Thursday, April 23, 2015


by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)

Roadwork is a novel by Stephen King, published in 1981 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman as a paperback original. It was collected in 1985 in the hardcover omnibus The Bachman Books, which is no longer in print. However, three of the four novels in that collection - Roadwork, The Long Walk, and The Running Man - have since been reprinted as standalone titles.

The story takes place in an unnamed Midwestern city in 1973–1974. Grieving over the death of his son and the disintegration of his marriage, a man is driven to mental instability when he learns that both his home and his workplace will be demolished to make way for an extension to an interstate highway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Last Dive

The Last Dive: A Father and Son's Fatal Descent Into the Ocean's Depths
by Bernie Chowdhury

Chris and Chrissy Rouse, an experienced father-and-son scuba diving team, hoped to achieve widespread recognition for their outstanding but controversial diving skills. Obsessed and ambitious, they sought to solve the secrets of a mysterious, undocumented World War II German U-boat that lay under 230 feet of water, only a half-day's mission from New York Harbor. In doing so, they paid the ultimate price in their quest for fame.

Bernie Chowdhury, himself an expert diver and a close friend of the Rouses', explores the thrill-seeking world of deep-sea diving, including its legendary figures, most celebrated triumphs, and gruesome tragedies. By examining the diver's psychology through the complex father-and-son dynamic, Chowdhury illuminates the extreme sport diver's push toward—and sometimes beyond—the limits of human endurance.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans

The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle

First published in: The Strand Magazine, and in Collier’s Weekly, both December 1908.

Time frame of story (known/surmised): November 21, 1895. (One of the few instances where Watson’s statement of the date was totally clear.)
H&W living arrangements: Sharing quarters at 221B Baker St.
Opening scene: November, and a dense yellow fog had enveloped London. The greasy, heavy brown swirl condensed in oily drops upon the windowpanes, and instilled a feeling of lethagy in H&W. Holmes had on his mouse-coloured dressing-gown. Then, a telegram. Mycroft was planning a visit. Coming at once, regarding Cadogan West, a young man who was found dead on the Underground on Tuesday morning.
Client: The British Government, represented by Mycroft Holmes.
Crime or concern: West’s body found with skull crushed, alongside the tracks near the Aldgate Station on the Underground. West was a junior clerk at the Woolwich Arsenal, and upon his body was found some of the missing plans (but not the most crucial portions) for a top-secret submarine of a radically new and important type. Enemy naval warfare would become impossible within the radius of a Bruce-Partington’s operation.
Villain: Col. Valentine Walter, brother of the head of the Submarine Department at the arsenal, Sir James Walter.
Motive: Sell the plans to a foreign agent to cover a Stock Exchange debt that had to be paid.
Logic used to solve: The key point was that West was killed elsewhere, and his body fell from the roof of the train. Deduced by SH from the fact that there was very little blood on the body even though there was a considerable wound. There was no ticket in West’s pockets. There were points (switches, to Americans) on a curve of the tracks, so the carriage would pitch and sway as it came round.
Policemen: Lestrade of Scotland Yard arrived at 221B accompanying Mycroft.
Holmes’ fees: “I play the game for the game’s own sake,” said Holmes. “But the problem certainly presents some points of interest, and I shall be very pleased to look into it.” After solving the case and returning the submarine plans, Holmes got a fancy tie-pin from the Queen. No mention of a monetary reward.
Transport: After inspecting the location where the body was found, H&W took their seats in the Woolwich train. Then a cab to & from Sir James Walter’s house, having learned Sir James had died. He was the government expert in charge of the plans and the arsenal. His decorations and sub-titles would fill two lines of a book of reference. He had grown gray in the service, was a gentleman, a had been a favoured guest in the most exalted houses, and, above all, a man whose patriotism was beyond suspicion.
Food: Holmes ate at Goldini’s garish Italian restaurant. Watson joined him there. H&W had breakfast the next day, and a light dinner that evening. The day after H&W burgled the spy’s lodgings. Mycroft Holmes and Lestrade had come round by appointment after breakfast.
Drink: At Goldini’s H&W had coffee and curacao.
Vices: H&W tried one of the proprietor’s cigars, which were less poisonous than one would expect.
Other cases mentioned: GREE, and also mention of Brooks and Woodhouse, who had good reason for wanting to take Holmes’ life.
Notable Quotables: “Act, Sherlock — act!” cried Mycroft, springing to his feet. Use your powers! Go to the scene of the crime! See the people concerned! Leave no stone unturned! In all your career you have never had so great a chance of serving your country.”
“It was one of my friend’s most obvious weaknesses that he was impatient with less alert intelligences than his own.” – Watson, describing Holmes.
“See the foxhound with hanging ears and drooping tail as it lolls about the kennels, and compare it with the same hound as, with gleaming eyes and straining muscles, it runs upon a breast-high scent — such was the change in Holmes after he came up with the idea about the body falling off the train.” – Watson, describing Holmes.
It is fortunate for this community that I am not a criminal.” – SH
Other interestings: Having had some personal experience as a draughtsman, we wonder how much space is taken up by the plans for a submarine. We would guess closer to a truckload than a pocketful. But in this story, they were probably talking about the plans of some unique and important feature, not the whole thing. In any event, we at McMurdo’s Camp do not view our role as questioning the premises of a story as related by the author.
Mycroft’s salary in his government position was £450/year.
In this story, SH developed a new hobby, music of the Middle Ages. In his spare moments, he had undertaken a monograph upon the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus. It was later printed for private circulation, and was said by experts to be the last word upon the subject.
When all was said and done: Once SH figured out the body had been placed upon the top of the carriage, he looked at the living quarters of known international spies, and quickly found the one whose rooms abutted upon the Underground (in a spot where the tracks were not under ground). He then lured the suspect to an appointment with a fake message in the agonies and captured the crooked colonel.
After the case was solved, Holmes spent a day at Windsor, whence he returned with a remarkably fine emerald tie-pin. When asked him if he had bought it, he answered that it was a present from a certain gracious lady in whose interests he had once been fortunate enough to carry out a small commission.
Colonel Walter died in prison two years later.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Innocents Abroad

The Innocents Abroad
by Mark Twain

The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress is a travel book by American author Mark Twain published in 1869 which humorously chronicles what Twain called his "Great Pleasure Excursion" on board the chartered vessel Quaker City (formerly USS Quaker City) through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867. It was the best-selling of Twain's works during his lifetime, as well as being one of the best-selling travel books of all time.

 Innocents Abroad presents itself as an ordinary travel book. It is based on an actual event, in a retired Civil War ship (the USS Quaker City). The excursion upon which the book is based was billed as a Holy Land expedition, with numerous stops and side trips along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, notably:

  • train excursion from Marseilles, France to Paris for the 1867 Paris Exhibition during the reign of Napoleon III and the Second French Empire. 
  • journey through the Papal States to Rome. 
  • side trip through the Black Sea to Odessa. 

All before the ultimate pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

 Twain recorded his observations and critiques of the various aspects of culture and society he encountered on the journey, some more serious than others, which gradually turned from witty and comedic to biting and bitter as he drew closer to the Holy Land. Once in the Holy Land proper, his tone shifted again, this time to a combination of light-hearted comedy and a reverence not unlike what he had previously mocked in his traveling companions.

 Many of Twain's criticisms were based on the contrast between his own experiences and the often grandiose accounts in contemporary travelogues, which were regarded in their own time as indispensable aids for traveling in the region. Above all others, Twain lampooned William Cowper Prime's Tent Life in the Holy Land for its overly sentimental prose and its often violent encounters with native inhabitants. Twain also made light of his fellow travelers and the natives of the countries and regions he visited, as well as his own expectations and reactions.