Mary Russell’s War (twelve)

From Mary Russell’s WWI diary:

20 October 1914

Dr Ginzberg has been tormenting me to write in this journal. I have considered having one of the nurses carry it to the hospital incinerator, but suspect that if I do so, a fresh volume will appear. The woman is relentless.

I have now proven to the doctors of all stripes that I am still capable of setting pen to paper. That is all.

The Les & Laurie Show: Lovecraft edition

I love doing book events with Les Klinger.


Conversations about Sherlock Holmes, from our two very different points of view, are a whole lot of fun.  And now Les has a new book on H.P.Lovecraft,9780871404534

and he’s coming to Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park to talk to me about it, and to sign it–plus, there may be early copies of the book he and I edited, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes9781605986586

One of my favorite bookstores, one of my favorite people, next Tuesday at 7:30–details here.

Twenty five years of earth moving

This Throwback Thursday concerns twenty-five years ago tomorrow, when the Loma Prieta earthquake killed 63 people and rewrote the face of northern California. At 5:04 that afternoon, I was sitting with my writing pad in my lap with soccer practice going on in front of me.  The roar of an approaching train grew as windows shattered and walls rattled, nearby houses came off their foundations, and car alarms began blaring.  The school’s playing field rippled like a shaken bedsheet, most of the kids ending up on the ground.  In minutes, all of downtown smelled of apple cider, from the huge vats of the nearby Martinelli factory.

At home, we found that we were lucky: the was still house standing, more or less, but the inside… The chimney had jumped in the air and come down a foot to the side of its base, leaving thirty feet of brick loose in their mortar.  A summer’s worth of canning had leapt off the shelves, with the pantry now knee-deep in packets, cans, and forty gallons of glop made up of applesauce, jams, chutneys, pickles, tomato sauce, and broken glass.

My mother's kitchen.

My mother’s kitchen.

Aftershakes shuddered every few minutes.  That night, we slept in the backs of our Volvo wagons.  For the next week, we lived in the driveway:Scan 142880003


cooking with water from jugs filled at various places that still had power to run their system.

Scan 142880003-1

The cat supervising the water bearer.

Santa Cruz County was more or less cut off from the rest of the world, with three of the four main roads in either buried under hillsides or submerged under water.

Downtown Santa Cruz lost its gems, the old Cooper House and the rambly building of Bookshop Santa Cruz.  On the other hand, San Francisco’s waterfront was transformed, the dark claustrophobic freeway torn down and the Embarcadero opened up.

And anyone who went through it twenty-five years ago, goes rigid whenever the walls start to shake.



Mary Russell’s War (eleven): Continuing the record

13 October 1914

[In the hand of Dr Leah Ginzberg.]

I write this entry in the journal of Miss Mary Russell, who is currently in no condition to do so herself. A journal records a life, and it should be kept.

It is not ten days since the terrible accident that robbed Mary of her family and the world of three good people. Mary is in hospital with a series of injuries resulting from her being thrown from the family automobile as it went off a cliff south of San Francisco. The family’s housekeeper-cook, a Chinese woman named Mah Long, has asked me to help with various arrangements until Miss Russell is able to make decisions for herself.

One thing I help Mrs Long do is take various items to the hospital for Mary’s comfort and reassurance. Inevitably, a cook thinks of food, and although Mary has to be coaxed to eat anything at all, she is slightly more amenable to taking familiar tastes. I, being a therapist of the mind, address the less concrete means of healing this young woman. Her own bedding, her sweater over the hospital gowns, familiar books and childhood toys (we all regress, under trauma.) When I found this journal in her bedroom, it seemed to me she might be interested in recording her thoughts, and I brought it along with the porcelain-headed doll and the worn stuffed rabbit she kept near her bed at home.

As yet, in the four days the journal has sat beside her hospital bed, she has yet to pick it up (indeed, she scarcely speaks.) So rather than allow it to sit abandoned, I have taken the responsibility to sit down with her pen and enter this Tuesday’s events, from another’s point of view.

The journal to up to now appears to have been largely taken up with the events of the European War (Mary: I have glanced over it, but not read it closely, so as to preserve the privacy that is a necessary part of any journal.) Today’s entry has no such headlines, although that war continues, inexorably. There is sufficient conflict here in this hospital room to be going on.

—Leah Ginzberg

LuRKing on the Web

Like podcasts? Like a bunch of LRK podcasts?  Conversations with Marcia Muller or Ruth Dudley Edwards, a panel on Higher Mysteries, a chat with a Baker Street Babe, and a whole lot more.

Podcasts on the LRK site, here.