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Adverb Abuse starring… Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean

I’ll get to the adverb abuse in a moment.

I intended to finish Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean. I bought it for $3.00. If I spend my own money on a book, I intend on reading the whole thing. I remember several friends in the 1970s reading old Alistair MacLean paperbacks like The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare and proclaiming how great they were.

For some reason, I was a bit skeptical. These same friends also really liked Hogan’s Heroes.

Anyway, I have a thing for old paperback novels right now. I went through a phase where I was having a tough time concentrating on fiction, but ever since I’ve started buying cheap old paperbacks again, I’ve been reading (almost) voraciously. I even liked From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming far more than I thought I would a few weeks ago.

Despite my rediscovered love for old paperback books, I stopped reading Where Eagles Dare after about 100 pages. It was way too outlandish, even by my standards. Too many close calls, harrowing escapes, and false alarms on every page. Characters handling trauma way too calmly. Double agents, triple agents, quadruple agents.

At some point governments have to wonder if they can trust their double/triple agents. Who do you hire to keep track of the double/triple agents? Another double triple agent?

And then there were the adverbs. As a former English teacher, I usually defend adverbs. A lot of writers claim that they dislike adverbs and consider overuse of adverbs as a sign of weak writing. My philosophy is that the adverb is a major part of speech; what’s the point of having a major part of speech if we’re not going to use it?

But then Alistair MacLean showed me exactly how not to use an adverb. All of the examples below are from one page early in the book. Don’t worry about the context, though. Everybody turns out to be a double or triple agent agent anyway, so it doesn’t matter what they’re saying.

*****

“I can’t help what you think,” Smith said kindly, patting her on the back.

“Language, language,” Smith said severely.

She said curiously: “What on earth excuse did you give for coming back up here?”

“It’s still inside Sergeant Herrod’s tunic,” Smith said sombrely. “He’s up here, dead.”

“Don’t tell me,” Mary said resignedly. “I’m only a little girl. I suppose you know what you’re doing.”

“I wish to God I did,” Smith said feelingly.

*****

That’s all on one page. Where Adverbs Dare is an entire novel filled with this. Maybe it wasn’t the entire novel. Maybe the author stopped writing like this after page 100, and I didn’t see it because I stopped reading, but I’m pretty sure it’s like this the entire book.

Where Eagles Dare was published in 1967. Maybe this type of adverb usage was normal in the middle-to-late 1960s, but I doubt it. I’ve read a bunch of books from that period, and I don’t recall seeing this many -ly adverbs used so frequently so many times so consistently in one novel.

As much as I defend adverbs, even I have to admit this is poor. It’s not the reason that I stopped reading Where Adverbs Dare, but the overuse of -ly adverbs didn’t help.

*****

I could never be a double/triple agent. I’m horrible at lying. My ears get red.

Or maybe I can make my ears turn red, even when I’m telling the truth, and I just pretend that I’m bad at lying so that people can trust me.

Or maybe I just say that I can turn my ears red at will so that when I lie I can hide the fact that I’m bad at lying. But then my ears would turn red.

I just confused myself now. That just proves that I’d be a double/triple agent. Or maybe I’m just pretending that I confused myself.

*****

What do you think? Were any of these -ly adverbs necessary? Did they add anything to the sentence (as far as you can tell)? Was it fair of me to judge my friends’ tastes negatively because they liked Hogan’s Heroes?

What Books Would You Ban From The Public Library (even if you’re against banning books)?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably against the idea of banning books in public libraries. At least, you won’t admit out loud that you want to ban books. I rarely meet anybody who’ll admit that he/she wants to ban books.

I’m pretty sure you’re against banning books because according to a recent poll, hardly anybody in the United States wants to ban books from libraries anymore. Last week the American Library Association put out a poll about voter opinions on banning books from the public libraries. It’s tough for the ALA to get coverage even on a slow news day, so with wars breaking out and economies collapsing, nobody paid attention.

The last time I saw the ALA make news was a few years ago when they renamed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for children’s books because her Little House on the Prairie books had a few racist references back in the 1930s. That made news, and everybody had an opinion about it. If you throw race into a topic, it will always make news. The next time the ALA wants to make news again, they should just throw race into their poll, and it will make the news and everybody will have an opinion.

Anyway, everybody knows not to trust polling anymore. If there’s any group that’s less popular than lawyers or politicians or journalists or Hollywood celebrities, it’s pollsters. Still, pollsters have to make a living, and the American Library Association wants to try to make news or raise awareness, so here we go!

*****

https://www.ala.org/advocacy/voters-oppose-book-bans-libraries

  • By a substantial 42-point margin, voters oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries because some people find them offensive or inappropriate and do not think young people should be exposed to them: 71% oppose, 29% support. Majorities of Democrats (75%), independents (58%), and Republicans (70%) are opposed.
  • Parents also oppose efforts to remove books from their local public libraries by a significant 20-point margin: 60% oppose, 40% support.

*****

I’m a bit skeptical. All this poll shows is that democrats and republicans are less likely to admit that there are books they’d ban if they had the chance. At least Independents are more likely to be honest about it.

Hey, I’m opposed to banning books too, but I have my limits. I’d probably ban Massage Parlor II by Jennifer Sills if I had the chance. In the interests of full disclosure, I obtained a copy of Massage Parlor II from one of my older brothers when I was a teenager in the late 1970s, so I can’t blame the public library (or the Ivy League, like I usually do) for that.

If I saw a copy of Massage Parlor II at the library, I might suggest that it was inappropriate for a public library. I’ve heard that Massage Parlor I was kind of inappropriate as well. You know, I’m pretty sure the whole series is inappropriate!

Once I started banning books, I’d probably go on a banning spree. I’d ban 1984 by George Orwell and 2001: a Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. I remember both 1984 and 2001, and both books got those years completely wrong. I’d probably ban those two books from school libraries if I could too. I don’t want students reading 1984 and 2001:A Space Odyssey and believe that 1984 and 2001 were really like that.

I’d also ban children’s books written by celebrities. In fact, any book that a celebrity writes should be banned from public libraries, just because. The exception would be a celebrity who became famous for writing books. That doesn’t happen very often, but I’d make allowances for that.

And anything by James Patterson? Banned. And anything written by James Patterson and a co-author? Double banned! Banning books by James Patterson would save a lot of space in the public libraries for books that are actually good.

I could probably think of a bunch of other books to ban, but I’ll stop there. I don’t want to get carried away. I think I’ve been reasonable so far. Besides, I’m against banning books anyway. And so are you.

*****

What do you think? I know you’re against banning books, but if you absolutely had to ban books against your will, what books would you ban?

What was the deal with…? From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

The novel From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming caught me by surprise with its cliffhanger ending.

*****

Bond pivoted slowly on his heel and crashed headlong to the wine-red floor.

*****

That was it! That was the final sentence of the book.

Yeah, I’m sorry I spoiled the ending. The novel came out in 1957, and I haven’t had any coffee yet, so my empathy hasn’t kicked in. I might apologize for the spoiler later.

Anyway, I was kind of pissed off when I read that final sentence. I checked to see if my copy had missing pages. But the back of the final page had an advertisement, so I knew that was it. Either James Bond had died, or From Russia With Love had a cliffhanger.

I didn’t know that James Bond books had cliffhanger endings. The book ending is similar to the movie ending in that this old lady SMERSH director Rosa Klebb is kicking James Bond with her poison-laced steel-spiked boot. The scene in the movie version looks ridiculous, but she actually gets him in the book, and the last sentence shows James Bond collapsing.

I’ve always hated cliffhangers in books and movies. The worst was the cliffhanger in the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back because I was in middle school when it was released and knew I had to wait three years for the next movie. Three years seemed like an eternity when I was in middle school. Now three years seems like tomorrow.

I don’t mind a cliffhanger in an old James Bond book because From Russia With Love came out in 1957 and I can easily get the next book if I want it. I might read another James Bond book if I see it, but only if it’s a copy that came out before the movies.

I bought this copy of From Russia With Love for $3.00 at a used book store because it doesn’t have Sean Connery on the cover. Even though Connery is considered to be THE James Bond, I like to visualize my own characters, and Sean Connery isn’t what my brain came up with while reading this book. I like too many low-brow books to be a book snob, but I still want to have copies of books that came out before the movie adaptations, even if the movies are good.

This cover (pictured above) is kind of nondescript, with a bland white cover and a tiny illustration with the female barely visible. The 007 on the top left corner is cool. I’m surprised the publishing company didn’t try to have a book cover that stood out more. Maybe James Bond books back then didn’t have to have appealing covers; maybe being a James Bond book was enough to guarantee sales.

The structure of the novel is backwards in some ways. James Bond doesn’t even make an appearance until after page 70. The beginning focuses on SMERSH’s plan to kill James Bond. It introduces the SMERSH agents involved and a also a bunch of minor characters that the reader never sees again in this book. The reader knows the SMERSH plans before James Bond does.

The SMERSH plot to kill James Bond is kind of ridiculous. The SMERSH organizers admit that the plan seems ridiculous. James Bond and his boss M don’t know what the plan is, but they think the situation that the Soviets have presented them with is ridiculous. They’re sure it’s a trap, but it’s so ridiculous that they can’t pass it up.

I’m not complaining that the plot of From Russia with Love is ridiculous. I’ve seen almost every James Bond movie, and the plots are always ridiculous. This book is just more low-key ridiculous than any of the movies (except for maybe the movie version of From Russia With Love).

Ian Fleming, the author of the original James Bond books, was supposedly a knowledgable world traveler and used his experiences to describe locations in his books. After reading From Russia With Love, I’m guessing that Ian Fleming did not like Istanbul. If I were to base my world traveling on portrayals in James Bond books, I’d say stay away from Istanbul. Do not go to Istanbul! Bad things happen in Istanbul! At least in the 1950s they did. Maybe Istanbul has improved since then.

I enjoyed reading From Russia With Love, but I’m glad I didn’t read it in 1957. That cliffhanger ending would have put me in a bad mood.

George R.R. Martin admits that he’ll never finish A Game of Thrones

First of all, a part of me can’t believe that famous author George R.R. Martin is still alive. That might sound harsh, but he doesn’t look like a healthy guy. I know several health conscious people, and none of them want to follow the George R.R. Martin regimen.

I suggested on this blog way back in 2012 that George R.R. Martin might not finish the Game of Thrones book series, also known as A Song of Ice and Fire. Back then, nobody noticed because nobody read my blog. Statistically, nobody reads my blog now, but at least now I occasionally get a comment when I say something controversial.

Even though I thought George R.R. Martin might not finish the series, I believed in 2012 that he would at least finish the next book The Winds of Winter. I thought Martin’s problem with completing A Song of Ice and Fire was going to be wrapping everything up in two or three more books. I thought he was writing himself into an infinite series that would require too many books for his life span.

Back in 2012, I would have been surprised to find out that George R.R. Martin was still alive in 2022. Even back in 2012, George R.R. Martin looked rather unhealthy. I’ve lost friends and family that looked healthier than George R.R. Martin in 2012. Last year, a good friend of mine died. He was a fan of A Song of Fire and Ice and was pissed that the series never got finished.

His final words were, “I can’t believe that George R.R. Martin outlived me, that bastard.”

I admit, those probably weren’t his final words. I wasn’t there in my friend’s final moments. But I’m pretty sure he had that thought at some point. He was pissed that he never had the chance to read The Winds of Winter.

The reason I’m writing about this topic on my blog is because last week Martin made some remark that he was “weary” of his fans asking him about The Winds of Winter. According to Martin, he has a bunch of other projects that he’s working on first and that fleshing out his fantasy world of Westeros is more important than than the one story of A Song of Ice and Fire.

To be fair, George R.R. Martin didn’t say the exact words “I’ll never finish writing A Song of Ice and Fire,” but I know that’s what he meant. Why else would he be tired of answering questions about it? If he were going to finish the series, he’d probably be encouraged by the questions.

At this point, I don’t care if he finishes A Song of Ice and Fire. Yeah, I must care a little if I’m writing a blog post, but you don’t have to care about something to write about it. I think the topic is interesting, but I don’t care anymore if he doesn’t finish the series. I might still read the remaining books if they ever come out (which they won’t), but I won’t miss them if they’re never completed (which they won’t be).

I admit, I cared about five years ago. I had stated several times that I wouldn’t start reading A Song of Ice and Fire until he’d finished the series, but then I broke down and, one by one, I read the books. My opinion of the books was pretty much the same as everybody else’s opinion, and my opinion of the HBO television series is pretty much the same as everybody else’s, so I won’t get into what I think about them.

Some fans are so desperate for a literary conclusion to A Song of Ice and Fire that they want Martin to have some other author finish the series, like Brandon Sanderson did with Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. I think James Patterson would be a good choice. He could have the remaining books out by next month. Yeah, they’d have one-page chapters with cheesy dialogue, but at this point nobody cares about writing quality anymore. Nothing could be worse than Season 8.

I take that back. A lot of things could be a lot worse than Season 8, but you know what I mean.

And to be clear, I don’t want George R.R. Martin to die. I’m just surprised he hasn’t. I mean, c’mon! Look at the picture!

How to Avoid a Femme Fatale: Past All Dishonor by James M. Cain

Whenever a woman asks me to murder someone, I say no and I bail out of the relationship. It’s a simple rule. I guess some guys have a tough time with it, though.

You see, I don’t have a problem with takin’ a tumble with a hot married dame here or there, but when she starts crying about how horrible her husband is and he doesn’t deserve to live, I say thank you for the afternoon and I get out of town.

Even if you think morality is relative, murdering for a woman is a bad idea. If some broad had me murder for her, what’s she gonna do in a few months when she gets bored with me? I’m paranoid enough without some ‘grieving’ hot widow who just cashed out on a life insurance policy putting my life out for sale.

So when I bought this copy of Past All Dishonor by James M. Cain for $3.00 at a used book store, I thought, here we go, another guy who murders for a bad girl. The femme fatales in James M. Cain novels are usually married women, like in The Postman Always Rings Twice or Double Indemnity, so I was a little surprised that this book was a little different. Not better. Just different.

I’ll give the bad girl in Past All Dishonor some credit. She didn’t get the poor schmuck protagonist to murder for her. He did that on his own. In fact, I don’t think the bad girl in Past All Dishonor did anything all that bad until the end of the novel. Yeah, she was a prostitute, but she was open about it. She didn’t mislead the schmuck. But then he goes and murders a rich guy who’s going to marry the prostitute he’s in love with. She didn’t ask him to do it. He just did it.

And then she got turned on by it.

That was new to me. I didn’t know women got turned on by murder. I guess that’s why the murder rate in this country is so high. It’s the damn women’s fault. If women didn’t get so turned on by murder, we men wouldn’t go around killin’ each other that much.

I’m willing to be immoral for a woman, but I have my limits. I’ve lied for women in the past. I’ll do that. I’ve never murdered anybody for a woman, though. My line is somewhere in between lying and murder. I also won’t run an insurance scam for a woman. But I’ve committed a minor property damage crime for a woman. So my line is somewhere between committing a minor property damage crime and running an insurance scam.

And if I was in love with a prostitute (I know the correct form of the verb here is ‘were,’ but nobody in noir cares about subjunctive mood), I definitely wouldn’t murder for her, like the schmuck in Past All Dishonor. It would be like some no-name character murdering Richard Gere in the middle of the movie Pretty Woman. And then Julia Roberts gets turned on that the no-name character murdered Richard Gere for her. And then they decide to rob Jason Alexander. I gotta admit, that ending might have been an improvement.

Pretty Woman was a crummy movie. That’s okay. Past All Honor was kind of a crummy book. I was expecting more. Even James M. Cain can have a bad day, I guess. I don’t know what he was thinking, writing noir where the femme fatale doesn’t ask a guy to murder her husband.

Past All Dishonor does have a great mid-book summary from the schmuck’s point-of-view on page 118.-

*****

“So you were going to save the Confederacy and help the boys in gray and now you’re a goddam paid gunman in a Nevada gambling sink all dressed in black velvet like a Mexican cowboy with yellow curls over your collar and in love with a whore that’s not worth the powder it would take to blow her to hell.”

*****

Ha! It’s a little harsh, but it was good foreshadowing. Damn, I just gave away the ending.

I can see why noir didn’t last too long as a popular sub-genre. The situations are too easy to avoid. If some dame tells you to murder her husband, you say no. And if you fall in love with a prostitute who’s about to get married, let her get married. And then when she asks you later to kill her husband, you say no.

Unless she’s really hot.

Literary Gimmicks in Famous Novels: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Nobody really cares what I think about Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s considered an American classic, and my opinion isn’t going to change anybody’s mind. I’m not even sure what my opinion is anyway.

Slaughterhouse-Five was published in 1962, and my daughter had to read it in high school a couple years ago. I got a little jealous. Slaughterhouse-Five has fewer than 50,000 words. I wish I had been forced to read novels with fewer than 50,000 words when I was in in high school.

When I read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut last week, I was struck by how much the novel relies on literary gimmicks.

I’m not going to summarize Slaughterhouse-Five because you can get that anywhere. I just want to look at a few devices that Vonnegut used and then question how much these gimmicks affected the quality of the book. Since I’m using a couple literary gimmicks in my own novel, I’m analyzing the literary devices some famous authors have used in their most successful books.

Slaughterhouse-Five begins and ends with chapters written from the author’s/narrator’s point-of-view. The author/narrator explains that he’s tried to write a book about his experiences as a POW in Dresden during World War II. The author rambles a little and claims that his book would be a failure.

I’m not sure if having an author/narrator claim that the book would be a failure is a literary device/gimmick or not. It’s similar to dramatic irony; when Vonnegut wrote his book, he didn’t know his novel would be so successful. Or did he?

The bulk of Slaughterhouse-Five, the Billy Pilgrim story, is told out of order because of the Tralfamadorians, aliens with an ability to see dimensions that humans are incapable of seeing/experiencing. I admit, I prefer linear stories. I believe there’s the possibility that time isn’t linear and that I’m simply not capable of seeing it, but I don’t feel threatened by my inability to see it. I might be better off not being able to see it.

Even if I can’t see time as non-linear in reality, I can see it in fiction, and the out-of-sequence storytelling seems to work in Slaughterhouse-Five.

The phrase “And so it goes” is repeated throughout Slaughterhouse-Five and is used whenever death is mentioned. A lot of readers get annoyed at the repetition, but repetition is a common literary device when writers want to emphasize a point, so I don’t have a problem with it. And I don’t have a problem with readers who get annoyed by it either.

“And so it goes” is like a literary ear worm. Even though I first read Slaughterhouse-Five decades ago, the phrase “And so it goes” still pops up in my head whenever I hear about death. The phrase popped up in my head a lot in 2021. I guess that shows how effective of a device/gimmick it was. But it can still be annoying.

What would Slaughterhouse-Five be like without the literary gimmicks? If I had more time (or if I cared enough), I’d take the Billy Pilgrim bulk of the book, chop up all the non-linear scenes, and then place them in a proper linear timeline. Then I’d chop out all the “And so it goes.” And I’d leave out the author-narrator sections at the beginning and end. And then I’d read the book and see if how much the gimmicks improved the novel.

I’m not saying a gimmick-free Slaughterhouse-Five would suck, but it probably would have been pretty bland. It probably wouldn’t be considered an American literary classic. I think Billy Pilgrim would have been less of a compelling character without the time traveling. Plus, I like the aliens. Without the aliens, you can’t have the time-traveling. Without the aliens and time traveling, Slaughterhouse-Five becomes just another book about a veteran with PTSD.

Now I’m curious how much Kurt Vonnegut relied on literary gimmicks in his other novels. I’ve read Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions, but I don’t remember anything about them, so I can’t make the call. Maybe I’ll read them again to find out.

Or better yet, maybe somebody else can tell me. What do you think? Would Slaughterhouse-Five be the same without the gimmicks. Did Kurt Vonnegut rely too much on gimmicks when he wrote Slaughterhouse-Five? Did Kurt Vonnegut’s literary gimmicks hide his mediocre (or outright bad) writing?

1950s Guide To Advertising- The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard

This 1962 paperback copy of The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard has a colorful cover. I have to admit that I fell for the manipulation, the contrast of colors with the series of questions. I don’t like falling for tricks, even if this particular trick only cost me $1.00 at the used book store.

Originally published in 1957, The Hidden Persuaders is reputed to be one of the first books to expose the techniques behind television advertising. The persuasion techniques (and the effects/consequences) might be well known today, so maybe that makes the book feel outdated, but the attitudes of the time period can be just as interesting as the advertising techniques that are explained.

For example, I keep forgetting that not so long ago cigarette smoking was considered cool. I’m pretty sure people knew that smoking wasn’t good for them back in 1957, but this book doesn’t acknowledge it, and advertisers back in the 1950s weren’t going to either.

But cigarette smoking sure made people look cool. At least that’s what we were told, even in the 1970s when I was a kid. Even as several family members were dying of lung cancer caused from cigarettes, I was told that smoking made you look cool.

I don’t know. If advertisers are willing to ignore the health risks of cigarettes, they are probably willing to ignore anything.

Anyway, The Hidden Persuaders refers to the consequences of smoking one time as a “cancer scare,” and that was it. From the advertisers’ point-of-view, all that mattered was getting more men and women to buy cigarettes. And it was great when advertisers could get kids to sing cigarette jingles. Even back in the 1950s, branding was everything. If not everything, branding was a lot.

The author of The Hidden Persuaders refers to kids as ‘moppets’ and more frequently as ‘future consumers.’ From the advertisers’ point of view, it was important to get these future consumers aware of their brands as early as possible. Also, I kind of like the term ‘moppets.’ That word could make a comeback.

“Get off my lawn, you moppets!”

Yeah, I could bring that back.

“Get off my lawn, you future consumers!”

That doesn’t work as well.

Those ‘moppets’ from the 1950s are today’s Boomers, the generation that gets a lot of blame for the United States’s debt and over-consuming. These moppets were the first generation exposed to massive television advertising designed to make them ‘future consumers.’ The author of The Hidden Persuaders doesn’t use the term Boomers, but that’s who the ‘future consumers’ are.

If it’s any consolation to the younger generations today that blame Boomers for everything, those Boomers will soon be ‘former consumers.’

Almost as bad as cigarettes is fashion. Before the 1950s, men’s clothing was seen as a static business because men would go long periods of time between buying new clothes, and frankly that’s the way it should have stayed. But then television advertisers came along and ruined everything. The fashion industry encouraged women to put pressure on men to spend more money on clothes.

Men’s fashion… pffft! You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that my wife has tried to make me wear.

This might be one of those times when the pre-1950s had it right. I still like wearing the same clothes repeatedly until they’re faded and falling apart. Life is a lot simpler when you choose not to think about the stupid stuff like fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back to those ‘simpler’ times. I like air conditioning. I like the internet. I just like wearing the same stuff over and over too.

Hidden persuasion is nothing new. Before television, there was radio, Before that was newspapers. Before that was old fashioned rhetoric combined with misinformation. The combination of effective rhetoric and misinformation has always motivated people to do crazy stuff.

Maybe it’s depressing or annoying that people can be so easily manipulated, but at least we can say no to advertisers. Despite the constant bombardment of advertising, I still buy new clothes only once every five years. But… Arrrgh… I still fall for colorful book covers!

More questions!!!

SPOILER on the cover! High Lonesome by Louis L’Amour

High Lonesome by Louis L’Amour is kind of a forgettable book. I read it a few days ago, and I’ve already forgotten the characters’ names. I’ll always remember the book cover, though, because it gave away about 80% of the book in one sentence:

“He threw away $60,000 in gold to fight for a girl the Apaches wanted.”

When I saw the teaser on the cover, I thought maybe High Lonesome would center around that fight with the Apaches. Instead, the fight takes place in the final 20 pages of the short novel.

Half of the book is about the main character planning to steal that $60,000 in gold from a bank while also falling in love with a young woman traveling to California with her father. Because of the cover, I knew that the main character would successfully rob the bank and then give up the money to save the girl and her father. That covered 80% of the book. The only question I had was which of the minor characters would get killed in the fight with the Apaches.

I was off by only one character. All the main character’s sidekicks got killed. I really thought the girl’s father would get killed too. I wasn’t hoping he would get killed. The old cus grew on me. I was glad he didn’t get killed, even though that made me wrong about something.

The father was supposed to be a smart old man, but his poor decision to travel alone with his daughter got a lot of minor characters (and Apaches) killed. Maybe the father should have been one of the characters who got killed. He was fair game. He wasn’t even mentioned on that SPOILER book cover.

I only spent $2.00 on this pocket book, so I’m not too upset about the SPOILER on the cover. If I had spent $5.00 or more, then I might have gotten ticked off.

I haven’t seen many sentences that give away 80% of a book. Yeah, the book was only 150 pages long, but still. It takes talent to give away 120 pages in 14 words. When I need to edit my book, I think I’ll hire the guy who wrote that sentence. Right now my work in progress is around 60,000 words. He could probably cut it to 20. Not 20,000 words. Just… 20.

High Lonesome was originally published in 1962, and this was a 1971 copy. Back then, “SPOILER’ wasn’t a word. Nobody ‘SPOILED’ a movie or a book. Somebody might give away the ending, but then the guy who gave away the ending would get ostracized or beat up or bullied.

Back in the 1970s, it was seen as okay to bully kids who gave away the endings to movies. All those adults who now complain about having been bullied as kids leave out the part where they gave away the endings to movies. I’m not saying it was good to bully kids who gave away the endings. I’m just saying it’s what happened. And most kids stopped giving away the endings to movies.

The title High Lonesome reminds me of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Lonesome Dove was over 700 pages and won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1986. High Lonesome came out 25 years earlier and was 150 pages. Both book titles refer to places that characters didn’t stay in very long in the book. Lonesome Dove was the tiny settlement that the characters left at the beginning of the book and then returned to at the end. High Lonesome was where the final big gun battle with the Apaches took place, and then everybody left. I guess that’s why they called both places Lonesome.

High Lonesome author Louis L’Amour wrote at least 100 books, most of them westerns. I’ve only read a couple of his books, but I wonder at what point he started writing the same book over and over again. Most genre authors do that to some extent. Even the greatest authors have a limited number of stories to tell. The best ones have maybe five or six good stories, and they keep rotating the stories so that readers don’t notice. That’s okay. Those authors have pretty good stories. Fans don’t mind seeing the same stories, as long as the names and details are slightly different.

A lot of the details in High Lonesome are vague. It takes place somewhere near Mexico. I think most westerns have to be near Mexico because outlaws always need a place to escape to. No western outlaws want to escape to Canada. Even the outlaws in Montana and North Dakota want to escape to Mexico. If I ever write a western, it will be about an outlaw in North Dakota who robs a bank and then tries to escape to Mexico. I guess there was too much law and order in Canada. Or maybe it was too cold. Or maybe the women weren’t as nice.

I might buy and read another Louis L’Amour western if I see one for $2.00. But I’m not going to read the cover first. I’m not falling for that trick again.

Should I read this book…? The Sound of Music by Maria Augusta Trapp

I had two questions when I discovered this beat up copy of The Sound of Music by Maria Augusta Trapp in my closet.

The Sound of Music was a book?”

And…

“Why the heck do I have a beat up copy of The Sound of Music in my closet?”

The Sound of Music isn’t exactly my genre. I’ve been surrounded by The Sound of Music for most of my life. My mom had the movie soundtrack on a record when I was a kid, so I was forced to listen to the songs several times a month. My wife and daughter watch the movie at least once a year, usually when it’s on television. I’ve seen it all the way through several times (one time is too many for most men). I’ve seen bits and pieces and scenes countless times. I’ve heard the songs countless times.

The book was published in 1949 and was originally titled The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. That bland title wouldn’t be acceptable today. The movie creators were wise to change the title to The Sound of Music. That makes sense because the movie focuses on the music. Yeah, a couple of the relationships in the story are important, but it’s the songs that people remember. It’s the songs that I can’t get out of my head. It’s the songs that drive me… you know.

The problem with musicals in general is that most of the songs suck. I can handle characters breaking out into song at random moments. I have no issue with that. But at least sing a good song. The Sound of Music has two good songs. I won’t say what they are because that’s not the point.

And I’m not blaming musicals. When it comes to music, most albums have two good songs along with a bunch of filler. It’s tough to write a good song. A good song takes time to create. Unfortunately, artists have to rush their work to make money, so most of what they make is schlock.

I’ve never enjoyed sitting through two hours of bad music and over-exuberant singing. Some musicals have more than two good songs, but all musicals have over-exuberant singing. I’m a quiet guy. I like the occasional over-exuberant singing, but not all the time.

Again, I don’t blame the artists. I don’t even blame consumers or the economic system. I blame the Ivy League. Whenever you need a scapegoat, blame the Ivy League. I used to blame the schools, but then I realized that the Ivy League is to blame for the schools, so I blame the Ivy League for everything now.

I probably should get back to the book.

This 1969 paperback copy of The Sound of Music was DISCARDED from my former school’s library. I don’t even remember bringing this home. I hope I had permission. My former school was opened in 1996, so I’m guessing that one of the district’s older schools gave this book to our library to get things started. Everybody wins in that situation. The older school gets rid of library books that no students want to read, and the newest library gets to fill its shelves with a bunch of books no students wants to read.

If I read this book, I don’t necessarily want to picture Julie Andrews in my mind. Julie Andrews once exposed herself in a movie when I was a teenager. I don’t know what debts Julie Andrews owed that forced her to do that (maybe it was her husband’s fault; he directed the movie), but it wasn’t cool. When I was a teenager, I usually didn’t mind female celebrities going topless in a movie, but it was traumatizing when Julie Andrews did it. Being flashed by Sister Maria and Mary Poppins is like being flashed by your mom. Thankfully, my mother never flashed me.

At any rate, I was done with the movie The Sound of Music… until I found this book.

I like the idea of The Sound of Music as a novel. I don’t have to hear the songs, even though not hearing the songs defeats the purpose of a book retroactively titled The Sound of Music. Without the songs in my head, I can concentrate on the story.

I’ll give the author credit. The first few pages of The Sound of Music are well written. I could read this book if I had to. I wouldn’t have to go to Wikipedia or the old fashioned Cliffs Notes for a summary. I don’t have to read books anymore, though, so I probably won’t read this one. I don’t think I was the intended audience anyway.

Maybe I should have written more about the book version of The Sound of Music. I kind of like the book, even though I’m not going to read it. The book probably has no bad songs and no over-exuberant singing. If the characters sing in the book (I’m pretty sure they do), I can imagine quiet singing. And I’m pretty sure nobody gets flashed.

What was the deal with…? Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver was okay. That’s my book review. It was okay.

Anatomy of a Murder was a 1958 bestseller in the United States and then it was made into a really popular movie a year later. It was a supposedly the first (or one the first) courtroom legal thrillers. I wanted to like this book. I paid for it with my own money, so I had incentive to like it. If I had borrowed it from the library, I wouldn’t have cared as much, but I spent $3.00, so I care… a little bit.

Anatomy of a Murder was kind of overwritten. It felt like it had a 250 page story in a 500 page novel. It was 500 pages, and it felt like 500 pages. The first half is overwritten prose with a lot of hammy dialogue. Maybe hammy dialogue was the rage in 1958. I like hammy dialogue, but I prefer it in moderation. The second half is 250 pages of courtroom drama, and the details are exhausting, with some more hammy dialogue thrown in.

Courtroom drama details might have been a novelty in 1958, but I used to watch Law & Order (the real one) back in the 1990s. None of the stuff in Anatomy of a Murder is new anymore. Still, I can’t blame a book written in 1958 for being copied over the last 50 years. It’s good to read the source material.

I’ve never seen the movie version of Anatomy of a Murder. I know nothing about the movie. I purposely avoided looking at the back cover of my copy because it had the cast of the movie. Now that I know who plays the main character, I’m glad I didn’t know. I don’t like visualizing Hollywood actors/actresses when I read books. It was okay when I pictured Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch while I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s almost a requirement to visualize Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. But Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is an exception.

Last year I ripped the cover off of my copy of The Shipping News because it had a picture of Kevin Spacey on it. I didn’t want to visualize Kevin Spacey. Now that I’ve read The Shipping News, I think that Kevin Spacey was miscast. I haven’t even seen the movie, but I still think he was miscast. On the other hand, I can see the actor who played the main character in Anatomy of a Murder doing a good job, but I’m glad that I didn’t visualize him.

I bought this copy of Anatomy of a Murder for $3.00 at a used book store. The book is falling apart a little bit, but I held it carefully when I read it. I didn’t throw it around. Even if I find the book a bit dull, I’m not going to beat it up like I beat up The Shipping News. My copy of The Shipping News with Kevin Spacey on the cover deserved to get beat up. I usually don’t beat up books, but that Kevin Spacey cover had it coming.

Anatomy of a Murder author Robert Traver was a former lawyer, and when former lawyers write novels, they tend to write legal thrillers. I’m a former English teacher, but I’m not writing an educational thriller. Nobody wants to read about teachers. Teacher drama isn’t as interesting as courtroom drama.

For example, there was the time a kid farted really loudly during my lecture about gerunds, and there were a bunch of accusations and counter-accusations about who dealt it and who smelt it and who denied it and who supplied it. Even though I’m all for swift justice, even I believe that the accused must get a fair hearing before the classroom tribunal before being socially ostracized.

That kind of thing is entertaining for a page or two, but you can’t sustain a novel with it. I don’t think anybody would read 500 pages of that.

Then there’s the occasional (white)teacher saves (not white) student story, but those stories are kind of sappy and they’re not my style. I don’t think any kid farted in Freedom Writers. I’ll admit, one of the characters in my novel (that I think will be finished soon) is a teacher, but teaching is more like an annoyance to him than his identifying trait.

Maybe back in 1958 Anatomy of a Murder was cutting edge courtroom drama. You have to remember that back then television was black & white with only three channels. There was no cable. There was no internet. Movie theaters had one screen. Elvis Presley was controversial because he shook his hips. You had to talk to the operator to make a phone call (maybe that was in 1938, not 1958). And the phone had to be plugged in to the wall. And the phone was just a phone.

I can’t blame Anatomy of a Murder for being cutting edge in 1958. It’s not this book’s fault that it got copied by a bunch of other legal thriller authors. Even so, 500 pages was a little long.