Tuesday, September 6, 2016
From Chicago to Wakanda to Plaszow to Selma - Doug's Summer Reading List
I was really floored when I set to gathering images for today's post. I knew I'd been somewhat prolific since May -- way more than in the past several summers -- but I had no idea how ravenous an appetite for reading I'd had. So in chronological order (because I'm a history guy, you know...), here are my accomplishments.
In May I actually finished a book I'd started in the fall of 2015. Having lived in the Chicago area for 95% of my life, my wife and I have an interest in Chicago history. So last year, while she read The Devil in the White City, I started Sin in the Second City. You can see from the taglines on the book's cover what it is basically about. It centers on a pair of sisters who arrive in town with the goal of setting up the best brothel in America. The Everleigh (get it?) Club was notorious, and the circumstances around its existence and demise were compelling reading.
I followed that book with a biography of Eliot Ness. I probably haven't seen but one or two episodes of the 1959-63 television show The Untouchables, but I love the 1986 film of the same name that starred Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, and Robert DeNiro. Last year my wife and I toured Union Station, site of the most memorable scene from that film. So I've had this closet interest in Ness, and upon seeing the book for sale at the Chicago History Museum I purchased it. Like all people and events, lives and circumstances tend to be romanticized over time. This would definitely be true of the history of the Untouchables, a story actually promoted by Ness himself. I had not known that after Prohibition ended Ness landed in Cleveland and became that city's Public Safety Director. Ness led an interesting, and conflicted, life to be sure. It was a good read.
When I headed to Washington, DC in mid-July I wanted to read something that could probably be conquered in the four-plus hours (round-trip) of flight time. Having recently downloaded a file of all the Tarzan novels to my Kindle, I chose Jungle Tales of Tarzan. It was my third read of that book, and its format as a collection of short stories was perfect. This also helped to set my mind for seeing the Tarzan film, which I did after my return.
For light reading while in Washington, because being immersed in the Holocaust definitely requires a mental break, I took my copy of the the Black Panther Marvel Masterworks. I've long been reporting that a storyline I'd never read but needed to was "Panther's Rage". I actually read the first three issues (of 13) while away from home, and then finished it upon my return. I have something in the works for later this fall in terms of a review of the story. Footnote: As Marvel is soon releasing a paperback Epic Collection version of the "Panther's Rage" story, and with the Marvel Premiere BP stories also included, I decided to sell my Masterworks and pre-order the softcover as a replacement. My copy sold on eBay last month for $120, so it was a wise decision financially.
While at the Holocaust Museum, a colleague recommended I read My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me. You can see the tagline on the cover. But the kicker is that the author's grandfather was not some obscure Nazi lost to the sands of time. No... Jennifer Teege's grandfather was none other than Amon Goth, commandant of the Plaszow Labor Camp and immortalized in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. Goth and his mistress, shown a couple of times in the film, had a baby girl just months before the War ended and Goth was hanged for his crimes. That baby girl grew up and had a relationship with a man of African descent which bore a daughter, Jennifer. Ms. Teege did not know the full truth about her background until she was an adult and how that new knowledge turned her life upside down is the theme of the book. Fascinating reading.
I felt like I needed something a little lighter to help balance the Teege book. On Amazon's Kindle Store, books that have fallen to the public domain are offered for a free download. While browsing I found the first Lone Ranger book and snatched it up. It was OK -- I found it perhaps more sociologically interesting in terms of the attitudes and stereotypes than I found it to be any sort of high literature. But I'm glad I read it. Funny, because I could "see" Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels in my head the entire time I read it and much of the dialogue seemed like it could have been used later in the television program.
I mentioned to a Twitter friend a few weeks ago, as he was on his way to hear Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) speak that I regretted passing on a rally in DC after the Dallas shootings. Lewis was to be the main speaker at a rally on the Capitol lawn. If you are not aware, John Lewis remains a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement, and is the last living person who spoke at the March on Washington on 28 August 1963 (site of Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech). Lewis has authored a memoir in the graphic novel format. March has been issued in three volumes. I have read the first two and am awaiting the third installment, which will arrive with the Black Panther book I mentioned above. Highly recommended!
While reading March I was also reading Robert E. Howard's only full-length Conan novel, Conan the Conqueror. I read it from a Kindle file of Howard's complete Conan stories. It was a solid read, and a nice balance to the themes of Lewis's memoir. I'll recommend any Howard Conan, and follow it up with a tip of the hat to the way Marvel (notably Roy Thomas) handled the character in the Bronze Age.
So summer's over and I've begun reading Viktor Frankl's Holocaust memoir Man's Search for Meaning. But you know I'll have to have a mental diversion from those difficult events and themes, so from the Kindle I will also soon begin Johnston McCulley's The Mark of Zorro. That, and all the comics I read so that I can bring the reviews your way for consideration are on the horizon.
Now, how about you?