Fearsome valleys, spiritual battles and caped crusaders

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, October 4th, 13:30: Tea time at Baker Street

The Valley of Fear, The Strand Magazine, 1915. Illustration by Frank Wiles
The Valley of Fear, The Strand Magazine, 1915. Illustration by Frank Wiles

He sat with his mouth full of toast and his eyes sparkling with mischief, watching my intellectual entanglement. The mere sight of his excellent appetite was an assurance of success; for I had very clear recollections of days and nights without a thought of food, when his baffled mind had chafed before some problem while his thin, eager features became more attenuated with the asceticism of complete mental concentration. Finally he lit his pipe, and sitting in the inglenook of the old village inn he talked slowly and at random about his case, rather as one who thinks aloud than as one who makes a considered statement.

“A lie, Watson—a great, big, thumping, obtrusive, uncompromising lie—that’s what meets us on the threshold! There is our starting point. The whole story told by Barker is a lie. But Barker’s story is corroborated by Mrs. Douglas. Therefore she is lying also. They are both lying, and in a conspiracy. So now we have the clear problem. Why are they lying, and what is the truth which they are trying so hard to conceal? Let us try, Watson, you and I, if we can get behind the lie and reconstruct the truth.

“How do I know that they are lying? Because it is a clumsy fabrication which simply could not be true. Consider! According to the story given to us, the assassin had less than a minute after the murder had been committed to take that ring, which was under another ring, from the dead man’s finger, to replace the other ring—a thing which he would surely never have done—and to put that singular card beside his victim. I say that this was obviously impossible.

“You may argue—but I have too much respect for your judgement, Watson, to think that you will do so—that the ring may have been taken before the man was killed. The fact that the candle had been lit only a short time shows that there had been no lengthy interview. Was Douglas, from what we hear of his fearless character, a man who would be likely to give up his wedding ring at such short notice, or could we conceive of his giving it up at all? No, no, Watson, the assassin was alone with the dead man for some time with the lamp lit. Of that I have no doubt at all.

So it is that Sherlock Holmes has concluded that there is far more to the murder of John Douglas than meets the eye. Forewarned by Porlock, an agent ostensibly in the employ of criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty but given to supplying Holmes with information on the latter, that Douglas was in mortal danger, Holmes and Watson had travelled to Birlstone village in Sussex. Only they arrive too late to save the unfortunate man.

But what has his death to do with Moriarty? And why should Barker and Mrs Douglas lie about events? The mystery deepens as Caledonia Skytower, Kayden Oconnell and John Morland as they continue to read The Valley of Fear, the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel.

Monday October 5th, 19:00: A Night in the Lonesome October

The Seanchai staff are marking the arrival and passage of the Halloween month with readings of Roger Zelazy’s A Night in the Lonesome October. The latter is the last of Zelazy’s published works, and 31 of its 32 chapters (the first being an introductory chapter) each take place on a night in October.

Lonesome OctoberThe book is satirical in nature, and is written in the first person – the narrator being Snuff the dog, the companion of none other than Jack the Ripper.

Once every few decades, when the moon is full on the night of Halloween, the fabric of reality thins, and doors may be opened between this world and the realm of the Great Old Ones.

At this time, men and women with occult knowledge gather at a certain location to engage in The Game – an attempt by some to open the doors, and others to hold them closed. Should the Openers ever win the game, the Great Old Ones will come to Earth, remake it in their own images and enslave or slaughter the human race in the process.

Thus, through the month of October, the Players in The Game – all archetypal characters from Victorian Era Gothic fiction – form alliances, make deals, oppose one another, and even resort to murder in their attempts to make sure the doors are ready to be opened or can be held fast when, on the night of October 31st, the final ritual takes place and the fate of the world is decided.

Tuesday October 6th,19:00 The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid

Thunderbolt KidKayden Oconnell reads from Bill Bryson’s memoirs of his childhood, growing up in Iowa in the 1950s. However, given this is Bill Bryson, these are no ordinary memoirs.

Born into an era when “automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you”, the young Bryson held a daydream typical of so many American youngsters of the time: to be a superhero.

For Bryson, this meant spending time wearing a football jersey emblazoned with a lightning bolt together with a towel for a cape whilst spending time righting imaginary wrongs, overcoming evil-doers, travelling faster than a speeding bullet and leaping tall buildings in a single bound and being known as The Thunderbolt Kid.

And it is through the eyes of this childhood alter ego that Bryson allows us to witness his home and family life as he grew up in 1950s Des Moines.

Wednesday October 7th 19:00: Serafina and the Black Cloak

serafinaCaledonia Skytower continues reading of Robert Beatty’s spooky mystery thriller.

Serafina lives a life of total secrecy. While her father may be the maintenance man for the great house of the Biltmore Estate, the wealthy owners of the estate have no idea that he lives in the basement of the house – and much less that his daughter lives there with him.

Not that this is a problem for Serafina; she is quite at home exploring the great house and its grounds whilst avoiding being seen. There’s certainly no need for her to venture into the great forest beyond the estate, and with which, he father has said, lie many dangers.

But when the children on the estate start vanishing, Serafina is forced to join forces with the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners, and discover the identity of the one they believe to be behind the disappearances: the Man in the Black Cloak. But in order to do so, Serafina must enter the forest her father has warned her against; and within that forest lies a deeper secret Serafina must confront – that of her own identity.

Thursday, October 8th 19:00: Quietly Creeping

With Shandon Loring.

Also This Week

  • Seanchai Library is participating in the Good Reads Hunt.  To get started, visit the Good Reads starting point at Literature Alive!/Desi’s Gifts and Prints
  • Don’t forget to visit the Five Irish Haunts panels at Seanchai Library to discover something about ghosts and hauntings!

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Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for August / September is Water for People, “When one person or one family has clean, accessible water, their lives are changed. But when entire regions and countries have water, the world is changed.”

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