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 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 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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

ROOM (1219)

This book (historical novel?) is much more than the three trials of Fatty Arbuckle for is also about the history of silent films and its actors. I say that it might be a novel only because of the nebulous conclusions of the author, Greg Merritt. The facts of the three trials are real, but the author assumes that Fatty was telling the truth. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. But the trials did establish the fact that if you are accused of a heinous crime, half the public will believe that you are guilty, even if you are acquitted...which was the case with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, the most famous slapstick actor of his time. He was more famous than fledgling comics Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. In 1921, this incident was bigger than the contemporary murder trials of Robert Blake (actor) and O.J. Simpson (actor and football hero). It was big! Did Fatty abuse the laws of the country by knowingly think that he was exempt from prohibition and rape because he was a Hollywood star? Maybe. But these type of shenanigans have been done by celebrities before and after Arbuckle’s case, such as boxing promoter Don King, actor Gig Young (Final Gig), record producer Phil Spector, and Lillo Brancato, Jr., the star of the movie A Bronx Tale. The book also touches on Hollywood’s attempt to clean up its act after Fatty’s trials by hiring William B. Hays. “The announcement was front-page news, christening Hays ‘the Judge Landis of movies’ in reference to the first commissioner of major league baseball, appointed in November 1920 to resuscitate the national pastime’s image after 1919’s Black Sox scandal.” 

So, did Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle cause the death of actress Virginia Rappe on a wild Labor Day party at the Hotel St. Francis, or not? Was he capable of the rape and manslaughter charge that the D.A. of San Francisco accused him of? The author weaves a tale with many flashbacks that tends to say he was falsely charged. The book alternates between telling the story of Fatty Arbuckle’s rise to fame, the history of the silent film era, and the three trials of the slapstick star. I have to admit that I didn’t know how big of a star he was during the early 1900s prior to the first popular ‘talkie’, The Jazz Singer (1927). How did Virginia Rappe die of a bursted bladder in room 1219? The evidence tends to reveal that Rappe had a long time bladder problem (cystitis) which kicked in when drinking alcohol. She died of an infection four days after her bladder burst in Fatty’s room 1219 during that Labor Day orgy (so said the D.A. of San Francisco). She was observed drinking heavily during the party. Her past history shows evidence of heavy drinking, complaining of stomach pain culminating with her ripping off her clothes. Many of the people at the party said she did these exact things. Yet the D.A. said that Fatty threw her on a bed in his room and pounced on her with his almost 300 pounds and caused her bladder to burst. Really? Fatty says he found her in his bathroom puking and complaining of stomach pain. He picked her up and laid her down on the bed thinking that she needed to sleep off the effects of the booze. She apparently fell off the bed while tearing off her clothes. Some of the female actresses that were there tell a different story. Did Fatty insert a piece of ice in her vagina? Others accuse him of using a Coke bottle.

While reading this supposed non-fiction book that reads like fiction (which I love), I kept thinking to myself, "What were these people thinking?” The first autopsy revealed the cause of death as Rupture of the bladder with contributory: Acute Peritonitis. Okay that makes sense. The second autopsy noticed a chronic inflammation in the tissue of the ruptured bladder. Both doctors agreed, except the second doctor (Dr. Ophuls) later reversed his opinion and said, “He believed that the tear in Virginia Rappe’s bladder was caused by some external force.” The newspapers were merciless. Headlines stated: “Actress dies after hotel film party” (Los Angeles Examiner), “Girl dead after wild party in hotel” (The San Francisco Chronicle), “S.F. booze party kills young actress” (San Francisco Examiner). Basically, they said: “Detain Arbuckle, fat comedian in trouble as girl dies from orgy.” How about the Dayton Daily News editorial that said, “Arbuckle is a gross, common, bestial, drunken individual, and it is perfectly apparent that he has never deserved the patronage he has received. This is not his first escapade. Filled with liquor, his low bestiality asserts itself in treating a woman like a grizzly bear would a calf.” Wow, talk about a career ending blow. The author kept my interest during the entire 364 pages and 64 pages of notes.This book’s (I’m still unsure whether it’s non-fiction or historical fiction) last 21 pages reviews and analyzes Fatty’s three trials, arguing the pluses and minuses of the prosecution and the defense. This was a well researched historical novel (I decided against non-fiction) and I highly recommend this entertaining potboiler.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Sadly, Fatty Arbuckle was harassed by many women’s groups after he was acquitted of manslaughter. His films were banned in many different states. His mansion, fancy cars, and ‘the good life’ were gone. His debts to his lawyers left him practically broke. He started directing movies under the alias of William Goodrich. As the years past and the public started to forget the trials...little by little he made a modest comeback. Then on June 29th 1933, he signed a contract with Warner Brothers to make his first feature film! The comeback was complete, let the good times roll again. Not really. He died in his sleep of a heart attack that very same night. He was only 46 years old. 

  Fatty made countless slapstick comedies that only ran from ten to twenty minutes apiece. During the early 1900s, the working man went to storefront type theaters that were called nickelodeons (it cost five cents to get in) with the earliest theaters only having “peep show” machines. The upper class didn’t go to these shows. Movie palaces for the upper class would come much later. The working man enjoyed the Keystone Kops and Fatty’s ‘pie in the face’ comedies.

Fatty is credited with promoting Charlie Chaplin’s career and discovering Buster Keaton and Bob Hope. As an interesting sidebar, Oliver Hardy (Stan Laurel’s partner) was one of Virginia Rappe’s pallbearers at her funeral.

Finally, here is a excerpt of the ridiculous editorial the San Francisco Bulletin ran on Fatty’s first day of the preliminary hearing on the death of Virginia Rappe: “...from the details at hand, the attack appears to have been savage without qualification. A veritable giant, one that has been described as a mountain of lecherous flesh, hurled himself upon a frail woman and fought with her after the manner of a mad elephant. But for that final avalanche of lard, the woman might have saved at least her life, for she seems to have struggled until the last vestige of her clothing had been torn to tatters…” Wow!  Are you kidding me? The ‘veritable giant’ was 5’ 8”. So sad.

Picture of Fatty in his typical dress:

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Did I like this foreboding novel by Margaret Atwood? Absolutely! However, I am not a big fan of flashback writing. Nevertheless, I realized that with this story there had to be a lot of background information given to the reader, when on page ten, Snowman (the narrator) says, “Now I’m alone, All, all alone. Alone on a wide, wide sea.” Okay, I get it, I just thought that it could have been done more uninterruptedly. Don’t take this the wrong way because this novel is spirited and magnetic. Just try putting Atwood’s story down without reading another chapter...I dare you. This novel is the first book in Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy, in which she categorizes her chilling work as...speculative fiction. There are many apocalyptic novels out there (too many to name, but I’ll talk about a few in my comment section), but this novel is more on the somber side because maybe, just maybe, a mega corporation has cured most diseases and puts too much trust in their brilliant geneticist. On the assumption that this company has defeated most diseases, would it behoove them to develop a new illness, so they can make a antidote to cure the afflicted and make more money? Or what about making a wonder drug that is a prophylactic agent. Wouldn’t everybody buy this pill? But what if the headman for this project is “a incompetent nihilist?” Or someone who thinks man, as we know him, must be replaced with a better model. Oops.  By the way, you will see many words without a space between them, such as, MaddAddam with dual capital letters. They are not typos.

The story starts off with Snowman (a.k.a. Jimmy, our protagonist) living in a tree on the beach watching over new primitive humanoid-like creatures known as the Crakers. The story flashes back to Jimmy and Glenn’s (a.k.a. Crake) childhood and their friendship. We are in a world of an undetermined future. Jimmy’s father works as a geneographer for OrganInc Farms in a special protected farm compound. The ordinary people live in what is called...pleebland (outside the compounds). The farm grows human organs in a genetically altered pig known as a pigoon. Ha, many other animals were developed by bored scientists such as, Rakunks (part raccoon & part skunk), and Snats (a rat with a long green scaly tail & rattlesnake fangs). This novel is some kinda trip. Anyway the boys spend their time watching child pornography, playing a game called Extinctathon, or watching live executions. They see a beautiful girl (later to be named Oryx) on a child porn site. When the boys graduate High School, Crake is accepted into the prestigious Watson-Crick, while the less brilliant Snowman is accepted into a humanities school named Martha Graham Academy. They graduate and Crake is hired by HelthWyzer, a company that makes new diseases to cure. He tells Snowman that “They put the hostile bioforms into their vitamin pills-their HelthWyzer over-the-counter premium brand...they embed a virus inside a carrier bacterium, E. coli splice...Naturally they develop the antidotes at the same they are guaranteed high profits.” Meanwhile, Snowman graduates with a degree in ‘Problematics’ and is hired as a ad man by the AnooYoo compound.

Crake is transferred to the RejoovenEsense compound and hires Snowman as his ad man, but he also hires Oryx as his sex object (does she secretly love Snowman?) and to be the future teacher of the Crakers. Is this the harbinger of death for mankind? Ah, you say, who are the Crakers? Well, they are simple human-like creatures genetically modified by Crake. They live in the paradice (not misspelled) bubble at RejoovenEsense. Are these less aggressive humanoids purposely engineered to inherit Earth? They are naked, eat grass and leaves, smell like citrus fruit to repel insects, eat their own shit for vitamins & minerals and to break down their cellulose. The men piss in a invisible line that marks their territory. “Crake had worked for years on the purring.” This is how the Crakers cured minor injuries. They purred like a cat. They only had sex when the woman were in heat. Are these the inheritors of Earth? They consider Oryx their teacher and Crake their God (they have never seen him). What happens from here is pure genius by Margaret Atwood. I can only imagine what happens in the next two novels, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam. This was a great book with excellent prose and excellent timing between flashbacks (which I normally hate). I would highly recommend this first novel of three.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: So what are my three favorite apocalyptic novels that I’ve read? The following are my top three:

The Stand by Stephen King (1978), ays, “This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides -- or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail -- and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

In 1978 Stephen King published The Stand, the novel that is now considered to be one of his finest works. But as it was first published, The Stand was incomplete, since more than 150,000 words had been cut from the original manuscript.

Now Stephen King's apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil has been restored to its entirety. The Stand : The Complete And Uncut Edition includes more than five hundred pages of material previously deleted, along with new material that King added as he reworked the manuscript for a new generation. It gives us new characters and endows familiar ones with new depths. It has a new beginning and a new ending. What emerges is a gripping work with the scope and moral complexity of a true epic.

For hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King's gift. And those who are reading The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.”

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (1959), (see my review of 4/25/2013). says, “Those fateful words heralded the end. When the unthinkable nightmare of nuclear holocaust ravaged the United States, it was instant death for tens of millions of people; for survivors, it was a nightmare of hunger, sickness, and brutality. Overnight, a thousand years of civilization were stripped away.

But for one small Florida town, spared against all the odds, the struggle was just beginning, as men and women of all ages and races found the courage to join together and push against the darkness.”

On the Beach by Nevil Shute (1957), says, “Nevil Shute’s most powerful novel—a bestseller for decades after its 1957 publication—is an unforgettable vision of a post-apocalyptic world.

After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from somewhere near Seattle, and Captain Towers must lead his submarine crew on a bleak tour of the ruined world in a desperate search for signs of life. Both terrifying and intensely moving, On the Beach is a remarkably convincing portrait of how ordinary people might face the most unimaginable nightmare.”

From the movie: