Last Update 1/22/19

Burning Bright by John Steinbeck, 1950

This novella - the only Steinbeck I had not previously read -  really never caught my interest. Itís a portrait of four people. The first man wants a son but unbeknownst to himself, he is sterile. His wife, who suspects that, seduces another man in order to get pregnant. But the other man has his own view of their encounter and there is a fourth character who acts as a catalyst for the climax. 1/22/19

The Pearl by John Steinbeck, 1945   

This classic novella is about a poor couple and their baby. The father dives for pearls off the coast of Bolivia and finds what is perhaps the most valuable pearl in the world. Alas, it is not a blessing. People attempt to swindle the couple and the father is forced to kill a thief who attacks him. For this they are outlawed and pursued by three men, all of whom are also killed, but the baby dies as well. The couple decide the pearl is cursed and throw it back into the ocean. 1/17/19

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck, 1942 

This short novel was actually controversial when it first appeared because of its relatively sympathetic portrayal of a German colonel. A mythical village that is presumably in France although it does not feel that way is occupied by a small German force. The invaders attempt to be fair and untroublesome, but naturally things donít stay that way. The traitor who betrayed the town is stunned to discover that neither the townspeople or the Germans like him very much.  Inevitably tensions escalate toward violence. Very nicely done and well balanced. 1/13/19

Ten Unique Stories by Will F. Jenkins, ML Press, 2018 

Two of these are science fiction and most of the rest are more or less adventure stories, none of which have been previously collected. They involve pirates, a downed pilot on a hostile island, a man unhappy with his life, civil war in a Latin American country, and other settings and themes. Jenkins, better known as Murray Leinster, wrote literally hundreds of non-SF stories, most of which are well worth the time to read, if you can track them down. I hope this is just the first of several new volumes of his otherwise inaccessible work. 1/10/19

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, 1945  

This novella is primarily about a group of unambitious men and their efforts to do something nice for a friend who runs a small business. Everything they plan invariably goes wrong. Thereís a good deal of comedy, but it is also quite tragic at times. Steinbeck was great at creating quirky characters with unusual lives and this one includes a couple that lives inside a discarded boiler, a store owner whose soft heart undercuts his profits, a man who sells frogs and octopi for a living, and many others. This is a one sitting read, but it will feel as though youíve read a much longer and more detailed novel. 1/8/19

Black Gold on the Double Diamond by Hammond Innes (as Ralph Hammond, Collins, 1953   

Innes borrowed bits and pieces from his adult novels for this story of a young man who visits Canada on the chance that an amnesiac might be his father, presumed dead during the war. He had inherited a supposedly worthless mine which suddenly seems to interest people and while living on his uncleís ranch, he discovers more puzzles. Someone stampedes the uncleís cattle and a crucial bridge is dynamited, following by a brush fire. The identity of the chief villain is rather telegraphed Ė there is actually no other plausible candidate Ė and the reason is clearly evidence that there is oil nearby. This was the authorís final YA novel. 1/6/19

The Saracenís Tower by Hammond Innes (as Ralph Hammond), Armada, 1952 

An orphan sneaks off on a cruise to the Mediterranean to help recover an experimental radio set invented by his father just before his death. He and an adult companion get caught up with storms, smugglers, and an international conspiracy to steal the technology before eventually recovering the missing equipment and escaping from the villains. A bit confusing for a while but basically a sound and exciting story. 1/3/19