Thursday, December 20, 2007

The War At Troy/ Lindsay Clarke


A most intricate and detailed telling of the Trojan War. Mr Clarke sure knows his Homer and you will really get to know those fabled mortals and gods that masterminded and acted this drama.
The problem of that pesky Golden Apple* that Eris, sister of the war god Ares, sent to the wedding feast of Peleus and Thetis as a gift (*the inscription was "To The Fairest" and it caused no end of problems and arguments in Olympus) because she alone was not invited comes into play as Paris is asked to make judgement as to who is the fairest among Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. All three goddesses made promises to Paris to induce him to chose but it was Aphrodite who showed him the face of Helen of Troy - and so was beguiled by her. The Story of the war and of Odysseus’ Trojan Horse has been told many times but the detail and background of the characters is fascinating: Helen - when Zeus saw the wife of the king of Sparta, Leda, Zeus changed into a swan, seduced Leda and sired the beautiful Helen. Paris - also beautiful is the son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of Hector and the dire forecaster, Cassandra. Because of a message from the gods, Paris ,an infant, was left to die in the woods but was suckled by a she bear and lived to eventually claim his birth right. Achilles, Menelaus, they are all there and we have a lively story. It is interesting that Alessandro Baricco (author of "Silk") wrote "An Illiad" not too long ago.

The Ghost/ Robert Harris


A very interesting and sometimes exciting novel about a British writer who is cajoled into "ghost writing" the biography of the very recently retired Prime Minister, Adam Lang, after the man originally hired to do the job is found dead from drowning under what might be considered mysterious circumstances. The author, clearly, has Tony Blair in mind as he deals with the question of why the Prime Minister embraced the Bush administration’s policies at every turn at great political risk to himself and to the dismay of the people of Great Britain. In his novel, Harris echoes those who think there might have been some obligatory reasons for the Prime Minister’s persistent allegiance to the US and he attempts a somewhat sinister motive that involves the American CIA.


The new ghost writer tells the story in first person; Lang and his wife have secluded themselves (with security and entourage) at Martha’s Vineyard in the home of a wealthy publisher to work on his memoirs. He has been offered the unheard of sum of ten million dollars for the finished product. Soon after our new ghost writer and narrator arrives at the estate , the International Criminal Court of the Hague announces to the world that they have indicting evidence to support an investigation into the former Prime Minister’s collusion with the CIA in the capture and mistreatment (torture-water boarding) of some terrorist suspects. While this would seem to put the memoirs into a cocked hat, the publisher, seeing a marketing opportunity, puts pressure on the writer to finish his work even sooner than planned.
The Lang team persuades Lang to go to Washington to seek support from powerful congress people and the administration. This turns out to be a bad move in the eyes of the Brits who think he should have come home and seek the support of his own people.


The ghost writer has now examined the notes and research of his predecessor and has interviewed Lang and his wife. There are things that need explaining; when he finds, on the back of a photograph, the cell phone number of Lang’s most critical and dangerous political opponent, he violates the neutral position a ghost writer must take and begins an investigation. The investigation and subsequent interviews reveal Lang’s close association with the CIA, and the writer begins to suspect that the former writer was following the same trail and was killed because of the things he learned. So the novel works it way on to a thriller with a tidy and interesting climax. In this story, the PM has an affair with a member of his cabinet and the PM’s wife has a one night stand with our ghost writer


I think it was a good read; Harris was politically involved with Tony Blair as he rose to become Prime Minister.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Biking and Swimming Stats

It has been some eighteen months, now since I had my knees replaced and I am pleased that I have pedaled 800 miles in mostly 10 to 15 mile trips. I achieved my goal of a 30 mile ride: I am swimming 1200 yards and set a goal for 1750. The new knees are part of me now so there will be no need to talk about them further. I am most grateful to Doctor Craig Ferrell , as fine a surgeon and human being I ever had the pleasure of knowing and those who supported me through the recovery.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Those Three Remain/ Pamela Aiden


I am posting this as a reference for a fellow Jane Austen admirer

Ms Aidan is a librarian and long time fan of Jane Austen. So much so that she wrote a trilogy
giving more color and depth and history to the characters of "Pride and Prejudice" and even made up a few more people. As usual, I found and read the last in her series subtitled "Fitzwilliam Darcy - Gentleman".

This novel picks up the story when Mr. Darcy makes his horribly stupid proposal to Elizabeth Bennet and he is, of course rejected. Darcy decides that he must change his attitude and ways and become a person that Ms Bennet could admire and, perhaps, love. The novel is fair and faithful to Jane Austin’s work and includes many of the original, poignant passages but it also creates some reasonable scenarios and details relating to what Darcy actually did to help the Bennet family (all for the love of Elizabeth) and gives plausible answers to questions one might have about what went through Darcy’s mind. I enjoyed it a lot probably because I liked the original novel so much. I will not, however, go back to the earlier novels of the trilogy.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Desert Crucible/ Zane Grey


After finishing my last post about "Lonigan" I want to tell about another Western author who is another favorite. You, really, should read "Riders" first

After the wild success of "Riders of The Purple Sage", Zane Grey was asked to write a sequel. He did so in 1915 but his publishers edited the story and removed parts that they thought would offend certain readers or, perhaps, outside groups put pressure on them. (Political correctness in 1915?) Zane Grey had some extremely harsh things to say about the Mormon religion which showed in "Riders". The idea of the Mormons kidnaping young girls and hiding them away as "sealed wives" was an abomination to Grey and he had equal opinions about the way missionaries and priests tried to take away the religion of the Indians and replace it with something completely foreign to them.

This book was published several years later ; exactly as Zane Grey wrote the original.
We left "Riders" after the wonderful ride through the plain and after Lassiter pushed the huge rock that sealed him and Jane Withersteen and the young child Fay Larkin in "Surprise Valley".
Bern Venters, Jane’s hand at her ranch and his wife Bess moved on to Illinois and met a man called Sheffield. Sheffield was a troubled minister who lost his faith in the traditional religion and was kicked out of his church. He was befriended by Venters who told Sheffield the story of Lassiter, Jane and Fay. Sheffield became intrigued with the story and made his mind up to find "Surprise Valley" In his travels he heard another story that chilled him; the Mormons who Lassiter and Jane were escaping from never gave up their hunt for them and years after they sealed themselves in "Surprise Valley" the Mormons found a way into the valley and they forced young Fay to go with them, become a Mormon and a "sealed wife" on the threat that they would hang Lassiter and kill Jane who they called an atheist. Sheffield vowed to rescue them. The adventures were many; hardships on the trail and mixed joy when he finally found and rescued Fay. He met many people and made good friends among them an old Indian who helped Sheffield get his mind and spirit together. The Mustangs played an important role in the story. He made enemies that he had to fight. He found a religion.

Zane Greys wonderful descriptions of the land, the mountains and colorful valleys, his imagery of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River and the "Rainbow Bridge" surely indicate his love for the West. This is another great story; a moral play without preaching.

Lonigan/ Louis L'Amour


A collection of short stories reflecting the movement of cattle (cattle drives)from Texas to the various shipping points in Kansas, the lives and nature of the men who drove the cattle, their lives in the bunkhouse,on the range, in the saloons and in the towns.
L’Amour’s heros are always strong, polite to women, hard fighters and handy with a gun. They take no nonsense from bullies or hardened cowboys looking for mischief. His women are, also, strong and independent, able to live in the rough country and although they usually dislike their hero at first, the learn to admire and love him.
Louis L’Amour has written over 100 tales of the West, they all reflect his love of the country and the people. More of a formula writer than Zane Grey but his tales capture good and the bad in moving and exciting adventures. I have been reading him for a long time and when I find one I have missed I know that I will have an exciting couple of hours immersed in his adventure.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Archer King/ Reyna Thera Lorele


A pagan Robin Hood. An interesting retelling of this favorite adventure.
Robin of Loxley returns to England with close friend, Wlll Scarlok, tired and disenchanted with the years wasted in killing and plundering doing "Gods duty" in the holy lands. The whereabouts of King Richard are unknown and he finds his lands confiscated by the Holy Church and learns that his father was burned as a heretic.
John, Richard’s brother is exploiting the people aided by the church and the evil sheriff of Nottingham The beautiful Maerin is in a convent awaiting marriage to an obnoxious underling of the King. She will be sorely tested when she meets Robin after many years because she was raised in the church and he follows the Wiccan ways and the rituals of the Druids. They love one another but they have these obstacles to overcome
So it is off to the forest where Robin joins others who are hiding from John’s law. The names are a bit different but it is the same familiar group doing much the same thing but some of the scenes are more "R" rated than one might be used to in the older stories. Robin’s death is centered around a pagan blood ceremony; it was never witnessed by Maerin who, after Robin told her of a dream relating to his death, left him and returned to the convent.
I think that after growing up on Earl Flynn as Robin Hood this version was not really to my Liking.

The Art Thief/ Noah Charney


An interesting but very complex first novel by a young writer who holds degrees in art history and who, also, chairs an organization that studies art crimes.
The disappearance of a major work of Caravaggio from a church in Rome, the discovery, in Paris, that a valuable painting by a Russian who specializes in "White-on-White" art is missing and a theft, in London, of an Art Museum’s most recent acquisition only hours after they had paid over six million pounds for it at an auction, are almost simultaneous and as it turns out are all connected.
The various police organizations that specialize in art theft and art experts from each country begin their investigation into what becomes a mystery, a puzzle, and a conspiracy. The removal of the paintings had been planned very carefully, ingenious, actually. Forgeries, substitution, overpainting, deception and surprising complicities are revealed as the "art detectives" and the police go about their business. The author has created some fascinating characters, whose personal and professional lives add depth and knowledge to the overall investigation.
Learn about art, listen as our "art experts" lecture and discuss various works of art in the art museum and over some long and provocative lunches in Paris and London restaurants and watch them solve some interesting puzzles. This is probably the best part of the novel although, Mr Charney tends to use his didactic abilities a little too much.

One Thousand White Women/ Jim Fergus


In 1874, a Cheyenne Chief named Little Wolf and several other Chiefs met with President Grant and other officials and the Press to discuss a peace proposal. The Chief began by explaining that, among his tribe, it is tradition that every newborn baby belongs to the tribe of his mother. This is a good thing, he said, because the child will be brought up understanding the customs of the mother’s tribe but will be welcome in the tribe of his father. Little Wolf asked that the President give to the Cheyenne one thousand white women who would marry Cheyenne men and whose children would be brought up in the white man culture and thus creating an understanding and peace between the two peoples. The Cheyenne, in return, would pay one thousand horses for the women. The proposal which was an historical fact, was rejected and the press pandered to the outrage that Little Wolf’s proposal caused.


Our author, Jim Fergus, seized on the idea and created a fascinating historical, imaginative novel about what happened after the proposal was made:


When the public read about the outrageous proposal, the President started to receive thousands of letters from women from all walks of life stating that they would be willing to participate in the "Brides for Indians" program. So many, that President Grant finally decided that the program might just help the peace effort which was not going very well (the Cheyenne were attacking settlers going West) but the Government, in their wisdom(?), made it a secret project. There were many reasons that the women were willing to go and live with the Indians and the agency set out to interview the candidates. They were also willing to give the selected candidates release from jail and release from mental institutions (if the candidates were not too crazy).
The story is narrated through the journal of a woman named May Dodd who was wrongly placed in a mental institution by her parents because May left home to live with a man she loved and had two children out of wedlock causing her socialite parents much scandal. May was abandoned by her family, she lost her children and thought that she was destined to spend the rest of her life in asylum; she applied and was selected for the "BFI" program. The journal describes the very colorful collection of women that accompany her as the first group of brides and we learn the various reasons both sad and humorous as to why the women volunteered .


The journal begins with May’s release from the asylum and tells the story of the initial journey to an outpost in Kansas Territory and on to the Indian village where the women take up their lives in the Indian village as wives of Cheyenne braves.
Entertaining and funny descriptions of the women, their backgrounds, their strengths and their weaknesses, their hardships, intimate details of the lives they lead as wives in a communal lodge with their husbands’s other wives and the dishonesty and deception of the Government and the Army as they cheat the Indians out of their promised land and possessions in total disregard of their treaties. They even lie about the "BFI" program. The journal includes the hypocrisy of the clergy assigned to the project by the Government. While the clergy was supposed to support the women, they looked down upon the women and felt that their prime mission was to teach Christianity to the "heathen savages". They also had "special" and secret instructions from the Government.


The project, of course, was doomed to failure because the two races were too far apart; the situation in the Black Hills, the discovery of gold and the mad rush into Indian Territory resulted in a public outcry for the Army to protect the settlers and a massacre and rounding up of all Indians to a reservation resulted. The peaceful "BFI " village was invaded and devastated by a huge contingent of U.S. troops. May was fatally wounded while trying to escape but her journal is finally passed on to her children.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Uncommon Reader By Alan Bennett


I know that Ms Moonrat has already commented on this but I loved every page so........ (I really like Alan Bennett too) Then, again, it might be my advanced age, ha


Witty, humorous, and elegantly written, this satire about Queen Elizabeth discovering the pleasure of reading and confounding the people at the palace, particularly those who govern her life (non readers) as well as the public who are used to getting simple questions from Her Majesty "where did you come from?, did you drive far?", and now they are asked "what have you read lately?", was a joy to savor. (Wow!, that was a Proust - like sentence)
While chasing her Corgies on the palace grounds, Her Majesty discovers a mobile library parked near the kitchen of the palace. She stops in and meets the driver and a single patron, a young boy, Norman who works in the kitchen. The Queen supposes that "One should be duty bound to borrow a book when in a library" but she is not sure what to pick. She has never been particularly interested in reading; she felt that she was a "doer" and reading was something better left for other people. The young boy mentions several authors and prefaces that he is partial to Gay writers. Queen makes a decision, takes her book to the palace and feigning illness to get out of the heavy schedule for the day, reads her book and wants more. Each time she visits the mobile library, Norman is there; she decides to elevate Norman to some kind of page in her personal quarters where they can discuss books and Norman can go to other libraries for chosen volumes. This does not set well with the palace people. The Queens books begin to disappear and the mobile library is mysteriously routed away from the palace. The more Her Majesty reads, the less interested she becomes in the mundane duties she is asked to perform. She, now has a journal and makes notes on what she reads and she is forever embarrassing her associates and even her Prime Minister with quotations and questions about classical works. Rumors abound and Her secretary and the PM are wondering if the Queen is becoming senile. Norman is "promoted" and sent on to College while the Queen is away on an extended trip. When she returns she is surprised and saddened and suspicious. The PM and others close to her put more and more pressure on her to fall back, as it were, to when she was the more "traditional" Queen. She manages, however, and even threatens to write a book and that causes the PM and party to threaten her with constitutionality and precedence. The Queen rises to the occasion very well.

I enjoyed this Novella, only 128 pages but all were fast moving, interesting and, certainly, gave pause for thought. I thought it was funny when the Queen was discussing Proust and his "Madeline's" as he dipped them in his tea and his past life came to mind; the Queen said "she tried it but it did nothing for her" Alan Bennett wrote the play "The Madness of King George" that was a riot!

Stolen In The Night BY Patricia MacDonald


Rob and Dawn DeGraff and their three children Jake, Tess and Phoebe are on a camping trip. One night, the two girls were to share a tent with their older brother but the brother decided to sneak out to go to town. That night, a man cut a hole in the girl’s tent and terrorized Tess with a knife telling her that if she cries out, he will kill her sister. Phoebe is abducted. When Tess is, finally able to tell her parents about the incident, she said that she got a close look at the man. When she described the man the to the sheriff , the Sheriff immediately thought of a well known bad character who had a reputation of being a pervert. The man, Lazarus Abbott is arrested and they find Phoebe’s blood on his clothes. Phoebe is found dead; she had been abused. Tess testified at Lazarus’ trial and it was her testimony that caused the jury to convict. Lazarus got the death penalty and was executed.


Twenty years later, Tess receives news that Lazarus’ mother, after years of trying, finally convinced the Governor to run a DNA test on the old evidence and the results are to be made public within the week.


The test is somewhat ambiguous but it is enough to prove that Lazarus did not rape Phoebe and enough to reopen the case. Poor Tess is accused of sending an innocent man to jail and death. She is still convinced that she did not make a mistake in identifying Lazarus but every one begins to wonder; "she was only a frightened child, maybe she was mistaken". Tess begins her own investigation starting with old news accounts and pictures and talking to some of the people originally involved in the case. Tess postulates a theory and begins a dangerous and terrifying investigation where she learns that there could have been more than one man involved in the rape and killing. At the same time, the Sheriff, bowing to political pressure, is looking for a scape goat and he accuses Tess of lying and covering up the actions of her father or even her brother....... Tess' young son is then kidnaped; she begins to suspect the sheriff. There is a hunt for the boy: with accusations all around, Tess does not know who to trust.


Tense action, a few wrong turns, some surprises and a chilling and deadly climax makes this a satisfying thriller.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Favorite Author: Arturo Perez Reverte

As I look at some of the wonderful blogs about books published on "blogspot", I realize that I made a mess of mine because it is too hard to find anything specific. I am learning but pleases be patient with me.

I would like to make a few comments on this author:

"The Fencing Master" I found this on Claudia’s bookshelf, I read it and wanted more. Reverto is
a Spanish writer who, after the somewhat dark but exciting "Fencing Master," created a new character:
"Captain Alatriste" Set in 17th century Madrid , Alastriste is a kind of mercenary with a doubtful past that you are not sure you like very well at first . He has "lived" a lot and is somewhat cynical and cantankerous but when he gets into a mission (for money) he is a pretty interesting guy.
"Purity of Blood" The second in the series; Alatriste is off to save a damsel in distress. A wicked and powerful priest has taken a girl in a convent and is using her as his personal concubine. He has threatened to reveal that the girl’s father is a Jew and destroy the family name. Alastriste has his work cut out. Do not miss the poems at the end of the book!! "Lascivious Padre, salacious and promiscuous - Would it not serve you better to be religious? "......"Must you skewer every ewe among your flock? That sacred staff of yours, your treasure You must find raw, abraded beyond measure......"

It was after I read those that I got his earlier works, "The Queen of THe South".The Flanders Panel, "The Nautical Chart, and "Club Dumas". He has created some very strong and independent women characters as foils to his heroic male protaganists. I admire his versality.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Neat Way to Share Your Books

If your library shelves are bulging there probably are some books that you will not reread and they are probably yearning to be picked up and read and enjoyed. So set them free; go to this nice Website called "Book Crossing" and see how it is done. Who knows where your books may finally end up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Memories on Veteran's Day











When I was in school we called this day Armistice Day and at 11: AM we were in assembly remembering November 11th, 1918 and " the war to end all wars". The day became Remembrance Day and Poppy day and now Veteran's Day - how many more wars to Armageddon?


I was stationed in Germany at a Weather Station when I received orders to report to an Air Force base in Dakar, Senegal French West Africa. On the way down, I met Bernie who soon became my very best friend. Together, we reported to the small AF Base with no more than 20 enlisted men and seven officers, There were a number of civilian government employees doing various jobs. We met the three Senegalese natives that assisted in the weather station; Makam, Gay and Franscois. There was another character that hung around the weather station, a giant of a man who helped wherever there were heavy chores. He wore only trousers and many charms hanging around his neck and on his arms. He called them "giddigiddis"; each one had a specific purpose: for good health, for boucoup pickannies, to protect against knife cuts..... his name will come to me. We were a team and we conducted the affairs of the station making weather observations, sending up balloons to track the winds aloft and other data and creating and posting weather maps and sending our weather data over teletype. We made our own hydrogen gas and took turns wearing the telephone head set as we watched the progress of the balloon and reporting the azimuths to the one who would graph the movements. Once, we tied a rope to a monkey and sent him up with the balloon; only for a short distance then we brought him down. The flight officer was Captain Murphy who called us Wigee Birds alluding to forecasting weather with a wigee board Bernie was big Wigee and I was Little Wigee. We had a B17 that we sometimes would ride in to take observations. From time to time we would fly down to Roberts Field in Monrovia. There was a Firestone plantation there and we would get bananas and exchange our script (that's what we were paid; just paper) for real dollars. We bought a little Chimpanzee down there and named him "Jimmy". "Jimmy" was a friendly little fellow and every one liked him; we took him everywhere even to the movies and the beach. Yoff Beach was where we played; once, a group of us took a big truck out to the beach and we met another group who wanted to go into town for some reason. We went along with them and left the truck. That night, after the movie, some one remembered "the truck!!!." We went to the beach, the tide was in and only the top of the truck was above water. I volunteered to take the winch cable out to the truck, the old man who knew the beach and the water ( he called me "the white picaninnie" because I was so dark from the sun) went out with me. Just before we went into the water a huge jelly fish, it had the be two and a half feet in diameter, washed up. That's all I could think of as we dragged that cable through the water. As soon as it was attached, we jumped in the cab and the wrecker pulled us in.

Dakar was the capital city of Senagal; a sea port town; very active. Lucky Strike cigarettes and Parker 51 fountain pens always fetched the best price ( we bought cigarettes for 5 cents a pack at the base PX). The Rue Raffenale was one of the more interesting areas in town, that's where all the bawdy houses were; The Parisian Bar was a favorite for some of the officers and several times I was called upon to go into town and pick up some one who couldn't manage to get home the night before. Some times I would take "Jimmy", the ladies really liked him . No, I was only nineteen and probably looked fifteen and the ladies called me a "baby", so I did not partake.

We had horses on the base and we rode along the beach; this was really fun and easy duty. We found an old shack on the base that had chemicals and a printer so we developed film and printed our pictures. I lost most of my pictures when I was transferred to Austria and was hit by a truck and went back to the States in a body cast - but that's another story.




Monday, November 12, 2007

Books 11/12/07

"Mary Mary" James Patterson
This is a 2005 Alex Cross mystery. The time is after Alex was involved in "London Bridges. He is on vacation at Disney Land in California with his family when The head of the FBI calls him and apologetically asks Alex to "just spend a few hours to look at a high profile murder as a big favor" A famous movie star and her chauffeur were found shot to death; the woman’s face was mutilated with a knife. Cross finds himself deep into what becomes a search for a vicious serial killer. An editor for the L.A. Times begins to get e-mails from the killer signed "Mary Smith". Forensic evidence seems to support the theory that the killer is a woman.
As usual, Alex’s personal life takes another bad turn; while his grandmother Nana and his children understand he has an important job they do not like to have him away so much and the memory of the death of Alex’s first wife being killed by a man Alex was pursuing and the kidnapping of his second wife Christine (now estranged) are very much in their mind and Christine is, again, taking action to get permanent custody of their son Alex Jr. These conflicts are always part of the "Cross" stories.
There are more killings but no one can find a pattern and the L.A. Police and Alex seem helpless as prominent Hollywood and L.A. people are brutally murdered. Alex is not totally convinced that the killer is a woman but he has nothing to back up his feeling. E-mails continue until the Times editor, himself becomes a victim.
We, also, follow the thoughts and actions of the killer throughout the story; it is a man with a very clever plan. It is not until the police find a woman suspect that they eventually arrest and using DNA match the forensic evidence to her that the action takes a quick turn and Alex, after interviewing the woman pursues another exciting line of investigation. A good "Cross" novel; it is fun to go back a few years with a developing character to see what was happening "back when", particularly, if you missed the novel when it originally came out.



"The Pest House" Jim Crace
A cataclysmic event, not explained has turned the United States into a sparsely populated wasteland. Land is contaminated people are sick and dying and there is severe weather and earth quakes. Those that have survived are trying to get to the East coast and Europe.
Two brothers, Franklin and Jackson started the trek with only a minimum of supplies and are suffering for it. The stronger brother leaves Franklin to go ahead to find food and get help for Franklin who has hurt his knee. Franklin, miserable from pain and weather, comes upon a stone house where he meets a woman, Margaret, who was sent to this "pesthouse" in isolation because of a sickness. The town people have been frightened by what they call "the flux"; they don’t know what is is or how to treat it except to remove all bodily hair from the victim, burn it and everything the person has touched and isolate the person until he or she either dies or gets well. This is a story of misery; author Jim Crace uses powerful imagery that carries the reader through the novel. Sadness and hope prevail, be prepared for vivid descriptions of people at their worst and at their best.

"Book of The Dead" Patrica Cornwell Published 2007

From America's # 1 bestselling crime writer comes the extraordinary new Dr. Kay Scarpetta novel. The "book of the dead" is the morgue log, a ledger in which all cases are entered by hand. For Kay Scarpetta, however, it is about to take on a new meaning. Fresh from her bruising battle with a psychopath in Florida, Scarpetta decides it's time for a change of pace, not only personally and professionally but geographically. Moving to the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, she opens a unique private forensic pathology practice, one in which she and her colleagues-including Pete Marino and her niece, Lucy-offer expert crime-scene investigation and autopsy services to communities lacking local access to modern, competent death investigation technology.
It seems like an ideal situation, until the new battles start-with local politicians, with entrenched interests, with someone whose covert attempts at sabotage are clearly meant to run Scarpetta out of town. And that's before the murders and other violent deaths even begin. br/> A young man from a well-known family jumps off a water tower. A woman is found ritualistically murdered in her multimillion-dollar beach home. The body of an abused young boy is discovered dumped in a desolate marsh. Meanwhile, in distant New England, problems with a prominent patient at a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital begin to hint at interconnections that are as hard to imagine as they are horrible. Kay Scarpetta has dealt with many brutal and unusual crimes before, but never a string of them as baffling, or as terrifying, as the ones confronting her now. Before she is through, that book of the dead will contain many names-and the pen may be poised to write in her own. The first name in forensics. The last name in suspense. Once again, Patricia Cornwell proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.

Alan's comments: This is the the exact language from the book cover of this very confusing novel, what do you think the story is about? The opening chapter describes, very graphically, a man, subjecting a young girl to torture and is terrorizing her before he kills her. It is inferred that the man might be a veteran from Iraq who was involved in the violent interrogation of prisoners and may have been traumatized by what went on. We kind of loose track of him as the story develops. Kay Scarpetta's companions continue to act like a dysfunctional family and the story spends too much time on their problems instead of focusing on the history and the motivation of the very disturbed killer. Many pages of dialog are filled with Ms Cornwall's rather impressive knowledge of forensics but they do not keep the story going. I was very disappointed in the novel. I went to my library and reread an earlier "Scarpetta" novel "Cruel and Unusual" and enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

11/06/07 Books

"The Fourth Order" Stephen Frey
A frightening story about an ultra secret government agency that was activated after 9/11 as an anti terrorist tool. This is the fourth time that "The Order of Immunity" formed after the assignation of president Lincoln has been made operational for the first time. The group, funded through a maze of corporations so no one can know where the money originates, headed by very high level government officials and soldiered by people with no moral scruples, are charged to route out terrorists without regard to due process. They can grab anyone they think might have information, they can detain, imprison, torture and kill anyone with complete immunity. They use their powers vigorously even though more than two thirds of the people they grab are innocent.
A Chief Financial officer of a multi billion dollar corporation is embarking on a hostile take over of a very technical computer service company. Hidden in this company is the operational apparatus of the Fourth Order and it’s sophisticated, world wide, computer spy system that can monitor all electronic and verbal communications giving the order nationwide and national surveillance ability. The powers in the Fourth Order do everything they can to try to stop this take over. The CFO and his family are placed in great jeopardy. The plot twists and turns; ruthless and evil people move in and out of the action. This is fiction but who really knows what kind of monsters we might really have doing hateful things in the guise of "protecting the people"? In this story they went much too far and it deteriorated to personal vendettas.


"The Flanders Panel" Arturo Perez-Reverte
Get your chess board out and set up your pieces to match the chess game in the painting called "The Game of Chess" by Pieter Van Huys in 1471. Julia, a painting restorer is working on this painting getting it ready for an auction when she discovers a message painted by the artist and hidden beneath a layer of paint. The message is rather cryptic; "Who Killed the Knight" in Latin. Julia is intrigued; the hidden message could increase the value of the painting considerably but more than that Julia is determined to find the meaning of the message. Research on the people who were portrayed in the painting showed that the two men playing chess and a woman who is watching the game had very interesting histories and one of the chess players was, actually, a knight. A master chess player is hired to analyze the game as it is set up in the painting to see if the chess game will yield clues to why the painter wrote the message. Was there, really, a murder? Who was murdered and by whom? Clues are unraveled as past and later moves are worked out by the chess master, move by move that can be followed on your own chess board.
Reverte has surrounded his mystery with interesting, self serving and colorful characters each of whom have an interest in the painting itself as it is made ready for an important art auction. Greed, murder,tense action and a couple of real surprises. Good read!!


"The Club Dumas" Arturo Perez-Reverte
An amazing, intelligently written, mystery and occult puzzle novel written by a favorite Spanish author. Books, writers, collectors and dealers in old and rare books are introduced into this story about a certain book dealer, Lucas Corso,an intense,cynical, chain smoking individual, who makes his living researching and finding and buying and selling books for a selected clientele. Lucas is hired to authenticate part of an original manuscript, some handwritten pages of "The Three Musketeers", written by Alexander Dumas ; Dumas was known to collaborate with others when he wrote his novels, hence the need for verification. As he goes about this task, he is engaged by a very wealthy collector, Varo Borja, to research a demonic book called "The Book of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" supposedly authored by Lucifer himself. The book is supposed to enable the owner, if he can figure out the puzzles, to meet the Devil and become all powerful. There are only three such volumes in existence and Corso is charged to examine each one in order to assure Borja that the one he has is genuine; he suspects it might be a forgery. (Perhaps, Borja tried to meet the Devil and the ritual did not work) Corso finds himself involved in a very complicated plot where he meets people that seem, to him, to resemble the main characters from the "Three Musketeers", a sensuous woman, the wife of the previous owner of the manuscript, that he identifies as Milady De Winter and a man who is a companion of the woman he thinks of as Rocheforte.
At the same time, as he begins to compare the second of the Book of the Nine Gates, he discovers that while the binding, the paper and the print are identical, there are slight differences in the nine prints. He also discovers that some of the prints were originated by the publisher and others were originated by another person "LCF" (Lucifer?). Corso is followed and threatened by the person he thinks of as Rocheforte but each time he is in danger, he is rescued by a strange young girl who is following him. As the story progresses, death and destruction of their libraries come to the two other owners of the Book of Nine Gates; the books are destroyed in fire but the prints were removed prior to burning the books. Corso finds himself in the middle of a twisting plot that involves devil worship, occult practices and a secret organization of Alexander Dumas' fanatical admirers.
This was a fascinating novel; the plot was complex and the climax was interesting and throughout the book there were lively discussions between Corso and book dealers and book collectors where literally hundreds of novels and author’s works were discussed or quoted from and great care was taken in the story to show the sources that Corso and others used as they researched both the manuscript and the occult book. The book discussions and the quotations scattered throughout the story were extremely well done.
This novel was adapted into a film by Roman Polanski. Johnny Depp played Corso in this dark and exciting movie called "The Ninth Gate". Get the DVD; Johnny Depp's portrayal of Corso was exact and excellent.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On Line Audiobook Download

For readers in the state of Tennessee, your library card will get you this.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

10/31/07 (6)

"Night work"; Steve Hamilton

A probation Officer, Joe Thrumble, takes pride in keeping young kids he calls 'Knuckle Heads' out of prison. He always gives the kids the benefit of the doubt and his recommendations to the court are almost always followed. Sometimes, he looses one. Joe lives above a boxing gym and keeps in shape by sparing with boxers. His best friend is a cop. Two years ago, Joe's fiance, Laurel was brutally murdered and Joe has had no personal life until now, he meets a woman , Marlene, on a blind date and they both are attracted to one another.The day after their date, the woman is found murdered. The police bring in two special investigators to investigate because the killing is very similar to another very recent killing. Joe is interviewed because he was the last person to see Marline. Another murder occurs, this time is is some one related to one of Joe's cases; Joe is interrogated again. Then there is another strangulation; Joe's home is searched and evidence causes the police to see Joe as a prime suspect. They even reopen the old murder of Joe's fiance. It is a nightmare for Joe and he knows that he must find out who has set him up and why. This is a well written and conceived mystery.

"The Mummy Case (Amelia Peabody Mysteries)";"Elizabeth Peters

Radcliffe Emerson, the irascible husband of fellow archaeologist Amelia Peabody, has earned the nickname 'Father of Curses'—and in Mazghunah he demonstrates why. Denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, he and Amelia are resigned to excavating mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. But before long Amelia, Emerson, and their precocious son, Ramses, find themselves entangled in The Mummy Case . In Cairo, before setting out to the site, Amelia visits an antiquities dealer to inquire about some papyri for her brother-in-law, Walter. At the dealer's shop she interrupts a mysterious-sounding conversation. And then, even more alarmingly, the dealer attempts to refuse to sell her a scrap of papyrus Ramses discovers in the back room. When the dealer is found dead in his shop just a day later, Amelia becomes convinced that foul play is at hand. This is an early chapter in the 'Peabody' series; I read the book in 1985 but it was published again in hard cover about a month ago. Why? I do not know. While Ms Peters who is a PHD graduate in Egyptology can tell a very interesting story about Egypt and the characters who were excavating in the Valley of the Kings a few years before Carter found Tutankhamen (1922), it is her 'Emerson & Peabody' family that she lovingly created that takes center stage in her mysteries and adventures. I am afraid that if some one unfamiliar with her works reads this 'new' book, they might be turned off by a lisping child who can read and translate demonic papyri and can speak Arabic and his doting parents. You have to start at the beginning with this series. You will either like her or not.

Monday, October 29, 2007

AuthorsIV

James Patterson
He is one of Becca’s favorites. From "Along Came a Spider"and "Kiss the Girls" to" London Bridges", The Alex Cross mysteries should not be missed.. Others we liked:
"Cradle and All"
"When The Wind Blows"
"The Lake House"
"See How They Run"


Edmond Rostand
His wonderful play "Cyrano De Bergerac" about a swordsman, poet, soldier; who thinks himself ugly because of his huge nose. He soothes his unrequited love by acting as a writer of love letters for Christian a young soldier in his regiment who loves Cyrano’s love, Roxanne. The dialogue and poetry is wonderful. Cyrano and Christian go to war and Cyrano continues to write letters to Roxanne every day and risks death to post them. Christian is killed in battle and Roxanne goes to a convent.I recently found a French DVD which tells the story fairly.
Touching part when Cyrano, mortally wounded, reads Christian’s last letter "Tonight I die" to Roxanne and she realizes who actually wrote all those letters.


Lillian Jackson Braun
While her books titled "The Cat Who.............." are very readable, you must get the John Guidell readings on "Books on Tape". No one could do it better than that old pro; he reads all of them and when you hear him you will be enchanted by the tales of Moose County with Qwilleran, KoKo, and Yum yum the two Siamese cats and all of the funny folk he interacts with. Ms Braun keeps on writing..


Erik Larson
"The Devil in The White City" A killer who preys on women in Chicago at the time of the Columbian Exposition. Chicago has won the contest against New York City to hold the Worlds Fair. It is a growing city with it’s very rich and it’s very poor: the evil person takes advantage of the chaos in the
South Side of Chicago. Interesting to read about people and places that are a part of Chicago history.


Isiac Asimov
He was the master of science fiction; a professor of chemistry and physics, it was he that first created robots and the "Law of Robotics", hyper drive for inter stellar travel and many other "tools’ that all the other science fiction writers use in their craft.
I read all the "Robot" series I would like to read them again but they are hard to find; ‘Pebble In The Sky", the classic "Foundation" series, and "The End of Eternity"were the ones I enjoyed most.


Colleen McCullough
"The Thorn Birds"
Called by some "The Australian Gone with The Wind", it tells the story of The land, Drogheda the station, a self serving priest, Ralph DeBricasirt, the Cleary family and Meggie.. I reread this one: I love Meggie but I hate her selfishness. McCullough has many, many books to her credit: I have only read this one.


Nevil Schute
"A Town Called Alice", An English girl goes to Malaya to build a well for the people; The Japanese occupy the land and force a group of women and children to walk to a concentration camp. She meets a man named "Joe" who comes from a town called "Alice" which is in Australia. After the war she goes to find Joe. A love story.

"On The Beach" The "A" Bomb has been dropped !! Folks are living their last days! A chilling story set in Australia.


Richard Burton
"Arabian Nights " The tales of Scheherezade; Jeanne introduced me to Burton and later I found another translator who claims that his version is closer to the original collection - who cares!, the stories in both are fantastic. I prefer Burton because he includes "Sinbad The Sailor", "Aladdin and The Lamp" and several other very funny stories. Read "How AbuBen Adiem Brake Wind"

Conan Doyle
I guess everyone has read his collection of Sherlock Holmes. I always liked "The Hound of The Baskervilles". When I write Elizabeth Peters fan mail I always remind her that, I too, am a fan of Conan Doyle because she is a great fan.
They made some fine movies about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson with Basel Rathbone in the staring role.

Steven Saylor
"Roman Blood"
Gordianus, a kind of Roman detective, is hired by Cicero to investigate a murder. A very interesting view of Roman life , it’s politics and intrigues.


"Catalina’s Riddle"
Catalina was a political rival of Cicero; Gordanius is hired to discover more about Catalina and why he was disgraced.
Plutarchs Lives
I did not stay with it very long; I learned about "Lycurgus" of Sparta, "Pericles" the orator and supposed builder of Athens and "Alexander the Great" of Macedonia. "Lives" is a source book for me.


Beowolf
He was a great swimmer and fighter of monsters. First Grendel and then Grendel’s mother. The old English poem was difficult to read. Michael Crichton made a very interesting movie loosely based on the story called "Eaters of The Dead" "The 13th Warrior. I have the DVD.


Michael Crichton
"Congo" Intelligent Apes
"Timeline" Time travel; well researched and very well done!
"Jurassic Park"
"The Andromeda Strain"
"Sphere"
He did a bunch; "Congo" and "Timeline are my favorites

Authors III

Diana Gabaldon
Her first novel was "Highlander"a spell binding read about Clair, an ex Army combat nurse who was climbing rocks in the Scottish Highlands in the year 1945. When she entered an ancient stone circle she was magically transported back in time to 1773 right smack in the middle of the English- Scottish war. She is captured and then rescued by a Scot named Jamie. She joins his group of rebels falls in love and has a torrid love affair with Jaime which goes on and on and on in great detail. Gablaldon writes a lot about "heaving breasts and swelling nipples"; any way, her adventures with Jaime and his clan go through the years through at least five novels. The first and the next two "Dragonfly in Amber" and "Voyager"were the best but I read each one as she writes them.


Ernest Hemingway
Every time we go to Key West we take the tour of the "Hemingway House and look at the rooms, the six toed cats, the grounds and listen to the same old people saying the same old things about Hemingway and Pauline and his other wives. He came from Oak Park, Illinois the same suburb of Chicago that my Dad grew up in. My favorite is "The Sun Also Rises"; I liked "Farewell to Arms", ‘The Green Hills of Africa" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" (I always like hunting stories although both were kind of sad) I have never read "The Old Man and The Sea" but I have listened to an audio book.


John Grisham
Everyone reads Grisham!! His first novel "A Time To Kill" is unforgettable, I read "Pelican Brief", "The Firm", and "The Rainmaker"all of which I enjoyed very much and the delightful "The Painted House" which was a departure from his lawyer stories but well done. "The Broker" was also very good.


Tom Clancey
He came out like a bombshell with "Hunt for The Red October" and it’s prequel/sequel "Cardinal of The Kremlin" Everyone talked about those two books! I also liked:
"Patriot Games"
"The Sum of All Fears"
"Clear and Present Danger"
Clancey often gets much too technical for me, to the point that it interferes with the story but he is a great adventure and thriller writer.


Stephen King
The King of horror stories. My two Favorites of all the King’s are "It" and Salem’s Lot".
I thought "Pet Sematary" was one of the scariest stories I ever read, "Skeleton Crew" was a neat short story collection. "Cojo" was kind of scary. I do not follow King in everything he writes.


Francois Marie Arouet Voltair
I read a very interesting biography of Arouet for a college course which took me to: "Candide" (The optimist).It was an ironic play; Dr. Panglos, a philosopher and Candide’s mentor felt that no matter what happens everything will be Ok in "this most wonderful of all possible worlds".Lots of bad things happened, Panglos got syphilis from a girlfriend , Candide’s love Cuneqond, was stolen and raped and Candide went on a search for her with a companion, Cacambo who was much like Cervante’s Sancho Panza was for Don Quixote as he searched for the gentle Dulcina. More characters than I could keep up with but I got the gist of the play.


Robert Louis Stevenson
"The world is so full of wonderful things, I’m sure we should be as happy as kings" Stevenson wrote many poems; I only remember this one line. I do remember":
"Treasure Island"
"Kidnaped"
"Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde"
"The Master of Ballantrane"

Sir Walter Scott
"Ivanhoe" A medieval classic of knights and jousts. A good boy’s story
"Rob Roy" A little more serious story of a Scotsman’s problems with land owners and the fight in defense of the Stewarts


S.S. VanDine
He was an early detective story writer- I found his books in the Elmhurst Library when I was a kid. Philo Vance was the name of his master sleuth. I read the shelf; I wonder if any of his books from1934 are still around?


Ellery Queen
Another early mystery writer. Ellery was a "deduction" detective like Sherlock Holmes. I remember that his father was a police chief and Ellery didn’t do anything but help his father. We listened to a lot of his plays on radio after the authors Frederick Dannay and Drury Lee were established. They wrote maybe 50 novels starting in 1932.


Irving Wallace
Wallace was born in Chicago. His novels usually had a lot of sex in them. One of his early novels was "The Chapman Report" which was based on the Kinsey studies (Kinsey was writing papers on human sexuality) Then he wrote "The Seven Minutes" guess what that time span covers. He also wrote some interesting Historical\biblical\fiction novels - lost bible pages, priestly imposters - He wrote "The Miracle" loosely based on the story of Bernadette and he wrote "The Prize" about a man who is to receive the Nobel Prize. Still going strong but I have not read him in a while.


Charles Dickens
"The Tale of Two Cities" The first Dickens I read; "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times"; I will always remember Sidney Carlton, his unrequited love for Lucy and the "far, far better thing" he did when he went to the guillotine for the man that Lucy loved.. I also remember, clearly, the woman in the wine shop, the woman who knits, Madam De Farge

"Little Dorrit" I read the novel in a series of 100 year old magazines that were published in England between 1855 and 1857. Aunt Kate, in Tullahoma let me read them. I helped her sell them to a rare book firm in London. Poor Amy (Little Dorrit), her father was falsely imprisoned in debtors prison. The story follows Dicken’s criticism of the government and society of his time.
"Oliver Twist" My favorite characters were Fagen and The Artful Dodger. I also liked the pompous Mr Bumble and Nancy who was too a good person for Bill Sykes. Poor Oliver was a wimp.

"Nicholas Nickelby" When Nicholas’ father dies ,the family is penniless and Uncle Ralph (a bad guy) tries to take advantage of them. Nick goes to work at a boys school where he is mistreated by the school master Wackford Squeers - Don’t you just love that name!!!

"Great Expectations" Remember Pip and his brother in law Joe? Estella and Mrs.Havisham were my favorite characters. A great name in this story was Uncle Pumblechook.
They made a "modern" version of the story with a very sexy Gwyneth Paltrow as Estella and Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Havisham but she is called Nora Dinsmoor.

"David Copperfield" To me, one of the most complex. novels that Dickens wrote so many people to keep track of I just remember Mr. Micawber and Uriah Heep, (another swell name) a very bad guy.


William Shakespear
"The Merchant of Venice" I always feel sorry for Shylock; everyone hated him so - even his daughter stole from him. Portia was a tough lady, the casket business and the trial were fun. Bassinao was kind of a jerk.;

"Hamlet" I have to work to stay with it I, particularly, liked Hamlet’s instruction to the players "Speak the speech, I pray you, and pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue..." And Polonius’ talk to Laertes "give every man thy ear but few thy voice..." or ".. neither a borrower or a lender be..."

"Mid Summer Nights Dream"
I saw the movie when I was a kid; Mickey Rooney played Puck and James Cagney played Bottom. I read the play in College. I love the fantasy but viewing is better than reading in this case, for me. I have a delightful DVD with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Robin Goodfellow - Puck. Can everyone keep the characters straight? Hermia loves Lysander and Lysander loves Hernia, Denmetrious loves Hermia, Helena loves Demetrious but Demetrius shuns Helena. Oh well................

Othello
This is one of my favorites. A tragic story about the scheming Iago convincing Othello of the gentle and loving Desdemona’s infidelity wherein Othello murders her. They made an opera of this play which is splendid..

I guess that everyone has read "Romeo and Juliet". I hope that as many have seen the beautiful ballet of the same name staring Rudolph Nureyev and Dame Margot Fontayne


Zane Grey
"Riders of The Purple Sage" my all time favorite western novel. The gunman, Lassiter on a mission of his own, protects Jane Withersteen from horse rustlers and the mean, scheming Pastor Dyer of the religious sect she belongs to. Lassiter and Jane have an exciting ride across the plains that is unforgettable.


Edgar Rice Burroughs
I read all of the "Tarzan" stories and liked every one but Burrows also wrote the "John Carter" series. John Carter had the ability to use telepathy in order to transport himself the planet Mars where he has adventures and fights battles. John used a sword. a lot and I often wondered why authors had their heros using swords in modern times. (We see this in" Starwars")


Austin Tappan Wright
"Islandia" Published in 1934. This is a special book for me I got it from a special person. I love the place and the characters and the story. Wright spent most of his life creating his country, his people and their laws and culture. There is romance, adventure, war and foreign intrigue I do not know many people who have read it; aside from Jeanne who gave it to me and I have shared it with only one other person. I reread it every 15 or 20 years I read it very recently; I could not find it in the library. I had to search the net, kinda doubt if I will do another reread. It is a "cult" novel.


J. K. Rowling
This amazing woman grabbed the attention of children (and adults) all over the world with her first "Harry Potter" story. It took me a couple of years of taking up and putting down the story until I got into it but once I finished it, I was hooked. I anxiously await each new publication like all the other kids. I think that she is an excellent writer with an imagination that won’t stop. As I think about the Harry Potter stories I think about Roberta Williams who created computer software adventures back in the 80's she is probably best known for her "Kings Quest" series. Roberta borrowed very heavily from fairy tales and nursery rhymes; she would have had a wonderful time using Rowling’s ideas in her series. Becca has been a "Harry Potter "fan from the start.


Lewis Carroll
"Alice In Wonder Land"
"Through the Looking Glass"
"The Wasp In The Wig"
Carroll was a mathematician and puzzle master; I have some of his books that deal with acrostics and anagrams. The artist Sir John Tinniel did some classical illustrations for his books. I was fortunate enough to find an episode that was left out of "Through The Looking Glass"; apparently, Carroll was not satisfied or just didn’t like it. "The Wasp in The Wig" was published more than 100 years after "Looking Glass" came out.
"When I was young, my ringlets waved and curled and crinkled on my head
And then they said you should be shaved and wear a yellow wig instead"
The puns and wordplay are great. The wasp tells Alice that she is a bee because she has a comb.
A good read with wonderful footnotes.


Edgar A.Poe
"The Cask of Amontillado"
"The Pit and The Pendulum"
"The Fall of The House of Usher"
"The Gold Bug" ( I have trouble with that coded puzzle)
"Telltale Heart"
Those are my favorites and of course: "The Raven" ("nevermore!") and "Annabel Lee" "She was a child and I was a child in this kingdom by the sea but we loved with a love that was more than a love - I and my Annabel Lee With a love that the winged seraphs in heaven coveted her and me......"
I have always been interested in the illustrator Arthur Rackham and the way he uses his bizarre creatures to illustrate fairy stories and particularly Poe’s stories. I have a collection of books with Rackham illustrations.


Washington Irving
"Rip Van Winkle"
Old Rip was the town drunkard; one day he went up in the mountains with his gun and his dog and met some "little men" dressed like old Dutchmen. Rip drank with them, bowled with them and fell asleep for the next 20 years. He woke, his gun was rusted, his dog’s bones were there and he went home to a "new town".

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
The schoolmaster Ichabod Crane courts the fair Katrina and the rough Brom Bones has something to say and do about that!


H.G. Wells
"The Time Machine"
‘The Invisible Man"
"The War of The Worlds"
Classic science fiction but who knows what might happen? Can any one forget when Orson Wells did the Mercury Theater radio play of "The War of The Worlds" and it was so realistic that the radio audience thought we were actually being attacked by machines from the planet Mars?


Stephen Vincent Bene
"The Devil and Daniel Webster"
A poor farmer makes a deal with the devil for seven years of prosperity; when "old Scratch" comes to collect, the farmer enlists the aid of Dan Webster to get him off the hook. There is a trial; the jury is made up of the damned from hell."even the damned must admit to the eloquence of Daniel Webster".


I remember the "Pulp Magazines" so called because the paper was soft and cheap, not shiny; they sold for 10 cents to 25 cents and came out every two months or so. Mothers did not think they were good reading - probably because the covers of most of them would have a near naked girl, sometimes her remaining clothes in tatters, being attacked by a monster or alien creature. The stories were great; I have included copies of some covers with the collection:

"The Shadow" Lamont Cranston and his beautiful (they were always beautiful) companion Margo would solve mysteries and fight crime. Lamont had the ability to cloud men’s minds and become invisible to crooks and anyone he wanted to. "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit", "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of man, the Shadow Knows!"

"Captain Future" was the anchor of "Thrilling Wonder Stories", Science Fiction adventure among the planets (I don’t think we had star travel yet). Captain Future and his girl friend (beautiful of course) Dale - a popular name for consorts in those days - paired up with:
Simon "the Brain", Simon was a human brain encased in some kind of super plastic with eyes, ears and a voice. Simon was Future’s mentor.
Otho was a synthetic person who could twist himself into different shapes and was a master of disguise.
Kraig a robot, not very pretty, don’t think they thought in terms of androids back then, big, heavy, strong and intelligent. Kraig and Otho spent their time insulting each other.

"Doc Savage"(with the "gold flecked eyes") was an MD with a out-of-the-ordinary trained body, highly intelligent and a master of weaponry. He hangs out with three companions each with a special skill Monk who looks like an ape is a chemist and engineer very strong and smart
Ham is a lawyer, a dapper dresser, carries a sword cane. Sharp mind, loves a fight
Johnny a tall lanky architect who is good at deciphering documents
Savage and his gang spent a lot of time in jungles and primitive places doing research and fighting bad guys.

Authors II

David Liss
"The Coffee Trader Year 1657: The protagonist, a Portugese Jew is wiped out in the sugar market and joins forces with a Dutch woman to corner the market in a new commodity COFFEE. An intriguing story; learn about coffee.
"The Paper Conspiracy" A kind of a history of the beginning of the stock exchange, "the new money" in the 1800s. There is mystery, financial dealings and lots of interesting happenings.


Earl Biggers
Biggers wrote the famous "Charlie Chan" mysteries. "Slowly, slowly, katchee monkey". Hollywood and the fans had a great time with Charlie and his deductive police methods. Charlie went all over the world to solve crime, he often took one of his sons ( "this is number one son"). We didn’t have political correctness in those days and there were more than a few racist slurs. Two movie actors; Warner Oland and Sidney Toiler held the role for years. I have found only one book at the library.


D. H. Lawrence
"Lady Chatterly’s Lover" Published 1928 banned in the UK and US as pornographic but really mild compared to today’s writings. A wealthy, married woman has a torrid affair with her games keeper. When it was, finally published in the US (I got to read a copy long before) every one was tittering "did you read page —so and so?" It was a good story!

Kathleen Norris
"Forever Amber"
Called the naughtiest novel of 1944; a romp in the hay, in the street, and in the bedrooms of aristocrats. Amber was a "poor farm girl" who rose to a liaison with the King but lost her" true love", the one who got her in trouble in the first place.


Jules Verne
"Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea"
"Journey To The Center of The Earth"
"From Earth to The Moon"
Great stories for boys, a lot of prophecy too
Emile Zola
"J’Accuse"
In defense of the French officer, Alfred Dreyfus who was sent to Devils Island in French Martinique for treason.
"Nana"
About the sexual exploitation of prostitutes.

Richard Adams
"Watership Downs" A story about the quest of a warren of rabbits looking for a better home because a land developer has wrecked their home. A delightful and interesting story; the rabbits talked and interacted just like people. The leader was called Buckhorn, a few of the other names were Cowslip, Blackberry and Hazel. Everyone had to read this when it came out in1972.


Kenneth Grahm
"The Wind in The Willows".
The adventures of Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger. I stole the characters for a .Christmas play


Thorn Smith
"Topper"
George and Marion (the Kirbys) are killed in a car crash and become spirits that can change their "ectoplasm" and reappear. They decide to go and harass their friendly banker, Cosmo Topper. A delightful comedy which came out in 1937. Thorn wrote several more "Topper" stories.


Peter Benchly
"Jaws"
"Beast" (A giant Squid)
"The Deep" Exciting diving story!
"Island" Pirates; bad guys!!
"The Girl From the Sea of Cortez" A favorite of mine and Claudia & Becca


Larry McMurtry
"Lonesome Dove"
"Streets of Loredo"
"Buffalo Girls"
"By Sorrows River"
"Dead Man’s Walk"
What a wonderful story teller! Strong and interesting characters. Many of these stories continue on with the lives of the characters from "Lonesome Dove". Remember when the lady told Gus that he was too old, his reply was "old violins make the prettiest music."

John Le Carre
"Smiley’s People"
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"
Spies, double agents, moles, Le Carre wrote wonderful, taut novels. He wrote over 20 novels.


Herman Wouk
"The Winds of War"
"War and Remembrance"
"The Cain Mutiny"
Wouk is a very serious writer; he has written of the holocast, and the Jewish state and his novels always went into great detail of the trials of people in war. He is an historian and when he writes about Naval battles he describes the actual battle with real names and places.


Jean Auel
"The Clan of The Cave Bear"
‘The Valley of The Horses"
‘The Mammoth Hunters"
"Shelters of Stone"
"Plains of Passage"
Stories of Europe in the Ice Age. The adventures of Ayla, an incredible primitive woman who weaves, heals, controls animals and invents things and Jondalar her friend and lover (Auel puts lots and lots of " love" in her novels, very explicit stuff). Splendid adventure as the two meet other groups of people and interact. Well researched and presented: very ambitious works. I disliked the way Auel had her characters speak; she portrayed them as intelligent but she had them speak like retards.


F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Great Gatsby" Really, his only successful novel

Thomas Hardy
"Far From the Madding Crowd"
Bathsheba Everdene a very strong willed woman inherits a sheep farm; three men want her. A rich neighbor, a fickle soldier and her hired hand. Strong personalities interacting. Good English story!


Charlotte Bronte
"Jane Eyre"
Orphan Jane is sent to a school where the mean and cruel headmaster mistreats his students. No place to go she stays with the school as a teacher until she gets a job as governess in a great house. She meets Rochester who, unknown to all, has a crazy wife locked up in the tower. Love, danger, disappointments and finally hope and happiness. Classic tale every one should read.


Emily Bronte
"Wuthering Heights"
Heathcliff on the moor, an angry story of jealousy and revenge, a twisted plot I did not like it.

Leo Tolstoy
"War And Peace"
"Anna Karenina"
Both are novels that every one should read. The scope of "War and Peace"is majestic, the characters are beautifully drawn and the story is intriguing. I am glad that Natasha realized the worth of Pierre, it took a long time. Wonderful history of the people the lands and the wars. Frequently rather grim.
The story of "Anna Karenina" and her affair with Vronsky is very interesting and we learn a lot about the Russian aristocracy and how they live but I believe that the novel is really the story of Levin and his love of the land.

Pearl S. Buck
"The Good Earth"
"Dragon Seed"
Pearl Buck was an American; her parents were missionaries to China where Pearl spent 40 years. She was very prolific; during her lifetime she wrote 70 books. I have only read the two. The "Good Earth follows the life of a young girl O-Lan who was sold by her parents during a famine. She later marries, has a child ,there is another famine ( they tried to feed the children mud soup) there was an exodus to the city where O-Lan found some jewels. This is a long and interesting story that tells the reader about the Chinese class system and how the peasants lived. I read it long ago.
"Dragon Seed" tells about the Japanese occupation of a small village. Pearl actually experienced such a thing when she lived in China.


Allen Drury
"Advise and Consent"
"A Shade of Difference"
"Capable of Honor"
"Come Nineveh Come Tyre"
"The Promise of Joy"
Drury wrote many others but he is probably best known for these five "political" stories. In the first
he created a cast of characters to represent the Executive branch, the court, the Senate and the House.
All of the individuals are very colorful people; Drury spent a lot of time developing each character. The President has submitted a name for Secretary of State and the Senate has to "advise and consent." All the political drama, the "back room" deals and the maneuvering that could go on in Washington is present; a wonderful Senator from the South wearing his rumpled seer sucker suit, wiping his brow with a white handkerchief and speaking with his Southern drawl is introduced and will play important roles in later books. Drury keeps these same characters and puts them in tense nation threatening situations including war throughout the rest of the series. If you can find them read them!!
Presidents change, Senators either die or are not returned to office and secondary characters move in and out but the game goes on. Magnificent!.


Kathleen Gear & Michael Gear
""People of The Mist"
"People of The Mask"
Novels about pre-Columbian North American Indians; very well done. They understand anthropology; they live in Wyoming.


Rudyard Kipling
"Kim"
"The Jungle Book"
"Captains Courageous"
"Gunga Din" (Classic poem)
"If" (Classic poem)
While Kipling wrote about the British in India and Burma, he went to the North American Continent for "Captains Courageous". These are splendid stories and I have always loved the poem. ...."Tho I’ve belted you an’ flayed you By the living Gawd that made you. You’r a better man than I am Gunga Din!"
When I was a boy, my Dad gave me a dollar after I memorized and recited Kipling’s "If" I have included a copy with this collection.


Dick Francis
"Hot Money"
"Long Shot"
"Bolt"
Francis wrote about race horses, "horsey" people and mysteries. I buy a paperback from time to time when I travel. Not bad.
W.E.B. Griffin


"Honor Bound"
"Under Fire"
He writes about the U S Marines and war stories. He did a lot of them. A bit too chauvinistic for me.


Arthur Hailey
"Hotel"
‘Airport"
"Overload"
Very popular author. Hollywood loved him. He wrote novels about just about every industry you can think of with interesting people, funny situations sometimes tense situations. One book dealt with the Automobile industry from manufacturer to the Auto dealer; he even detailed how the crooked dealers cheated banks by selling cars "out of trust".



John MacDonald
His character, Travis Mcgee, lived on a houseboat called "The Busted Flush" Spent a lot of time in Florida "finding things" for a fee. Archer was a good guy, had a lot of girl friends; girls just liked him. Had a good friend named Myer that he talked with a lot. There is a long series of Travis McGee books. He is an easy read and once you start him you will want more.

Ross MacDonald
He had a character called Lew Archer. He wrote "My Name is Archer", "The Blue Hammer", and "The Drowning Pool among many others.

Bernard Cornwell
Known best for historical fiction and the "Sharpe" series. A soldier in the 1800' during the Napoleonic Wars. The movie actor Sean Bean, did a TV series. Corn well also wrote "Arthur" stories; I read "Excaliber".He wrote a lot of books but I lost interest in him.


Thomas Costain
"The Silver Chalice" A Greek artist was supposed to make an elaborate cup for Jesus’ last supper. Nero and the Romans want it destroyed. The novel brings in an interesting historical figure; Simon the magician.
" The Black Rose" Set in 13th Century England and Cathy, a young Saxon is forced to leave England; he takes a friend who is expert with a long bow and has exciting adventures in Kathy. He finally goes back, home to redeem his land.
Costain was a very popular Canadian writer of the 40's;.


Sue Grafton
In 1983 she wrote "A" Is For Alibi" and she just published "S" Is For Silence". Grafton created a Southern California private eye called Kinsey Millhouse"; what a wonderful character, she is sexy and she is smart. Pick up any of her "Letters" and get ready for fast moving fun.


Jacquelin Susan
"The Valley of The Dolls" Every one read this one; sex, drugs, violence - It came out in 1966 and sold more copies than "Gone With The Wind"


Earl Stanley Gardner
We read the Perry Mason stories and then later watched them on TV


Rex Stout
He wrote the "Nero Wolf"series. Nero Wolf was the big fat detective who used an associate, Archie Goodwin to do his legwork. He was truly an "armchair detective".


Agatha Christie
The wonderful "Hercule Poirot" with the overworked "little grey cells" who frequently baffled and irritated his helper, Captain Hastings and the Scotland Yard detectives who came to him for help. Every one should read Agatha Christie if they like mysteries.


Herman Melville
"Moby Dick" "Call me Ishmael" It was one of those books we were required to read but it is a swell tale of Captain Ahabs tireless hunt for a white whale. I liked the characters "Starbuck and Queequeg. People try to read a lot into the novel; I don’t.


Nathaniel Hawthorne
"The Scarlet Letter" Puritan times; poor Hester Prynne pays for her love with a scarlet "A" on her dress and an illegitimate child that they try to take away from her. Cruel, bigoted people.
Tom Peters


"In Search of Excellence" every young (and not so young) executive and business man read this manual of management techniques. Words like "synergism" were introduced into our vocabulary. His management principals were very sound and still hold true today.


Miquel Cervantes
"Don Quixote" The chivalry of a demented old man who wanted to be a knight and set out with his companion Shancho Panza to kill monsters and aid ladies in distress. Who tilts windmills? We have in use, an adjective "quixotry" which means caught up in the romance of noble unreachable deeds.



Tami Hoag
"Still Waters
"Sarah’s Sin"
‘Cry Wolf"
"Dark Paradise"
"Ashes to Ashes"
She is one to follow! Just start anywhere in the list of her stunning suspense stories and you will want more.


Catherine Coulter
"The Cove"
"The Maze"
"The Target"
Coulter has over 50 novels; they are "thrillers" and "Romances" she is easy reading; good airplane companion.


Robert Heinlein
"Stranger in a Strange Land"
"Starship Troopers"
"The Puppet Masters"
"Invasion of The Body Snatchers"
Super science fiction. People read a lot into his novels; attitudes towards sex and politics - I just like the tales.


Arthur Clark
"2001 Space Odyssey"
Another "Master of Science Fiction" Some 50+ books. Many of his ideas were incorporated in the TV show "Startrek"


Sax Rohmer
A great mystery writer in the ‘30s and ‘40s. His protagonist, Nyland Smith and friend Dr. Petre who was enamored by an exotic Oriental girl fought the evil Fu Manchu. "----imagine a person tall, lean and feline, high shouldered with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close shaven skull and long magnetic eyes of the true cat-green—" I imagined he, also, had long pointy finger nails. When we were kids we would say "many men smoke but fu manchu" Ha-Ha-Ha!


Edgar A. Guest
A poet who wrote about success and positive things. I earned a dollar from my Dad when I recited "It Couldn’t Be Done" "Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
but he, with a chuckle replied, maybe it couldn’t but he wouldn’t be one
who would say so until he had tried"
I have included the entire poem with this collection.


Sara Teasdale
Another poet. When I read "The Coin" "Into my hearts treasury I slipped a coin that time can not take nor a thief purloin
Oh better than the minting of a gold-crowned king- is the safe kept memory of a lovely thing"
I sought her other works. I have included a few; one is particularly suited to a daughter or grand daughter the others are samples which may take the interested reader further.


Stephen Hawking
"Brief History of Time"
Professor Hawking is a genius who deals with science and physics. This book helps simplify some of the "time theories". Hawking works with the basic laws that govern the universe. He has worked with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity that implies that space and time had a beginning in the "big bang". Very interesting man whose minds functions brilliantly while his body functions hardly at all. This is "heavy reading".


Carl Sagen
"Contact"
Carl Sagen was a famous astronomer and lecturer; he explored the mysteries of the universe. He talked about "billions and billions of stars" His novel "Contact" tells about a brilliant female astronomer(himself as a woman ?) who is searching for extraterrestrial life and is met with criticism by religious fundamentalists, superstition, and scientific jealousy. Sagan was a very interesting and controversial scientist. He was very concerned that fundamental religious views would thwart scientific views and evidence; like the heroin in his story "Contact" he hoped that "alien culture" would contact and teach us.


Elmore Leonard
A very popular writer who started writing Westerns in 1939 and later went on th crime thrillers. His characters are well defined and laid back; the stories are slick and dialogue-heavy. Some of my favorites are:
"Hombre"
"The Hot Kid"
"Get Shorty"
"Be Cool"
"Tishimingo Blues"
"The Big Bounce"
Stuart Woods


Woods is a mystery/thriller writer. He cranks his novels out under a familiar formula; after I read a few which I enjoyed except for Wood’s treatment of women who he writes as slutty characters who can not keep their hands off his hero detective or, if the protagonist is a woman ,she has slutty ways. I got tired of him.

From May 2007 (5)

Mail Time 5/22
"Critique of Religion and Philosophy" Walter Kaufman
This is heavy reading. Comments will be delayed. There is a fascinating chapter titled "Dialogue between Satan and an Atheist".

"Nerve" Dick Francis
Rob Finn is an independent young guy who works for several horse owners as a steeple chase jockey. He has won a few and lost some but he is becoming known as a good rider. An owner takes a chance on Rob when his own jockey takes a bad fall and will be unable to race for several weeks. Finn wins his race and then another and another. He is rising to the top; other owners hire him and it looks life he will soon be the top jockey. He makes new friends and some enemies as well, jealous riders. All of the sudden, every horse he rides losses. Folks think that he has lost his nerve, something that sometimes happens in this dangerous occupation. The mystery begins and Rob must discover why he has been losing. Interesting, fast paced story; lots of action centered around the racing arena.

"Emma" Jane Austen
A rich, spoiled young girl with not enough to otherwise occupy herself believes that she is the consummate matchmaker and gets involved in other peoples lives with tragic consequences. Emma’s life is perfect as far as she is concerned but her ideas about people and relationships are badly flawed. She makes a mess of things when she tries to match a good friend with, clearly, the wrong person even though her friend is enamored with a somewhat dull but kind and caring person, a farmer. Emma, ever class conscious, does her best to convince her friend that the man is entirely wrong for her. It all gets sorted out in time and Emma is put in her place by a good friend who turns out to be more than a friend.
Jane Austen consistently draws great characters and places the reader right in the times that she lived in; a fun, lively and interesting read.


"god is not Great" Christopher Hitchens
"How Religion Poisons Everything"
Hitchens, an Atheist, discusses the malignant force of religion in the world and attempts to make a case against religion using a critique of major religious texts and logic. Some of the chapter headings in the table of contents are:
"Religion Kills’
"A Short Digression on the Pig" or "Why Heaven Hates Ham"
‘The Nightmare of the "Old" Testament "
"The "New" Testament exceeds the Evil of the "Old" one"
"The Koran is Borrowed from both Jewish and Christian Myths"
He raises some interesting questions about Joseph Smith and founding of the Mormon religion and he does the same with the enlightenment of Mohamad.
Agree with him or not, a lot of time and study and research went into this provocative essay.
The July 16th issue of the Wall Street Journal has a rather long column by Peter Berkowitz (Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution) which calls Hitchens, Harris, Dawson and others creators of "The New New Atheism" and spends a lot of words trying to say that there is not much substance behind these "latest atheist tracts". Unfortunately, his summary is very weak as are his sources..

"Letter to a Christian Nation" Sam Harris
Harris is another advocate of doing away with religion; his supporters are those who hold no religious doctrine and are probable some what depressed by our country’s increasing unification of church and state. Like Hitchkins and Dawson, he raises big questions about the sources and the authorship of the religious texts that are used to support the various dogmas. He should be read carefully and not totally disregarded.

"Prior Bad Acts" Tami Hoag
A family has been brutalized and murdered. A seasoned homicide detective, first to arrive on the scene, is so emotionally affected by what he sees he has to be hospitalized and is subsequently put on "medical leave". The prime suspect is in jail waiting trial. The suspect, has a long record of crime but his lawyer, a public defender. has gone before the Judge to get a ruling to make the prior criminal acts inadmissable. The judge, after hearing argument, so rules. Everyone, the prosecuting attorney, the entire police department, the relatives of the murdered family and the press are angry. That same night, the judge is assaulted in the parking lot; she is pretty well beat up. The detective assigned the case is not very sympathetic because of her ruling but he begins his investigation. The suspect escapes! He is a real bad character; he kills several people while he is evading the police. Ms Hoag brings in several other characters and soon there several suspects for the assault on the judge. The defense attorney’s house is invaded by the detective who was so traumatized by the killing that he wants the lawyer to "stand trial" for his actions; he thinks that without the inclusion of the suspects prior acts, the jury might let him go (the DA does not, really have a solid case backed by evidence).The judge is then kidnaped by the crazed murder suspect who views her as "the only friend he ever had" because of her legal decision. It is a twisted and suspenseful tale that will keep you guessing. Tami uses a lot of violence and gore in her novels.

"The Children of Hurin" J.R.R.Tolkien
Fascinating story about Tolkien’s middle earth in a time long before the Hobbits and the people of "The Lord of the Rings". The first dark lord was Morgoth who, with his tormentor, Glaurung, a huge wingless dragon made war on Hurin a man who defied and scorned Morgoth. Hurin’s children, Turin and his sister Nienor are cursed by Morgoth and are forced to flee their kingdom. They become separated for years, become wanderers and meet up with each other again under bizarre circumstances. The Elves and the Dwarfs play supporting roles and for those of us who are primarily familiar with the Ring Novels we learn a lot more about the Elves and their early kingdom. There are references to Elrond of Rivendale and of Treebeard in the notes which tell how long ago all this happened. Lots of travels and battles and a sad recounting of the death of Turin. This novel is one of many published after Tolkien’s death and was edited by his son, Christopher.
I did not know that the story of "Sir Gwain and the Green Knight" was by Tolkien it was a favorite . Vivid in my mind since early college years.
C.S. Lewis was a friend of Tolkien; I wonder if they shared stories about their imagined people and kingdoms.


On Saturday, July 21st that remarkable woman, J.K. Rowling will release her seventh and final (?) book in the "Harry Potter" series. She released the first on July 1st 1997 in England; "Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone". It came out in the U.S in September, 1998 under the name of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone"; do not know why the title was changed in the U.S. A lot of the words were changed because we say things differently over here - bathroom instead of Loo.
Six books later and she is still a wonderful story teller using history, mythology, fairy tales and folklore in magical prose and construction. I rank her with C.S. Lewis , Tolkein and even Austin T. Wright as a creator of lands, people and cultures.
As I read her stories, I can not help but think of that most talented writer of computer games, Roberta Williams who was not a bit bashful to borrow from literature, fairy tales and mythology to create her characters and adventures.
In preparation for the coming novel, I reread the last three, "Goblet of Fire", "Order of The Phoenix", and "The Half Blood Prince" all of which, I thoroughly enjoyed. Us kids of all ages are fortunate, indeed, to have such an extraordinary continuing story to savor over these last ten years. Can’t wait for the next one - in just a few more days!


A visit to the Tullahoma library turned up several old paperbacks for sale at 25 cents each. Found a couple of interesting science fiction novels and a Dirk Pitt adventure I had missed.

"Millennium" John Varley
Originally published back in the 80's, John Varley tells a time travel story about an advanced ( advanced in some ways but still with very human failings) people who live in another time ( perhaps a parallel time )who monitor and control happenings on Earth. As tragic accidents happen and it is clear that there will be no survivors, a team is sent to the site, perhaps an airplane crash, and all of the people on the plane are taken off and prefabricated, smoking bodies are substituted for the rescue team on the ground to find.
One of the team leaves a very specialized piece of equipment that clearly does not belong in that time behind and special action must be taken to retrieve it before the FAA people discover it. The story is told from the perspective of a woman, the head of the "Snatch "team and that of the chief FAA investigator. The woman must go back to the time of the crash of the airplane where she interacts with the FAA and explores the crash wreckage for the object.
This is a so so story; Isaac Asimov did it much better with his novel "The End of Eternity", I am sure that Varley borrowed from it.

"The Mediterranean Caper" Clive Cussler
Early Cussler (1973) with a much younger Dirk Pitt whose hormones are raging all over the place; his unseemly and puerile braggadocio about his conquests made me wonder what went wrong with Clive Cussler. Fortunately, Cussler toned Pitt down a bit in his later novels. The adventure, a billion dollar drug smuggling operation involving ships and submarines headed by German war criminal has Pitt heroics, scuba diving, an awesome under water cave and several life threatening, brutal situations. Improbable but kind of fun to read. Good always prevails.

"The Next Ten Thousand Years" Adrian Berry
Adrian Berry is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. This book is his vision of what lies ahead for mankind in the next 10,000 years. He is optimistic and provocative, as a contemporary of many serious scientists including Carl Sagen, Isiaac Asimov he espouses the theory that mankind will continue to evolve to meet our changing earth and will use the planets of the solar system for sources of energy and eventually will achieve star travel. This is not an easy read; very technical but within a layman’s grasp and quite fascinating.

"The Silmarillion" J.R.R. Tolkien
This classic tale begins with the genesis of middle earth. This is an enchanting fantasy that tells of the coming of the Elves the first to inhabit the earth who could live for thousands of years unless killed in battle, then, the coming of the Dwarfs and then of Men. There were long peaceful, harmonious times but the evil Melkor (later called Morgoth the "Black enemy) and those he duped, most easily,m en but also some of the Elves, eventually caused discontent and war among the peoples. There are tales of wonderful and horrible battles and heroism and included in the work is a summary of "the rings of power and the coming of the Third Age" which, really, whets one’s appetite for the three volume novel of "The Lord of The Rings.
This is an extraordinary piece of work that must be savored; the names of the places and the names of the characters are long and difficult to say but the story stays together.


"Up In Honey’s Room" Elmore Leonard
Rapid fire dialogue fills this funny story about a German American, Walter Schoen, living in Detroit during World War II who is convinced that he is Heinrich Himmler’s twin ("born in the same hospital, the same date, the same hour and looks exactly like him"). He is a butcher and a member of a spy organization that sends information about the war production of the automobile plants. He is married to a delightful, amoral girl named Honey Deal. Walter has no sense of humor and he shelters Germans who escape from U.S. POW camps so Honey divorces him.
Along comes Carl Webster, U.S. Marshal, better know to Elmore Readers as "The Hot Kid". Carl is hunting down an escaped POW and thinks that Walter may be hiding him so he looks up Honey who might lead him to Walter. The search for Walter and the interplay between Honey and Carl is funny and full of innuendos. Many other characters in this spoof of espionage are introduced and enjoyed. Good read!

"The Fifth Vial" Michael Palmer
Suspenseful and thought provoking novel about a cabal of evil men, physicians and business men who make decisions as to who will live and who will die "for the greater good of mankind" by finding "Guardians", people who might be brilliant scientists, researchers, doctors, politicians, world leaders or great artists or sometimes just very wealthy persons that can contribute to their cause who are very sick and in need of an organ or tissue transplant. Through a large worldwide drug company with local branches that do lab work for hospitals and clinics, they find a perfect match and kidnap the donor who they call "producers". The transplants are done in a secret , heavily guarded facility in the jungle of Brazil. Our protagonists, a private detective and a senior year medical student, are charged to find out who is behind the scheme and discover enough evidence to stop this area of illegal trafficking in organ transplants. The action takes place in the States, South Africa, England, India and Brazil with fascinating characters and a twisting plot. I Could not put it down until the end.
Michael Palmer handles these medical dramas very well.

"Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows" J.K. Rowling
The seventh and final in the series. Poor Harry; this is not a fun adventure. Voldemort and his "Death Eaters"are openly taking over the Ministry of Magic and will eventually take over Hogwarts. Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, are on a quest to find the magical items that will, hopefully, defeat Voldemort. This takes them to very dangerous places and almost every chapter has a "cliff hanger" where one of the team is almost killed; lots of danger, intrigue, magic and action and some new characters who give Harry background information on the important people in his life and help him move forward on his quest. There are bitter arguments between best friends and Harry’s mind is very dark. He does not understand why Dumbledorf did not completely confide in him, he begins to doubt and loose faith in his old mentor. He also feels tremendous guilt because he has endangered the lives of his friends; some have even died. All the while his mind is closely attached to that of the dark lord to the extent that Harry can actually see and experience Voldemort’s actions.
There is a final great battle at Hogwarts and many things are, finally, explained and questions are answered. The author did a splendid job with this final story; the evolution of all of the characters was very well done, our Hogwarts friends have grown up and matured. The survival and the death of various characters was both sad and sometimes surprising and for me, the series had a logical and satisfactory ending. Seven hundred and fifty-nine pages of enjoyment!

"Requiem for an Assassin" Barry Eisler
A powerful, tense drama with a very plausible secondary plot. The first is the story of two ruthless mercenary assassins who are trying to kill each other. The details of their backgrounds, their training and their abilities are done with "Clancy like" skill. There men are ruthless, cold killers who hate each other. The main character, John Rain is well known to Barry Eisler readers from five other novels that feature him.
The CIA, the Mossad, and Japanese intelligence are all involved in the other plot which is to place a dirty bomb in the middle of a gigantic oil refinery in Rotterdam and which when ignited would cause a significant shortage in the world oil supply. The action and the dialogue is fast, dirty and rough.

"Sherlock Holmes in Orbit" Various Authors
An imaginative collection of 26 stories based on some of Holmes’ adventures as told by Dr. Watson and others. Some retell the story of the crime from the prospective of the perpetrator and others from the prospective of the victim of the crime. Some are whimsical; a delightful tale inferring that Holmes was instrumental in solving a crime involving some stolen tarts belonging to a queen has enough clues and thinly veiled characters to cause the reader to smile knowingly and with great pleasure. Holmes, also, encounters vampires, extra terrestrial visitors and does a bit of time traveling. The last story has him solving a mystery at "The Pearly Gates".

"Homegrown Democrat" Garrison Keiller
Published in 2004, Garrison Keillerhas a lot to say about growing up in a small town in Minnesota, his family and friends and relatives and his days in the Public School system and about the common sense values that, in his mind, made him and his fellow Minnesotans Democrats. Nothing good to say about any Republican administration since Eisenhower (with a few good words for Nixon before he did his thing) and some pretty scathing comments and observations about the present administration. Words flow from Keiller like water; with humor, satire and with considerable passion for the American worker. A funny and provocative book.

"The Unquiet" John Connolly
A disturbing and haunting horror story about the abuse of children and the kind of people that do such things and some dark shadowy people who track them down seeking "justice" or revenge for the victims. John Connolly has a private detective named Charlie Parker who has been in the business too long , has seen too much and tells this twisted story as a first person narrative. Parker takes on a case when a woman with a small child comes to him in fear because she is being stalked. The stalker, it turns out, is a very dangerous man, an ex convict looking for information about the woman’s father who has been missing for the last six years and declared legally dead. The daughter has told the man that her father, a once prominent child psychologist, left home after a scandal of allegations that he betrayed confidences to men that use and abuse children and probably committed suicide. The stalker will not accept that he is dead and insists that the woman knows more. Very scary man. As Parker gets into the investigation and learns more and more about the horrifying world of child abuse, he tries to reconstruct the happenings that caused the Doctor to disappear. Other child abuse cases are studied and a pattern emerges that takes Charlie Parker on a twisting path where he meets some very strange characters. His investigation takes him to the prison that the stalker was in where he talks to an inmate that was protected and befriended by the stalker. This man was terribly abused as a youngster by a group of men who, very likely, are the same people that Parker is on the trail of. It turns out that the stalker had a daughter who was abused and disappeared. The stalker befriended the man so he could find out as much as he could about the evil people that did the deed so he could take revenge. The plot gets complicated and the author throws in a very bizarre, shadowy character that lurks in the background to keep you guessing.
This novel will keep your interest and attention.

"Where Have All The Leaders Gone?’ Lee Iacocca
Published in 2007, Iacocca’s book poses some important questions and addresses the important issues of our time. There is no question in my mind that we have the most stupid, arrogant, devious, heartbreakingly sad leadership our country has ever seen. Iacocca’s writing really tells it like it is; he pulls no punches but he has some common sense answers and places the responsibility for bringing our country back to it’s greatness on the American people who must pay attention to our spending, our trade, our attitude towards the people of the world and our politicians. He stresses real sacrifice and education and bringing back the "middle class". Lee Iacocca is uniquely qualified to write such a book; as the man who saved The Chrysler Corporation and masterminded the minivan and oversaw the renovation of Ellis Island, he knows many world leaders and has traveled extensively.

"The Secret Servant" Daniel Silva
This is Silva’s tenth novel and one of his best in the Gabriel Allon series. Gabriel, a master art restorer and member of the Jewish intelligence service is sent to Amsterdam ,a country that is growing more and more dangerous because of the huge population of radical Islamists, to look into the death of a secret operative and clean out his files. The agent was murdered and Gabriel learns of a plan that involves a terrorist bombing attack, the kidnaping of the daughter of the American ambassador in England and what will turn out to be a carefully planned assignation on his own life. The action moves to England where radical Muslims have, already, been causing British intelligence severe problems . The American CIA gets involved because of the American ambassador’s daughter and there is great tension between the various foreign services because of their different approach to interrogation methods and their different ways of approaching problems. This is Silva at his best; very contemporary in that it addresses the very things that are now going on in Europe, lots of action, tension and surprises with double and triple turns of plot. The concept of Takfir" is explained; Muslims , under their law, are able to kill anyone in order to achieve their goals of imposing sharia (the body of Islamic law as codified by the Quran) and restoring the Caliphate. Their targets are secular Muslims living in a Democracy (called apostates)which is heresy and heretics. The Palestinian Diaspora is clearly an abomination to the Arabs since there is now some 6 million refugees. It is very scary to think about the influx of Muslims and radicalism that has taken place in Europe since the 1980s ; Bernard Lewis was quoted the "On present demographic trends, by the end of the 21st century at the latest, Europe will be Muslim." There are others who see England as an epicenter of European Islamic extremism.
Immigration policies in Europe and in our own country have just gone haywire to the point that the countries are losing control; and are beginning to see the " giving away of the country".

"Every Body Kills Somebody Sometime" Robert J Randisi
A piece of fluff about Sinatra , Dean Martin and the rest of the "Rat Pack" running around in Las Vegas. Note the play on words in the title. Do not waste your time.

"The Prince" William Simpson
An interesting biography of Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Aziz Al-Saud who was the Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. from 1983 to 2005. Friend of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandella and both George Bushes. Illegitimate son of a Saudi prince, he rose to become a powerful negotiator for his country and consultant to U.S. presidents and others. Simpson was a very close friend of the prince; they were both pilots in the Royal Saudi Air Force and stayed friends for a long time; the biography seems a bit biased although there are rather glowing comments by Mandella and Thatcher(whose government was awarded a huge 60 billion dollar contract from the Saudis through the efforts of the prince.) Bandar was instrumental in getting the F15 Jets and the AWACs (from the U.S.)for the Saudis and helped Carter with the Panama Canal agreement.

"The Overlook" Michael Connelly
WoW! I read this in one day and late into the night. Detective Harry Bosh of LAPD is back and the novel is a real thriller. The plot twists and turns, there is vicious "turf" competition between the local cops and the FBI, a very clever plot involving murder and the theft of very dangerous radio active chemicals used to treat cancer which brings Home Land Security into the picture and Harry makes them all angry, as usual, because of his inability to be a "team player". There are a couple of vague clues for the reader but the final turn of the plot is a twist and a surprise somewhat like one might read in a Sherlock Holmes story.


"The Devine Comedy" Dante Alighieri
Translated by Allen Mandelbaum written in the 1300s.
"Inferno", " Purgatorio", "Paradiso".
A recent article in the "Wall Street Journal" prompted me to study this classic poem. This will take a while, I am sure, but the copy I have has some splendid notes for each "Canto" that will help a lot. The church and the religious dogmas of the period certainly influenced and dominated the paintings and poems and thoughts of those living in Dante,s time.
Imagine a "Limbo", the first circle of Hell where even those "considered worthy" must spend eternity because they died before Christianity was invented and the sacraments were not available to them.

"The Savage Garden" Mark Mills
A beautifully crafted novel that completely enchanted me. The story is entertaining and challenging to the reader.
A young undergraduate at Cambridge is asked by his professor to consider a study of a famous Italian garden that was built in Tuscany as a monument to a fifteenth century nobleman’s wife. The garden is full of statues, grottos, woods, a nine tiered, stone trimmed amphitheater and monuments with classical inscriptions. The student, Adam, becomes involved with the surviving relatives of the nobleman,( Lord Docci) the matriarch Signora Docci, her son and the servants at the estate; he meets the old woman’s grand daughter and there is a love interest. Adam is given free reign to the extensive library of the estate and as he wanders through and studies the garden and the precise placement of the statuary he suspects that something sinister happened in the garden. His study of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (a volume given to him by his professor)gives him insight as to the meaning of the different statues and which real person the statue was supposed to represent but as he tries to reconstruct the overall meaning of the garden, his scenario just won’t work. The puzzle of the garden was intriguing to me particularly because of the nature of the Greek gods and goddesses that have been placed in the garden; there was even a unicorn with a broken horn symbolically placed. (I had to stop and read Ovid where he talks about these particular Greek heros; interesting experience I even learned more about Deucalion, son of Prometheus, whose name the creature in Dean Koonz’s story about Frankenstein took) It was also helpful that I have a copy and I am studying Dante’s "Devine Comedy". It was not until Adam discovered an anagram relating to the nobleman’s wife’s name "Fiore"who was represented by Daphne as pursued by Phoebus and located near the top of the amphitheater did he take a different approach to the puzzle. The anagram referred to Dante’s Inferno which, in turn, led Adam to the second circle of hell where adulterators are found. Splendid and plausible logic leads Adam to the conclusion that the Nobleman actually murdered his wife.
As a secondary plot, the Docci family that Adam was staying with had it’s own, more recent, secret and mystery that was dark and evil and related, in it’s way to the old garden mystery. How the story of both of these mysteries is finally concluded and revealed to the Doccis proves to be difficult and dangerous to Adam. There are some very interesting and lively characters in the story including Adam’s brother who shows up. A book like this makes reading fun because there are so many different areas for further study and reading.

"At Risk" Steve Kline Mystery Kit Ehrman
This was Kit Ehrman’s first novel that introduced Steve Kline, a young manager of the horse barn at a premier equestrian facility in Maryland. Mr. Ehrman was, at one time, a groom, a vet, and a horse barn manager. He tells a very interesting and informative story about life on a horse farm and his mysteries are plausible. This time, the bad guys are stealing horses for slaughter. They get seven of Steve’s horses and Steve is kidnaped and almost killed in the process. Investigation indicates that there have been other thefts and one included a murder. Steve gets the police involved but he gets involved in the case, and places himself and others in considerable danger as the story winds to an exciting climax. A fun and easy read.


"The Well of Lost Plots" Jasper Fforde
A delightful romp through the world of books, words, letters and characters from fiction and non fiction. The heroine is Literary Detective of Special Ops, Jurisfiction, Thursday Next who is going to try to get a well deserved rest by entering the Book World as part of the Character Exchange Program. She has chosen a character from an unpublished book of dubious quality where she thinks that she will have little to do. This is her first entry into the Book World where she will be viewed as an "outlander" a real person, by the book characters. Thursday’s mentor is Miss Havisham from "Great Expectations".
To understand the concept of the Well of Lost Plots, the reader must learn about the "Great Library"; all published fiction is stored on 26 floors, one floor for each letter of the alphabet. Millions of books are stored on endless shelves and each book is alive. Beneath the Great Library are another 26 floors of dingy sub basements where books are constructed, edited and polished for a place in the library above if they make it that far. There is a "Text Sea" which is full of letters, verbs, nouns, phrases and everything that makes up a book. Grammasites run rampant and plot devices are bought and sold on a black market and bad (lousy) books are scrapped for salvage. There is a murderer threatening to throw Thursday’s novel, her temporary home, into the Text Sea and real or not, she could be destroyed. Very fast paced and original humor.
This book is one of a series of Thursday Next novels by this very creative author; so much fun to read! I have ordered his latest effort from Amazon

"The Navigator" Clive Cussler
Kurt Austin, Joe Zavala and the NUMA team are on another adventure but this one is rather complicated and convoluted. The Navigator is a Phoenician statue that is also a cleverly disguised map to King Solomon’s mine; the legendary "Ophir"where a "religious relic" (perhaps the ark of the covenant and one of the three originals of the ten commandments) was supposed to be hidden. The secrets of Thomas Jefferson and his close companion Lewis Meriwether are brought into the tale through documents and writings, there is an adventurer who is looking for detailed information on the Queen of Sheba who was at one time a liaison of King Solomon. Cussler tries to pull all of this together into a NUMA adventure but he fails. This is an over "talky" novel with some very interesting history fabricated or not that takes a long time for his characters to explain and try to tie together. He even tried to create a possible Israeli - Muslim conflict which brought the State Department into the picture. Sorry, Clive, too many ornaments on the tree.
*mail

8/30/07
"The Blue Zone" Andrew Gross
Andrew Gross is, perhaps, better known as a co-author of five novels with James Patterson. Together, they wrote a favorite of mine,"The Jester’ a novel about The Crusades of the 1100s.
The "Blue Zone" is a term used by the Witness Protection Program where it is suspected that the person being protected suddenly loses contact with their "handler" and it is feared that their new identity has been compromised. Gross has provided a very interesting and exciting mystery around this premise. A man accused of money laundering for a Columbian drug ring is offered protection in return for testifying against the crooks and telling the FBI and the DEA details about the operation. His family knows nothing about this man’s illegal operation or his past for that matter. Shortly after the family has been relocated ,the father disappears and attempts on the lives of the family members are made and several people close to the family are killed. There are twists and turns as the plot develops and suspicion as to who is doing the killing falls on the principle himself, the handlers of the Witness Protection Program, the FBI and the Columbians. This is an excellent thriller with a surprising climax.

"It Can’t Happen Here" Sinclair Lewis
While I enjoy contemporary writing, I, dearly, wish that everyone could read this master of literature from the 1930s. From "Arrowsmith" the idealistic Doctor who is introduced to fee splitting and the realities of the medical profession where "cure em if you can and be sure to bring in a consultant to share the responsibility ( and another fee) if things go wrong" and the ignorance and superstition of patients in rural areas when vaccinations were first used to stop epidemics to the scandalous, huckster vacuum salesman, turned preacher "Elmer Gantry" who went into "the God business" as a lustful, loud, sometimes drunk, charismatic tent preacher, Sinclair Lewis will keep you spell bound!

"It Can’t Happen Here" tells the story of the unsettled economic and political times after the depression in the United States. The Communists and the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and Fascism, were perceived threats. The gap between the poor and what was left of the middle class and the rich was widening; profitless corporations were laying off millions of people who drifted across the country looking for work. People distrusted the "rich Jew bankers", the big corporations and the "Bolshevik" unions. Masterful and influential radio preachers like Father Charles Coughlin of Detroit scared the people with stories of Communism and Fascism taking over the country and they preached "America First" and "Moral Values" The country was ripe for the demagogues and Sinclair created some dandies. He used interesting, Dickens like names;
Senator Berzelius Windrip the man who promised $5,000 for every person in the country and $2,000 a year when he becomes President. He also had a fifteen point plan that would go into effect which would include bonuses to all veterans of any war, "any person advocating Communism, Socialism, or advocating refusal to enlist in the service in case of war would be subject to trial for high treason and a minimum of 20 years of hard labor and a maximum of death on the gallows, all women now employed will be assisted to return to their incomparable sacred duties as home-maker and mothers of strong, honorable citizens (every woman shall have six children), all finance in the country will be nationalized and under absolute control of the Federal Central Bank, believing that we owe everything to God, absolute religious freedom will reign except that no Atheist, Agnostic believer in Black Magic nor any Jew who refuses to swear allegiance to the New Testament nor any person of any faith who refuses to take the Pledge to the flag will be able to hold public office or practice as a judge, teacher, lawyer or physician. Windrip’s last was an amendment to the Constitution giving the President , in essence, full power to do anything he wants to do.
Lee Sarason, Windrip’s speech writer, confidant, closest advisor and the man who came up the fifteen point plan.
Bishop Paul Peter Prang, Father Stephen Prefix, Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch, Dr. Hector Macgoblin and Francis Tasbrough were all helpers and supporters of Windrip.
The story is narrated by an independent, liberal newspaper editor named Doremus Jessup. Doremus trys throughout the novel to stand up to Windrip’s regime but he fights an uphill battle.
The campaign for the election the subsequent win of Windrip (who, immediately after he was sworn in, put into action a group of militant soldiers he called his "Minute Men" as enforcers of the new life under the Windrip administration. Few, if any, ever got that $5,000 plus $2,000 a year) is very detailed and the exploits of the political supporters, the radio and newspaper preachers and the few who opposed Windrip could all betaken out of time and placed in our time.
Funny, almost hilarious at times but also frightening because Sinclair made it happen in fiction and it actually, could happen here in our 21st century.

"Rogue Angel" Carol Damioli
The biography of a fifteenth century painter who was placed in a monastery at an early age as an incorrigible. Fra Lippo Lipi was famous for his deeply religious paintings but at the same time, he was also a patron of rough taverns and bordellos and even had business with the Barbary pirates. While painting a commission for a church, he gained admission to a convent and seduced an Augustinian nun who became the love of his life. Fra Lippo used her is a model and painted her in his famous paintings of the holy virgin. Interesting novel.

"The Backwash Squeeze & Other Improbable Feats"
Edward McPherson
This could be called a general history of the game of Bridge. The author, a rank beginner took several months worth of lessons and joined the world of Bridge, different Bridge clubs, tournaments, and the myriad folks that play for fun, for money or notoriety. He talks about celebrities including Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who play Bridge and hundreds who just love the game. Certainly, not a manual of "how to do it" but an easy book to pick up and read a while and then put down until you feel like picking it up again.

"Thursday Next - First Among Sequels" Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next is older now but still solving problems in the Book World. The government has reported a dangerously high stupidity surplus; they had been storing up the collective stupidity around the country and then blow it all on some unbelievably dopey project as opposed to having regular dumb debacles on a regular bases as pervious governments did. There are quarrels between "Racy Novels" and neighboring genres "Feminist" and "Ecclesiastical"; apparently, "Racy Novel" has been stealing metaphors and making panty raids on "Feminist" and "Ecclesiastical" who want the right to send long winded salvos of intellectual decent into "Racy Novel". Thursday has plenty of work to do and the word play and original plots make this, really rather silly and nonsensical novel lot of fun to read and savor.


"Dance of Death" Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Another winner in the "Pendergast" series. Pendergast and his ward, Constance travel to Tibet where Constance will take instruction from the Lamas and Pendergast will further his own knowledge. Constance is the first woman to be admitted to the Monastery in over a thousand years but the High Lama has recognized something special in her that relates to legend and history od the place so he grants her entrance. A special relic, thousands of years old, has been stolen from the monastery it is something that could cause cataclysmic damage to the world if used so Pendergast is charged to find and return it. The search takes place in Europe and finally on a luxury ocean liner making its maiden voyage from London to New York where all of the action and drama takes place. Lots of excitement, mystery and a panic on board that rivals that of the "Titanic".
Good mystery and we learn just a little bit more about Constance. I gave the book to Claudia; she will enjoy it.

"Penumbra" Carolyn Haines
A penumbra is a partial shadow seen relative to an eclipse.
A novel about the South; a small town dominated by a very wealthy and mean family. Strangely enough, one of the main female characters is the half black acknowledged bastard of the wife of richest white man in town whose wealth and influence is enough to allow the girl, Jade, to live a respectable life in the town. Jade’s mother, Lucille, had another daughter, Marlena, half sister to Jade who grew up with all the privileg of wealth but she cheated on her husband. The story centers around the kidnaping of Marlena and killing of her young daughter and the intensive search conducted by a white sherif who becomes very much involved with Jade. Marvelous characters and descriptions of the relationships between the wealthy family, their black servants, the town people and the relationship between Jade and her half sister. Once you get to know the people you will want to see where they go and you will want to find out what other secrets they are keeping.

"Dark Shadows" The Salem Branch Lara Parker
It has been about thirty five years since we last viewed the adventures of the Collins family. Back in the late 60s the kids would hurry home from school in order to watch the popular, to become cult, TV series about the vampire Barnabas Collins. The author actually played the character, Angelique; her real name is Lamar Rickey Hawkins.
We are back in 1971 and Barnabas Collins is still taking medication from Doctor Julia Hoffman in an attempt to cure him of his curse. Julia loves Barnabas and expects to marry him once he is cured of being a vampire; she looks haggard and tired. Barnabas is sickly, he has lost his prodigious strength and he can not get used to eating "human "food; it makes him sick but every day he must under go nauseating shots.
Roger and Elizabeth Collins, their son David, and Quintin Collins (still a werewolf; like Dorian Grey, his portrait ages in some hidden closet while Quintin stays the dapper, carefree, man about town) are living at Collinwood. The Old House, (Barnabas’ house) which was burnt to the ground was sold along with the grounds to Antoinette Harpignies, a 60s hippy type who bears a remarkable resemblance to Barnabas’ former lover, a witch and his nemesis, Angelique. Barnabas wonders if the woman is really Angelique even though he actually killed her. She is restoring the old house exactly the way it was down to the flaws in the wooden floors. Barnabas has the opportunity to explore the old house and he discovers a coffin in the basement where he used to spend his days. He, also finds the body of a workman who was clearly the victim of a vampire. The story brings all the characters into action and poses questions; is Antoinette really Angelique? Who is the vampire that kills several people? Is Barnabas having second thoughts about the cure?
There is a parallel story that takes place in Old Salem in the year 1692. The community is controlled by the strict bible quoting elders who seem to blame almost everything bad that happens on the Devil and his spawn of witches. The women live in terror; the elders are mean lustful men who threaten women and hold disgusting "witch hunts" and trials. Women are put in the Stocks, the elders use the water test to prove witchcraft; they tie the woman and throw her in the water; if she floats she is a witch if she sinks she is innocent. One of the women Miranda du Val is actually a witch but she is very careful not to be found out. She owns land that the deacons desire and eventually, false witnesses tell of her association with the devil and when the to the "dunking" test, she manages to free her hand enough to swim into a beaver hole and survive. She hides and sneaks around until she finds evidence that the sanctimonious elders are evil and lecherous. She goes to the village to confront them, one is a "Collins", but she is not believed and she is condemned to hang. Before she hangs, she places a curse on the elders:"if you take my life, God will give you blood to drink". ( Barnabas’ curse?)
Very interesting tale with a sensational ending.

"The Women of Whitechapel and Jack The Ripper" Paul West
A dark story of the lives of London’s "women of the night" and the dangers they face. More particularly about one of the girls who meets, marries and has a child by the Crown Prince, Edward and the consequences when the Royal Family finds out. A much better story based on the exact theme right down to the names of the characters is a DVD movie "From Hell" staring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. A frightening and graphic thriller.

"Body of Lies" David Ignatius
This Washington Post columnist who has covered the CIA and the Middle East for 25 years has written on of the best spy novels I have read.
A CIA operative who almost lost his leg in Iraq in a car bombing is given a secret mission to penetrate the network of a major terrorist who is responsible for many car bombings in Europe; more and more cities are involved and it is suspected that it is just a matter of time before the bombs go nuclear. The operative, Ferris ,works out of Amman because that is where their first and only lead to the master terrorist is found. Ferris has fascinating working relationship with the colorful and powerful head of security and intelligence of Amman. Farris and his Washington chief are, frequently at ends with the Amman chief as to who should run the operation and how much information should be shared. They are all after the same person. The Amman chief, Hani, insists that he be in charge; it is his country. The CIA people make sone very serious blunders by trying to act on their own and their prime candidate is killed. Hani throws Ferris out of the country.
Back to square one, in Washington, Ferris remembers a famous British Intelligence ploy from World War II called "The Man Who Never Was". The British created a personality, gave him a background complete with family, girlfriend, school ties, meticulous documentation and then found a dead body, dressed him in uniform with identification and "pocket trash" that would identify him to the person they created, attached a couriers bracelet to his wrist and filled a document case with deceptive material relating to the location point of the invasion of Europe and dumped the body off the coast of Spain for the Nazis to discover. The trick worked!
Ferris convinced his superiors that an Arab version of this "body of lies" could be used to discredit this master terrorist, Suleimen. All the intrigue and the complexity of the plan developes beautifully; Ferris’ personal life, his relationship with his estranged wife and a woman he meets in Amman play a significant part in the way the scheme develops. Great characters and suspenseful action. Find this one and read it!! The more I read about the CIA, fact and fiction, it seems that lies and deception and total disregard for the rules of Government and human life for that matter are the standard "modus operendi".

"Neffertiti" Nick Drake
The story takes place in ancient Egypt during the reign of Akhenaten and his wife Neffertiti, called "the perfect one" because of her poise and beauty. Akhenaten has convinced himself that he is the Sun God Aten and he has declared that Aten is the only god that the two lands of Egypt can have. Together with Neffertiti, he has moved the capital from Thebes to another city which was built at huge expense to reflect the glory of Aten. The old gods are in process of being removed, the wealthy priests who led the people to the old gods were no longer in power, people of the lands were forced to worship Akhenaten and Neffertiti. Out of fear, people obey but there is much discontent particularly among the wealth and the displaced priests as well as the common people who are not comfortable leaving the old gods. The lands are also experiencing economic problems.
Akhenaten has many secret enemies and they are posturing themselves for a power struggle. Even though Akhenatan know this, he has set a day for a great festival where all the powerful people from all over the land will meet in the new city to praise Aten. He is counting on the support of his wife, Neffertiti because the people have a great reverence for her.
Ten days before the festival, Neffertiti vanishes. There could be dire consequences if she does not appear at the festival; Akhenaten’s rivals would cause political and religious problems. A chief Detective from Thebes is summoned to investigate the disappearance of Neffertiti and to find her before the festival. The investigation, the rivalries the detective meets, the characters that are developed and the questions that must be answered: what happened to Neffertiti?, is she alive?, was she murdered? Who is responsible for her disappearance? Who are the power players? Why will the investigation reveal other killings -how are they related? There are attempts on the life of our detective - all of this unwinds in a well turned, complex mystery as well as an interesting history of the time. Great read!


"The Russian Concubine" Kate Furnivall
This Welsh author’s mother was, at one time a White Russian refugee in China.
The novel is a moving story about people living in China in the 1920s. The Russian Revolution has forced the aristocrats, the "White Russians" to flee their mother country. China is having it’s own changes. Sun-Yat-Sen has established his National Peoples Party "The Kuomintang", his military advisor was a General called Chian Kai-shek. Even though The Soviet Union was helpful, in an advisory capacity, in the creation of his party, Chian Kai-shek was determined to purge China of all communists. He wanted a more "reformed socialist party. His methods were brutal and he used his army with great force. Still, there were many secret followers of the communist leader Mao Tse Tung. As history will note, when the Japanese invaded China, Chiang’s army could not stand up against them alone had he had to join forces with Mao Tse Tung. After World War II, Chiang left China and went to Formosa.
While fleeing Russia, Valentina Friis, her husband and young child , Lydia, are accosted by Bolshevik soldiers and are going to be shot. Valentinina manages to bribe the soldiers to free her and her daughter but they will not give up her husband.
Eleven years later, Valentina and Lydia are living in Northern China. They live in the poorest section of the International Settlement. Although Valentina is a beautiful woman and a concert pianist, she can not earn enough money to keep her child in school so she consorts with some of the wealthy English men in the compound. Valentina does "what must be done" to survive and protect her daughter while keeping some dark secrets. Lydia is curious and precocious; she has learned to find her way outside the compound into the Old Chinese town. She has, also, learned to steal from wealthy men in the compound .She sells the goods in town to help pay the rent because her mother spends their limited funds on clothes and booze she is often drunk. Lydia meets and becomes very attracted to a young Chinese man, a communist and follower of Mao Tse Tung. This is a very dangerous liaison for Lydia, not only because of the racial issue but because the young man has enemies among an evil tong of criminals as well as being hunted by the Kuomintang.
Other characters in the story are an English embassy official who is corrupt and abusive to his family, a openly hostile and racist newspaper writer who wants to marry Valentina, and an English school teacher who is steeped in China history and customs and is concerned about China’s future. He has a Chinese mistress who is the daughter of the a most powerful criminal leader. This is a story of love, intrigue, violence, racial predigest, the political change of a nation and the survival of characters that have become real and important to the reader. There is danger and suspense; I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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"The Dying Crapshooter’s Blues" David Fulmer
Atlanta, Georgia in the 20s. The city is growing into a busy metropolis but our story takes place in the seedy side of town where corrupt cops, political leaders on the take and crime and protection prevail. Bars, pimps, whores and all kinds of unsavory but fascinating people flesh out this interesting story of sin, mucic and the underbelly of this Southern city.
A change in administration in an attempt to shake out police corruption resulted in the appointment of inexperienced and incompetent people. When a daring jewel robbery takes place at the home of a prominent business man, the new police chief and his people are under the gun to solve the crime but they don’t know how to go about it. There is one particularly corrupt police captain left and he sees a chance to gain stature.
Joe Rose, a black gamble, womanizer, professional thief and one time Pinkerton cop comes to town at the time of the Jewel theft and becomes a suspect along with a former girlfriend, Pearl, who was at the mansion at the time of the theft. Joe is innocent (at least of this crime); his efforts to find out who did the crime are intertwined with a sub plot: a friend of joe, a gambler and a pimp named Jesse was shot the night of the theft by a drunken cop and is dying. Jesse made Joe promise to get the cop that shot him. Another pal of Jesse, Blind Willie, a 12 string guitar player has promised to compose a musical tribute to Jesse.
The story takes you in and around the dark places of Atlanta and introduces you to some great, nasty people; the neat thing about it, the author places you right there where you can feel and touch what is going on.

"Agents of Innocence" David Ignatius
Another CIA novel by the excellent writer, David Ignatius. This time we are in the sad, confused country of Lebanon in the the early 1970s. Militant Christians and Muslims, and angry Palestinians are being manipulated by the Jewish Secret Service , the Mossad,who are encouraging the violence by actually selling arms to the Palestinians. The story is much like a "how to do book" about how the CIA goes about recruiting agents in the Middle East. Treachery, corruption, bribery, disloyalty , lies and deception on the part of the CIA and those they recruit are all part of the game as an idealistic CIA manager tries to recruit a high level operative of the PLO. The plot stays essentially in Beirut but there is action in Jordon, Syria and Israel. The growth of terrorism in the Middle East and the beginning of the "Black September " organization up through the Munich incident is outlined in vivid detail. Lebanon never had a chance and when the story ended, after all of the intrigue, and the death of 100,000 people ,Christians and Moslems ,in a ten year war promoted by the Christians (egged on by the Jews) because they felt they had to push the Palestinians out, Syria became a threat and the Christians allowed the Palestinian fighters back in.
Lebanon is currently a mess and until this Israeli-Palestinian problem is resolved it will continue to hurt.

"The Kingdom of The Bones" Stephen Gallager
Fiction but based loosely on actual historical figures, this swift moving supernatural thriller grabs your interest right away and will not let go until the last page is read.
The protagonist is Tom Sayers a former boxing champion who, after an injury, became manager of a traveling theater. The troupe is made up of fascinating characters, among them is a young woman whom Tom falls in love with. His love is unrequited but he is always there to help and protect her. The police have traced a pattern of gruesome murders of young boys in each of the town that the theater has performed in and Tom is falsely accused of the crimes. He narrowly escapes the gallows and sets out to find out who actually did the crimes and to redeem himself in the eyes of the lady he is enamored with. One of the few friends he can turn to for help is Bram Stoker (author of the novel Dracula); appropriate because the crimes have the flavor of the occult and Stoker has contacts in this area. The action moves fast and covers a long period of time and Tom has several harrowing experiences. The author cleverly moves suspicion from one of the members of the theater group to another and then to others. The climax is quite a surprise. This is a good one!

"Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages"
Harold Bloom
A wonderful anthology of the author’s favorite childhood readings. Harold Bloom wrote "If readers are to come to Shakespeare and Chekhov, to Henry James and to Jane Austen, then they are better prepared if the have read Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Robert Louis Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling". The volume contains beautiful (and sometimes ugly) poems and stories of mystery, romance, humor, horror, fantasy and adventures that stretch your memory and bring back with, clarity, almost forgotten characters and plots. I enjoyed the collection and was not at all surprised that there were many titles and authors that were new to me. Find it at your library and dip into the table of contents and enjoy several hours of browsing and reading.

"Cicero" Anthony Everitt
Markus Tullius Cicero was not only a statesman and great orator, but a great thinker who influenced, to some extent, the framers of the United States Constitution. Cicero wrote about how a state should be organized and he favored a mixed or balanced constitution and a combination of monarchy, oligarchy and democracy. A very interesting biography and a wonderful history of Rome and the colorful people who were contemporary with Cicero; Pompey, Marcus Brutus, Caesar, Mark Anthony and hundreds more who were involved as Rome went from a dynamic Republic to a dictatorship.

"Simple Genius" David Baldacci
This is the 11th novel by David Baldacci that I have read. I enjoyed all of them immensely. Two former Secret Service Agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell ("Split Second") now private investigators, are brought back as leading characters. They are hired to investigate the death of a brilliant scientist who was found dead just outside the razor fence of the grounds of the CIA camp in Williamsburg, VA. His specialty was mathematics and cryptology and he worked at a secret installation that bordered the CIA camp. Sean and Michelle go to the secret installation but they are stymied at every step by the secrecy of what they are trying to do. Baldacci kind of feeds us a red herring or two to confuse the reader; after a while you really do not know who are the good guys and who are not and what this investigation and story is all about. He spends a lot of pages, many, many, in fact exploring the psyche of his two main characters and that of a seemingly autistic young girl, a genius in math, the daughter of the murdered scientist. Sean and Michelle suspect that the scientist was murdered because he, somehow, gained access to the heavily guarded CIA camp and saw something he shouldn’t have. Other scientists are killed and the lives of the investigators are threatened. The plot twists and the CIA is very suspect; this is an action packed story, very suspenseful with some scary ideas of the power and ruthlessness the CIA can exercise to protect their secrets. You will learn a lot about the history of codes and cryptology and some very esoteric theories about quantum computers. Over all, another good one from David. Check out his website.

"Fieldwork" Mischa Berlinski
The author gives the leading character his own name; Mischa, a young man who tags along to Thailand with his girl friend who has accepted a teaching job. Mischa enjoys the country and works, part time as a Arabic. Through a friend, he learns about an American Anthropologist who was found dead in a Thai prison; a suicide, where the woman was serving a life term for murder. The friend tells Mischa what he knows about the woman, Martiya, and how , at one time, he visited the prison at the request of a relative in England and discovered an educated person who was spending her time in prison writing about her ethnographical studies. Mischa becomes intrigued with the story and the person and sets out to unravel Martiya’s story and life. Why did she do murder and why was she killed? The novel is kind of off beat and rather slow at times but one learns about Thai culture and the dedication of those anthropologists who spend years doing field work almost obsessively.

"The Mummy Case" Elizabeth Peters
This is an early chapter in the "Peabody series"; the book first came out in 1985. I read it then and it was published again in hard cover about a month ago; I am not sure why but I do not have a copy in our collection so I bought it and read it again.
It was lots of fun to remember the early antics of Amelia, affectionately called Peabody and Emerson ("The Father of Curses") and their very young and very precocious son "Ramses" (Radcliffe Emerson Jr.). While Ms Peters who is a PHD graduate in Egyptology can tell an interesting story about Egypt, tombs and characters who were excavating in the Valley of the Kings a few years before Carter found Tutankhamen (1922), it is her Emerson family that she lovingly created and made the center piece of her mysteries and adventures. I am afraid that if someone unfamiliar with her works reads this "new Book"they might be turned off by a lisping child, who can translate demonic papyri and can speak Arabic and their doting parents. You have to start at the beginning with this series. You will either like her or not.

"The Fourth Order" Stephen Frey
A frightening story about aa ultra secret government agency that was activated after 9/11 as an anti terrorist tool. This is the fourth time that "The Order of Immunity" formed after the assignation of president Lincoln has been made operational for the first time. The group, funded through a maze of corporations so no one can know where the money originates, headed by very high level government officials and soldiered by people with no moral scruples, are charged to route out terrorists without regard to due process. They can grab anyone they think might have information, they can detain, imprison, torture and kill anyone with complete immunity. They their powers vigorously even though more than two thirds of the people they grab are innocent.
A Chief Financial officer of a multi billion dollar corporation is embarking on a hostile take over of a very technical computer service company. Hidden in this company is the operational apparatus of the Fourth Order and it’s sophisticated, world wide, computer spy system that can monitor all electronic and verbal communications giving the order nationwide and national surveillance ability. The powers in the Fourth Order do everything they can to try to stop this take over. The CFO and his family are placed in great jeopardy. The plot twists and turns; ruthless and evil people move in and out of the action. This is fiction but who really knows what kind of monsters we might really have doing hateful things in the guise of "protecting the people"? In this story they went much too far and it deteriorated to personal vendettas.

"The Club Dumas" Arturo Perez-Reverte
An amazing, intelligently written, mystery and occult puzzle novel written by a favorite Spanish author. Books, writers, collectors and dealers in old and rare books are introduced into this story about a certain book dealer who makes his living researching and finding and buying and selling books for a selected clientele. Lucas Corso is hired to authenticate part of an original manuscript, part of "The Three Musketeers", written by Alexander Dumas ;Dumas was known to collaborate with others when he wrote his novels, hence the need for verification. As he goes about this task, he is engaged by a very wealthy collector, Varo Borja, to research a demonic book called "The Book of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" supposedly authored by Lucifer himself. The book is supposed to enable the owner, if he can figure out the puzzles, to meet the Devil and become all powerful. There are only three such volumes in existence and Corso is charged to examine each one in order to assure Borja that the one he has is genuine; he suspects it might be a forgery. (Perhaps, Borja tried to meet the Devil and the ritual did not work) Corso finds himself involved in a complicated plot where he meets people that seem, to him, to resemble the main characters of the "Three Musketeers", a sensuous woman the wife of the previous owner of the manuscript that he identifies as Milady De Winter and a man who is closely identified with the woman he thinks of as Rocheforte.
At the same time ,as he begins to compare the second of the Book of the Nine Gates, he discovers that while the binding, the paper and the print are identical, there are slight differences in the nine prints. He also discovers that some of the prints were originated by the publisher and others were originated by another person "LCF" (Lucifer?). Corso is followed and threatened by the person he thinks of as Rocheforte but each time he is in danger, he is rescued by a strange young girl who follows him. As the story progresses, death and destruction of their libraries come to the two other owners of the Book of Nine Gates; the books are destroyed but the prints were removed prior to burning the books. Corso finds himself in the middle of a twisting plot that involves devil worship, occult practices and a secret organization relating to Alexander Dumas.
This was a fascinating novel; the plot was complex and the climax was interesting and throughout the book there were lively discussions between Corso and book dealers and book collectors where literally hundreds of novels and author’s works were discussed or quoted from and great care was taken in the story to show the sources that Corso and others used as they researched both the manuscript and the occult book.
This novel was adapted into a film by Roman Polanski. Johnny Depp played Corso in this dark and exciting movie called "The Ninth Gate". Get the DVD.