Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

Memoirs of a Great Detective

John Wilson Murray, Memoirs of a Great Detective. 1904. Collins/Totem, 1979.

A friend loaned me this paperback because she is a fan of Murdoch's Mysteries and she knows that I like to read police procedure crime novels.

John Wilson Murray, 1840 - 1906, made a reputation for himself during the American Civil War. After working for police services in the States, he was enticed to accept a position as detective for the Department of Justice for the Ontario government where his jurisdiction covered the length and breadth of that province. The 30+ cases documented in this excerpted memoir cover the gamut of the origins of crime in patriotism, poverty, jealousy, greed, gang loyalty, lust, rejection, sadism, and mental illness.

As a detective in Canada at the turn of the twentieth century, inter-provincial and international borders seemed to matter less to Murray. Warrants too seem often to be afterthoughts. Armed with intelligence and empathy, the tools he used include a built-in shit detector, patience for surveillance and pursuit, and common sense. Not to mention close attention to details - footprint and wheel marks, blood spatter, weaponry. The crimes he detected include fraud, skimming, intimidation and extortion, forgery and counterfeiting, and killings, deranged or otherwise, manslaughter or premeditated murder. Murray is also careful to acknowledge the work of other sections of the criminal justice system - the lawyers, crown counsel, judges, and juries to whom he passes his arrested felons. He does comment also upon the quality of witnesses, and how their credibility is influenced by gender and class. Only once does he question a jury's decision as "a miscarriage of justice and a disgrace to the country."

In their own way, these stories are strangely reassuring, suggesting as they do that today's news, with the emphasis on terrorism, gangs, missing and murdered women and children, is really not that different from four or five generations ago. Indeed Murray concludes: "Where men and women are there will be found good and bad. But the bad are a hopeless minority." 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dali by Dali

Dali by Dali. Abrams, 1970. Eleanor R. Morse, Translator.

The Word Museum

Jeffrey Kacirk. The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten. Touchstone, 2000. 

A great title. Also a great little peephole into history. I made a list of several which struck me. Will mull over a favourite. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Still Loving It

Still Loving It

After twenty years in my dream house in Hope, I've settled in to my condo in Chilliwack. Six months and I'm still loving it. 

Manitoba Artist Ioyan Mani
Noel Wuttunee's Chi-Pay

One of the Feature Walls
Every Picture Tells a Story

Living Room

The View from my Desk

The CanLit Corner

Room for Thrift Store Finds
(the writing says Courage)

Lots of Places to Walk to (Salish Park by the FVRL)

The Drum I Made at the Harrison Festival
(Drum Circle at the Cultural Centre)

Seniors Bus Tours

Cascade Falls

Westminster Abbey in Mission

Mary & the Angels

Still Able to Show my former Homestay Student
More Canadian Culture

Spider Bones

July 17, 2016

Kathy Reichs' Spider Bones. Simon & Schuster, 2010.

I love Kathy Reichs for the fast read, the way she sucks me relentlessly in to the next chapter, and the scientific details that I can pick up without actually having to study science. Temperance Brennan is of course a forensic anthropologist called in to analyze bodies of victims of crime, accidents, suicide, or war. This novel, # 12 or 13 in the Bones series, is about attempting to clarify the identity of a body found in Quebec whose fingerprints say he is a man killed in Vietnam more than forty years before. The quest takes Tempe back to her native North Carolina and then to Hawaii where the US government agency JPAC, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, continues to find, identify, and return home the bodies of thousands of American servicemen. 78,000 from World War II, 8,100 from the Korean War, 120 from the Cold War, and 1,800 from the Vietnamese War. The numbers seem incredible.

Spider Bones is not my favourite Reichs offering. A bit overwrought, with gratuitous references to deviant sexual practices and complications about gangs and drug trafficking in Hawaii. I did find it most interesting to learn details about methods of identification. Who knew that there are some pitfalls with DNA matching, especially when twins or parents who are "chimeras" (which she explains but I will not attempt to summarize)? Something about cross contamination between mother and placenta. The inclusion of this information does emphasize the importance of peer reviewed journals and of professionals keeping up with developments in their field of expertise.

We are still haunted by the war in Vietnam and what it did to America and Americans. Reading Spider Bones, I kept thinking about the Canadian novel The Time In Between by David Bergen which tells the story of a veteran who relocated to the Fraser Valley. As Miriam Toews describes it: "a deeply moving meditation on love and loss, truth and its elusiveness, and a compelling portrait of a haunted man, Charles Boatman, and his daughter who seeks to solve the mystery of his disappearance." 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Trout Fishing In America

Richard Brautigan. Trout Fishing In America. Delta, 1967.

I loved reading this book. A blast from the past to be sure. What was I doing in 1967? Was that the Year of Love? Finished first year university. Went to Expo '67 in Montreal. Canada was 100 years old.

I love the sense of place in these sketches. Each different trout stream or crash pad, sort of linked, a web spun by one spider who returns to its centre, the Ben Franklin statue in Washington Square in San Francisco. I love the idea that it's a code that I haven't quite figured out yet. I love the anonymous notes from other writers, trying to guess the senders just from the style. And I love the surprising insights.

"The Red shadow of the Gandhian nonviolence Trojan horse has fallen across America, and San Francisco is its stable." [p. 99]

And the selling of streams by the linear foot. Waterfalls sold separately. [pp. 102-107]

"You hardly see those cars any more. They are the old cars. They have to get off the highway because they can't keep up." [p. 57]

I love the fact that he, the narrator, was in Ketchum just after Hemingway died, but heard about it later, through Life. [p. 89] Knowing how this writer too ends up.

As if Brautigan went fishing and snagged a hook on his dreams. Or are they nightmares?

Would anyone publish this book today? That's so sad. 



Found a stock photo which appeals to me, the way the dying sun over the water, the marsh grasses evoke the two settings of my work-in-progress - southern British Columbia and Ireland. 

Title de jour: Embers. 

Blurb: When things happen around her, Wyn McBride, a mature woman at a crossroads, is forced to move, to come to terms with the past, and to take a serious look at the present she has chosen for herself. A serendipitous trip to Ireland offers the unexpected opportunity for "deep travel" where she encounters, face to face, parts of herself she never knew existed.

Epigraph: It could be a meeting on the street, or a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing. - John O'Donohue

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Desert Places

July 11, 2016

Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss. The Desert Places. Illustrated by Matt Kish. Curbside Splendor, 2013.

The Desert Places is a slim volume of art with a stylish re-telling of origin myth, of lurking evil, its evolution, and the underlying destructiveness of "progress".

I can only take refuge in the title, alluding for me to Robert Frost's "Desert Places," which, of course, begins: "You cannot scare me . . . "

The Most Important Thing

July 10, 2016

The Most Important Thing I've Learned in Life: 370 Lessons To Live By 
Edited and Compiled by Beau Bauman. Simon and Schuster. 1994.

This little collection of advice and inspirational quotations was loaned to me by my cousin Wilma who "borrowed" it from the library in her condo. Now, she has "swapped" for it. I love this clandestine club of avid readers to which so many of us belong. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Gathering

Anne Enright's The Gathering

The Gathering is the first Anne Enright novel I have read. Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, it is a beautifully told story of one sister, Veronica Hegarty's, grief and of her large family in Dublin gathering for the wake of her closest brother Liam who drowned walking into the sea in England. Grief. Suicide. Family dynamics. Abuse.

My only hesitation with this story is the seeming link at least in the narrator's mind between sexual abuse of children and homosexuality. This theme is more common in literature than I believe the science warrants. (Starting with Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall On Your Knees from as far back as 1996.) The reason it disturbs me is that it seems to assume that both homosexuality and its causes are pathological. For me, this is a problem, the ghost of outmoded ideas. As I suspect it would be to most in the LGBTQ community. 


Peter Robinson. WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER . M&S, 2016.  Banks has been promoted. His first two cases involve sexual abuse--one histori...