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A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

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"Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world." --Elisabeth Leseur

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Thinking Machine

I'm currently reading "The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle to my eighth grade students. Futrelle is probably the best mystery writer you've never heard of. He could have been the next Arthur Conan Doyle except for one tragic event in his life: he bought a ticket to sail on the Titanic. He and his wife were in Europe and decided to return to American on the Titanic, cutting their vacation short. When the ship began sinking his wife May boarded a lifeboat and survived, but Futrelle refused the lifeboat and did not survive.

Futrelle's mysteries are short on character development, but if you like a good puzzle some of them are quite clever. He is most famous for "The Problem of Cell 13" in which his main character, Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen--also known as "The Thinking Machine"-- agrees to be locked in the death cell of Chisholm Prison to prove he can escape from it in a week. It's one of my favorite mystery short stories, and I highly recommend it.

All of Futrelle's Thinking Machine stories are available online at the official Futrelle site, or you can buy them in a collection published by the Modern Library. And apparently Futrelle himself becomes a detective in Max Collins' The Titanic Murders. I haven't read it, but if you like mysteries and are interested in the Titanic, give it a try. Leave a comment if you've read it to tell others about it.

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posted by Nick Senger at 5:25 AM

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