C. Alan Loewen

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C. Alan Loewen

C. Alan Loewen’s book reviews

In The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1916), we return to the London of Dr. Petrie, the erstwhile friend of Sir Denis Nayland Smith, a colonial police commissioner in Burma. In the first book, The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, Fu-Manchu is introduced as an agent and assassin for a Chinese secret society called the Si-Fan. Throughout the tale, Fu-Manchu causes a lot of problems for Smith and Petrie and at the end, Fu-Manchu’s plans have been thwarted and he has escaped back to China. Now, three years later, Petrie has resumed his medical practice in London and Smith is back in Burma, but Fu-Manchu is not dead and his threats and danger are very present and very real.

The only irritation I have about the early stories is the incredible ease by which Smith and Petrie fall into Fu-Manchu’s traps. In Chapter 28, Fu-Manchu actually goes into a traditional villain’s monologue mocking them for their stupidity in falling for his traps time and again, never learning from their past mistakes.

And that is before Fu-Manchu introduces the readers and Smith to the Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom, an ingenious torture device consisting of a segmented body cage and the introduction of four starved rats.

“In China,” resumed Fu-Manchu, “we call this quaint fancy the Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom. The first gate, by which the rats are admitted, is called the Gate of Joyous Hope; the second, the Gate of Mirthful Doubt. The third gate is poetically named the Gate of True Rapture, and the fourth, the Gate of Gentle Sorrow. I once was honored in the friendship of an exalted mandarin who sustained the course of Joyful Wisdom to the raising of the Fifth Gate (called the Gate of Sweet Desires) and the admission of the twentieth rat. I esteem him almost equally with my ancestors. The Sixth, or Gate Celestial—whereby a man enters into the Joy of Complete Understanding—I have dispensed with…

Yeah, this is a great pulp series that in spite of its flaws can still thrill the reader.
12/02/2015
Russell Herman Conwell (1843 – 1925) was an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, lawyer, and writer. He is best remembered as the founder and first president of Temple University as well as his inspirational lecture, Acres of Diamonds. Before his death in 1925, Conwell would deliver his Acres of Diamonds lecture 6,152 times around the world.

In contrary to the one star review this book has received, the thrust of Conwell’s lecture is that everyone has the capability to become effective in following their true desires meeting needs and taking advantages of opportunities in their own community and that the resulting monies from such efforts are to be used for charitable purposes. It is call to hard work and increasing one’s altruistic vision through well-earned monies working toward a worthy and honorable goal.

From his lecture fees, Conwell founded Temple University as well as other civic projects. After his death, proceeds from the printed version of Acres of Diamonds were donated to a Philadelphia homeless shelter still in existence today that certainly defeats the statement that the lecture “encourages selfishness and intolerance.”
11/18/2015
Self-published in 1915, this was William Pratt's stab at getting rich by telling other people how they can get rich, in this case, by raising skunks for their fur.

The trend still continues. As of this writing, various self-publishing houses are selling reprints of Pratt's 15-page pamphlet on Amazon.com for outlandish prices and one company is actually selling a reprint (not the original document, mind you) for a whopping $710.00!

And, the information is horrendous. Health issues are listed in this order: greed, cannibalism, murder, distemper, mange, and worms and this will come as a surprise to those who never thought greed and murder were illnesses. Oh, and of course he mentions rabies, right? A disease so deadly and insidious that the mortality rate dances close to 100% and as skunks are the predominant rabies reservoirs in the United State, there should be a whole chapter on this disease, right?

Nope. Not a word.

And what about the skunk's most famous attribute, their ability to spray you down with a musk so potent that it can make your eyes water? Well, we're advised that as long as you hold the animal "by the tail" you're okay.

I wonder if Mr. Pratt even ever raised a skunk by himself?

Nobody will ever know how many bought Pratt's book with stars in their eyes and dreams of swelling bank accounts, but I suspect only Mr. Pratt got rich off of this business venture.

C. Alan Loewen
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K
11/30/2014
Herbert Beeman was a canadian and served as secretary of the Vancouver Board of Trade in the early 1920s. During this period he published an obscure hardcover, F.O.B. For Our Bureau which was a collection of poems. He has also been credited with writing “Some Adventures Of Mr Surelock Keys, Hitherto Unrecorded” in 1913, “The Halfway House Of The Empire” in 1929 and a broadside/poem called "How to Pronounce Burrard." Beeman died in 1931.

The humor is “Some Adventures Of Mr Surelock Keys, Hitherto Unrecorded” is humor writing that at the time was considered quaint and amusing, but today's tastes would see as only silly and irrelevant.

Alan Loewen
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K
11/24/2014
Well, it started out very well and then it went ... weird.

Stream of consciousness or avant-garde writing is not easy to write. Even in the midst of it, there has to be something elemental for the reader to grasp and these three vignettes: G: Godstalk; O: Godstock; D: Gottschalk have intriguing elements, but the end result is simple confusion.
10/09/2014
I must be honest as a reviewer and say I did not care for this play at all. If I was given free front row seats and all I had to do was cross the street, I wouldn’t bother, but after extensive research it appears I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t like the play. Therefore, I’ve given it three stars out of respect for what is clearly a majority opinion when personally I would only give it one.

Elizabeth Baker (1876 - 1962) was an English playwright and a proud member of the lower middle class intelligentsia. Her very first play was Chains and was produced in 1909 (not 1911 as is reported). It has been resurrected many times to rave reviews and has also been a TV production as well as performed multiple times on stage.

Charley and Lily Wilson are members of the lower middle class in Edwardian England. Charley works as a clerk six days a week and Lily is a homemaker. To make ends meet, they take in borders and as the play opens, their present tenant, Fred Tennant (Get it? Tenant? Tennant? Oh, never mind.) decides he has the itch to leave his boring life and go cast his luck in Australia.

Much angst ensues as Charley wrestles with going to Australia along with Fred and various members of the cast either encourage or castigate him for even thinking about it. At the end of the play, nothing is resolved and you had to wade through a lot to get to it.

There are several attempts at humor, one being the neighbor who doesn’t use the front door but repeatedly climbs over the garden wall (this all takes place off-stage) destroying the garden in the process. This was evidently a real knee-slapper in fin de siècle England.

Nonetheless, in spite of my own ambivalence about the production, people in England absolutely adore this play and treat it like Americans treat the National Anthem. If you think lower middle class ennui is your cup of tea, enjoy.

Alan Loewen
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K

07/22/2014
Dorothy Quick (1896–1962) (real name: Dorothy Gertrude Mayer) was known as a close friend of Mark Twain who encouraged her writing career when she was a young girl. They met aboard the S. S. Minnetonka in 1907. He was seventy-two years old, she almost eleven, and they remained close friends until Twain’s death in 1910.

The Lost Door contains every trope you could ever expect to see in a story about a vengeful ghost and aficionados of the genre are not going to be caught by surprise. The narrator inherits a French estate from his estranged father and he brings along his friend, Wrexler, to share in his unexpected windfall. There the narrator learns of a curse and the story is how the curse works itself out in the lives of the narrator and his friend. The ambiguous ending does lend a little bit of a The Lady or the Tiger-type ending, but for its length and Quick’s prose, the story is one worth reading.

Alan Loewen
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K
07/17/2014
Simeon Strunsky, A.B. (1879–1948) was an essayist who wrote for several magazines and newspapers throughout his career.

This manuscript is reprinted from the New York Evening Post and its full title is Through the Outlooking Glass With Theodore Roosevelt.

The essay is a satire based on the familiar Alice in Wonderland tropes and is a criticism of Theodore Roosevelt's decision to run for a third term under the auspices of The Bull Moose Party.

Unless the reader is aware of the political climate of 1912, the essay is of little value and its use of Alice in Wonderland will fall flat on today's modern readers.

Needless to say, for historians, especially of the fin de siècle era of the 20th century, there may be some insights on the vitriol that greeted the formation of a third party by a popular ex-President.

Alan Loewen
www.amazon.com/Alan-Loewen/e/B009LLMD9K
01/11/2014
It's a pity that Kuttner died at the age of 42 as he probably had a lot more stories in him than just the gems he left us.

The Dark World is one of his best about an American WW II veteran who suddenly finds himself in another world as a pawn between the forces of good and evil.

Very fast paced, the story of conflict is only a backdrop to the bigger question as to who the protagonist really is and on what side he truly belongs.

A very good pulp-era book and in this reviewer's opinion, a good read.
09/07/2013
Normally I do not read romance, but this book had come recommended to me and I surprised myself by reading it all in one sitting.

William John Locke (1863–1930) was born in British Guyana and also lived in Trinidad and Tobago as well as England. A proper English gentleman, Locke was a prolific writer.

Viviette was one of Locke's early works (researchers put the publication of this book in either 1910 or 1916) and it is an intriguing look at a world long gone that can seem odd and foreign to the modern reader.

The character of Viviette is a young 21-year old girl who had been adopted into the Ware family when she was only three years old. Charming and somewhat naive, modern readers may struggle with the idea she is being courted by her two-step brothers, one of them ten years her senior.

The story has a weak beginning, but quickly gathers steam into a very dramatic conflict as the love triangle between Viviette and her step-brothers degenerates into very serious conflict and the reader will sympathize with Dick Ware in what he perceives to be unrequited love as well as frustration with the immaturity and naivety of the title character. However, if the reader is willing to invest the time to read a story that takes place in a world and culture long gone, the novella is easily worth the time and effort.
07/30/2013