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


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.

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"
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"
"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................

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
In defense of the French officer, Alfred Dreyfus who was sent to Devils Island in French Martinique for treason.
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
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
"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
"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"
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
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
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:
"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.

"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.

"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.