The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on Amazon.com. I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at rohlarik@gmail.com. I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

PATRIARCH RUN


The author sent me an autographed copy of his novel to review:

Benjamin Dancer writes a fast paced novel that rivals and apes Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity. Both main characters are government agents of some sort suffering from extreme memory loss. The author claims that this novel is part of The Father Trilogy (this being the third book), but this reviewer had to stretch his imagination to think that this novel had anything to do with being a father. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy this expeditious page turner, because I did; however I did find some minor flaws, mostly involving gunfire that I’ll talk about later. I think authors that write espionage novels, such as Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger (1989) and Red Storm Rising (1986), make sure there isn’t any continuity errors, especially involving weapons. I’ve read and seen many films that suffered from this malady. Anyway, that being said, this novel almost takes your breathe away, and that is a good thing. I’m a big fan of short chapters and cliffhangers, and Benjamin Dancer specializes in both elements. I found the story a little provocative since the reader wants to know right away what Jack Erikson (our protagonist?) has stashed away and when he will remember where it is. Okay, enough said, how about the story?    

A bomb goes off on a vehicle procession in Washington, D.C., Jack Erikson finds himself wounded, handcuffed, bewildered, amnesiac and pursued by a man with an MP5 submachine gun. Somehow Jack escapes and finds his way to Colorado by instinct (why are other reviewers talking about West Texas?). He finds his son Billy, whom he hasn’t seen in ten years. Killers in black vehicles attack Jack and his son. The villains (are they?) die after an intense gun battle with Jack and Billy. Meanwhile, Jack’s wife Rachel is kidnapped. Who are these people, and what do they want? They seem to think that Rachel knows where Jack is (she hasn’t seen him in ten years) and where he has hidden what they want. Got it so far? Later we find out that Jack stole something from the Chinese and is now being chased by a hired group of Mexican Special Forces, an unnamed USA government agency and by Jack’s ex-boss, a slightly discombobulated Colonel. Billy gets separated from Jack and gets rescued by the authorities and turned over to Sheriff Regan, who is Rachel’s lover. While the Sheriff tries to get Billy to safety, they are attacked by the Mexicans. In a brutal gunfight, the Sheriff and the Mexicans die, while Billy escapes. Don’t think that I’m giving the plot away, because all of this occurs early in the novel. Now Jack tries to free his wife from the kidnappers. He still doesn’t know what’s going on. And I’m not sure who are the good guys or who are the bad guys. Anyway, Mr. Dancer, your writing is first-rate hiding the good, and the bad from the ugly (sounds like a movie).

I thought the novel should’ve had more flashbacks pertaining to Jack and Rachel’s initial encounters, which were interesting, in lieu of all that gunfire. Have faith in your prose; it’s very good. More background or flashbacks on the characters would have added more beef to the story. For instance, Rachel had a ten year relationship with the sheriff and the reader learns almost nothing about it. And what did the Colonel mean on page 262, when he said, "Your dad spent much of the last decade in a prison very few people have heard of." What I’m trying to say is the novel could’ve had a lot more meat on the bones. You had some great ideas, but didn’t follow up on them. These minor defects stopped this very good novel from being great. By the way, as an ex-Marine on a rifle and pistol team, I can tell you that it is impossible to shoot a paper plate at two hundred yards with a service revolver (page 88). I know my review sounds critical, but I did enjoy this novel, even though the war/terrorism genre is not my normal cup of tea. Could have it been better? Yes, but there aren’t that many Clancys, Flemings or le Carres out there. I highly recommend this thriller novel, especially to all the espionage fans.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: I wanted to talk about Benjamin Dancer’s first two books in his trilogy, In Sight of the Sun, and Fidelity, but couldn’t find anything about those books on Amazon, Goodreads, or the internet. I’ll have to email him to find out why. Therefore, lets talk about the two Tom Clancy novels I mentioned in the first paragraph:

Clear and Present Danger (1989): Goodreads says, “CIA man Jack Ryan, hero of Patriot Games, finds that he will probably never have a boring summer: The sudden and surprising assassination of three American officials in Colombia. Many people in many places, moving off on missions they all mistakenly thought they understood. The future was too fearful for contemplation, and beyond the expected finish lines were things that, once decided, were better left unseen. Tom Clancy's new thriller is based on America's war on drugs.”

Red Storm Rising (1986): Goodreads says, "Allah!"

“With that shrill cry, three Muslim terrorists blow up a key Soviet oil complex, creating a critical oil shortage that threatens the stability of the USSR.

To offer the effects of this disaster, members of the Politburo and the KGB devise a brilliant plan of diplomatic trickery - a sequence of events designed to pit the NATO allies against each other - a distraction calculated to enable the Soviets to seize all the oil in the Persian Gulf.

But as this spellbinding story of international intrigue and global politics nears its climax, the Soviets are faced with another prospect, one they hadn't planned on: a full-scale conflict in which nobody can win.”

I didn’t mention it before, but my favorite Clancy novel is The Hunt for Red October (1984): 

Goodreads says, "Here is the runaway bestseller that launched Tom Clancy's phenomenal career. A military thriller so gripping in its action and so convincing in its accuracy that the author was rumored to have been debriefed by the White House. Its theme: the greatest espionage coup in history. Its story: the chase for a top secret Russian missile sub. Lauded by the Washington Post as "breathlessly exciting." The Hunt for Red October remains a masterpiece of military fiction by one of the world's most popular authors, a man whose shockingly realistic scenarios continue to hold us in thrall. Somewhere under the Atlantic, a Soviet sub commander has just made a fateful decision. The Red October is heading west. The Americans want her. The Russians want her back. And the most incredible chase in history is on…”

The Russian sub heading west:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Parsival or A Knight’s Tale

This is a guest review from Deron O:

I read Richard Monaco’s Parsival or A Knight’s Tale, the first of his Parsival series, many years ago as a teenager, not too long after its initial publication. Monaco's tale is based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th century poem Parzival about Parzival, a knight of King Arthur, who quests for the Holy Grail. I had already read probably a dozen versions of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, such as Le Morte DarthurIdylls of the Kingand The Once and Future King. I was put off by Monaco's version because his was so, so unlike the others. It was raw, visceral, and chivalrous only in the loosest sense of the word. Yet something about his writing style stuck with me after all these years. 

When I learned that he’d written a new Parsival book, Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon, I had to read it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that book begins at the very moment that this book ends. Because I enjoyed Lost Years, despite its flaws mostly due to poor editing, I located my old copy of Parsival that had since been boxed up and stored away in the basement and gave it a second read.

Parsival is the son of King Gahmuret, and after Gahmuret is slain in battle, Queen Herzelroyd vows to cloister her child from the world, to not raise him as a knight and king as is his birthright in an effort to prevent him from meeting the same fate as his father. Years later, in his teens, Parsival is completely innocent of the ways of the world, not even comprehending death.

One day, while in the woods, he encounters three of King Arthur’s knights, one being Galahad. Given their shiny armor and his mother’s description of God taking “the form of a man as bright as the sun”, Parsival confuses Galahad for God. Galahad quickly disabuses him of this notion. The knights mistake Parsival’s naivete for madness, and tiring of answering Parsival’s questions about knights and anxious to get on their way, one knight sarcastically tells the fool Parsival, “Go to King Arthur...perhaps he’ll make you a knight yourself and you’ll know all these things then.” So, like a child, inexpert at detecting sarcasm and trusting unquestionably the benevolence of others, he goes.

His mother is powerless to stop Parsival. Shortly after he leaves, distressed and distraught, she dies of a broken heart. The serfs Broaditch and Waleis are soon dispatched to bring Parsival back to take the throne. Their pursuit forms a second narrative thread of this story.

Parsival muddles along - aspiring to become the ideal knight, marrying, defending the kingdom from the evil Clinschor and his invaders from across the sea, and questing for the Holy Grail both physically and spiritually. For the most part, he fails. His innocence is often his undoing, most ironically in his physical quest for the Holy Grail. With each encounter, Parsival's innocence fades a bit more. He learns that the knights are not so chivalrous, and after taking part in a battle with King Arthur against Clinschor, he humorously concludes, “War...is stupid.”

In contrast, the lowborn Broaditch demonstrates, in his own way, the chivalry, heroism, and dedication that one would expect from Arthur’s knights. Broaditch and his companions are characters I didn’t think I’d care for much, rather wanting to get back to Parsival’s adventure; however, I found that to be untrue and enjoyed their tale just as much as Parsival’s.

The story moves along at a brisk pace. Chapters are short, often just a page or two. Monaco uses flashbacks and flash-forwards. While this could lead to problems following a story, I did not find that to be the case here. Occasionally, Monaco uses a stream of conscious style or sentence fragments that had me rereading some sections. I don’t mean that to be negative, just noting that the author sometime requires a little more of your attention. Overall, I enjoy Monaco’s writing style, and it is one reason why I decided to revisit his book.

This author and his work deserve more recognition. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the others in this series.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comments: The books in this series are: Parsival or A Knight's Tale; The Grail War; Final Quest; Blood and Dreams; Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon.

Both Parsival or a Knight's Tale and The Final Quest were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. 

There is very little information about Richard Monaco on the internet, but I was able to locate this interview.

Wolfram von Eschenbach's poem Parzival is also the basis for Richard Wagner's famous opera Parsifal. Wagner's opera Lohengrin was also inspired by that poem. Lohengrin is the son of Parzival.

Lohengrin figures important in Monaco's series. Lohengrin is a baby at the end of Parsival, and oddly, while Lost Years begins moments after the conclusion of Parsival, Lohengrin is magically a teenager. I recall Monaco explaining in the aforementioned interview that it was necessary for the plot, where Lohengrin plays a rebellious teen fighting to not walk in his father's footsteps.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the BOYS in the BOAT

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the Langer See. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. Okay, I changed "stream" to "Langer See", but that’s the lake where our boys beat the heavily favored Germans in The Olympics of 1936. Take that, Hitler! Daniel James Brown wrote an interesting non-fiction book about the nine gold medalist from Seattle’s University of Washington (I’ll call it the U of W) rowing team, featuring the life of rower Joe Rantz. This book reminds me of Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Seabiscuit, an unlikely champion thoroughbred horse, who along with the rowers from Seattle, Washington gave the American people something to cheer about in the aftermath of the Great Depression. It’s hard to believe that the mostly overlooked rowing program at the U of W was able to beat well trained east coast Ivy league schools, Syracuse, Navy and two-time defending Olympic champion, California, for the 1936 National Championship and Olympic trials. It was gritty country boys from Seattle versus the elite programs of the east coast. And congratulations to the savvy Mr. Brown for making this true story read like a work of fiction.

The book opens in the fourth year of the Great Depression (1933) when one out of four able bodied workers was jobless. Herbert Hoover is out and FDR is in. The story recollects Joe Rantz’s distressing life: Joe’s mom passed away at a young age; his dad, Harry, freaks out and leaves Joe abandoned but comes back to marry a woman named Thula, who hates Joe and ultimately kicks Joe out of the family. Joe falls in love with a girl named Joyce and tries to survive on his own. Joe works many exhausting jobs to save enough money to attend the U of W. He tries out for the nine man rowing team headed by Freshman coach Tom Bolles and makes the squad along with others who have never rowed before. The Freshmen are a success and catch the eye of the programs head coach, Al Ulbrickson. In an intriguing sidebar story, we learn about the school’s builder of their racing shells, George Pocock. The ensuing years are up and down for Joe as he struggles to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. FDR also struggles to turn the USA’s economy around while facing political foes and two Dust Bowls that threaten the ecology and agriculture industry. I thought Mr. Brown did a yeoman’s job of blending the country's problems with Seattle’s difficulties.

Meanwhile the story jumps back and forth from Seattle to Berlin as Hitler gets ready to host the Olympics while his propaganda maestro, the diminutive Joseph Goebbels, attempts to spread perfumed fog across the globe: all is well in peaceful Germany and to paraphrase, “willkommen athletes of all races and countries.” (Really?) Hitler hires German architect Werner March to knock down the old Olympic stadium (the original was never used because of the WWI cancellation of the Olympic games) and build a state of art stadium, which is still in use today. At the same time, Hitler authorizes Leni Riefenstahl (Goebbels is in love with her?) to make a propaganda movie about his 1934 Nuremberg Rally. On page 142, we find that, “The film that would emerge from her labors, Triumph of the Will, would come to define the iconography of Nazi Germany. To this day it stands as a monument to the ability of propaganda to foster absolute power and to justify unfettered hatred.”

Needless to say, as the boys from the U of W varsity team rowed towards their goal of Olympic gold, it became obvious how they were doing it. On page 241, Mr. Brown tells us, “There was a straightforward reason for what was happening. The boys in the Clipper had been winnowed down by punishing competition, and in the winnowing a kind of common character had issued forth: they were all skilled, they were all tough, they were all fiercely determined, but they were also good-hearted. Every one of them had come from humble origins or been humbled by the ravages of the hard times in which they had grown up.” This is truly a feel good "turnaround of fortunes" story for nine young men and an nearly curmudgeon head coach. I’ve left out most of this historical story, especially all the ins and outs of rowing that I learned by reading this book (do you know what it means when the rowers have ‘the swing’?) Anyway, grab a copy of this bestseller and enjoy.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: I was curious if any of the “boys” were still alive. Sadly, the last member died in July 2009. The following is the story (originally published 7/24/2009) from the Seattle Times reporting the death of H. Roger Morris:

“The last surviving link to one of Seattle's greatest sports achievements has died.

H. Roger Morris, 94, who manned the bow position on the University of Washington crew that won the eight-oared gold medal at Adolph Hitler's 1936 Olympics in Berlin, died Wednesday at his home in Maple Valley.

Mr. Morris was the only remaining member of the crew, four of whom lived into their 90s. Bonded forever by their come-from-behind victory in the last Olympics before World War II wiped out the Games in 1940 and 1944, the rowers for many years had annual, informal reunions, one with families, the other for themselves only.

"I couldn't help but think, he was going to miss the reunion this year," said Bob Ernst, longtime rowing coach at Washington. "He was all by himself."

Ernst called Mr. Morris "a very humble guy, such a good guy. I don't think the gold medal ever became the focus of his life."

A daughter, Joan Mullen, said her father lived most of his years in the Seattle area. He earned a degree at Washington and became a mechanical engineer, specializing in dredging at Manson Construction.

Mr. Morris grew up in Fremont, attended Lincoln High School, and often walked to or from classes at the UW, his daughter said.

"Fremont was just plain poor then," she said, referring to the Depression era. "One year, he had an old Model-T [Ford] from his father that he was able to drive to school. Then his father needed it for someone who worked for him.

"He'd go to classes, go work out and then walk home. He said he got rides once in a while."

All the members of that Olympics-winning shell were from Western Washington, and none had rowed until going to the UW. Mullen recalls her father being pointed toward the sport by teammate Joe Rantz, who died at 93 in 2007.

The rowers had a phenomenal 1936 season, but had to raise money to help finance their trip. They joined Olympic teammates in New York on a steamship for the eight-day journey to Germany.

There, they conquered adversity. Hitler, three years before his invasion of Poland, was in the stands, and a deafening crowd of 25,000 chanted "Deutschland! Deutschland!" Meanwhile, stroke Don Hume of Olympia had become ill during the Games.

In the final, the Germans were placed in Lane 1 and the U.S. in Lane 6, where, coxswain Bob Moch told The Times in 2004, "the wind was blowing and the water was rough."

The Americans got a late start and because of the crowd noise, relied on Moch rapping against the boat for cadence.

Legend has grown that Hume had temporarily passed out, eyes closed, but snapped back to consciousness, something Hume disputed in a 1996 Times story.

Last at the 1,000-meter halfway mark, the boat overtook Germany and finally Italy in the last 10 strokes as Moch called for a furious strokes-per-minute rate that he estimated at 44.

"At the time, we weren't a major-league sports city," Ernst said. "We hadn't won a national championship in football or basketball. People identified with the university rowing team.

"They were as good as they could be in the era they got to do it."

Mullen said her father cut grass regularly on a rider mower at his Maple Valley ranch within a month of his death.

He was joined by his three children and most of his grandchildren at a restaurant for his 94th birthday only last week.

He rebuffed any suggestion of moving off his property, she said. "He'd say, 'That's fine,' Ms. Mullen recalled, " 'but I'm not leaving.' "

Mr. Morris is survived by two daughters, Mullen and Susan Hanshaw, and a son, James Morris, all living in the Seattle area; seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Monday at Maple Valley Presbyterian Church.”

Picture of the fabulous nine:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

BLACKHOLE BUTTERFLY

The author sent me an autographed copy of this novel to review:

This is a cleverly written novel by Salem, but I’m not sure I’m clever enough to understand it. I’ve read the definition of quantum (a discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents) many times. What does it mean? You’ve heard the idiom...You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, right? Well, to read this novel, guess again. I do know this: Rook Black is a NYC detective, but not in the traditional way. He gets his cases from a broker named Cosmo, is assisted by a clue dropping Angela, gets paid by untraceable currency (just like the rich folks), and has an occasional seizure that only can be mended by working the exposed electrodes on his head. What? Somebody named Agent Orange is trying to kill him, or not. Models and mannequins sometimes wear mustaches and van dyke beards. Ouch! Dr Chess is murdered in a tub. Is this Rook’s case, or not? The Gasland Gang, or the Petroleum Club (Rocky, the leader, is currently tied up submerged in a submarine), hates Dr. Naranja of the Empire, who loves Shakespeare’s prose.

Meanwhile, Jack the Butterfly (the quantum butcher - what does that mean?) seems to hate everybody. But he owns a pawn shop in Chinatown and does DNA drugs. What’s that? And who is this Mr. Millioni, who owns a crocodile show/bar and whorehouse where he serves a nasty drink called bai jiu? What’s his motives, if any? (Is he the Weedkiller?) Are you following this story so far? Sorry about all the question marks, but I don’t know the answers either. Then we have Jules Barbillon, who could be a pimp, assassin, or a buyer of Shakespeare matches. Yes, that’s what I said. He does blow up Rocky’s penthouse and has him kidnapped. Who does he work for? Is he a double agent? I also know that all mail is now electronic, and the mailman now carries a weapon and is part of a gang. We also know that Dr. Naranja’s solar empire has been managing reality for years. Crocodiles are now in NYC rivers and are seen in Chinatown wrestling matches. And everybody seems to like to drink their blood. I can’t figure out what is real and not real. That’s probably because I don’t know what quantum really means pertaining to this novel. Okay, enough said, buy your own copy to find out what happens in the next 331 pages.

When I started this novel by Salem, I thought this book was China Mieville-like (The City & The City ), in other words, weird fiction. But (I like starting sentences with conjunctions-have you noticed?), I realized later that I was reading ergodic literature. Why? Because Salem makes you work to understand what you are reading. That’s the pure definition of ergodic literature, which is reader participation! Got it? Was my mind taxed? You bet your sweet bippy. As a reviewer of all genres, I like to read novels that are different. I am open to most challenges in literature, avoiding the commercial writers like Demille, Patterson, Butcher, Baldacci, Grisham, etc. Salem’s descriptive writing skills are very good, for example on page 79, Salem describes Cosmo, “His warm dark chocolate brown eyes glowed under thin arching eyebrows, and he squeezed his eyelids tight, wondering if he had made the right decision.” Robert Louis Stevenson would have approved of that line. I guess my only beef with the novel is that it didn’t have to be that baffling or vague at times, “When Rook absolutely wanted to leave a trace, a cold trail of an identity, he cloned.” Everything considered, I believe Salem’s originality and ingenuity overcame any minor flaws in the novel. I recommend this debut novel, especially if you are a masochist (just kidding).


RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Although Salem’s novel isn’t classic ergodic literature, it somehow reminded me of my first experience with that genre. I read and reviewed Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves on 2/01/2013, and it was some trip. This type of writing was actually started by Espen J. Aarseth when he published Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature in 1997. Wikipedia says this about ergodic literature, “In ergodic literature, nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text. If ergodic literature is to make sense as a concept, there must also be nonergodic literature, where the effort to traverse the text is trivial, with no extranoematic responsibilities placed on the reader except (for example) eye movement and the periodic or arbitrary turning of pages.”

As for Cybertext, “Cybertext is a subcategory of ergodic literature that Aarseth defines as 'texts that involve calculation in their production of scriptons.' The process of reading printed matter, in contrast, involves 'trivial' extranoematic effort, that is, merely moving one's eyes along lines of text and turning pages. Thus, hypertext fiction of the simple node and link variety is ergodic literature but not cybertext. A non-trivial effort is required for the reader to traverse the text, as the reader must constantly select which link to follow, but a link, when clicked, will always lead to the same node. A chat bot such as ELIZA is a cybertext because when the reader types in a sentence, the text-machine actually performs calculations on the fly that generate a textual response. The I Ching is likewise cited as an example of cybertext because it contains the rules for its own reading. The reader carries out the calculation but the rules are clearly embedded in the text itself.” 
   
I know what you are saying...none of this makes any sense. Bingo! This is the book that I reviewed on 2/01/13:

Friday, July 4, 2014

POLYNIA

Polynia is defined as an area of open water surrounded by sea ice; in other words, icebergs. Well, our weird fiction guru, China Mieville, has written a delightful short story for Tor.com that surprisingly is not of his usual genre. The first line in the story makes the reader continue perusing, “When cold masses first started to congeal above London, they didn’t show up on radar.” Is it possible for icebergs to form in the sky? According to Mieville’s imagination, the answer is yes. This is the story of eleven year old Robbie along with his friends Ian and Sal running underneath these ice behemoths attempting to solve the mystery, so to speak. As the masses form into dangerous icebergs dangling over London, the government and greenhorn survey teams land on the bergs to investigate. Can they figure out the conundrum? What will happen if the icebergs bump into each other while the probers are still aboard the ice? And why has coral started to form on the buildings of Brussels?

This was an enjoyable break from Mieville’s normal neologistical and dubious style. Since I’ve read four of Mieville’s novels (The City & The City , Kraken , Embassytown and Railsea ), I’m not knocking his genre. It’s just that it’s refreshing to see that he can write in other manners. The great writers, such as Mark Twain, have been able to diversify their writings. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a satire with strong colloquial language, while The Prince and the Pauper is basically children's literature. Although Mieville isn’t in the class of the above mentioned author, he has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hugo Award, the Locus Award, and the British Fantasy Award. So lets give Mieville his due. Anyway, savor the story, it might be the last one that you can understand.

Is this one of the sky icebergs?
In A New China MiƩville Tale, Daredevils Climb The Icebergs Over London

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Reading Mieville’s short story got me thinking...What are the top three great American short stories? Wow, so many to choose from, but here are my choices:

Most likely number one in a lot of reviewer’s minds is The Gift of the Magi (1905) by O. Henry.Wikipedia says, "The Gift of the Magi" is a short story, written by O. Henry (a pen name for William Sydney Porter), about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation at Christmas time. The plot and its "twist ending" are well-known, and the ending is generally considered an example of cosmic irony.

  Okay, now for number two. Since I love stories by Washington Irving, I picked The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), although I could have picked his Rip Van Winkle . Wikipedia says, “The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. The most infamous spectre in the Hollow is the Headless Horseman said to be the ghost of a Hessian Trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during “some nameless battle" of the American Revolutionary War, and who "rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head".

My last pick is again because I love the author, Edgar Allen Poe. But his The Purloined Letter is considered an American classic. Wikipedia says, “The unnamed narrator is discussing with the famous Parisian amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin some of his most celebrated cases when they are joined by the Prefect of the Police, a man known as G—. The Prefect has a case he would like to discuss with Dupin. A letter has been stolen from the boudoir of an unnamed female by the unscrupulous Minister D—. It is said to contain compromising information. D was in the room, saw the letter, and switched it for a letter of no importance. He has been blackmailing his victim.”

I must thank Wikipedia for making my explanation of these classic short stories easier.