Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The drama actually began the evening before on Payton’s 18th birthday. He wanted to stay our all night with his friends and come home in time to leave. Two problems with that:
He hadn’t packed yet.We remember what happened last year when he had a sleep-over on his birthday.
Fuzzy and Sherra delivered him to the Amtrak station at BWI and were greeted by dozens of police cars, K-9 units and paparazzi there to greet Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and his lieutenant governor. Through no small feat, Sherra managed to get on television standing behind O’Malley.
With Payton safely ensconced on the grain to New Jersey, Fuzzy and Scot focused on finishing their own packing and re-packing.
“This suitcase is 51.8 pounds. How much does a pair of dress shoes weigh?”
Once the weight was distributed evenly between two checked bags (48.5 lb each), James and Sherra drove us to Washington National Airport. Our plan was to fly to Raleigh/Durham and catch Flight 174, leaving at 6:15pm to London. The first plane to RDU was full and the next one was cancelled, along with two flights to Chicago. This considerably depleted our choices and we went back to Plan A (since Plans B and C were kaput and there was no Plan D). We got on the next flight to JFK, scheduled to leave at 2:40pm, now 3:00pm and with ATC delay, wheels up at 4:20pm. But at least our luggage was on its way to London by now.
The regional jet felt like an oven inside but we endured it, baking on the tarmac for 2 ½ hours in 91 degree heat. A woman decided she wanted to deplane, so the pilots had to taxi back to the terminal, where we all had to deplane and give up our place in the rotation to take off. We hate her guts.
We finally made it to JFK and several flights to London were delayed but we got onto Flight 104, scheduled to leave at 8:10p, now 9:15p, now 10p, actually 11pm. While waiting, we discovered that Flight 174 from RDU, the one we originally planned to travel on, had been diverted to JFK due to mechanical problems. Our luggage wasn’t any closer to London than we were.
The gate agent put us into first class on Flight 104, a 777, giving a very pleasant ending to an otherwise [expletives deleted] day.
Meanwhile, Mom and Dad received the royal treatment. The New York Jets sent three vans to pick everyone up at the Ryan household, chauffeur them to Newark Airport and check them in. Their preferential treatment included no waiting at security. Must be nice.
The agents from the Jets upgraded Mom and Dad to first class, so they’re a little spoiled right now.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
When I first saw the cover of Blockade Billy by Stephen King, I was intrigued. I couldn’t imagine the King of Horror writing a sports story, but my concerns were quickly put to rest. Although a thriller written about the glory days of baseball in the 1950’s, King puts his own brand of horror into a setting away from his usual scenes of crime.
Blockade Billy is written in the style of an interview that the author would’ve had with a former baseball player during the time of William Blakely, who would later be known as Blockade Billy. Called up from the minors to the New Jersey Titans, he appeared to be too good to be true. As catcher, Billy tagged out every runner trying to beat the throw to home plate. And then some.
The fans soon dubbed him Blockade Billy for his saves at the plate. But the opposing players figured there was something not right about him. The owner and coach found out the horrible truth behind Blockade Billy. Because of that awful truth, his name has been removed from the record books, the only player to have his entire existence expunged. A gruesome story as only King can tell it.
The book also contains an even shorter story, Morality, where a home-care nurse takes on a strange task for her patient, a wealthy pastor nearly immobilized from a stroke. The reward he promises would eradicate the mounting debt she and her husband, a part-time substitute teacher and fledgling writer, have accrued. The problem is the nature of the task.
King doesn’t divulge what Nora has to do, keeping the reader guessing, until the event has passed. Nora relives the moment over and over. She finds out that freedom from money woes may not be enough to free her from the demons from her act won’t go away.
Both short stories are easy reading and somewhat tame compared to King’s other works. But that increases the appeal, which read like campfire ghost stories – PG-rated but might give you nightmares anyway.
But people, including Elizabeth, were so scared to death of the pox and the plague that they were willing to try anything. Not as lethal as the plague, the pox left its survivors horribly scarred for life.
In The Queene’s Cure, someone leaves a very life-like effigy of Elizabeth in her coach during a visit to the London Royal College of Physicians. The face of the effigy has been scored to imitate pox scars. She sets her Private Privy Council to investigating who put it in her coach and how.
Her Private Privy Council without Meg Milligrew. Her former apothecary Sarah Wilton alias Meg Milligrew has been banished from court for borrowing one of Elizabeth’s gowns without permission and impersonating her Majesty, even forging her signature.
Sarah runs an apothecary with her brutish and often violent husband Ben. She longs to be back in good graces with her Queen and in her court. Until then she must hang out on the fringes of the crowd and in alleyways when Elizabeth appears in public.
The Private Privy Council is finding the investigation frustrating. Then a body of a young woman is found in a fountain in the royal courtyard. She’s first thought to be a pox victim but when the nature of her death is revealed, the mystery takes a very dark turn.
Then Elizabeth nearly dies of the pox. She recovers but soon realizes that her infection was not an act of God. She’s stunned at the measures her enemies will go to remove her from the throne. In pursuing the conspirators, the queen and friends are caught in a rather too-convenient trap.
Harper turns up the action and suspense as Elizabeth nearly meets the same fate as the girl in the fountain. The author also bridges the seemingly impossible gap between amateur sleuth and queen of the realm with no problem. One would think that a monarch of her standing would not be involved in such adventures. However, Harper spins stories that show Elizabeth consistent with everything else that has been written about her. The conundrums and mysteries that face her are those that directly affect her and the ones closest to her, like her life-long companion Kat Ashley, her advisor Lord Cecil, her fool Ned Topside and the mute Gil. Therefore, Elizabeth has a personal and vested interest in solving murders.
The first three novels were exciting but Harper bumps up the action and suspense in The Queene’s Cure. I hope the trend continues.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I wanted to write a quick thank you to the Green Lantern bar and everyone who came out last night after the Pride Parade. I enjoyed talking to everyone who stopped by my book-signing table to chat.