This is the blog of Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison, a professional writer of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Sarah Monette is my real name; Katherine Addison is a pen name, intended to be transparent.
If you've found me here, odds are pretty good you're looking for something to read, so the following is--to the best of my knowledge--a complete list of everything I've written that's available online:( STORIESCollapse )( ESSAYSCollapse )
If you know of anything I've missed, please leave a comment!
Fall River Outrage: Life, Murder, and Justice in Early Industrial New England
by David Richard Kasserman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It's sad that there are enough of these books to constitute a sub-genre of historical criminology: man with status murders woman without status, is tried for it, and is acquitted, with more or less legal shenanigans accompanying. The absolute bar-none best of them is The Murder of Helen Jewett
by Patricia Cohen, but I have a small collection, and really, about all I can say about Fall River Outrage
is that it's a perfectly acceptable, middle-of-the-road member of the genre.
I picked it up mostly because I was amused/intrigued by a book about a murder in Fall River, MA, that wasn't about Lizzie Borden; after a kind of rocky start (Kasserman is not
good at the--to be fair--quite difficult job of describing the complicated action of the discovery of a body, particularly with the jurisdictional nightmare that Sarah Maria Cornell's murder turned out to be), this is a very interesting slice of mid-nineteenth-century New England sociology and an okay report of the two trials and acquittal of Ephraim Kingsbury Avery for a murder it's pretty clear he committed. (Kasserman is/was an anthropologist who came to the Cornell murder by way of an interest in the New England cotton industry, so that ordering of priorities is not wrong.)
Like all of these books, therefore, it's in some ways a frustrating read. I've never read one of them where I actually had any reasonable doubt about the guilt of the murderer, so watching the son of a bitch get off is maddening. For this book, that's balanced by the panorama it provides of the Methodist Church in New England in 1832--and really, if I'm going to recommend Fall River Outrage
, that's what I'm recommending it for.View all my reviews
I have the proofs for the mass market paperback of The Goblin Emperor. If you have noticed any typos in the hardback, now would be an absolutely SPLENDID time to let me know about them, since I need to turn my corrections in by December 2nd.
Blessings upon all your heads.
Alchemy of Bones: Chicago's Luetgert Murder Case of 1897
by Robert Loerzel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an excellent recounting of a very complicated piece of history: the disappearance of Louise Luetgert on May 1-2 1897, and the investigation, indictment, 2 trials, conviction, and imprisonment of her husband, Adolph Louis Luetgert, for murdering her and then dissolving her body in the basement of his sausage works. Loerzel does a great job with his sources, especially the newspapers (I was dubious at first about all the newspaper drawings he'd included, but he was right to do so; they convey something important that doesn't go easily into words), and he tells the labyrinthine progress of the trials clearly and impartially, without favoring either side. He points out the way that neither prosecution nor defense could put forward a story that didn't have holes and contradictions in it, and he draws the inevitable conclusion: from this distance (and with all of the evidence from the trials having vanished in the intervening century plus), we can't determine whether Luetgert was guilty or innocent, but it is painfully easy to see that he didn't get a fair trial.
(A point that nobody seems to have made, but that is a big stumbling block for me: if Luetgert was innocent, then when Louise Luetgert randomly picked her moment to go crazy and flee into the night, it JUST HAPPENED to be the same night that her husband chose to experiment with making soft soap in the basement of his sausage works, which he'd never done before, AND decided to move the furniture around so his fox terrier could hunt rats, AND sent the night watchman out on two nearly pointless errands, AND, AND, AND . . . The coincidences just have to keep mounting up to make Luetgert's story true.
(Also, the testimony that I found absolutely compelling, and chillingly gruesome, was that of the two workmen who were told to clean up the basement the next morning. They weren't making those details up.)
Luetgert died in Joliet while his attorney was still working on an appeal, so there's no resolution to the story, no final satisfying judgment. Hung jury in his first trial, obvious mistrial in his second trial. I ended up agreeing with Clarence Darrow: "I really believe that he was guilty but that he was convicted on insufficient evidence" (277).
Truth stranger than fiction: Luetgert's sausage works are now loft condominiums.
For more, check out Loerzel's website alchemyofbones.comView all my reviews
|REQUIEM FOR PREY|
by Sarah Monette
Prey use the word "love" like it means something.
He said he loved me. He asked if I loved him, too. I said I did, because I didn't want to argue. I just wanted to fuck.
I pay for a mass for the dead because I don't know what else to do.
I stand in the back of the church, cold, nervous, smelling fear and incense and mold. The priests are trying not to look at me. It's just me and them and two old, old ladies up in front.
I told them to say the mass in Latin.
They looked at me, the old priest and the young priest. Do you know Latin?
It doesn't matter. I'm not Catholic.
And they leaned away from my smile, like prey always do.
But they took my money.
It's not like he knew Latin, either, but a mass for the dead should be in a dead language. It's not the words that matter.
I'm sorry that he's dead. I can still smell him on me, and I want to get rid of the scent of prey, but I'm going to wait until the mass is done.
Love matters, but not like he thought.
I don't know who got him. It might have been me.
They'll find the body in a month or a week. He'll be called John Doe in the morgue. His face will be gone, and his fingers. Maybe somebody will pay to bury him. Maybe they won't. Maybe somebody out there wonders where he is.
He said he didn't have a family. I said I didn't have a family, either. I lied. My family sings with me in the night, blood on our tongues and teeth, blood staining our fur. That's love. Not words.
Prey don't understand that. Dead languages, dead senses, dead bodies, dead masses. It's no wonder they die so feebly.
The mass ends and I slip out.
The sun's going down.
The air smells of rain and cars. And prey.
(This is an old, old piece. An alert and thoughtful reader let me know the link to it was dead. This was the easiest fix.)
Nickel, Steven. Torso: The Story of Eliot Ness and the Search for a Pyschopathic Killer
. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1989.
About half of what's wrong with this book is that it was written in 1989. So the book that would actually have been extremely interesting, about the ways that racism, classism, and homophobia shaped the police response to, the press response to, the investigation of, and the failure to find the Cleveland Torso Murderer, is not the book that is actually present. (To be fair, I don't know that any of those things is
the reason the Cleveland Torso Murderer was never caught. He seems to have been both extraordinarily lucky and extraordinarily careful. But even in Nickel's account, I can see prejudice shaping the questions being asked, and if you don't ask the right questions, you are highly unlikely to get the right answers.)
The other half of what's wrong with this book is all there in the subtitle. Nickel wants to write a book about Eliot Ness and the Cleveland Torso Murderer, specifically then way that the failure to catch the guy was part of Ness's slow fall from grace. But his own account makes it perfectly clear that that story is nonsense. Ness was barely involved in the hunt (except for, granted, one absolutely absymal clusterfuck), and his fall from grace has everything to do with some very poor life choices on his part. Yes, the raid on the encampment of homeless people that was Ness's best answer to the problem was a PR disaster, but it's not what destroyed his career as Cleveland's Safety Director. (Being the perpetrator in a alcohol-related hit-and-run accident? Yeah, that'd be the kiss of death. And the rest of Ness's downward slide looks to me, from Nickel's sketchy account, like what happens when a guy who's very very good at one thing stops doing it and then just doesn't even know who he is anymore.)
Essentially, it's a coincidence that in the years that the Cleveland Torso Murderer was preying on the homeless and destitute in Cleveland the city's Safety Director was a guy who happens to be extremely famous for his campaign against Al Capone. Nickel's efforts to make it look like something more (including the desperate grab at Ness's (equally desperate) claim to have found the murderer, even though he couldn't convict him or arrest him or even, apparently, investigate him--kind of creepily like Sir Robert Anderson's similar claim about Jack the Ripper) would need a lot more research to make them convincing.
That's the other problem. This is a dilettante's book. (And, yes, I know. Pot. Kettle.) Compared to something like And the Dead Shall Rise
(649 p., 56 double-columned pages of citations, 4 double-columned pages of bibliography) it is painfully obvious how Torso
(224 p., no citations, maybe a page and a half of bibliography) is barely even a swipe at the subject--either subject, since this is no more a biography of Eliot Ness than it is a study of the Cleveland Torso Murderer.