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Thursday, February 19th, 2009

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10:44p
Oooookay, then ...
As regular readers of this space will no doubt be tempted to remind me, I am frequently of the opinion that something I've read is "strange". Many would argue that my reading habits are themselves strange, so what should I expect! However, there are times where one just ends up scratching one's head over a book, not in a "how did this get published?" way, or some deep metaphysical way, just in a "huh?" zone of sorts, and this is one of those.

David A. Shugarts' Secrets of the Widow's Son: The Mysteries Surrounding the Sequel to The Da Vinci Code was a recent dollar store discovery, so at least the price was right. This book has a very odd purpose, it's written to sort of predict (back in 2005) what Dan Brown would be writing about in the sequel to his The Da Vinci Code, a book that appears to still be in the works.

Now, I've not read The Da Vinci Code nor seen the movie, but over the years I've read a good deal of the "source material", so this looked like it might be an interesting read. I guess the rumors were/are that the next book was going to take place in Washington, DC, and deal with Masons and Templars and treasure, etc., ground much trampled over by the National Treasure movies (one of the factors suggested for the delay, even four years ago, of the new book was that a lot of the "mythos" got used up by those). The author had been a contributor to a couple of "Secrets of ..." books that looked at the earlier Dan Brown books, and either analyzed some the action/background or (in Shurarts' case, having been an Aviation writer) pointed out certain technical "issues" in them. I guess when the new book was delayed, the folks behind these "Secrets of" books decided that they'd just go ahead and put out a "dig behind the story" book before there was a story!

Since I've not been "in on the story", I guess I've missed the "fun" of poking through the marketing ephemera of the Dan Brown industry, but it appears that he likes to hide codes in things, and somewhere in the dust cover for the DaVinci Code book there is a hidden phrase of "Oh Lord, My God, is there no help for the widow's son?", a famous Masonic recognition call ... which seems to have determined for Shugarts and his editors that the new Brown book is going to be "about" the Masons.

I very rarely actually look at the reviews of a book before I read it, but I noticed that over on Amazon this book got a LOT of very negative feedback, most of it seeming to come from Masons (or, perhaps, PR shills posing as Masons), which made me think "hmmm ... wonder why they're so pissed?". Frankly most of the savaging given the book is way out of proportion to anything in the book, which makes me think those are "misdirection" marketing ploys!

Reading this, I vacillated between a certain pity for the author's task of trying to guess what an upcoming book is going to be about, and then flesh out a book of his own based on those guesses, and being very irritated by the "fanboy" aspects of his writing (Dan Brown does this, Dan Brown does that, "sqeee!"). Really, I can't imagine very many people give a damn that his wife is a distant relative of George Washington, and peppering references to "Cousin George" through the book is just irritating; plus mocking others' flights of fancy in the midst of one's own blithering is just bad form.

Of course, this is not to say that the book wasn't chock full of "interesting" bits of information. I don't believe I'd ever read about Albert Pike previously, and the story there (albeit spun out repeatedly in side-bars to various threads being followed) was quite enticing. He also makes a half-hearted pitch to link the Mormons with the Masons, and points out some rather damaging background on the formation of the LDS Church. Heck, even "Dolly the Sheep" makes an appearance, having being cloned in Roslin, Scotland, right over by Rosslyn Chapel and Roslin Castle, ancestral seat of the noted Sinclair family!

Needless to say, I'm not making a whole-hearted recommendation on this one ... it's got enough stuff in it to make it worth the read, but I sure wouldn't want to pay retail for it! As noted, I found this at the dollar store, and you can get "like new" copies from the Amazon used guys for as little as a penny (plus shipping). It certainly is a strange "meta book" sort of project, but if you're into the whole "code" thing, you'll probably want to add this to your mix of conspiracy fodder!


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