Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, April 24, 2015

Over the next two-three weeks we will be moving and will be without Internet, among other things, from time to time. Todd is handling the next two weeks of Forgotten Fridays. I probably can't respond readily to much.

If you need to contact me, use my email address rather than the comment section on here.

Today, I am off to physical therapy. I will be back around 9:30 to add any latecomers.

Adam and Eve and Pinch Me by Ruth Rendell
(Review by Deb)

Published in 2002, Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (the title is from a childish joke that results in an innocent foil getting pinched) is much more in the tone of the books Ruth Rendell publishes under her alternate pen name of Barbara Vine than Rendell’s (now completed) series of police procedurals featuring Detective Inspector Reg Wexford.  The book is full of Barbara Vine tropes in which peoples’ lives are restricted by both internal decisions and external factors.
I think it was Stephen King who praised Ruth Rendell’s brilliant use of “malevolent coincidence” in describing how the confluence of fate and personality work in the lives of her (often) mentally-, socially-, and/or financially-limited characters.  Events that would seem far-fetched, even preposterous, in the hands of lesser writers are readily accepted in Rendell’s work because they proceed organically from the characters’ established habits, desires, and frames of mind.  Here are some examples of these coincidences in Rendell’s Adam and Eve and Pinch Me:

·         A ne’er-do-well man makes a spontaneous decision to see an afternoon movie, unaware that a mentally-fragile woman he has previously fleeced is also there and armed with a knife.
·         A closeted politician inadvertently leaves an important file in his lover’s apartment.  When he surreptitiously returns to retrieve it, he is left without an alibi for the time during which his wife’s ex-husband was murdered.
·         A married couple, each with significant health issues, decide to spend an afternoon walking on an isolated heath.  They, too, are left without an alibi for the time of the murder of their neighbor’s fiancé—a man they both dislike.
·         A woman forgets to bring her lunch to work.  Returning home to retrieve it, she encounters a repairman who she mistakes for someone else, with tragic consequences.
In Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, Jerry Leach (aka Jerry Leigh aka John/Jock Lewis) has long ago left his wife, Zillah, and their two children for the greener pastures of a serial progression of single women, all of whom own their own homes and have healthy bank balances.  Jerry (changing or adapting his name as it suits circumstances) lives on these women (often promising them marriage, although he is actually not divorced from Zillah) until they get tired of him or he meets a likelier prospect.

One of those prospects is Minty Knox, a character familiar in the Rendell/Vine universe:  a woman the reader can clearly see is mentally ill but who manages to conceal the extent of her condition from the people around her (who do not have the readers’ advantage of hearing Minty’s inner monologues or observing her compulsive cleaning and dietary habits).  When Jerry leaves Minty (somehow convincing her that he has died in a train accident), she does not chalk it up to experience and move on; instead, she dwells obsessively on her life savings--money she gave to Jerry.  The thought of this money and what she was planning to do with it (install a new shower in her bathroom) haunts her almost as much as the ghosts she sees and voices she hears:  her late aunt, Jerry, Jerry’s mother, and others.  The voice talk to—one might say, hector—Minty continually until she resolves that drastic action is the only way to make them stop.

Another of Jerry’s conquests is Fiona, an investment banker, who is devastated with grief when Jerry is found murdered.  In her misery, she inadvertently casts suspicion on her neighbors in the unsolved case.  Then, when a similar murder takes place, it is Fiona who finds herself a possible suspect.

Meanwhile, Jerry’s wife Zillah has entered into a “marriage of convenience” with a gay Tory politician, neglecting to mention to him that she is still married.  Rendell paints this politician—a dreadful snob with the double-barreled name of James Melcombe-Smith—as the nastiest character in the book; not because of his sexuality, but because of his hypocrisy in espousing the anti-gay positions of his Conservative Party base in his ambition to climb the ladder of politics.  He too will be hoist on his own petard when Jerry’s death is discovered.

A number of other characters, secondary but fully-fleshed out (including Minty’s vibrant and kind-hearted neighbors, Zillah’s older-than-her-years daughter, and a tough-minded journalist who just happens to be one of Jerry’s ex-flings), populate the book—each with their part to play as events and the main characters’ reactions to them spin intricate webs that trap and confine.  Some of these webs are the characters’ own creations and some are due to our old friend, the malevolent coincidence.

(from the archives)
IN THE LAST ANAYSIS, Amanda Cross (Carolyn Gold Heilbrun)

Amanda Cross wrote 14 books about Kate Fansler, an English Professor who solved crimes and cogitated on the issues of the day: feminism being foremost in her mind.

In this her first novel, a student, referred by Professor Fansler to a psychoanalyst friend, is found stabbed to dead on his couch, his fingerprints on the knife. Fansler solves the murder with the help of her friend, ADA, Reed Amhearst. All of Cross' books take place in an academic setting and she uses it well to explore the issues of the day that concerned her.

Heilbrun, the mother of three children, was the first woman to receive tenure at Columbia University although it was not for writing this series, something that was looked down on by her colleagues.

Heilbrun committed suicide at the age of 77. She was not sick but perhaps feared illness or the loss of independence. She also believed fervently in the right to decide when to end one's own life. You can find more out about her last day here. 

Sergio Angelini, AND NONE SHALL SLEEP, Priscilla Masters
Yvette Banek, HOLIDAY HOMICIDE, Rufus King
Les Blatt, THE MYSTERY OF HUNTING'S END, Mignon Eberhart
Brian Busby, THE THREE ROADS, Kenneth Millar
Bill Crider, THE HEIRS OF ANTHONY BOUCHER, Marvin Lachman
CrimesintheLibrary, THE GENESIS SECRET, Tom KNox
Martin Edwards, WHO IS SIMON WARWICK Patricia Moyes
Ed Gorman/Fred Blosser, THE MOPPER UPPER, Horace McCoy
John Hegenberger, THE SECRET OF SAM MARLOW, Andrew Fenady
Rick Horton, ENGINE SUMMER, John Crowley
Jerry House, DICK TRACY AND THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE, Max Allan Collins and Dick Locher
Randy Johnson, TOUCHFEATHER, TOO, Jimmy Sangster
Nick Jones, A Gaggle of Graphic Novels
George Kelley, THE DAW SCIENCE FICTION READER, Donald Woolheim
Margot Kinberg, THE HANGING SHED, Gordon Ferris
B.V. Lawson, THE YELLOW TURBAN, Charlotte Jay
Evan Lewis, CONAN THE INVINCIBLE, Robert Jordan
Steve Lewis, A WREATH OF STARS, Bob Shaw
Todd Mason, GALAXY OF GHOULS, ed. Judith Merrill
Patrick Murtha, THE WRECKERS, Bella Bathurst
J.F. Norris, A HOUSE POSSESSED, Charity Blackstock
James Reasoner, RIVER RANGE, L.P. Holmes
Peter Rozovsky, MAN ON THE RUN, Charles Williams
Kerrie Smith, DEATH IN ECTASY, Ngaio Marsh
Kevin Tipple, LAKE CHARLES, Ed Lynskey
TracyK, THE MALTESE FALCON, Dashiell Hammett
Prashant Trikannad, GLADIATOR, Philip Wylie


Kevin R. Tipple said...

May the move, the pt, and everything else go well.

Todd Mason said...


A. E. Coppard wrote a famous horror story taking the same title as the Rendell, published back in the '20s...never have sought out the original context.

Deb said...

In Rendell's book, it's a recurring (very childish) joke told to various women by an unpleasant man. How each woman responds to the joke shows her level of innocence/naïveté. I wonder if Rendell was aware of the original short story. I have to think she was.

Todd Mason said...

Meanwhile, thanks, also, Patti, for pointing us toward that NEW YORK magazine profile of Heilbrun, whose work I've been aware of but have read only glancingly, and that's my fault. Though to learn that the Columbia English Department lived down to my expectations of such institutions, given my direct experience of several state schools' and indirect of other universities', is no more surprising than profile writer Vanessa Grigoriadis's obvious greater comfort with Heilbrun's more traditionally feminine daughter than her primary subject (and the necessity of citing Gloria Steinem's look as much as her statements about Heilbrun).

Todd Mason said...

Cool. Thanks, Deb. I'll have to reread the story soon...I have no memory of it at the moment, which surprises me a little, but one of the stories I reread for today's book for me is one which impressed me upon first reading it at age 13, and I had no memory of anything but that fact until digging back in.

Deb said...

That happens to me all the time, especially now that we're trying to cull our book collection. I'll open a book, flip through it, see comments in the margins, clearly in my (younger) handwriting, and yet I have no memory of having read the book. Yikes!

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanks as always for the inclusion - and good luck with the move!

Gerard said...

I am behind on reading and note taking. I'll have something next week.

John said...

I have returned! And here's my contribution for this week:

A House Possessed by Charity Blackstock

Richard said...

I read that Amanda Cross when the series came out in paperback, liked it a lot. I then read the next three, but ran out of steam on the series.

Best of luck with the move!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I read most of the Amanda Cross Fansler books and the short story collection but towards the end I was finding them a little too pretentious for my taste. For an academic mystery I prefer Sarah Caudwell. I also like Level Raphael.

Jeff M.

Margot Kinberg said...

Such a good choice of book, Patti!! And thanks for including my post in the other contributions. Wishing you well with your move.