Beauty and the Beast

Holiday Monday, which is celebrating Juneteenth (if you want to know more about the holiday, this is a great place to start). It’s hard to believe, and more than a little sad, that it took until recently for this to become a federally recognized holiday. Honestly.

Better late than never, I suppose–which is hardly any consolation, really.

But it’s nice to have another three-day weekend (I can’t remember which holiday we gave up for this one at my dayjob, but we only are allowed no more than eight holidays for some reason), and I slept late again this morning. The cappuccino yesterday morning had no effect on my sleep, so I am having another one this morning, which is lovely. I really do love the way they taste; I just wish making them wasn’t so complicated and dirtied up so much stuff. I made Swedish meatballs yesterday afternoon and that mess still needs to be cleaned up as well. Heavy sigh. What can I say? I got caught up in watching television once the meal was ready and stayed in my easy chair until it was time for bed. We watched the new episode of Becoming Elizabeth, which isn’t bad but it’s not overly compelling either–which is weird, because the period between Henry VIII’s death in 1547 and Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558 was very fraught and very dangerous (Anya Seton brilliantly captured this period in her seminal novel Green Darkness, which I highly recommend along with the warning “it’s quite long”); but it’s not really translating to the screen very well in this production. I also spent some more time with John Copenhaver’s marvelous The Savage Kind, which I hope to do again today.

We also started watching an amazing show on Netflix that originally dropped in 2020 and whose second season was endlessly delayed by the pandemic (I checked it out on-line as we watched) called The Defeated starring Taylor Kitsch as a Brooklyn homicide detective who is “loaned” to a small precinct in the American sector of Berlin in 1946 to help rebuild their station along American police standards; which is a challenge. None of the people working as cops there have any experience in being police officers; some are young boys while the majority are women. The Germans aren’t allowed to have guns, so they have an “arsenal” where they keep their bedposts and other wooden sticks; the Russians are horrible; and Kitsch himself is looking for his brother, a soldier with mental problems who’s gone AWOL and whom Kitsch suspects is targeting and murdering Nazis. It’s extremely well done–think Babylon Berlin but only in another twenty years–and it also asks a lot of ethical and moral questions that really don’t have answers. The woman who runs the station, is the “superintendent” or captain of the squad–wasn’t a Nazi but her protestations about “we weren’t all Nazis” have the same credibility of a prisoner at Angola claiming innocence: no one admits to being a Nazi once the war was lost, after all. At one point she says, very poignantly, “The war is over and the entire world hates us because of what we did, or allowed, and who can blame them?” This seems particularly poignant given the current political climate in our country; I know it seems extreme, but I’ve seen other people comment on Twitter and other social media about how they feel sometimes like “they are living in Weimar Germany and it’s just a matter of time.”

I know I’ve certainly felt that way at times.

We also watched a classic old Bette Davis film, The Letter, which I’d realized I’d never seen yesterday so I pulled it up and started watching. I had read the original short story by Somerset Maugham a few years ago for the Short Story Project, and enjoyed it tremendously. The story is told from the lawyer’s point of view, while the movie certainly shifts the focus over to Leslie Crosbie, wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner, who shoots and kills a man she accuses of trying to rape her. Everyone believes Leslie…but you see, there is this letter that exists that contradicts her story, and the more lies she tells, the less her lawyer believes her–although he ultimately pays a blackmailer to get the letter back so she escapes conviction. In the story it’s all from the lawyer’s point of view; she’s merely the wife of a friend he is taking on as a favor, and he doesn’t know her well…but as he (the lawyer) discovers the existence of the letter and recovers it, he slowly begins to see through her lies and to see her as she really is. He doesn’t expose her–he allows her to escape her punishment–but he confronts her with the letter after the verdict and she confesses everything…only to return to her loveless marriage at the rubber plantation. The story and the movie both are steeped with the Imperialistic and racist overtones of the time the story was written and the film made; the ending of the movie is different than that of the story because of course, for the Hays Code of the time she couldn’t be seen as not being “punished” for her crime; she is murdered at the end by the Eurasian widow of the man she killed (his marriage to this mixed-race woman is what sets the tragedy in motion) during a party celebrating her verdict. There was one scene in particular that really made me shake my head: after she has told her story of being almost raped and committing murder to protect herself, she makes dinner for her husband, a friend of the family, and the local police magistrate and they sit around eating and talking about things like nothing’s happened. As we watched this season, Paul–who had no idea of what the movie was about–said, “Oh, he didn’t try to rape her, did he? She’s a cold-blooded killer.” GREG: “It’s Bette Davis, what do you think?”

Although it did make me think about false accusations of rape again, which is one of the myriad of reasons women generally tend to not be believed about being assaulted. There’s probably a really good essay to be written about that.

I also wrote yesterday, which was really lovely. I managed to get the first chapter of that manuscript written; I plan to look at it again today and tweak it a bit. I have a lengthy errand to run–must go over to the North Shore–and when I get home, I plan to write for a while before retiring to my easy chair with my Copenhaver book (I am really enjoying it, y’all) before we finish watching The Defeated (y’all, it’s really good). I’m not sure if what I wrote yesterday is actually any good or not; it remains to be seen, I suppose, and let’s face it, I am not (nor have I ever been) the best judge of my own work. But we shall see today, I suppose. It felt good to be creating again and it felt good to be finishing something, even if it’s just a shitty draft. I’d like to be able to get a lot more written today, if I can…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Talk soon, Constant Reader!

Don’t Knock My Love

I turned the edits in yesterday and let out a huge sigh of relief. I think I fixed everything that needed fixing, and I think the book is much better now than it was when I actually turned it in (editors are so worth their weight in gold; good ones, anyway).

I feel more confident now about my writing than I have in a long time, to be honest. I feel more confident about life in general, for that matter. I’m not sure what happened, or what caused the change…but I know once I got over being tired from the Kentucky trip, I’ve felt better on every level–emotionally, physically, and mentally. And I hope it lasts.

I also didn’t realize how much stress that turning that revised manuscript in would release from my shoulders. Deadlines are stressful, especially when you have a horrible habit of missing them, and the last couple of months haven’t been the easiest for me on multiple fronts. But when I started working on the edits more deeply this past weekend, I became much calmer than I’ve been in a long time, relaxed, even, which really felt strange. The weekend overall was a pretty good one, to be honest. I didn’t sleep as well last night as I would have liked, either, but this morning feel rested, at the very least. It also feels like I’ve not been into the office in a very long time, which is strange–I mean, I was just there on Friday–but it’s still weird. But even so, this past week was a lot less stressful and tense than I’ve felt in a long time. I am not sure what that’s all about, but I am going to take it as a win.

We watched more of The Boys and Obi-wan Kenobi last night, and are now all caught up on both shows. (I didn’t know Amazon Prime was doing the same, release one episode per week, streaming thing; I don’t remember having to watch The Boys by the week in previous seasons, but my mind has literally become a sieve these days and it’s entirely possible. The ability to binge has seriously affected my memory and how I watch television; it seems completely alien now to have to wait a week to watch another episode of something…let alone having to watch everything that way. How on earth did we used to do that all the time? It’s amazing how easy it is to retrain your mind after a lifetime of doing things one way.) I am really enjoying both shows. I like that The Boys will go places Marvel and DC won’t with their take on super-heroes, and I am really loving Obi-wan Kenobi. I don’t know what the whiners on social media are complaining and/or bitching about, other than it being the usual misogyny and racism. “Oh, no, we have a Sith who is a black female!” Get over your fucking self. Sorry you can accept alien creatures without qualm but get your tiny little nut-sack in a froth over a black woman. The horror of it all! You must have really hated the adaptation of Foundation.

I also wrote nearly three thousand new words of “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night; I decided working on it would be a nice palate-cleanse between finishing the last book and starting the new Scotty. I’m still not sure I am writing it the correct way–novellas are a whole new thing for me, and the structuring is also a new concept for me. But I like what I am doing with it thus far, and while it doesn’t have to be anything, it could just as easily be something I just tinker with from time to time when I feel like it, I am also enjoying it a lot. It’s set in the summer of 1994, and my main character has just retired from the military after twenty years and moved to New Orleans. He’s a gay man who has spent twenty years hiding who he is, and now he has the ability to live his life the way he pleases–so writing about unshackling oneself from the enforced bondage of the military closet is, in some ways, like just coming out of the closet. He doesn’t regret his time in the army, not in the least; he would have stayed in had he not learned he was on a purge list before “don’t ask don’t tell” goes into effect. But I like the idea of exploring how experiencing that freedom for the first time in his life, at almost forty, feels…because in many ways his socialization as a gay man is somewhat stunted; it had to be, because of the military. It’s nice to bring up these things–as well as HIV/AIDS–in a historical piece (sad that 1994 was almost thirty years ago at this point and counts as a historical. This is also my sly way of working some politics into the story, as well. When Peter interviewed me for the Three Rooms Press website as the “featured author of the month,” one of the things he asked about was politics…the truth is my existence is political through no choice of my own, as I told Peter, and I would like nothing more than to just be left alone so I can focus on my writing. I’ve not been active politically for a while–I still vote, and make the occasional donation to a candidate I believe in–but as a gay man in the United States in 2022, the right wing likes to use me and my community to whip up their base of Christofascists, and this year it is particularly ugly.

I also think my work kind of stands as political statements on their own. Let’s look at my last two books, shall we? Bury Me in Shadows examined the generational damage caused by institutionalized racism and homophobia; #shedeservedit was an examination of how toxic masculinity and systemic misogyny damages our young people. Yes, they were crime stories, and yes, I like to think they were entertaining reads–but each had a point that I was trying to make through the story and the characters and what they were facing. I started doing an entry this weekend about the Scotty series, from beginning to its most recent (since I am about to embark on writing a new one)–mainly because there was a song on the list I am using for post titles called “Watching Scotty Grow” and really, was there ever a better title for a post looking back through the years at the Scotty series, its ups and downs and journey from an idea I had one afternoon to getting a contract to write it and going from one publisher to another…and yet Scotty continues to endure.

Well, that’s enough for a Tuesday morning. Have a lovely morning, Constant Reader, and I am heading into the spice mines.

The Young Folks

It’s a work at home Monday, and it’s also Lundi Gras. Orpheus rolls tonight, and tomorrow is the Mardi Gras holiday. Yesterday was one of those days that started with good intentions, but somehow exhaustion took over at some point and nothing got done. We did end up starting the second season of Toy Boy on Netflix–which is even more insane in its second season; you’ve got to hand it to Spanish Netflix–and I spent most of the day glued to my chair watching war coverage from Ukraine. While all of my sympathies are entirely with the Ukrainian people and their amazingly courageous president, at the same time I am disturbed by scenes from the border where white Ukrainians are being given priority to cross while non-whites are being held back. This doesn’t seem to be an issue with the country they would be crossing into, either–it’s Ukrainian border guards doing this.

But American exceptionalism and white supremacy weren’t born or created on this continent, it’s a disease the European colonizers brought with them, and it has flourished here ever since. It saddens me to see that even in a terrifying time such as this, with their cities under attack and the Russian military within their borders that Ukrainians can still perpetuate such behavior…although it’s really not all that surprising. I don’t know how bad or widespread the problem is; but I believe that it has happened at least on a small scale, and I hope once the situation is better there we can get to the bottom of what happened at the borders.

Today I have errands to get run, data to enter, emails to send and a short story to work on. We may go out for some of Orpheus tonight–it depends on how we feel, how the weather is, and numerous other factors are involved as well, but we’ll see. Orpheus is one of my favorites, and it will feel strange to not see it, but…it will depend on my energy levels, how cold it is, and how much of this story I get finished today. I also need to start editing my manuscript; that’s going to the top of the to-do list I am going to make today (I never got around to it yesterday–I told you I was in a malaise yesterday for some reason I cannot understand) and I am also going to start making notes on it. I think there’s a better way to tell the story–to get the reader involved sooner–and there are other things I need to strengthen in it as well. I have to get to work on the Bouchercon anthology this week, and there’s always MWA stuff to get done. But hopefully I can kick it into gear. I’ve not been eating a lot lately–I usually have been eating things in the morning and perhaps snacking later–and that has to change. A lot of that has to do with Paul’s insane schedule currently; I never know when he’s going to be home or if he is, whether or not he’ll want to eat or not and, as always with me and my eating issues, if I don’t eat when I am hungry the hunger fades and I wind up not eating. That. Has. To. Stop.

If for no other reason than I need to eat for energy.

I have had a bagel with cream cheese already this morning, and I also need to go through the refrigerator as I make a list for the grocery run to come this morning. I have some cheese-stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in bacon to make for tonight’s dinner, and tomorrow I will probably fire up the barbecue and make burgers. I also am feeling weirdly at sea the way I always do during the crank-up of parade season–disconnected from the world–because everywhere else everyone is going about their usual normal Monday while here…it’s an entirely different subject. It’s disquieting, to say the least, but it only lasts until Wednesday. And yes, we have a strangely truncated work week–Wednesday will feel like Monday; making it even more difficult for me to adjust to my new “in the office” schedule, which I still hadn’t quite gotten used to yet. Sigh.

Ah, reality.

And on that note, I am going to start digging through everything and getting my day going. Thanks for checking in, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Why (Must We Fall in Love)

Muses Thursday! Will our streak of getting at least one shoe per year continue? Watch this space!

I signed a contract for Scotty IX yesterday; Mississippi River Mischief, to be due on December 1st. Within two minutes of signing said contract I began doubting myself and the Imposter Syndrome kicked in–not really a big surprise, it always happens and is lurking in the back of my mind somewhere. What will I write this about? Another homophobe who is a closet case? AGAIN? But the story I want to write is based on something that actually did happen here; only I am moving it from the New Orleans suburbs to my stand-by fictional parish, Redemption Parish, out on the bayou lower river area. I do need to come up with some other plots–there’s some Colin stuff left over from the last one that I kind of need to delve into this time around–and no, this is not a pandemic book. There will be a pandemic book at some point–I think the shutdown/home quarantining times makes for an interesting situation for a murder mystery; kind of a locked room kind of thing–but I am not there yet. There are at least two more books for Scotty I want to write before Quarter Quarantine Quadrille–and of course, the story of the death of the Krewe of Nyx is simply too good of one to pass up. (Their “parade” was last night.)

Naturally, I didn’t attend the White Supremacy Lady Klan parade last night, and apparently neither did many other people. It was fun following NOLA Twitter as the entire city dragged the racist skanks and their joke of a parade for filth last night. When I got home from work last night, there were hardly any people out on the route–which was unusual, and I was able to find a parking place right in front of my house–a half block off the parade route, without a problem less than two hours before the streets closed. (Tonight is Muses, and I will probably be able to park no closer to my house than Coliseum Square if I am lucky) If you are unaware of the KKKrewe of Nyx, two years ago after George Floyd’s murder their captain posted “All Lives Matter” bullshit on their social media. (She’s also a grifter, and the creation of the krewe–which was created because the waiting list to get into Muses is years–was really a way for her to make money; there are any number of lawsuits and embezzlement investigations going on too) Some of their riders proudly threw Confederate flag beads in 2020; and there was a push for them to throw “Forever Lee Circle” beads with medallions featuring the image of the Traitor Lee on them this year to protest the removal of the statue that never should have been put up in the first place, and despite the fact that the only people supporting them (“the majority,” as they regularly claimed) were racist garbage, refused to apologize, refused to back down, and then screwed over the women who left the KKKrewe in droves after the racism scandal, literally going from 3400 members to 240; a loss of over 90%.

Yes, you fucking bitches, you also suck at math because if over 90% of your krewe quits then you can be relatively certain your opinion isn’t the majority. Imagine, in this day and time, being that unrepentantly racist and thinking you can parade in New Orleans and people will turn out. (Not that there isn’t racism here–there is–but the city is also majority progressive, and majority Black.)

Just the thought of them polluting St. Charles Avenue with their presence makes me angry.

But that shit is over, and we can go back to enjoying Carnival while hopefully, those bitches are spending today thinking about how an entire city turned their backs on them and their hateful messages. I rather doubt it, but I’d love to hear how they rationalize an abandoned parade route somehow meant they represent the majority opinion. And for the record, that statue is gone for fucking good and is never fucking coming back, bitches–because it’s our city and we don’t want to keep honoring treason. Especially after 1/6/21.

So, yes, lots of material there for French Quarter Flambeaux, isn’t there?

And on that note, probably time for me to go into the spice mines. Fingers crossed we get a shoe tonight!

Take Good Care of Her

As the launch date for my book draws nearer and nearer, I find myself not experiencing the kind of stress and anxiety that I usually feel as the clock winds down. Maybe it’s because I am making the effort to promote the book this time around? Finding the time to do so? Paying more attention than I usually do when I have a book coming out? I don’t know why I am feeling so much more relaxed than I ordinarily do in the final days before this release, but it’s nice to have some awareness—other than the usual stopping in the middle of something to think, oh yes, I have a book coming out—is it today or tomorrow? I should probably do something about that, shouldn’t I?

It really is a wonder that I have any career of any kind, seriously.

And maybe it’s just the swing back from the twenty months or so of nightmarish existence, but I do feel like I am doing good work when I am writing these days. I don’t really remember much of the final push to get Bury Me in Shadows finished and out of the way, but I do remember doing the page proofs and thinking, you kind of did what you wanted to with this, well done! One of my big worries whenever I start writing something new is the fear I’ve already written the story, albeit in a different form; I was worried, almost constantly, that I was plagiarizing Lake Thirteen, my other ghost story, in this book. But the stories are very different, and the main character in each are quite different from each other. I think the mood in both books—the atmosphere I was creating—are very similar to each other, but I was trying to do something Gothic and almost dream-like with both.

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve always worried about writing about the South, and Alabama, in particular. How does one write about the South without dealing with the racism, present and past, of the region? How do you write honestly, with realistic Southern characters, without touching on that third rail of enslavement and war? Not all Southerners are racists, of course, just as not all Southerners are homophobes (I do make that point—about them not being all homophobes—in the second or third chapter of the book). But you cannot write about the South without mentioning that whole “Lost Cause/states’ rights” nonsense; that misplaced pride in something that was, at its core, evil. I was not educated in the South; I started school in the Chicago public education system; we moved out to the suburbs for junior high and my first two years of high school, finishing in Kansas. I was never taught in school that the root cause of the Civil War was anything other than slavery; and in all my extensive outside reading of American history, I never came across any of that. (I knew that the Southern politicians were all shouting “states’ rights!” in the lead-up to secession; but this was subterfuge. They couldn’t win the argument about slavery on moral grounds, so they fought against emancipation on Constitutional grounds. And, as I often note whenever someone trots out the tired states’ rights canard, the only right they cared about was the right to own slaves, and they sure as hell wanted the Fugitive Slave Act enforced against the will of the free states, didn’t they?)

I also like to point out that all those lovely, wonderful society ladies in Gone with the Wind—Melanie, Mrs. Meade, Mrs. Elsing, Mrs. Merriweather, etc.—would all be full-on Trump voters today. (I’ve not read the book in years, but while I do remember that in several places, Ashley talks about how he would have freed the enslaved people at Twelve Oaks had the war not come; but Melanie talks about the Lost Cause with all the fervor of a believer at a revival meeting in a tent…which makes Melanie, theoretically the moral center of the book, the biggest racist of the main characters in the story—and yes, I know, Margaret Mitchell did a great job of propagandizing the “Cause” as the Confederacy rather than slavery; but there’s an awful lot of racism and “they were better off enslaved” in that book, which, along with the movie, has done a great job of romanticizing something hideous and ugly )

I could write volumes about Gone with the Wind and how problematic both book and movie are (not the least of which is that Rhett rapes Scarlett but she enjoys it), but that’s an entirely different subject, deserving of its own entry (or two or three) or an essay—but I will say this one last thing on the Gone with the Wind subject: since the movie was released, for decades it imprinted on the minds of white Americans “this is what the antebellum South, and enslavement, was like”—when it was actually nothing of the sort and bore no resemblance to anything true or right.

One of the things I wanted to make clear with Bury Me in Shadows is that the shadow of white supremacy can be overcome and the continuing link, from generation to generation (parents teaching it to their children, who teach it to their children) can be broken by a person not blinded to realities or brainwashed by romantic fantasies; that character in this book for me is Jake’s mother, Glynis Chapman. Glynis rejected the white supremacy/racism she was raised with and did not pass that on to her son. I’ve always felt—and this was best exemplified with that Miss California who all those years ago blamed her homophobia on “It’s how I was raised”; it’s how I was raised is perhaps the laziest, most disgraceful, and embarrassing excuse ever given for perpetuating hatred and discrimination. It essentially states that you are incapable of thinking logically and rationally for yourself; you are incurious, and your parents are God-like, with beliefs and values that are above question. At least own your bigotry and don’t blame it on your parents because at some point, you must become your own person; you either continue to blindly believe everything your parents told you, or you actually become a functional human being capable of making up your own mind rather than simply blindly parroting what you were taught. I began questioning everything quite young, frankly; more so than most, but still to a far lesser degree than I should have. I didn’t question American mythology as young as I should have, but I did start questioning religion quite young–and I am also happy that I never fossilized my beliefs and values but rather kept them fluid and receptive to change based on new information, or more in depth thought.

Racism, and white supremacy, are evil. Period. Race theory has no validity or origin in actual science—the genetic differences between white people and non-white people are so infinitesimal as to be practically non-existent—and were created for no other reason than to justify western European colonialism, exploitation, and looting the resources of the rest of the world for power and money. Originally cloaked in religious fervor (if there was gold and riches for the crown, there were souls to be won for the cross), even American expansionism at the expense of the indigenous people of this continent was called manifest destiny, which gave mass genocide and the theft of land a cloak of holiness: it is the destiny of the white man to rule over others and expand his empire.

And it can’t get more white supremacist than that, can it?

I’ve never understood the notion of racial pride, frankly; likewise, I’ve never really grasped the mentality behind ancestor-worship, as evidenced by Confederate apologists. Regardless of reason, the truth is, and always has been, that the Southern states tried to destroy the union, period. They fired on the flag. The great irony that the Confederate apologists also consider themselves to be more patriotic Americans than those who think the Confederates were traitors–talk about cognitive dissonance–is something that always amuses me. How do you chant USA! USA! during the Olympics or other international sporting events of any kind when you have a Confederate flag decal on your car? Why are you do defensive about the crimes of your ancestors, when you have no more control over what they did during their lifetimes than they have over yours? No one can help who they are descended from and no one pays for the crimes of their ancestors. Confederate monuments never should have been erected (again, the groups that raised the money for them and put them up were run by women like Melanie Wilkes and Mrs. Meade and the other society women from Gone with the Wind) so there should have been no need for discussion, debate, or confrontation over their removal; as I always say, “Where are the statues of Benedict Arnold or the other Tories from the Revolutionary War? Weren’t they just standing behind their values and beliefs? They also saw themselves as patriots–just for the King.” I am incredibly happy not to see the statue of traitor Robert E. Lee every time I drive home from work–I hated having to try to explain the existence of the statue and the circle named for him to visitors…I used to say, “And here’s one of our monuments to treason, Lee Circle” every time I drove around it with a visitor in the car.

So, no, Bury Me in Shadows is definitely not a Lost Cause narrative that romanticizes the antebellum Southern states or the Civil War–and is definitely not the place to look for one.

The Girl Is Mine

I’ve never been an enormous fan of Reese Witherspoon; I think she has talent and she had really shone in some things I’ve seen her in (Legally Blonde, Election, Cruel Intentions) but there was always just something about her, though, that set my teeth a little on edge; nothing I can explain, but she just always struck me as the “I need to speak to your manager” type. But her television work has turned me into a fan, and not just because she’s been killing it in shows like Big Little Lies, The Morning Show, and Little Fires Everywhere…she’s been terrific in all of these shows, but the bigger picture is these shows have introduced me to two writers with whose work I’ve become enamored; Liliane Moriarity and Celeste Ng. Moriarity has more of a backlist than Ng, who only has published two novels; I’m working my way through Moriarty as of yet, and loving her work, but Celeste Ng is a whole other story.

Little Fires Everywhere was a terrific novel, and I was holding off on reading her debut, Everything I Never Told You, primarily because I didn’t want to run out of work by Celeste Ng to read (one of my weird predilections; I never want to run out of books by writers I love). But during the aftermath of Ida and with no power, I picked it up, started reading, and didn’t put it down until hours later, when I’d finished.

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast. As always, next to her cereal bowl, her mother has placed a sharpened pencil and Lydia’s Physics homework, six problems flagged with small ticks. Driving to work, Lydia’s father nudges the dial toward WXKP, Northwest Ohio’s Best News Source, vexed by the crackle of static. On the stairs, Lydia’s brother yawns, still twined in the tail end of his dream. And in her chair in the corner of the kitchen, Lydia’s sister hunches moon-eyed over her cornflakes sucking them to pieces one by one, waiting for Lydia to appear. It’s she who says, at last, “Lydia’s taking a long time today.”

Upstairs, Marilyn opens her daughter’s door and sees the bed unslept in: neat hospital corners still pleated beneath the comforter, pillow still fluffed and convex. Nothing seems out of place. Mustard-colored corduroys tangled on the floor, a single rainbow-striped sock. A row of science fair ribbons on the wall, a postcard of Einstein. Lydia’s duffel bag crumpled on the floor of her closet. Lydia’s green bookbag slouched against her desk. Lydia’s bottle of Baby Soft atop the dresser, a sweet, powdery, loved-baby scent still in the air. But no Lydia.

One of the things that strikes me as curious about Ng’s work is that it’s set in the past; Little Fires Everywhere was set in the 90’s, and this, her debut, is set in 1977. Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with writing stories set in the past, mind you, it’s just an observation. But the two books have very strong themes and look at the roles of women in the society in which they were born; that entire thing about “having it all” (which is mythology, of course; no one is superhuman enough to “have it all”) and the bitter reality that a woman cannot, ever, no matter how hard she works and no matter how much effort she puts into it, achieve this mysteriously, vaguely defined “all” she is theoretically able to have. It’s still a problem for women in our current time; the inability for gender roles to be completely redefined, for one, despite the fact that society and culture have dramatically changed and shifted over the last few decades (four or five of them, at the very least).

Anyway, I digress.

The Lee family, who live in a small college town near Dayton in Ohio, are a typical American family. Dad teaches at the university, Mom is a housewife and mom, and their two eldest children are academic stars at the local high school. The youngest child is a mere afterthought, an asterisk, to whom no one really pays much attention. Both parents are completely wrapped up in Lydia, their second child; much to the detriment of the oldest, Nathan (Nath). Lydia is soon found when they drag the nearby lake; whether she committed suicide, it was an accident, or foul play is pretty much up in the air–although they did find her things in a small rowboat floating out in the middle of the water, so accident or suicide is most likely, but Mom Marilyn refuses to believe her child could or would do such a thing and therefore it must be murder!

This is, of course, a classic set-up for a crime novel or a novel about families; the twist here is that James, the husband/father, is Chinese-American (his parents were immigrants) and Marilyn the mom, is white and from Virginia.; therefore their children are bi-racial, and this was still kind of a “thing” in the 1970’s (not that it isn’t still, of course; progress has been made but it’s also been rather on the slow side, really). When James and Marilyn marry, miscegenation laws are still on the books; Marilyn’s own mother is such a racist bitch she says horrible things to Marilyn on her wedding day–which is the last time Marilyn sees or speaks to her mother. They are the only Asians in their little college town, which also impacts the kids and how they see, not only their parents, but the world. Marilyn is also a frustrated feminist; she wanted to be a doctor, took Science classes against the advise of teachers and advisors, and only gives up on her dreams when she becomes pregnant and marries James, becomes a wife and mother….and channels all her frustrated hopes and dreams onto her daughter, Lydia–who has a lot of trouble, as we see over the course of the book, living up to those hopes and dreams. There are no villains or heroes in this book; just complicated human beings doing their best to get through their lives–and how the things unsaid to each other, for whatever reason…and as we get to know each character and their own foibles and flaws and dreams, they become fully realized, and the reader cannot help but love and empathize with them. The story structure, after the present day opening with Lydia dead, flashes back and forth between the present and the past, as we learn the story of the Lees and their broken hopes and dreams; watch them deal with the horrific and completely inexcusable casual racism of their white neighbors and classmates; as Marilyn meets women who followed their dreams and envies them, wonders how they managed to do it; and there’s also a queer subtext/plot thread that is handled delicately and beautifully–if perhaps not realistically for small town Ohio in the 1970’s; whatever issues I may have with the realism of the story in the time in which it is said can easily be set aside because of how beautifully Ng does it as an author.

Everything I Never Told You is an absolute gem of a novel, and I can highly recommend it.

Evil Dust

The sun is actually out today and there aren’t many–if any–clouds in our beautiful blue sky this morning, which is lovely. It’s rained pretty constantly ever since Tuesday afternoon, and everything outside is still wet from nearly a week of rain. I love rain–especially thunderstorms–but even I thought five straight days of them was a bit extreme. I wound up running my errands in the rain yesterday–I dropped off another five boxes of books to the Ladder Library sale yesterday (you actually can tell now that I’ve gotten rid of books)–and made groceries and got the mail. It was pouring while I did all of this, so my plans to go to the gym yesterday were finally scrapped. I also wound up taking the day off from almost everything yesterday–I think I needed a brain-free day, frankly–and so we watched a lot of television–we binged all the way through a delightful comedy called The Other Two, watched the Tom Holland movie Cherry on Apple Plus, and then switched over to Acorn for a riveting crime show called The Cry.

Yes, I was a slug all day and I am not a bit ashamed of it.

Oh, sure, I had my journal with me and scribbled notes freeform all day–my favorite is that I came up with a short story title I now HAVE to use, “To Live and Die in La.”, while having absolutely no idea what the story would actually be, but I laughed at the title and now want to. use it–so I did do something. But today I have to start revising/copy editing/making notes on Bury Me in Shadows–due to be returned to my editor no later than the first of May–and so, if I do go to the gym today (leaning towards it, since it’s sunny out) I can curl up in my easy chair to do it, so that’s a start. I really need to work on my story–the deadline for that submission call is May 15, I believe–and so I need to kick everything up a notch this week. I am getting caught up on a lot of other things as well–it’s never-ending, and have also accepted that I only have so much bandwidth for things. The emails, for example…I’ll never get caught up on those, ever…so I need to prioritize and so forth in order to get through everything that absolutely needs to be responded to immediately.

I also need to spend some time getting organized and cleaning a bit this morning. There’s filing to be done, of course–always–and somehow the kitchen looks like a tornado ripped through here (not completely an exaggeration, to be honest) and I need to get that taken care of this morning. I have a load of laundry to do, and there’s always dishes–always. I also want to organize the refrigerator a bit more this morning. Since the sun is out, I’ll probably grill hamburgers later on this afternoon, which is always an absolute treat (I really prefer all meat to be cooked over hot charcoal, frankly–or at least, most). I am also a bit excited that the next step of book decluttering (and yes, I am aware I am completely Marie Kondo-ing my apartment) is to go up into the storage attic and start clearing the boxes up there. This will, of course, be more complicated than the bookcases and the hidden boxes in the living room, since I’ll have to bring them down and go through them, combining the ones to keep (I can’t imagine there will be many of those) while putting aside the ones to donate. The goal is to clear out enough space in the storage attic so I can clean out my storage rental and close that account; most of the books in the storage are copies of my own books (and my kids’ series collection) along with some other things–mostly papers–and it would be nice to either no longer have that bill every month, or to use that space for other things…but at the moment I can’t think of anything that we’d need to keep it for.

But it would be great to lose that bill by the end of the summer.

Not as great as paying off the car, but still pretty good.

I think I’m going to add Semi-Tough to the donate pile. The first three pages are nothing but racial slurs as well as justifications for using them, and how the main character–it’s a first person narrative–isn’t really racist and the slurs are just words that don’t mean offense and so on–and yeah, I really don’t feel like spending any of my time with that kind of character. I certainly wouldn’t in real life–imagine being at dinner or a cocktail party and the person you are talking to says, and this is a direct quote from page one: Just because I may happen to say (the n-word) doesn’t mean I’m a racist.

Um, actually it does. It says a lot about you, who you are, and how you were raised, as well as how you see people and the world.

And I really have no desire to read a book filled with racial slurs…because you KNOW its also full of gay slurs, too–and most likely without the caveat justifying the racial slurs: Now listen, just because I say “faggot” doesn’t mean I’m homophobic.

Sure, Jan.

There are so many other good books to read, why reread something I originally read as a teen that plays on racism and homophobia and misogyny for humor? I stopped rereading The Last Picture Show, a book I absolutely loved, a few years ago when it got to the part about bestiality, and how it was perfectly normal for the teen boys to fuck animals…I closed the book and put it away. I may go back and reread the entire thing at some point–the reason I was rereading it in the first place was to examine how it handles homosexuality–which I distinctly remembered it doing–but I don’t think I was able to get far enough into it to get to that part. I know that Coach Popper–long-suffering Ruth’s awful husband–was a deeply repressed one, who favored one of the more athletic boys primarily because of his attraction to him; that the preacher’s son Billy Bob Blanton was often mocked and teased and bullied and humiliated for being a “four-eyed queer” (before he molests a little girl, after which he’s taken away as a pervert); and that the heterosexual English teacher, who was cultured and sensitive and kind, was accused by the coach of impure thoughts and fired (everyone, of course, would never suspect the manly football coach of anything, or question him); and I remembered a particular poignant scene between the fired English teacher–who’s been fired, whose wife has left him and taken their daughters and filed for divorce–and Ruth, where he’s just so beaten down and defeated that it’s heartbreaking. But yeah–that whole “boys will be boys” attitude towards bestiality was too much for me to get through again.

The Last Two is a terrific show, and quite funny. Paul and I really enjoyed it; the premise of the show is the two older children are in their late twenties–one is a struggling actor whose most recent audition was for a commercial in which he would play “Party-goer who smells a fart”; the daughter had wanted to become a dancer until she broke her ankle and dropped out of dance school and cannot figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life–when suddenly, their thirteen year old brother puts up a video of him singing a ridiculous song (“Marry Me at Recess”) and becomes an overnight viral sensation with a record deal and a manager under the name “Chase Dreams”; which makes them feel even more like losers. The older brother, Cary, is also gay and in a weird relationship with his straight roommate; the daughter has broken up with her boyfriend and is now homeless at the beginning of the show. I thought it was terrific, frankly, and look forward to season two.

My primary takeaway from Cherry is that Tom Holland is an amazingly talented actor–he really gives a stunning performance as a poor young man who falls in love, gets his heart broken and joins the military, serves as a medic in Iraq and comes home to nothing but PTSD and drug addiction, which leads him to a life of crime. It’s a very dark story–but also weirdly a love story at the same time–and I don’t think the film, worked overall; the Russo Brothers, who directed, turned it into this big grand opera style thing in the way they shot it; to the point where the beautiful imagery is almost intrusive. It’s a very real story–based on a true story–and it highlights, very powerfully, how we abandon our troops completely after their service is over (since they’re no longer the troops….”support the troops” makes me angry because it is used primarily as a political prop and the actual soldiers themselves suffer in silence and neglect while we give billionaires and corporations every break in the world), but it’s worth watching for Tom Holland’s performance–he was also fantastic in The Devil All The Time–and it’s really nice to see him pushing himself in his non-superhero roles (he’s also the best, in my opinion, Spider-Man).

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

Times Change

And here we are on Monday morning yet again–the world keeps turning and revolving around the sun, bringing the endless cycle of night and day we’ve become accustomed to as perhaps one of the few things in this life we can reliably depend upon; things which, alas, are in far too short a supply these days.

I worked on the book yesterday–I wasn’t feeling especially motivated, to be honest, and decided to try not to force anything, but I did get some things done with it, which was necessary, so I don’t feel like the day was entirely lost, either. Paul slept late and I went to the gym, getting home before he got up and left for the office. I was in bed (damned six a.m. alarm anyway) by the time he got home, so I am not even entirely sure when he got home, to be honest. I think I woke up and glanced at the clock around midnight when he was getting into bed–but I may have dreamed that. After I was finished with the bare minimum of the work I got done yesterday, I started watching a documentary series about Egypt–Planet Egypt–but when I was getting going on the second episode, I realized you’ve already seen this–they jump from Narmer to basically the 18th Dynasty and so decided to find something else to watch. I wound up landing on Visible, the documentary about queer representation on television through the decades, and I managed to get through the first two episodes. Ironically, I remember the bad representation on screen from mostly the 70’s (they also didn’t mention another notorious queer killer–John Davidson played a cross-dressing murderer on The Streets of San Francisco to some serious critical acclaim. I didn’t watch it, but it was yet another early representation of queer as psycho killer, so I was a bit surprised they skipped it–and if you think about it, it’s really strange that of all television shows, The Streets of San Francisco wasn’t loaded with queer representation….then again, Arthur Hailey’s Hotel was an 80’s show set in San Francisco with nary a queer in sight; which tells you everything about the times). It also has reminded me that I should probably let go of a lot of the shame I feel/felt about not really coming out until I was thirty in every aspect of my life…it was a very different time, and not everyone was able to escape to San Francisco or New York, which at the time were the only real options for queers.

One of the things that actually gives me hope for the future is seeing all the openly young queer people living their lives today in every part of the country, something that simply wasn’t really possible when I was a teenager or in my twenties.

Another takeaway from the documentary, which I will probably finish tonight–I never remembered Raymond Burr as being as sexy as he actually was–he had amazingly beautiful and expressive eyes. I wonder…are the original Perry Mason shows streaming anywhere? I loved the books, and I can remember watching the repeats when I was a kid. My grandmother loved Perry Mason, and she was really my gateway to mystery books and movies, as well as horror. I never finished watching the HBO reboot, which I was sort of enjoying while not enjoying it at the same time–I didn’t necessarily like the fleshing out of the character or giving him this angsty back story, an the plot was glacial and hard to follow, but it was extremely well done and well acted, and you can never go wrong with Tatiana Maslany, ever. But I’ve also not been driven to go back and finish it, either–the same with Penny Dreadful: City of Angels–although the two shows vaguely reminded me of each other. I had to stop watching that one because of the unrelenting racism against the Latinx community of Los Angeles–which, of course, is completely historically accurate, yet hard to watch because you also knew there would be no justice for them. Perhaps I should go back and watch them back-to-back? They seemed to be similar thematically….hmmm, it’s a thought, and of course, I love Natalie Dormer.

I also managed to read a few chapters of The Russia House, but wasn’t really able to focus the way I would have liked to, so I put it aside and started looking for documentaries.

And this coming weekend is the Tennessee Williams Festival, which means my first quarter of 2021 widowhood will be coming to an end relatively soon. I’m not sure I’ll know how to act, having to make dinner and pack lunches for Paul every day–I stopped doing that early in the pandemic, and am not entirely sure I’ll go back to it. Half the time he wouldn’t eat his sandwich until he came home at night, alleviating the need to make dinner, of course, but he has to carry so much with him as it is and if he wasn’t going to eat it most of the time during the day, why carry it along? I try to reduce everything I have to carry to and from work as much as I can–and I don’t walk, I drive.

It’s going to be in the 70’s this afternoon, which is lovely. It’s in the high fifties right now, which means I’ll have to take a jacket with me to work today, but it’s okay–a relatively small price to pay, really, for lovely weather later today. I did make it to the gym yesterday–even increased some weights–and my flexibility is slowly coming back. Oh, I know even now I am more flexible than most people, but I also can remember how flexible I used to be, and while I seriously doubt I can ever get back to that level at age sixty, the stretching does make my muscles feel better–they feel marvelous this morning, frankly–and what I really should do is stretch every morning when I get up here in the kitchen–doing it every day rather than three times a week would make the gains progress more rapidly, obviously–but that’s something I’ll have to gradually work myself up to. I am pleased with the progress I’ve made thus far–I’ve noticeably lost weight, and people are noticing; every week I get at least one mention from a client, or get asked have you been working out, which is always lovely to hear; positive reinforcement is always welcomed. I also know from experience that I will never really see the changes, or if I do, I won’t think it’s enough–I am so fucking critical of myself and I don’t think that is something I’ll ever be able to change at this late date; I’ve tried to stop being self-deprecating but it’s an on-going struggle, really.

And a particularly annoying one, I might add.

Love Story

Thursday morning, and I am working from home today. I have some errands that simply must be run this morning–fortunately I only have to work a half-day today–so once I get this posted and get my own act together, it’s off to the errands so I can come home and do data entry/make condom packs. I think I am going to rewatch the Christopher Reeve Superman–it’s a 1970’s movie, after all, and I don’t know yet if it will deserve a place in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival; I don’t think so, but I think it could be a fun reread while working with my hands.

I was very tired when I got home from work yesterday–so tired that I skipped the gym (!) and didn’t work on the book. Tonight when I finish my condom packing I am going to have to get back to the book, and figure if I can get two chapters done in one day I’ll be back on schedule. LSU’s lamb-to-the-slaughter game against Alabama isn’t until Saturday evening, so I should be able to get several chapters finished during the day that day, and maybe even more. Who knows? There’s a plethora of possibilities.

I slept late this morning–I did wake up at six, again at seven, and finally at eight. I feel much better: very rested, relaxed, my muscles feel good, and my back also doesn’t hurt at all. This is, needless to say, quite lovely, and while it is cold this morning, the cold is nowhere near as bitter as it was the last few mornings, so I can handle it. I haven’t even put on a cap to keep my head warm, which is a lovely thing. It’s very gray outside–the sky is covered with clouds, so it’s kind of grayish-gloomy; like winter mornings I remember from my childhood in the Midwest. I ordered electric blankets the other day–a friend on Facebook suggested it when I was complaining about the cold, and had one of those wow it never ever occurred to me to get electric blankets moments when I truly wonder about my intelligence and intellectual capacity. But in fairness to me, I don’t think I’ve ever owned an electric blanket, and we certainly didn’t have any when I was growing up….but thinking about it this morning, what a difference that could have made that bitterly cold winter I spent in Minneapolis twenty five years ago….

I am still reading both The Bad Seed by William March and Lincoln by Gore Vidal; obviously I was too tired last night to make any headway on either. Paul and I did watch an episode of something that might turn into a guilty pleasure for us….Cajun Justice, about the sheriff of Plaquemines Parish. Louisiana was an enormously popular location for reality television shows back in the day–remember Duck Dynasty?–and since one of my co-workers is moving to Plaquemines Parish (Houma, specifically) she was the one who found this single season reality show…when she mentioned it to me the other day–when we first talked about her move down there, and it’s been a couple of weeks; it was around the time I was looking up Cajun/Louisiana folklore for a potential Christmas horror story, which is when I was finding all those wonderful bayou supernatural legends, like le feu follet and the lutin…which I was able to look up in Gumbo Ya-Ya. The show is kind of, I don’t know, offensive in some ways, as it depicts Cajuns and their culture as an exotic thing; lots of talk about voodoo and black magic and so forth. (This is part of the problem I had with writing about Cajuns and the supernatural; I’m afraid I’ll give in to the stereotypes rather than depict the culture and the people authentically.) I mean, I do want to write short stories illustrating Cajun culture and their interesting folklore and legends (Monsters of Louisiana), but I also want to do it correctly. Gumbo Ya-Ya is an excellent source material, a great starting place, but I am also very aware that its authors were also steeped in the white supremacy and racism of the time in which they wrote and compiled the book, which also makes it harder to decipher what is real and what isn’t.

All right, I’ve got dishes to put away and laundry to fold before I hit the errand trail, so have a happy Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you later.

Breathe

One of the things I love most about books being turned into television series–or mini-series–is reading the book while I am watching the show. I discovered how amazingly fulfilling and fun and joyous this could be with Big Little Lies, and I’ve tried–sometimes failing–to do this every time Paul and I start binge-watching and loving another adaptation.  (Little Fires Everywhere remains my biggest disappointment; I cannot believe I did not have a copy of the book on-hand, or waited to watch until I had one in my clutches)

When I saw the first preview for HBO’s Lovecraft Country, it literally blew me away. I literally thought to myself, wow, I cannot WAIT to watch that, and was even more delighted to discover that it was, in fact, a novel. I got a copy, placed it on the mantle, and the week the first episode aired, I started reading. (Obviously, I do not read as fast as I used to.) I love love LOVE the show, and the book is actually pretty marvelous, as well. I finished it last night as I waited for the way-outer bands of Hurricane Laura to reach us here in New Orleans–all we got was a tropical storm effect, I am terrified frankly to look up what actually happened where the eye came ashore, and will have to gird myself with more coffee before I do look–and I am pleased to report the book finishes just as strongly as it starts–and that the entire book is fucking fantastic.

lovecraft country

Atticus was almost home when the state trooper pulled him over.

He’d left Jacksonville two days before in the secondhand ’48 Cadillac Coupe that he’d bought with the last of his Army pay. The first day he drove 450 miles, eating and drinking from a basket he’d packed in advance, stopping the car only to get gas. At one of the gas stops the colored restroom was out of order, and when the attendant refused him the key to the whites’ room, Atticus was forced to urinate in the bushes behind the station.

He spent the night in Chattanooga. The Safe Negro Travel Guide had listings for four hotels and a motel, all in the same part of the city. Atticus chose the motel, which had an attached 24-hour diner. The price of the room, as promised by the Guide, was three dollars.

I’m going to be honest right up front: I’ve never read H. P. Lovecraft. Oh, the horror, literally, right? When I was a kid I bought a copy of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and other Stories, and it just…well, it just didn’t do it for me. I lost interest several pages in, and gave up; and have never since returned to try the Lovecraftian waters. As I grew older and became more and more aware of the horror genre, I also became aware of how much of an impact and influence Lovecraft had, not just on horror, but on the sisters that genre is usually lumped in with, fantasy and science fiction. Lovecraft is honored and saluted and studied and written about, over and over again; new anthologies explore his worlds and “cosmic horror”; so many horror writers and fans claim, on their social media pages, to have attended “Miskatonic University” (which, to be fair, is far less annoying than those who claim “the School of Hard Knocks,” har har); and of course, over the past decade (perhaps longer; who knows? I don’t, and don’t care to find out) you cannot be involved in publishing, or a fan, as I am, of the horror genre and not been aware of what I have come to call “the Lovecraft Wars.” (The Lovecraft Wars, in short, debate the legacy of Lovecraft and his vile, racist beliefs; the standard defense is a shrugged ‘he was a man of his time’–to which the only proper response, frankly, is so was Hitler–and whether or not he should continue to be honored as an influential author; I don’t know the answer to those questions, frankly, and it’s not my writing community so I have no skin in the game. But you cannot help but be aware of this ongoing conflict.)

Anyway, I was pleased when I saw the trailers for HBO MAX’s Lovecraft Country, which clearly centered Black people, and when I found out it was also a book, I decided to get it and read along while watching the series. I was also a little disappointed to see, based on the author photo on the back cover, that author Matt Ruff appeared to be white–which also seemed to be a whole other field of land mines; the #ownvoice debate.

And then I started reading, and watching.

The book is set in a post-Korean War pre-Brown v. Topeka Board of Education United States; when racism was not only permissable and acceptable to the majority of white people but was often enshrined into law; separate bathrooms, denial of service, mob violence and burning crosses were, horrifyingly enough, just a part of everyday life for Black people. The police weren’t there to help protect them; they were there to force them to continue to live their lives on their knees–and kill them if they tried to rise. Lovecraft Country doesn’t flinch away from this or try to downplay it in any way (either book or television show), and there were times I found it hard to keep reading and would put the book down–only to think to myself, that’s some serious privilege there, bud–this is what Black people experience to this very fucking day and they can’t just ‘put down the book’ and walk away from it; refusing to read it because it makes you uncomfortable and makes you squirm makes you even more complicit than you already are. So, yes, there are some parts to the book that will make white people uncomfortable–but you need to get over it, for any number of reasons but at least one is because the book itself is a revelation.

As I’ve said, I’ve not read Lovecraft, but I got the sense from reading the book that the interconnected stories that make up the book are all inspired by, or retellings of, some of Lovecraft’s; only now centering Black people and their struggle against not only supernatural forces but against the casual, every day racism of the society in which they live. Atticus is returning to Chicago from Jacksonville because he received a letter from his estranged father about a family legacy; Atticus’ mother, it turns out, was descended from a slave who was raped and impregnated by a master who was also a very powerful warlock and part of an ancient society with peculiar beliefs centered in the book of Genesis. His uncle George is the publisher/editor of the travel guide mentioned in the opening of the book; eventually Atticus and George go on a road trip to Massachusetts–to Lovecraft Country–along with a childhood friend named Letitia (Tish)–to find Atticus’ father and they wind up in a very chilling and scary place called Ardham (Lovecraft wrote about Arkham–and I will always wonder if Arkham Asylum from the Batman universe was an homage to Lovecraft as well). They deal with racism every step of the way, “sundown towns” (towns where people of color were required to be outside the city limits by sundown or else suffer the consequences), and corrupt racist cops.

Each section of the book focuses on another person who is a part of their immediate family/friends group, dealing with some kind of different, supernatural experience: the next part of the book centers Tish buying a big empty old mansion in a whites-only part of Chicago that also happens to be haunted, and so on–Tish’s sister has her own story; Atticus and his father go looking for journals of another warlock and encounter a haunting; George’s wife and son have their own stories as well–but all these stories are connected by a thread that goes back to Atticus’ family legacy and a war between different covens of warlocks for not only supremacy, but knowledge and power.

The book is exceptionally well-written, and as I said earlier, unflinching in its depiction of a racist society from the point of view of those consistently victimized by it, and it’s a toss-up between who is scarier–the warlocks and the forces they unleash, or the horrible racists, so entrenched in their horrific beliefs and values that they can’t see Black people as human beings. The fact Ruff chose to call his primary character Atticus didn’t escape me, either; Atticus being also the name of the noble white hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is, while a beautifully written novel, one which has become increasingly problematic to me over the years for any number of reasons. I greatly enjoyed reading the book–and in all honesty, it made me curious to read Lovecraft at some point after all these years; although it’s certainly not going to be a priority for me.

I will read more of Ruff’s work, though; the descriptions of his other books sound incredibly subversive, which appeals to me.

I recommend this book highly.