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Read/Watch List: Slow crime/True Crime/Pulp Noir

   Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 - by: Jessica Fitzpatrick

Here’s a new genre for fans of True Detective and the like: Slow crime. Back in March, Matt Zoller Seitz, TV critic and editor-in-chief of rogerebert.com, described slow-crime in an article for New York Magazine as a genre that reflects more recent groundbreaking entertainment, including True Detective, the podcast Serial, American Crime, The Jinx and The Killing. The most distinctive characteristic of the genre is its pacing and its attention to detail. As opposed to episodic crime shows, which will often neatly wrap a case in the span of 55 minutes, slow crime serials follow one case through an entire season, exposing a larger theme or attitude than the case itself. Slow crime attempts to relate that the facts of the case, slowly revealed over the course of the show, suggest greater implications for society.

Seitz, in terming the genre slow crime, did so to contrast it with more traditional episodic cop dramas, but when I became a fan of True Detective during its first season last year, I connected it with much more seasoned genres of True Crime and Noir or pulp detective fiction. There are similarities: True Crime and Slow Crime address the whole story of a case, taking time to reexamine every detail, to attempt to uncover a truth or reason, a mission that often ends in vain. Similar to Noir or Pulp crime fiction which features a beleaguered detective, a little rough around the edges, who is at odds with the traditional structure, Slow Crime employs experimental methods to solve the crime.

So, since there’s a week between episodes of True Detective, the next season of Serial doesn’t start until the Fall, and it doesn’t look like there will be any more episodes of The Jinx, here’s a reading/ watching list to keep your suspicions piqued.

In cold blood In Cold Blood

A classic of slow/true crime, Capote follows the case of two men sentenced to death for inexplicably murdering a family in western Kansas. Capote began his research for the book before the arrest and conviction, and thus transcribes first-hand accounts of the trial and sentencing, and spends an immense amount of time interviewing the inmates sentenced to death row. The level of grisly detail, as well as the way a cool, measured tone directly and deliberately contrasts the overwhelmingly chaotic horror of the crime, makes this novel the preeminent example of the genre.

To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee and Capote met as children (the character of Dill is actually based on the young Capote) and she accompanied Capote on his assignment to cover the murders in Kansas. Lee's own novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, (her only published work until July 2015,) tackles similar themes of truth and justice. While not as bleak in tone as the others in this list, the setting, the mystery of Boo, Scout’s peculiar perspective and the sinister, base nature of the Ewells', places this novel in the southern-Gothic canon.

Helter Skelter Helter Skelter

Diving back now to the bleak, dark recesses of humanity, the realms of the Yellow King, in Helter Skelter, the number one best-selling true crime narrative, former L.A. District Attorney Vincent Buligosi provides a firsthand account of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Charles Manson, whom he successfully prosecuted against in 1969. Buligosi’s densely detailed prose, including intimate knowledge of the evidence and the grisly details of the man, his madness and the seven murders he orchestrated and carried out with “The Family”, makes this work a must read for True Detective fans.

The Wire The Wire

Despite being considered one of the greatest American TV dramas, (in my opinion, True Detective has much to thank it for) The Wire debuted in 2002 to only mild reviews. The series’ creator David Simon was already known in television for Homicide, another cult-hit cop show. The Wire, however, achieved something different: the series addressed the issues of law enforcement in the city as it relates to each of five other city institutions. The appeal of the show wasn’t immediate perhaps because of the lack of recognizable markers that made hits out of other cop series. In The Wire, the police equipment wasn’t flashy. The camera work was composed of straightforward shots using no filters (though artfully so). The gang members, drug dealers, politicos and bosses were three-dimensional rather than card board stand-ins for criminals. But perhaps most pertinent to this discussion, it took an entire season to bring down a corrupt entity by exploring the way crime is inevitable as long as no one addresses the deeper problems of inequality and systemic corruption.

Twin Peaks Twin Peaks

FBI Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan, investigates the murder of teenage homecoming queen Laura Palmer in a small, Washington logging town called Twin Peaks. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Created by filmmakers David Lynch and Mark Frost, the series explores the world that exists below the surface of this seemingly tranquil mountain town. Each character possesses some ulterior motive, disturbing dreams expose truths in the waking world, and, like True Detective, the closer Agent Cooper gets to the truth in his investigation, the darker and more dangerous the journey becomes. The series aired for 30 episodes, between 1990 and 1991, before ABC cancelled it due to lackluster ratings. Since then, the series has garnered a substantial cult following, allowing for a feature-length film related to the series, and an upcoming limited renewal of the series in 2016.

LA Confidential LA Confidential

If you’re looking for something that encapsulates the gritty LA noir-style of the TD s02, try James Ellroy’s LA Confidential. LA Confidential is one of Ellroy’s best known works, because it so aptly captures the sinister underworld of 1950s LA and Hollywood and the complex nature of the investigators pursuing justice, not to mention the highly acclaimed film starring Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe.

Chinatown Chinatown

Polanski’s Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, is another version of the LA noir scene: this time the P. I.’s focus is on the murky background of a wealthy LA industrialist. Plot twists and family secrets abound until Nicholson’s character is so enmeshed it’s no longer clear who‘s in control, similar to the bind Rust Coehle finds himself in as he battles his various demons.

For more reading lists, check out our Pinterest page here, or visit our reading room page, here.

   Posted in Books, Reading Room, Resources | No Comments »

Upcoming library workshop: Your library from home, Wed. April 1

   Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by: Jessica Fitzpatrick

libraryanytimeheadersmallFinally, your favorite author has published a new book, and you can’t wait to read it. It’s 9:30 PM though - how are you going to place a request? Or maybe you’re a student working on a paper late at night, and you just need a few more sources. Or perhaps you’re just interested in finding out more about an author, or researching local services for a project, but if the library is closed, where will you go for the information?

The truth is, many of the services you receive in person or over the phone from a librarian are available to you from home using a computer that’s connected to the internet. You can perform catalog searches, place requests, create book lists, or check due dates.

In addition to the electronic library catalog, many robust and powerful databases are at your disposal 24/7. With just a library card and PIN, you have access to peer-reviewed journals, electronic car manuals, consumer information, full-text business and computer book collections, detailed health information and much more.

Come see how your library never closes by attending one of two upcoming tech talk sessions:

All sessions are held in the main library’s first floor conference room. Space is limited so please register online here or at the reference desk.

   Posted in Books, Computer, Programs, Reference, Resources, Web Tools | No Comments »

Our Catalog is Now Mobile-Friendly!

   Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

Our Evergreen catalog underwent a software update this weekend. Most of the changes were fixes to staff functionality, but one change that should benefit patrons is a new mobile-friendly design.

The new catalog is implements "responsive design" coding. This means that the website "responds" to the size of the screen on which it is being viewed. For instance, if you're browsing our catalog on a big desktop computer monitor, it should look just like it used to.

However, if you're using your mobile phone to browse the catalog, it will detect you're using a device with a small screen, and change the layout to fit better. A mobile device version of the catalog will look like this:

mobile catalog

You can try it for yourself, even without a mobile device. Just visit our catalog and then slowly shrink the size of your web browser window. You'll see the catalog reconfigure itself to fit different size screens.

All of the functionality of the full catalog should still be available in the different sizes, although buttons and information may be in different places. If you have any questions about the catalog, please contact the Reference Desk.

   Posted in Library Information | No Comments »

New Look for Overdrive Ebooks and Audiobooks Catalog

   Monday, March 4th, 2013 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

Overdrive Next Gen catalogThe online catalog the library uses for ebooks and downloadable audiobooks, called Overdrive, updated its website with a new look this weekend. If you haven't already, please check it out at http://mvlc.lib.overdrive.com.

There is an online guide that introduces all the new features, and new printed guidelines will be ready soon. A few important changes to note are:

  • The way to choose how long you'd like to check out an item has changed dramatically:
    1. Below the large BORROW button on a title's information page it will say "This title can be borrowed for 14 days. (Change)." Clicking on the "Change" button will allow you to set a new lending duration.
    2. From the ACCOUNT screen in the SETTINGS tab on the right of the page and must be done BEFORE a title is checked out in order to take effect. As always, everything but WMA Audiobook titles can be returned early so we recommend the maximum checkout duration for eBook titles as they can always be returned early but they cannot be renewed.

    Any change made to this setting from either the method in 1 or 2 will become the new default.

  • Patrons can now return their EPUB and MP3 Audiobook titles early directly from their "Bookshelf" screen in the new OverDrive web interface. Below each title is a new button "Return Title" so a patron will not have to return the title through Adobe Digital Editions as was required previously.

The new look only applies to the website - people using the mobile app will not notice any change. If you use Internet Explorer 7 you will need to download the Google Chrome plug-in to display the page correctly, as that version of the browser does not support all the features of the new layout. Alternatively you could update to the latest version of the browser.

If anyone has any questions please contact the Reference Desk.

   Posted in Current News, Overdrive | No Comments »

New Library Catalog Design Launches Oct 1st, 2012

   Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

New CatalogThe entire MVLC catalog will be getting a new look starting Monday, October 1st. Chelmsford has been testing it for the last few weeks, so you may have already seen it, and maybe even suggested ways to make it better.

The new catalog will be an improvement over the previous catalog. One very noticeable thing should be an improvement in the speed of the catalog, and also fewer "empty pages" (when all you see is a blank page and have to reload it).

Many new features will be introduced, including:

  1. A cleaner, easier-to-navigate interface
  2. The ability to view item details (call number, availability status, etc) on the search results screen by clicking on the “Show More Details” button
  3. The ability to configure which e-mail notifications you wish to receive from your library
  4. Text messaging will be available for holds notification, and to quickly send a call number to your phone (instead of writing it on scrap paper)
  5. You can set a preferred “Pickup Location” for requested materials for your patron account
  6. You can choose to record your check out and holds history in your patron account
  7. Enhanced functionality to bookbags (no called My Lists)
  8. You can choose to stay logged into the catalog when logging in from home, instead of getting kicked out after a little while
  9. More information on using these new features is also available

We've had a lot of great feedback so far from patrons who've tested the new catalog, so we're excited to launch the new design and features. If you notice any glitches after Monday, or have any questions whatsoever, please contact the Reference Desk.

   Posted in Computer, Library Information | No Comments »

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