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In the early 1960s, author Truman Capote had cultivated friendships with an eclectic array of individuals in all walks of life: artists, politicians, movie stars, and especially wealthy, beautiful socialites, his "swans". After the rousing success of his nonfiction novel "In Cold Blood", Truman decided to host a grand ball at New York's Plaza Hotel. It was the famous Black and White ball, and it did turn out to be a great party, talked about for decades afterwards, which is exactly what Truman wanted. Davis clearly had a grand time researching the effort that went into planning the event, its ultra-exclusive guest list, and the various outfits worn by the attendees. It was a lot of fun to read and I bet it would have been even more fun to have gone.

Being a horror movie fan, I was excited when I heard about Riley Sager's (a pseudonym for...someone? not sure who) "Final Girls", and it didn't disappoint. If you don't know what a Final Girl is, she's the last one standing at the end of a slasher movie. Think Heather Langenkamp from the Nightmare on Elm Street series. She has to watch all her friends die and be the only survivor. That's Quincy's life. Ten years earlier, her friends were all butchered at Pine Cottage, and Quincy was the only one who made it out alive. Lisa, another final girl who reached out to Quincy over the years, is found dead from an apparent suicide and Quincy's not sure what to think. She's spent years not talking about what happened to her, drinking too much wine and taking too many Xanax, working hard to maintain a "normal" facade. Then Sam shows up. Sam is a final girl, too, she went into hiding years earlier, but now she wants to talk to Quincy about what happened to Lisa. I tried so hard to guess the twist at the end but I failed miserably, which is a good thing, I enjoyed the suspense. You really didn't know who to trust.

After reading "Road to Jonestown" a few weeks ago, I wanted to hear what Jim Jones' personal attorney and right hand man for many years, Tim Stoen, had to say. He didn't really touch too much on what drew him to Jones in the first place, mostly concentrating on what happened when he decided to leave the Peoples Temple. He was marked for death from that moment on, harassed and bullied, in fear for his life. But he was more afraid for his son, John Victor Stoen. He had signed a document proclaiming Jones to be John's biological father, but he says in this book that he was actually John's natural father. He and his estranged wife, Grace, were unable to get John back from Jones before the mass murder/suicide in 1978, John was one of the over 900 victims. You could tell Tim has experienced a lot of guilt and pain over this. It was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.

Who didn't love the Most Interesting Man in the World commercials for Dos Equis? I thought they were funny and clever, and always enjoyed watching them. I didn't know anything at all about the actor who played him, Jonathan Goldsmith, so I almost didn't bother to check it out, but I'm glad I did. It was a quick read, funny and lighthearted. He actually has had a really interesting life! Not quite as much so as the character he played, but it was still pretty amazing.

Silent Corner

I enjoyed Dean Koontz's latest, "The Silent Corner", although I will admit to being perturbed that his leading ladies seem to be getting younger and younger and younger to the point where they are unbelievable. Jane Hawk is no exception. She's twenty-seven (27!!), an FBI agent, skilled and wise and mature, a widow and a mother to a five year old. When did she have time to rise so high in the FBI's ranks? Not that it can't be done but...really? He could have made her 35 or something and I totally would have believed it. At any rate, Jane's husband, another uber-overachiever (full colonel at 32...) committed suicide, and Jane knows damn well Nick would never have killed himself. She takes a leave of absence from the FBI and starts investigating the surprising rise in suicides over the last few years, especially of people who, like Nick, would be the last people to ever kill themselves. The path Jane starts down is dangerous, her life and the life of her child is threatened, and she goes off the grid to continue her hunt. There will be a sequel, so it ended on that note.


I adore Barry Lyga. This book was great. Ten years earlier, when he was four, Sebastian accidentally shot and killed his baby sister, Lola. The accident tore their family apart, and Sebastian has never forgiven himself. He's pretty much an outcast at school and we figure out early on that Sebastian is planning on taking his own life. His only friend goes away for the summer, and it seems like the perfect time to do it, but then Sebastian meets the girl next door, Aneesa. Aneesa doesn't know about Lola, and they become friends. Sebastian finds himself falling in love with her. He does eventually tell her about what happened, and is pleasantly surprised when he discovers it doesn't change how she feels about him. It was very nicely done, I think Lyga did an excellent job of capturing Sebastian's confusion and angst, not just at his past but as a teenager in general.

Catherine Howard was King Henry VIII's fifth wife and the youngest, too. She was by all accounts a pretty, charming, not very bright girl who didn't realize just how dangerous it was being married to Henry. Her family did though, considering she was related to Anne Boleyn, and they happily sacrificed her up to the king in exchange for furthering their own careers. Catherine had boyfriends before she married Henry, slept with at least one of them with the intention of marrying him, and if she didn't commit adultery after she was married she certainly planned to. All of this condemned her to die on the chopping block, most likely before she turned 21. She is usually dismissed as being inconsequential, since her marriage to Henry was quite short, but Russell did a good job of digging up the scant information about her that is available and weaving it into an interesting story.

I should be all caught up on Walking Dead stories now, at least until Vol. 28 comes out. "The Whisperer War" finds Dwight, Michonne, and others from Rick's camp fighting a huge army of undead with the Whisperers sprinkled in. Negan fights with them, destroying his bat Lucille in the process (the scene where he buried her and we learn Lucille the bat was named for the woman he loved who died *almost* made me feel sorry for him, but then I remembered he killed Glenn). A band of the Whisperers make it to the Hilltop and burn it down, and Carl *almost* died (I was ready to light fire to something if that happened). Dwight returns to Rick's camp triumphant after his victory in battle, until Rick informs him that they didn't even make a dent in the army of undead the Whisperers have under their command. Oh boy.
I was very excited when I heard Virginia Grohl on the Lithium channel over Mother's Day weekend talking about her new book, "From Cradle to Stage". It was a lot of fun! She often wondered what other mothers of rock stars experienced when their kids were growing up, and set out to interview them and collect their stories. She talked to a wide variety of moms whose kids have made impacts in the music industry, from Michael Stipe's mom to Dr. Dre's mom to Mike D. from the Beastie Boys' mom. She roundly criticized the school system for labeling these high energy kids troublemakers because they didn't fit the mold and encouraged parents who have creative kids to help them out rather than chastising them for not being better students (she let Dave drop out of high school when he was sixteen to go on tour with his band Scream). She's obviously very proud of Dave (as she has every right to be), and it came through. She did of course mention Wendy Cobain a bit, talked about the devastation Kurt's death wrought on Dave and those who knew him. I was glad she didn't dwell on it, but as always I'm disappointed when people who actually knew him seem to fall for the suicide lies.

In "The Most Dangerous Animal of All", Gary L. Stewart makes a pretty convincing case that his biological father, Earl Van Best, Jr., was the Zodiac killer (maybe he and Steve Hodel should get together and chat). Stewart spent a long time looking for his biological parents and when he met his birth mother, he was naturally curious to find out more about his birth father. His mother, Judy, was reluctant to tell him, claiming she'd blocked most of it out since she was only fifteen when she had him, but Gary was persistent, doing research, and what he found was troubling. Van spent time in Japan as a youngster and was fascinated by codes and ciphers, he and his dad spent hours trying to fool each other with unbreakable codes (one of the key features of the Zodiac was the ciphers he sent to the papers, one of which has never been decoded). Van's mugshot looks shockingly similar to the police sketches of the Zodiac, taken from eyewitness accounts (even I see the resemblance, and normally I never do). He had Van's handwriting analyzed to compare to the Zodiac's and it looks like it could be a match (the analyst wouldn't go further than that, since they didn't have access to the original documents, just copies). His fingerprints seem to match Zodiac's, including a scar on his thumb. Gary had the SFPD take a DNA sample so they could compare his to the DNA from the Zodiac crime scenes, but as of publication time the police still had no processed his sample. It was well written and quite compelling.

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