Saturday, January 1, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation: From Rules of Civility to The Quickening


The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. The idea behind the meme is to start with a book and use common points between two books to end up with links to six books, forming a chain. The common points may be obvious, like a word in the title or a shared theme, or more personal. Every month Kate provides the title of a book as the starting point.


The starting point this month is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. The main story in that book begins on New Year's Eve in 1937, and ends shortly before Christmas in 1938, so it is very appropriate for this time of year. I own that book and when I saw that Kate had picked it for the beginning of the chain for January 2022, I decided to read it in December. My review is here.


In the Preface to Rules of Civility, the book's heroine, Katey, is attending an exhibition of photographs by Walker Evans at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition is Many Are Called, the first exhibit of the portraits taken by Walker Evans in the late 1930s on the New York subway with a hidden camera. She sees two photos of a man she knew in 1938, which leads her to remembering that year in her life. Thus my first link is to Walker Evans at Work, part of my husband's collection of photography books. 


The subtitle for this book is "745 Photographs Together with Documents Selected from Letters, Memoranda, Interviews and Notes." There are photographs from Walker Evans' projects throughout his life, with notes on how they were chosen, and how he worked. Often there are several versions of photos, not just the ones chosen for publication or viewing. The book includes several pages of subway photographs, and various drafts of explanations how the photos were achieved with a hidden camera. Check this link for photos from the Many are Called collection.


From photos taken on the subway, I move to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey, which is primarily set on one subway train in New York City. 

Subway train Pelham One Two Three is hijacked by four men: an ex-mercenary soldier; a former motorman (driver) for the subway; an ex-Mafia crook; and one man hired mainly for his muscle. They demand a $1 million ransom, or else hostages will be killed. The book was published in 1973 and it was adapted to film in 1974. I enjoyed both book and film. My review here.


For my next book, I chose another one set in New York City. The Art of Violence is the thirteenth book in S.J. Rozan's series about private investigators Lydia Chin and Bill Smith. Bill lives in Manhattan; Lydia is an American-born Chinese who lives in New York’s Chinatown. This one is set in the art world of New York. Bill's client Sam Tabor, just out of prison after a five-year homicide stint, is a very talented painter who is convinced that he has killed two women. My review here.


Death of a Ghost, published in 1934 by Margery Allingham, also focuses on the world of art. This one is set in London. Belle Lafcadio's husband was a famous painter, and he instructed his agent to exhibit twelve of his pictures, one every year, after his death. A murder is committed at the event when the eighth painting is unveiled. Albert Campion, Margery Allingham's detective and a friend of Belle, investigates. This was the 6th book in the Campion series. My review here.



From "ghost" in the title of the previous book, I move to The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi. With this book, I move away from crime fiction to military science fiction. When I read this book I had never read any military science fiction, but really it isn't much different from other books in the science fiction genre. The "ghosts" used in the Special Forces in this book are clones of dead soldiers turned into perfect soldiers for dealing with challenging situations. I especially liked the characters in this book: the portrayals of the humans working at all levels, the portrayals of the alien species.  Also moral issues surrounding the use of clones bred to defend earth and its colonies are explored. My review here.


Continuing with the "ghost" theme, my last book is The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward (who also writes as Sarah Ward). This is a suspense novel with gothic elements, spooky and sort of creepy. It is set in 1925 and highlights how many families lost sons and fathers to World War I. The main character is a female photographer who is documenting the contents of an estate that is in disrepair and being sold. There is an excellent subplot about a séance that took place back in 1896, and its continuing effects on the family. I felt like the ending left it open whether there was an actual ghost at work in this story or not, but the possibility of a ghost on the estate is important to the plot.



So my chain moves from Rules of Civility, a historical novel set in New York, to a book about the photographs of an important photographer, on to two crime novels set in New York City, then to the art world in London in the 1930s, next to a science fiction novel, and ends in the British countryside at a possibly haunted estate.


Next month's Six Degrees on February 5, 2022 will start with No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.


22 comments:

Sam Sattler said...

Nicely done. I went directly to the end of your post to see what book number six was going to be and couldn't imagine how in the world you were going to link two such different books. That was fun.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Sam. It is amazing how far the chain can wander from the beginning. I enjoy the puzzle aspect of doing this, but it does take some time to figure out.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Very cleverly put together. And I imagine it does take time and thought to make it come together.

Margot Kinberg said...

This is a very clever chain, Tracy! I like the choices you've made, too - such an interesting mix of types of stories.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Patti. It helps when the books are also ones I like. Fond memories of reading them.

TracyK said...

Margot, I did like how this mix of books came out.

Rick Robinson said...

Clever how you returned to photography with the last book to make a circle, so 6 degrees of separation and 360 topically. We’ll done. Of these books I have read the Allingham and Scalzi.

Elza Reads said...

Ooooh The Quickening sounds like such a good read!

You have a brilliant chain this month. Well done!

Happy new year and here's to some great posts in 2022.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick. I was surprised when I realized that the first and last link both had photography. I am often attracted to books with photography in them because of Glen's interest in photography.

I need to read more of that Scalzi series. I like his writing a lot.

TracyK said...

Elza Reads: This was my first Six Degrees post in nearly a year, and I enjoyed doing it, so I hope to do it more often.

I think a lot of readers would enjoy The Quickening. I don't read much gothic fiction but I did read more in that area this year and enjoyed it.

Happy new year to you too.

Marina Sofia said...

Goodness, I haven't read any of these, although I've heard of the Taking of Pelham 123. I liked the photography link in particular.

Marianne said...

Interesting chain. I loved to read about all those books, except for the Taking of Pelham, I never even heard of them. I'm sure there are some that I would love to read.

Thanks for visiting mySix Degrees of Separation ended up with Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.

TracyK said...

Marina Sofia, I was very happy to see a connection to Walker Evans in Rules of Civility, and lucky that my husband had a couple of books of his photos. I wish we had more, especially the book specifically covering the subway photos. But that one is very expensive online.

TracyK said...

Marianne, S. J. Rozan is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and Margery Allingham is among my favorite vintage mystery authors, so I was happy that their books fit into the chain.

I enjoyed your chain very much.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

awesome connections, with a couple of books I need to look into. Happy New Year!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Emma. Happy New Year to you and lots of good reading in 2022. I have already seen some of your plans for reading for challenges this year.

CLM said...

Great chain! I didn’t realize your husband was into photography which adds some extra appeal to the links. I am unfamiliar with the Pelham book or movie but we’ve been joking about the town a lot lately in my family because my mother’s favorite opera singer lives there and we tease her about wanting to go there to be a groupie (she says we aren’t funny).

I’ve got to try S.J.Roxanne! You always make this series sound appealing.

TracyK said...

Constance, my husband does enjoy photography. We like to go out on photography excursions around town and we hope sometime to get back to doing more of that.

I liked both the book and film of Pelham 1-2-3 but the film especially gave what seemed to be a real picture of New York City at the time. I just remembered that there is a town called Pelham in Alabama also, very near to where my father and mother used to live.

I think you might like the S. J. Rozan books but I know there are so many books out there, we cannot read them all.

Rosemary said...

I enjoyed this chain very much, and I'd like to read several of these books - perhaps especially the SJ Rozan, the Margery Allingham and The Quickening.I've got one Allingham on my shelves - The China Governess - but as you say, so many books...

I have always rather shied away from The Taking of Pelham 123 as it looks so scary (I think my thoughts were coloured by the original film of Assault on Precinct 13, which was very good, but so frightening, and which I think appeared around the same time? They're probably nothing like one another!) but your comment that it reflects New York City as it was at that time has piqued my interest, so maybe I'll be brave.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rosemary. I have been rereading all the Margery Allingham novels in the Albert Campion series in the last few years. It changes over time. I haven't gotten as far as The China Governess, which is close to the end of the series (or at least the books she wrote -- they were continued by her husband and later by Mike Ripley).

I am a big fan of the S. J. Rozan series, partly because of the Chinatown setting in some of the books and partly because the two lead characters take turns narrating the stories, so there is more variety.

The Taking of Pelham 123 is not that scary although some of the characters are pretty ruthless. But the scenes alternate between the headquarters of the transit district where the subway trains are monitored and the subway train itself, and I enjoyed that a lot. There is at least one newer version which I would like to see but haven't. It might be more violent and realistic.

col2910 said...

Thanks for the reminder of Pelham. I still need to read the book and watch the original film.

TracyK said...

Both are very good, Col. I think you will like them when you get to them.