Selections from Shurik’s Memoirs

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115. Visit with August Pals: Final Entry

One weekend in May while I was in Vatsla, a man from Uue Otsa farm arrived to say that August Pals wished to speak to me. This was so unexpected that I forgot to ask what it concerned, and he departed without further explanation. I changed into a suit and tie and went to August’s farm, along the way pondering what it might be as our efforts concerning the water drainage plans were completed long ago. When I arrived, his wife was at home and showed me to his room. I found him sick in bed. In a feeble voice, he discussed topics involving the village and touched upon some family issues. When I asked about his health, he told me that a while ago he plowed a plot of virgin land. It was hard work for him and the horses because of the rocks and roots in the ground. After several hours, he was exhausted and planned to take a brief rest. Unwittingly he fell asleep on the cold ground. He believed this incident along with exposure to TB (he had three brothers who died from it) combined to cause him to fall sick.

Shortly afterward, I joined the Valga-Abja railway project. When I returned, work kept me busy in Tallinn, and I made only a couple of trips to Vatsla. Each time I was distracted by chores. Since nobody mentioned August, I presumed there was no bad news. Presumptions can be wrong. Several times in my life, presumptions that appeared unquestionably true turned out to be false. In the fall [must have happened between September and November, 1932-1934] I heard he had passed away and the funeral would be held at Keila Church and internment at the new Keila graveyard. It’s also where my paternal aunt Mari Emar [aka Emmar, d. 1923], her husband Karel [d. 1936], and their son Eedi are buried.* On Sunday morning, I took the train from Tallinn to Keila. After the service, I attended the wake along with a large crowd or mourners. August was only in his early forties and would be greatly missed. He had headed the water drainage project and in addition was active in numerous local affairs. I believe the turmoil in his home life contributed to his death.

*The spelling of names and dates are not always exact in these entries. Confusion has been caused by several persons having the same or similar names; misspelling of names in documents; inaccurate information in ancestry sites and other sources; and memories fade. For example, we came across several different spellings for Shurik’s wife’s maiden name and the second wife of a relative has the same name and year and place of birth as his first wife.


Q: What are the criteria for Shuriks Picks?

A: Picks of the Month are books that we read during the previous month and found them enjoyable and/or they dealt with an important or neglected topic. With occasional exceptions, the books should be in print in English. We also review e-books and ARCs (advanced reader editions) but not unpublished works. We moved in 2011 and again in 2012. If you do not have our new address and want to submit a review copy, send us first an email. Acceptance of a book will not guarantee that it will be reviewed or mentioned. Our interests include classics, true crime, mysteries, history, and the environment. No erotica, porn, or ultra-violence.

Q: Do books qualify that are controversial or present ideas with which you disagree?

A: Yes, we welcome controversial books if they are well-written and informative. They are good for the publishing industry.

Q: Will your opinion of an author or publisher influence which books are chosen?

A: Somewhat as to which books we will choose to read but not our evaluation. There are some authors we like as persons but not their books and others we don’t like but have picked their books. In the case of two publishers, we have looked at scores of their mysteries but have found every one boring and thus tend to skip their novels.

Q: Can the same author be picked more than once? More than two months in a row?

A: Yes. Picks represents books we liked the best during the previous month.

Q: Would you include a book on the basis of having read only a review?

A: Not for Shuriks Picks or other reviews. However, we do mention books in the Commentary section based on reviews or announcements.

Q: How do you choose which books to read?

A: We have a list of books we would like to read that is compiled from book reviews, recommendations, review copies, gifts, and books we purchase.

Q: Will you publish negative reviews?

A: Unlikely. Our goal is to promote books and reading. We might make occasional negative comments. 

Q: Do you recommend publishers for authors wanting their book published?

A: No. Problems can develop with the most respected publishing houses. Before we would sign with any publisher we would have a reputable literary lawyer or agent review the book contract.

Q: What does it cost to have books chosen for Shuriks Picks or otherwise mentioned?

A: Nothing. We neither charge nor pay for the blog content and have never been involved in financial dealings (other than accepting review copies). This applies also to products we mention. We like to support reading and literacy, authors (published & unpublished), bookstores, and libraries.

Q: What happened to November 2012 blog?

A: We have no clue, and Apple no longer provides tech support for iWeb. The November 2012 blog was up for at least eight months. Then it disappeared from our computer and from the Internet. Even listing it in the archives disappeared. We had a printout and added a shortened version to the October 2012 blog.


Pick of the Month, May 2018


Barking With the Stars: A Pampered Pets Mystery by Sparkle Abbey, Belle Bridge Books, $14.95

Caro Lamont, pet therapist to A-list entertainers, agrees to serve as pet liaison at Barking with the Stars, a gala fundraiser for Warriors for the Paws that trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD. When the headliner, superstar Purple, is murdered, it threatens the fundraiser and devastates her fans. Believing the police are focusing on the wrong suspect, Caro decides to snoop. At the same time, she tussles with her narcissistic ex-husband Geoffrey, who is determined to ruin her business and reputation; ponders her conflicted feelings about boyfriend Sam; and gets into fights over an heirloom brooch. The killer strikes again, throwing the investigation into a new direction that culminates in a surprise ending.

This is the ninth book in the Pampered Pets Mystery series, all with outstanding covers and clever titles, such as Desperate Housedogs and Downton Tabby. It is well-written, brings awareness to suicide and PTSD among our veterans, and includes interesting snippets about dogs. Caro makes an engaging protagonist, her closet stuffed with designer clothes - an Armani sheath, Dolce & Gabbana lace skirt, and lots more. Highly recommended for fans of cozies and chicklit.


White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam’s One Million White Slaves by Giles Milton, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (several edition of this book have been issued, presently available in ebook)

British author Giles Milton tells the story of European men, women, and children forcibly taken off ships or captured in raids on coastal communities during the 17th and 18th centuries by Islamic corsairs from Algiers, Tunisia, and Morocco. The corsairs sold them into slavery in North Africa, one of them 11-year-old cabin boy named Thomas Pellow. The sadistic Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco bought him and his shipmates in 1716 to supplement his large number of white slaves. He was building a palace - the largest construction project in the world at that time - and it was built entirely by Christian slaves. As a personal slave to Ismail, Pellow witnessed the sumptuous life-style of the rulers and the horrors they inflected upon slaves.

Black guards tortured the slaves to force them to convert to Islam. Those who converted would receive somewhat better treatment but would still remain slaves. Escape was almost impossible as they were in a foreign land and kept in chains at night. Three factors fed this slave trade, which involved more than a million Europeans and a few Americans: willingness by governments to pay ransom, need to replace slaves who were dying en mass from brutal treatment, and failure of European countries to fight back until the early 19th century. The slave population included also Africans. Ismail often sent expeditions to Sub-Sahara, notably Guinea, to capture or buy black slaves who were used primarily as unskilled labor, to guard the harem, or serve in the army. The story of Pellow’s fight to survive and his plans to escape make a riveting read.


Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by her Granddaughters  by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $7.99, ages 9 and up

The authors provide interesting insights into Madeleine d’Engle whose A Wrinkle in Time, first published in 1962, reappeared in #1 spot on bestseller lists during the past couple of months. Since childhood, d’Engle wanted to be a poet and novelist. She enjoyed school until the fourth grade when she changed to a new school where she was bullied, viewed as stupid and clumsy, and picked last for any team. Her most embarrassing moment was when the teacher refused to excuse her and she wet her pants. When her poem won first place, the teacher falsely accused her of plagiarism. Her parents placed her in a Swiss boarding school where she spent three miserable years. However, she loved her second boarding school, Ashley Hall in South Carolina, where she fit in well and became popular.

All her life, d’Engle was disorganized and would lose things, had nightmares about war, and loved to write. The authors describe her involvement with the theater in New York, her marriage to an actor, dream of having six children that was not to be, and her last years. They include excerpts from her journals and numerous vintage photos.


Specialty/Small Press

Sleeping Bear Press, launched in 1998, publishes board books, picture books, middle grade readers, and young adult fiction. Their titles include The Legend of Sleeping Bear by Kathy-Jo Wargin and I Love You Just Enough by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, both books illustrated by Gijsvert van Frankenhuyzen.


Author submissions: At the moment they are not accepting submissions. They recommend that authors check for updates on their website

Site content © 2018


Books in the News

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (Harper). The popular true crime writer had completed about half of this memoir at the time of her death in 2016 from a combination of an undiagnosed heart condition and overdosing on several drugs - she allegedly had a secret room filled with prescription and illegal drugs. Her efforts resulted in numerous tips to the investigators.


Frozen in Fear: The True Story of Surviving the Shadows of Death by Jane Carson-Sandler (True Directions) describes this brave survivor’s horrific encounter in 1976 with the Golden State killer. The arrest of Joseph J. DeAngelo on April 24, 2018 brought her enormous relief.


Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Candlewick Press), for ages 5 to 9, is based loosely on Kensky’s life and has received excellent reviews. It tells of the love and teamwork between a girl who lost a leg from amputation and her service dog. An endnote describes the training and exceptional abilities of service dogs.

Winners and Losers


  1. Commercial airline pilot Tammie Jo Shults, 55. The former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy is hailed a hero for her actions when the engine of Flight 1380 exploded and killed one passenger. Her calm demeanor and ability to make a successful emergency emergency landing saved the lives of the 148 persons aboard.

  2. Anthony Borges, 15, student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida. On February 14, 2018 he barricaded the classroom door to save his classmates from Nikolas Cruz and was shot five times. He is credited with saving 20 lives. He was released from hospital on April 4, having undergone nine operations, and remains at this time in a wheelchair. He is lucky to have survived. A second hero in this tragedy who deserves to be remembered is the unarmed coach Aaron Feiss who was murdered while protecting students from Cruz.

  3. Electrician James Shaw Jr., 29, Tennessee. On April 22, 2018 Travis Reinking entered Waffle House naked except for a green jacket, killed four people, and wounded four others. While the gunman was reloading, Shaw charged him and wrestled the AR-15 from his grip. During the struggle, Shaw received a gunshot wound and burned his hands when he grabbed the gun’s hot barrel. His heroic actions saved many lives.

  4. Adult Protective Services. They provide for seniors and for adults with disabilities a hotline to report complaints that can range from implied threats to social media harassment to fraud and physical abuse. The quality of services varies by state and community. In Columbus, Ohio we provide special programs to help seniors and the handicapped remain in their homes.

  5. Labrador retrievers. According to American Kennel Club rankings, they are the most popular pure bred dogs in the U.S. for the 27th year. They are followed by German shepherds, golden retrievers, and French bulldogs.


  1. Backpage founder Michael Lacey, 69, Sedona, Arizona. On April 6, 2018 he was charged with a 93-count indictment in connection with a federal human-trafficking investigation.

  2. Entertainer Bill Cosby, 80. On April 26, 2018, he was found guilty in a retrial of all three counts of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand.

  3. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, 24. He faces three felony charges for attacking a girlfriend, age 28. He allegedly dragged her by the hair, punched her eight to ten times in the head, and threw her out of the house.

  4. Jose Barrios, 51. In March 2018, 104 roosters and hens were removed from his property in Des Moines, Iowa. He admitted he was preparing the roosters to fight in a derby in Mexico. He can get up to five years in prison for engaging in this sadistic activity.

  5. Former Port Authority Commissioner Caren Z. Turner, 60, New Jersey. On March 31, Tenafly police officers stopped a car because it had front side tinted windows, which are illegal in NJ, and expired registration. Turner’s daughter was a passenger in the car, and she phoned her mother. Upon arriving on the scene, Turner flashed her badge, boasted of her political connections, used profanities, and threatened and berated the officers who had stopped the car. The incident led to an investigation of Turner and her resignation from Port Authority. On April 24, TPD’s video of the incident went viral


  link to first blogEntries/2008/11/4_Selections_from_Shuriks_Memoirs.html

Visit with August Pals is the last entry in Shurik’s Memoirs in our possession except for several writings on sundry topics among his documents.