This post is a part of the
Book Beginnings and Friday 56 blog memes. Visit more of my All About Books posts.

This week I share books by my second cousin, Helene Stapinski. In February, I read "Baby Plays Around, A Love Affair with Music," her second book, published in 2004. Her first, "Five Finger Discount, A Crooked Family History," I read in the 1990s. For some reason, it took me nearly 17 years to read the second.

I'm now into Helene's third, "Murder in Matera," published just a few of years ago.



Murder in Matera

Book Beginnings: Vita was a murderess. She took a life and ran. Maybe she shot. Maybe she stabbed. No one was sure. But she took a life and ran.

Friday 56: To make money, I wrote stories for newspapers and magazines and essay collections, stories about jazz musicians and ballerinas and spaghetti tacos and dinosaurs and robots and lots of things I stumbled upon because I was a mother. when all the while I wanted to research Vita and her murder.

Baby Plays Around

Book Beginnings: I had this dream. It wasn't just a hope. Not just that kind of dream. After the breakup, it became an actual dream, one that I would see in my sleep. It was a recurring dream; a happy fantasy to help wipe away the sadness of the days that stretched before it.

Friday 56: By the end of that practice, that song, "The Other Side," was perfect. It was like a child riding a two-wheeler for the first time; clumsiness and stumbling effort transformed into freedom of flight. Martin was bouncing along, swinging his hips to the rhythm we were creating. Steve was no longer sleepy, his rocketlike keyboards rising subtly in the background. Julie was strumming, smiling her way through the actual melody and lyrics, lyrics that seemed to be Elizabeth's elegy:

She was my best friend, but no longer
Girls can be cruel, but now I am stronger

Five Finger Discount

Book Beginnings: The night my grandfather tried to kill us, I was five years old, the age I stopped believing in Santa Claus, started kindergarten, and made real, rather than imaginary friends. Because Grandpa was one of two grandfathers in their family, my cousins called him Grandpa Jerry. For me, he was simply Grandpa. I only had one. The other-my father's father, the Polish grandpa we call Dziadzia (pronounced Jaja)-was hit over the head during a burglary in his front hallway seven years before I was born and died after slipping into a coma.

Friday 56: There was no money for college, since most of my father's money went to Uncle Henry and Nicky, in the Majestic, for gambling and booze. But we always had plenty of food. And we always had a block of dry ice that Daddy would bring home from work on Halloween to place in a bowl of water and make bubble and smoke for my astonished party guests.