“The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession” by David Grann (Doubleday, 2010)

The Devil and Sherlock Holmesstarstarstarstar

After the runaway success of David Grann’s first book, The Lost City of Z, he returns with a collection of some of his most fascinating articles that he has published in various publications over the last decade.  Like The Lost City of Z, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is just as compelling and fascinating, as Grann delves into some of the most unusual minds and stories you’ve never heard about.

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes runs the gamut – which is always a good thing with a collection – with the first story about the mysterious death of the world’s foremost Sherlock Holmes expert, to what a daredevil New Zealander is doing to discover more about one of life’s most unknown creatures: the giant squid.  There is the incredible story of Frédéric Bourdin, known as “The Chameleon,” with an ability to be anyone he chooses to be.  The water system of New York isn’t in great shape with two giant pipes built long ago that are in much need of repair, while the new tunnel being built by sandhogs is not scheduled to be completed until 2020; meanwhile either of the two old tunnels could give at any moment, depriving the people of New York with water.

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is really a study of the human psyche, as these seemingly unbelievable stories reveal the extents to which some people will do certain things to achieve a desired result.  This book will astound you, but also keep you hooked to every single page.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 14 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

UPS = Fail at Book Delivery

On Friday, Winter decided to let Northern California know that it wasn’t done finishing out its season yet, and proceeded to rain solidly for most of the day, saturating everything.  I receive a number of packages each week by mail, usually books to review.  Usually they are delivered by UPS.  Usually UPS will put them under my do0rmat.

On this particular wet Friday, the UPS delivery person must’ve had a number of interesting thoughts go through his or her head, when he or she arrived at my doorstep to deliver my package.  It was raining for a fact at the time they delivered the item.  Perhaps they weighed in their mind that putting the package underneath my doormat and decided somehow that this wouldn’t work, perhaps it would get wet in this way, even though the doormat is well covered, and the package would be further protected by being under said doormat.

Perhaps then they weighed the option of taking it to the office, where they will hold packages for tenants and all they had to do was leave a note on the door.  I have a feeling this thought never crossed their mind, and if it did, they decided to be too lazy to do this.

Instead, said UPS employee decided to toss the item onto my patio, where there is a slight overhang from the patio above, but this does little to nothing at keeping rain from falling to the patio below.  My patio.  Where the package proceeded to get completely saturated.

When I arrived home I found the note on the door, indicating the perfect location where the package had been deposited.  Great, I thought.  As I lifted the soggy papery item off the floor I remarked on the only thing holding the soaked envelope together was the also saturated book inside.  I proceeded to leave the book for the day and night on a cooling rack and then investigate the results the following morning:

damaged book cover

And then when I opened the book, I found a lovely new watermark on the title page:

damaged book page

I’ll see what I get out of UPS for this, but obviously I’m not too happy about it, and wonder what my chances are the next time a UPS employee comes a knocking when the heavens have opened.

Bookbanter Episode 26 with David Grann



In this new episode of Bookbanter, I had the chance to interview David Grann. Grann is a staff writer for the New Yorker and last year published his first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, about one of the world’s last explorers, Percy Fawcett, and his expeditions into the Amazon in search of a lost civilization. In the interview, you learn of David Grann’s history: how he became an article writer, how he ended up working for the New Yorker, and how he comes up with his incredible ideas for articles. Grann also talks about his new book due out in March 9th, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, collecting a number of his articles. We concluded the interview with discussion on whether Grann ever plans to return to the Amazon in light of some recent evidence of archaeological excavations that are being made there.

This episode also features my reviews for The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, Altar of Eden by James Rollins, and The Lost City of Z by David Grann:

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by East Bay and Footlocker, leading world suppliers of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment, featuring top athletic brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Nike.  Go to East Bay.com and use the code AFBOOK15 to receive 15% off your order, or the code AFBOOK20 to receive 20% off your order of $75 or more.  Or go to Footlocker.com and use the code AFBOOKFL to receive 15% off your order.

For more updates and news, as wells as thoughts and comments about books and writing, be sure to check out the BookBanter Blog.

Please join me next time, in Episode 27 on March 1st, where I will hopefully be interviewing Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and his new book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

See you next time,

Alex C. Telander.


David Grann

Lost City of Z

This morning I got to interview David Grann for BookBanter.  David Grann is a staff writer for the New Yorker and last year released his first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, which just came out in paperback.  We had fun talking about the interesting path Grann took, first getting into writing, and then ending up as a writer for the New Yorker and writing unusual articles, such as the search for the elusive giant squid, or uncovering the mystery behind the enigmatic death of the world’s foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes.  Grann also talked about how he stumbled upon the story of The Lost City of Z and what an experience it was to not only write the book, but all the traveling and research involved.  Grann also talked a little about the movie currently being made of The Lost City of Z starring Brad Pitt.

Devil and Sherlock Holmes

David Grann also has another book coming out, in March, collecting many of his unusual articles: The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession.  You may have noticed the term “obsession” cropping up in the titles of both of Grann’s books, which is what he tends to write about: the mysterious and the obsessed; a fascinating subject.

The interview with David Grann will be appearing in Episode 26 of BookBanter which will be airing on February 15th.

Thanks again to Sarah Cantor at Vintage & Anchor for setting up the interview, and of course, to David Grann, for doing the interview.