Book Review: Scritch Scratch

I purchased this book from Volumes, along with author Lindsay Currie’s first book, which I’ve previously reviewed. I’m glad I got them both at the same time, as although I mostly enjoyed her prior, I wouldn’t have purchased this one. That would have been a shame, as the present volume is much more fun and enjoyable.

If it surprises you that I’m speaking fondly of a book for young adults, then you haven’t read my review of Why You Should Read Children’s Books.

gordon meyer with book

The protagonist is once again an angst-filled teenage girl, but this time she’s smart and likable, and she loves Chicago. (Perhaps too much angst, but as a middle-waged man, what do I know?)

The spooky elements are worthy of an older audience. I particularly enjoyed this phrase: “I sit completely still for a moment, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck slowly rising like zombies from the dead.”

I stumbled a bit over the book’s unusually compressed timeline. When you read 3/4ths of the way through the book that all these events happened in a week, your analytical mind yanks you out of the story to see if that statement jives with what you’ve read so far. (It doesn’t.) Until then, elapsed time was both unclear and not necessary to think about. I had the same experience reading Currie’s book, and perhaps someday I’ll get to ask her about it.

There’s also an odd fixation on a drowning that took place “in only 20 feet of water.” Like the timeline, the depth reference is not essential to the story, and its frequent citation only serves to disrupt the reader with thoughts about how the author has apparently never heard of drowning in a bathtub.

Unlike Currie’s previous book, the portions specific to the city were appropriate and accurate. (Except for referring to a gangway as an alley, but that may have been at the insistence of her Editor, as the term is not widely used outside the city.) And there is a lot of Chicago in this book, with a nice collection of history and local lore embedded within. I particularly enjoyed the pitch-perfect visits to the Chicago History Museum.

Both books taken together mesh well, although at some points it was hard not to wonder if the characters from the last book are going to pass by the characters in this book while they’re at the same locations. (An Easter egg that would have been fun for Currie fans.)

If you’re desiring a fun, somewhat spooky, Chicago-centric adventure and ghost story, this is the book you should get. You can find it on the Amazon, of course.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Automating Ulysses to MarsEdit hand-off

In my continuing quest to use both Ulysses and MarsEdit in my writing workflow, I’ve created a Keyboard Maestro automation. This one sends HTML from the clipboard to a new post, while remove the H1 tag and placing it as the title of the post in the MarsEdit window. It’s a bit brute-force, and could be more elegant, but it works. (See this macro on GitHub.)

For more on this topic, see: Sending text from Ulysses to MarsEdit


gordon meyer macro screenshot

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Bird Feeder

What an unusual publication! From what I can gather, this book began as a short story, but it is published here in sequential art form.

gordon meyer holding book

As a result of its origins, in my opinion, it’s more finally crafted than a lot of “comics” tend to be. The art, by “Rosario,” is stark and striking, while the story by Ryan Oliver sets a similar mood with its phrasing. Much of the story is conveyed wordlessly, so I’m left with curiosity about how much of the text was utilized from the original story.

I’ll not be providing any spoilers, but in brief, the story is that of love, loss, discovery, and urban horror. Something dangerous is alive and hungry in a lush, suburban backyard!

The edition I read is a limited, numbered printing (Sort of, my copy was 000). I got it at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago, but you can also get copy, with some extras, from the publisher.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Sharpie Art Workshop

I received this book as a gift from some dear friends, and I have to admit it was the most inspiring thing I’ve received in a long time. The book is essentially a showcase for various artists who use Sharpie markers as their medium, but it’s also a complete (apparently) catalog of the many different types of pens that Sharpie manufacturers.

The book’s subtitle is “Techniques and Ideas for Transforming Your World,” but for me, most of the learning comes from Timothy Goodman’s encouragement and diverse examples. The use of the word “workshop” is likely to be a stretch for many readers.

If you’re at all interested in getting a quick hit of inspiration, and you appreciate those who do remarkable work with limited tools, you’ll probably dig this book too. Get your copy at Amazon.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Death From a Top Hat

First published in 1938, this novel by Clayton Rawson is considered to be one of the finest “locked room mysteries” of the Golden Age. It’s also a “fair play” mystery, in that the reader receives with every bit of information necessary to solve the whodunit, provided that they have their wits about them.

gordon meyer with book

This book is the first in a series of stories around a magician who goes by the name Merlini. As a lauded amateur magician, and leading mystery writer, Rawson combined two of his passions to create the character and series. See his wikipedia entry for much more on this remarkable man.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and found the references to magician culture to be both accurate and amusing. (It’s amazing how little it has changed.) There are no spoilers ahead, but here are a few samples of things that I particularly enjoyed:

  • “Half seas over” is an expression meaning “fairly drunk.” This is news to me, but I like it.
  • Referring to a man, one of the characters says, “I think (his) psychopathic ailments included the one called satyriasis, so you may have to question some blondes.”
  • Referring to a woman, one of the characters says, “(She)’s that way; she has considerable difficulty remaining for long in a vertical position.”
  • I loved Rawson’s eclectic footnotes, which either referred to other mystery stories or non-fiction reference material. One of them was for Wicker Park-Bucktown neighbor and Cliff Dweller’s founder, Hamlin Garland, and his book on psychic research.
  • Revealing one of the true secrets of conjuring, Merlini speaks: “That's peanuts for a magician, Inspector. Sometime I'll explain for you the inner workings of a good trick, and show you with what infinitesimal details a conjurer will concern himself. That, in itself, is the whole secret of a number of tricks; the audience overlooks a possible explanation because they don't think the performer would go to all that trouble for a mere trick.”
  • Regarding the sad tendency of magicians becoming wannabe skeptics: “Magicians are prejudiced bigots and wouldn’t admit there was such a thing as magic without trickery, even if they saw it.”
  • I had to suss out a reference to Hauptmann being talkative. It’s about the Lindbergh kidnapping, which would have been common cultural knowledge in 1938.
  • “Conjuring as a hobby appeals most to people with inferiority complexes. And the more they over-compensate the better magicians they make. Even the display of parlor tricks at a party imparts a glow of superiority, quite false of course, but not all of us realize that.”
  • In the final chapter, where the solution to the crime is given, Rawson includes footnotes that detail where the clues were revealed in the text! Such a nice and thoughtful touch. And I’ll only add that if you’re a reader who wants to try to suss out the answer, you best be paying attention early, and throughout.

Rawson’s book has seen various printings, but the best currently available is the American Mystery Classics edition, as it includes an insightful foreword by Otto Penzler. If you’re in NYC, get it from the wonderful Mysterious Bookshop, or of course, the Amazon.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer