Vampire Lore: Self Learns New Things Every Day

“Sprinkling mustard seeds over a floor or roof keeps the creature too busy counting to go further.”

— Sherlock Holmes to Mary Russell in Castle Shade, p. 22

Self’s Intro to Author Laurie R. King

Is apparently this book, No. 17 in King’s Sherlock Holmes + Mary Russell mysteries.

No. 17.

Self knows she needs to come clean: She could not read to the end of All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days. She could not read past the Russians belligerently recruiting Arvid Harnack (while Mildred is out of town, in Copenhagen — but could she have made a difference? But could the Russians have been a little less showy with their knocking on the Harnacks’ door with not the slightest compunction about informants? After all the trouble the Heaths took to have their 11-year-old disguise the Harnacks’ activities! Self couldn’t stand those Russian thugs.)

Anyhoo, Castle Shade reads fresh. She can’t believe it’s the 17th in a series. She confesses that, in the beginning, she found the idea of a married Sherlock Holmes a little far-fetched, but once she started reading, she found the scenes between MR and SH very crisp. Story’s got a fascinating setting, too: it starts on a train headed to Dracula’s castle! Yes, that’s right: the intrepid pair are headed to Romania. Oooh! Stay tuned.

The Audacity, Oh the Audacity!

Donald Heath calls his wife and son back to Berlin (they’d taken refuge in Oslo after Germany invaded Poland) and then breaks it to his wife: their eleven-year-old son will be the courier for messages between Donald and Mildred Harnack. It takes Louise Heath several days to agree.

This is what happens: the Heaths and the Harnacks meet for a picnic in the Spreewald, “a heavily-wooded area sixty miles southeast of Berlin.” Don Jr. is “dressed for the part: black short pants, tan knee socks, tan shirt, and a black cap — the uniform of the Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitlerjugend — a division of Hitler Youth for boys between ten and fourteen.”

Don Jr. “runs up ahead . . . he is always the lookout.” When he spots “Germans in uniform,” he remembers his father’s instructions and bursts into song:

Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig festern Schritt!

(Imagine teaching your 11-year-old to sing Hitler Youth songs! That is why self chose the title that she did for this post)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day, 2nd Friday of 2022

  • “The policeman wanted to throw my three-year-old daughter out the window but I held her tight.” — Simon Ackerman

It is Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass.

The violence was so chaotic, it was hard to believe it was planned. But it was.

“Goebbels holds a press conference to castigate Lochner, Schultz, and other foreign correspondents for writing what he insists are false stories. No stores were looted. No Jews were killed.”

More than ever I’m convinced, we are going down this dangerous road. Right now we have Joe, but can he pass the baton? He should pass the baton because we need a strong AFTER.

Hitler didn’t even need a Supreme Court to justify him. WE DO.

After Kristallnacht, something breaks in the Americans. Ambassador Hugh Wilson is recalled to Washington “for consultation.” He never returns to Berlin. The US Embassy is left in the hands of junior diplomats. Consul Prentiss Gilbert is given a hasty promotion to chargé d’affaires. He dies of a heart attack, five months later.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Second Job

“At 10:15 a.m. on December 14, 1937, Donald Heath entered a wood-paneled corner office at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue for his first on-the-books meeting with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. . . . Morgenthau’s meetings were typically jammed with meetings, but today his desk calendar showed a considerably lighter load. He had a full half-hour for Heath.” (All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 276)

Morgenthau was sending Donald Heath to Berlin and wanted to discuss Heath’s responsibilities. “The job description was not, in the strictest sense, straightforward. Heath was taking on not just one job, but two.”

The first job would be “first secretary at the American embassy in Berlin . . . Here’s where it got tricky: someone already had the job . . . Heath would need to devote his time to his second job, which was the real, off-the-books reason he was being dispatched to Berlin. The second job . . . didn’t even have a name.”

And Morgenthau was able to get all of that across to Heath in a half hour? Because self highly doubts Heath was prepped before his interview!

Apparently Heath kept his responsibilities so secret that not even US Ambassador Hugh Wilson knew what they were! On June 30, 1938, Wilson sent a carefully worded letter (with bullet points! That’s when you know he’s getting serious!) to the Assistant Secretary of State complaining that no one had told him what kind of “work Heath was to do” and could someone please tell him what Heath was doing in Berlin? LOL LOL LOL

It took six months for Heath to file his first report, but it contained some very important information from the president of the Reichsbank, which was funding Hitler’s military build-up.

Heath’s wife jumps on him the minute Heath gets back from the Embassy, to complain that she thinks she is being followed by the Gestapo (but of course she is!)

Stay tuned.

Fun Fact: Life in Stalinist Leningrad

These two marketing blogs must really be getting desperate because they keep linking to my posts. Every time I see a link, I make that post private. I’ve done this with a lot of my posts the past week. Mostly my posts about Mendocino and Philo. These people have NO imagination.

It’s so beautiful to see them today. How are you? When every single one of my posts is private, maybe I can finally concentrate on writing a book.

I haven’t been able to join Bloganuary. Despite all the fanfare, I’ve only received one prompt in my ‘In’ box, and I check every day.

Fun Fact 1 from All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days:

  • Over forty thousand residents of Leningrad are murdered in 1937 — a number that reaches sixty-thousand in 1938. (Because executions are carried out at night and mass graves are hidden, most of the population remains blissfully ignorant of Stalin’s killing spree)

But, sixty-thousand people in the space of a year? Surely those people had family? Friends? Co-workers? Wouldn’t they notice if their family members and/or friends simply vanished? I mean, we’re not talking six or even sixty or even six thousand people. We’re talking sixty-thousand, which is 3/4 the population of self’s city in California.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

ATFTOOD, pp. 155 – 156

When Donner gives us the ages of Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, and Hermann Goring — self’s jaw drops to the floor. Heinrich Himmler, “leader of the SS and architect of the concentration camp system” is thirty-three. THIRTY-THREE! Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Gestapo, is thirty.

The oldest, Goring, is forty-one.

omg. Rank amateurs, all three. The Night of the Long Knives was their rehearsal.

  • In Munich, a man is playing cello in the study of his apartment while his wife prepares dinner and their three children, ages nine, eight, and two, play a game. The doorbell rings. Four SS officers march in and arrest him. Later, they shoot him and deliver his casket to his wife with an apology. The man wasn’t who they thought he was. They’d confused Willi Schmid, a music critic, with Willi Schmidt, a Storm Trooper.

Stay tuned.

The Writer Hans Fallada

His novel, called in English Little Man, What Now? was a huge bestseller, sold 42,000 copies in Germany alone. And THIS was before social media!

He followed that up in three months with another book, whose title in English was Once He had a Child. The “frenetic pace left him breathless with exhaustion. Abscesses on his gums sent him into surgery three times, and both his children got whooping cough.”

That is indeed awful. But I have never been able to write a novel in three months. So there’s that.

Sentence of the Day, 2nd Monday of 2022

Self keeps writing the year as 2021, gets confused when she sees she has something written in her computer dated TOMORROW, 2021, thinks she is getting amnesia, then remembers that 2021 is last year, and it’s over. She feels like she’s jumped the shark.

Sentence:

Relentless Nazi brutality invigorates the conviction that they must fight back steadily, diligently, without hesitation.

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 149

As if things weren’t bad enough, Mildred’s husband Arvid begins making her the focus of some deep anger. He stays out as late as he possibly can. He and Mildred divide their apartment into separate realms: her space is the kitchen, his is the living room.

He begins to refer to the living room as his room. “It’s mine too,” Mildred insists. “Yours is mine and mine’s yours.”

He: “It’s only mine and I don’t want to see anyone else in it.”

Maybe Arvid began to go crazy when he had to burn his manuscript for a book that was to be published in two days’ time. Not only did he have to burn it, he also had to take the added precaution of dumping the ashes in the Landwehr canal. After dumping his book’s ashes, he headed straight to the office of his publisher, and smashed the printing plates to pieces. “He will take no chances.” (p. 106) Mildred ends up eating a lot of long, lonely suppers by herself (But maybe she is happy because at least there is no one to pester her about staying out of the living room?)

Then she makes acquaintance of the renowned German writer Hans Fallada (self nearly fainted when she saw the name, even she knows Hans Fallada), whose real name, it turns out, is Rudolf Ditzen.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Six-Word Saturday: “Routine Medical Examination, Sit and Wait”

Thank you to Debbie at Travel with Intent for hosting the Six-Word Saturday challenge.

Self is in the closing section of Semezdin Mehmehdinovic’s My Heart, his (really quite lovely) meditation on the frailty of the body, on the melancholy of aging, of saying good-bye.

Awesome Book. Five Stars.

It is a triptych: the first third is about his “first heart attack,” at the age of fifty. The middle section is about a road trip he takes with his detached son. The final section is about the after-effects of his wife’s stroke.

Does it sound depressing to you? It sounded depressing to self. At first, she wasn’t sure she wanted to read it. Perhaps she’d just skim.

She was wrong. If the first third didn’t quite grab her, she was glad she stuck with it. By the end of the father-and-son road trip, she was hooked.

The last section is like a love letter to the narrator’s wife, it so tenderly describes the most devastating after-effect of her stroke: her memory loss.

Holding hands, we step into the circular glass door through which I have often passed over the last months. Our moving shadows break up in the glass. The melancholy of late summer. We go up in the elevator to the fourth floor. We’re in the hospital for a routine medical examination. We sit and wait. In the silence, we look at a painting in front of us by an anonymous artist. And then Sanja asks: “Isn’t it a pitiful destiny for an artist for their works to end up on the wall of a doctor’s waiting room . . . ?”

My Heart, p. 223

It’s a book about grief, but it is not depressing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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