Saturday, May 19, 2018

SINS OF THE FATHER by Eileen Franklin & William Wright

This is one of my last remaining True Crime books. I most of them out to make room on the shelves along with other books that were of little value. However, I've always loved the True Crime Genre, but this book is a perfect example of why they are no longer relevant.

At the end of this book, the murderer/ rapist gets a guilty verdict and life for his crimes. Yet, when I check the Interment I learn that George Franklin appealed the verdict, and was released after 6 1/2 years. It is far better to follow a particular case on-line because you are always made aware of the latest developments.

This particular book deals with the rape and murder of an eight year old girl, Susan Nason.
The crime happened in 1969 in Foster City, CA, just down the peninsula from San Francisco.

What sets this case apart is that one of Susan's friends, Eileen Franklin, was present at the murder and Eileen's father was the perpetrator. And, if that wasn't enough, Eileen didn't remember the incident until 20 years later when she had her own daughter and unconsciously noticed how closely she resembled Susan Nason.

The Franklin family was composed of three girls and a boy. All of the children were subjected to physical abuse and the girls were raped and sexually intimidated and raped by their father, George. Eileen was her father's favorite, possibly because she was a witness to the murder. And although George Jr. was regularly beaten by his father, he felt that George Sr. was not only innocent, but that he was being railroaded by the prosecution.

One of the biggest take-away from the book is how insidious child abuse can be. Normal appearing families can be a festering nest of illegality and the manifestations of the abuse can take many different guises. 

A large part of the book is legal posturings about whether 'remembered' testimony is relevant. Apparently, California law prohibited memories obtained by hypnosis. Eileen had told several people that she had been hypnotized, but later admitted that she had not. It was only an excuse she used to make the memories more believable. However, the memory of the crime was just repressed, and according to Eileen, it really activated quite randomly.

This crime occurred after the McMartin Preschool Case and I wonder how much of of the legal positions were derived from that case.

When George Franklin was arrested twenty years after the crime, he was in possession of all kinds of child pornography and violent sexual materials.

Eileen Franklin- Lipsker co-authored the book and moved with her husband, Barry Lipsker, and two children to Switzerland. She and her family were in the process of relocation before the case came to trial. Barry, her husband was deeply involved in trying to make money off of the case through book deals and appearances. Eileen just wanted justice done and donated a large portion of the book deal profits to charity.

However, when you finish the book you believe Eileen's memory and subsequent testimony, and then you learn, after checking the Internet, that the court later ruled that this was not correct and this evil villain is free.

Stick to stories of True Crime on the Internet.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

THE LAST BALLAD by Wiley Cash

Finished We 5/16/18- the May, 2018 selection for The Contemporary Book Club.

Ella's song- 'The Mill Mother's Lament' sung by Pete Seeger on YouTube

Born: September 7, 1977 (age 40 years), North Carolina

Wiley Cash is the New York Times best selling author of the novels The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind Than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy.

He currently serves as the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA. He lives with his wife and two young daughters in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Her life according to wikipedia-

"Ella May Wiggins (September 17, 1900 – September 14, 1929) was a union organizer and balladeer who was killed during the Loray Mill Strike in Gastonia, N.C.

According to Like a Family, a 1987 account of "the making of a Southern cotton mill world," the Gastonia protest collapsed in the aftermath of Wiggins's death. Her union, the National Textile Workers Union, ultimately was "too weak to challenge the economic and political power of the cotton manufacturers and to organize the labor force."

A native of Sevierville, Tennessee, Wiggins by 1926 settled in Gaston County, N.C., living in an African-American neighborhood outside Bessemer City known as Stumptown. Her neighbors would look after her children as she worked as a spinner at American Mill No. 2. According to an article published online by the North Carolina Museum of History, "she worked twelve-hour days, six days a week, earning about nine dollars a week."

She became a bookkeeper for the union, which was Communist run, and traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify about labor practices in the South. She also told her story: “I’m the mother of nine. Four died with the whooping cough, all at once. I was working nights, I asked the super to put me on days, so’s I could tend ‘em when they had their bad spells. But he wouldn’t. I don’t know why. ... So I had to quit, and then there wasn’t no money for medicine, and they just died.”

She also sang her ballads, including her best-known song, “A Mill Mother’s Lament,” which has been recorded by Pete Seeger, among others.

Wiggins believed in organizing African-Americans along with whites, and in a close vote, her local NTWU branch voted to admit African-Americans to the union.

On September 14, 1929, she and other union members drove to a union meeting in Gastonia. They were met by an armed mob, and turned back. They had driven about five miles toward home when they were stopped by a car; armed men jumped out and began shooting. Wiggins was shot in the chest and killed. Her five children were sent to live in orphanages.

Five Loray Mill employees were charged in Wiggins’s murder but were acquitted after less than 30 minutes of deliberation in a trial in Charlotte in March 1930 despite the fact that the crime was committed in daylight and more than 50 people witnessed it.

Her life—and death—became the grist for many works of fiction inspired by true events, including Strike!, a 1930 work by Mary Heaton Vorse, where Wiggins is given the name Mamie Lewis.

She was buried in the Bessemer City Cemetery on North 12th St. Hers is one of the biggest markers there, after being expanded by the A.F.L-C.I.O. in 1979 to include a marker inscribed, "She died carrying the torch of social justice." Her maiden name is misspelled on the marker at her gravesite.

Three of her children were later buried near her."

Some confusion I had with the novel-

-The monk in the end who was a friend of Charlie's in the beginning
-The reason for the chair as an amulet
-Why Claire was on the train DC/ Carolina
-Check the point of views of the various chapters before the meeting

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

THE STONE DIARIES by Carol Shields

Finished Mo 5/14/18; after my court appearance for the expired license registration

This is one of my favorite novels of all time, and in this edition there is no note as to the last time I'd read it. It's probably been fifteen or twenty years, but I've never forgot it.

The reviews of the novel seem to regard Daisy's life as a kind of failure. I don't see it that way. I think it's an attempt to celebrate the normal and the mundane. Only a very small percentage of people who have lived are in any way notable.

 Her first husband was an alcoholic and on their honeymoon to Italy he falls out the window and dies after Daisy sneezes.

She meets a stonemason, Cuyler Goodwill they marry. He loves her absolutely- drowning in her over-weight body.

Mercy dies in childbirth while delivering Daisy. I'm not even sure that Mercy was aware that she was pregnant. It's possible that she didn't have a clear idea of how reproduction worked.

A neighbor, Mrs. Clarentine Flett leaves her husband. It was an unhappy marriage and the final straw is when the husband refuses to give her a couple of dollars to pay a dentist for an abscessed tooth.

Cuyler knows that he couldn't raise his daughter, and he later moves to Indiana and becomes a wealthy man. He doesn't reemerge into her life until much later.

Much later, when Clarentine dies her son, Barker Flett becomes Daisy's new husband. They have three children; Alice, Warren, and Joan.

Much of their lives are lived in the upscale Vinegar Hill neighborhood of  Bloomington, Indiana.



In the end of her life, Daisy relocates to Florida. This part of the novel reminded me of the Rabbit series.

The last lines of the book are my favorite:

"Someone should have thought of daisies."
"Yes."
"Ah, well."

A link to an excellent review of the book:

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/09/07/reviews/shields-stonediaries.html

"The Stone Diaries, Shields' best-known novel, won the 1993 Governor General's Award for English language fiction in Canada and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the United States.

It is currently the only novel to have won both awards. Being an American-born naturalized Canadian, Shields was eligible for both awards. It also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize."



Saturday, May 12, 2018

THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin

Finished Fr 5/12/18

I got this book because YOUNG SARAH YOUNG was the April selection for the Contemporary Book Club. I loved that book, but I think I love this one even more.

A little on the 'YA' side of things (the author has written several Young Adult books), but overall, it's a sweet and touching novel.

It has a 'MAN CALLED OVE' kind of vibe.

PREMISE-

A man in his early 40's runs a small book store on the island of Alice Island- although fictional, it's like Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. He was a PHD candidate and his area was 'the use of sickness in the works of A.E. Poe', and his wife was a poet. She has died in a car accident a year and a half before the action begins.

He has a copy of Poe's first book, TAMERLANE, and Fikry is going to use this as his retirement- it's worth $400,000 at auction.

The book is stolen one night while Fikry was drunk, and within a couple of days he takes custody of a two year old girl, Maya.

"When you begin to care about one thing, you suddenly care about everything"


The novel then becomes a kind of love story between Fikry and Amelia Loman.

The attraction of two opposites; he's rigid and set in his ways, and she's more of a free spirit. But, they both share an absolute love affair with books.

She is a book distributor for Knightly Books. They bond over a memoir about a man who finds love in his late seventies.

One of the twists of the book is that later, this author is invited to a book reading at the book store. He is merely an actor hired by the real author who is actually a woman. He looks nothing like his picture on the book and gets drunk and vomits on the floor. The actual author is there and Amelia talks with this woman-  Leonora Ferris (not Leon Ferris, "The Late Bloomer") is very insightful and intelligent.

The book follows the relationship between Fikry, Maya, and Amelia until Maya is ready to leave for college.

Fikry learns he has brain cancer. His ex-sister-in-law returns the valuable book, Tamerlane, that she took. Maya had colored in the book, rendering it less valuable and would have revealed that her husband was Maya's father. He had an affair with Maya's mother and she commits suicide by drowning.

The novel is divided into thirteen sections. Each section deals with a famous short story or novel that encapsulates the 'emotional point' of the chapter. I plan to find and read as many of these works as I can. 

Each chapter is a short story and here they are:

1) LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER   Roald Dahl

2) THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ   F. Scott Fitzgerald

3) THE LUCK OF ROARING CAMP  Bret Harte

4) WHAT FEELS LIKE THE WIND  Richard Bausch

5) A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND   Flannery O'Connor

6) CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY  Mark Twain

7) THE GIRLS IN THEIR SUMMER DRESSES  Irwin Shaw

8) A CONVERSATION WITH MY FATHER  Grace Paley

9) A PERFECT DAY FOR BANANAFISH   J.D. Salinger

10) THE TELL-TALE HEART  E.A. POE

11) IRONHEAD   Aimee Bender

12) WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE  Raymond Carver

13) THE BOOKSELLER  Roald Dahl

Friday, May 11, 2018

THE PAPERBOY by Pete Dexter

Finished Th 5/11/18

While waiting for the Mike Bergen crew to finished the installation of the new AC unit.

I ordered this book after watching, DEADWOOD, the HBO series on Amazon Prime. This book arrived with TRAIN. Although this is an excellent novel, it's my least favorite of the Dexter books that I've real so far.

PREMISE-

Set in rural norther Florida. Two brothers and a 'star' reporter from a larger paper. One of the reporters has a younger brother who acts as their driver, and this guy is the narrator of the story.

Two newspaper reporters are contacted by a woman. She has fallen in love with a man who is scheduled for execution for murder. She is convinced that he is innocent, and the two reporters are charged with writing an expose of the case to force the authorities to declare his innocence.

This violent man lives with an extended violent family in the swamps. The two reporters journey to the home/camp. These people are almost prehistoric; this is my favorite section of the novel;
naked, eating ice cream out of cartons

They learn that the man was out stealing sod from a golf course on the night that the policeman was knifed to death. However, the proof of this theft is the person that they sold the sod to, yet this person probably doesn't exist.

Ward is probably homosexual and while on assignment he meets several sailors in a bar and is violently beaten and raped. The premise is that the reporters have lied to keep this rape incident a secret.

Jack is bitten by jellyfish at the beach and a group of female nursing students piss on him to prevent him from dying. Very odd...

And, a scene that I remembered from the movie.
The film was lurid, over-the-top, and you felt like you could not believe what you were seeing- worth watching.
Mathew McConaughey/ Nicole Kidman/ John Cusak

The man is freed, but he kills (or his clan) Charlotte Bless. Later, he's re-incarcerated.

THE CAST-

Thurmond Call- the knifed policeman
Charlotte Bless- the woman who has fallen for a murderer
Jack James- the young man who is a swimmer and expelled from college and acts as the driver
Ward James- his reporter brother
William Ward James- their editor father; called 'W-2' and also (by his close friends), 'World War'.
Ellen Guthrie- writer at WW's paper; and becomes his girlfriend- takes over the paper
Helen Drew- a reporter who uncovers the lie that wrongly led to the Pulitzer prize award
Yardley Acheman- the reporter who pushes the lie; he has higher aspirations, writing a book NYC
Hilary Van Wetter- the vicious killer who later kills Charlotte Bless. "open your mouth"

I would still read anything by Pete Dexter, but this was not my favorite. Still, it's way better than almost anything one might pick up off the shelf.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL by Carrie Brownstein

Finished 5/6/18

I got this used hardback after listening to Brownstein on WTF, and then I listened to several podcasts about her. I had always loved Sleater Kinney, but only 'appreciated' Portlandia. And, pleasantly surprised with her role on Transparent.

This is one of my favorite rock star bios. Keith Richards is in first place, followed by Bob Mould, and then this one.

Whether it's that she is just an excellent writer or a supernaturally gifted deceiver, she honestly comes across as an interesting and 'real' person.

It only covers her early life and her experiences in the rock world and ends before her career in comedy.

I can't imagine her Duran Duran cover band.

Her father was a corporate lawyer who came out as a gay man when he was in his mid-fifties, and her mother suffered from anorexia all her life.  By her mid-teens Carrie lived with her father only. Her mother was institutionalized, but later married. 'Dig Me Out' refers to the time after the album was released and Carrie and the band lived for a few days with her mother and new step-father after a huge blizzard.

From Redmond, Washington, and was energized by 'the scene' at Olympia, WA. Also lived in Portland, OR.

Took guitar lessons from the guy that went on to star in Sunny Day Real Estate, Jeremy Enigk. He happened to live just a few streets away.

She was outed by Spin magazine at 21, and none of her family were aware of her sexuality.

She really makes clear that although the band was critically acclaimed and famous, they were almost always flat broke.

After the band folded she did volunteer work with animals. She was obsessive about this aspect of her life- won 'the best' volunteer of the area.

The epilogue of the book deals with her own 'family' of pets. One of her dogs kills the cat that had been with Carrie most of her life. This was a very moving part of the book and had nothing whatever to do with her professional career, but really highlights her excellence as a writer.

Sleater-Kinney;  Carrie Brownstein,  Corin Tucker,  Janet Weiss (drummer); Classic Trio- 2 guitars and one drummer/ no bass.

The group's name is derived from Sleater Kinney Road, in Lacey, Washington; where signs for Interstate 5 exit number 108 announce its existence.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

GOING NATIVE by Stephen Wright

(Not!! the comedian)

Finished Fr 5/4/18 I was eagerly awaiting the biography of Carrie Brownstein, HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL, and I finished this novel the same evening that Brownstein's book arrived.

This is one of my old trade paperbacks. No notation of when I got it and I'm sure that I'd never read it. I love finding books that I've ignored, but read them and love them. If I've picked something out, usually I'll like it- sooner or later.


From the author's page at wikipedia-

"Stephen Wright (born 1946) is a novelist based in New York City known for his use of surrealistic imagery and dark comedy. His work has varied from hallucinatory accounts of war (Meditations in Green), a family drama among UFO cultists (M31: A Family Romance), carnivalesque novel on a serial killer (Going Native), to a picaresque taking place during the Civil War (The Amalgamation Polka). He has taught writing courses at various universities, including Princeton University, Brown University, and The New School.

Going Native was ranked #13 on Larry McCaffery's 20th Century’s Greatest Hits: 100 English-Language Books of Fiction."

This novel is composed of eight, more or less, stand-alone sections. The author's description and language are brilliant and the characters and situations are picaresque to say the least.

1.) 500 MOSQUITOES AN HOUR- A description of a suburban dinner party. Two couples and one of the men disappears in a 1969 Ford Galaxie at the end of the section. This Ford Galaxie is mentioned in several other sections, but it isn't necessarily the same car (I think?).

2.) A HEADFUL OF CORPSES- Mr. CD and Latisha are two crack addicts and this is about their hallucinatory world. A wild examination of the drug addled mind.

3.) BLACKWORK- A hitchhiker is hassled by the police and then picked up by a man driving on a rainy night; strange dialog. They begin passing a bottle, and the hitchhiker wants out of the car. This is a '69 Galaxie. (It's spelled 'ie', not with a 'y')

4.) THE 25 MILE PISS-The action is set at the Yellowbird Motel in Cool Creek, Colorado. Odd artifacts in the lobby and very strange characters. The Galaxie is back again.

5.) GETTING HAPPY- "Perry resides (temporarily) in a Fuck House, his term for this deteriorating South Side SRO, rentals available on an hourly basis, the communal john at the end of the corridor one green-bearded bowl with a cracked seat, the view from his window the 24-7 promenade of the broken-glass people, their sharp-edged psyches coming at you like ninja implements every time you braved the block for a food run."  Lurid description of orgy.

6.) THE QUEEN OF DIAMONDS- Life at 'The Happy Chapel'- Weddings For Sale and the strange family that run the place.

7.) THE NIGHT OF THE LONG PIGS- Drake and Amanda Copeland, Hollywood people connected to the movie industry, seek out the badlands of Borneo. They meet headhunters and hunt wild pigs in very primitive conditions. Drake gets a 'palang' which is a metal ornament attached to his penis; an ancient form of piercing from Indonesia.
They survive in Borneo only to be murdered at a dinner party in the home. All the guests are taken to separate rooms after the man and woman robbers take under one hundred dollars from the group. The man decides to shoot them all in the head for no real reason- just because he can. Amanda wonders if her death will be anything like the way death is understood in Indonesia.

This might be my favorite section of the book.

8.) THIS IS NOT AN EXIT- Will Johnson is married to a very rich woman in Malibu, CA. He has a suitcase of disguises and likes to pretend that he is someone else.  He's kind of a trickster. He comes back to the beach house and goes for a walk on the beach with his stepson, Todd and Tia, his wife.

In the final scene he has put on one of Tia's dresses and entered the garage where he gets into his Galaxie 500. He had cut his finger while slicing a lemon for a drink. The novel begins with a woman slicing her finger while preparing a meal in the first section. He gets in the car and maybe thinking of suicide or just the randomness of life in general.
"...the ruined teeth fixed in a yellowy smile that will not diminish, that will not fade, he's happy, he's being entertained."

I'm going to order another novel by this guy.