The 2019 Nonfiction Challenge Part III: True Crime (and Justice) in March
This is a continuation of the topic The 2019 Nonfiction Challenge Part II: Science & Technology; Innovation & Innovators in February.
This topic was continued by The 2019 Nonfiction Challenge Part IV: Comfort Reading for April.
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Don't worry! You don't have to read about serial killers and gore this month. Think widely and creatively. If reading about organized crime bothers you, don't read about the mob, read about how the FBI track them down, or even the psychology of crime or the science behind detecting criminals. Or read about white collar crime or espionage. There's a great book by Ben Macintyre about Kim Philby, one of the Cold War spies, and how his betrayals were viewed by one of his closest friends in the espionage business, for instance. You can read about how prosecutors track down war criminals or great trials or biographies of great lawyers, if you want. Just keep the emphasis on crime and/or justice (so, not a lawyer who happened to become a president that's really a presidential biography, please...) Historical crimes are also fine, so if you're happier reading about the affair of the poisons in the era of Louis XIV, well, go for it!!
March is a nice long month, so hopefully we'll all have a lot of time to delve into our choices....
If you have any questions, as always, post them below or send me a PM. Sometimes the PM may be faster as I won't be on this thread every day, necessarily, and I wouldn't want anyone to feel that their concerns are being overlooked (when really, I'm just elsewhere...)
Happy reading to all!
The year to come:
Here is what you can look forward to for the rest of the year!
April: Comfort Reads: Whatever topic makes you feel warm & fuzzy inside. Animals? Cooking? What brings you joy? Music? Long walks? This could cross a number of more traditional challenge categories, and maybe will give us insight into each other...
May: History. In this case, my cutoff date is 1950. A bit arbitrary, but after the end of World War II and after the Berlin Airlift, the birth of the Marshall Plan and the start of the Cold War.
June: The Pictures Have It! Any book that relies on pictures to tell the story, from an illustrated graphic text, to a book of photographs, to an art catalog.
July: Biography & First Person Yarns
*August: Raw Materials: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
So, read a book that starts with animals, vegetables or minerals at its heart. You could read about the human animal -- medical science, how we die. How farm animals are treated. You could read about how we eat and cook (animal & vegetable.) You could read about how the world's natural resources are being developed -- or exploited (the oil industry?) and their impact on the environment (mineral AND vegetable.)
*September: Books by Journalists
As suggested by a member of this group! On ANY topic -- just check to be sure that the author is a journalist -- employed by a paper, writing freelance, past or present.
*October: Other Worlds: From Spiritual to Fantastical
Want to read about heaven (Christian version, Muslim version, etc.) and how to get there? Or reincarnation, Buddhist style? Or simply fantastical other world? (There's a new book either just out or coming soon that is a history of the science fiction novelists who really helped pioneer the genre in the mid-20th century, for instance.) If you find a book that writes about how the future will look -- plagues, environmental catastrophe, the impact of robotics -- that would fit, too. Think "other worlds" that aren't like the one we inhabit and take for granted. I'd even accept dramatically different variants on reality, like living through the Holocaust, under Pol Pot in Cambodia, or in a war zone or as a refugee or illegal immigrant.
November: Creators and Creativity
We've done this one before. Anyone who creates stuff -- preferably arts, since there's an earlier category dedicated to scientific and technological innovation. Dance; music; writing; painting; photography, etc. etc. The act of creation; controversies that ensue; collectors of art, patrons of art, what does creativity mean? (I think Nicholas Delbanco has written on this), etc.
December: I’ve Always Been Curious About…
A wide open category, pretty much. Your favorite category isn't here? Well, find a way to squeeze a book about it into December. Bummed that there isn't a category about the great outdoors? Well, read a book, and say you've always been curious about hiking the Pacific Coast trail, for instance. Or sailing. As long as you can complete the sentence with the topic of the book, you're good to go.
*a new topic for the 2019 edition of this challenge.
Some ideas for books that you might find interesting for this month's challenge
In addition to the books listed below...
The Eternal Nazi: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the Relentless Pursuit of SS Doctor Aribert Heim by Souad Mekhennet & Nicholas Kulish
American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin
Justice and the Enemy: From the Nuremberg Trials to Khaled Sheikh Mohammed by William Shawcross
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda by Elizabeth Neuffer
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker
The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder
Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine by Maximilian Potter
The Great Pearl Heist: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Necklace by Molly Caldwell Crosby
Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery by Paul Collins
The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures by Edward Ball
One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad
Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World's Most Charming Con Man by Skip Hollandsworth
Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud by Elizabeth Greenwood
The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh
City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai by Paul French
A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris
DarkMarket: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You by Misha Glenny
The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox by Nina Burleigh
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum by Jason Felch
Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough
The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Michael Capuzzo
Lost Paradise: From Mutiny on the Bounty to a Modern-Day Legacy of Sexual Mayhem, the Dark Secrets of Pitcairn Island Revealed by Kathy Marks
For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago by Simon Baatz
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett
McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld by Misha Glenny
A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean by Roland Phillips
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America by Howard Blum
In the Enemy's House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies by Howard Blum
Would a memoir by RBG, called My Own Words work for this one? She spent her entire life and career working for justice, working to changes the laws to be more equitable.
Some ideas for novels to read alongside this month's challenge
I think pretty much any good mystery novel would work!!
I plan to read Conan Doyle, Detective: True Crimes Investigated by the Creator of Sherlock Holmes this month. It will also work for Paul's British Isles challenge, and it gets a TBR off my shelves.
I've got Eve Was Shamed by Helena Kennedy on the blocks for this month.
>7 Chatterbox: - Hmm, not sure. Discrimination against certain classes or groups of people is a crime now, though it wasn't always. I believe that she helped to bring about some of that change. It's on its way to me now, from the library. I will read it anyhow, and then decide if it fits this month's challenge.
Just came across an interesting book available from NetGalley that I think would fit this month. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. I requested it and I'll plan to read it this month if my request is approved.
Due to nudges from people trying to read off their TBR piles, I think I'll start with iconic Montana writer Dorothy Johnson's Bedside Book of Bastards which has been on MT TBR since 2014. It has 36 brief profiles of infamous historical figures starting with Persian Parysatis through some of the western American outlaws.
I'm going to listen to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I've had it on my TBR list for years. I'm already listening to something else so I won't be starting this until I finish my current audio.
For folks who don't want bloody crime stuff I can recommend Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby I read it a few years ago and really enjoyed it.
"On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process."
I am reading MURDER IN AMSTERDAM: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance by Ian Buruma.
In fiction, ALL of the featured books on the latest newspaper fiction list involved murder and crime.
For crime fiction, I'll be finishing Elizabeth Cobbs' THE TUBMAN COMMAND.
I'm reading Mrs Robinson's Disgrace, about a Victorian divorce scandal, as I found it on my shelves and it seems a good opportunity to get it read!
I am currently listening to Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean and will count that as one of my books for this month. It is about the world of orchid collecting and how obsession with them caused one man to steal them from a protected wildlife area in the Florida Everglades. It is written by the same author as the Library Book that is currently on the best seller lists. This was her first book to hit it big and was written in 1999. So far it is very good.
Since it is spring break in March I will be making my road trip. Twenty hours of road time affords me the opportunity to listen to several books, so I am also going to be listening to the Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective this month. I am not really into this sort of true crime but a friend assured me that it would be the same kind of book as Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca was when I read that book last year for this challenge thread. The latter book was more of a biography about New York City's first policewoman with lots of true crime and a big case - or two - thrown in. I hope that Mr. Whicher is the same kind of book.
I also plan on reading a book (or maybe two). I will be reading a book I have had on my shelves for ages. Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury. If I can manage it I also plan on reading Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey, and The Elgin Affair: The True Story of the Greatest Theft in History by Theodore Vrettos. I didn't think I read much true crime, but when I started looking at what I had on my shelves and on my TBR lists, it turns out I have quite a large number of them.
I also have Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History and The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick somewhere on my shelves. Maybe I can get lots of books off the shelves this month with that week of spring break devoted to reading.
I have two books I'm hoping to get to.
Run Hide Repeat by Pauline Dakin is a memoir of the future CBC announcer/reporter. Her mother kept them running from the mob, but there may not have actually been a mob? I've heard her discuss her life on the radio, so I'd like to read the book about this.
Keeping with my Nova Scotia theme, Murder at McDonalds by Phonse Jessome is the true life story from Cape Breton where a robbery gone wrong in 1992 saw three workers killed and another seriously injured when some locals tried to rob McDonalds in Sydney River. I remember this was a huge story at the time; I would have just completed university around then.
>19 benitastrnad: You reminded me that I have Mrs Sherlock Holmes still waiting patiently on the shelves, Benita. Should get to that soon but I have already lined up some picks for this month, Murder by Milkshake and Who Killed Tom Thomson among them. I also just realized that one of the books I am currently reading A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium, a GN by Rick Geary, also fits the bill.
I just discovered that Black Klansman was a book! I can't believe that I didn't know that. I was taking a gander through the recorded book stacks in my public library picking out stuff to take with me on my road trip, when, low and behold, there was this title. It looked sort of like the movie title. I pulled it out and - my stars - it was the story of this guy in Colorado Springs, CO who joins the Klan. It is one of the books I intend to listen to sometime this month.
I don't know why this book didn't get more attention but it didn't. I haven't seen the movie, but it must have made a heck-of-a movie in order to get nominated for as many awards as it did. Now I want to see it. And, of course, read the book.
I'm going to read White Mischief by James Fox about the murder of Lord Enroll in 1941. I arrived at this book in a very circuitous manner after reading first, Nancy Mitford's the Pursuit Of Love where she introduces the character The Bolter. That lead me to Frances Osborne's fabulous bio of the actual Bolter, Idina Sackville who was married at one point to.....Lord Enroll. I love when one book leads to another😁
>1 Chatterbox: With your suggestion to think broadly and creatively, I intend to read Through Gates of Splendor about the murder of five Christian missionaries who were trying to convert an aboriginal tribe in Ecuador. There is a family connection plus I thought it would be an interesting read in light of the fairly recent killing of another missionary on an island off of India where he had been warned not to visit.
I didn't think that I liked True Crime as a genre and that finding something to read would be hard. Turns out I was wrong! I have tons (literally about 10 titles) on my shelves right now that would qualify for this category. Crime makes for good stories - and as Suz says - truth is stranger than fiction.
I pulled 4 books about crime connected with art off my shelves and last night I started on the first book in the stack. Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and I am already engrossed in the story. Looks like this one will be my first book for this month. I hope to get to several others this month.
There is a discussion going on another thread about a True Crime book titled The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko. This one is about the state coroner for Mississippi and how, since the 1970's he rigged and fixed autopsies and scientific reports, as well as gave testimony that dubious at best, in order to convict people he thought were guilty of all kinds of crimes. He has since been indited on fraud, but his victims are still languishing in prison.
I thought that The Boy Who Could Change the World by Aaron Swartz would fit here (see discussion at the end of last month's thread), but now that I've started it I don't think it really does. There are bits about his views on ownership of information and the internet that are relevant to the subsequent court proceedings, but his writings cover so much more than that that I think I'd be really stretching it to make this count.
I have got Island of Lost Maps on my wishlist - that's the kind of true crime I can cope with! However, as it's not on the shelves and I try not to buy books specifically for challenges I'll maybe have to see if I get it for the next time this category comes up :)
>29 Oberon: Excellent idea! Yes, I've been fascinated by those islands for a long time -- the last inaccessible place on earth, really. And isn't it nice to know that somewhere, we've somehow agreed to leave people who want to be left alone -- alone?? And if someone decides not to respect that, well, on their own head be it... It does help to be an island, I suspect.
I'll have to beg your collective indulgence on covers & lists. We are bracing for back to back storms this weekend and so I've been hit by an equally epic migraine. Going back to bed now.
Oh! I know I have Island of Lost Maps somewhere in this house! I just need to find it
I'm not sure how I have the nerve to come here since I have another 8 hours+ in February's offering. However, when I finish it (and I will), I have a copy of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, which I will want to read.
I am going to read a couple for this month's challenge, if I can fit them in: Victim: The Other Side of Murder by Gary Kinder, one of the first true crime books I ever read that put the emphasis on the victims of the crime (in this case the survivor was a 16-year-old boy who suffered trauma that plagued him for the rest of his life), rather than the criminals. The other book I want to try and get read this month is one in the BlackHole, The Massey Murder, which I have heard good things about.
I had a bit of time to read this weekend, so finished the Kate Summerscale book that had been sitting on my shelf for some time -
Mrs Robinson's Disgrace
This was one of those Victorian histories that had me shaking my head. Mrs Isabella Robinson's husband was a git (to use the technical term), but despite this was able to divorce Mrs Robinson on the grounds that she had written in her diary about her crush on her doctor. No one mentioned in court that he had two illegitimate children by his other partner. Shocking stuff. As context Summerscale explains the rise in diary keeping at the time, especially by women, as well as the new divorce law: the Robinsons were one of the first to have their case heard by the (then) new law that meant they no longer had to get individual acts of parliament to get their marriage dissolved.
For me, it's the little facts about the community Mrs Robinson socialised with that makes the book fascinating, from Darwin's nervousness that meant he went to the same spa, to a fellow writer who was found walking the streets of Edinburgh naked, to the (secret) writer of a sex manual that sold thousands of copies in the period, despite supposed Victorian prudery.
I've added a whole bunch of books to my own reading list for this challenge, although we'll see how many I get through!!
I have finished the excellent white collar crime/fraud book, Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou -- an example of the way the will to believe overcomes common sense in cases like the dot.com crisis, Enron, the Bernie Madoff debacle, etc. In this case, Carreyrou recounts the tortured tale of Theranos, a blood testing firm that may have been founded on a worthy idea, but fell victim to hubris and fraud. This was a 5 star book for me.
I also have listened to a shortish book from Audible (only available as an audiobook -- it's a freebie this month) by Bryan Burrough, another former WSJ colleague of mine. More of a classic true crime narrative, but with a slight twist: Burrough is looking back at how and why a student at his school in a small Texas town who assaulted and raped a girl, leaving her for dead, was freed after serving only 10 years or so of a 40 year sentence, leaving him free to go on and murder several other women. Alas, that aspect of the book takes a back seat to the conventional true crime elements, and what is also AWOL is any real sense of the author's personal connection to the tale. So, only 3.9 stars from me for that.
I'm moving on to an ARC (although I think the book is out or due out very shortly) about the trial of Lizzie Borden -- a famous murder case in Fall River, Mass., not far away from where I live.
Also on my list:
-- The White Devil's Daughters by Julia Flynn Siler, yet ANOTHER erstwhile WSJ colleague (from the London bureau, this time), about human trafficking and prostitution in San Francisco's Chinatown. Timely, in light of the arrests of Patriots owner Bob Kraft and others on charges of being johns and patronizing young women who had been trafficked from China for purposes of prostitution...
-- The Girl from Kathmandu -- the story of a young widow's search for the truth of the death of a dozen Nepali men working for a contractor in Iraq (if I recall correctly) and to obtain justice for survivors.
-- The Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King -- a much respected book about Thurgood Marshall and one of his early, iconic cases.
-- A Passing Fury: Searching for Justice at the End of World War II by A. T. Williams; kind of self explanatory
-- I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michell McNamara -- about the author's quest to identify the Golden State Killer; made a lot of buzz both for the caliber of the narrative and also because he finally was arrested shortly after her premature death.
-- Murder by the Book by Claire Harman -- another historical crime tome, set in literary London
-- The Last Stone by Mark Bowden -- a book about a cold case; an ARC that I just got.
-- Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep -- apparently Lee wanted to imitate Capote and write a true crime story, but it didn't quite pan out, and this is the story of that? An ARC.
We'll see how many get read!!
I was going to skip this month's challenge partly because true crime isn't a favourite genre of mine and partly because I am inundated with library holds arriving all at once plus I am still reading my February book. However, I found a book on my shelf today that I had forgotten about that fits perfectly and I have already started it. It was one of the books I bought myself for my birthday with a gift card my brother sent me: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much subtitled The True Story of a Thief, A Detective and a World of Literary Obsession, by Allison Hoover Bartlett. So, I may not finish it this month but it will get read and so far, so good!
I got distracted from the Helena Kennedy book, to read My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which fits into this Month's category quite nicely. I'll go back to the HK next week, as the RBG is my 'in transit read' and is going down quite quickly. As a non American, I am learning about a lot of people I have never heard of, always interesting.
>45 Caroline_McElwee: - Oh! Of course! *Justice*. Well, the RBG will count for me this month too, then, as I will be collecting my copy of that book from the library tomorrow. It's waiting for me!
OK - one down for this month.
I finished listening to Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean. (I had started listening to it last month) I have had this book on my shelves for years, and then last fall ran across the recorded version at a used books store, so made that purchase. I had been looking forward to listening to this one because it is one of the early examples of the narrative nonfiction form. The author delves into the world of Orchid shows and the history of the obsession with orchids. The book starts with an arrest in Florida of a man and some Native Americans for steeling orchids from a protected wildlife area and spools out from there, delving into the history of orchid hunting and progressing to the modern world of expensive orchid shows and collecting. I was surprised to learn that orchids have been collected extensively for 200 years. The Victorians were obsessed with orchids and went to great lengths to find these plants and get them to England where they built huge greenhouses specifically for the purpose of growing orchids. They were a form of one-up-manship among the upper classes. All of this fit in nicely with all the reading I have done in the last year about trees, forests, and mans interference with them.
I was a bit disappointed with the recorded version of this book. I don't think the narrator did that good of a job with the text. However, it was a good introduction to the world of orchid collecting and a whole world of obsession with plants.
>47 benitastrnad: When I was very young we lived next door to a chemist who raised orchids in two greenhouses in his backyard. I was fascinated by the special window shelving built into the master bedroom where the seed from breeding plants were raised on petri jell in chemical flasks. Also, going into those jungle steamy structures in the middle of the Mojave desert was surreal. He was also a very good sculptor and played the bagpipes.
>48 quondame: A sculptor, a bagpipe player and a chemist who raised orchids... Just confirmation that the raw material for a book about eccentric orchid obsessives clearly is ample!!
I finished reading an e-galley of The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson, which comes out next week (March 12.) It's a decent and detailed re-telling of the crime, the trial and a little bit about the aftermath; Robertson sticks very, very closely to the documentary evidence and contemporary anecdotes, which is fair enough, but resulted in my attention wandering a bit. By now, there have been so many books and even films on the subject, and lots of theories floating around, that I was curious about Robertson's own take on it. But we never get that. Which is a real pity, because I found myself with more questions than answers by the end, being already somewhat familiar with the core story of how Borden was alleged to have murdered first her stepmother and then her father one sultry August day in the 1890s in Fall River, Mass. Robertson does point out that views were divided along class lines, with many of her peers being (initially at least) being willing to give Lizzie the benefit of the doubt, since no one wanted to imagine a well-brought up woman (a spinster of 32 or so) and devout churchgoer being capable of such a deed. But I ended up wondering whether the verdict would have been very different today, when we don't hold very gendered views about women (including about what the gentler sex might do, or the impact of their menstrual cycle on their propensity for erratic or even violent behavior) and in which we have a vast array of forensic techniques. So it was an interesting chronicle if ultimately unsatisfying. I do know, more clearly, what I think, but I don't know whether, based on the evidence presented, I could have voted along those lines. 3.8 stars.
I finished my second book for this challenge. For somebody who doesn't like true crime I am doing very well. To start my months reading (as opposed to listening), I picked - Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by the husband and wife team of Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. I have had this book in my collection for a long time and just kept overlooking it. Once I started reading this book, I couldn't stop. I read this book in a week! It was so interesting. How people were so deceived and sucked in by John Drewe was interesting but because I am a librarian I was really interested in how Drewe was able to adjust archive records in order to give his forged art works an impeccable provenance. That he was able to deceive art critics and historians at the highest level was simply an amazing story. And to keep doing it for twelve years before he was caught. There are probably hundreds of paintings out there that are forged and the investigators for Scotland Yard know they didn't recover all of them. It should have really messed up the London art market, and instead it barely made a blip. That to is amazing. This was a great story on many levels, but for art lovers and librarians it is a warning to always be on your toes and let the buyer beware.
Some of the reviews for this book say that the writing is pedestrian, but I have to say I found it very exciting reading. In order to make the story make sense to the readers the authors stayed with telling the story strictly by timeline. If they hadn't done so, the many aliases and fake alibis that John Drewe designed and developed over the years would have made the story a rabbit warren of dead ends.
My next book to read is going to Island of Lost Maps. It is coming up on Spring Break and I will have four days of vacation to read. I intend to make use of the time.
With the exception of a couple of tedious interludes, MURDER IN AMSTERDAM is finely detailed and informative.
It is also terrifying, notably for those of us who fear that Ayaan Hirsi Ali may be more right than right-wing.
Okay to add old Non-fiction reviews here...?
Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
I read this an part of the non-fiction challenge for March, True Crime (and Justice). The basics of the story are relatively straight forward. Five men, seeking to convert an indigenous tribe in Ecuador to Christianity, were killed by the tribe. Where things are more complicated and interesting, to me at least, is whether the missionaries had any right to be there in the first place.
Through Gates of Splendor was written by one of the widows of the five men. It is a story told through the eyes of a person who dedicated most of her adult life to a fervent belief in Christianity. To her credit, Elliot lived that life, returning to perform missionary work among indigenous tribes even after the murder of her husband.
The program to convert the Ecuadorian Indians was called Operation Auca, the name is ironic because the people they were seeking to convert are known as Huaorani. The name Auca is a rough translation for the Huaorani in the language of a neighboring tribe. The word means "savages." To me, the issue of the name is emblematic of the larger problem with the world view of the evangelical Christians seeking to convert the Huaorani. They were interested in the Huaorani and their language only to the extent that they could use the language to convert them. The missionaries were seeking a new market for their faith and the Huaorani were the next town over.
In any case, the missionaries first attempted to establish contact with the Huaorani by dropping gifts from a missionary aircraft to the Indians. These gifts consisted of things like clothes and machetes. Eventually, the missionaries were convinced that they had established their peaceful intent sufficiently that they landed the aircraft on a sandbar near the tribe and established a small camp in the hopes that the curious Indians would come to them. They succeeded in attracting three tribal members to visit whom they presented parity gifts. However, the following day a larger group of Huaorani came to the small encampment, murdered the five men and stripped the aircraft. A rescue party was mounted after the men failed to radio the main base but all that could be done was to bury the men in a common grave.
The Huaorani subsequently made contact with the missionaries and ultimately ended much of their traditional way of life. When the missionary organization later evaluated what had been originated with Operation Auca they concluded that Huaorani had become economically dependent on the missionaries and culturally assimilated. Essentially, the Huaorani rapidly lost that which had made them a unique culture.
Evangelical Christians view the operation a success as the many of the Huaorani converted to Christianity and consider the five men martyrs for their faith. Elliot, in addition, to writing Through Gates of Splendor spent much of her life speaking about the missionary work done in Ecuador. I would also note that almost all of the other reviews I encountered of the book appeared to be written by people whose world view more closely aligns with Elliot's.
I was interested in reading this book for two reasons - one, something similar happened a few months ago in India. John Allen Chau was killed shortly after arriving on the island of North Sentinel, a remote island controlled by India.. Indian law had quarantined the island in order to protect the native tribe living there. Chau paid fishermen to drop him off in the middle of the night to evade the quarantine. He was apparently killed within hours of arrival. Interestingly, most of the reaction I read was pretty negative toward Chau - suggesting that missionary work is viewed with less sympathy now.
The other reason is that there is a slight family connection to the story. My grandmother wrote about the incident in a series of memories that she left. Here is the relevant part:
"The Auca tribe (quichua for savage) killing of the missionaries in the jungle happened when we lived in Quito in 1955. We were playing bridge with the Wesselmans when the Director of USIS came to the door. The five missionaries had flown into the area in a MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) Cessna plane, thinking they had gained the trust of the natives, but they were ambushed and killed with spears. Life magazine had called the Embassy/USIS wanting someone to go take photos of the scene. They had thought of Bob and Carv, because they were always equipped with a camera or two. Life would pay for a plane to fly over the site, and if it looked deserted, to land and take stills! Bob’s job was information extension, so he thought this would be great, and the two guys could just see their names on the fabulous photos in the national magazine. However, Anita Wesselman and I were adamant that our husbands and the fathers of our children would not also be killed. I’m sure that the Ambassador would never have let them go either, after the horrible details were known. Actually, only missionaries and military people went in to bury the guys. Life sent their own photographers.
Read “Through Gates of Splendor” by one of the widows, Elizabeth Elliot, for an inside view of the truly dedicated missionary. It helped me to understand a little bit their theory that they were all “expendable for the cause of Christ.”"
*Carv was my grandfather. He obviously did not end up taking the photos.
Through Gates of Splendor was an interesting book that I ultimately found troubling for some of its implications. Interesting read none the less.
>54 Oberon: Thanks so much for that detailed review & commentary on the book! I was interested when I saw you intended to read it (and the personal connection almost certainly makes it more intriguing) precisely because of the North Sentinel Island case recently. That guy apparently had trained and planned literally for years for this self-imposed mission.
I had heard about this book before, and have avoided reading it precisely because the author has a very set POV (or had, I should say, as I think she died a few years ago.) Because these people were brought to Christ, it justifies everything that follows -- the loss of their indigenous culture, the loss of their independence, their exposure to new diseases, their exposure to exploitation by outsiders, etc. We have so many examples, from the Miqmaq (eradicated) in the Maritime provinces onward, showing that however exciting it is for those of us who feel impelled for scientific, anthropological, religious reasons to force contact on "uncontacted tribes" (of which some still remain), the outcome often isn't good for them. Is being part of the "big wide world" and having TV and the Internet such a boon? Haven't we learned about the damage we do to the environment, including these isolated peoples? Clearly, I don't view this as a good tradeoff. I'd make a lousy missionary...
I think I'm going to read I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. Yes, it's about a serial killer, but it's really about how a woman tried to solve the crime and ended up dying (natural causes) just before he was finally identified. I also have on hand, from the library, A Serial Killer's Daughter, by Kerri Rawson. Written by someone trying to overcome this revelation of her father's actions.
In the middle of those, I'll read my friend Julia's book, which is an e-galley -- The White Devil's Daughters. It seems topical, in light of the arrests of men for patronizing Chinese women trafficked into prostitution in recent months...
I enjoyed your review and comments. I too, have a connection to this book. My aunt went to college (Wheaton College) with Elizabeth Elliot and her husband, as well several of the other missionaries. When this happened she was devastated. She was my Sunday School teacher and I was raised with the idea that these missionaries were martyrs for the cause of Christ. It was not until many years later that I began to question the whole idea. Very good review and a thoughtful commentary. I appreciated it.
Finished I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. In many ways it's an excellent book, and McNamara (who died in her 40s, leaving this work unfinished) was a very skilled and eloquent writer, who deftly walked the line between dwelling on the details of crime and understanding that what's important is trying to decipher the "whodunnit." As she herself says early on, by naming and identifying perpetrators, we deprive them of their power over us (or should be able to do so...) Which makes it more of a tragedy that she died two years before the Golden State Killer was arrested, although what was fascinating (when I went to look up the details afterwards) was how close some of her guesses had been The problem, of course, is that the book ends before the conclusion of the story, and was en route to publication before the arrest, making it tough to introduce big chunks of text at the last moment. I'd hope that a paperback edition would include a few additional chapters by the author's posthumous collaborators to link the main work to the accused suspect in the case. That said, it would be tough to get the caliber of writing that McNamara delivered, and her ability to blend her own quest and interest in the case with the events themselves in any subsequent writing. It's compelling true crime writing, but the attempt to complete the book is sincere but flawed in execution, alas. 4.2 stars; this rating could have been higher.
Never mind. Guns, Germs and Steel still waits. I finished Black Klansman at the gym tonight. Not a bad read. It is interesting how the impulse of a moment led to a life changing experience.
Jenn, I LOVED Guns, Germs and Steel; it gave me a totally new way of thinking. Hope you enjoy it! Meanwhile, I'm still dealing with graves and pots and migrations and wishing for more language in The Horse, the Wheel and Language. (Grrrr about Touchstones tonight.)
I'm thinking about the Eric Larsons that I have accumulated. Most of those would qualify for this challenge, and I have enjoyed the two that I've read. I'll have to think about this if I still have a brain after *HWL*.
I've been intrigued by Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster since it first popped up on my Amazon feed. I'm hoping the book lives up to the blurb.
'She was black and a woman and a prosecutor, a graduate of Smith College and the granddaughter of slaves, as dazzlingly unlikely a combination as one could imagine in New York of the 1930s--and without the strategy she devised, Lucky Luciano, the most powerful Mafia boss in history, would never have been convicted. When special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey selected twenty lawyers to help him clean up the city's underworld, she was the only member of his team who was not a white male."
There's a new book in the Jared Diamond trilogy coming out later this year -- following Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse. It's called Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis. I just got approved for a NetGalley copy, but since it's only Adobe ePub and not a Kindle version, it may be a while until I read it.
>62 charl08: I am just finishing that one; I received it as an LTER book several months ago. While she did devise to take down Lucky Luciano, it's actually such a small part of her story that I hadn't even considered it as a 'true crime' option. She's an interesting woman actively involved in Republican politics in the first half of the 20th century as well as being an activist, and a 'czarina' of Harlem society, but it's a bit slow, and one that I'll be glad to finish.
Finished Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
Ghettoside is a true crime story - gunshot victim of gangland violence and the story of the detectives who solved the case. But it's also a very good look at black-on-black violence, institutional racism, how isolation and lack of law enforcement by the government leads to people establishing their own justice. It's a sad story, and one that won't be ignored, even though those in power would like it to. Read this one, have your heart broken.
>65 drneutron: I'm kind of wary of the phrase "black on black violence" (don't remember whether Leovy herself uses it), as "white on white violence" tends not to ever be used, and because the former phrase is so often used by racist nutcases to dismiss racial violence -- the "what about black on black violence" trope... I understand why you used it, and I applaud Leovy's focus on and your emphasis on the way that violence within the black/African-American community is treated as a lesser evil within (some) law enforcement circles, but the book and this phrase make me realize how deeply instilled some concepts of "justice" within different communities are, underscoring the reasons for the distrust of police. It would be fascinating to see Leovy update her book in light of the events of the last few years (if I recall, it was published at more or less the same time as Ferguson??) or to tackle the broader issues of policing and the African-American communities in the same kind of dispassionate tone that she employed in this book.
As you note, she displayed a lot of empathy but the book also was characterized by an emphasis on facts. This book left me wondering about how the same policing is viewed by (a) the cops and (b) the community in various places and situations. Because the police are well intentioned (and in this instance dedicated to solving the case), but decades of racism even after the Civil Rights era has helped lock parts of the "policed community" into an economic environment in which opportunity is AWOL, and given them a justifiable distrust of law enforcement -- so instead of a virtuous circle, we have a toxic one. This book, and what has happened since, leading to the BLM movement, has left me wondering how to get both groups to see through the others' eyes. Which led me to conclude that perhaps the biggest weakness of Leovy's book is that it was about the attempts of (largely) white cops written by a white woman. It made me wonder how the same story told by someone who was part of the African-American community might read -- not necessarily better or worse, but just different.
Which then goes to the heart of non-fiction writing, which we don't often think about: we assume that novelists and creators of fictional narratives have a POV, but unless the writing is polemical in nature, don't often pause to consider how our own upbringing, backgrounds, personal experiences etc. shape our views of the non-fiction topics we tackle. It's something I thought about when writing my own book, and discussing it with some college students two weeks ago the issue came up again, when I was challenged by some of them about "preconceptions" I brought to the table. We don't like to think we have them, but... Look at the debates between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine in their pamphlet wars of 1790 or so -- I doubt either man sat down to think about the other's perspective or consider how their life experiences (Burke, the son of a successful solicitor who became an MP; Paine, the "blue collar" son of a stay-maker (women's corsets) who argued that the rich couldn't represent the poor because they didn't understand their concerns) affected their perspectives and shaped their logic.
The excellent, so good it should be required reading, memoir (? for lack of a better term, I guess...) Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is on sale for Kindle (US) for $1.99. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative which began as an effort to assist death row inmates and has since expanded into other racial justice projects, including the placing of memorials at lynching sites throughout the U.S. and the museum and memorial dedicated to lynching victims that recently opened in Alabama. The book discusses Stevenson's work as a lawyer and advocate for death row inmates and prisoners sentenced as children to life in prison. It's incredibly moving and very inspiring and one of the best books I've read in the last few years.
>61 LizzieD: I didn't love Guns, Germs and Steel, but it was worthwhile reading. Particularly in that it totally debunks racist theories about success or failure of societies (do people really still think like that? It boggles the mind). I do struggle with the exact thing he spends 20 pages defending in the last chapter. Science vs. science. I value anthropology, history, other social sciences, because they help us make sense of the human side of the world we live in. I am uncomfortable with the necessary speculation that occurs in determining the lives, motivations, social structures and so forth of prehistoric humanity. Too often we lose sight of the fact that we are, at best, making educated guesses about the past, and because humans tend to come with our own POV, which influences our thinking, our conclusions may be suspect. My review will appear on my thread sometime today. I finished it, and since it's been on the bedside table for a year and 74 days, that is worth celebrating. *tiny cheer*
I started listening to the audio of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I had bought the paperback ages ago but the print was so small I kept deferring reading it. I'm so glad I opted for the audio because I am loving it. The narrator (Jeff Woodman) is wonderful. I remember being surprised when I originally bought the paperback to find it was a nonfiction book. I had heard about it but just presumed it was fiction.
>66 Chatterbox: I agree with you on the use of that phrase - it’s one I don’t use for the reasons you talk about. I used it intentionally here because it’s the wording she uses - and was used by the media at the time (around Ferguson, yep). The thing that struck me with her focus on a small section of LA and a small group of people was just how insidious the systemic problems can be. There just seems to be no way to break the cycle of dismissal and distrust. And it doesn’t appear to be possible to solve it with a few well-meaning police or a neighborhood leader. Or maybe that’s just some pessimism of mine showing through. I don’t know.
I’m torn about the question of whether the story would have been better told by a person of color. It would certainly be a different book. For me, this book was effective - it brought out aspects of justice and community and the failings of a system that I don’t directly experience. But I get that Leovy is herself removed from the situation and can’t fully tell the story. For me, the best I can do is try to get multiple perspectives to get a fuller picture.
>70 drneutron: Thoughtful points. Yes, it would have been a different book. And often I like having the same/similar issues told through different prisms. It helps to be reminded that whether or not we're aware of it, we come to writing or reading a book with our own views/perspectives.
Re Just Mercy, which I loved (if it's possible to say that about a book that deals with so much INjustice and attempts to correct it), I'm now listening to the audiobook version of Devil in the Grove about Thurgood Marshall and a key civil rights case in Florida. As I listen, Marshall is trying to save the life of a surviving defendant in a rape trial... Just horrifying to try to grasp how these people, only 65 or 70 years ago, saw black Americans as less than human.
Touchstones not working...
Another fan of Just Mercy here: one of the books I would never have come across without LT. Eye opening.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. This is the perfect true crime book for me - all the intrigue without any blood or gore or violence. It's about a man who stole rare books but rarely (sorry, no pun intended) sold them because he just wanted to own them, which made it rather difficult for book sellers and the police to track him down. Of course, it's a lot deeper than that and author/journalist Bartlett managed to delve into not only his method, but also into the psychology of the criminal mind of a book thief. And of a true *collector*. John Gilkey, the thief, was unrepentant and even while spending time in jail, was already plotting his next move.
I also loved the historic references and insights Bartlett provided throughout to give texture and context to the story. And, let's be honest, the whole thing appealed to the book lover in me. I don't collect rare books (because of the obvious expense) but if you walked into my house, you would definitely know I collect books. Difference is, I don't steal them! ;-)
>64 streamsong: I've started this one and see what you mean about the book's focus.
Finished Black Klansman last night, and wow, couldn’t be more different from Ghettoside. Back in the 70’s the first black officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department, now an undercover detective, makes contact on a whim with the local Klan. With the help of a white officer who plays him in face to face meetings, Stallworth works his way into the local white supremicist crowd, developing intelligence on their activities and membership, even making inroads with David Duke, the national leader of the Klan.
The book’s not all that well written - Stallworth tells it like he would write case notes - but it’s still a pretty funny con pulled on what looks mostly to be a group of ineffective bumblers. Interestingly enough, he’s equally down on groups against the Klan, seeing in them some of the same potential for violence as the people they’re fighting.
Worth reading - just don’t expect too much.
Rick Geary has written a series of graphic novels about famous murder cases. I read his A Treasury of Victorian Murder: Compendium Vol. 1 for this month's challenge. It was longer than many of his works which usually just cover one famous murder case. This one had a few smaller cases has well as feature length ones about Jack the Ripper, the assassination of James Garfield and the case involving H.H. Holmes. It was a good overview of the cases and I particularly appreciated the illustration of the Castle, the strange building that Holmes built in Chicago.
>76 drneutron: Sounds as if the film might be a better bet??
I just finished Devil in the Grove, about one of Thurgood Marshall's seminal criminal cases, attempting to defend the (surviving) members of four young black men accused of raping a white woman -- a crime that could lead to the death penalty in the Jim Crow south. It was infuriating and angering to once again read about just how horrific that environment was, and how even lawyers defending accused black men could see their lives endangered before they could leave the county. Every time you think you grasp the full magnitude of the injustice.... And yet there were also more intriguing/less self-evident stories told here -- how one or two of the white citizens of Lake County ended up as firm supporters of the NAACP and civil rights by the time the final verdicts were in (a big about face...) and helped produce some kind of justice, however limited, for instance. I also found myself intrigued by the rape allegations. In the South at this time, it was easy to scapegoat black men for this crime, and so it was a quick route to a lynching for a crime that was never committed. And yet one issue that is never addressed is whether the alleged victim here might actually have been raped -- by her husband? by some white man? It's just assumed that her tale was false because she falsely accused black men as scapegoats. And given the difficulty we still have in taking a woman's word that something was rape vs consensual sex, I found myself wondering whether this is a bit of a legacy of some of those historical injustices. If women were too willing to blame black men in the past, today, they are still reluctant to come forward because they will NOT be believed. I'm not suggesting that there is a link to this narrative, just noting that this story (and what was and wasn't said in it) made me reflect on this question. It's not part of the author's goal, however: he sticks to the narrative of racial injustices in this context, and the specific case, the specific point in time and locale. And he does what he does brilliantly. Very much recommended.
I'm moving on to read The White Devil's Daughters, by a former colleague, Julia Flynn Siler. In this book, she's tackling the question of how a form of slavery was tolerated in San Francisco into the early 20th century, and those who fought to save young Chinese women from being trafficked and forced into prostitution. So far, so good!
>78 Chatterbox: Probably so - I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear good things about it.
>76 drneutron: I'm still not sure about this one! Does sound intriguing though.
I'm still reading Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster , having reached the part where she spots that prostitution might be the 'hook' to catch Luciano. Galling to read that she was stuck in a tiny office far from everyone else though, and primarily found the story because she was dealing with the public complaints noone else wanted to deal with (most of which were about police appearing to be in cahoots with brothel owners). Does anyone else get frustrated when a book has a glowing dedication to someone (usually the partner, but in this case, the daughter) who, without which, the book would not have been written? In this case, the author credits her with research as well as support for the project, with many roles listed. Given that, I'm not sure why she isn't a co-author.
I'm reading Stuart: A Life Backwards which I think fits into this challenge. It's the true story of the alcoholic and drug-addicted (but sometimes lucid and perceptive) Stuart, looking back over his adult life (where his out of control behaviour and criminality often resulted in prison) to his early childhood to try to pinpoint the causes of his self-destruction. A good read so far.
>83 SandDune: It does sound interesting (if potentially depressing...) and def. fits into the challenge. The intriguing idea -- to try to figure out when things went awry. I'm at the age now where I find myself stopping to think about that issue -- what the main decision points were in my life that led me to where I am now. (Thankfully NOT drug-addicted and alcoholic, but...)
I'm part way through two books that fit this challenge, but may not finish either by month end. The Ginsburg is interesting if a little dry legalise, as it is brief's and lectures. So take breaks from it.
>82 charl08: The way the potential co-author is treated sort of echoes the way that the subject was treated back those many years ago.
Closer to hand, I read a book about an event in Vancouver's history. The book was Murder by Milkshake, the latest from Eve Lazaraus who focuses on local history. The murder happened in the '60s and it was interesting to see the recreation of the city at that time. The murderer was a radio personality, who wanted to get his wife out of the way so he could marry his mistress. He might have gotten away with it but the authorities decided to exhume the body and test for arsenic.
I guess that true crime is one of my preferred genres as I just realized that one of my latest reads fits the category. Hmm, I wonder if I can read these kinds of books for next month's challenge for something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy?
The book in question was Killing the SS by Bill O'Reilly. It was one of his killing series. I haven't read any of the other ones but the hunt for Nazi War Criminals has always interested me. Perhaps this was because WWII was near history when I was growing up. The book itself wasn't that well written and kind of fell off a bit at the end but it was quite interesting in the earlier parts of the book and of the search.
>88 Familyhistorian: I find myself binge-listening to Jane Thynne's series of novels set in pre-war Berlin, after binge-listening to five of the sixth mysteries by David Downing set around the same era. Partly because I need to focus on audiobooks in the midst of a migraine, and for some reason, when I am battling headaches, "re-listening" is easier for me. But there are so many new novels AND non-fiction books right now about WW2 and particularly the civilian experience and resistance. Madame Fourcade's War by Lynne Olsen was good; a new non-fiction book about the SOE by Charles Glass was less compelling; then there is D-Day Girls about women in the SOE, still upcoming. It's definitely true crime, but I also find myself wondering why on earth I gravitate to this particular topic. I suspect it's because I grew up, in part, in Europe (London and Brussels) in the 60s and 70s and kept encountering people who had lived through the war and the Occupation. That, plus a trip to Anne Frank's house at the age of 7, and reading the latter's biography at the same age and then throwing a temper tantrum in the backseat of the car when my father approached the German border because I didn't want to go to the country that had killed Anne Frank. My father tried to tell me that it would be OK because the men who had done that "aren't around any more." Of course, they were... This was 1969, and Karl Silberbauer, the undercover Austrian SS guy who had organized the raid and arrested the Franks, was still working at the Vienna police department even after Simon Wiesenthal identified him publicly. Meanwhile, only 11 of the 500 or so people who worked at Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank died, were sentenced to death, and a few dozen others who had been sentenced to prison terms had all been released by 1955... So I suppose I have always wondered how I would have behaved in this situation, as a bystander. Would I have had the courage to act? It's one of those rare cases when good and evil are so clearly distinguishable; there are no "shades of grey"...
An early reminder that, ideally, we would like to get to 150 posts by the end of the month, to facilitate the linkage to the April thread! :-) No need to post for the sake of posting, but I would be interested generally in how people felt about reading on this theme. As those who mentioned their reservations about reading about violence noted, there can be some issues with the topic for many, but "crime" can be a wide-open topic, and I'm glad to see that others have found some options (like book theft or art theft) that are interesting to them. But since this was a new topic, any input is welcome!
>89 Chatterbox: That was a very close encounter you had with recent history. My exposure to WWII was more remote as I was in Canada but my parents were both involved in the conflict as my Mum was in the Land Army and my Dad was in the RAF. Only thing is that there aren't as many books of fiction set in India or Burma during that time period, at least not that I have found.
>90 Chatterbox: I think the issue for me was the title of the challenge - 'true crime' for me makes me think of the section of the bookshop devoted to serial killers etc, and I'm just not going to go there, so I had kind of mentally shut down on this month already. Even the white-collar crime/justice books I have on my TBR could only be tangentially related to the theme, I found. I don't know how the title could be widened out though - for example, I personally would consider something like an expose of tax avoidance schemes used by big corporations and multinationals to be very much a justice issue, even if they are exploiting legal loopholes so not technically committing a crime.
Although I have added The Man who Loved Books too much to my wishlist! So maybe there's hope for me for next year :)
True Crime response: this month's is the most depressing collection of covers ever.
If readers want to include this again, it might be good to combine with politics.
I have enjoyed my "True Crime" reads. I don't like really gruesome and dark murder mystery thrillers, but I found lots of books on my shelves that qualified for this topic that had nothing to do with murder - of any kind. My crimes mostly dealt with books, maps, and museum pieces. The book I have liked the least has been the most traditional kind of "True Crime" book Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Provenance was the most fun because it was so amazing. The audacity of John Drewe. Who would have thought?
Right now I am about half done with Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer. This one is about Al Quada and other extremist Islamic groups trying to destroy the Islamic manuscripts in the libraries of Timbuktu because they don't agree with what those Islamic scholars had to say. My other book Island of Lost Maps is also proving to be equally interesting. I am really surprised about how wide open this topic is.
I totally think that a book like Big Short by Michael Lewis or Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street Hollywood and the World or even Dopesick would be books that fit this category. All of them about about business crimes.
I'm enjoying the theme: really glad I picked up the book about Eunice Hunton >64 streamsong: I think it fits the category because there's a lot on the amount of hustle it took to stay employed as one of the first black women lawyers in NYC. Hoping to finish it tonight.
I did manage to read one book about a true crime, though it's not my favorite genre.
Looking forward though, trying to work out what I'll pick as a comfort read. Think it's a pretty broad category for me: most books are pretty comforting.
Ack! I just noticed that most of the covers are now broken, not showing. Bet it was Amazon.
I generally save my book's cover to my harddrive, then "change cover" and upload it. After it's been uploaded to LT I can then delete the cover from my computer. Voila! No broken images!
I'm still seeing the images, too. I don't really want to save them to my hard drive, then change cover, upload and then having to go back and delete each from my hard drive. That's a LOT of extra work for this cover display, and since I work on an MacBook Air, the hard drive space is more limited. My last MacBook Air froze and died, data completely zapped, when I exceeded the hard drive capacity, so... I think this is an intermittent problem with LT and Amazon, for reasons I don't completely understand. I hope it will revive for those of you struggling with the issue.
Invisible: the forgotten true story of the black woman lawyer
Torn on this one: fascinating true story of a life, but oh my goodness I wish it had been written by some of the amazing historians of women's biography I've read. I also got distracted by the author's decisions on terminology which seemed a bit idiosyncratic.
At the core of the book is a problem which is that Eunice's career pretty much stalled in the late 1940s. He appears to accept at face value her interpretation (the author is her grandson) that her brother's communist activism put paid to her career ambitions. However, having read various books about Robeson, it's intriguing to speculate how far it was the anti-communist witch hunt, or racism, or gender, or all three. I suspect there is more in the state archives.
She worked for Dewey on the case against the mafia, and for me this is the most fascinating bit of the book: how she managed to demonstrate that prostitution was part of the mafia "protection" racket.
Sadly, even during the case itself she was sidelined, and after that was repeatedly denied promotion. Dewey traded (or attempt to trade) on his commitment to equality, but Eunice's career rather demonstrates the opposite. She also seems to have struggled with class related anti-elitism in the last years of her career from within the black community too. In the conclusion he notes the loss to society of two ambitious siblings, Eunice because she was never able to have her full active legal career, and her brother, who was imprisoned for organising bail for communists (not America's finest hour for freedom of speech) and left the country to live in newly independent African states. Tempting to wonder what she would have achieved if she was practising today.
>101 Chatterbox: - I really don't think the covers are an issue (I can see some and not others - there is the Amazon issue, plus sometimes various operating systems, devices, and browsers affect what people can see or not see). One can easily see a cover by clicking on the touchstone - no reason for you to take on extra effort.
I don't think that I will finish my next true crime book, Who Killed Tom Thomson by the end of the month because I want to take my time with that one.
I can see all the covers but have to sign out and sign back in again when I am on my computer with the Windows operating system. I don't have to do the sign out/sign in with the computers on the Linux operating system. So odd.
Images are causing problems all through LT and many many other places (like our library lib guides). The reason is that people who own the images are getting more and more possessive of them and view them as a revenue source. LT is working on some solutions, but when I talked with Tim about it at the winter ALA conference, he was surprised that LT users were so passionate about the images not working properly. He said that they would bump this up in the queue of things to work on, but that is all that I know about it.
I can see the covers now, using my iPad...weird, indeed.
I hate having broken pictures, that's why I take a couple minutes to upload an image...plus I want a cover image that matches my book's edition.
Wow, kind of silly that covers themselves are a revenue source. Especially since in some cases, they are mass designed or the designs are echoing each other. For instance, there's a trend for covers to have winding titles on them right now -- as in The Essex Serpent or Diane Setterfield's most recent novel. And think of all those headless ladies on historical fiction tomes -- once I saw the same headless lady appear on two different books, set in wildly different eras. All that matters is that it grabs the eye. NetGalley even asks if the cover of a book is the reason you want to read it -- bizarre. (At least to me...)
I've started reading Murder By the Book by Claire Harman, the biographer of Charlotte Brontë, among others. It's about a historical murder in 1840, and its links to the literary world of the time. Apparently the novelists who wrote about crime were blamed for the deteriorating criminal environment when an elderly nobleman was murdered in Mayfair. Which is interesting -- I just read a piece about whether Netflix's recent emphasis on violent crime shows will have a real life ripple effect (making us more indifferent to violence, inured to violence, etc.) I'm two chapters into it thus far.
>108 Chatterbox: I really liked that one. The detail on the literary scene of the time was fascinating. My copy was a beautiful small hardback edition, which didn't hurt, either.
I want the book covers in my LT library to reflect the book I own/am reading, and so I upload a lot of cover images, especially of older books that do not have images on Amazon. I receive helper medals for doing these uploads, which tells me that cover uploading is considered a positive for LT.
>105 benitastrnad: >107 Chatterbox: I guess if a publisher spends $$ on a cover they might be jealous of anyone using it without their permission.
What amazes me is they don't "get it", that someone using the cover is FREE ADVERTISING, just as posting a music video or a snippet from a movie on the internet actually creates interest in the item. I know I've seen movie "previews" on Youtube and was intrigued enough to then get a copy to watch.
I think that publishers and book sellers see the covers of books more as T-shirts. Yes, it is free advertising for the company, but most people pay for the privilege of doing the advertising by buying the t-shirt in the first place.
At our meeting with the LT people in Seattle, Tim told us that in the last year LT has received three letters from law firms threatening to sue them (in one case for $650,000.00) for lost revenue because of the illegal posting of a picture on LT. All three pictures are of food and were on personal threads in LT. (Tim's question was why food? What are LT people doing posting pictures of food? I told him he needed to get around in the threads more.) It turned out that all three pictures were copyrighted by the photographers that took them, and those photographers were offering prints of the pictures for sale on their own web sites or in galleries. These were photographers who were making their living by selling the pictures that they took. This prompted a very good discussion about intellectual property.
In order to protect itself from this kind of lawsuit, LT changed the way it posts book covers. That change caused me to loose all the covers that I had linked into the book blog for my libraries web site.
You may not know it, but Tim Spaulding and company (otherwise known as LT) keep LT running by using the revenues from another company that he owns called Sendetick's. This is the company that provides links of book covers to on-line bookstores, libraries, and the companies that build library catalog software - companies like ProQuest, EBSCO, and Ex-Libris. This is why Tim is found in the Pro-Quest booth at ALA. None of these book images are free - even on Amazon. Just think of them as the equivalent of the Acadia National Park t-shirt, or that polo shirt with the polo player on the left front pocket. Yes, it is free advertising, but you paid for it.
The key there is the word "snippet." The book cover is a snippet, but the publishers have to pay designers to come up with the book covers. Most of the big publishers have their own design departments. I am sure that those people don't work for free.
A few years ago there was a spate of books about Africa. Soon thereafter, there was a blog post done somewhere that showed all the book covers with the same Acacia tree. Turns out that even though there were a large number of book covers with that same photograph on the cover the original photographer didn't get much for the picture. He had sold the rights to the picture to an advertising company years before. It reminded me of the problem that song writers and performers had with radio. Most people aren't aware of the fact that nowadays, every time a song is played on the radio that the station has to pay for the right to play it - unless they keep the sound track to 30 seconds or less. Then the author and performer don't get paid. That is what made Bob Seeger so angry that he sued Chevrolet for using his song "Like a Rock." He lost, because Chevy used only 30 seconds of his song.
Copyright laws are a b___h!
Yes, it's one thing if there's a significant amount invested in the IP and the revenue will help offset those costs. But I think we need (collectively) to be able to find a way to distinguish between re-using photos without permission and posting book jackets on a site like LT, where they will be an effective marketing device. Perhaps the solution is for LT to carve out agreements that are specific to book jackets with the major providers, recognizing that those cover reproductions (a) aren't being used for commercial purposes, so that we can market this stuff ourself but rather that (b) showing these book covers isn't that different from having them posted on any book sales site.
That said, of course, some of these issues may come down to the fact that LT is one of those rare sites that isn't owned by Amazon and doesn't have advertising from book vendors. So without a direct link of that kind facilitating sales, they may not have an incentive to permit this usage. Which would be unfortunate.
It's interesting that photographers get so little for stock photos. Yes, usage of stock photos also is inexpensive if you buy the rights (I've just done that for a website for a new business....) but cumulatively, I imagine it would add up.
The above are just my opinions, informed by the fact that I, too, generate "content" and "intellectual property" that I don't want anyone to infringe, while understanding that in common sense if not necessarily in law, I would see a book cover image as akin to quoting a few lines from that book in a review. I have NO idea of what the IP law is in this case.
I spelled Syndetics incorrectly. The product that Librarything has with ProQuest is Syndetics Unbound.
I've finished Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters.
Here's my review:
As Alexander Masters says at the beginning of this book, there are many different types of homeless people:
'There are those who where doing all right beforehand, but have suffered a temporary setback because their wife has run off with another man (or surprisingly often, another woman). Their business may have collapsed. Their daughter has been killed in a car crash or both....
Then there are the ones who suffer from chronic poverty brought on by illiteracy or social ineptness or what are politely called 'learning disabilities'. Perhaps they are dyslexic, autistic, shy to the point of inanity, never went to school ....
The youngsters who have fallen out with their parents, or have come out of care and don't know what to do next or even make their own breakfast, they're a third homeless category ....
Ex-convicts and ex-army - take away the format of their lives and all they can do is crumple downwards ....
Right at the bottom of this abnormal heap are the people such as Stuart, the 'chaotic' homeless. The chaotic ('Kai-yo-ic'), as Stuart calls them, are beyond repair.'
Alexander Masters first discovers Stuart begging in a doorway around the corner from Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. From these inauspicious beginnings, when Stuart announced 'As soon as I get the opportunity I'm going to top meself', Alexander and Stuart develop a somewhat unlikely friendship. Alexander is working for a homeless charity and when the directors of the charity are convicted and imprisoned for allowing drugs to be supplied on the charity's premises, both men are key members of the action group that is trying to get the conviction overturned. The development of Alexander's friendship, and frequent utter frustration, with Stuart forms the foreground of the book. Alongside this Alexander looks backwards over Stuart's adult life and childhood to try and discover what went wrong with his life. And a lot has gone wrong with Stuart's life, from glue-sniffing, to drug addiction and alcoholism, from minor crime to car theft, robbery, violence and possible charges of attempted murder. There are reasons why Stuart is known as 'Knife Man Dan' and 'that mad bastard on Level D' to the other homeless of Cambridge city centre. And yet Stuart is also seen as a success story by the social workers and homeless charities that deal with him, and is extraordinarily convincing in his work for the action group.
This is a fascinating, if not very cheerful book, that throws light on a lot of the issues faced by homeless people. Stuart never lived to see the book published, stepping in front of the 11.15 London to King's Lynn train. Recommended.
I finished My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (for the *justice* part of this month's challenge. I own the book but chose to borrow the audiobook from the library. It was read mostly by Linda Lavin, with actual recordings of many of the speeches and readings by Justice Ginsburg, herself.
This was not a bio but rather a chronicle of Ginsburg's career in re-balancing the justice system and laws in the United States, particularly as they pertain to equality of the law for gender-based decisions, mostly, but not exclusively in regards to women. Her decisions, for obvious reasons, had a lot of legalese, and to the lay person, this would make for a rather dry read. I think it really helped to listen to her read as the nuances in her otherwise soft voice were appreciated. And actress Linda Lavin reading the other narrative parts of the book were well done and added a change of pace. I am not sure I would have persevered had I been reading the text alone. Still, I am and have always been fascinated by Ginsburg and in spite of the somewhat dry (and mostly unfamiliar to me) American laws and the cases mentioned, I did find it interesting.
The book was published in 2016 so the tide had not yet turned in the States. Here are a couple of paragraphs from a speech in 1993 that felt particularly poignant, given what we know today, in 2019. I wonder why the current president is not being held to the same values of commitment as the Justices:
"Supreme Court Justices are guardians of the great charter that has served as our nation's fundamental instrument of government for over two hundred years. It is the oldest written constitution still in force in the world. But the Justices do not guard constitutional rights alone. Courts share that profound responsibility with Congress, the president, the states, and the people. Constant realization of a more perfect Union, the Constitution's aspiration, requires the widest, broadest, deepest participation on matters of government and government policy.
"One of the world's greatest jurists, Judge Learned Hand, said, as Senator Moseley-Braun reminded us, that the spirit of liberty that imbues our Constitution must lie first and foremost in the hearts of the men and women who compose this great nation. Judge Hand defined that spirit, in a way I fully embrace, as one which is not too sure that it is right, and so seeks to understand the minds of other men and women and to weigh the interests of others alongside its own without bias. The spirit Judge Learned Hand described strives for a community where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. I will keep that wisdom in the front of my mind as long as I a capable of judicial service."
Seems to me that a lot has changed (and not particularly for the positive) since then.
White Mischief by James Fox
This was a true crime exploration of the murder of Lord Erroll in 1941 in Kenya. I came to it as a result of my reading of The Bolter Idina Sackville, the Woman Who Scandalized 1920s Society and Became White Mischief's Famous Seductress by Frances Osborne. I was a bit disappointed that Idina actually played no role in this book and was barely mentioned. She and Lord Erroll had been divorced for fifteen years at the time of his murder.
At any rate, this investigation, by an investigative journalist, occurs many years after the only suspect in the murder was found not guilty and the case remains to this day, unsolved. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book because I did. Errol's murder marked the end of "Happy Valley" in Kenya which was the lifestyle description of that time when the Brit community in Kenya enjoyed sex, cocktails, drugs and free wheeling.
Erroll was a well-known womanizer and could have been murdered by any number of disgruntled husbands/ lovers but the one man tried for the murder was the most obvious choice. The journalist investigation didn't do much to change that opinion and as a matter of fact, solidified it.
My Kindle copy of the book made the read very frustrating at times because it was loaded with typos, most often the flagrant misuse of periods instead of commas. Gah!!
Recommended for those with an interest in Happy Valley but avoid the eBook and get a hard copy if you really want to read it.
If you are interested in Happy Valley and this time period in East Africa I also recommend Straight on Till Morning: The Biography of Beryl Markham by Mary S. Lovell and West With the Night by Beryl Markham. The first is a biography, the second is an autobiography. Markham ran with the Happy Valley set and both of these books have much in them about the life style of this group.
That kind of a book trail is so much fun. And then there are those unexpected connections found in those criss-crossing trails.
I never realized how much I enjoyed True Crime as a topic. It certainly hasn't been something I've read a lot of over the years. But in the last few months I read and loved Bad Blood by John Carryroo which is now also all over the place in podcasts and shows and Elizabeth Holmes' weird voice.
I also devoured a local crime book Murder at McDonalds by Phonse Jessome. It turned out my sister lived in Sydney during time of those murders and she found a podcast about it was well.
Last year I read I'll Be Gone in the Dark just before the Golden State Killer was discovered and now there is a documentary show about finding the killer on Headline News (?)
I think what made them so good was all three sent me off looking for even more information about the subject. Everyone else must thing the same way because, for these three books, there was so much else to find. Fascinating!
I've just started listening to The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump by Andrew McCabe and it fits perfectly with this challenge and with all the CNN I've been watching.
Thanks for this topic this month.
I'm really loving Claire Harman's new book about an 1840 crime, and its ties to potboiler-ish books and melodramas. She does an excellent job of meshing what was happening in the world of literature (the "Newgate heroes" who populated more and more books, including Oliver Twist by Dickens) and linking that to actual crime and investigation. Murder by the Book just came out this week, but I'm reading an e-galley.
>123 Chatterbox: I think it must have come out earlier in the UK as my library had the hardback.
>119 benitastrnad: I suspect most will have come across these already if interested in Kenyan history, but in case not, there are some really interesting histories on the movement to throw off colonial rule, Mau Mau and British denial. Caroline Elkins and David Anderson have both written impressive books holding the British colonial state to account (including helping getting some of the survivors compensation).
>95 benitastrnad: And I still have this one unread on my shelf, along with the much more quietly named book by a British journalist on the same subject!
>124 charl08: I suspect it probably did appear earlier in the UK, at least slightly. It was published this week in the US.
I greatly enjoyed Murder by the Book by Claire Harman, more for the discussion about how the true crime case at the heart of the book reflected and altered literary history than for the somewhat obvious and not terribly well-handled discussion of the crime and subsequent investigation, trial, etc. (An author who was more of a true crime writer could have rendered the latter more suspenseful and intriguing, but she lets slip who is convicted very early on, along with the latter's fate.) Clearly, Harman was drawn to this by the rise and fall of Newgate yarns, based on Dick Turpin and (in this case) Jack Sheppard, 18th century villains made heroes by writers trying to appeal to a new generation of the more literate via mass publications, who had an interest in lower-class rebellious "heroes" and in violence and excitement. What Harman herself doesn't explicitly note is the fact that hangings, such as that of the individual convicted for the murder in this book of Lord William Russell, might also have been representative of the same kind of yearning for excitement (vicariously) on the part of the public. She does, however, do a great job of depicting the reactions of both Dickens and Thackeray to the crowd of 40,000 people who assembled at Newgate to witness the execution (and emphasizes that rather than the execution itself, thankfully.) I also appreciated the fact that at the end, she assesses the evidence that condemned this individual (something that Cara Robertson notably did NOT do in her book about Lizzie Borden's trial) in light of what could have been known then and in light of some current investigative techniques. What is interesting is that this, in 1840, appears to have been the first time that someone (a random individual with a scientific and investigative bent) advocated the use of fingerprints, in one of thousands of letters written to investigators during the crime. The idea was passed along to Scotland Yard, and ignored for decades... 4.4 stars.
Coming up soon -- "comfort reads" or reading non-fiction books that make you feel warm, fuzzy, and happy.
What does it say about me that this is a tougher challenge for ME to find books about in my TBR stack?? LOL
>129 Chatterbox: I’m having a hard time figuring a comfort read too. Maybe something about family history or archaeology. Digging up dead people in either case. Doesn’t sound very comforting does it?
>131 Familyhistorian: >132 quondame: I've decided to go for nature writing for my comfort read - they always lift my spirits! But to be honest, anything that I'm nerdily enthusiastic about would do, it doesn't matter (I don't think) if the subject isn't 'comfortable'. So I'd say go for it on the digging up dead people :)
I read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou for this month's challenge - very well written and also horrifying that the company could get away with it for so long. I also finished up The Devil in the Grove, which I had started in January but had to put down for a bit because it was a tough read.
I have started Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley for my comfort read. I am also thinking about revisiting either Finding George Orwell in Burma or Travels With Herodotus, both of which I loved.
I am going to try to get to Imagined London: A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City by Anna Quindlen which I've had on my shelf since 2015. Books about books and books about travel are often comfort reads for me, and I love London and will be visiting it again for the 4th or 5th time in June.
I'm planning a reread for my comfort read. I read All Creatures Great and Small a gazillion years ago. In the past year two different friends have reread it and enjoyed it so I'm going to reread that one.
>134 Crazymamie: Travel reads are a great idea and >135 katiekrug: so are books about books!
And re-reads also are a good idea. I've been doing a lot of that this year, though mostly from amongst my fiction list.
I suppose one could argue that what "comforts" each of us most may be something that disconcerts others??
>136 SuziQoregon: that is definitely a comfort reread for me! I can't tell you how many times I have revisited "Darrowby" and the surrounding Yorkshire farms since I first discovered it in 1974.
Oh, just an FYI: almost all the covers are broken...I'm using my work computer...
I found a bunch of "comfort" reads on my TBR pile that are non-fiction too!
I have them listed in my April selections, here:
My comfort reads are pretty eclectic - in spring (like now!) I try to read some of my baseball books, or something related to gardening or nature. I also love biographies and memoirs, so I may dip into one or two of those. I also love quirky books about language.
I'll try to get the next thread up by the end of the day tomorrow. I think I may be done with true crime for the month, though!
I am also surprised by how much I enjoyed this “True Crime” category. I didn’t think I had books on this subject and I was wrong. It turned out that I had a bunch. So many that I had to pick out books to read for the category. This was an unexpected “good” category for me.
I think I will continue to read a couple of the left-over titles for next month.
I've got two books about Northern Ireland on order from the library though, so that would fit.
Say nothing: a true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland
Keefe, Patrick Radden, 1976- author
"A taut tale of murder, extreme politics, institutionalised violence and the deep scars left by such turmoil - this shocking true story encapsulates 'the Troubles' in Ireland of the 1970s and the human consequences"
I've also got this one on reserve: I do seem to like books about living in states that no longer exist.
Last days in old Europe: Trieste '79, Vienna '85, Prague '89
Bassett, Richard (Historian), author
"Part memoir, part reflection, this book will bring to life central Europe during the last ten years of the Cold War. Throughout, we encounter a diverse array of glittering characters: penniless aristocrats, charming gangsters, even Amazonian blondes in the service of eastern European spy agencies; fractious diplomatists and disinherited royalty supply a colourful supporting cast"
I've also put a reservation in for The Library Book, but with one copy and thirteen people ahead of me in the queue, I won't get to it this month.
>149 charl08: I really enjoyed The Library Book Charlotte.
>8 cbl_tn: I'm also deep into Conan Doyle, Detective: True Crimes Investigated by the Creator of Sherlock Holmes and yes, it does do nicely for a number of challenges. Pretty well written.
>153 quondame: I was actually disappointed with Conan Doyle, Detective. It wasn't what I was expecting. I read it just after listening to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, so maybe that had something to do with it. Doyle didn't live up to his own creation!
>154 cbl_tn: Oh, I never expected he would. But he did advocate for people he felt wrongly convicted, did some real detection, and maintained some interesting connections, which is rather more than I expected from his spiritual leanings.
Ha! While looking for something else (naturally), I found my copy of The Island of Lost Maps which I knew I owned but couldn't find earlier. I will try to squeeze it in at some point. It is now resting in full view, as a reminder.
I am steadyly working on Island of Lost Maps and figured that I would use it for next/this months "comfort" read.
I've still got two to finish off for March's challenge, which I'll do over the next few weeks.
I finished reading Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer. This was for my local Barnes & Noble book store book discussion group. It is not one I would have picked simply because I don't like the title. I think that kind of title is designed to attract attention for shock value. Don't get me wrong, I like shock value as long as it is clever and not vulgar. After reading the book, I still think that word is "common" and the author could have used another title that would have been clever and descriptive of what was in the book. This title is neither of those things.
In fact there are no bad-ass librarians in Timbuktu and I found myself ambivalent about the "hero" librarian. The librarian who is featured broke every rule in the book about libraries and library collecting. He also misused funds given to him. All of this resulted in his having to smuggle books out of Timbuktu when they should have already been scanned and preserved digitally. Don't get me wrong - what El Quaeda does in destroying cultural treasures is wrong too. Very wrong. It just seems to me that there are no Heroes here.
What this book does best is explain why the Sub-Saharan countries of Africa are having such a hard time with fundamentalist terror groups. It takes the time to trace the development and spread of these groups and ties them into the current and immediate past history of countries like Algeria and Libya. It is hard to believe that a good thing like the Arab Spring could turn out to be such a blow to the Sub-Saharan countries and resulted in the spread of fundamentalist terrorism, but that is what happened.
This is a very eye-opening book. If it just didn't have such a cutsy title I would have liked it much better.
This topic was continued by The 2019 Nonfiction Challenge Part IV: Comfort Reading for April.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.