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The Riddle of the Traveling Skull
by Harry Stephen Keeler | Mystery & Thrillers
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 5/19/2007
Average 8 star rating by BookCrossing Members 

status (set by Tribefan): travelling

This book is in the wild! This Book is Currently in the Wild!

6 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, May 19, 2007

8 out of 10

I owe this book to BCer Dunzy's ongoing campaign to keep the name of Harry Stephen Keeler alive {grin}. I'd heard of Keeler before BC, first via John Marr's "Murder Can Be Fun" 'zine, but hadn't been inspired to try and find a copy of any of his books until just recently; this title's back in print, so I picked up this nice new copy, and am now happily engrossed in the weird and wacky world of Keeler!

[For more on Keeler and his work, see the RambleHouse site and William Poundstone's Keeler site.]

Later: I finished this book early in June, and found it thoroughly delightful - entertaining, funny, and much more readable than I thought it might be, as so often the "so bad they're good" books are impossible to read for more than a page or so at a time before one's eyes blur or one's teeth start to ache. But this book gallops along at a breakneck pace, full of improbable coincidences and madcap (and often irrelevent, though one can never be sure 'til the end of the book) encounters, its easily-baffled yet ever-hopeful protagonist trying to figure out why an accidental switch of luggage could result in disaster for his fiancee and her father.

Paul Collins' introduction describes Keeler as "the Ed Wood of the mystery genre," and in some ways it's apt. Ed Wood was known for producing some of the most incredibly bad movies ever to make it to film, and yet his own naive enthusiasm often seemed to give them a tone that made them different from simply-inept movies. Keeler seemed to take similar delight in his own work, and rejoiced in creating stories that weren't like anybody else's - but I think Keeler's writing skills are much better than Wood's directing skills, and most of the adorable goofiness of the Keeler books has to do with his bizarre and unpredictable plotting and not with any inability to construct a paragraph properly.

I don't know if other Keeler books are similar to this one in tone, but from what I've read it seems likely - and I do plan to try and hunt up more of his work to find out. The word that kept coming to mind as I was reading this one was "giddy" - it moves so fast and changes direction so unexpectedly, as the narrator himself exclaims with delight or woe over his latest achievement or stumbling block, that it has a distinct carnival-ride feel to it.

I'd marked lots of places that I wanted to quote, but I'm not sure that quoting Keeler would do much good; small snippets wouldn't convey the right idea. Oh, maybe a few: our hero, who's just returned from a business trip abroad in which he snagged the rights to the wondrous Julu berries with which to flavor candies at the company he works for, has just been given a sound kiss by his fiancee Doris:

"Sweet that kiss, like our butter-cream-center bar. And blonde she was, like our Crispo Taffy. With eyes as blue as jelly bean No. 18 - which goes in the jelly bean mixture No. 9. Dressed all in pink silk, as pink and as crisp as our Silko-Spun Crunch.

"But I'm talking in crude trade terms - about something too fine to compare with mere candy."

It's nice to see a man who really enjoys his job, eh?

Our hero isn't always so glib, though. Here's a snippet from a much more tense scene:

"I stared at Roger Pelton in the lamplight. Bit by bit I was beginning to realize that this man was caught like a worm on a hook - unless - unless -

"I passed my own hand over my forehead.

"'Tell me - about the gun,' I said helplessly. And surveyed him troubledly - for after all, he was my father-in-law to be. He was desperately pale, his face seamed. His fingers, trying to tap nervously on the chair handle, actually trembled."

If you don't mind coping with a writer who uses words like "troubledly", or who reveals his plots (if they're revealed at all) by lots of flashbacks and coincidentally-uncovered documents and overheard conversations, if you appreciate a certain campy quality - and if you enjoy roller coaster rides! - you may want to give Keeler a try. [Don't take too much of him at once, though. He'll make you giddy!] 

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, July 01, 2007

This book has not been rated.

So of course this HAS to be a bookring! See the associated forum post here. [NOTE: The book's a hardcover weighing about 1 pound 6 ounces, so it could be fairly pricey to mail; please check your postal service's rates to find out what it would cost you to mail it so you won't get any nasty surprises!]

Bookring instructions:

When you receive the book, please journal it, and PM the next person in line for their address so you'll have it ready when you've finished the book.

Note: even if you've sent books to that person before, please PM them before mailing this one, to confirm that the address is correct and that they're able to take on a bookring book at this time.
Try and read the book promptly - ideally, within a month of receiving it. (If you expect to take longer, you can request to be put at the end of the list. If you find you're swamped with other books when the person before you contacts you about the bookring, you can ask to be skipped, and then let me know whether you'd like to be moved down the list or dropped entirely. If you receive the book and find it's taking longer than you'd planned to get through it, I'd appreciate an update in its journal entries or on your profile, just to let me and the other participants know you haven't forgotten it.)

When you're ready to pass the book along, please make another journal entry containing your comments about the book and stating where you've sent it, and set the book's status code to "traveling". [If you find that you're having problems contacting the next person in line, or don't think you can manage to mail the book as originally agreed, please let me know; I'll be glad to try to work something out.]


Participants so far:

Dunzy [Canada]
bookpatch [California]
Llednyl [Ohio]
Scoobs-buddy [Kentucky]


...and back to GoryDetails in New Hampshire. 

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, July 02, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Controlled release: the book's on its way to Dunzy in the other BC (British Columbia {grin}), to kick off the bookring. [The ring's still open, but at this rate it's going to be a very, very short one!] 

Journal Entry 4 by Dunzy from Vancouver, British Columbia Canada on Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Such a treat, Gory! Thank you for thinking of me -- and for the elegant double-wrapping to preserve Keeler's integrity, such as it is.

Mere minutes after my trembling digits twitched aside the second veil, I found in the new intro a perspicacious comment that begs to be recorded : "What Keeler grasped is that readers will allow a plot to be endlessly folded and mutilated as long as it is attached to the spindle of a recognizable genre.".

COVER shown here has been picked up from the Ward Lock edition of 1934. It looks strangely familiar: did a founder of the Hell's Angels pick it up too, and heist the art for the club insignia? 

Journal Entry 5 by Dunzy from Vancouver, British Columbia Canada on Thursday, July 19, 2007

This book has not been rated.

My progress report is mainly to justify a pic of the onlie begetter: ‘Killer’ Keeler, founder of the feast and apparently a close relative of Alfred E. Neuman.

“Skull” has disadvantages as a bedside book. It’s a merry ride, but I wake up wondering if I added a few dream-twists to the plot; what's worse, the author’s fearless assault on dialects leaves me speaking in unknown tongues at breakfast. (E.g., “ah verra mooch doot” that Scots fowk would be onnythin but dootful aboot acceptin his wur-rd on ver-risimilitood.)

Journal Entry 6 by Dunzy from Vancouver, British Columbia Canada on Friday, July 27, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Keeler's bundle of bizarrerie is off in the mail to bookpatch, who will (I hope) find it skullumptious.

I had forgotten about the insensate rush to a conclusion for his mysteries, leaving odds and ends trampled in his path. (I identified Mystery Milo 40 pages before the revelation of *the last two words*, but that may have been a flashback to my first reading many years ago.) Btw, the "Challenge to the Reader" page is outrageous!

Thanks again, Gory -- you've left me pining for more authorial abuse from this zany. I wonder if I can track down the Yeggman…


Journal Entry 7 by bookpatch from Lakewood, California USA on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Received today, with thanks. I wasn't expecting such a handsome looking book--I keep picking it up to feel the texture of the cloth-bound cover, and then thumbing through the pages to look at the elegant typeface. From the reviews above, I suspect this story may lean more towards pig's ear than silk purse, but I appreciate that the publishers went for the classic look here.
Adding to the top of Mt. TBR. 

Journal Entry 8 by bookpatch from Lakewood, California USA on Wednesday, August 15, 2007

9 out of 10

Turns out this book was neither sow’s ear nor silk purse, but a grab bag. As the introduction says, “[Keeler] kept thick files of odd stories that he clipped out from newspapers and magazines; to start a novel, he’d grab random fistfuls of them and then attempt to somehow madly tie all their threads together.” (which not only explains a lot about this book but sounds like the author was just a plain fun kind of guy.). One can just imagine the plot diagrams he must have gone through, particularly for the last two revealing chapters.

I also thought that Mr. Keeler appeared to have stumbled upon a wealth of exclamation points somewhere (no doubt an unused cache found at the bottom of Dostoevsky's inkwell) as he so generously shares them with us, particularly in the first few chapters, after which he rather settles down a bit and metes them out a little more circumspectly as the plot thickens.

Not that he needed the exclamation points. Two of my favorite bits have none, and both sum up how I felt about the book:

“I was thinking deeply in the meantime. My forehead was so corrugated, as I could sense by feeling alone, that an Eskimo’s fur coat, sprinkled with nothing but Lux, could have been washed on it”.

“I started to speak, but shut up. This was a story utterly unlike anything I had ever heard of read. And he seemed more than anxious to give it all to me.”

Many thanks for sharing!

Mailed out today to Llednyl (DC #03070020000173131635). Enjoy!

Journal Entry 9 by Llednyl from Richwood, Ohio USA on Saturday, August 25, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Came in the mail today! I'll try to read it as soon as possible... my classes start in a few days so I'll be a bit busy then, but I should be able to get this one done in a reasonable amount of time. 

Journal Entry 10 by Llednyl from Richwood, Ohio USA on Friday, September 07, 2007

8 out of 10

Oh, Mr. Keeler, where have you been all my life?

This was such a zany and entertaining read. I agree with Gory's observation that Keeler is very "readable," meaning that he is perfectly apt at writing itself; what gives the book its weird quality (and charm) are his unbelievable characters (Kratzenschneiderwumpel is one of the best last names I've ever encountered in a book) and plot twists. You can tell that he doesn't quite take himself seriously - I got the impression that he must have had enormous fun creating stories and making them as implausible as possible.

Thank-you so much for sharing this book - I've told many of my friends about it and would like to get a copy of my own (as well as hunt down some other Keeler mysteries). I have Scoobs-buddy's address and will send the book off tomorrow. 

Journal Entry 11 by rem_XDP-320934 on Sunday, September 16, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Perfect timing- I just finished a book and am ready to start another- this one in particular I am really looking forward to! 

Journal Entry 12 by rem_XDP-320934 on Wednesday, October 03, 2007

8 out of 10

This book is insane- wacky- weird- totally strange. I got confused and lost and couldn't put the blasted thing down! I loved it!! Keeler's writing style and characters like Legga the Human Spider, Ichabod Chang, "Suing" Sophie Kratzenschneiderwumple = a fascinating read! 

Journal Entry 13 by rem_XDP-320934 at controlled release in controlled release, a controlled release -- Controlled Releases on Wednesday, October 03, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Released 10 yrs ago (10/3/2007 UTC) at controlled release in controlled release, a controlled release -- Controlled Releases



Will have it on its way home to GoryDetails later today- thanks so much for sharing!!

USPS Del. Conf. 0306 3030 0002 5605 6892 

Journal Entry 14 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, October 09, 2007

This book has not been rated.

And the skull has traveled home safely; thanks to all who participated! [And thanks to whoever tucked in the assortment of Edward Gorey postcards; can never get enough Gorey!] 

Journal Entry 15 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, July 21, 2014

This book has not been rated.

Released 3 yrs ago (7/21/2014 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA


I've had this one for some time now, and I think it's time it went traveling. As it's one of the oddest books I own, I'm adding this to the box of Odd Books I'm sending to Tribefan in Ohio for the OddMall release in November. Hope someone enjoys it! 

Journal Entry 16 by Tribefan at Lakemore, Ohio USA on Saturday, July 26, 2014

This book has not been rated.

Thank you for sending! This book will be wild released on Nov. 1st by the Rubber City Book Posse at OddMall located at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.

I may attempt to read this one as well... Looks very cool!!! 

Journal Entry 17 by Tribefan at Odd Mall - John S. Knight Center in Akron, Ohio USA on Sunday, November 02, 2014

This book has not been rated.

Released 3 yrs ago (11/2/2014 UTC) at Odd Mall - John S. Knight Center in Akron, Ohio USA


Look for the Rubber City Book Posse!

Bookcrossing: n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.
- from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary

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