Tuesday, July 15, 2014
July 14, 2014
I didn't have a book to read on my lunch hour so I just grabbed this from the shelf. It looked like something from Victorian times, which is usually a safe bet for me.
This does take place in 1835, but in Philadelphia and in Richmond, Virginia. Rufus and his father have fallen on hard times. His father has been thrown into debtor's prison and Rufus is trying to stay out of trouble and find a way to help his father one way or another.
Rufus is an unusual boy. Frail and bent from scoliosis (I presume), he is a chess prodigy. Having been practically an invalid since birth, he studied chess and played against his father and other adults until he became so good he could beat almost anyone.
This talent is what leads Rufus to the unscrupulous showman Maelzel and his chess playing automaton, The Turk. Rufus is given a job by Maelzel as the operator of The Turk. Rufus hides in the cabinet that supports The Turk's chessboard. Through magnets and other controls, Rufus is able to operate The Turk to make it appear that the automaton is actually playing chess. Of course, anyone challenging The Turk loses because they are actually playing the accomplished Rufus.
I was fascinated to learn that The Turk actually existed.
Like The Shakespeare Stealer, another Gary Blackwood novel, Curiosity is fiction blended with historical fact. Real people populate this book from Edgar Allan Poe to P.T. Barnum.
What was just a choice made without a thought became such an entertaining read.
The Turk Recreated