Friday, 30 December 2016

On This Day in 1865


British journalist, author and Nobel Prize Laureate, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born in Mumbai, India.  He was awarded the Prize "in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author".

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Mood of Christmas (1973) by Howard Thurman


Every Child Deserves An Imagination Library (USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia)


http://dollyparton.com/imagination-library

To The Friend Who Said I Have Too Many Books


It's not that thick a line


Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)


The Man With The Candy: The Story Of The Houston Mass Murders by Jack Olsen


Paperback:  The imagination will not down.  If it is not a dance, a song, it becomes an outcry, a protest.  If it is not flamboyance, it becomes deformity;  if it is not art, it becomes crime. - William Carlos Williams, The Great American Novel, 1923.

The mass murder of almost thirty young boys - in which nearly thirty young boys were sexually tortured to death - in Houston may well have been the most heinous crime of the century.

How could such a series of murders go undetected for almost three years before being exposed?

"Try to remember, Bill," a visitor wrote in 1885, "hell and houston both begin with a h."  Mythology and Shakespeare hold that murder will out, but the statement has never been absolutely true, and certainly not in Houston.  Violence is as much a part of the city's heritage as the post oaks and the bayous.  When it was a tiny frontier town, Houston was described by a diarist as "the greatest sink of disipation [sic] and vice that modern times have known."  An early diplomat wrote:  "I heard and read of more outrage and blackguardism in that town during my stay on the coast committed there, than throughout the whole of Texas."  A bishop proclaimed in 1843 that "there is a great need for a deep, a thorough, a sweeping revival of religion in Houston," and more than a century later, Billy Graham, wielding his customary theological meat ax, warned Houstonians that most of them "will spend an eternity in hell."

Houston's speciality is homicide.

The night David Hilligiest did not come home was both like and unlike other nights when other Houston boys disappeared between the years 1971 and 1973.  At three in the morning, the police were called, but they just said that boys were running away from the best of homes nowadays and that they would list David as a runaway.  No, there would be no official search for the youngster.

Aghast, the Hilligiests, in the months that followed, hired their own detective, put up posters, even sought the aid of clairvoyants.  But David never did come home again because, along with at least twenty-six other Houston boys, he had been murdered and buried by the homosexual owner of a candy factory, the mass murderer of the century, Dean Corll, according to his two teenage confessed accomplices, Elmer Wayne Henley Jr and David Brooks.  Many of the young boys had not even been reported as missing, and the fact that they were dead would probably never have come to light had not one of the murderers confessed.  For in Houston, where in a typical year the total number of murders is twice that of London despite the fact that London is six times as large and far more densely populated, missing persons and violence are likely to be considered commonplace.

In the months before the trial of Henley and Brooks, Jack Olsen interviewed and probed for answers about the criminals, the victims and the city itself, which remained for the most part silent, angry and defensive.  The result is a classic of true crime reportage.

The Man with the Candy (1974) is a brilliant investigative journalist's story of the crime and the answer to that question by Jack Olsen, Dean of True Crime.

About the author:  The award-winning and respected author of thirty-three books, Jack Olsen's books have published in fifteen countries and eleven languages.  Olsen's journalism earned the National Headliners Award, Chicago Newspaper Guild's Page One Award, commendations from Columbia and Indiana Universities, the Washington State Governor's Award, the Scripps-Howard Award and other honors.  He was listed in Who's Who in America since 1968 and in Who's Who in the World since 1987.  The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as "an American treasure."

Olsen was described as "the dean of true crime authors" by the Washington Post and the New York Daily News and "the master of true crime" by the Detroit Free Press and Newsday.  Publishers Weekly called him "the best true crime writer around."  His studies of crime are required reading in university criminology courses and have been cited in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. In a page-one review, the Times described his work as "a genuine contribution to criminology and journalism alike."

Olsen is a two-time winner in the Best Fact Crime category of the Mystery Writer’s of America, Edgar award.  Jack Olsen died of a heart attack, in bed at home with a magazine resting on his chest at the age of 77.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Hawkshead Hostage (Lake District Mystery Series) by Rebecca Tope


Hardback:  There is something brewing in the Lake District.

Summer has come to the Lake District town of Windermere, where Persimmon 'Simmy' Brown runs her own florist shop.  But with the shop struggling for money, a contract to provide floral displays for a hotel in Hawkshead could not be more welcome.  However, Simmy's association with the hotel soon turns sinister when she finds a body in the lake.

To make matters worse, her friend, Ben - responsible for alerting her to the discovered body - is now missing and thought to be kidnapped.  Caught up in both a murder and kidnapping investigation, Simmy begins chasing clues left by her missing friend.

With many suspicious characters bustling in and out of the hotel, while simultaneously trying to cope with her father's encroaching dementia, solving the puzzle seems a gruelling challenge, but Simmy is compelled to uncover the truth.

The Hawkshead Hostage (2016) is the fifth book in the page-turning Lake District Mystery series.  The sixth and next book - The Bowness Bequest - will be released on 18 May 2017.

About the author:  Rebecca Tope, a British crime novelist and journalist, lives on a smallholding in Herefordshire, where she plants trees and watches wild birds, but manages to travel the world and enjoy civilisation from time to time as well.  Most of her varied experiences and activities find their way into her books, sooner or later.  In 1992, she founded Praxis books, a small British press.

She is the author of three murder mystery series, featuring the fictional characters of Den Cooper, a Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, a former nurse, now an undertaker, Thea Osborne, a house sitter in the Cotswolds, and Persimmon Brown, a florist in the Lake District.  Her books are set in real English villages.  She uses a kind of "anti research", avoiding discussion with any of the villagers, but does walk along the footpaths and visits most of the village pubs.

She is currently working on a biography of Sabine Baring-Gould.  Tope is also ghost writer of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme.

Rating:  3/5

Exalted Simplicity In Winter


As 2016 Nears The End...


A Time To Reflect


Monday, 19 December 2016

Prescription For Murder: The True Story Of Mass Murderers Dr Harold Shipman (True Crime) by Brian Whittle and Jean Ritchie


Paperback:  He was a pillar of the community, serving on local committees, donating prizes to the rugby club, organising charity collections.  His patients thought the world of him:  he was attentive, kind, never too busy to chat.

Yet Dr Harold Frederick Shipman was also the most prolific serial killer the world has ever known, with between 200 and 300 victims.  Quietly, for many years, the small, bespectacled GP was making unexpected house calls - and walking out leaving a dead body behind.

They were near-perfect crimes.  The middle-aged and elderly women he tarted trusted their doctor:  they willingly rolled up their sleeves for what proved to be a fatal jab of morphine from his syringe.  The murderous career of Dr Shipman only came to an end when police in Hyde, Greater Manchester, were called to investigate a forged will.  Overnight, they found themselves embroiled in the biggest murder case in British history.

This is the story of Fred Shipman, a mass murderer whose motives will puzzle psychiatrists and psychologists for generations to come, and whose tally of victims will never be fully known.

Prescription for Murder (2000) is a compelling account of these monstrous crimes and of the man who committed them, examining Shipman's early life and the traumatic death of his mother, his home life with his wife and children, and his public front as a caring family doctor.

The authors have had unparalleled access to friends, colleagues and patients.  Their in-depth and authoritative investigation looks at how he killed, how he was able to get away with it for so long and - most important of all - why he did it.

About the authors:  Brian Whittle has been a superb feature writer and a tabloid and investigative reporter on national newspapers for more than thirty years.  He was the editor and proprietor of Cavendish Press, the leading news-gathering agency in the north-west.  Pictures taken by Cavendish Press of the first macabre exhumation by floodlight of one of Shipman's victims made the front pages of newspapers around the world.  Brian Whittle's intimate knowledge of Hyde, the Greater Manchester area and the police investigation of Dr Harold Shipman make him ideally qualified to tell the story of the sinister GP.  He saw very early on that the case was not only a huge human tragedy, but also that there were great political implications in how Shipman had got away with his murders for so long.  By devoting hundreds of hours to investigating the serial killer's activities in Hyde, Brian became an expert on the subject, interviewed by the world's media.  Sadly, in 2005, The Manchester journalist Brian Whittle collapsed and died, aged 59.

Jean Ritchie is also an investigative journalist with more than thirty years' experience working for national newspapers and magazines.  She is the author of twenty-one successful books (from ghosted autobiographies to investigative non-fiction), including the bestselling Myra Hindley:  Inside the Mind of a Murderess.  Her other titles include Stalkers, the first full account of the stalking phenomenon, and The Secret World of Cults, an investigation into dangerous cults and religious sects.  She joined Fleet Street as a reporter for the Daily Mail, moving to the Sun as a features writer, where she covered showbusiness, politics, human life and investigations.  She has ghost written on a number of major titles including Wherever You Are: The Military Wives and The Yorkshire Shepardess.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Phantom (Harry Hole Series) by Jo Nesbø


Paperback:  When Harry left Oslo again for Hong Kong - fleeing the traumas of life as a cop and the horrors of a case that nearly cost him his life - he thought he was there for good.

But then the unthinkable happened.

The son of the woman he loved, lost, and still loves is arrested for murder:  Oleg, the boy Harry helped raise but couldn't help deserting when he fled.

Harry has come back to prove that Oleg is not a killer.  Barred from rejoining the police force and denied permission to reopen the investigation, he sets out on a solitary, increasingly dangerous investigation that takes him deep into the world of the most virulent drug to ever hit the streets of Oslo (and the careers of some of the city's highest officials), and into the maze of his own past, where he will find the wrenching truth that finally matters to Oleg, and to himself.

Phantom (2012) is the ninth book in the incredible Harry Hole thriller series set in Oslo.  Phantom is translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.

About the author and translator:  Jo Nesbø is a musician, songwriter, economist and prize-winning author.  His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson).  His bestselling Harry Hole series has been a huge success in the UK and across the world.

Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature.  He has translated, or co-translated, Norwegian novels by Lars Saabye Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Even Ambjørnsen-Haefs, Kjell Ola Dahl, Gunnar Staalesen and Pernille Rygg.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Wrong Side of Goodbye (The Harry Bosch Series) by Michael Connelly


Hardback:  Can Harry Bosch find someone who might never have existed?  Unstoppable detective Harry Bosch returns in a new thriller from New York Times best-selling author Michael Connelly.

Harry Bosch is California's newest private investigator.  He does not advertise, he does not have an office, and he is picky about who he works for, but it doesn't matter.  His chops from thirty years with the LAPD speak for themselves.

Harry Bosch is working as a part-time detective in San Fernando, outside of Los Angeles, when he gets an invitation to meet with ageing aviation billionaire Whitney Vance. At eighteen, Vance had a relationship with a girl called Vibiana Duarte, but soon after becoming pregnant, she disappeared.

Now, as he reaches the end of his life, Vance wants to know what happened to Vibiana, and whether there is an heir to his vast fortune.  Bosch is the only person he trusts to undertake the assignment.

"Call it justice or the need to know.  Call it the need to believe that those who are evil will not remain hidden in darkness forever.  Even if doing it doesn't exactly fit inside the rules, sometimes you have to rely on the voice inside that tells you what to do.  There will be one thing that brings it all together and makes sense of things.  Find it and you're gold."

Harry is aware that with the sums of money involved, this could be dangerous - not just for himself, but for the person he is hunting.  But as he begins to uncover the secrets behind Vibiana's tragic story, and discovers uncanny links to his own past, he knows he cannot rest until he finds the truth.

Swift, unpredictable, and thrilling, The Wrong Side of Goodbye (2016) - the twenty-first and latest instalment in the exceptional and outstanding Harry Bosch series - proves once again that "Connelly is still very much in his prime" (Washington Post).

About the author:  A former police reporter for the Los Angeles TimesMichael Connelly is the author of twenty-eight novels including the Harry Bosch series and Lincoln Lawyer series, featuring Mickey Haller, as well as standalone bestsellers such as The Poet (1996).  His books have been translated into thirty-one languages, won numerous awards and sold more than sixty million copies worldwide.  Michael is executive producer of Amazon TV's Bosch, starring Titus Welliver.  He lives with his family in Tampa, Florida.

Rating:  6/5

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Troutbeck Testimony (Lake District Mystery Series) by Rebecca Tope


Hardback:  The spring bank holiday marks one year since Persimmon 'Simmy' Brown opened her florist shop in the idyllic Lake District town of Windermere.  But the long weekend is far from peaceful and, as usual for Simmy, things take a deadly turn.

There is word of a series of sinister dognappings occurring in nearby Troutbeck and whilst taking a walk up Wansfell Pike, Simmy and her father, Russell, stumble on the body of a dog.  Unnerved by a suspicious looking man carrying a large bag and a hushed conversation overheard outside the pub, Simmy and Russell suspect foul play.

When one of the suspects is found on a farmyard with his throat slit, Simmy reluctantly gets caught up in a murder investigation.  But when Russell receives an anonymous death threat, and her assistant Bonnie appears to know more than she is letting on, Simmy has no choice but to do everything she can to find the killer.

The Troutbeck Testimony (2015) is the fourth instalment in the page-turning Lake District Mystery series.

About the author:  Rebecca Tope, a British crime novelist and journalist, lives on a smallholding in Herefordshire, where she plants trees and watches wild birds, but manages to travel the world and enjoy civilisation from time to time as well.  Most of her varied experiences and activities find their way into her books, sooner or later.  In 1992, she founded Praxis books, a small British press.

She is the author of three murder mystery series, featuring the fictional characters of Den Cooper, a Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, a former nurse, now an undertaker, Thea Osborne, a house sitter in the Cotswolds, and Persimmon Brown, a florist in the Lake District.  Her books are set in real English villages.  She uses a kind of "anti research", avoiding discussion with any of the villagers, but does walk along the footpaths and visits most of the village pubs.

She is currently working on a biography of Sabine Baring-Gould.  Tope is also ghost writer of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme.

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Keep Calm And Welcome December


Out Of My Depth (True Crime) by Anne Darwin with David Leigh


Paperback:  "It felt like the right time to tell my own story, in my own words..."

In 2002, when mother-of-two Anne Darwin told the world - and her family - that her husband, John, had disappeared while canoeing in the North Sea, her life changed forever.  She had just lied to to the police, the press, her friends and neighbours, insurance companies and her own sons.

While her husband hid in their rental house next door, Anne had to face the music.  She claimed the life insurance payouts, endured the police questioning, accepted the consolations - then left with him to start a new life in Panama.

Now, for the first time, Anne opens up about an extraordinary chain of events:  her decision to take part in her husband's hare-brained scheme;  her life and marriage before, during and after the crime was spectacularly revealed;  her harrowing time behind bars and the runaway train of deceit and guilt that followed their plan to defraud insurance companies with the aid of a canoe.

Out Of My Depth (2016) is the extraordinary true story of a woman's journey from ordinary housewife to Canoe Widow, Panama and prison.  "Anne's often heart-wrenching story is one of extreme regret, remorse, shame and, finally, redemption.  She deserves great credit for being brave enough to tell her side of a story that engrossed millions of people across the world, but that left her in the very depths of despair," wrote Leigh, the co-author, in the Foreword.

*Anne's fee for her book goes to the RSPCA and the RNLI.

About the authors:  Anne Darwin, a softly spoken and unassuming former doctor's receptionist, has done much to repair her relationship with her two sons.  She now works for an animal charity and lives alone.

David Leigh is an award-winning journalist, who developed a remarkable relationship with Anne after uncovering her crime in Panama, shortly before Christmas in December 2007.  He won the London Press Club's Scoop Of The Year Award and the National Association of Press Agencies' news story of the year for his reporting on John Darwin 'Canoe Man'.

Deep And Shallow Characters