fault his references, but as I vaguely remember it (I am of that era,) the
average public was, for a very long time, very unaware of what was really happening to the Jews.
I'll have to check. I suspect that Watson didn't care to know, and just avoided reading the articles!
He also points out in great detail how very praising Watson was of Hitler, and that is very true - and
it was also very good business. But Watson gave back a medal that he accepted from Hitler, and
after the war started, he never praised Hitler again. And of course Watson was not alone. It is
gradually becoming clear that a number of other US corporate interests diligently arranged to deal
with WWII enemies to make profits. What is distressing is how eager the State Department was to
help Watson in anything and everything, and to ensure that IBM retained all its assets after the war.
What is not mentioned, but is true, is the  unwillingness of the helpful State Department to grant
visas to many desperate Jews attempting to leave Europe. I am reminded of the smug 1933 remark
of Secretary of State, Cordell Hull: "Mistreatment of Jews in Germany may be considered virtually
eliminated." This is indeed a disturbing book, and the attitudes and roles of IBM and Watson are
eminently disturbing. Not to mention the State Department. And the author's rambling
peregrinations in telling his version of the story!
  NOTE: The younger (than I) reader may not be familiar with the world of "punch cards" that was
initiated by Hollerith in the twenties. Unless you were programming computers in the sixties or
seventies, you have probably never even seen one, although I have the vague feeling that some
current time cards may be a version of the cards. Before computers existed, the cards were used (via
holes punched in them) to store and sort information, e.g. census data, crime records, etc. They
were indispensable to every branch of endeavor. And, finally: There are current problems with
corporations that subvert US laws and sell critical technology to countries that are not on our
"friendly" list. Not much change in the corporate business world, it seems.
 Black;E.;IBM And The Holocaust;$27.50;519pp;Crown Publishers;NY;2001; ISBN:0-609-60799-5

A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelocanth; Samantha Weinberg (pb)  (nf)
           A wonderful, illustrated, indexed, true tale of discovery and quest, recommended to me by a
friend on a local Internet book forum. Weinberg recounts the details of  the acquisition, by a
museum curator, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, of a very strange fish that had been brought to
London in a batch of fish and shark obtained for her in  waters around the Indian Ocean. She is
baffled by it, and writes to her friend Dr. E.L.B. Smith for help - enclosing a sketch. Smith, a
remarkable genius and a knowledgeable ichthyologist, was far away, and the note did not reach him
for weeks. In the meantime, the 127 pound fish began to go bad, despite preservation attempts, so
Courtenay-Latimer had it mounted by a taxidermist. When Smith got the sketch he immediately
saw the eerie resemblance to existing  Coelacanth fossils- the  youngest of which were about 75
million years old! He rushed back to London, and found that  the mounted specimen seemed to be
one of a species that was believed to be become extinct about the time of the dinosaurs. And indeed
it was. The author recounts the events that followed, including the shock in the scientific world, and
Smith_s developing obsession with finding another specimen. His efforts, and those of others are
well recounted, as is the increasing frenzy on the part of various countries - especially France - to
obtain specimens. The history of the various searches in several parts of the world, via surface craft
and submersibles, is followed  to the present day. Weinberg also presents intriguing portraits of the
somewhat unusual characters in the story. It is a gripping yarn, and one that left this reader with a
degree of uneasiness. The eagerness of marine biologists, and collectors, to locate these
fossils-found-alive, has put a premium on catching them, and might well be the force that will
finally cause the species to become extinct - at the hands of man. It remains to be seen. There is at
least one conservation organization at work. A great tale, a tale of adventure, sometimes a tale of
suspense. I can almost forgive the author for not knowing what the adjective "fulsome"  means!
 Weinberg;S.; A Fish Caught in Time;$13;220pp;Harper Collins;NY;2000; ISBN 0-06-019495-2

A Common Life: The Wedding Story; Jan Karon                                     (series)
          Karon has been writing a feel-good soap opera in her "Mitford Years," which centers on
Father Timothy Kavenaugh, Episcopal priest in the small town of Mitford. In the series, Father Tim
falls in love (late in life) with his neighbor Cynthia Coppersmith, and marries her. However the
marriage was not described in the series, so Karon has written this book which centers, totally, on
the marriage, and is the soapiest of the lot. There is no point in going in to detail here. If you like
the series read the book - you will again meet all the familiar characters. If you don't know the
series, don't read the book. I like the series, soap-opera or not, but I like this much less than the
others in the series. Not sure why. Perhaps too much soap.
  Karon,J.; A Common Life;$24.95;186pp;Viking Penguin;NY;2001;ISBN 0-670-89437-0

Charlotte in Giverny; Joan MacPhail Knight (water color illus. By Melissa Sweet)
             An absolutely charming, scrumptiously presented, fictitious journal/scrap-book written in
the first person by the imaginary Charlotte Glidden, aimed at the 9-11 ages, and a pleasure for all. It
covers, in 18 selected installments, the period from Spring 1892 to Spring 1893. It begins as
Charlotte and her parents leave on a steamship, headed for residence in Giverny, in Normandy, in
France. It was the home of  Claude Monet, and the hotbed of Impressionist painting - and painters.
Charlotte_s father is an artist. Through Charlottes eyes - and writing - we see the village, meet
many of the (real) artists, attend the real) wedding of one of Monet_s daughters, etc. Each of the
artists that Charlotte meets is listed by the author at the back of the book, with a brief biographical
entry. And each of the diary entries has an elegant small reproduction of a painting of the time,
usually by one of the mentioned artists. The paintings are seamlessly integrated into the narrative.
The back of the book has another list that identifies the painting, the author, and the location of the
original. The diary entries also contain appropriate old snapshots. And adorning the pages are
lovely, usually small, contemporary water color illustrations by Melissa Sweet. The author notes
that although Charlotte and her adventures are fictitious, the book is based on historical fact. Thus It
is one of the most charming lessons in the history of art that you will ever read. I will give a copy to
our nine-year old granddaughter who recognizes impressionist paintings when she sees them - even
when her father fails to recognize them! (Happened in an art museum). Of course Giverny is still an
artist_s Mecca; I do hope that Leah gets there some day.
 Charlotte in Giverny; Joan MacPhail Knight;$15.95;62pp(unnumbered);Chronicle Books;San
Francisco;2000;ISBN 0-8118-2383-0

The Skies of Pern; Anne McCaffrey                                                 (sf)
  This is McCaffrey's fourteenth book about the Dragonriders of Pern. Pern is a planet that was
colonized by people from Earth. The colony was almost extinguished by  infestation of a deadly
parasite strewn in the atmosphere by another planet which, in a highly elliptical orbit, passed
periodically close to Pern, and over many _turns_ of  Pern distributed the parasite. The surviving
settlers developed, from a small local species, gigantic, intelligent dragons, which could in fact
exhale flame that would burn up the parasite during a fall. The people who rode and were partners
with the telepathic, teleporting dragons, were the Dragonriders. Through twelve novels the author
has followed the development of the Pern civilization, which had lost most of the knowledge of the
original settlers, and reverted to a rural, almost feudal civilization. In the present book, McCaffrey
tells of a struggle against the Abominators, a group that wishes to destroy the progress being made
by Pern after much of the knowledge of the ancients was rediscovered; and in a parallel line, the
story of  the attempt of the Dragonriders to find a place for themselves in a society soon to be no
longer threatened by the falling parasite - the  basic problem having been overcome in an earlier
book. The Dragonrider future is clarified when the dragons are discovered to also possess
telekinetic powers, which may then be applied to prevent another sort of potential disaster.  You
really should be a follower of the series to enjoy this story. I suspect that this must be very close to
the end of the series.
 McCaffrey,A.; The Skies of Pern;$25;434pp;Random House (Ballantine);NY; 2001; [No ISBN]

Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful; Regina Barreca, Ph.D..                  (nf)
            This is a large collection of female-oriented essays written by a woman who is a professor of
English Literature and Feminist Theory! At the University of Connecticut, no less. The essays have
been published in a number of newspapers and campus magazines. She has grouped them in ten
categories, which have headings such as: Family, Friends, Romance, Education, Domesticity,
Growing Up, Anxiety etc.. They are honest, revealing, often poignant, sometimes touching,
occasionally sad,  pointed, and frequently humorous if not funny. They are her keen perceptions of
life, especially her life . They are a good thing, and despite the title, they should be taken in small
doses. And that will take a while I found. She writes well, if a bit flippantly , and I am sure the
female reader will find very many points of empathy. This old male found quite a few too!
 Barreca;R.;Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful;$16.95;491pp;Bibliopola Press;Hanford;2000
  ISBN 0-939883-06-6

Unexplained!: strange sightings, incredible occurrences &  puzzling physical phenomena;
Jerome Clark  (2nd ed.)                 (pb)
 A collection of  almost every titillating, weird belief that has come along, described with gusto by a
believer. From UFOs, to alien encounters, via the Yeti, Sea Serpents, strange lights, and almost
anything you have ever heard of. There is no recounting of religious visions - although a variety of
other visions are described. The CSICOP organization of skeptics,  whose journal I subscribe to,
appears with only negative remarks; and its journal does not appear in the list of publications of
interest. The index is fair. I certainly did not read all of it - enough to see how enthusiastic the
author is about most of it ( however he does think the Bermuda Triangle is a fiction, and that
spontaneous combustion probably doesn_t happen.) Only if the subject of  strange beliefs of the
human mind is of interest - or if you are a believer too. For others: Don_t believe a word of it!
 NOTE: The Visible Ink Press also publishes :Angels A to Z,  The Astrology Encyclopedia; The
Dream Encyclopedia; and The Vampire Book; so, folks, you see where they are coming from.
 Clark;J; Unexplained!;$21.95;636pp;Visible Ink Press;Farmingdale,MI;1999;ISBN 1-57859-070-1

The Smithsonian Institution; Gore Vidal                                        (sf)
                   A fantastic (adjective chosen carefully), action filled, thought provoking romp through
space time and alternate universes. The romp, which starts in 1939,  is carried out under the
auspices of the Smithsonian Institution - which is FAR more complex and strange than the real one
seems to be. The protagonist is T, a tall, 13 year old mathematical genius who is a student at St.
Albans (a private school in DC). He is summoned to the Smithsonian  by a mysterious telephone
call, arrives after hours, goes through a gate left ajar for him, and finds himself in a VERY different
world - one that he never leaves. After visiting hours the guards in the Smithsonian are wax figures,
and the exhibits, and the characters in them, come alive!  The book describes T_s attempt to
determine what or who is controlling all the strange things that go on, his discovery of matters
essential to the future explosion of an atomic bomb, his meetings with Oppenheimer, Einstein, and
Lindbergh, his explorations of space-time, and his attempts to alter past events in order to prevent
WWI and also the war that seems to be on the horizon in 1939. His introduction to sex by one of the
young women from one of the exhibits is also tossed in, as well as his subsequent adventures with
her. Wonderful yarn - which Bette got from the library and couldn_t read; too _strange._ She does
not like science fiction, and this is a cross between SF and fantasy. It is interspersed with hilarious
lines and asides. In the first  paragraph, T comes out of St. Albans to hail a taxi. The next sentence
is: _Since St. Albans was an Episcopal school, cabs - not Mary - got hailed along that part of
Wisconsin Avenue._  Near the end, there is discussion of a couple who were persuaded  by the
Smithsonian to allow the woman to be impregnated with sperm from T.  The convincing argument
was a _...guarantee that the resultant issue would be a lifelong fully paid up member of the
Smithsonian Institution._  For all the fun, there are some interesting  examinations of philosophy
and even right and wrong, and you will be fascinated by the discussion of the US as a world power -
a discussion participated in by all the past presidents of the US!  I found it a great read.
 Vidal,G;The Smithsonian Institution;$26.95 Large Print;Compass Press;1998;ISBN1-56895-650-1

Casanova Was a Book Lover: And Other Naked Truths and Provocative Curiosities about
the Writing, Selling and Reading of Books; John Maxwell Hamilton                   (nf)
              If you love or like books be sure to get a copy of this one to read. Hamilton is a professor at
Louisiana State University, and the Dean of its school of Mass Communication. He has compiled an
informative, fascinating collection of information tidbits about books, information well described in
the subtitle. The book has ten chapters, three appendixes, notes on the chapters, and a good index. It
also has some cutsey touches: the dozen _Very Advance praise_ quotes on the back cover include _I
laughed my head off - Marie Antoinette_, _I give Hamilton an A -  Nathaniel Hawthorne_, and _I
couldn_t put it down - Atlas_; the obligatory jacket picture of the author shows him holding a large
book that totally obscures his face; and an acknowledgment that includes a friend who refused to
read the book or make any suggestions at all, etc. There are times when he is arch, sometimes
blatantly, sometimes demurely. The result is a truly engaging work. There is little about books -
publishing, reviewing, collecting, huckstering, or stealing, that he doesn_t discuss. I was amazed at
some of the things I learned about these matters, and especially amazed at things I learned about
many authors! And I was intrigued by the intricacy of the Library of Congress. I shall have to get a
copy (pb) of this for myself, and I_ll bet that you will also so decide.
 NOTE: Observe the publisher below, and note the discussions the author presents about academic
 Hamilton,J.M.;Casanova Was a Book Lover;$24.95;350pp;Louisiana State University Press; Baton
Rouge; 2000; ISBN 0-8071-2554-7

Potshot; Robert B. Parker                                                                (series)
         Another in Parker_s private eye Spenser series. Spenser is hired by Mary Lou Buchman to find
out who shot her husband in the town of Potshot, Arizona. Potshot is a small place that has been
attracting LA types who have been bringing money into the town, and Mary Lou and her husband
were among the immigrants. The town, however, has been more or less taken over by the Dell gang
members  who live in the mountains, and who, under the direction of the Preacher, have been
extorting money from the town, and driving people away. Mary Lou_s husband refused to ante up,
and was found shot to death. No witnesses. Spenser takes the job, goes to Potshot, and begins to
work without a clue. He visits the Preacher, who says that his gang had nothing to do with the
killing. Before Spenser leaves, he has a run in with several of the gang and pounds them flat. That
sparks the interest of a local group of the town business and political leaders who hire Spenser to
get rid of the Dell gang. Spenser sets out traveling to recruit a set of hard cases, and the reader of
the series will know them all - they are scattered around the country. He also looks into the
backgrounds of Mary Lou, the chief of police in Potshot, and a movie producer who lives in
Potshot. It is clear that none of them are telling the truth, and that they have had close relationships.
Parker returns to Potshot with his crew, and they end up in a shoot out with the gang. In the
meantime, he uncovers, layer by layer, a complicated scam that has led to the current situation, and
at the very end, finally finds the one responsible for the death of Mary Lou_s husband. Interesting,
and a little different, but still vintage Spenser - he who occupies the high ground. Oh yes, there are
the requisite scenes with Spenser_s squeeze, Susan Silverman
 Parker,R.B.; Potshot;$23.95;294pp;G.P. Putnam_s Sons;NY;2001; ISBN 0-399-14710-1

A Gathering of Spies; John Altman
            This is Altman_s first novel. He is a very good story teller. It is a fascinating, suspenseful
thriller that takes place between the end of 1942, and August 1945 - with the Hiroshima bomb. The
story  centers around two people: Katarina Heinrich, a German spy, and Harry Winterbotham, a
retired English professor. Heinrich, an expert intelligence agent, is in America under deep cover.
She killed a woman in 1933, and assumed the woman_s identity. She has been married for eight
years to a man who takes on a job in Los Alamos. She spends her nights prowling through the
offices and files in the tech area, memorizing many technical reports and drawings. Then, in Leslie
Groves_s office, she discovers a copy of  the (later) famous Einstein letter to FDR, the one that
suggests an atomic bomb is possible, and suggests that the US try to develop one. Katarina decides
that she must get the information to Germany, although she has no network, and her only contact is
a man in London, to whom she has reported some years past. She sets out to get to London, casually
murdering people along the way. In England, Winterbotham is persuaded to become part of the
British _DoubleCross_ program, which has turned about a hundred German agents into the
equivalent of double agents - they are transmitting to Germany data that are given to them by the
British. Winterbotham decides to use the system to rescue his wife, who was detained by the
Germans when she went to Warsaw in 1939, and from whom he has heard nothing. The story
follows Katarina_s journey, complete with merciless killings, and Winterbotham_s twisting of the
British system for his own ends. The two cross paths in England as the action continues to build. It
is a page turner indeed. There are some minor flaws that probably stem from its being a first novel,
but  zip past those and you may discover a good yarn.
  Altman,J; A Gathering of Spies;$24.95;305pp;G.P.Putnam_s Sons;NY;2000; ISBN 0-399-14641-5

Birds of Prey; J.A. Jance                                                          (series)
             This is the fifteenth book in Jance_s mystery/detective stories starring J.P. Beaumont. J.P.,
or Jonas, is now retired from the job as a Seattle homicide detective, and is on a cruise ship bound
for a cruise to Alaska. He_s on the cruise as a sort of chaperon for his grandmother, who, at the age
of 86 married a slightly older man! The man is J.P._s AA sponsor. His grandmother explained that
she would feel much better if J.P. were along on the honeymoon cruise because she and Lars were
getting up in age! Beaumont decides to go, he feels that some quiet restful days are in order, he is
trying to forget a very traumatic incident some months in the past. . But what he runs into is a case
of a woman who is thrown overboard, a man who is killed on an excursion train, and a shadowy
association of  lunatic weirdoes (Leave It To God) who believe that doctors who save lives are
interfering with God, and must be destroyed, and people they saved should be killed. Two such are
on the cruise, and FBI agents are aboard to try to protect the doctor, and Beaumont is asked to keep
an eye on the young man the doctor cured. It is a dandy story, and one to keep you guessing. J.P._s
grandmother and step grandfather are interesting characters, and Beaumont gets increasingly
emotionally involved with one of the female passengers. You can read this very comfortably if you
are unfamiliar with the series. I sort of like Jance_s other series about a female sheriff better than
this one, but this one is a very good set of yarns. Good storytelling, good characterization,
interesting incidental material, and an intriguing plot - or plots.
 Jance,J.A.; Birds of Prey;$24;390pp; Harper Collins;NY;2001; ISBN 0-380-97407-X

Half Moon Street; Anne Perry                                                 (series)
                    This is the latest (I think) in the London-locale, Victorian-period crime series featuring
Superintendent Pitt, and his wife Charlotte. It is not at all what I expected. Charlotte is not present,
she is in Paris for three weeks. Their children, and their housekeeper are at the shore, so Pitt is
alone when he encounters the case of  the body of an unidentified murdered man, found adrift in a
leaky boat, shackled hand and foot, and wearing a  woman_s dress. In the police procedural story,
Pitt and his assistant work the problem of the murder - par for the course, and an interesting yarn.
The bulk of the story however,  centers around Pitt_s mother in law, Caroline, who married an actor
17 years younger than she - to the consternation of her family. In this story, Caroline and Joshua,
her husband, are housing Mariah Ellison, an embittered old woman who was the mother of
Caroline_s previous husband, Edward, who died. The ill-tempered old witch was forced to stay with
the Pitts because her granddaughter, who normally housed her, had  gone off on a vacation with her
husband, and her house was being repaired. The old lady and Caroline share a vast mutual dislike.
Which sets the stage for an extremely powerful story of  very intense emotions. Caroline goes to a
play that rocks her emotionally - one that examines the intricate relationships in a particular
marriage. The woman who stars is one who believes strongly that women should have as much
freedom as men, and should be able to express their sexuality. Then Caroline meets an American,
Samuel Ellison, who is the son of a woman who was married to Mariah Ellison_s husband before
Mariah. Caroline had never known that Mariah was a second wife. She invites him home - and the
reader discovers that Mariah is terrified that some terrible secret will leak out.  I cannot outline the
story, except to say that it is emotionally wrenching to watch Caroline, Mariah, Samuel, and Joshua
trying to come to terms with themselves, their fears and hates, and all in the structure of the mores
of Victorian society. Pitt_s case does overlap the situation, and he solves the case -  with
unexpected and somewhat fortuitous results - in the last two pages. However the story is not really
focused on the mystery, and dyed-in-the-wool fans of the series should be warned that they might
well not like it. Most of it is a  character development study, with Perry back on her soap box. The
story left this reader somewhat wrung out - and pondering again a number of very important
sociological and human problems, e.g. censorship, pornography, feminism, etc. It ain_t your run of
the mill Supt. Pitt story,  so you don_t need to know anything whatsoever about the series.
Perry,A.; Half Moon Street;$25;312pp;Ballantine Books;NY;2000; ISBN:0-345-43298-3

Far Appalachia: Following the New River North; Noah Adams                   (nf)
                 In 1997, Noah Adams, commentator on NPR,  traveled along the New River from Three
Forks, North Carolina, to Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. He drove, and along the way bicycled,
canoed, and rafted. This is his account of those adventures. There are 32 episodes, titled with place
names along the river. There is often no bridging narrative, so at times the tale is fairly episodic, but
the individual episodes are fascinating gems: Views of the river, the people, country music,
adventuring amongst Class V rapids, thumbnail profiles of individuals who make their living on the
river, and more. The tales are interspersed with bits of history and folklore, and Adams_s
genealogy! Adams was born in Appalachia, and part of the country he traverses is home to kinfolk.
The wonderful, brief introduction sums up the book very well - be sure to read it. And I_ll BET you
will be surprised at how the designator _hillbilly_ came about. There is a good list of references
that he used in compiling this narrative, and many of them are must-reading for anyone interested in
that part of the world. A marvelous read, touching at times. I envy him the trip
 Adams,N.; Far Appalachia;$22.95;238pp;Delacorte Press;NY;2001;  ISBN  0-385-32010-8

The PMS Outlaws; Sharon McCrumb                                                     (series)
                Another in the somewhat zany series that stars Elizabeth McPherson, forensic
anthropologist, and her brother Bill, an attorney. In this one, Elizabeth, whose husband disappeared
in the Atlantic some months before, goes to an asylum at Cherry Hill  in order to try to get a handle
on her depression. Bill, in partnership with a young female attorney, A.P. Hill, finds himself
purchasing an old mansion in which to house their law practice. The house comes with a ninety
year old man, Jack Dolan, the original owner, who is living on a porch!  A.P. Hill gets a call from a
woman with whom she had attended law school, and with whom she had an intense rivalry. The
woman implies that Hill will read about her in the papers. And sure enough, Hill does. Her
classmate has teamed up with an escaped female convict, and the two are victimizing  men as they
drive around the countryside. Hill finds herself drawn into the chase for the women. Then Elizabeth
finds that one of the residents in the mental asylum, an ex-lawman, knew Jack Dolan, and insists
that Dolan died in a car crash. Fearing that the man in Bill_s new house might be an impostor who
could jeopardize Bill_s ownership of his new house, Elizabeth talks her cousin into determining
whether Dolan is real - or an impostor. So the book follows - alternately - three different stories that
ultimately all link together at the end. The travails of Elizabeth in the asylum, especially during
group therapy sessions, gives McCrumb a soapbox to explore a variety of social beliefs and
problems, with a sharp witty edge to her pen. Good yarn.
 McCrumb,S.; The PMS Outlaws;$24;295pp; Ballantine Books; NY; 2000; ISBN 0-345-38231-5


 Abrahams,P.; The Fury of Rachael Monette, 5
 Adams,A.; After the War, 3
 Adams,N; Far Appalachia, 12
 Altman,J; A Gathering of Spies, 10
 Barreca;R.; Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful, 8

 Black;E.; IBM And The Holocaust, 6
 Clark;J; Unexplained!, 9
 Greeley,A.; Irish Love, 2
 Hamilton,J.M.; Casanova Was a Book Lover, 9
 Hoag,T,; A Thin Dark Line, 5

 Hoffman,A.; River King, 2
 Jance,J.A.; Birds of Prey, 11
 Karon,J.; A Common Life, 7
 Kellerman,F.; Stalker, 1
 Knight,J.M.; Charlotte in Giverny, 8

 Luard,E.; Emerald, 3
 McCaffrey,A.; The Skies of Pern, 8
 McCrumb;S.; The PMS Outlaws, 12
 Parker,R.B.; Potshot, 10
 Pears,I.; The Immaculate Deception, 1

 Perry,A.; Half Moon Street, 11
 Pool,D.; What Jane Austin Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, 1
 Schanker,D.R.; Natural Law, 4
 Vidal,G; The Smithsonian Institution, 9
 Viorst;J,; Suddenly Sixty, 5

 Weinberg,S.; A Fish Caught in Time, 7
 Weldon,F.; Rhode Island Blues, 4



 A Common Life; Jan Karon, 7
 A Fish Caught in Time; Samantha Weinberg, 7
 A Gathering of Spies; John Altman, 10
 A Thin Dark Line; Tami Hoag, 5
 After the War; Alice Adams, 3

 Birds of Prey; J.A. Jance, 11
 Casanova Was a Book Lover; John Maxwell Hamilton, 9
 Charlotte in Giverny; Joan MacPhail Knight, 8
 Emerald; Elisabeth Luard, 3
 Far Appalachia; Noah Adams, 12

 Half Moon Street; Anne Perry, 11
 IBM And The Holocaust; Edwin Black, 6
 Irish Love; Andrew Greeley, 2
 Natural Law; D.R. Schanker, 4
 Potshot; Robert B. Parker, 10

 Rhode Island Blues; Fay Weldon, 4
 River King; Alice Hoffman, 2
 Stalker; Faye Kellerman, 1
 Suddenly Sixty; Judith Viorst, 5
 The Fury of Rachael Monette; Peter Abrahams, 5

 The Immaculate Deception; Ian Pears, 1
 The PMS Outlaws; Sharon McCrumb, 12
 The Skies of Pern; Anne McCaffrey, 8
 The Smithsonian Institution; Gore Vidal, 9
 Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful; Regina Barreca,PhD., 8

 Unexplained!; Jerome Clark, 9
 What Jane Austin Ate and Charles Dickens Knew; Daniel Pool, 1, 8