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Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter?

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Seth Grahame-Smith

Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln a vampire hunter? This may well be the most unusual book I’ll review on Wig-Wags. The good folks at Grand Central Publishing recently sent me an advance review copy of  New York Times best selling author Seth Grahame-Smith’s new book, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I’ll put it into a genre of historical/fantasy/horror.

The story puts lost journals of Abraham Lincoln into the hands of an undiscovered writer. I have to say that I intended to just peruse the book a bit before this initial posting. Forty pages later, I realized I should probably put it down and get back to that paper I was writing. In other words, it is a good read. An added plus is that it has a fair amount of historical fact weaved in.

Now lest you think of dismissing Grahame-Smith’s book, note that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum (March 6, 2010) and the Smithsonian (March 9, 2010) will host author appearances, the latter a panel. What’s compelling is that Grahame-Smith may reach new readers and there is some real history amidst the fantasy.

According to the Library’s press release, “Abraham Lincoln was a fan of macabre literature, particularly stories and poems written by Edgar Allan Poe, and had committed Poe’s The Raven to memory.  Lincoln dabbled in poetry himself, and his verse mimicked Poe’s dark themes.”  To explore Lincoln’s poetry, I recommend the National Park Service site, Lincoln’s Notebook and the entry Matthew Gentry featuring a poem about the future President tells of a childhood friend gone insane.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & MuseumAccording to the Library’s press release,

Lincoln also wrote an anonymous narrative published in the Whig and the Sangamo Journal in 1846, “Remarkable Case oPride and Prejudice and Zombiesf Arrest For Murder,” about a real murder case where the alleged victim appeared with amnesia in the courtroom just before the defendants, the Trailor brothers, were to be sentenced to death for murder. In the narrative, Lincoln admitted “while it is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring a story to a more perfect climax, it may well be doubted, whether a stranger affair ever really occurred. Much of the matter remains in mystery to this day.” The ALPLM has the original letter that Lincoln wrote to Joshua Speed on June 19, 1841 describing the incident that he recounted five years later for the Whig.

Listen to a podcast about the book posted at the ALPLM here.

Grahame-Smith is also author of the wildly successful Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

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E. L. Doctorow's The March and The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel by David Liss

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Two new fiction works have made their way to my library. The March by E. L. Doctorow. This book was required reading for the Yale course by David W. Blight on the Civil War era which I mentioned here. I picked up a nice hardback used and am listening to it on my MP3 via download from the library.

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    • Author: E. L. Doctorow
    • Hardcover: 363 pages
    • Publisher: Random House (September 20, 2005)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0375506713
    • 384 pages

    Second, I have The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel by David Liss which I ordered on my new Kindle 2 only. I may pick up a used copy at some point. As I mentioned in my post on the Kindle, I can also listen to The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel via text-to-speech capabilities on the Kindle.

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    • Author: David Liss
    • Format: Kindle Edition
    • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (September 30, 2008)
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0015DYJVW
    • File Size: 443 KB
    • Print Length: 544 pages

    My New Kindle 2

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    My new Amazon Kindle 2

    My new Amazon Kindle 2

    I took the plunge and bought an Amazon Kindle 2. This was a tough decision because (here’s where my family roll their eyes) I’m a bit obsessive about my books. But there are times when I’d really like a book NOW. So I’m considering this an expensive experiment. Here are my impressions so far.

    • Packaging was very cool. Nicely done.
    • Instructions were very easy to follow. I was up and running in seconds.
    • The device came set up and registered so I didn’t have to register it. I could start browsing the Kindle store and downloading.
    • I bought the standard leather case (see below) and I’m glad I did. It lets me feel like I’m holding a real book which I like.
    • The Whispernet technology was amazing. Well done Sprint.
    • It came with The New Oxford American Dictionary loaded for free which is always handy.
    • I can preview books for free.
    • I’ve bought already The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Richard Crawley ($0.99) which I ordered from the Kindle itself.
    • I then ordered – via my computer on Amazon’s site – David Liss’ book, The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel - and with one click, it was automatically sent to my Kindle 2.  It was done in seconds. Sweet! And I paid $9.99.
    • I can also download and listen to audiobooks but these I must download to my Mac and then transfer to the Kindle. The unit has two speakers and a headset jack.
    • The Kindle  comes with text-to-speech technology so i can have any text book read to me if I choose. The voice intonation is not at all bad. It’s not a performance but it’s quite functional.
    • I can archive content on Amazon’s site and reload anytime I want which is great. No need to hook up to the computer or store on an external harddrive.
    • I can bookmark, mark up, highlight, and add notes to what I’m reading.
    • I can store personal documents. I can send any document to my Kindle email and Amazon will convert it to pdf [CORRECTION - IT DOESN'T CONVERT TO PDF BUT A PROPRIETARY FORMAT but read the comments for more options] for free and ship it back to my computer. To send it to the Kindle, they will charge a small fee. This is one of their “experimental” features.
    • I can transfer MP3s to my Kindle to listen to music while I read. The transfer would be from my Mac.

    kindle2-case

    My leather case

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    Sweetsmoke by David Fuller

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    This weekend I finished David Fuller’s novel, Sweetsmoke, which I first mentioned on WigWags here.

    sweetsmoke

    A work of fiction can be judged by many criteria. My approach is pretty simple.

    1. Did it keep my interest past page five?
    2. Did I find myself wanting to set other pressing activities aside to return to the story?
    3. Did the characters grab me?
    4. Was the writing such that I could see what the characters see?
    5. If a mystery, did it keep me guessing?
    6. Did I learn something?
    7. Was I a bit blue the day after I finished it because — I didn’t want to be finished?
    8. Would I recommend it to family, friend, or colleague?

    Here is my run down on Sweetsmoke. The numbered answers below correlate, of course, to the aforementioned questions above.

    1. By the time I thought about whether the story had held my interest past page five, I’d just finished Chapter 5. Enough said on that one.
    2. My finances remain in a growing “to do” pile.
    3. The protagonist, Cassius Howard, was entirely satisfying as the central player in the story. I found particularly intriguing his relationship with his owner, Hoke Howard. And what a fresh idea to make the “sleuth” of the murder mystery that is the undercurrent of the story, a plantation slave.
    4. I found Mr. Fuller’s descriptive writing excellent. His recounting of the Battle of Antietam (see Antietam National Battleground link here), was shockingly realistic and worth the price of the book alone. He is a master of “showing,” not telling. Well done.
    5. The mystery’s twists and turns definitely kept me guessing. I won’t reveal anything here…
    6. While I was familiar with the history, Mr. Fuller’s description of plantation life from the slave’s perspective was insightful. Many readers will benefit from the historical aspects of the book.
    7. I am completely miffed that I don’t get to continue the story this evening.
    8. I just this minute loaned my copy to my sister to read on her vacation. She and her daughter will likely fight over it. Vacation reading is sacred. Only the best.

    The Bloody Lane, Antietam Battlefield. Photo: National Park Service