The Literary Hill: Good Jokes, Bad Drawings

Christine Vineyard provides visual accompaniments to more than 125 “dad jokes” in “Good Jokes Bad Drawings.”

Dad Jokes, Illustrated

It only takes a few pages into “Good Jokes Bad Drawings” before you realize that something’s screwy. These jokes are anything but good—in fact, they’re really awful—but the drawings… well, they’re downright inspired. Welcome to the world of Christine Vineyard, “where everything is a joke, right down to the title.”

Vineyard says she loves cheese—“the cheesier and cornier, the better!”—and her new book provides abundant proof of her passion. Know what you call cheese that’s not yours? Nacho cheese. Did you hear about the kidnapping at school? It’s okay, he woke up. What did the fish say when it ran into the wall? Dam.

Christine Vineyard

These and more than 125 other groaners are accompanied by Vineyard’s delightfully whimsical watercolors. Her rendering of the overweight psychic (i.e., the “four chin teller”) is alone worth the price of the book, but every illustration is a little gem, reflecting not only Vineyard’s goofy sense of humor but also her consummate skill with a paintbrush. Perfectly timed to coincide with removing our masks, “Good Jokes Bad Drawings” provides a great excuse to let loose with those big grins we’ve been hiding all these months. Head slapping is optional.

Christine Vineyard is a visual artist and art teacher who adopted DC as her second home when she moved here in 2011. She provided the endearing Hill Rag cover that featured a colorfully attired child at one of the iconic aqua distribution boxes. Other samples of her work, including sprightly illustrations of local landmarks like the Tune Inn, Radici, and East City Book Shop, can be found at

Capitol Hill Quagmire

“Welcome again to the Library of Congress,” says the head librarian to Hill staffer Kit Marshall. “It’s the largest library in the world. And now…” she said, swallowing hard, “the scene of a ghastly murder.”

In “Larceny at the Library,” Colleen Shogan’s latest mystery, Kit and her friends are faced with their biggest challenge yet: finding out who beaned the Assistant Librarian of Congress with a bust of Thomas Jefferson and made off with some priceless items from Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was assassinated.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that Kit’s husband, Doug, is suspected of the crime. “It was bad enough trying to solve a homicide, but now I had to clear my husband,” she laments. Happily, the amateur sleuth of Capitol Hill and her trusty entourage never pass up a snooping opportunity (or a happy hour). “We’ve found ourselves in several quagmires in the past,” she modestly admits, before retiring to Bullfeathers for a round of libations.

In Colleen Shogan’s “Larceny at the Library,” the stakes are high but amateur sleuth Kit Marshall and her team are up to the challenge.

In “Larceny at the Library,” there’s no dearth of suspects—including a member of Congress—and Kit and her cohorts have their hands full, checking out alibis that “have more holes than Swiss cheese” and exploring the “eccentricities and foibles” of a host of characters. Could the guilty party be an insider with a grudge? A demented history buff? A terrorist?

Even the magnificent architecture of the Jefferson Building can’t disguise the fact that there’s some ugliness afoot. “This is the Library of Congress,” says one suspect. “People don’t die here. This is where they come to learn.” But will Kit learn the truth in time to save her husband’s reputation, let alone herself? In the end, it becomes a race to find the killer before the killer finds her.

Colleen Shogan previously worked as a staffer in the US Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress. She is currently the Senior Vice President at the White House Historical Association and Director of the David Rubenstein Center for White House History. This is her sixth Washington Whodunit mystery, with a seventh, “Dead as a Duck,” scheduled for publication later this summer.


Mutton Again?

In 1866, a Cockney named Arthur Orton returned to his native London from Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Except he arrived not as Orton but as Roger Tichborne, long-lost heir to a family fortune who had drowned more than a decade before in a shipwreck. Never mind that there was little resemblance between the two men (Orton weighed 364 pounds to Tichborne’s 140) or that the imposter’s knowledge of Tichborne’s life displayed considerable gaps.

Improbably, Orton was able to garner widespread popular support, holding rallies at which he whipped up mobs with claims of “a vast Jesuit conspiracy” and allusions to secret forces and sordid acts going on behind the scenes. Even his base couldn’t save him, though, and the “slippery scoundrel” went to prison for his lies.

Orton is just one of the “outrageous and fascinating Victorians” whose court case is examined by Tom Zaniello in “Saints and Sinners in Queen Victoria’s Courts: Ten Scandalous Trials.” The trials he presents provide insights into some of the era’s preoccupations—“Catholic-Protestant struggles, architectural extravagances, genealogical obsessions, and inheritance anxiety”—and highlight some of the prominent personalities who were frequently involved in legal wrangles.

Tom Zaniello examines ten controversial and scandalous trials in “Saints and Sinners in Queen Victoria’s Courts.

Zaniello provides ample background on the history and culture of the times, but it’s when he delves into the juicy details of the court cases that he really brings the Victorian era to life. Who could resist the story of a nun who refused to leave her order and was punished by, among other indignities, being served mutton every day for two years? “Her meals were always the same disgusting mutton—’lukewarm, then lukewarm and fatty, next lukewarm, fatty, and the leavings of others’ plates,’” as she testified.”

“Saints and Sinners in Queen Victoria’s Courts” gives us a rare glimpse into the controversies, large and small, that made their way into the courtrooms of 19th-century Britain and the intriguing, nefarious, and sometimes hapless characters who were caught up in them.

Tom Zaniello is a former professor of literature and film studies who has organized film festivals at the Hill Center as well as for the London and Liverpool Film Festivals. He is the author of numerous essays and books on film studies, literature, and popular culture, including “The Cinema of the Precariat: The Exploited, Underemployed, and Temp Workers of the World.” Find him on Facebook @tzaniello.