Friday, February 24, 2012

Winter Wonderland in Crystal Lake Illinois

Last night mother nature let us have it and Crystal Lake has become a mysterious ice palace of hidden alcoves, frosty trails, and snowy drifts. Here are a few photographs for the shutterbugs like me who can't resist picking up a camera.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Frankenstein Airmont Publishing 1963 Paperback

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes that’s not true. Once in a while the cover is just right for the book. Case in point, the Airmont Publishing 1963 paperback edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Originally published in 1817, Frankenstein has endured nearly two centuries. Quite naturally my introduction to the story came courtesy of Boris Karloff’s three films, and by the time I first read this paperback I was well acquainted with the basic plot and images from the movies. At that tender age I found the book challenging, but over the years I have nurtured a fondness for Shelley’s original tale. It is admittedly difficult to separate the name “Frankenstein” from the Jack Pierce classic make-up and Karloff’s brilliant portrayal of the monster. There is so much more involved in the story than just the monster’s horrific appearance. I don’t know who painted the cover shown here for the Airmont paperback but I believe it perfectly captures the essence if not the mood of Mary Shelley’s novel. Here is a brooding Victor Frankenstein, contemplating his violent creation, haunted forever by the creature that will eventually doom them both. The gothic castle on the hill, the graveyard, and the laboratory’s glass beakers and vials add a Victorian touch to the moody scene. The hint of the monster’s visage in the upper right corner, clearly inspired by the make-up Jack Pierce created for Boris Karloff, adds the now familiar Hollywood touch to a perfect cover. There are many editions of Frankenstein available, but this pulp style paperback is my favorite.

For additional thoughts on Frankenstein’s monster read my essay HERE.
For a great blog site devoted to all things Frankenstein click HERE.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker is a stand-alone fantasy novel with all of the requisite action, suspense and memorable characters from the author of Mistborn. Sanderson is one of only a handful of fantasy writers today who can write long fantasies and not lose my attention. Essentially a story about two sisters, Vivenna and Siri, the latter who is forced into a marriage with King Susebron, the God King of T’Telir. But the God King has secrets and over time Siri begins to unravel a plot that could destroy them both. Meanwhile, her sister Vivenna has traveled far to save her sister from what she believes is certain death only to be pulled into a plot that is as deadly as anything she feared might befall her sister. Warbreaker is a long book (676 pages in paperback) and has multiple plot twists that kept me reading. I won’t reveal those twists here, but suffice it say I am always grateful for Sanderson’s original approach to fantasy writing. He’s a writer willing to take chances with plots and characters and with Warbreaker he succeeds admirably.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rickenbacker by Rickenbacker

“My life has been filled with adventures that have brought me
face to face with death.”

So begins the classic 1967 autobiography of Edward “Eddie” Rickenbacker (1890 – 1973), World War I flying ace, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, race car driver, Ace Drummond comic strip writer, General Motors executive, former owner of Eastern Airlines and survivor of planes crashes, car crashes and the guns of Baron Manfred von Richthofen’s Flying Circus. There was nobody quite like Eddie Rickenbacker before or since. The publication of his autobiography was cause for celebration. The book was eagerly sought by those old timers in my family who well remembered an era long past; those pre-Depression era days when men like Rickenbacker cut a trail of true-life adventures across a world that was increasingly complex and violent. The book is a joy to read. I retrieved it from an old box I had stored in my closet and spent an afternoon going over it again, and I marveled at Rickenbacker’s easy style, his attention to detail and the treasured anecdotal details that you’ll find in this 500 page autobiography. By the time this book was published the era that Rickenbacker wrote about was long past and already seemed like ancient history during a period when sex, drugs and rock and roll had become part of the counter-culture movement of the swinging 60s. And here was Rickenbacker, an old lion, the last of his kind, telling it like it was for a generation that really had no idea who he was. The book was published to favorable reviews and vanished. The copy I owned belonged to my grandparents, Andrew and Edna McNulty. They did not own many books, but they saved the Rickenbacker. It meant something to them. 1967 was “the summer of love” and Rickenbacker was an anomaly. As I boy I was enthralled by his adventures. The old timers spoke his name with awe. Rickenbacker had previously published his World War I memoir Fighting the Flying Circus in 1919 which remains in print. I recommend Fighting the Flying Circus as well for a fuller description of his aerial combat adventures.