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Books I have neglected to post about since finishing The Girl From Hollywood

May 14, 2009

I keep wanting to do a post about Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book The Girl from Hollywood, and how an absolutely appalling series of coincidences gets three different women involved with an evil movie director named, if I recall correctly, Wilson Crumb. One gets addicted to cocaine and becomes a drug dealer (although he cannot get her to sleep with him);another gets addicted to cocaine, becomes his mistress, and dies of pnuemonia after he hits her; and one, after semi-successfully fending off his advances, shoots herself. The two drug-addicted ones are in love with the same young man, who lives on a ranch modeled after Burroughs’ own, and the attempted suicide is his sister. His name is Custer, and he spends a while in jail for murder. It’s all pretty miserable. If I had no interest in reading the Tarzan books before, I really don’t now.

Anyway: things I have read since The Girl From Hollywood, and liked better:

The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective, by Catherine Louisa Pirkis.

This is kind of an awesome book of short stories from the 1890s. he mysteries aren’t great — they’re the kind where the detective makes a lot of far-fetched assumptions and passes them off as as the most logical kind of deduction — but the Lady Detective kind of makes up for that. For one thing, she’s a professional detective, on very good terms with the guy who runs the agency where she works. She’s very cool and level-headed, and very cagy about her thoughts on each case. It’s just a really positive, non-stereotypical depiction of a woman in a man’s profession.

Oscar the Detective; or Dudie Dunne, the Exquisite Detective, by Harlan Page Halsey.

Another detective from the 1890s, Dudie Dunne is brave and strong and absolutely brilliant, as a good pulp detective should be. He’s also so pretty he can pass himself off as a girl if necessary, and, I think, just a tiny bit more human than your average pulp hero. He likes to dress up like a dandy, and get himself made fun of by hulking, drunken louts. Then he beats them up. It’s really fun.

A Modern Cinderella, by Amanda Minnie Douglas.

This is an okay children’s book from 1913 about an orphan, Marilla, who works for an upper middle class family as their nurse. The little boy, Jack, is kind of a terror, and the twin babies are fat and difficult to move around. The family treats her pretty well, but she gets so tired out that she becomes very ill, and is taken in my Miss Armitage, her “fairy godmother.” She and her friend Dr. Richards come to love Marilla, and eventually they adopt her and get married. Everything is as it should be, I gues, but somehow the story didn’t come together for me.

Polly of the Hospital Staff, by Emma C. Dowd.

This one is from 1912, and is similar in lot of ways to A Modern Cinderella, but I liked it much better. Polly is about 12, and lives with her aunt, who is kind of mean, and has lots of obnoxious kids. Polly was sent to the hospital — I forget why — and when the book opens, she’s pretty much better, and spends most of her time cheering up the other convalescent children. The doctor, who has great faith in her ability to make people feel better, arranges for her to stay on at the hospital instead of going home, which makes her very happy. The usual stuff happens — friends made, evil aunt escaped, unlikely illnesses cured — and then the doctor marries Polly’s favorite nurse and they adopt her. Only in this book, it really works, and I think I might want to read it again some time.

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