Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2016 Evelyn C. Leeper.

TALL, DARK AND GRUESOME by Christopher Lee:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 03/10/2006]

A lot of celebrity autobiographies are clearly written by ghost writers. Christopher Lee's autobiography, TALL, DARK AND GRUESOME by Christopher Lee (ISBN 1-887664-25-4), is not one of them. The style is so distinctive, so evocative of how Lee sounds when he speaks, that it must be written by Lee himself. Another sign is that it does not follow the usual "rule" of making sure the reader is clear on when things are taking place. Lee rarely gives a year for an event, although one can fix the dates in the later parts by what films Lee is talking about. However, none of this matters, because Lee's life is fascinating. For example, he was particularly interested in playing Rasputin, because of something that happened to him as a child: "I was once actually hauled out of bed to meet two men and shooed downstairs in my dressing gown, admonished to run the sleep out of my eyes because I would want to remember I'd met them. Well, I do remember them now--Prince Yusupoff and the Grand Prince Dmitri Pavlovich--though I was trundled back to bed without being told that they were two of the assassins of Rasputin." And when he was seventeen, a family friend took him to witness the last public execution (by guillotine) in France. Oh, yes, he talks about his movies too.

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[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/13/2008]

THE FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES: ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF CHINESE FOOD by Jennifer 8. Lee (ISBN-13 978-0-446-58007-6, ISBN-10 0-446-58007-4) began in 2005 when the Powerball lottery had 110 second-place winners instead of the expected 3 or 4. Why? Because five of the six winning numbers were printed on thousands of slips in fortune cookies, and 110 people picked them in the lottery. Lee started out trying to find out the origins of the fortune cookie, and along the way also discovered the truth about General Tso's Chicken, what "chop suey" really is, why Jews like Chinese food (and at least something about the Kosher Duck Scandal of 1989), what the connection is between Chinese restaurants and illegal immigration, and why no one can agree on what soy sauce is. Eventually, Lee does track down the fortune cookie, but the digressions are actually more interesting than that particular search.

To order The Fortune Cookie Chronicles from, click here.


[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 11/10/2006]

BLAME IT ON THE RAIN by Laura Lee (ISBN 0-06-0833982-1) is subtitled "How the Weather Changed History", and it is a series of short pieces on how various historical events were affected by weather. There are the obvious ones (Napoleon's invasion of Russia) and the less familiar ones (Truman's defeat of Dewey), the short-term ones (the Challenger accident) and the long-term ones (the susceptibility of Native Americans to disease). While not all are interesting (and I am not sure I completely agree with some of her conclusions), it is probably worth flipping through at the library. (Mark pointed out that the cover art has a picture of Kennedy with the caption "Would JFK have been elected President if it had been sunny on Election Day in 1959"--but 1) the election was in 1960, not 1959, and 2) this day is not discussed in the book.)

(Does it seem like every non-fiction book these days has a subtitle? This did not used to be true, but that was because back in my day they gave more meaningful titles to books, or assumed you understood the title. If you saw a book titled "Franklin Pierce", you assumed it was a biography of Franklin Pierce. You did not need a subtitle such as "The Unknown President" or "New Hampshire's Son" or whatever.)

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WARTIME PAPERS by General Robert E. Lee:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/15/2005]

I read General Robert E. Lee's WARTIME PAPERS (ISBN 0-306-80282-1) and Captain Robert E. Lee's RECOLLECTIONS AND LETTERS OF ROBERT E. LEE (ISBN 0-914427-66-0) simultaneously, reading first General Lee's papers, and then his son Captain Lee's recollections of the war and of his father. (The son's volume covers Lee after the war as well.) For the serious student of the Civil War, I would obviously recommend General Lee's papers, which are far more detailed. But for the casual reader, Captain's Lee's book is probably a better overview that avoids the minutiae of troop movements and supply requisitions, while still providing enough extracts of Lee's letters to get some idea of his perspective.

To order Wartime Papers from, click here.
To order Recollections and Letters of Robert E. Lee from, click here.

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