In the Mail – Interesting Stories Edition

nickdrake.jpgDarker Than the Deepest Sea: The Search for Nick Drake by Trevor Dann

From Publishers Weekly:

A British acoustic-psychedelic entry into the ever-swelling hall of artists who died young, Nick Drake received little recognition during his short life. Yet more than 30 years after his death, his celebrity has never been greater and has been accompanied by reissues, documentary films and biographies—one Drake tune even rated a Volkswagen commercial. Born to a wealthy family, Drake showed early interest in music; by his university years he had developed a unique guitar style and brooding songs that had little to do with the hippie noodlings of the era. Heavy drug use and commercial failure pushed the already introverted Drake deeper into isolation and despair; he died of an overdose at the age of 26. To this day, questions swirl around every aspect of Drake’s life, from his musical influences and sexuality to whether or not he intentionally killed himself. Unfortunately, Dann, producer of Live Aid, brings little insight to the Drake mysteries. While he covers Drake’s Cambridge years thoroughly, other aspects of the musician’s life are barely mentioned; even interviews with Drake’s closer friends reveal little—it just might be that no one really ever got close enough to him. By contrast, the book’s discography is comprehensive and informative.

Strange Case of Hellish Nell by Nina Shandler

Book Description:

The fascinating story of Britain’s World War II witchcraft trial of Helen Duncan, the grandmother who conducted seances, and had a knack for revealing military secrets
On March 23, 1944, as the Allied Forces were preparing for D-Day, Helen Duncan–“Nell” to her six children and four grandchildren and “Hellish Nell” to her detractors–stood in the dock of Britain’s highest criminal court accused of: witchcraft!

At the time of her arrest, Helen Duncan was Britain’s most controversial psychic, a celebrity medium with a notorious reputation. During her seances, she channeled spirits who spoke from the world beyond, and on a few occasions, her “spirit” seemed to know too much: Helen’s seances were accurately revealing top-secret British ship movements. Intelligence authorities wanted “Hellish Nell” silenced.

Using diaries, personal papers, interviews, and declassified documents, Nina Shandler resurrects this strange episode and explores the unanswered questions surrounding the trial: Did “Hellish Nell” channel spirits of the dead who gave away wartime secrets? Was she a calculating charlatan or the innocent target of obsessive wartime secrecy? Why did the Director of Public Prosecutions try her as a witch, and not a spy? Sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, The Strange Case of Hellish Nell is a true crime tale laced with psychic phenomena and wartime intrigue.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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