Random Nonfiction

Carol Burnett’s In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox tells the story of her legendary variety show. If you loved the show as much as I did (or if you’ve followed the shorter syndicated version, Carol Burnett and Friends), you will enjoy this book. Burnett writes about the movie parodies (featuring, of course, the unforgettable “Went With the Wind” and the story behind “Starlet’s” famous curtain rod dress), the repeating characters (Eunice and her family could be heartbreaking), the hilarious sketches with Korman and Conway (their dentist chair skit has to rank near the top of the funniest things in the universe), and many guest stars. Lots of color photos, too.

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Craig Rice was a well known mystery writer back in the 1940s and 50s (she died in 1957 at the age of 49). She was also a crime reporter, and 45 Murderers: A Collection of True Crime Stories, originally published in 1952 and reissued this year by Mysterious Press, draws on her work as a journalist. The stories cover the period from the mid nineteenth to the mid twentieth century, but most take place in the 1930s and 40s.

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One reason I downloaded 45 Murderers was mention of the famous Black Dahlia case, a contemporary mystery in Rice’s day. I think my first exposure to the case was the 1975 TV movie with Lucie Arnaz as the Black Dahlia, but there have been numerous movies, books, and TV episodes based on this still unsolved 1947 crime. Rice’s take on the story is the last essay in the book, and the only one without some sort of official solution (although Rice wasn’t always sure the authorities got it right.) I wonder if she realized the murder would never be solved?

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On the whole an interesting book, and Rice’s voice is entertaining enough that I downloaded one of her mystery novels (Knocked for a Loop, also recently republished by Mysterious Press and on sale when I looked); she’s one writer I somehow missed back when I was devouring Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Rex Stout. How nice to have some of these old and out-of-print books reissued in convenient and inexpensive ebook editions.

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Paige Willams’ The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth’s Ultimate Trophy jumped off the new books kiosk into my hands at Half Price Books not too long ago. In order to tell the story of the tarbosaurus bataar that upset the life of fossil hunter/dealer Eric Prokopi and rewrote a number of laws governing the market in prehistoric relics, Williams wanders into the history of paleontology, the history and politics of Mongolia, the career of Roy Chapman Andrews, the world of high-dollar trophy collectors, and a variety of other fields. If such things spike your interest (as they do mine—I remember being fascinated by Andrews when I was a child, and I have the National Geographic Channel playing in the background this morning), you’ll probably enjoy The Dinosaur Artist, but it’s not a fast-paced page turner. (If you’re a scholar, you might even enjoy the 120+ pages of acknowledgments, bibliography, and end notes, but I passed on those.)

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I’ve watched a few of Leah Remini’s anti-Scientology shows on TV, so I thought her book on the subject might be interesting, and indeed it is. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology tells the story (in Remini’s distinctive, funny, sharp voice) of her life in Scientology, following her mother into the organization as a young teen, and finally opening her eyes (due in large part to the antics of Tom Cruise) to the downside. Remini’s acting career and personal life are also covered, with considerable humor. If you are interested in how people fall prey to what is essentially mind control (and financial greed) posing as religion, this is a good read. The one aspect I thought was missing, perhaps intentionally, was any indication of a truly religious aspect to Scientology, but then I’m old enough to remember when L. Ron Hubbard was just another (not particularly good) science fiction writer.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl Bolen
    Feb 18, 2019 @ 11:45:43

    Such eclectic taste you have, and they all sound so delightfully readable!

    Like

    Reply

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