Panic on the Rails in our Thrilling Tales podcast

Two trains speed toward each other in a blizzard, as a killer wanders the night! Melodrama on the rails, in this week’s Thrilling Tales: Storytime for Grownups, available now! On May 20, 1920 the readers opening the new issue of Metropolitan magazine were captivated by a heart-stopping tale entitled The Signal Tower, by Wadsworth Camp. Never heard of him? Neither had I! Most of the details we know about the man come from biographies of his daughter Madeleine L’Engle, the beloved author of A Wrinkle in Time. Camp was known in his day as the author of several excellent mystery novels, many of which were adapted to the stage or screen.

The Signal Tower did very well for Camp, appearing in the 1920 edition of Best American Short Stories, the annual story collection started in 1915 and still published to this day. Camp’s spare, gripping tale concerns railroad signal men, the air traffic controllers of their day, managing a far flung network of signal towers and holding thousands of lives in their hands. Our hero faces an unbearable dilemma as two trains speed toward each other along the same track, while his drunken and vengeful coworker stalks toward his defenseless wife and child. Small wonder the story was loosely adapted into a silent film of the same name – you can watch the whole thing here. Or listen to the full story in our latest Thrilling Tales podcast.

     ~Posted by David W.

#BookBingoNW2020: Set At or By the Sea

It seems as long as people have told stories, they have told sea stories. Gilgamesh crosses the sea and even dives to the bottom in the quest for eternal life. The nautical adventures of Homer’s Odysseus are literally legendary, as are those of Jason and the Argonauts. More recently, both Edgar Allan Poe’s Narrative of the Life of Arthur Gordon Pym and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick set sail from Nantucket on voyages that sounded some strange depths indeed. Environmental writer Rachel Carson had her first big success writing about The Sea Around Us, while Iris Murdoch’s masterpiece sends her obsessive hero on a misguided journey to escape himself by the side of The Sea! The Sea! Here are some other sea stories to get you started on this oceanic bingo square:

The Rathbones by Janice Clark
Young Mercy Rathbone and her cousin Mordecai set off across the briny deep in search of her whaler father in this offbeat gothic adventure inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Continue reading “#BookBingoNW2020: Set At or By the Sea”

#BookBingoNW2020: Epistolary

And then there’s that square marked “epistolary.” You’d be forgiven for Googling that one, where you’ll find it means a story told in the form of documents, such as diaries, emails, texts, and – most traditionally – letters – aka, epistles. To which you might respond “they write novels in the form of letters?” Oh yes, Wikipedia replies, in fact they pretty much always have. Chances are you’ve read some yourself! Not just old-timey classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Sorrows of Young Werther, but many more recent favorites like The Color Purple, CarrieThe Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and The Martian are epistolary in form. Still unsure? Here are some great recent examples to get you started:

Continue reading “#BookBingoNW2020: Epistolary”

Imagining Life, Post-Pandemic

There was a time – two months or so ago – when readers flocked to dystopian fiction so that they might imagine  what strange, dark days might lay ahead. Now that we’re all living through something that feels a bit like sci-fi itself, futuristic fiction is still there to help us envision and contemplate the way forward.

In Mike Chen’s Beginning at the End, it felt pretty apocalyptic when the viral epidemic known as MGS wiped out 70% of the world’s population. But the world didn’t end, and six years later we join three residents of San Francisco as they emerge from social isolation into a city and a world that is different, yet in many ways still the same. Rob’s young daughter doesn’t yet know that her mother has died. Struggling former wedding-planner Krista escaped her own abusive family under cover of the plague, and now counsels traumatized survivors. Former pop star Moira’s life has been reinvented in surprising ways during the epidemic. Chen’s perceptive, empathetic novel helps us to process realities not so very different from our own. Continue reading “Imagining Life, Post-Pandemic”

Stay-at-Home Drive-In Movie Madness!!

After regular movie theaters have suspended operations, many couples and families have rediscovered Drive-In Movie Theaters, where social distancing is a standard feature! My sister is a drive-in movie buff, and so she and her husband love to go to the Blue Fox Drive-In up on Oak Harbor, one of five still running in our state.

Mahoning Drive-in, Leighton Pennsylvania

Sadly, now even drive-ins will need to close for a while in keeping with Washington State’s newly issued Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, but never fear: we have the solution! Kanopy, available with your Seattle Public Library card, has everything you need for a classic Drive In movie night at home  – including some wonderfully schlocky classic drive-in movie fare. First of all, learn about the history of drive-ins and their revival with a pair of documentaries:

  • At the Drive-In: Saving the Mahoning Drive-In Theater. Unable to purchase a $50,000 digital projector, a group of quirky film fanatics in rural Pennsylvania fight to keep a dying drive-in theater alive by screening only vintage 35mm film prints and working entirely for free. An award-winning underdog story.
  • Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-In Movie. A product of post World War II optimism, the drive-in movie theater emerged as the perfect blend of entertainment and car culture. In light of the recent resurgence of drive-in theaters, this informative documentary studies the factors that affected the drive-in’s dramatic rise, decline and rebirth.

Then check out Kanopy’s other offerings to create your own double feature. In amongst a wealth of classic art house films and award-winning international cinema, lurk some truly forgettable yet indelible B-movies, redolent of the heyday of drive-in cinema. Note: none of these are family films. I’m talking about movies such as…

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Continue reading “Stay-at-Home Drive-In Movie Madness!!”