Tuesday, December 30, 2014

And a Happy New Year to All

Thriller Guy was considering what his last blog of 2014 would be, or maybe it will be the first of 2015, and all the usual suspects came to mind with the most obvious two rising to the top: best books he’s reviewed in the past year, worst books he’s reviewed in the past year, both of which struck him as pretty boring. Sure, it’s fun to tear an author a new butthole for writing a crappy book, but even Thriller Guy grows weary of this sacred duty. So let’s just say that in the past year TG has read some good books, some bad books, and some mostly in-between books. These books were written by some well-known writers, some total unknowns and, you guessed it, some in-between writers. Along the way there were disappointments, and unexpected pleasures. Kind of like life itself.

On that unremarkable observation, let’s turn the blog over to TG’s alter ego, Allen Appel.

Thanks TG. Apropos of your mundane musings above, I had a thought myself the other day. I’ve spent part of the last two years working on a new book in my Pastmaster series, which readers of this blog are heartily sick of hearing can be found here for Kindle purchase. Book number two, Twice Upon a Time, featured Mark Twain as the buddy of series hero Alex
Balfour. Together they traveled to the west of 1876 and down the Mississippi on a raft. Reading all of Twain’s work and many bios of his life so I could write not only about him, but in his voice, gave me great pleasure and a pretty good working knowledge of a man who became one of my all-time heroes, second only to Abraham Lincoln. (See number Five in the series, In Time of War where Lincoln is the buddy.) So when the opportunity rolled around to use Twain in my new book – working title: One More Time -- I, as they say, leapt at the opportunity, not only because I love the man, but because I’d already read most of his books and owned pretty much everything he’d written and all the biographical material I could ever need. While paging through the complete works, I was struck by an uncomfortable thought: along with the great novels and stories, Twain wrote some real crap. This was overwhelmingly evident when I had to read his story, The Mysterious Stranger, searching for a particular piece of information. It was a real struggle to get through.

All right, I see you yawning out there, asking yourselves where the hell this is all going. The thing is, I would just like to point out to Thriller Guy and everyone else: even the best writers among us can’t be good a hundred percent of the time. Everyone writes crap on occasion. The great ones simply do so less than we normal folk, to say nothing of the people who are pretty terrible almost all of the time. Maybe it’s the end of the year funk, or maybe it’s just a gloomy day down here in the basement, but I, Allen Appel, would like to make an effort to lighten up a bit when deciding what books are crap and what books are gold. That’s my new year’s resolution.

If all this sounds like TG has weakened and grown mellow, don’t believe it for a minute. He’s just gathering his strength for a whole new year of kicking ass

As a last gift for the year, here’s the first part of the New York Times obituary of Mark Twain, who died on April 21, 1910, at the age of 74. I would recommend reading the entire obit, but it’s too long to put it up in its entirety. Here are the last hours of the great man. And a happy new year to all.

Mark Twain is Dead at 74

End Comes Peacefully at His New England Home After a Long Illness

Conscious a Little Before

Carlyle's "French Revolution" Lay Beside Him -- "Give Me My Glasses" His Last Words


Tragic Death of his Daughter Jean Recently did Much to Hurry his End

Danbury, Conn., April 21 -- Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain," died at 22 minutes after 6 tonight. Beside him on the bed lay a beloved book- it was Carlyle's "French Revolution" - and near the book his glasses, pushed away with a weary sigh a few hours before. Too weak to speak clearly, "Give me my glasses," he had written on a piece of paper. He had received them, put them down, and sunk into unconsciousness from which he glided almost imperceptibly into death. He was in his seventy-fifth year.
For some time, his daughter Clara and her husband, Ossip Cabrilowitsch, and the humorist's biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, had been by the bed waiting for the end, which Drs. Quintard and Halsey had seen to be a matter of minutes. The patient felt absolutely no pain at the end and the moment of his death was scarcely noticeable.
Death came, however, while his favorite niece, Mrs. E. E. Looms, and her husband, who is Vice President of the Delaware, Lackawanna & amp; Western Railway, and a nephew, Jervis Langdon, were on the way to the railroad station. They had left the house much encouraged by the fact that the sick man had recognized them, and took a train for New York ignorant of what happened later.

Hopes Aroused Yesterday

Although the end had been foreseen by the doctors and would not have been a shock at any time, the apparently strong rally of this morning had given basis for the hope that it would be postponed for several days. Mr. Clemens awoke at about 4 o'clock this morning after a few hours of the first natural sleep he has had for several days, and the nurses could see by the brightness of his eyes that his vitality had been considerably restored. He was able to raise his arms above his head and clasp them behind his neck with the first evidence of physical comfort he had given for a long time.
His strength seemed to increase enough to allow him to enjoy the sunrise, the first signs of which he could see out of the windows in the three sides of the room where he lay. The increasing sunlight seemed to bring ease to him, and by the time the family was about he was strong enough to sit up in bed and overjoyed them by recognizing all of them and speaking a few words to each. This was the first time that his mental powers had been fully his for nearly two days, with the exception of a few minutes early last evening, when he addressed a few sentences to his daughter.

Calls for His Book

For two hours he lay in bed enjoying the feeling of this return of strength. Then he made a movement asked in a faint voice for the copy of Carlyle's "French Revolution," which he has always had near him for the last year, and which he has read and re-read and brooded over.
The book was handed to him, and he lifted it up as if to read. Then a smile faintly illuminated his face when he realized that he was trying to read without his glasses. He tried to say, "Give me my glasses," but his voice failed, and the nurses bending over him could not understand. He motioned for a sheet of paper and a pencil, and wrote what he could not say.
With his glasses on he read a little and then slowly put the book down with a sigh. Soon he appeared to become drowsy and settled on his pillow. Gradually he sank and settled into a lethargy. Dr. Halsey appreciated that he could have been roused, but considered it better for him to rest. At 3 o'clock he went into complete unconsciousness.

Later Dr. Quintard, who had arrived from New York, held a consultation with Dr. Halsey, and it was decided that death was near. The family was called and gathered about the bedside watching in a silence which was long unbroken. It was the end. At twenty-two minutes past 6, with the sunlight just turning red as it stole into the window in perfect silence he breathed his last.

1 comment:

  1. It has been pointed out to me that the link to the Times full obit doesn't work. Try this:http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0421.html If this doesn't work, and it might not, I've had trouble with linking to the NYTs before, a bit of searching might turn it up. The part I've included in the blog get's the point across without the rest.