Posts Tagged ‘Jack London’

If you’re a fan of police procedurals on TV such as the CSI franchises, there’s one that provides a refreshing change of pace.  Here criminals are apprehended and mysteries solved when the lead character uses his skills of deduction, detection and innovation, solid police work without the help of  the high-tech tools  his counterparts enjoy today, at least on TV.

Murdoch Mysteries” is a Canadian TV series that features characters created by novelist Maureen Jennings.  Set in the 1890s, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) of the Toronto Constabulary applies his scientific knowledge and improvises with available materials to devise gadgets to further crime solving.  Murdoch makes collecting “finger marks” and trace evidence, not commonly done then, routine procedures at his crime scenes.  He sets up a “scrutiny camera” to capture nefarious deeds as they happen, prompting his loyal assistant, eager learner Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), to observe that he would “hate to be a copper of the future, just drinking tea and exuding intestinal vapors.”

Also assisting Murdoch as he untangles his cases is Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy), a female pathologist with progressive ideas of her own.  She and the detective obviously (for the viewer) share feelings for one another,  and their future as a couple is an unresolved subplot in the series so far.  Murdoch’s supervisor, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), often is impatient with Murdoch’s explanations of some contraption or method of analysis Murdoch is using, but Brackenreid supports Murdoch’s unusual ways and is proud of Murdoch’s successful sleuthing.

The plots suggest events and developments that we know came later in history.  Story lines also show real-life personalities of the period in fictitious situations.  In early episodes, Arthur Conan Doyle visits to observe Murdoch at work, H.G. Wells headlines a conference on eugenics, and Murdoch marvels at Nikola Tesla’s experiments.  Harry Houdini becomes a suspect in one episode.  When he exiles himself to the remote Klondike region, Murdoch befriends a young Jack London.

The Murdoch Mysteries series is not shown in the U.S.  I became acquainted with Detective Murdoch in a serendipitous moment, while browsing through the library’s DVD collection, and started following the exploits of this fascinating character, awaiting my turn on the holds list for the later DVDs.  I enjoy seeing how each episode captures the social attitudes of the time and provides reminders of how things have changed, how much of what we take for granted today in all aspects of daily living was unthinkable or totally unacceptable in the 1890s.  See for yourself; the library has all four seasons of Murdoch Mysteries in DVD format.  I can’t wait for the Season 5 DVD to become available.

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If you go on a BART ride one of these days, take a look around the station and the car you’re in.  You’ll probably see any of three new posters East Bay artist Owen Smith has created for BART for a series called “Literary Journeys.”  The posters depict BART riders lost in Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon”, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild”, and Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club.”

Until I joined the Alameda County Library as a staff member almost five years ago, I commuted each work day by BART.

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

Now I don’t miss the late trains, crowded cars, fare increases and the occasional threats and actuality of BART employees going on strike.  I do miss the reading time that each BART ride guaranteed.  Boarding a train three stops from its Fremont starting point assured me of a seat, but the return trip was more of a game of chance since Fremont-bound trains did not come as often as passengers would have preferred.  Still, I usually had the opportunity to read and block out the mass of humanity around me.  I knew when it was time to disembark by the section of the daily newspaper I had just set aside or by the number of pages I had just read of the book that was in my tote bag.

One of the books I know I read as a BART commuter was “The Joy Luck Club”.  I remember clearly how touched I was  by the passages about the mother abandoning her young twin daughters by the road side while escaping the foreign power occupation of her town.  I remember I dared not look up, hoping no one noticed me as I pressed a tissue near each eye to stop those tears and being careful not to dislodge my contact lenses.  Looking back, I think my hormones were at play at that time since just months earlier I had given birth to my second child.

Take your own literary journeys on BART.  Check out works by Dashiell Hammett, Jack London, Amy Tan and your other favorite authors from the library’s collection.

Jack London’s The Call of the Wild

Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon

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