Tag Archive: intrigue



Brain Twister

Review by Helen Krummenacker

This book was copyrighted in 1962, which explains why it reads like a very old-fashioned, Cold War Era story on one hand, with the language of the era, and yet has elements that would be futuristic by today’s standards. It also predates the period where writers decided longer is better– it’s decidedly light on padding and has a crispness to the language. Overall, it reads like a Young Adult novel, not demanding much of the reader but imagination and a bit of tolerance for mild sexism and ablism.

The writers, Randall Garrett and Lawrence Janifer, give us an FBI agent assigned a seemingly impossible case: there is a spy working, presumably for the Russians, to ferret out what is happening with a project for a new kind of space drive. The reason that catching the spy may be impossible is that the spy is a telepath. By coincidence, a second research project at the same facility had been studying telepathy and developed the means to determine when someone was having their mind read– but they had no ability to determine who or where the mind-reader was. Their own telepath passed away before they could try to use him to find the enemy telepath– and it is doubtful he could have, as he had intellectual impairment.

So the FBI seeks more telepaths, and they start to find them, every single one institutionalized for mental illness. Not because they seem crazy to people who don’t know they are mind-readers, but rather because the presence of other minds speaking to them all the time has made it difficult to develop a stable sense of self. In fact, the most coherent and helpful of the is perfectly sane except for her believe that she is Queen Elizabeth I, a delusion that worked to give her a strong core identity and manage the voices.

It’s quirky and amusing, and a rather fast read (I read it over the course of two one hour lunch breaks). It isn’t going to change your life, but if you like sci-fi crime/spy novels, it holds together with internal consistency, a quick pace, and fun imagery.

 


Rosemary's Baby

I’ve waited to get my hands on this novel for some time and it was certainly worth the wait.

Keeping in mind that this book was written and set in 1967, this novel is tame in some respects compared to the gore and horror many authors and movies unleash on today’s readers. But they are able to do so thanks to the efforts of Mr. Levin and other authors who broke ground and explored these mysteries and possibilities.

Rosemary Wodehouse and her husband Guy find themselves searching for a new home in New York City, so Guy can pursue his acting career on the stage, and soon find themselves with the opportunity to rent an apartment in the old Victorian building called “The Bramford” which has seen its share of notorious characters including a Devil worshipper who claimed to have summoned Satan himself some decades ago.

But now, considered a respectable/historic structure, Guy and Rosemary take a chance after seeing the apartment who’s last elderly tenant who slipped into a coma and never recovered. The young couple soon get to meet other residents of the Bramford, including their odd next door neighbors the Castavets, an elderly and rather eccentric couple who take an unusual shine to them.

Shortly afterwards, things begin to happen. Guy is getting more roles and his star begins to rise in the theater world as well as drawing attention from Hollywood. Shortly after that, Rosemary finds herself pregnant after a very unusual dream where most of the other residents of the Bramford, including her new doctor, are wearing dark robes and chanting while Guy makes love to her… or was it him?

Most folks know the full story so I won’t go any farther, but I will say Mr. Levin does a very good job of creating an atmosphere of suspicion and isolation, while still surrounded by the city of New York.

The ending actually took me by surprise because of the ray of hope that still burned in spite of the darkness that Rosemary finds herself surrounded by.

I look forward to finding the sequel “Son of Rosemary” to see what he did with it.

I also highly recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing fancy regarding the supernatural and black magic. Even though it may not hold a lot of surprises, the story does have a lot to keep the reader busy.


Okay, in my last entry I disclosed I was working on a vampire novel.  Now this is a genre that has been done and redone so many times it’s unbelievable.  And almost every time there are new twists and turns added to it that they barely seem to resemble the traditional vampires that Bela Legosi and Christopher Lee made legendary in Hollywood.  Today we have vampires that just totally ooze sex appeal, can sparkle in daylight instead of turning to dust, can have sex and produce offspring, are either monsters or saints, etc.  And they are still as popular as ever in spite of all the changes to the original legend.

Now I’m not just talking about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.  That was not the first vampire story.  There were many others. If you ever get the opportunity check out “The Penguin Book Of Vampire Stories” and you’ll see ones that predate Mr. Stoker’s work by quite a few years.  But in that collection you’ll also meet other kinds of vampires: snow vampires, ones who hide inside portratis, aliens on different planets, etc.  In this collection there are creatures of all sorts and shapes that are still called vampires.

This brings me to today’s subject.  How can you breathe new life into a genre that has been written about so many times over?  Well that’s up to the writer.  As in the case of Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer and others, they tweek the original vampire concept to suit their story ideas.  Sometimes they provide and explanation about why their creations don’t adhere to all the old legends, sometimes not.

So, you may be thinking, “Okay Allan, how are you going to ‘tweek’ the vampire concept and make it fresh and different?  What changes are you going to make to the traditional weaknesses and rules?”

Here’s my answer.  All the traditional rules of garlic, being welcomed into a place, avoid sunlight, shape-shift, control minions, etc. will be in effect.  So where am I making the change?  Simple, my vampire is NOT undead.

At this point I’m sure a number of you are thinking if he’s not undead then he can’t be supernatural.  So how can all those limitations and vulnerabilities still apply to him?  That’s where the creative writing process comes in.  All of these things will be addressed in the story.  And it won’t just be about a biography about my vampire.  There will be dangers.  The internet allows people access to a lot of information.  And this story will be taking place in modern day.  So there will be suspicious townspeople, cops on the hunt, the threat of discovery, a ghost, and villains (human and otherwise) to be battled.

So there you have it.  A new take on a much used subject.  But instead of changing all the rules, I’m working with them and making new reasons for why they apply.  And in doing so, I’m hoping that a number of you are already really intrigued and are looking forward to checking the story out when it’s ready.  If this is the case, then I’ve succeeded in breathing new life and interest into a genre that has been worked and reworked many times over.  And it can be done with so many other genres such as fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, you name it.

So what genre or legendary creature/being have you thought about working on?  Is there one close to your heart that’s been done a lot already?  If so, how can you make it new and interesting?  Are there rules for how it behaves or can be dealt with and what are the explanations behind it?  Is there a new way to approach these things?  Give us a new spin on it that still makes sense and intrigues us.

I’d love to hear from you and so would other people who read this blog.  Leave comments below and tell us a little about what you are working on or have in mind.  Be careful not to give your whole idea away.  Just leave tantalizing hints that will get us revved up to check your work out as soon as it’s ready.

Until next time,  keep writing.

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