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Fun spring reading: Real people, fictional situations

19 April 2010 One Million Watts 3,422 views One CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

Super-specialized genre fiction, once the realm of nerds and, well, other nerds, has opened up a bit and now stars all kinds of real-life people. Here are a few such titles with a literary bent, which are waiting patiently for you at Elliott Bay Book Co. and at online at Amazon.

The Oscar Wilde Mysteries by Gyles Brandreth
Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance”
“Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile”
“Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder”

“Victorian murder mysteries featuring Oscar Wilde — playwright, poet, wit, raconteur, detective,” declares the official website for Gyles Brandreth’s “Oscar Wilde Mysteries.” Brandreth is an honest-to-dog Wilde biographer, which means that his “Oscar Wilde Mysteries” are infused with a tinge of “well, it could’ve happened.” Who’s to say that Wilde and his old pal Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t spend hours traipsing around together, searching the back alleys of London and Paris for the man who killed a naked young boy in a high-society parlor room? Could’ve happened. Or that Bram Stoker and Robert Sherard (among others) played an all-to-real game of “Who Would You Kill?” Totally could’ve happened.

The Ambrose Bierce series by Oakley Hall
“Ambrose Bierce and the Queen of Spades”
“Ambrose Bierce and the Death of Kings”
“Ambrose Bierce and the One-Eyed Jacks”
“Ambrose Bierce and the Trey of Pearls”
“Ambrose Bierce and the Ace of Shoots”

The real Ambrose Bierce was a sardonic wit — he authored “The Devil’s Dictionary,” a repository of wisecracking “definitions” that belongs on your reference shelf — and the fictional Bierce is just as caustic, which makes him such a great hate-to-love-him character. His run-ins with Eugenicists, railroad magnates, poets, kings, presidents and feminists make for some swell reading. (His campaign against the latter is particularly abrasive; he accuses women of having “brainettes made of gray batter,” until one manages to convince him that women were in fact “the founders of society.” “I believe she is a poetess,” says Bierce dreamily.)

“Sunnyside” and “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold

Glen David Gold is brave enough to fictionalize the lives of icons whose life stories are known well to anyone who’s made a habit of watching The Biography Channel. Gold messes around with the real-life stories of silent film stars Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, magicians Charles Carter and Harry Houdini, and even superstar German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin. The author sticks close to the facts — well, close-ish — but adds key bizarro elements to their stories that transform them almost completely. Carter is involved in a presidential assassination and plays a role in the invention of television. Chaplin has the unwitting ability to appear in thousands of places at once. Both become even richer characters in Gold’s telling — but it is storytelling. Some of these things happened, but not in this way. You could watch Biography for months and never hear a whisper of this stuff. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. A conspiracy!

The Further Adventures of Edgar Allan Poe
“The Pale Blue Eye,” by Louis Bayard
“Entombed,”
by Linda Fairstein
“The Murder of Edgar Allan Poe,”
by George Egon Hatvary
“Poe and Fanny,”
by John May
“The Hollow Earth: The Narrative of Mason Algiers Reynolds of Virginia,”
by Rudy Rucker
“The Hum-Bug,”
by Harold Schechter

If Edgar Allan Poe’s life wasn’t already weird enough for you, his fictional adventures — thrilling tales of unsolved mysteries, steampunk-styled sci-fi action, and even polar exploration –- will add other, somewhat plausible dimensions to his loony legend. That’s right: Edgar Allan Poe explored the North Pole. Suck it, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!

Lorien Gruchalla

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One Comment »

  1. Excellent choices. Historical romps make wonderful diversions, especially when the brain is cluttered with crap like, oh, work. The Pale Blue Eye was written by my Facebook friend Lou Bayard! His latest is finished, and his earlier Mr. Timothy — a mystery-thriller about Tiny Tim as a young adult — is great fun, particularly for fans of London (itself a leading character in the book).

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