Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Classic Mystery Short Stories

The formal announcement will be made in July, but I’d like to “clue” you to an exciting (to me) new mystery e-book project. Hornpipe Vintage Publications is developing a series of classic short stories in the genres of mystery, crime, gothic and intrigue. These period works, now in the public domain, were written by authors both famous and obscure. Each story will be available to the public in e-book (PDF) format for online retrieval.

Authors represented in the series will include Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, Amelia B. Edwards, Guy de Maupassant, Bram Stoker, Leo Tolstoi, H.G. Wells and many others. Most of the tales are set in the 19th Century -- the period of my own “Harper Chronicles.” My hope in offering these story selections is twofold. Foremost, I want to introduce new mystery fans to a timeless body of quality reading which they may have overlooked. Second, I want to add to existing e-book libraries in this literary vein for the convenience of dedicated aficionados.

Look for more details shortly at this blog, and keep an eye on my Web site.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ireland's Farmer in White

Eccentrics operate in all shapes and sizes . . . and attires. In the latter category was one Robert Cook, a farmer in Cappoquin, County Waterford, at the turn of the 17th Century. Cook was in his 80s when he died in 1726, and no one was surprised at his instruction that he be wrapped for burial in a white cloth.

You see, Cook had lived his entire life dressed in white. Everything from his dress coats to his underwear -- even his hats -- had to be white. He insisted on “linen and other vegetatives for raiment.”

Cook was a vegetarian who not only refused to eat animal flesh but refused to kill animals, even farm predators. When a fox was caught raiding his chicken yard, Cook “punished” it with a stern lecture.

Such an individual surely deserved a nickname, and his neighbors obliged. “Linen Cook,” they called him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mystery E-Book News

Hornpipe Vintage Publications, my own publishing handle, has a couple of e-book projects in the works which you might find interesting. Launched this week is the Quick Reads From "The Harper Chronicles" series, which offers in e-book format each of the short stories from Volume One of my "Harper" historical mystery series. Check out the details here. These story books are in PDF format for viewing in Adobe Reader. You can read them on your home PC or take them with you on a mobile unit for enjoyment in transit.

The second project, which will go public in July, will be described in a subsequent blog. Please check back here next week. . . .

Friday, June 10, 2005

Tale of a Tugboat

Sailors for ages have told tales of jinxed vessels. If ever there was one, it had to have been a little tugboat named the Bratt. It sank in March 1956 in the Gulf of Mexico -- but that was neither the first nor last calamity that befell it. Weirdly, its sequence of astonishing mishaps all occurred in less than a week.

First, a barge it was towing sank in the waters of Mobile Bay. The next day, the Bratt’s captain suffered a heart attack and died at sea. The day after that, one of its crewmen fell overboard and was never seen again. Soon afterward, the Bratt itself sank while returning to port.

There’s more. The Bratt's owners quickly organized a salvage effort. One of them drowned when the boat in which he was working above the wreck site capsized.

Many other ships have had "haunted" histories, including the Great Eastern (more on that one, also known as the Leviathan, in a later blog). In most cases, however, their tragedies and enigmas took place over a period of years.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Bit About Walpole

Those of you who haven’t yet probed back in time to the early works of gothic and mystery literature might be enticed to do so if you come to know something of the authors’ lives. That, more than forced readings of their stodgy prose, is primarily what got me interested. I had to read some of Poe, for instance, when I was in high school -- and didn’t much enjoy it because I was a slow reader, I was under pressure, and the stories unbearably bored me. Much later, however, I “rediscovered” Poe, as it were, after hearing of his South Carolina connections. I found his personal life interesting, which piqued my curiosity about his writings. It was then, upon applying myself to his legacy (for the first time), that I began to appreciate his contributions to the mystery genre.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) was another early gothic author who deserves a revisit by modern readers. Did you know he was the fourth Earl of Oxford, and his father served as prime minister of England? The younger Walpole was a member of Parliament for 27 years, but he isn’t remembered for his government tenure. He’s known instead for his thousands of pointed, intellectual letters, published posthumously, and for his volumes on art history.

And of course, students of gothic literature -- if they know of him at all -- know of Walpole through his dark novel The Castle of Otranto. Published in 1764, Otranto predated Poe’s landmark detective stories (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” et al) by about 80 years.