Saturday, September 27th, 2008
11:27 am - Some Books...  
Wow, it's been awhile. Six books read, three of which tread similar ground. I'll get to them later. Here are the three that have nothing at all to do with each other.

And Be a Villain — Rex Stout

Continuing along the Wolfe canon, we finally meet Arnold Zeck, Wolfe's Moriarty. The mystery here is kind of a mess, relying on some unlikely events, and seems mostly aimed at introducing Zeck. I'm not sure the scheme behind the mystery would ever work as neatly as Wolfe, Cramer, and Zeck all seem to think it does (and events in the book are among the examples that indicate why). You know it's a bad case when Archie doesn't flirt with any of the women involved.

Rails Under the Mighty Hudson — Brian J. Cuddahy

Short, non-fictional history of the Hudson Tubes, the railroad tunnels between Jersey and New York City. Built in the early 1900's after a couple of failed attempts, the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad was built to solve the problem of getting passengers across the river from the railroad terminals in New Jersey. At the time, only the New York Central had a station in Manhattan proper (which would eventually become Grand Central). All the other major railroads that served New York terminated in Jersey City or Hoboken, and passengers were shuttled across the river by ferry.

The odd thing is that while the achieved a modicum of success in their own right, the Tubes were probably more important in providing a proof of concept. It was the successful construction of the tubes that convinced the Pennsylvania Railroad to build their own tunnel under the river, which in turn led to the building of Pennsylvania Station, as well as the Manhattan Transfer, one of the more interesting stations ever built.

Manhattan Transfer was a train station just outside of Newark that one could only get to by train. There was no overland access. It was there that PRR passengers would switch trains for either Manhattan or to the original terminal in Jersey City. Manhattan-bound trains also switched engines there, swapping steam engines for the electrics that would haul them through the tunnel.

This is all stuff I never knew, and is kind of neat. One thing the author notes is the peculiar smell down in the stations and tunnels. Not really unpleasant, but certainly memorable. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

The book was written in the '70s, just after all sorts of upheaval on the principals involved. Manhattan Transfer was phased out when the Pennsy went all electric through New Jersey. Some outlines remain in the yards across the river from Newark. The ediface of Pennsylvania Station was torn down and replaced by the new Madison Square Garden (although the trackage still remained below. The PRR merged with the New York Central, and then that combination went bankrupt, leading to the creation of Amtrak and Conrail. After nearing bankruptcy, itself, the Hudson and Manhattan was acquired by the Port Authority and became the PATH (which my dad still calls "the Tubes"). The Port Authority then built the World Trade Center on top of the H&M's Hudson Terminal.

Pyramids — Terry Pratchett

An early Discworld book that isn't really part of any of the main Discworld storylines. It about, well, pyramids, of course, and some mummies, and the Discworld's greatest mathematician, who happens to be a camel. Much fun, as usual.

Listen, I don't mean to be a sore loser, but when it's done, if I'm dead, kill him.

R.I.P., Paul Newman, who was a heck of an actor and a heck of a human being.