Category Archives: literature

The Houseboat, Anaïs Nin’s Phantoms of Truth

“Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.”

 —Anaïs Nin

Today, February 21, is the anniversary birth date of the legendary and visionary writer Anaïs Nin.

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I became acquainted with Anaïs Nin’s work many years ago when I read her  fiction, essays, and her inspiring diaries. While I researched and wrote my novel Greylock, Anaïs Nin made sudden appearances in one of my characters Lia Marrs. The above quote refers to what happens in Greylock, not only to Lia Marrs, but to the main character Alexei Georg—in a metaphysical sense. Anaïs Nin became a thread in the novel as I developed my metaphysical mystery.

Because I’ve always been fascinated by the mind, writings, and creativity of Anaïs Nin, I am proud and happy to celebrate Anaïs’s 114th birthday anniversary , February 21st, and bring you this great writer and her fiction. She’s been accused by the elite of society of narcissism and sexual perversion; she’s been highly praised by her readership for her skills, bravery, and ruthlessly honest writings. What began as a failed writing career, nearly homeless and broke, she soared to success as a feminist icon in the 1960s with  Spy In The House of Love and her 7 volumes of diaries published by Harcourt Brace. She died at the height of her fame in 1977. Her short story The Houseboat  is considered a  short story about her “voyage within.”

The Houseboat by Anaïs Nin (1930s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    February 21, 2017

This story is more like a memoir, a reminiscence, about people existing outside of normal life: the dispossessed. Those who have “walked and slept in counter-rhythm to the world.”

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Our narrator is living in this beat up houseboat on the Seine in France. She is alone with her books, her diaries,  her family photos, and her soul.

“Once inside the houseboat, all the voyages began. Even at night with its shutters closed, no smoke coming out of its chimney, asleep and secret, it had an air of mysteriously sailing somewhere … On the table lay a revolver. No harm could come to me on the water but someone had laid a revolver there believing I might need it. “

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“But I was so averse to killing that even shooting into the water I felt uneasy, as if I might kill the Unknown Woman of the Seine again—the woman who had drowned herself here years ago and who was so beautiful that at the Morgue they had taken a plaster cast of her face.”

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This prose is quintessential Nin—eloquent, deep, and a labyrinth into the mind. The haunting images will leave you wanting more of this author.

Read The Houseboat by Anaïs Nin at  OhioSwallow.com (scroll down to story title)

Listen to the audio of The Houseboat (24 minutes)

Interview by Studs Terkel in 1972 (10-minute excerpt only)

 

 

imgresVisit the Anaïs Nin blog site at SkyBluePress.com.

Listen to the podcast for her 114th anniversary at A Cafe in Space. Subject is Nin’s published diaries: http://skybluepress.com/podcasts/podcast24

View the  Anais Nin Amazon Page.

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) was born in Paris.  She wrote The House of Incest, a prose-poem (1936), The Winter of Artifice (1939),  and short stories collected in Under a Glass Bell (1944). Most of her diaries were published and are still popular today.  Her most commercially successful books were her erotica published as Delta of Venus (1977) and Little Birds (1979).

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“Before Lena Dunham, there was Anaïs Nin – now patron saint of social media,” Read more at

 The Guardian. 

And at Brain Pickings “Anaïs Nin on How Reading Awakens Us.”

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of 200 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, and horror. Join me in reading one short story every other week!

Comments are welcome.

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

 The Kill Zone

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

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Filed under fiction, literature, mysteries, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, suspense

Backwoods Murder

A Good Man is Hard to Find    by Flannery O’Connor  (1955)

 

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    February 14, 2017

 

Dark fiction is known to be a broad category, but most agree it is the literary expressions of disturbing human nature. The stories are sometimes graphically violent. This story is not–it does have a dark truth and a riveting suspense.

 

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We are in the 1950s. Grandma and her family are on a road trip from Georgia to Florida.  Grandma’s son, Bailey, his ‘cabbage-faced wife,’ and their children—a bratty girl and boy—and a cat named Pitty Sing are headed through the deep South.  Family dynamics here are intense as you might expect on a long car trip.

Bailey, the dad: “All right!” he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. “Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don’t shut up, we won’t go anywhere.”

And then an accident happens.  That silly snarly cat. They tumbled into a ditch. And as it happens, an escaped convict, a killer named “The Misfit” is on the loose  in the deep South.

“Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile. There were three men in it.”

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The story isn’t horror but it will horrify the reader. Tightly crafted, it’s a superb tale of literal and figurative turning points. What struck me was the presence of the bird ghost, “bright blue parrots”  threaded in. Chilling effect.

 

 

This is bizarre Southern literature by an awe-inspiring writer, a master of form, Flannery O’Connor. She was an American fiction author and essayist, wrote novels and thirty-two short stories, and won a National Book Award and three O. Henry Awards. The famous  Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction  just celebrated its 30th anniversary at The University of Georgia Press. The award was established to encourage gifted young writers by bringing their work to the attention of readers and reviewers.

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place

and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”  Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor loved birds. As a child, she sewed clothes for her pet chickens. Peacocks were her favorite. She kept near 40 peacocks on her property. Visit her website: http://www.flanneryoconnor.org/

 

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Read A Good Man is Hard to Find (Finalist for the 1956 National Book Award in Fictionat Xroads.Virginia.Edu.

 

Listen and read along to the story (read by Flannery O’Connor) at Genius.com.

 

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of nearly 200 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, and horror. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

  Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

 

The Kill Zone

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

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Filed under crime thrillers, fiction, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, suspense, tales of terror

Author in Progress, a No-holds-Barred Guide to Getting Published

Author in Progress, a No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published

by Therese Walsh, Editor & the Writer Unboxed Community

Book Review and Commentary     November 20, 2016

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Unbox your thinking. Unbox  your writing. If you are a reader of  the award-winning blog Writer Unboxed, then you know about this book on the skills of writing and the skills of getting published. Author in Progress has over 50 essays by some of the best writers, novelists, editors, and agents from the Writer Unboxed  community.

I’ve spent the last two weeks reading the essays. Lots to digest here, and I think it’s likely that this is one of those books that you will reach for during your writing journey and during your publishing journey.

In Part 1, literary agent Donald Maass tells us that “writing well doesn’t guarantee success,” so you can expect realistic perspectives. What should you do about literary trends? Maass makes a handy point about chasing trends. He also has some valuable thinking  about (Part 4)  “How much Craft Do you Need?”  I have about 30 writing craft books listed on this blog site (Reviews of Writing Craft Books) and more than that on my shelf. Enough? Have I read and explored enough of the craft?Maass says the “most important piece of craft is the one  you don’t know.” So, I keep reading and reviewing craft books, and I’m often finding tips and techniques I didn’t know. “The best writers never stop learning.”

Do you plot out your novels first in a sturdy organized fashion? Or, do you use your intuition and write organically and freely like Elmore Leonard, Tess Gerritsen, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien? Ray  Rhamey sorts it out in “Plot It, Or Pants It?”

The legendary “Muse” is a constant struggle for a lot of writers. Dave King will help you to recognize and search beyond ordinary inspirations. I loved this chapter because he names the ‘false muses.’

There are lots more in Author in Progress: diving into that first draft, harnessing revisions, creating authentic characters, how to handle critiques, beta readers, writing by ear, psychological struggles of a writing career, writing tribes, and the very helpful essay by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware–“How Vulnerability Can Increase Over Time, and What You Can do About it.”

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You can purchase it here on Amazon for Kindle or soft cover.

 Visit WriterUnboxed.com for daily posts on writing and publishing.

 

My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.


How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career 
by James Scott Bell (book review here)

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction, by the Editors of Writer’s Digest
(book review here) 
Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, & Screen, by Robert McKee  (book review here)
The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker), Annotated by Mort Castle (book review here) (Also The Annotated Jane        Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Annotated by K.M. Weiland)
How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration,
Editor Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek  (book review here)
Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

 

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments are welcome, please!

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, Fiction Writing, horror blogs, literature, short stories, short story blogs

Absolute Evil, Hawthorne Style

Absolute Evil by Julian Hawthorne  (1846–1934)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  November 8, 2016

 

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Julian Hawthorne, an American Writer, was the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was well known for writing mystery fiction, essays, and travel books. Absolute Evil is one of his most famous short stories.

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We have a spinster on summer vacation. A remote island. Rumors linger that the island is haunted. Haunted by what exactly? Follow the footprints and listen to the strange howlings.

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“Every once in a while something peeped forth from the shadows of those eyes of his that made me jump—interiorly, of absolute evil;  I was woman of the world enough to betray nothing. It was as if somebody I knew very well had suddenly peeped out at me from a window in a strange place, where that face was the last I should have expected to see.”

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Do you believe people can be changed into beasts?

 

Read it here at Story of the Week. Scroll down passed the introduction and click on the PDF link at the bottom: http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2016/10/absolute-evil.html

 

Come Read More Stories! ENTER …

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View the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, ghost stories, and supernatural. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

The Kill Zone

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    

   Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      The Story Reading Ape Blog

Kirkus Mysteries & Thrillers

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

 

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, Hauntings, horror blogs, literature, mysteries, paranormal, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural thrillers, tales of terror, weird tales, werewolves

Poe’s “Some Words With a Mummy”

Some Words With a Mummy  by Edgar Allan Poe  (1850)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    October 25, 2016

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Mummies are not all that scary are they? These days we tend to poke fun at them  with corny jokes (What did Pharaoh say when he saw the pyramid? “Mummy’s home.”).  Poe may have been one of the first to create amusement at such dead things  in this wackiest of his short stories.

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The story begins with our narrator describing his dull evening at home, when a “furious ringing at the street-door bell, and then an impatient thumping at the knocker, which awakened me at once.

This is the invitation he receives from Dr. Ponnonner:

“Come to me, by all means, my dear good friend, as soon as you receive this. Come and help us to rejoice. At last, by long persevering diplomacy, I have gained the assent of the Directors of the City Museum, to my examination of the Mummy — you know the one I mean. I have permission to unswathe it and open it, if desirable. A few friends only will be present — you, of course. The Mummy is now at my house, and we shall begin to unroll it at eleven to-night.”

Come to this “unwrapping party” and meet the mummy Count Allamistakeo. Even his name is cute! This mummy is not only revived but he can articulate. And the rest is history … Egyptian history that is. American vanity vs. Egyptology vs. science in full Poe style. This is one Poe story you might have missed.

No doubt Poe became inspired to write this adventure from when he observed a mummy on display in the Virginia State Capitol—at the age of 14, he was certainly impressed creatively.

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If you really want a vintage literary experience, listen to the storytelling on audio:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDH4RJNWXMg

Read the short story at Virginia.Edu:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/poe/mummy.html

 

 

 

 

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Want more Poe literature? Visit these sites:

Edgar Allan Poe Museum website.

Edgar Allan Poe Stories website.

The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe (Smithsonian).

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

Halloween’s coming soon … and more ghostly literature for next week!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

 

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Filed under classic horror stories, Edgar Allan Poe, fiction, Halloween stories, horror blogs, literature, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, science fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, tales of terror

The Magic of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventure of The Copper Beeches  by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   September 20, 2016

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There is a magic in Sherlock Holmes stories, the atmospheric London fog, hansom cabs clacking over cobbled streets, the famous parlor at 221-B Baker Street with Holmes and Watson sitting before a cozy fire and a steaming teapot—or refreshing themselves with glasses of claret as in the The Adventure of the Dying Detective.

Today’s short story is The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. Violet Hunter is our heroine, curious and independent, but in need of Mr. Holmes’ advice when she takes a governess position at the country estate called Copper Beeches, near Winchester. Mr. Rucastle is an odd sort with a wife who carries a secret sorrow, and their savage boy who adores capturing little birds and bugs.

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“Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

The story unfolds like the tick-tock of a clock, so I won’t say another word. Although Holmes doesn’t exactly solve the crime, the adventure is suspenseful, with a touch of romance. Enjoy this 20-minute read.

Read the short story at EastoftheWeb.com 

Listen to the audio, read by Mark Smith on YouTube.com 

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The Science of Deduction by Sherlock Holmes: Forum, Hidden Messages, Case Files:

 http://www.thescienceofdeduction.co.uk/

The Sherlock Holmes Official Website.

The Blog of Dr. John Watson Official Website.

Need a cup of tea with this story? Settle back and enjoy this story along with a pot of “Sherlock Holmes” blend of tea (lapsang souchong, assam melody, oriental spice), which is ‘exotic and mysterious and perhaps a little bit insane, with a lingering hint of smoke’ at Adagio Tea Company. See Comment #1 below for link.

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

 

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Melville on Mt. Greylock

Melville in Love, The Secret Life of Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick

 by Michael Shelden  (2016)

 

BOOK REVIEW

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Did you know that Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick (the finest sea-faring novel ever written), climbed Mt. Greylock? In 1851 Melville climbed Mt. Greylock on the trail called Bellows Pipe. This ‘excursion to Greylock’ was by wagon and horses, and on foot. What is most amazing is that he made the climb with his secret lover Mrs. Sarah Moorewood. Sarah was a “wild beauty” who rode a colt named Black Quake. She had a salacious reputation that would make men tremble in her presence.  And Herman Melville fell into her lusty charms.

The excursion to Greylock included a party of ten—family (no spouses) and friends—complete with brandy cherries, champagne, rum, port wine and gallons of enthusiasm. Before sunset they reached the hazy blue, white, and green mountaintop, viewed the watery atmosphere, “the air cool and pungent with the smell of balsam.” After dining by firelight, and under the stars, Herman and Sarah found themselves a private escape and made love for the first time on Greylock’s summit. A night that was “too merry for sleep” as Sarah wrote in her essay some time later.

“They did what would have come naturally to two people in love, taking advantage of the late hour and the darkness to enjoy a passionate bond that had been growing for more than a year.”

I’ve been reading a thrilling biography of Herman Melville, Melville in Love, The Secret Life of Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick by Michael Sheldon. Of course the scandal in the story is that both Melville and Moorewood were wed to others at the time. Sheldon writes of Melville’s muse, the woman and the mountain. Melville grew obsessed with Sarah, a dark and mysterious beauty just as Ahab grew obsessed with his ghostly white whale. The pursuit, the chase, the desires drove his creativity and his sexuality in a parallel race. This book is a stunning narrative prose that reads like a novel. Impossible to put down, Melville in Love deserves a place on your book shelf right next to Moby-Dick.

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“Arrowhead” Farmhouse in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

In writing my own mystery Greylock, which takes place on Mt. Greylock and also deals with whales, I studied about Melville (and other creative artists like Hawthorne and Thoreau who climbed Mt. Greylock) and his years at “Arrowhead,” his farm at the foot of Mt. Greylock, where he wrote Moby-Dick in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He could view Mt. Greylock from his desk by the window, viewing the great slopes in the northern sky every day, writing and writing and writing his masterpiece. But none of the biographies I read pointed to an illicit affair by the author with the sexy and flirtatious Sarah Moorewood who lived nearby in Pittsfield. She was his neighbor, for heaven’s sake.

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During the 1850s, Moby-Dick was a commercial disappointment, negative reviews, selling only 3000 copies and earning him just $500. But Melville was truly inspired as he put pen to paper. Melville’s deep and passionate love of Sarah Moorehead with her grace and beauty and intelligence became his muse to write his epic sea drama of the obsessed and mad Ahab in pursuit of his wicked whale. In fact, after Moby-Dick was completed, Melville wrote a scathing love story, Pierre, which reflected his love affair with Sarah.  However, that one proved to be a failure as well.

Biographer Michael Sheldon brings the reader through Melville’s private adventures with rich descriptions; quite fast-paced, this biography is vivid with the emotional life and mindset of Melville. You won’t be disappointed or bored. Not a single page gets tedious.

Herman Melville Website.

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If you are looking for a delicious summer read where history, literature, and nature are provocative elements, Melville in Love is a mesmerizing portrait of two lovers in a heart-breaking story.

OTHER REVIEWS

“A scandalous surprise… Shelden carefully and convincingly presents his evidence regarding Morewood’s influence and how she inspired Melville to a greatness recognized by few of his peers… This well-paced, enjoyable read is a must for Melville fans.” — Library Journal

“Riveting in its incandescent sense of discovery, intimacy, and velocity, Shelden’s bound-to-be-controversial anatomy of a clandestine love transforms our perception of Melville and introduces “one of the great unsung figures in literary history.” — Booklist, Starred Review

Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts

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Michael Sheldon is author of 6 biographies,

including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Orwell: The Authorized Biography.


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