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#723 - 08/07/99 09:22 AM Another new story
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
This one is a novella, titled "The Reluctant Op", and it's in the Sept/Oct issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, now available. At least I think it's available; my copies came in the mail yesterday.

http://www.barbarapaul.com/shortmys2.html#reluct

The only name on the cover is "Ellery Queen", along with a picture of Dannay and Lee. Because this is an anniversary issue -- EQ is seventy years old.

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#724 - 08/09/99 01:47 PM Re: Another new story
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
The August issue is still on the newsstands here in Seattle, Barbara, but I'll keep looking.

Incidentally, major find!! In the course of my usual vacation used-book-store searching on Saturday, in University Books (one block from UWash) I found, next to each other in the SF section, actual copies of Bibblings and Under the Canopy! I snatched them both up, of course, and have already finished the former. A full report on the former will have to wait till a time when I'm not paying $.11 a minute in a Seattle bookstore. But I was most impressed, even knowing in advance what high standards to expect from Barbara's work. Lots of twists that fit, lots of incidental bits that aren't so incidental after all, characterization that gets fleshed out without your quite realizing it at first... lovely. Just starting UTC now.

I am now one short of The Complete BP Novels (still have to find that very first one). Gotta go....

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#725 - 08/09/99 10:59 PM Re: Another new story
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
Jon, I doubt that you're still sitting in that Seattle bookstore, but I'm still sorry I didn't answer sooner. My lightbulb didn't turn yellow.

If it's An Exercise for Madmen you're still missing, that is definitely the work of a beginner. Keep that in mind if you ever find a copy. Please keep that in mind.

Glad you liked Bibblings; I had a good time writing that one.

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#726 - 08/10/99 09:55 PM Re: Another new story
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
I'm back in the store for a few minutes (prob my last time here; I leave for LA Thurs).

Just wanted to say, I've now read Under the Canopy. I'll want to talk about that more when I get back, I feel that I have lots to say. Enjoyed it much, and it reversed my expectations nicely, as planned. I'll just venture a couple of comments.

One: in addition to the acknowledged Maugham inspiration, I'm willing to bet that Barbara has met in real life (as I have) a certain kind of naively idealistic (but in fact self-centered) young devotee of "understanding people" and "being real", who really hasn't a clue.

Two: A secondary strand of this book has something in common with a secondary theme in Robert Barnard's The Skeleton in the Grass. I'll think I'll throw that one out, and expand on it when I get home next week.

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 08-10-99).]

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#727 - 08/11/99 08:21 AM Re: Another new story
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
>>One: in addition to the acknowledged Maugham inspiration, I'm willing to bet that Barbara has met in real life (as I have) a certain kind of naively idealistic (but in fact self-centered) young devotee of "understanding people" and "being real", who really hasn't a clue.<<

Dozens of them, Jon, dozens of them.

>>Two: A secondary strand of this book has something in common with a secondary theme in Robert Barnard's The Skeleton in the Grass.<<

I haven't read Skeleton, so I'm curious as to what this could be. Hurry back, Jon.



[This message has been edited by Barbara (edited 08-11-99).]

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#728 - 08/17/99 11:47 AM Re: Another new story
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
I'm back. So I guess I owe Barbara (and anyone else who's reading) a clarification on the simililarity of theme I saw between parts of Under the Canopy and Barnard's Skeleton in the Grass. I'll just preface this by warning that I'll have to deal with SPOILERS in case anybody plans to read Barnard (in UTC it's right up front), and that I hope we all understand that I'm not remotely talking about one author imitating another? -- just justifiably similar insights? Good, I thought so.

In both cases we shown the downside of people trying to pretend that everybody's socially equal when in fact they're really not and everyone would be better off if there was no pretense. In both books this applies to "how to deal with servants," but I've run up against the same thing in interacting with students -- we can all be on friendly terms, but in the end we're not all on the same basis; I decide on their grades (and thus, sometimes, their future).

Anyway: Stephanie (Barbara's character) is trying not to treat her servants as servants, so she does what she wants (throwing her used clothing anywhere, having meals when she feels like it, going into the kitchen for a snack and leaving everything out) and thus in fact causes great inconvenience and resentment.

In Barnard's book, a middle-class academic/liberal sort of family have unexpectedly inherited a manor house and estate. They're embarrassed about becoming "that sort of person" (the squire who has a staff of servants) so they make do with one fulltime cook/maid and otherwise hire daily help from nearby for what work has to be done. What they don't realize is that this is actually very inconvenient for those who live in the area and could formerly count on fulltime jobs but now can't. Plus, it insulates the family from the surrounding community and means that they never really become part of it. In their own way (though they don't see it), they're just as snobbish as what they're trying to avoid ("our kind of people" being intellectual cosmopolitan folk).

The protgonist of the story is a young woman who goes to work for them as a nanny/tutor for the youngest child. She lives in, and they welcome her as part of the family, first names immediately and so on. She's delighted with their warmth and charm. Only later does she see that their casualness about the terms of her employment makes things rather hard for her: rather than settling on definite hours they just say "oh please ask for time off whenever you like -- you can always have some"; so she's reluctant to ask too often and in fact works very long hours.

Does this seem a fair comparison?

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 08-17-99).]

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#729 - 08/17/99 04:12 PM Re: Another new story
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
Yes, it does. Barnard's family and Stephanie sound very much alike: liberals in theory but lacking even the faintest understanding of how to put that theory into practice. And unwilling to make the effort to find out. Stephanie is young and full of herself and hasn't learned good judgement yet...but what's their excuse?

From what you say, it sounds as if the main difference between our books is merely structural: he sends a young woman with a reasonable outlook into an environment of muddled thinking, while the the young woman I send into a stable environment introduces the muddlement (how's that for a neologism?). I guess Barnard and I both got fed up with mouth-liberals.

BTW, I'm slightly miffed with Barnard. He beat me to a title I was once planning to use: Death on the High C's.

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#730 - 08/18/99 11:41 AM Re: Another new story
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
Sounds like we're in agreement.

One detail or two more about the Barnard: the young woman (sorry, I'm at work and can't look up her name) comes from a repressive small-village background -- when her mother dies in the course of the book and she travels home for the funeral, she finds that everyone in town assumes that she, as the single daughter, will now live with her father and look after him. (It's the sort of corny-but-satisfying moment that makes the reader want to cheer when she brushes aside all such assumptions, arranges for "daily help" for a few hours during his day, says "I don't see why a man should be incapable of heating some soup or making a sandwich at night," and goes back to her nanny job). So the family that employs her, intelligent and caring and welcoming as they are, seem a kind of haven to her -- she recognizes near the end that she fell in love with them, in a way. And as we see through her eyes, it's only in the course of the book that we see that they have their own deficiencies and danger for her, all the more so perhaps for being hidden. (But by the end she realizes that seeing them as evil is an overreaction too; they're imperfect, like most of us.)

On your other point, I can see why being pre-empted on the High C's title would be annoying. I do recall, though, that an early-1970s Luciano Pavarotti album was called "King of the High C's," so in a way he (or Decca/London Records) beat you both to it.

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#731 - 08/18/99 02:44 PM Re: Another new story
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
I think I still have that record. An interesting point is that only play titles can be copyrighted, so I could still use that title legally, if I were foolhardy enough to do so. Two years after Under the Canopy was published, another book came out with that same title -- the memoirs of a woman who'd been shacked up with a Recently Deceased Very Famous Writer whom I'd never heard of.

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#732 - 08/19/99 03:21 PM Re: Another new story
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
Gee, it seems almost like wandering off-topic to return to the original point of this list, and mention that I just finished "The Reluctant Op."

Our author is full of surprises, eh? I don't recall a story quite like this from her before (of course I could say that about any number of her previous titles too). The waterfront atmosphere, as mentioned in the web summary, is one of the more flavorful things about it, but there's also the characterization of the op herself, and the dilemma she finds herself in, and the particular way the tale unfolds. All most satisfying.

I'd be interested in knowing more, if I'm supposed to, about the "project with other writers to constuct a completely fictional world."

Anyway, thanks for some pleasurable reading.

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