The Stranger Beside Me, Ann Rule

The Stranger Beside Me, True Crime by Ann Rule Ann Rule began volunteer work at the suicide Crisis Centre after her brother committed suicide. She felt guilt over his death and wanted to do something to help suicidal people. She answered the phone at night and into the early hours of the morning. There were only two people on the night shift, herself and a polite, friendly, empathetic young man who talked people out of suicide. His name was Ted Bundy, probably the worst serial killer in American history. As they worked through the nights, side by side, they became firm friends, despite the fact that Ann Rule was 10 years older, had four children, and was married. Ted was a student at the University of Washington, a psychology major, and an honour student. During quiet nights, they shared aspects of their lives as friends do. No one saw Ted Bundy as a threat, as a killer. What they saw was a charming, intelligent, helpful, friendly young man, universally called “good looking”. In 1971 Ann was a single mother of four, aged 35 years, struggling with a divorce and a sick husband. She had briefly been a police officer, but… Continue reading

Inside Mystic Lodge by Marcus Clark

Book, Inside Mystic Lodge

  “When I was twelve years old, I almost killed my sister. I sometimes thought it might have been better if I had, instead I turned her into a paraplegic. We were down at the creek, jumping in and out of the water. I told her I would race her to the other side of the creek from the big tree. I pretended to do a running dive, but stopped at the last second; she didn’t. Cheryl dived into the shallow water, the sound of my laughter in her ears, and came up a paraplegic.” Kent Alpine has a debt to repay to his sister. His life’s mission is to find a way to help her walk again. At first he studies medicine, but realising he is not as gifted as other students, he turns to the thing he excels in: psychic healing. He joins a mysterious group working to improve the health of children who have terminal illnesses. In the meantime, his fiancee runs off with a more worldly acquaintance. At Mystic Lodge, he meets interesting people, a self-proclaimed witch, and the leader of the psychic healers, Forrest Atman. But just as they are apparently getting positive results healing… Continue reading

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelo

BOOK, I know why the caged bird sings

                Book review, Marcus Clark This is an autobiographical account of a young black girl growing up in the American South during the 1930s and 40s. Maya lived with her grandmother for some years. During this time the grandmother owned a grocery shop for blacks. Not only ran it, but made it profitable even during the depression. They were not rich by white standards, but were close to it by black standards. During the depression the grandmother lent money to a white dentist, which allowed him to keep his practice. But ten years later he refused to treat Maya, saying, “. . . I’d rather stick my hand in a dog’s mouth than in a nigger’s.” Maya, who relates the events in a style like a novel, was highly intelligent, reading classics before she was ten years old. When she transferred to a school in San Francisco she jumped a whole academic year. She frequently uses descriptive expressions: “He was choosing words the way people hunt for shells.” Her story is one of hardship, poverty, violence. Maya was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend when eight years old. When the abuse… Continue reading

Do not read these famous books

book cover

I know this is going to open a can of worms, or perhaps a barrel of rattle-snakes, but it needs to be said: do not read these famous books. One thing all these books have in common is that they are too long. If they were excellent, fascinating, educational, absorbing on every page they would not have a problem. But most readers find they are not any of those things. I have read all but one of these books, and while they are talked about in literary circles, and are on lists of Must Read Books, few people ever finish reading them. Some people would hint that you are “artistically impoverished” if you have not read these books. Do not believe them. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy This is one of the longest novels ever written. The version I read contained 1500 pages of tiny print. The story: Napoleon Invades Russia, Napoleon retreats in disarray. It is not a difficult book to read, and it is mildly interesting. But it is going to take months of reading, and probably you will feel it was not worth the journey. If it was a shorter book, it might be worth the time… Continue reading