logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: reviews
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-23 17:00
Hanging the Elephant (Also: Final 2017 Halloween Bingo Read)
She Walks These Hills - Sharyn McCrumb

 

Well, I'm glad that this year's Halloween Bingo ended on a high note for me -- in terms of writing, that is, even if not topically.

 

She Walks These Hills is one of Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad novels, set in the Roan Mountain / Cherokee National Forest part of the Appalachian Mountains -- I'm guessing that the town of Hamelin, TN, featured in the novel is based on Hampton, TN.  (There actually is a Hamelin, TN, too, but it's in a different part of the state, whereas the location of Hampton fits the book's geographical references perfectly.)  The novel is named for the legend of one Katie Wyler, a pioneer girl who in 1779 was abducted by a group of Shawnee, but managed to flee from her captors and walk all the way back home, covering a distance of several hundred miles; only to be killed once she had reached what she believed to be safety -- and whose spirit is believed to still be haunting the area.  While the novel's Katie Wyler is fictitious, McCrumb based her legend on the story of several actual pioneer women who suffered a similar fate (minus being killed upon their return home); most notably, Mary Drapler Ingles

 

That being said, while Katie's story provides the novel's background, the actual plot weaves together the stories of several contemporary (well, 1990s) protagonists:

 

* Hiram "Harm" Sorley, a 60+ year old escapee from a Mountain City prison where he'd been serving a de-facto life sentence without the possibility of parole for killing an affluent neighbor some 25 years previously, and who is (rightly) believed to be trying to return to his hometown of Hamelin, TN -- never mind that he's suffering from Korsakoff's Syndrome, i.e., the memory loss condition where, though you do recall events of your remote past, your short term memory is only able to record things for very brief periods (think of the movie Mememto);

* Hamelin Deputy Sheriff Martha Avery, promoted from dispatcher to her current position (on a probationary basis) as a result of a staffing shortage, who, after volunteering for her current job in an attempt to better herself, unexpectedly finds her relationship with the town's other deputy sheriff (Joe LeDonne) on the rocks -- all the while wondering why she seems to be the only person in the office who is taking Harm Sorley's escape seriously and considering him a potential threat;

* History PhD student and teaching assistant Jeremy Cobb, who has made Katie Wyler's story his pet research project and part of his PhD thesis, and who -- though a city kid and a bookworm who hasn't even gone hiking, let alone camped out in the woods a single time in his life before -- decides there is only one way to "get close" to Katie; namely, by hiking part of the rough, lonesome wilderness trail she must have been traveling some 200 years ago (yeah, well, talk about a recipe for disaster right there);

* Henry "Hank the Yank" Kretzer, a local country & folk music DJ (originally from Connecticut, hence his nickname), who covers the Harm Sorley story on the radio and becomes interested enough to try and track down the circumstances that ended up in Harm's life sentence to begin with;

* and Harm's wife and daughter, Rita and Charlotte, who after Harm's conviction went on to live a life very different from the hillbilly / "white trash" life they had been sharing with him, and whom Rita's new middle class husband Euell had shut off from Harm entirely, enjoining them to consider his being locked up in prison forever the same thing as him being dead.

 

And, in addition to these and other people's stories, which dramatically converge once Harm does actually make it back to the Hamelin area, this is also the story of this particular corner of the Appalachians, whose vast forests, valleys and mountainsides very much make the area's nature and geography a character of its own, and provide for a magnificent backdrop -- and the age-old tale of history repeating itself in that the interests of the defenceless are sacrificed, sometimes very publicly, on the altar of money, power, corruption, and greed: as epitomized by the (real!) story of Mary the elephant, a circus elephant who in 1916 in Erwing, TN, was hanged by a local mob, after she had acted out against and killed a handler who had severely hurt her ... and after the circus owner had realized that as a result she had become a liability instead of the asset she had been so far, and the only way he could generate one last large wad of money out of her was by putting her on display for her public execution.  (Note: You may want to think twice about following the above link or the one in the below first footnote, or researching the story online, if you find it hard to look at images or read descriptions of animals being mistreated.  In fact, I'm going to put the whole passage from the book in which "Hank the Yank" tells the story to his listeners into spoiler tags for the same reason, too:)

"Now the circus was in a pickle. They had to choose between sacrificing an eight-thousand-dollar elephant -- that was Rolls-Royce money in 1916, folks -- or missing play dates in Johnson City and Rogersville.  And the newspaper had fired folks up so that they were screaming for her blood.  It doesn't appear that anybody considered Mary's feelings in the matter.  Ws she a victim of abuse under a  cruel and inexperienced trainer?  Did she consider her actions self-defense? [...]

Those are nineties questions, neighbors.  Nobody asked them in 1916.  The circus owner reasoned that he couldn't afford to lose money from missing show dates, and after the notoriety occasioned by Eldridge's [the handler's] death, he didn't think he could get any other show to buy her.  Apparently, he decided that the only way to profit from the experience would be to reap some free publicity by staging a spectacular public execution.

That's where Erwin comes in.  I mean, how are you going to kill an elephant?  Poison?  How many pounds would it take?  Electrocution?  I wouldn't want to be around if you miscalculated the lethal dosage and pissed her off.  But Erwin, population in 1916 two thousand, was the site of the repair shops for the Clinchfield Railroad.  It offered the circus owner a solution.  Why not hang the beast on a one-hundred-ton railroad derrick?  That's the equipment they used to lift railroad cars.  A five-ton animal would pose no problem at all for such a contraption. [...]

The circus people put a chain around her neck and hoisted her right up off the ground.  It took them two tries,* but they finally succeeded in kiling a rare and intelligent creature, that maybe had no business being enslaved in a sideshow anyhow.  Maybe she even preferred a quick death to a life of servitude.  I don't claim to be an expert on the opinions of elephants."

(spoiler show)

Hank concludes the story of Mary the elephant:

"I do know this: sometimes the law seems more concerned with shutting up mobs who are too dumb to be reasoned with than they are with dispensing justice.  Maybe you're wondering what all this has to do with one old man who took an ax to his prosperous neighbor a quarter of a century ago.  It's just a feeling I have, folks.  Something tells me that Harm was just as much a pawn as Mary was.  I think there's another side to both stories, and while we're never going to hear the truth in Mary's case, I'm still hoping that it can be unconvered for Harm Sorley."**

She Walks These Hills was published in 1994, but given recent political events both in Washington, D.C. and, inter alia, in places like the coal mining areas of West Virginia (which aren't actually so terribly far away from the area where this story is set), large parts of it still read shockingly relevant 23 years later -- now more than ever, in fact.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Sensitivity warning: The below spoiler adds a detail on the hanging procedure.

(spoiler show)

**Contents spoiler warning: Don't read the below spoiler if you haven't read the book and don't want to read anything related to its conclusion.

Turns out that while Harm Sorley's action wasn't self-defense, he certainly was severely provoked -- it's at the very least debatable whether his act would genuinely have qualified as first degree murder; and if he had had the money to afford a better lawyer, he almost certainly would have gotten off with a lighter sentence.  Then again, if he'd had the money (and sophistication) to hire a better lawyer, he'd likely have resorted to different means altogether ... if that rich neighbor whom he ended up killing had dared to do what he did to him and his family in the first place.

(spoiler show)

Merken

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-10-23 16:45
Review: Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Profilic Serial Killer
Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer - Ann McElhinney,Phelim McAleer

This book is not for everyone. The authors are very honest about what Kermit Gosnell, and what Gosnell did went far beyond abortion. He murdered and decimated. If you are uncomfortable with Ed Gein’s story, do not read this book, for Gosnell was the same type of hoarder.

This book was finely investigated, so I only deduct one star for these reasons:
* the unnecessary, in my opinion, long chapter lecturing the reader on proper journalistic practices. It’s near the end of the book, so by the time it is reached, I as the reader have the full picture of the bizarre news dodge of this story. I don’t need a mini journalism class to drive it home.
* the occasional use of “pro-abortion” in place of “pro-choice” in general (the only person I have run across who is truly pro-abortion is Dr. Gosnell, for pro- implies enthusiasm, gusto); and, in companion with this, the introduction written by a member of the Duck Dynasty family. This case is so vile, it didn’t need to be politicized at all, in any way. Just tell the reader what Gosnell, his wife, and his staff did. You’ll probably change a lot of minds on abortion. I think these leans of bias make the annoyance of the lesson of the unbiased Fourth Estate stronger. To truly make this point, the book should have carried absolutely no agenda—including no biased language (a no-no in basic journalism) and no biased celebrity endorsement.

I can’t say this enough: this is an important case, and, despite its above flaws, an important book. But I am going to type a phrase below that was in the crime scene report about Ed Gein, and please let it be your litmus test for whether or not you should read this book.

That phrase is: cup of noses

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-10-23 02:25
Still enjoying this world, dark romance
Koivu (Demons After Dark Book Three) - Laurie Olerich

This is really a 4 1/2 stars. I enjoyed the story a lot. Again, the world in this series is a bit different than others I have read. Angels and Demons working together to stop a diabolic plan is so much fun. I found this story to be a bit darker than the others because of Koivu's temperament and Micki's past. Koivu is not happy being topside and does not understand the others' acceptance of their situation. He hopes to return to Hell soon and tries not to find a reason to be change that. Micki beats herself up over her poor choices in love. These two bond quickly without acknowledging it until things get extreme. When they hurt each other after Micki learns the truth, my heart went out to both. I came to care for these two a lot. I recommend this story and the series.

I received a copy through Candid Book Reviews, and this is my unsolicited review.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-10-21 13:14
Review: "Battle Dawn" (The Chronicles of Arden, #3) by Shiriluna Nott & SaJa H
Battle Dawn - SaJa H.,Shiriluna Nott

 

~ 4 stars ~

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-10-20 22:30
The Travelling Grave by L.P. Hartley
The Travelling Grave and Other Stories - L.P. Hartley

 

I very much enjoyed this collection of Gothic and creepy stories originally released in the 1940's. I generally prefer short tales that pack a punch, and these are definitely not that. However, they often have a good deal of humor and that sense of atmosphere in which I love to wallow.

 

The standouts to me were:

 

A VISITOR FROM DOWN UNDER was, for me, a beautifully told ghost story/tale of revenge.

 

PODOLO A nice little day trip to the island of Podolo takes a nasty turn. This one reminded me that feral cats may not be worth the effort.

 

THE TRAVELLING GRAVE was quite the funny story involving a misunderstanding involving perambulators. (Is that word even used anymore? It's a shame if it's not because it's a word that rolls nicely off the tongue.) Anyway, the humor of the situation quickly changed to horror at the gruesome ending. Always be careful playing hide & seek!

 

CONRAD AND THE DRAGON I wasn't sure what to make of this fairy tale like...tale. It didn't have the usual fairy tale ending, but I found it to be totally charming.

 

THREE OR FOUR, FOR DINNER was another tale involving some humor and a practical joke gone wrong.

 

This was my first experience with L.P. Hartley and I'm so glad I gave this collection a try! Recommended!

 

*Thank you to Valancourt Books for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?