Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine

June 3, 2007 at 11:29 am (Mystery fiction, The British police procedural)

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Whenever I receive the latest issue of Deadly Pleasures, I always put off reading for as long as I can. This is because I know that Deadly Pleasures will actually be a great pleasure to peruse. But I had no idea just how great until I finally tore the wrapping off the Spring issue yesterday and beheld to my unutterable delight these lovely words: “British Police Detective Fiction.” Not only that, but smiling at me from the cover was Peter Lovesey, one of my favorite authors. Lovesey produces some of the most consistently absorbing and well written novels in this subgenre.

Editor George Easter then goes on to praise, among others, Reginald Hill. I can’t say enough about Hill’s sheer brilliance. He is not “merely” a genre novelist; he is a great novelist, period. The Dalziel/Pascoe series is, in my opinion, right up there with P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh novels. At the summit of the British police procedural mountain, in other words.

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There’s much more along the same lines – and on crime fiction in general – in this issue of the magazine. Suffice it to say that Yours Truly is in hog heaven!

Here’s the link you need to subscribe to Deadly Pleasures:

http://www.deadlypleasures.com/subscription.html

Now – while you’re awaiting the arrival of your first issue, take a look at their site:

www.deadly pleasures.com

Click on “Year’s Best Mysteries.” This is one of the first places I go to when I’m in need of recommendations.


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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

June 1, 2007 at 12:20 pm (Book review, Eloquence)

Have I ever actually sat down and read this book? I don’t know for sure, but I just finished listening to a reading of it by Alexander Spencer. What is the word to describe the feeling it evoked? “Harrowing,” I think, sums it up best.

I have nothing original to add to the extensive critiques and analyses of this masterwork. I can only recommend the audiobook, this experience of listening to a story that is so genuinely frightening because it strikes so close to the most basic question of existence: Do all human beings, no matter how good, harbor a secret compulsion to do evil? How do we defeat the urge to commit acts of malevolence while assuring that the good in our nature prevails?

There is an interesting story about how this book came to be written. The time was October of 1885. The story had come to Stevenson in a nightmare, from which his wife Fanny awakened him. He told her that he wished that she hadn’t done so, because “”I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.” After he completed his first draft of Dr Jekyll, he shared it with Fanny and stepson Lloyd. Fanny had serious reservations; she felt he was spinning a tale that had profound allegorical implications, which he had neglected to bring forward. Supposedly Stevenson stormed back upstairs. (He was already partially bedridden with the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him at the age of 48.) Hours later, he returned to his family, telling Fanny she was right and chucking the manuscript into the fire. In the next three days, he rewrote the entire novel; that is the version which we have today.

The writing in this novel – more a novella, really; the Barnes and Noble Classic clocks in at 73 pages – is compelling and beautiful, and served to remind me once again of how eager I am to return to the classics (a major retirement project, methinks). Here is a passage that precedes the opening of a bottle of fine wine:

” The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles; and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in through the great arteries wth the sound as of a mighty wind. But the room was gay with firelight. In the bottle the acids were long ago resolved; the imperial dye had softened with time, as the colour grows richer in stained glass windows; and the glow of hot autumn afternoons on hillside vineyards, was ready to be set free and to disperse the fogs of London.”

If I had to choose one sentence from this book that chilled me to the bone it would be this one:

“My devil had long been caged, he came out roaring.”

 

 

 

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[Robert Louis Stevenson, and an eerie double exposure (1895) portraying the stark duality of Jekyll/Hyde. In the photograph, actor Richard Mansfield plays both parts, naturally – or unnaturally.]

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