Clive Cussler

American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist Clive Eric Cussler, was born July 15, 1931 in Aurora, Illinois. His exciting thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times. Cussler is also the founder and chairman of the real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and numerous other notable sunken underwater wreckages. He is the sole author or lead author of more than 50 books. Born in Aurora, Illinois, Cussler grew up in Alhambra, California and was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14. He attended Pasadena City College for two years and then enlisted in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. During his service in the Air Force, he was promoted to Sergeant and worked as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer for the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) After his discharge from the military, Cussler went to work in the advertising industry, first as a copywriter and later as a creative director for two of the nation’s most successful advertising agencies. As part of his duties Cussler produced radio and television commercials, many of which won international awards including an award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Clive Cussler began writing in 1965 when his wife took a job working nights for the local police department where they lived in California. After making dinner for the kids and putting them to bed he had no one to talk to and nothing to do so he decided to start writing. His most famous creation is marine engineer, government agent and adventurer Dirk Pitt. The Dirk Pitt novels frequently take on an alternative history perspective, such as“what if Atlantis was real?” or “what if Abraham Lincoln wasn’t assassinated, but was kidnapped? ”The first two Pitt novels, The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg, were relatively conventional maritime thrillers. The third, Raise the Titanic!, made Cussler’s reputation and established the pattern that subsequent Pitt novels would follow: a blend of high adventure and high technology, generally involving megalomaniacal villains, lost ships, beautiful women, and sunken treasure. Cussler’s novels, like those of Michael Crichton, are examples of techno-thrillers that do not use military plots and settings. Where Crichton strove for scrupulous realism, however, Cussler prefers fantastic spectacles and outlandish plot devices. The Pitt novels, in particular, have the anything-goes quality of the James Bond or Indiana Jones movies, while also sometimes borrowing from Alistair MacLean’s novels. Pitt himself is a larger-than-life hero reminiscent of Doc Savage and other characters from pulp magazines.

Clive Cussler has had more than seventeen consecutive titles reach The New York Times fiction best-seller list. Following the publication in 1996 of Cussler’s first nonfiction work, The Sea Hunters, he was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree in 1997 by the Board of Governors of the State University of New York Maritime College who accepted the work in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis. This was the first time in the college’s 123-year history that such a degree had been awarded. In 2002 Cussler was awarded the Naval Heritage Award from the U S Navy Memorial Foundation for his efforts in the area of marine exploration. Cussler is a fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographic Society in London, and the American Society of Oceanographers. As an underwater explorer, Cussler has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and has written non-fiction books about his findings.

Brian Selznick

American illustrator and writer Brian Selznick was born July 14, 1966. Selznick, the oldest of three children of a Jewish family, was born and grew up in East Brunswick Township, New Jersey. He is the son of Lynn (Samson) and Roger E. Selznick. His grandfather was a cousin of Hollywood producer David O. Selznick. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and then worked for three years at Eeyore’s Books for Children in Manhattan while working on The Houdini Box, about a boy’s chance encounter with Harry Houdini and its aftermath. It became his debut work, a 56-page picture book published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991.

Selznick won the 2008 Caldecott Medal from the American Library Association for the year’s best-illustrated picture book, recognizing The Invention of Hugo Cabret.Its Caldecott Medal was the first for a long book, 533 pages with 284 pictures. Selznick calls it “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things. At the time it was “by far the longest and most involved book I’ve ever worked on. It has inspired students to action, including a fourth grade class staging a silent film festival, and a group of fifth graders who turned the book into a 30-minute modern dance.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret follows a young orphan named Hugo Cabret in Paris in the 1930s as he tries to piece together a broken automaton. The book was inspired by a passage in the book Edison’s Eve by Gaby Wood recounting the collection of automata that belonged to Georges Méliès. After his death they were thrown away by the museum that he donated them to. Selznick, a fan of Méliès and automata envisioned a young boy stealing an automaton from the garbage. The Invention of Hugo Cabret was adapted as a film, Hugo, by director Martin Scorsese and released in November 2011. Selznick cited Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, and Remy Charlip, author of Fortunately, as strong influences on his books The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck.

Prior to winning the 2008 Caldecott Medal, Selznick had been a runner-up for the award, winning a Caldecott Honor in 2002 for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Artist and Lecture. Other awards include the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award, and the Christopher Award. Apart from Writing the Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck Selznick has written the Buried History of Paleantolgy and illustrated Doll Face Has a Party, Our House: stories of Levittown by Pam Conrad, Frindle by Andrew Clements, The Boy Who Longed for a Lift, by Norma Farber, Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride by Pam Muñoz, Ryan, Barnyard Prayers by Laura Godwin, The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, The Landry News by Andrew Clements, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, The School Story by Andrew Clements, When Marian Sang by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Wingwalker, by Rosemary Wells, The Dulcimer Boy by Tor Seidler, Walt Whitman: words for America by Barbara KeRiley ,Lunch Money by Andrew Clements, Marly’s Ghost: a remix of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol by David Levithan and The Runaway Dolls by Martin and Goodwin.

The Reckoning by John Grisham

I would like to read John Grisham”s latest gripping thriller ‘The Reckoning’. The story takes place in the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi. It is the sixth Grisham novel to take place here, following A Time to Kill, The Summons, The Chamber, The Last Juror, and Sycamore Row. It features a chap named Pete Banning a war hero who has returned home from the Second World War, who comes from a family that has farmed cotton for generations. He is owner of a 640-acre parcel in northern Mississippi.

In Part One, “The Killing,” Pete wakes up one morning and makes a rather drastic decision. Meanwhile his wife Liza has recently been placed in a mental institution; his children Joel and Stella are college students; and his sister Florry is a would-be writer who lives on an adjacent parcel. He later meets Dexter Bell, the pastor of the local Methodist church with tragic results. A while later Sheriff Nix Gridley arrests Pete Banning and jails him. At a later trial a grand jury find Banning guilty of first degree murder. Banning family attorney John Wilbanks attempts to construct a Temporary Insanity defense. When Joel and Stella attempt to visit their mother at the State Hospital they are denied access, however Pete is allowed to visit Liza. On the day of Banning’s scheduled execution, the governor of Mississippi offers to commute the sentence to life imprisonment provided Banning gives a reason for committing the murder.

Part Two, “The Boneyard,” begins in 1925 with Pete as a new West Point graduate who meets 18-year-old Liza at a debutante ball in Memphis. After a brief and passionate romance, they elope and marry. After the deaths of Pete’s parents in the early 1930s, Pete leaves the active military, enters the reserves and the couple moves to the cotton farm. However Pete is called back to active military duty in 1939. He ends up in the Philippines where U.S. forces surrender to the Japanese in April 1942. On the “death march” to a prisoner of war camp, Pete goes missing and is presumed dead by fellow prisoners and Eventually word reaches the farm that he is dead. However he survives, and manages to escape. Then Pete and fellow U.S. soldier Clay Wampler join a guerilla force in the Philippine mountains and mount numerous attacks on Japanese personnel, vehicles and planes. Later U.S. forces begin the liberation of the Philippines. Pete is rescued in early 1945 and returns to the U.S. for treatment in a San Francisco military hospital.

In Part Three, “The Betrayal,” Joel becomes the legally appointed guardian of his mother. He and Stella begin visiting her periodically. Meanwhile Errol McLeish, a Georgia lawyer who has befriended Jackie Bell, hires Mississippi lawyer Burch Dunlap to represent her against the Banning estate. Meanwhile Joel starts law school at Mississippi and Stella starts working as a teacher. Elsewhere Liza escapes from the State Hospital, returns home, with tragic results. The Jackie Bell lawsuits continue and Jackie Bell eventually marries Erroll MacLeish. With Flory’s health failing rapidly Joel and Stella go to visit Her one final time in New Orleans and she finally explains what actually happened.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was first published on 11 July 1960. It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author’s observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. The novel is renowned for its warmth and humor, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality. The narrator’s father, Atticus Finch, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. One critic explains the novel’s impact by writing, “In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.”

As a Southern Gothic novel the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South. The book is widely taught in schools in English-speaking countries with lessons that emphasize tolerance and decry prejudice. Despite its themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has been subject to campaigns for removal from public classrooms, and is often challenged for its use of racial epithets. Reception to the novel varied widely upon publication. Literary analysis of it is sparse, considering the number of copies sold and its widespread use in education. Author Mary McDonough Murphy, who collected individual impressions of the book by several authors and public figures, calls To Kill a Mockingbird “an astonishing phenomenon”.

In 2006, British librarians ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one “every adult should read before they die”.It was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1962 by director Robert Mulligan, with a screenplay by Horton Foote. Since 1990, a play based on the novel has been performed annually in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Harper Lee continues to respond to the book’s impact, she has refused any personal publicity for herself or the novel since 1964. To Kill a Mockingbird has also been adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1962 by director Robert Mulligan, with a screenplay by Horton Foote. Since 1990, a play based on the novel has also been performed annually in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

In 2015 Harper Lee also published a sequel Go Set A Watchmen, This was originally written in the mid-1950s, before To Kill a Mockingbird was written, which was published in 1960. Sadly the manuscript for Go Set a Watchmen was Assumed to have been lost, until being discovered in late 2014 and published as originally written, with no revisions. Go Set a Watchman is described as a moving, funny and compelling 304 page novel which is set some twenty years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird. It contains many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, including an adult Scout (Jean Louise) Finch who travels from New York to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father, Atticus Finch and is “forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood. Go Set a Watchman also examines how the characters adjust to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America. The title alludes to Scout’s view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass (“watchman”) of Maycomb and comes from Isaiah 21:6:

Clerihew Day/ Edmund Clerihew Bentley

Clerihew Day commemorates the birth of English novelist and humorist, Edmund Clerihew Bentley who was born on 10 July 1875 in London and educated at St Paul’s School and Merton College, Oxford. His father, John Edmund Bentley, was a civil servant and a rugby union international having played in the first ever international match for England against Scotland in 1871.

Bentley is credited with creating the Clerihew when he was a 16-year-old student. A Clerihew is a type of humourous poem which should follow the following rules. It should have4 lines, 2 sets of rhyming couplets AA/BB, with person’s name in the first line, there should be something about them in the poem, and it should be whimsical and funny,Here is the original Clerihew:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

In 1905 he published his first published collection of poetry, titled Biography for Beginners. This was followed by two other collections, More Biography (1929) and Baseless Biography and a successful detective mystery novel entitled Trent’s Last Case. This novel had a labyrinthine and mystifying plot and was much praised, by Authors such as Dorothy L. Sayers. It was also adapted as a film in 1920, 1929, and 1952. The success of the work inspired him to write a sequel 23 years later entitled “Trent’s Own Case” (1936) and a book of Trent short stories, “Trent Intervenes”.

Although he is best known for his crime fiction and clerihews, Bentley also worked as a journalist on a number of newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph and The Outlook and wrote at least one science fiction short story entitled “Flying Visit”. Bentley also wrote some Short Non-Fiction works including “Naas”. “G. K.”. “I Am Glad I Was Born When I Was”. “Boys and Girls of Yesterday and Today”. And “The Interesting Age”.

Between 1936 and 1949 Bentley was president of the Detection Club. He contributed to two crime stories for the club’s radio serials broadcast in 1930 and 1931, these were published in 1983 as The Scoop and Behind The Screen. In 1950 he contributed the introduction to a Constable & Co omnibus edition of Damon Runyon’s “stories of the bandits of Broadway”,

Bentley sadly died 30 March 1956 in London at the age of 80. His son Nicolas Bentley was a famous illustrator. G. K. Chesterton dedicated his popular detective novel on anarchist terrorism, The Man Who Was Thursday, to Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a school friend.

John Wyndham

English Science Fiction Author John Wyndham was born 10 July 1903 in the village of Dorridge near Knowle, Warwickshire (now West Midlands), England, the son of George Beynon Harris, a barrister, and Gertrude Parkes, the daughter of a Birmingham ironmaster. His early childhood was spent in Edgbaston in Birmingham, but when he was 8 years old his parents separated and he and his brother, the writer Vivian Beynon Harris, spent the rest of their childhood at a number of English preparatory and public schools, including Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon, during World War I. His longest and final stay was at Bedales School near Petersfield in Hampshire (1918–21), where he blossomed and was happy.

He left Bedales School at the age of 18 and after leaving school, Wyndham tried several careers, including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, but mostly relied on an allowance from his family. He eventually turned to writing for money in 1925 and, by 1931, was selling short stories and serial fiction to American science fiction magazines, most under the pen names “John Beynon” and “John Beynon Harris”, although he also wrote some detective stories including The Secret People (1935), as John Beynon, Foul Play Suspected (1935), as John Beynon and Planet Plane (1936), as John Beynon (a.k.a The Space Machine and Stowaway to Mars).

During World War II, Wyndham first served as a censor in the Ministry of Information, then joined the British Army, serving as a Corporal cipher operator in the Royal Corps of Signals. He participated in the Normandy landings, although he was not involved in the first days of the operation. After the war, Wyndham returned to writing, inspired by the success of his brother, who had four novels published. He altered his writing style; and, by 1951, using the John Wyndham pen name for the first time, he wrote the novel The Day of the Triffids. His pre-war writing career was not mentioned in the book’s publicity, and people were allowed to assume that it was a first novel from a previously unknown writer.

Novels published by John Wyndham include The Day of the Triffids (1951), also known as Revolt of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes (1953), published in the US as Out of the Deeps, The Chrysalids (1955), The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), filmed twice as Village of the Damned, The Outward Urge (1959), Trouble with Lichen (1960) and Chocky, the Web and Plan for Chaos. Wyndham also published many Short story collections including Jizzle, The Seeds of Time, Tales of Gooseflesh and Laughter, Consider Her Ways and Others, The Infinite Moment, Sleepers of Mars, Worlds to Barter, Invisible Monster, The Man from Earth, the Third Vibrator, Wanderers of Time, Derelict of Space, Child of Power, The Last Lunarians, The Puff-ball Menace (a.k.a. Spheres of Hell), Exiles on Asperus, No Place Like Earth, The Lost Machine, The Venus Adventure” (1932), The Stare, The Moon Devils, The Cathedral Crypt, The Perfect Creature, Judson’s Annihilator and The Trojan Beam

In 1963, he married Grace Isobel Wilson, whom he had known for more than 20 years; the couple remained married until he died. He and Grace lived for several years in separate rooms at the Penn Club, London and later lived near Petersfield, Hampshire, just outside the grounds of Bedales School. He died 11 March 1969, aged 65, at his home in Petersfield, survived by his wife and his brother. Subsequently, some of his unsold work was published; and his earlier work was re-published. His archive was acquired by Liverpool University. On 24 May 2015 an alley in Hampstead that appears in The Day of the Triffids was formally named Triffid Alley as a memorial to him.

Gothic Novel Day (Ann Radcliffe)

Gothic Novel Day takes place annually on 9 July to commemorate the birth of English Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe (Ann Ward) who was born on 9 July 1764 in Holborn, London, on 9 July 1764. Her father was William Ward (1737–1798), a haberdasher, who moved the family to Bath to manage a china shop in 1772. Her mother was Ann Oates (1726–1800) of Chesterfield Radcliffe occasionally lived with her Uncle, Thomas Bentley, in Chelsea, who was in partnership with, Josiah Wedgwood, maker of the famous Wedgwood china. Sukey, Wedgwood’s daughter, also stayed in Chelsea. Sukey later married Dr Robert Darwin and had a son, Charles Darwin. In 1787, Ward married the Oxford graduate and journalist William Radcliffe (1763–1830), part-owner and editor of the English Chronicle. Radcliffe began to write and to read her work to him when he returned.

Little is known of Ann Radcliffe’s life however she travelled widely at first gradually led a more retired life, never visiting the countries where the fearful happenings in her novels took place. Her only journey abroad, to Holland and Germany, was made in 1794 after most of her books were written. The journey was described in her A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 (which was written in 1795) . Ann Radcliffe also published five other novels during her lifetime, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1 vol.) in1789, A Sicilian Romance (2 vols) 1790, The Romance of the Forest (3 vols) in 1791, The Mysteries of Udolpho (4 vols) in 1794, The Italian (3 vols) in 1797 and Gaston de Blondeville which was published posthumously in 1826. Radcliffe did not like the direction in which Gothic literature was heading – one of her later novels, The Italian, was written in response to Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. Radcliffe portrayed her female characters as equal to male characters, allowing them to dominate and overtake the typically powerful male villains and heroes, creating new roles for women in literature previously not available. Jane Austen also parodied The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey.

Radcliffe’s fiction is marked by seemingly supernatural events that are then provided with rational explanations, traditional moral values are asserted, the rights of women are advocated, and reason prevails. Radcliffe stated that terror aims to stimulate readers through imagination and perceived evils while horror closes them off through fear and physical dangers. “Terror and Horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them.”

Radcliffe courted controversy by presenting a prejudiced view of catholics. Her works, especially The Italian, often have Catholic ideas portrayed negatively including the Inquisition, negative depictions of convents and nuns, monks as villains, and ruined abbeys. The confessional is often portrayed as a danger zone controlled by the power of the priest and the church The Italian and The Mysteries of Udolpho are both set in Italy, a land historically predisposed towards Catholicism and against Protestantism. Radcliffe’s works would have left her contemporary readers with an impression of Catholicism as something ultimately cruel and corrupt, and of the author as alienated from the denomination and its practitioners.

Radcliffe sadly died on 7 February 1823 and was buried in a vault in the Chapel of Ease at St George’s, Hanover Square, London. In 1823, the Edinburgh Review said, “She never appeared in public, nor mingled in private society, but kept herself apart, like the sweet bird that sings its solitary notes, shrouded and unseen. Christina Rossetti attempted to write a biography of her, but abandoned it for lack of information. Nevertheless Radcliffe influenced many later authors, including the Marquis de Sade (1740–1814), Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), and Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), Harriet Lee and Catherine Cuthbertson and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Jane Austen’s parodies The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey and Honoré de Balzac’s novel of the supernatural L’Héritière de Birague (1822) also parodies Radcliffe novels. After Radcliffe’s death, her husband also released her unfinished essay “On the Supernatural in Poetry”, which details the difference between the sensation of terror and horror.