Things Work Out

Things Work Out

We are making history every day. Time will tell us whether it is for good or ill, but since we have not figured out how to turn back the clock, except in science fiction novels, we must move forward into an uncertain future.

With the new year upon us, and many people struggling with recent events, I thought this poem appropriate, perhaps even optimistic.

Enjoy and Happy 2021!

 

 

Things Work Out

By Edgar A. Guest, 1881-1959

Because it rains when we wish it wouldn’t,
Because men do what they often shouldn’t,
Because crops fail, and plans go wrong-
Some of us grumble all day long.
But somehow, in spite of the care and doubt,
It seems at last that things work out.

Because we lose where we hoped to gain,
Because we suffer a little pain,
Because we must work when we’d like to play-
Some of us whimper along life’s way.
But somehow, as day always follows the night,
Most of our troubles work out all right.

Because we cannot forever smile,
Because we must trudge in the dust awhile,
Because we think that the way is long-
Some of us whimper that life’s all wrong.
But somehow we live and our sky grows bright,
And everything seems to work out all right.

So bend to your trouble and meet your care,
For the clouds must break, and the sky grow fair.
Let the rain come down, as it must and will,
But keep on working and hoping still.
For in spite of the grumblers who stand about,
Somehow, it seems, all things work out.

Our Fascination With Jack the Ripper

Our Fascination With Jack the Ripper

Mystery writers and readers have long been beguiled by Jack the Ripper.  Numerous serial killers have upstaged the Ripper since his murders in 1888.

From Peter Kurten, the “Dusseldorf Vampire,” who began murdering in 1913 and killed at least nine before surrendering . . . to Belle Gunness, who slayed more than 40 men by luring them to her farm through lovelorn notices . . . to Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed, dismembered, and cannibalized 17 men from 1978-1991 . . .  to H. H. Holmes, one of the first American serial killers, featured in Erik Larson’s terrific book, The Devil in the White City, to Albert DeSalvo, who was, in 2013, finally proven by DNA to be the Boston Strangler. Thank you, forensic science!

 Still today Jack the Ripper holds us captivated and if one asks us to name infamous serial killers, his name will often be at the top of the list.

When I started researching Jack I told myself the reason was timing.  The characters in an earlier book would land nicely in the Victorian era some twenty years later.  But that was only one reason for my interest in Jack.

In truth, there were several motivations for pursuing him as an interesting subject.

First, the ambience of the time and place in which he killed.  There’s nothing like a foggy, damp, dreary night in Whitechapel, London, to set the stage for murder.

Second, his Modus Operandi.  He did not just kill his victims, all prostitutes apparently.  He butchered them with ritualistic precision, leaving body parts exposed to the night.

Third, Jack did his work so quickly and efficiently, no one chanced upon him during his grisly task, nor bump into him following the murders.  No witnesses.

Fourth, if the letters that the police received were authentic, Jack taunted them with his deeds.  He made a mockery of their ineptitude, which gave the press a field day.

Fifth, Jack the Ripper was never caught.  There were a number of suspects, including the grandson of Queen Victoria.

My other personal fascination with Jack and the time period centered around Sherlock Holmes, and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I always wondered why Sherlock never solved the case.

Hence, I did solve the case, with the help of Conan Doyle, and, jumping forward 120 years,  the assistance of modern DNA technology, which zeroes in on Jack’s true identity.

Add a little imagination.  I mean, really, could there have been evidence remaining from one of the Ripper murders?

In my award-winning mystery, Time Lapse, I resolve those questions.  Are my solutions believable?  Read it and let me know.

The Tree of Lost Secrets

The Tree of Lost Secrets

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, mainly because I’m deep in the heart of writing my seventh novel.

This book has been challenging. My first six mysteries take you back in time to a particular time and place. For instance Deadly Provenance brings you to Paris and World War II; Pure Lies to the Salem Witch Trials; and Time Exposure to the American Civil War.

My current book, whose working title is The Tree of Lost Secrets takes place in my hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. Readers travel back to four different time periods, hence, four sets of new characters. Plus, in keeping with my tradition, a modern story which threads through all.

The four time periods and locations:

Italy, World War II, 1943

Halifax, Nova Scotia, World War I, and the great Halifax explosion, 1911

The Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War, 1856

The American Revolution, 1776

In my research I have come across some interesting and amusing material worth a mention here. For example, one of my characters in the section on the American Revolution is a real character named John André, a British spy who was also an actor, artist, and poet. I learned that André had Sometimes history astounds! a statue erected to him in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, along with Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Tennyson, among others.

I was impressed. Out of curiosity, I wanted to read one of his poems. Here are a few verses from a poem he wrote called “Yankee Doodle’s Expedition to Rhode Island:”

From Lewis, Monsieur Gerard came,

To Congress in this town, sir,

They bowed to him, and he to them,

And then they all sat down, sir, 

If that didn’t compel you, here’s one more snappy verse:

So Yankee Doodle did forget,
The sound of British drum, sir,

How oft it made him quake and sweat, 

In spite of Yankee rum, sir.

Believe it or not, it can be sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy, which was written in 1755. Not to be confused with the Hollywood version sung by James Cagney.

In the end, André was hung for spying. Frankly, I think he should have swung from the gibbet for his poetry. Sometimes history astounds!

There Are No Roads That Do Not Bend

There Are No Roads That Do Not Bend

As I watch the leaves fall to the ground, I am reminded of my first years in Vermont back in the seventies. Coming from New York City it was a magical transition. From concrete and brick to buds and bulbs. I had actually never seen a tree bud into leaf when I was a kid in Brooklyn. Until Vermont. I swore I’d never go back to a big city again. But, life has a way of changing our plans. I wound up in San Diego, yes a big city, for many years. Now that I’m back in Vermont, I again glory in the beauty of nature and wildlife. This time, I’m sure I won’t leave.

I wanted to share a song that seems fitting to the environment . . . and the times we’re living in. The singer-songwriter is long gone and unfortunately I only became familiar with her recently. I hope you enjoy. Stay safe and well!

The Times We’re Living In by Kate Wolf

Down by the river the water’s runnin’ low
As I wander underneath the trees
In the park outside of town
The leaves turned brown and yellow now
Are falling on the ground

Remembering the way you felt
Beside me here when love was new
That feeling’s just grown stronger
Since I fell in love with you

Now we’ve only got these times we’re living in
We’ve only got these times we’re living in

Winter wood piled on the porch
Walnuts scattered on the ground
And wood smoke risin’ to the sky
An old man comes home from work
And he hugs his wife in a sweat-stained shirt
Walks through that door to
Where it’s warm inside

And I’m walking as the wind
Rustles in the fallen leaves
My footsteps picking out a tune
My heart sings silently

Now we’ve only got these times we’re living in
We’ve only got these times we’re living in

See the roses dried and faded
The tall trees carved and painted
With long forgotten lovers’ names
Old cars standing empty
And dogs barking at me
As I walk through the quiet streets the same

If I could I’d tell you now
There are no roads that do not bend
And the days like flowers bloom and fade
And they do not come again

Now we’ve only got these times we’re living in
We’ve only got these times we’re living in

Sorry Sorry Night

Sorry Sorry Night

Vincent van Gogh – Suicide, Homicide, or Misadventure?

I recently read an article about researchers discovering the location that artist Vincent van Gogh painted his last work. I decided to re-post an earlier blog I wrote on just that topic.

The research for my book, Deadly Provenance, took me places I never expected to go. To the dark recesses of the brain, its power over the body, and all that could possibly go wrong with that relationship.  How did I get there?

For my premise, I needed a painting that was plundered by the Nazis during World War II and never recovered.  There were many.  I chose Vincent van Gogh’s “Still Life: Vase With Oleanders” because he’s one of my favorite artists and one whose life touched my heart as much as his art.

I’ve had one of those giant coffee-table books of his artwork for years. I wanted to know more and the most comprehensive, well-written and beautifully poignant account I highly recommend is a book by two Pulitzer prize-winning authors: Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, called Van Gogh The Life:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0375758976/ref=asc_df_03757589762502415?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&tag=dealt529148-20&linkCode=asn&creative=395093&creativeASIN=0375758976

The book is astonishing in its breadth of research from Vincent’s history, family ties, relationships, such as they were. But their conclusions about how Vincent died simply blew me away. Only this is certain. On July 27, 1890, Vincent sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He stumbled back from his painting foray to the Ravoux Inn, his residence, in a town twenty miles north of Paris – Auvers, France. Thirty hours later he was dead.

No forensics was available, no gun was ever found. The bullet was never removed from his body. His painting supplies were never recovered. The location of the shooting was never verified. There were, supposedly, no eye-witnesses. When Vincent was asked by the police if he wanted to commit suicide, his answer was a vague. “Yes, I believe so.”  When they reminded him suicide was a crime, he said, “Do not accuse anyone.  It is I who wanted to kill myself.”

Why do the authors make a case against suicide? They believe Vincent wanted to die and actually welcomed death. Here are the points they make:

The bullet trajectory was oblique and from further away than Vincent’s arm could reach.

If he were indeed painting in the wheat field, as suggested, it would have been too far and difficult to return to the Inn with a bullet to his gut.

The gun and art equipment were never located.

He left no suicide note and he was a prolific writer.

Rather than go into details here, and there are many convincing ones, I urge you to read the book, at the very least the Appendix, where the authors make their case against suicide.

So who might have shot Vincent, either accidentally or on purpose?  There were, apparently, in this little town two or more teenagers who enjoyed tormenting the artist, who, unlike, the fiery and handsome Kirk Douglas, was a rail-thin, emaciated and dirty wretch with a bad temper.

A bit more is known now about Vincent’s personality “disorder” and it is suspected that, with family history and symptoms that prompted bizarre, dramatic behavior, the diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy is a viable possibility.

An interesting side note: As I was writing this (rather long, sorry) blog I realized there were stunning similarities between Vincent’s symptoms and a young woman in a book I’ve since read entitled “Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness:” https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Fire-My-Month-Madness/dp/1451621388/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1XIWTN2WM6DHG&dchild=1&keywords=brain+on+fire+paperback&qid=1597014725&sprefix=brain+on+fire%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-2

A mystery to ponder.