Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1846)

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1846)
Betrayed by his friends, an imprisoned man escapes, he seeks to enact revenge on his captors by assuming a new identity as a count.

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Saturday, February 23, 2019


BRAM STOKER - Abraham "Bram" Stoker was born in 1847 to Abraham Stoker, a senior civil servant, near Dublin, Ireland. Bedridden and ill until he started school, he recovered and attended Trinity College, where he met Oscar Wilde. Stoker married Florence Balcombe, whose former suitor was Wilde. The notorious Wilde was initially upset, but later resumed a social and literary relationship with Stoker. Bram had one child, a son named Irving Noel Thornley Stoker, born in 1879. Stoker involved himself in London's high society and wrote theater reviews. He became assistant to actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned. He toured America with Irving, where he met President McKinley and Roosevelt, along with his literary idol Walt Whitman. Stoker wrote for The Daily Telegraph newspaper: The Crystal Cup, The Chain of Destiny, The Snake's Pass, The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm. Before Dracula, Stoker met Hungarian Ármin Vámbéry, who shared folklore/ myths of the Carpathian Mountains. On a visit to Whitby, England; Stoker became inspired to write Dracula, in 1897. Stoker began Dracula mere weeks after Oscar Wilde's conviction for homosexuality. He visited castles, crypts and the locales featured in Carmilla, written by Sheridan Le Fanu. He conducted research at The London Library but never traveled to Transylvania. An epistolary novel, Dracula is a collection of diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings, a style developed while working as a newspaper writer. Stoker corresponded with/ participated in long-term relationships with many important men over his lifetime. Walt Whitman, Henry Irving, Oscar Wilde and Hall Caine, to name a few. Reportedly, his marriage was sexless and he died of syphilis, just like Oscar Wilde. His letters, research and journals were released posthumously, filled with pledges to men as comrades, Grecian themes, and codes for homosexuality. Much of Dracula’s homoeroticism is said to derive from his own repressed/ thinly veiled sexual fantasies. Late in life, he demanded imprisonment of homosexual authors, in order to divert attention from himself, and to pay penitence for his own self-loathing. The monster in Wilde’s book The Portrait of Dorian Gray, literally a painting, is a self-portrait of the writer, so is the vampire depicted in Stoker’s Dracula. The vampire, a mincing monster in evening wear, creeps secretively in shadows, imprisoned by his own vices, feasting on young blood. Victorians were terrified of being outed, a source of the longing, captivity, coded language, and secrecy imbued in these writings. The specter of death was central to Stoker’s most famous character, yet his best book was relatively unknown in his lifetime. After several strokes, Stoker died in 1912. Florence published Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories in 1914. When FW Murnau released Nosferatu in 1922, starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, Florence sued for copyright infringement and won. The court ordered all existing prints burned, but a single print survived which had already been distributed. Duplicated over the years, it took on its own life as a fan favorite. Universal Studios released the first authorized version in 1931, starring Bela Lugosi as Dracula. A pre-code production, staged with a similar extravagance as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. Dracula was forever cemented as an icon of popular culture, largely due to Universal and Lugosi. Vampire legends weren’t new, yet Dracula’s/ vampire fiction’s place in film, TV, radio, comics and novels never waned in popularity ever since. Lost until the 80s, the original 541-page manuscript of Dracula was found in Pennsylvania. Typed pages, with handwritten notations scribbled in the margins, with THE UN-DEAD on the title page, changed at the last minute to DRACULA. Who says there’s anything wrong with changing your mind at the last minute? 

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Sunday, February 17, 2019


Thriller Fiction - Thrillers heighten suspense, sustain tension, cause curiosity, place obstacles before protagonists, employ literary devices such as plot twists/ cliffhangers/ reversals, and always lead to a climax. Early proto-thrillers began with adventure fiction in pulp magazines, and the genre solidified with the introduction of spies. The Riddle of the Sands, below, created the term “Spy Novel”. Detectives are also suitable protagonists in thrillers. Generally speaking, the strong man (hero) wins “the girl” and the villain is vanquished. A successful thriller causes apprehension, conceals important information, builds momentum, and reveals carefully constructed information. Manipulating revealment/ concealment/ sequence of important points is crucial. While not directly considered to be speculative fiction (supernatural, fantasy, superhero, science fiction, horror, etc.), thrillers often contain elements of horror, crime, pulp and hardboiled fiction. Many classic slasher horror books could be considered thrillers, as long as they are undiluted by a supernatural element, and take place in a conventional world. There are numerous types of thrillers: legal, spy, medical, romantic, historical, political, religious, high-tech, military, scifi, etc.
What’s most important is execution, regardless of type. For this reason, few if any thrillers deviate from three-act structure and are never experimental in form. The only distinction between thriller and suspense is the intensity, whereas drama is more nuanced, open to multiple interpretations. A good thriller delivers strong execution: an enticing hook hurtling toward the end, intense plot points, raising stakes, plenty of tension, and a satisfying climactic ending, which ties the whole thing together. A boring thriller is an oxymoron.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1846)
Betrayed by his friends, an imprisoned man escapes, he seeks to enact revenge on his captors by assuming a new identity as a count.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
An adventurer travels to the heart of Africa up the Congo River. Atrocity and inhumanity are exposed, which makes one wonder what it means to be civilized.

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (1903)
An officer navigates sand banks via small boat, to investigate a secret project on an island.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
When an expatriate allows an American to hide in his flat, he returns home to find him dead, struck through the heart with a knife.

The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich (1943)
After her husband’s mistress is murdered, his wife tracks down the suspects, systematically destroying them.

Sudden Fear by Edna Sherry (1948)
A playwright fires an actor as she workshops her play prior to opening night. She becomes embroiled in a tangled web of a murder plot, a double cross, jealous rivals, a frame job and a counter attack. With her husband, a bourgeois girl she saves from drowning, her secretary and her financial advisor.

The Nine Wrong Answers by John Dickson Carr (1952)
The nine wrong answers are a series of near-fatal traps navigated by an imposter. He confronts the villain with the correct, and tenth final answer in the climax.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (1953)
James Bond, secret agent 007, targets a communist paymaster, LeChiffre, under the Soviet murder organization named SMERSH.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (1980)
Plagued with amnesia, Jason Bourne must uncover his remarkable abilities, and his true identity. All while being chased by an assassin who wants him dead.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988)
Buffalo Bill kidnaps, starves, skins and sews his victim’s skin into suits, then dumps their remains in nearby rivers. Clarice Starling questions Dr. Hannibal Lecter as she tries to locate him.

Phantoms by Dean Koontz (1983)
Heavily influenced by Lovecraft, two sisters return home to find everyone mutilated or missing. Their town was built over the den of amoeboid shapeshifter that mimics and consumes life forms.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)
When a man complains of insomnia, his doctor advises him to attend a support group to experience real suffering, like Fight Club.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)
When a symbologist investigates a murder in the Louvre, the victim is discovered with an inscription beside his body. This involves him in a battle between two secret monastic orders.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005)
In this vast locked room murder mystery, alternate story lines are merged later on, that follows a sprawling cast of characters. Wherein a journalist pairs with a private investigator to uncover the truth of a young girl’s disappearance.

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (2013)
At the Sparrow School, a former ballerina is forced to undergo espionage training, to seduce targets of the Russian government.

Comes the Dark by Michael Prescott (2013)
Time is running out for two siblings, orphaned by a double murder decades earlier. When a local girl's remains are discovered at the river, the sister retraces memories from her youth, and suspects her brother of murder.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


MICHONNE’S LAST STAND - Danai Gurira will leave the cast of The Walking Dead at the end of Season 10. A featured star in Best Picture Oscar nominee Black Panther movie blockbuster, it has long been rumored she would be leaving the show. AMC announced renewal for Season 10 based on Robert Kirkman’s comics but she will appear as Michonne in only a few more upcoming episodes. Her exit is the third major cast member including Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan. Several stand-alone films starring Lincoln as Grimes will go into production in 2019. Gurira and Cohan might land deals to return for occasional episodes or within story arcs that feature Lincoln. We will see what comes next, in the Fragmentation of the Dead.