Just as a vampire needs the blood of the living to sustain it, or a zombie needs brains, comic books might have faded from existence without the chewy, pulpy sustenance of horror stories. This same subject matter was also almost their undoing, but such are the risks when you dabble in the dark arts.
For a look at the early days of horror comics check out “The Horror! The Horror!” This collection contains numerous covers and complete horror comics from the pre-code 1950s, (before such comics were censored). Commentary and informative text provide some context for the stories.
“Action! Mystery! Thrills!” is a great look at the weird world of old comic book covers. Most of these depict scenes intended to simultaneously shock and entice you.
“The Weird World of Eerie Publications” is another fine collection of old horror comics and a history of the industry. It tells the story of the eccentric, ethically challenged and at times scary owner of Eerie Publications.
If you don’t know what a pre-code comic is, you should check out David Haju’s “The Ten-Cent Plague.” This book explores the censorship campaign against comics like those in the collections above. That campaign led to the Comics Code Authority, which many people feel hamstrung creativity in comics for decades. Even after reading some of the horror comics of the time, it’s shocking the lengths people went to stop them. This book is both a fascinating history of a moment in American pop culture and a frightening look at hysteria.
Not all horror stories are held in low esteem. More than a few are now considered classics. If you’d like to look a little more highbrow while scaring yourself with comics, pick up a graphic novel adaptation of “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” or the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
Richard Sala’s style shows the influence of classic illustrators of the macabre Charles Addams and Edward Gorey. Sala has a knack for drawing grotesque caricatures that are just cartoonish and humorous enough. His stories maintain an eerie mood but still wink at the reader letting them know it’s just a comic book, right? “Delphine” is a retelling of the story of Snow White from Prince Charming’s perspective. This is based on the original fairy tale and not the Disney film, so it’s a darker story told by a master of them.
Scott Snyder currently writes Batman, but his strongest work is another series about a bat-human hybrid. “American Vampire” tells the story of a new breed of Vampire (originating in America) that can not only walk in daylight, but also is made stronger by the sun. He’s a particularly viscous vampire too. Not only does he fight with the requisite vampire hunting organization, but he also doesn’t get along well with the old-school vampires either. The series is an ongoing epic that starts in the late 19th century and sets each story arc in a different period of the 20th. It’s a new take on a classic horror trope.
“Baltimore” is another fresh take on the vampire story by novelist Christopher Golden and comic book artist and writer Mike Mignola (best known for “Hellboy“). Originally a novel co-written by the two with illustrated pages by Mignola, the character of Lord Henry Baltimore has found continued life in comics. This alternate history tells the story of an ancient race of vampires brought back to life by the blood soaked battlefields of WWI. Lord Henry Baltimore is a soldier who has a confrontation with one of these vampires during the war, which sets his life on a course for revenge.
“Dylan Dog” is Italy’s most popular comic book. It describes the adventures of the eponymous “Nightmare Investigator.” Dylan is a former Scotland Yard detective who lives with his sidekick Groucho (who looks exactly like Groucho marks and loves puns). He is also a penniless, poetry quoting hopeless romantic who can only play one song on the clarinet. In this collection of interconnected stories, Dylan deals with zombies, mad scientists and an axe murderer. It’s a quirky combination of surrealism, humor and horror, but the story is executed in a way that is sure to appeal to many.
Have you heard of “The Walking Dead“? I’ll bet you have. It’s a hugely popular television show that got its start as a comic book. If you like the show and haven’t read the comics, you should check them out. If you don’t like the show but like stories of surviving a zombie apocalypse, you should still check out the books.
“Afterlife With Archie” is indeed about the famous Archie and his hometown of Riverdale. When Jughead’s dog is hit by a car, he calls on Sabrina to bring the dog back. As is always the case (Will we never learn?!) the dog comes back wrong. Zombie contagion ensues. A lot of people would turn this idea into an easy joke or a way to mock Archie Comics. Instead, the creators take the subject seriously and use the familiarity of the characters as a way to make the story more frightening and emotionally affecting.
Perhaps all the monsters, darkness, terror and gloom have got you down at this point? Then let me end with a story of romance. This being a list for Halloween, it’s a romance involving a sea creature. In much the way John Gardner’s novel “Grendel” took the epic poem Beowulf and told the story from the monster’s point of view, “Dear Creature” takes the classic “sea monster terrorizes beach goers” story and tells it from the sea monster’s point of view. The sea monster, Grue, has been finding bottles stuffed with Shakespeare’s writings. This subdues his appetite for beach goers and kindles his romantic interest in the source of the bottles. How could anything go wrong?
This November, librarians are loving genre fiction. Maybe during these longer nights we like the comfort of familiar series or predictable plot structures. This month’s LibraryReads list, the top 10 books publishing this coming month that librarians nationwide recommend, includes a police procedural, historical romances and more than one mystery. Enjoy!
by David Nicholls
“Every once in a while you stumble upon a book that makes you wish you could meet the characters in real life. This is the case with “Us,” the poignant story of a middle-of-the-road British family spiraling out of control, and one man’s attempt to win back their love. Quirky, delightful and unpredictable, the novel delves into what makes a marriage and what tears it apart.” – Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX
“Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels”
by Sarah MacLean
“Having lost her innocence in a teenage love affair, Lady Georgiana is a social pariah. Trying to save the tatters of her reputation, she must marry and marry well. By night, she is Anna, the most powerful madame in London, and a powerful seductress in her own right. Will Georgiana succeed in re-entering society, or will her past catch up with her once and for all?” - Emily Peros, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO
“Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble“
by Marilyn Johnson
“Johnson takes a fascinating look at the field of archaeology, profiling a number of archaeologists at work. She visits sites as diverse as an army base, Rhode Island, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Peru, but the best part of this book is learning about the archaeologists and their passions. A fun, interesting read that may cause an uptick in field school applications.” - Jenna Persick, Chester County Library, Exton, PA
And here is the rest of the list with links to our catalog, so you can place holds on these forthcoming titles.
- “The Burning Room” by Michael Connelly
- “Mortal Heart: His Fair Assassin Trilogy #3″ by Robin LaFevers
- “The Ship of Brides” by Jojo Moyes
- “The Forgers” by Bradford Morrow
- “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon”
- “Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery” by Stephanie Barron
- “Mermaids in Paradise” by Lydia Millet
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The November 2014 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about October is its colors – or, rather, whether we’ll have the wonderful fall colors that the American Midwest is famous for. (We usually do, but I’m worried about that every year. ) And the second October thing I think about is Oktoberfest.
Of course, unlike fall colors, Oktoberfest is not “native” to the Midwest. It originated in Munich, Germany, in 1810, and has been celebrated there ever since (except during wars and cholera epidemics) with large quantities of beer. To give you an idea of these quantities, during Oktoberfest 2014, 6.5 million two-pint mugs of beer were consumed. This resulted, among other things, in at least one attempted heist of a trolley full of beer mugs and a number of lost items – including 230 pairs of eyeglasses, two wedding rings, a set of dentures (!) and a French horn.
My husband and I were in Munich at the end of August, and beer tents were already going up. We also noticed that many old buildings were being thoroughly cleaned – although that could have had nothing to do with the festival but with the fact that Germany has money to spare . In any case, we both decided that there is more to Munich than its Oktoberfest celebrations: impressive medieval churches, neoclassical buildings and theaters and crowds of tourists from all over the globe. We had a pleasant stay there, but we didn’t drink much – my husband doesn’t drink and I prefer wine. Instead, we enjoyed German desserts: plum and strawberry cakes, sweet pretzels and such.
Back home, Oktoberfest finally caught up with us. Of course, Oktoberfest in Missouri is not as big as in Munich, where some six million people attend every year, but it is just as festive – especially if you like wine. Yes, unlike the one in Munich, our Oktoberfest is mostly about wine, although the people who brought it to this country did come from Germany.
The influence of German immigrants in Missouri cannot be overestimated. In 1860, more than half of Missouri’s foreign-born residents were Germans, many of whom settled on the south bank of the Missouri River, west of St. Louis. They brought with them their food (apple butter, potato salad, hamburgers, etc.), their music (think “Silent Night”), their architecture and carefully-wrapped cuttings from their old vineyards.
A number of grape varieties found Missouri’s climate and rocky soil suitable for growing, so it is no surprise that by the turn of the century, Stone Hill Winery (Hermann, MO), was the third largest winery in the world (second largest in the U.S.), producing more than a million gallons of wine a year. And by 1920, Missouri was the second largest wine-producing state in the U.S.
Another jewel in the Missouri wine crown is the fact that our vineyards saved the French wine industry from total destruction. The way the story goes, in 1876 an insidious louse began an assault on vineyards throughout France. (I have to mention that the louse was transported there from Missouri .) Fortunately for the French, Missouri’s first entomologist, Charles V. Riley, discovered that some American grape rootstocks were immune to the louse, and by grafting French vines onto them, healthy grapes could be produced. Millions of cuttings of Missouri rootstock were shipped to France, and the imminent disaster was avoided.
Prohibition hit the Missouri wine country hard. Vines were removed from the ground and numerous barrels of wine were destroyed. (It is said that the brick roads of Hermann were blood red with wine.) Many families lost their livelihood, and the region’s economy took a downturn. It wasn’t until 1960 that Missouri began recovering its lost viticultural glory.
These days, Missouri vineyards and wineries are spread all over the state (113 wineries as of 2013), and Missouri wines regularly win prestigious national and international awards. All the wineries provide tasting rooms, and many have patios overlooking the Missouri River – or other beautiful scenery – and offer winery tours. Also, nine Missouri Wine Trails host events and festivals year-round, like live music and grape stomps.
A drive along the Missouri River Wine Trail (which includes our nearest Les Bourgeois Winery) would be a great wine-and-fall-color outing this weekend. Those who’d like to take advantage of Oktoberfest (or other wine-related events) but prefer not to drive, can do it by train, boat or bike (biking on Katy Trail could be your ticket to enjoying Missouri wine and exercising at the same time ).
Whichever way is right for you, don’t forget to drink responsibly. And cheers!
FYI: The three largest wineries in Missouri are St. James Winery in St. James, Stone Hill Winery in Hermann and Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport.
I’ve been growing my own garlic for roughly 14 years, thanks to a master gardener friend of mine who got me started. He gave me some of his “seed” stock and loaned me one of his 3’ x 25’ garden beds. I’ve been borrowing his garden bed and growing garlic ever since. Of the two garlic varieties he gifted me, I’m especially fond of the German extra hardy hardneck and now grow it almost exclusively. I like it best for several reasons: the cloves are large, so fewer cloves have to be peeled when cooking; it stores well; and most importantly, it has a good, strong flavor.
I’ve gardened itinerantly for years and still am no expert, but I do know that garlic (the deer don’t bother it, hallelujah) is my favorite crop to grow. That’s because it’s easy – so easy that I don’t really feel like a real gardener, since not much toiling is involved. I just punch a hole in the earth about four inches deep with a dibber, drop a clove of garlic into it and then fill the hole back in with dirt. In mid-October I can plant 120 cloves of garlic in the above mentioned bed in about an hour and then cover it up with a thick layer of leaves for mulch, leaving it until May or June before I have to do any tending.
My gardener friend says you can plant garlic in the spring and harvest it in the fall, but he says the results aren’t as good, meaning the bulbs will be small in size. Garlic, at least the hardneck type we’re growing, seems to do much better with a long winter’s nap. I like to think of it snug beneath its leaf blanket when the temperatures drop below freezing. All I have to do is send it some good growing vibes from the warmth of my own home.
The simple tending of garlic begins sometime in May or June when the plant sends up a flower stalk or “scape.” This flowering stem that snakes up and coils elegantly near the top should be snapped at the place where it emerges from the plant stalk. This pruning of the scape directs the plant’s energy to the bulb, thereby increasing the bulb size. Scapes are a flavorful edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. I like to use them thinly sliced in salads and sauteed with other vegetables in frittatas. I came across a garlic scape and walnut pesto recipe in “Vegetable Literacy” and look forward to trying it…mmmm.
Okay, back to the tending. Two to three weeks after the scapes emerge, the garlic is ready to harvest. When I see the stalks start to die down while turning yellow and brown, I know that it’s time to get out the spading fork. It’s very gratifying to unearth the pearly bulbs from the dark earth, especially when all the conditions come together to yield a healthy and bountiful crop.
If you’ve been daydreaming about growing your own garlic, I encourage you to go for it. If I can do it, you can do it. I rounded up the relevant materials from DBRL’s collection so you can read further about how to grow garlic and learn more about its healing properties and seductive culinary uses.
There should be a word for the feeling one gets when wooed by an artist from beyond the grave. After several seconds of consideration, I propose “melanarsabsentia.” Graham Joyce gave me a severe case of melanarsabsentia. He died on September 9th, and I didn’t read him until a few days later. The first thing I read by him, a blog post in part concerning his impending death and the beauty of living, made clear his large heart, fine wordsmanship and my need to read his novels. Of course, it’s not like if I’d have read him while he was living that we would’ve gathered for snacks shared over a tedious board game, though I can’t rule it out. Regardless, there will be no yogurt-covered pretzels and monopoly for us, unless he comes back to haunt me and/or my ability to communicate with the spirit world finally manifests. If I were a character from his novels, I might very well have such a haunting, or at least my sanity might bend in such a way as to believe I’m being haunted. But as I’m a character from some other novel with no perceptible ghosts and a narrative that can’t be bothered to skip a single bathroom break or dull moment, I guess I’ll never meet Mr. Joyce. But melanarsabsentia is only just barely about the elimination of the unlikely possibility of meeting the artist; it’s more about an artist whose work deserves to be appreciated by everyone inclined to appreciate their sort of work being robbed of having such persons appreciate them while they’re still alive to appreciate it, even though the appreciation directed the artist’s way almost certainly won’t be perceivable.
“Some Kind of Fairy Tale” is sort of a kind of tale about fairies, but mostly about a family of humans. Joyce needs only a few hundred words to deeply invest you in his characters so you feel their shock when, during the novel’s opening scene, a man answers the door to find his daughter, gone missing 20 years ago, returned and not aged a day.
“The Silent Land” follows a couple who, after an avalanche during their ski trip, finds their resort empty and then the resort town empty and then that they are unable to leave the town. Their compass spins, food doesn’t rot, burning candles don’t diminish. They come to the conclusion that they’ve died in the avalanche and go about trying to make the best of a strange afterlife.
“The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit,” renamed for the American audience from “The Year of the Ladybird” (because sharply dressed ghosts are much more rad and freedom-y than ladybirds, and what kind of tea-taxing duffer comes up with the codswallop of calling a ladybug a ladybird?), is a story about a young man who takes a summer job at a resort and is menaced by a ghost in an electric blue suit and an absurd amount of ladybugs.
Graham Joyce was a prolific writer, and Daniel Boone Regional Library carries several of his works. He wrote the sort of novels you might suspect from someone who, as a child, was advised by his reluctantly psychic grandmother to simply cuss out a ghost if one ever gave him trouble. It should be common knowledge that ghosts cannot abide a coarse tongue and will peacefully leave upon encountering one. If Joyce’s ghost shows up, I plan to speak bloody politely.
Thirty-five years ago this October, the Missouri State Genealogical Association (MoSGA) began its grass roots efforts to protect old family cemeteries, preserve precious records and help people discover their own roots.
This work began after the popular television mini-series “Roots,” based on the book by Alex Haley, and its sequel were aired in 1977 and 1979, respectively. Today, the organization is still going strong, holding a state conference that includes a nationally known speaker and several support speakers. MoSGA also helped pass a state law that protects many family cemeteries that dot the countryside throughout Missouri. This organization has funded several causes related to genealogy: collecting money to give to the National Archives Trust Fund to save documents in the National Archives; contributing to a 21st Century Fund to give money to local historical and genealogical societies where manpower to preserve some of their records is available, but not monies; and providing the funding to purchase thousands of dollars worth of books written about Missouri that are historical and/or genealogical in nature. These books are housed in the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri, but they are available to all DBRL users via interlibrary loan (ILL).
The fact that MoSGA started in Columbia says something about the people of central Missouri and their pride in their heritage. The Genealogical Society of Central Missouri also started in Columbia, with several of its earliest meetings being held at the Columbia Public Library. Soon they, along with several visionaries who wanted a permanent building to house local history, began the construction of the Boone County Historical Society Museum and Galleries on Ponderosa. This facility is home to the Wilson-Wulff Genealogical Library. Run by volunteers, it is staffed the same hours the museum is open to the public. This group holds monthly meetings – generally with a program – and also produces a journal called “The Reporter,” which is full of information about families that settled the central Missouri area.
The Daniel Boone Regional Library generally offers a genealogy or historical program every month in at least one of its branches. This past July, 50 people attended a program about DNA’s uses in genealogy, given by Kathleen Brandt of Kansas City. Brandt is a nationally known researcher appearing on the television show “Who Do You Think You Are.” The library is also a good resource for not only local and statewide genealogy resources, but also general how-to information. Come see us. Maybe we can help you find your roots – where ever they start!
Is autumn supposed to be this soggy? My chrysanthemums are struggling in my swampy flower beds. I’m thinking of designing water-proof Halloween costumes for my kiddos. All of this rain has me feeling a little down, and I thought our readers might be having a similar case of the weather-induced blues. My cure? Let’s give away some free stuff!
- “Fresh Off the Boat” by Eddie Huang
- “The Kill Switch” by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood
- “Obsessed” by Mika Brzezinski
- “President Me” by Adam Carolla
- “Starfire” by Dale Brown
- “Think Like a Freak” by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
- “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains” by Neil Gaiman
One entry per person. Good luck!
The post Win a Free Audiobook! (Because it’s Raining and We Need Cheering Up) appeared first on DBRL Next.
“Jack the Ripper Murders Solved!” “Identity of Jack the Ripper Proven by DNA Evidence!” For a couple of days, I saw headline after headline proclaiming the serial murder case that has befuddled investigators for more than 120 years had finally been cracked by modern forensics. This flurry of discussion was prompted by the publication of a new book, “Naming Jack the Ripper” by Russell Edwards, a London history buff who came into possession of a shawl worn by one of the victims. He claims some DNA left on the material matches the DNA of a descendant of Aaron Kosminski, a London hairdresser and long-time resident on the suspect list. Additionally, Edwards quotes a detective who worked the case as saying he believed Kosminski was the culprit. Case closed. Right?
Soon enough articles started popping up, saying, in essence: “Not so fast.” They point out that even if the DNA is Kosminski’s, it doesn’t mean he killed the owner of the shawl, only that he had some contact with it. Maybe he sneezed on it while standing next to her. Then, too, the garment has changed hands many times. A lot of people have handled it over the years. And Edwards is not the first person to have “named” the killer.
There’s an “Autobiography of Jack the Ripper,” published from a purportedly found manuscript, penned in 1920, containing the author’s recollections of the time in his life when he was on a murder spree. Or possibly it’s an anonymously-written work of historical fiction. Or an outright hoax. The book includes notes – some skeptical – by Paul Begg, who has made a career of writing about the case.
Patricia Cornwell, known primarily for fictional crime stories, tried her hand at solving the real-life mystery a few years ago. She, too, thought she’d solved the old case using contemporary techniques. In her 2003 book “Portrait of a Killer,” she concludes the guilty party was an artist named Walter Sickert. Her case hinges on “the successful use of DNA analysis to establish a link between an envelope mailed by the Ripper and two envelopes used by Sickert.” Well then.
It seems everyone claims proof of the murderer’s real identity, but in each case it’s a different person. In 2011, the Whitechapel Society – named for the area in which the murders took place, and devoted to investigating the crimes and their surrounding social context – published a book compiling the cases for and against several suspects. “Jack the Ripper, the Suspects” mentions Cornwell’s book and addresses some of its points directly. In the chapter on Kosminski, they speculate one of the reasons he drew so much focus from detectives was because of a tendency in the police department at that time toward anti-Semitism. Beyond speaking about suspects and evidence, this book explains some of the societal factors at play that made the investigation of the case difficult. The only conclusion I was able to draw was that we might never know the truth.