Celebrate the-boy-who-lived and learn about the history of magic with the new Harry Potter exhibit at the Moline Library.
Celebrate the-boy-who-lived and learn about the history of magic with the new Harry Potter exhibit at the Moline Library.
Hating journalism has always been in fashion, and many of our literary heroes regarded it as one of the lowest professions. W.B. Yeats believed there was nothing in journalists but “tittering jeering emptiness,” and Hunter S. Thompson – a reporter himself – described his colleagues using language that we’re not inclined to repeat.
However, thanks to a looming constitutional crisis (and a press-hating demagogue having turned the Oval Office into a throne room), the events of the next few months are likely to be dictated by the public’s remaining trust in the institution of the free press. Whose version of events will the public be inclined to believe, and what percentage is necessary to reach an actionable consensus? Can any facts be considered beyond dispute, and how will that logic hold up against braying and volcanic mud-slinging from the highest seat in the nation?
The US may have recently withdrawn from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, but we’d be wise not to ditch their prevailing wisdom on the importance of the press: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Weigh that against the fact that our Department of Homeland Security is currently compiling a database of journalists and “media-influencers,” and keep it in mind in coming weeks as events continue to unfold.
The following authors (some of whom are also journalists) have important words to share with us about the power of the press, and the guiding principles of freedom and fairness when it comes to taking aim at powerful targets. Hate dedicated reporters all you want… but you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
How odd it is to step into another writer’s shoes. To pull on the suit of his most famous character and dance around in it for a little while. You gotta have a reason to do something like that. You’ve gotta be, for lack of a better word, invested.
Lawrence Osborne has done some amazing things with words. He’s made a hard, sharp name for himself doing his own thing — telling morally gray and existentially terrifying tales about men and women loose in the world’s far places, and merciless, personal nonfiction. But with Only To Sleep he has borrowed the style of Raymond Chandler and the body of Philip Marlowe. “A perilous thing,” he says of such literary necromancy in his author’s note. And he’s right.
You read the first five pages of Only To Sleep, the first ten maybe, and, if you’re a Chandler fan (which I am, though not as obsessive as some), you’ll be pissed. Not hugely, but a little. You can see, in the arrangements of commas, the pauses, the clipped and bittersweet rhythm of the ink on the page, someone doing a pretty good Chandler impersonation.
But you can see the impersonation, and that’s the problem. Again, if you’re annoying like me and pedantic like me, and overly (one might say professionally) critical like me, there are these little barbs of tempo that catch at the skin around your eyes or the back of your throat and jerk you out of the pretty world being assembled.
But then the first chapter closes. Old Marlowe (in his 70’s now, retired, living slow and blankly and alone in a house on a beach in Mexico) has gotten his call to adventure in the shape of two insurance men who want him to look into a mysterious death. And Osborne walks off with a paragraph that might be one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in a year. “It came from out in the tempest, even from the lights of the fishing boats a mile out at sea,” he writes.
Never mind a year. That is up there among the most beautiful paragraphs on record. Doubly so because it is the moment where Only To Sleep stops being “a Philip Marlowe novel” (as it says right on the cover) and starts being a Lawrence Osborne novel that just happens to feature Philip Marlowe.
That paragraph is both Chandleresque to its bones (the odd constructions, the ping-ponging of near-stream-of-consciousness, the mythic, sad framing) and pure Osborne. It is the moment where he stops pretending and just lets it rip.
Osborne gets Chandler’s belief in Marlowe as a knight-errant (again, read the author’s note). He gets the dreaminess that defined the best of Marlowe’s moments — solutions to cases that never solved anything; long, drifty middles where no one (and least of all Marlowe) understood anything that was happening save breathing, bourbon and the weather. He melds his own fascination with rich, white dimwits abroad and Chandler’s championing of Everyman doggedness in a perfect cocktail, neat, no ice. And that page 10 paragraph? It isn’t the last example of wild, extravagant, counterpunching beauty: “I had sat at a window like this in 1971 and watched the sugar trucks go by and wondered why my hands looked so old before their time.”
The story is simple in the way that all gumshoe novels ought to be. A rich white guy dies while swimming in Mexico. His insurance policy pays out a couple million to his too-pretty young wife. Two men in dark suits, suspicious of such costly coincidence, ask Marlowe to take a look. He does. End of book.
It’s the kind of book where, when you read it, it turns the world to black and white for a half-hour afterward. It leaves you with the taste of rum and blood in your mouth. It hangs with you like a scar.
Like all great gumshoe novels, there are cavernous depths there that only look shallow from the surface. It is simple only for those who bring nothing with them when they open the cover. Only To Sleep is a story about age and regret and murder. About the American Dream. The Mexican Dream. About never being able to let go of the past, and how little the present cares for your sad nostalgia. There are, I would wager, not more than a hundred sentences in this thing that mean only what they say. And Osborne’s sentences (like Chandler’s sentences) are often brutally short. It’s the kind of book where, when you read it, it turns the world to black and white for a half-hour afterward. It leaves you with the taste of rum and blood in your mouth. It hangs with you like a scar.
Most important, it gives Philip Marlowe a sunset to walk off into. Or limp off into, leaning on his sword cane, thinking slow, deep thoughts as he goes. And like the best Chandler twists, that is one thing that maybe no one saw coming.
By JASON SHEEHAN, July 26, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR
Jason Sheehan knows stuff about food, video games, books and Starblazers. He is currently the restaurant critic at Philadelphia magazine, but when no one is looking, he spends his time writing books about giant robots and ray guns. Tales From the Radiation Age is his latest book.
A breezy beach and an umbrella; crashing waves and a good thriller — they are classic pairings, and the perfect way to spend a few lazy vacation days. As much as we love a bit of fictional suspense, true life, and true crime in particular, can often be stranger than fiction. History, recent and otherwise, is full of salacious murders, cold-hearted killers, and nerve-rattling investigations. So, next time you find yourself on the beach and in need of a literary distraction to while away those sunny hours, check out these nonfiction page-turners.
The Chicago World’s Fair, one of the most accomplished and influential architects of the latter 19th Century, and one of U.S. history’s most notorious serial killers — these are the extraordinary elements of Erik Larson’s nonfiction thriller, The Devil in the White City. Beginning in 1890, architect Daniel Hudson Burnham set about the task of transforming Jackson Park for the 1893 World’s Fair. Just west of the Fair’s location, Dr. H.H. Holmes began converting an abandoned lot into what he would bill the “World’s Fair Hotel” but would come to be known as the infamous “Murder Castle” — a labyrinthine house of literal horrors where Holmes tortured and killed as many as two dozen or more victims.
While the true crime genre existed before In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s 1965 bestseller laid the narrative groundwork for the modern true crime novel. In Cold Blood is Capote’s in-depth examination of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. However, the book’s most interesting aspect is Capote’s clear fascination with and disturbing portrait of the killers themselves. With his inimitable literary flair, Capote constructed an atmospheric, meticulously researched, and darkly captivating narrative that set the tone for virtually all of the true crime novels that followed in its considerable wake.
You really can’t go wrong with any of Ann Rule’s books. The queen of true crime is best known for her stunning debut, The Stranger Beside Me, which recounts her friendship with Ted Bundy. The I-5 Killer is her investigation of Randall Woodfield, who stalked the Interstate 5 corridor from California to Washington State, raping and murdering multiple victims. While he was convicted of only one murder, he is suspected in an as many as forty-four deaths.
Pizza Bomber recounts one of the most bizarre and complex crimes in modern history. Brian Wells was a pizza delivery man forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped around his neck. After delivering the money to his captors, Wells was given clues to disarm the bomb. However, he was captured by police before finding the clues. The bomb detonated while Wells was custody, killing him. In a truly bizarre twist, investigators eventually found that Wells may not have actually be a victim, but rather an active conspirator in the crime.
The Black Dahlia murder remains one of the most infamous unsolved murders of the twentieth century. The grisly murder of Elizabeth Short — whose body, mutilated and severed at the waist, was found in a Los Angeles park — gripped the public’s imagination in 1947 and has continued to do so in the decades since. Of all the books, articles, documentaries, and films on the Black Dahlia case, Black Dahlia, Red Rose is largely considered the standard.
Kate Winkler Dawson
The Great Smog of London in 1952 is one of the most extraordinary and deadly environmental disasters of the twentieth century. A perfect nexus of conditions — cold weather, virtually no wind, and the ubiquity of coal-fired hearths — blanketed the city in a dense haze of smog that ground the city to a halt and led to 12,000 deaths. In the midst of this week-long nightmare, a serial killer stalked the smog-covered streets, murdering at least six women. Death in the Air is a true crime thriller too strange for fiction.
When pieces of a body began appearing all over New York in 1897 — in a pond on Long Island, a torso on the Lower East side of Manhattan, severed limbs in Harlem — police were baffled and the public was horrified. The murder captured public imagination and spurred a tabloid war that, in many ways, changed the face of journalism in America. The Murder of the Century is a larger-than-life, stranger-than-fiction tale of murder, corruption, and the advent of sensationalist tabloid reporting.
Nine-year-old Marcia Trimble delivered Girl Scout Cookies in Nashville, Tennessee on a February afternoon in 1975. She never returned home. When her body was discovered thirty-three days later, her family expected the case to come to a swift close. It would be more than thirty years before Marcia’s killer was finally brought to justice. A Season of Darkness is the fascinating examination of that long and winding road.
Daniel Paquette was shot and killed in 1985 in a small New Hampshire town. His murder went unsolved for twenty years until Eric Windhurst, a teenager in 1985 and a friend of Paquette’s daughter, pled guilty to the murder. Our Little Secret is a page-turning account of small-town secrets, teenaged passion, violence, and abuse.
Following his arrest in 2003, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was implicated in the deaths of as many as three-hundred patients. A trail of death followed Cullen over sixteen years and nine hospitals from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Based on a decade of research, Charles Graeber took a deep dive into the disturbing story of Charlie Cullen in this unnerving, edge-of-your-seat, true-life thriller.
Psychological horror is a vein of frightening fiction that uses the mental states of its protagonists to evoke feelings of dread. Its narrators are often unreliable, and there may be some question about what is actually happening in the circumstances they find themselves in. If tales of madness and terror are your thing, then you’ll love the following reading recommendations.
Writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance is looking for a fresh start, and the winter caretaker job at the sprawling Overlook Hotel seems made to fit. Three months of peace and quiet, just Jack, his family … and ghosts. Lots of them. The Overlook is booked almost solid with the souls it has claimed, but still has room for just a few more occupants.
MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI
A young family moves into a house and discovers it is larger on the inside than the out. It might be haunted. Maybe the house itself is alive. The mystery of the house is bigger than anyone can truly understand, but they’ll try anyway, and maybe lose their sanity in the process.
CAITLIN R. KIERNAN
Shortly after moving into a secluded old house in rural New England, writer Sarah Crowe discovers a manuscript hidden in a wall. It was left there by an anthropologist determined to uncover the truth about an old tree long associated with murder and various other unpleasant incidences. If she isn’t cautious, Crowe, too, will be drawn into the tangled history of the Red Tree.
The media calls them the final books: a group of women — strangers to each other — who were the sole survivors of massacres perpetrated by horror movie-style serial killers. Years later, and they’re still all trying to put the worst nights of their lives behind them. Unfortunately, the past is coming back to haunt them. When one of the Final Girls turns up dead, the victim of a supposed suicide, these haunted women begin to believe that the killing may not be over.
BRET EASTON ELLIS
Patrick Bateman is a high-powered businessman in eighties New York City. He’s also a psychopathic murderer who punctuates his gruesome killings with lines of cocaine, weirdly obsessive monologues about his skin care routine, and power lunches at some of the city’s chicest restaurants. Or maybe not: Bateman’s worst acts of violence and depravity may be entirely imaginary. Ellis leaves it up to the reader to figure out.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
You can’t talk about psychological horror without talking about Edgar Allan Poe. The tortured genius behind “The Raven”, The Fall of the House of Usher”, and so many other haunting works of prose and poetry virtually created the genre single-handedly. If high school was the last time you read his fiction, then it is definitely time to revisit it.
Shirley Jackson was one of the twentieth century’s foremost practitioners of psychological horror fiction. While her novels We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Haunting of Hill House should have high priority on any reader’s list, her short stories are a great place to start. Dip into her wonderfully creepy fiction with this new collection of horror stories.
People aren’t born bad, or are they? The Wasp Factory is a look inside the mind of a young psychopathic murderer. Graphic, funny, and altogether unique, The Wasp Factory is like nothing you’ve ever read before.
Clarice Starling is an FBI agent in training under the Bureau’s behavioral science unit. “Buffalo Bill” is a serial killer at large. Her best chance to find him is to interview his former psychiatrist: the now-imprisoned Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. A master manipulator with nothing but time on his hands, Lecter is more than happy to help — for a price.
A New England family was thrown into chaos when one of their daughters had what appeared to be a severe psychotic break. When medicine didn’t help, they turned to an exorcist — who brought along a television crew. Years later, the possessed girl’s sister agrees to an interview with a writer. What really happened in the house may not have matched what viewers saw at home, and it is time for all to know the truth.
When you think of beaches, resort towns, or vacation getaways, a thriller may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the truth is, a thrilling page-turner is the perfect pairing for your sunny escapades. And if the novel happens to be summer-themed, that’s all the better. Here are a few of our favorite suspense-fueled thrillers that keep the scorching summer heat front and center.
Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train, made a splash on the bestseller lists (pun totally intended) with her latest book. Once again showing her skill with dark psychological suspense, Hawkins’ latest effort centers on a teen girl whose mother is found dead at the bottom of an infamous river – the same river that claimed the life of another girl earlier in the summer. It’s a twisting thriller built on small town secrets and a community’s dark past.
Nothing says summer like beaches, sun, and an island paradise. Of course, even a summer paradise can harbor its own deadly secrets. With Something in the Water, Catherine Steadman turns an idyllic honeymoon getaway into a taut nightmare of suspense and ratcheting tension. A discovery while scuba-diving leads a couple through a devastating chain of events in this chilling page-turner.
While Steven Spielberg’s iconic film is a largely faithful adaptation, there’s nothing quite like experiencing Peter Benchley’s original slice of seaside terror. Benchley’s meticulous research gave the novel an unnerving sense of plausibility and elevated the suspense to a whole new level. It’s an unquestionable classic and continues to give readers a reason to stay out of the water.
A daring heist from a Princeton University Library, an unassuming bookstore owner in a Florida resort town who doubles as a black market book dealer, and a young novelist hired by a mysterious woman to infiltrate the bookstore owner’s inner circle – these are the pieces to John Grisham’s 2017 bestseller, Camino Island. It’s a literary-minded, summer thriller as only Grisham could imagine.
Given the recent Emmy nomination for USA’s adaptation The Sinner, there’s no better time to dip your toes into Petra Hammesfahr’s gripping thriller. A small, lakeside community is turned upside down on a sunny summer afternoon when a young mother named Cora brutally murders a man for seemingly no reason and in full view of a host of witnesses. The apparently random act of shocking violence opens a window into Cora’s dark past and unsettling, long-buried secrets.
In the summer of 1986, a group of friends use chalk stick figures as a secret code to deliver messages to each other. One afternoon, a coded message remarkably similar to their own leads the group to a dismembered body. Thirty years later, the friends each receive a letter emblazoned with a chalk stick figure, setting in motion a deadly chain of events tied to the body they found all those years ago. Alternating between 1986 and 2016, The Chalk Man is a finely crafted thriller sure to keep you guessing until the final page.
Set in Northern California in the 1960s, The Girls centers on a young and disenchanted teenage girl during one turbulent and fateful summer. Evie Boyd craves acceptance and eventually finds it with a bizarre group and their charismatic leader at a sprawling and run-down ranch compound. As the summer drags on and she is pulled deeper into the group’s inner circle, Evie is dragged into a world of violence and obsession beyond anything she could imagine.
Set against a world of old-money families whiling away their summers on a private island just off of Cape Cod, We Were Liars is a sprawling and haunting tale of loss, dysfunction, bitter-sweet romance, and tragedy. For years, Cadence spent summers at her family’s vacation home with her four closest friends. But everything changes when tragedy strikes one summer and Cadence, who now suffers from amnesia, is forced to piece together the desperate events of that fateful summer.
Murder, high stakes bass fishing, the everglades, and a misanthropic recluse with a taste for roadkill – Double Whammy is a meandering mystery as only Carl Hiaasen can tell. Double Whammy introduces Hiaasen’s character Skink, a bearded poncho-wearing hermit who knows more than one would think. The story centers on a disgraced photographer turned P.I. who is hired to catch a cheating bass fisher, but ends up embroiled in a southern-fried murder mystery.
Stephen King’s sprawling horror/thriller opus centers on a group of pre-teen friends who come up against an unimaginable evil over the course of a summer in 1958 in their hometown of Derry, Maine. Twenty-seven years later, the group returns as adults to defeat the malignant presence once and for all. It is the pinnacle of King’s nostalgia-fueled storytelling and pitch-perfect ode to summer through King’s particular brand of supernatural horror.