101 Years’ Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century Edited by Ellery Queen (Post 1 of 6)


101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century

I’m not big on short stories, mysteries excepted since about ten years ago when I met one Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, this anthology includes a selection of “mystery” stories that are more like horror, or fairy-tales gone amok; so I can’t recommend the whole batch of 50. That said, I did find this very interesting from a historical perspective. There are too many stories for one review: this is review 1 of 6, the introduction and an overview of the anthology with some commentary on the commentary J.

PLOT: This is basically a short history lesson on mysteries in general and short stories in particular. In case you wondered, yes, Sherlock Holmes is mentioned, but no, he’s not in any of the stories. I think the editor’s hope is to introduce people to the lesser-known detectives of short story, and get mystery fans to stretch beyond their traditional limits in Doyle’s work. I love that idea, though as we’ll see, I’m not fond of the direction Ellery Queen takes us. The effects of that idea are lots of historical facts (detective short stories in history 101: dates of characters, the first detective story ever, etc), and fun editorial commentary on each story that give some historical background or maybe just hints at the plot twists. The introduction throws a lot of names and titles at you, while comparing them to Doyle’s work. It’s quite fun, and makes you think (especially since there are no Doyle stories in the thousand-plus pages that follow. The editor doesn’t mention why or even forewarn the reader that there will be nothing by Doyle). If anything, it shows how much an author expected of their readership fifty years ago; we’re expected to think it through and draw our own conclusions, a rarity in short story anthologies of my experience.

GOOD: Only two or three detectives are featured more than once, making a veritable smorgasbord of non-Doyle stories. Information about each detective, author, and story time-period provide opportunities to explore new serials for the interested reader. While only about a third of the stories are exceptionally good mysteries, roughly half are good stories overall, and very entertaining. The most worthwhile part of this book is the introduction, which describes the history of mystery. The only comparably interesting part is the first chapter, especially the very first mystery story ever written (by Edgar Allen Poe). The introduction is a crash course in the famous people and detectives of the mystery genre, and gave me countless names to look up for future reading. I enjoyed the categorizations of mystery stories (comedy, female detectives, Holmesians – Doyle imitators – and Comedic-Holmeisans, great detectives, and clever mysteries), and there is at least one good story in each category, all put into context by this introduction.

BAD: Roughly half the following stories are either boring or unacceptably non-mystery-like. So the book as a whole is not recommended, despite the cool introduction. The editor clearly feels that mystery includes the horror genre. Also, the standard for “best” is pretty low, despite the intellectual commentary.

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: The introduction is worth every word. The rest of the book varies greatly in quality, but that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with 101 years and so many different authors. Why do you think the editor would spend most of his introduction comparing different authors to Holmes, and then omit all stories featuring the famous detective? Any ideas?

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The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource by Janelle Hallman


The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource

Note: Not sure if this properly published last week; so here it is again. Matt Gardenghi

Sadly, many assume that a woman who has same-sex attraction is easy to peg—easy to spot. They assume that this type of woman is “ugly,” “bra-burning,” and “man hating.” In The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource, Janelle Hallman argues that there are many more women than just those conceived stereotypes struggling with same-sex attraction. After years of counseling women with SSA, Hallman has written a book that explores the causation, different expressions, and methods of counseling women with SSA.

The Heart is divided up into two parts, “The Building Blocks: Understanding Their Stories” and “The Work of Restoration: Leading Them Home.” The first section explores causation, the therapist or counselor relationship, codependency issues, and contributing social and familial issues. The second section weaves together stories of Hallman’s clients with practical applications of “how to” help women who find themselves with SSA.

Hallman begins by destroying the idea of the stereotypical radical lesbian. In her prologue she discusses the beginning of her interest in helping these women. While in a women’s Bible study, she saw two women confess that they had “crossed the typical physical and emotional boundaries of friendship” (p. 11). Apparently, these women were not “that type,” and yet they had fallen to this behavior. With this impetus, Hallman discovered that “every woman with SSA is unique . . . in how she experiences her same-sex attraction” (p. 23). Contrary to what the stereotype may be, Hallman’s clients range from 25-50, single and married, parents and grandparents. These women struggling with same-sex attraction will often express it in ways that do not always include physical activity. At times their SSA will be manifest in relationships that are emotionally dependent and destructive in their introspection.

Unlike men who deal with homosexuality, women’s expressions of SSA rarely have a root in physical attachment, but are more enmeshed in the realm of emotional dependency and satisfaction. “The relationship is about connection” (p. 106). The web of varying SSA behavior seems ultimately to be attached to the events of the woman’s past, including but not limited to childhood experiences. Hallman cites numerous experiences with her clients as well as other scientific studies that lead her to this assertion. When a woman looks to “another woman . . . to survive or adapt to unresolved childhood deficits and traumas, she can inadvertently become extremely emotionally dependent on her friend and block or negate her own autonomous growth and healing process” (p. 100). A harmful childhood is not the only contributing factor to SSA, but one of many. The message throughout The Heart is that female same-sex attraction must be confronted as one peels an onion—slowly and deliberately breaking through the layers.

In the book’s second section of practical applications, Hallman presents four steps for the counselor or therapist to lead the client through. She reminds the reader that it often takes months, if not years for women to see lasting and meaningful change in this area. There isn’t an “SSA switch” that can be flipped. Change comes through the transformation and renewing of the woman’s mind. The four suggested steps include: Formation, Transformation, Integration, and Consolidation and Maturity. Hallman spends several chapters on each explaining how the counselor can walk the client through this laborious and rewarding process.

Because women are so relationally oriented, Hallman urges the counselor or therapist to be unconditionally accepting of the woman herself. Some readers may be uncomfortable with this perspective or see it as “too soft on sin.” She, however, argues that for the counselor to succeed in challenging, and assisting in changed behavior, the counselor must provide a warm and welcoming environment so that the first stage of healing, Formation, can be reached (p. 118). These hesitant readers would do well to remember what Christ did in dealing with another woman caught up in sexual sin; He focused on the nature of who she was, not the mere act of her sin (John 8).

Perhaps due to our permissive society, the evilness of our hearts, or pervasive abuse, there seems to be growing amount of women dealing with same-sex attraction. I have known several women who would self-identify as lesbians. But I have known more women who engage in destructive, “canabalistic” female friendships that ended in pain and heartache (p. 105). Some of these women were single and some were married; all of them considered themselves Christians. Yet, they engaged in inappropriate emotional relationships, turning their friend into an idol (p. 101); someone who they hoped would give them a reason for being. It was because of these women that I wanted to read this book. Anyone who is in a counseling position, be it a man or woman, would benefit from this book including Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, pastors, and counselors.

In the end there is hope. A woman can walk through this “lengthy process in which she reclaims, piece by piece, her heart and her soul, which have been deposited or housed in the other woman. She must salvage the threads of her true self and reknit them around new perceptions, impressions and beliefs that arise out of a corrective experience of love, support and acceptance” (p. 114). A love ultimately found in God, not another person.

Ramesses by Joyce Tyldesley


Ramesses

I know people who have read Elisabeth Peter’s Amelia Edwards series about classical Egyptology and archaeology, and I know others who have been studying ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, and Babylonian societies. I was starting to feel left out of the conversations. So the other day, I had the opportunity to borrow a book about Ramesses so I did just that. (That, and the book that I had grabbed for my trip turned out to be full of profanity and I had to put it down.)

Anyway, when I picked up this book, I noticed that it had a preface to readers with little to know background in Egyptology. This has merit. Then Tyldesley continued to explain that most well-read amateurs knew as many facts as most experts, I realized that we had an honest writer. This was looking up. Then she explained that the difference between the amateur and the professional was an understanding of the theories, debates and some technical details. Finally, she described how many writers were pushing their pet theories while either disregarding or overlooking contrarian facts. She promised not to do that.

One of my concerns with reading history books is trying to figure out which authors are telling the truth and which authors are spouting guff. Tyldesley impressed me as one of the former, so I decided to read on.

It was true that there were many aspects about the book that I didn’t quite understand, but Tyldesley made certain to explain enough stuff that I would understand the critical pieces of the story she told. In the end, I gained a much better understanding of Egyptian culture around the time that the Israelites were in Egypt. One point that stood out to me was the idea of maat. While more or less indefinable, the idea of maat is probably best explained as “rightness” or maybe “organization and truth” as opposed to “chaos and lies.” The pharaoh as the sacred semi-devine custodian of maat was responsible to keep the country an orderly place. (As best I understand it, the Egyptian view of god(s) changed with each pharaoh and so can’t be easily defined.)

Given the above, the pharaoh would often re-purpose the monuments of his predecessors for his own use. You know, things like a new face and name plate on the statue or a new cartouche (royal nameplate) in the history books. They easily and regularly re-purposed the history of their fathers and ancestors to be their own history. This was acceptable as the new pharaoh was now a god in the place of the previous pharaoh; they were different people, but same office. Then again, Ramesses even lied about the great battle of Kadesh between Egypt and the Hittites. (It was more of a draw than a real defeat by either side.)

Finally, the other fascinating thing that I learned was about the countries structure. The citizens worked for pharaoh and consequently he could tell them where to live and what to do. Pharaoh would build a city and them populate with workers, administrators and give everyone a job (maybe building monuments or mining or farming). This helped with the rewriting of history. They didn’t have access to bloggers to spread the real truth of the situations. 😀

Oh yeah. Many of the tombs were raided within a couple of hundred years of internment. The priests did quite a bit of the grave robbing. Eventually, the government was desperate for cash and since all the tombs were being robbed as they were located, the official government began an official program of “tomb and mummy restoration.” They would take the mummy out, clean up the mummy, and reinter it in a new location all the while taking anything of worth for the empty government coffers….

What do you know about Egypt? Any tidbits you can share or titles that you can recommend?

A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty


A Roving Commission

Plot: Our hero’s story begins several months before the insurrection on the island of Hayti, on a ship anchored in Hayti. Nathaniel, known to all as Nat, because he dislikes his full name, goes ashore to see the town. In the course of the visiting the town, he rides out into the countryside. Several miles from the town, Nat hears a scream and cries for help, jumping from his mount he runs to the voice. Nat sees a large dog mauling a young girl, without a thought, he jumps at it and after a short brawl, kills it with his sailor’s dirk. The girl’s parents take Nat into their home while he recovers from his large injuries.

After a month or so with the small family, Nat returns to his ship.

Aboard with his shipmates once more, Nat sets out on another adventure, this one including pirates. The captain informs Nat that they have orders to sail around the islands, and see if any pirates are about.

Thanks to Nat’s keen eyesight, the ship notices a pirate hold deep within an island. They attack this and capture the entire hold. Unexpectedly, among their plunder, are about two hundred slaves. These they feed and cloth properly; following a sharp fight with the surviving pirates and islanders, the ship sails home with the freed slaves and other cargo.

Relieving themselves of the slaves, and leaving them to others care, Nat’s ship sets out once more to survey the various islands for pirates. Once more, thanks to Nat’s keen eyesight, they discover a small pirate hold hidden well on an island. Finding the opening small and well guarded, the captain sends a small force ashore to take down the guards so the ship could sail through cleanly. Nat goes with the small party, and they take down the pirate guards before they know what hit them. A short, intense fight ensues, killing all the pirates and giving the sailors great plunder from a large warehouse.

The ship returns victorious to their harbor and unloads its precious cargo. The captain rewards Nat’s outstanding bravery from the last battle, with leave for a few days to visit the family whose daughter he had saved. He is there few days before the slaves around the island revolt against the white rule. Providentially, Nat, the girl he saved, and her mother, are warned in time and are able to leave the house before the slaves come to kill them and burn the house. Now, on the run for their lives, Nat must protect the woman and find a way back to the town.

Positive: Our hero, Nat, is full of honor, courage and good brains (excuse the expression) as always. Something that is lacking in many of our hero’s in modern day books, especially the good brains part.

The battles are well written and engaging, a very big plus for me.

Mr. Henty does an excellent job of portraying the events of the black insurrection of Hayti. He draws you into the historical event with the story, with our’s hero help of course.

Negative: I cannot say many negatives about this book, in fact I cannot think of one!

Overall: The books that Mr. Henty writes are what first drew me to history, aside from my natural wish to learn more of it, he made me find it fascinating. Mr. Henty does a wonderful job keeping your nose in the book and interested in our hero’s tale, yet, at the same time, filling the reader’s mind with history.

I highly recommend this book to people of all ages; it is well written and finely told.