Wednesday, August 04, 2010

July 2010

“Empire of The Sun” J.G. Ballard

“The Hittite” Ben Bova

“Innocent” Scott Turow

Really excellent!! Wonderful plot and characters.

“Jane’s Fame” Clair Harman

Book review - Buffalo Bill's Defunct - Sheila Simonson This is from Claudia

Just finished this book and I really enjoyed it. Steve Bero had given
Just finished this book and I really enjoyed it. Steve Bero had given it to me the last time we got together. I think his library had received the advanced copy. It is a current date murder mystery that takes place in Washington State. A single mom (Meg) has just left her daughter who is just starting her adventures at Stanford University, to begin a new life for herself as the Head Librarian in a small town. She moves in and suddenly a dead body is discovered in a secret storage compartment in the floor of her garage. She finds a piece of an artifact (petro glyph) in her garage and smells what she thinks is a dead animal decomposing somewhere in the garage, but alas it turns out there is much more going on......welcome to the neighborhood. It is an easy read (not extremely complex - less so than say Tony Hillerman or a Pendergast novel) and the characters are interesting. Meg (Librarian) uses her information retrieval skills and assists the police investigation to solve the murder. The artifact may be a part of a heist from 10 yrs ago and would therefore belong to the local descendants of the Klalo tribe. Chief Madeline Thomas is someone I would like to learn more about.

This apparantly is a part of a series: A Latouche County Mystery.

Other authors mentioned from Perseverance Press: (Mysteries)
Jon Breen
Taffy Cannon - Roxxane Prescott Series
Laura Crum - Gail McCarthy Series
Jeanne M Dams - Hilda Johansson Series
Kathy Lynn Emerson - Lady Appleton Series
Lev Raphael - Nick Hoffman Series
Rebecca Rothenberg - Botanical Series
Eric Wright - Joe Barley Series

Kathy Lynn Emerson: "How to write Killer Historical Mysteries: The Art and Adventure of Sleuthing Through the Past"
Carolyn Wheat: "How to writer killer fiction: The funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense"

I also wanted to inform you about a new movie just released. "AGORA" It is about the Library of Alexandria and Hypatia (daughter of the curator of the library). Regretably, my formal undergraduate education curriculum did not see fit to inform me about her..... I think I have found a new "Artemesia" to explore. Dad, I'm mailing you the article. Movie Website:

Happy reading,

July turned out to be a month of reading and rereading old favorites. I wonder how many people remember A. J. Cronin? He was a Scottish physician who served in World War I as a Surgeon, worked in the coal mine towns under the company medical schemes (which were the model for Britain’s National Health Program) where he wrote papers on coal dust inhalation and pulmonary disease . In 1930 he retired from medicine ant started writing. I reread my two favorites: “The Keys of The Kingdom” about a Catholic priest who was sent to China and refused to accept “rice Christians” in his parish but managed over many years to get a following starting out by opening a medical aid station. “The Citadel”; the trials, successes and failures of a young Scottish Doctor as he found his way in medicine by working the coal mine towns. This was, clearly, a novel based on his own experienced. “Adventures in Two Worlds” is an interesting autobiography which starts when Cronin was a medical student. As you read the biography and all the things he experienced, you recall all of the adventures of the characters in his novels.

I read three more Louis L’Amour novels:

“The Man Called Noon”
“Long Ride Home”
“The Daybreakers”

What can I say? Good Western adventure; I keep trying to discover a time when L’Amour’s protagonist uses a contraction in his speech –very rarely. Just pure enjoyment.

Lucy By Laurence Gonzales

A fascinating and thought provoking story that deals with genetic tampering, morality, ethics and religious thoughts that arise when a woman Primatologist, Jenny, discovers a young girl in the jungle in the devastated research camp of a fellow primatologist. Civil war rebels have murdered the scientist and everyone in the camp but the girl, Lucy, somehow escaped. After grabbing whatever notebooks she could find they fled home.

Lucy is a beautiful, very intelligent part Bonobo chimpanzee and part human; the result of an experiment conducted by the scientist who was slaughtered by the rebels. She speaks perfect English and several other languages, she is well read and classically educated.

Where does Lucy belong in our society? There are those who consider her an abomination and should be destroyed, some want her in a cage, others want to study her; literally dissect her. I was charmed by Lucy and was angered by how mean and shameful people, society, religious groups and the government can act out of fear and lack of understanding. Splendid read!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Month of Catch Up

June 24th

This has been an interesting week or several weeks, actually; a little less than a month ago. I bought an Amazon Kindle. The main reason I bought the Kindle was to alleviate the cost of my Wall Street Journal subscription. I find that I can get the Wall Street Journal for about one third of what the Wall Street wants to charge me for the paper edition. Now, I turn the wireless on each morning and within three minutes I have my Wall Street Journal. I can also, buy books through Amazon at a cost from $1-$12.

Recent looks that I have taken from the library include: “Island Beneath the Sea" by Isabel Allende it did not interest me, a delightful story of Tuscany: “ Every Day in Tuscany” by Francis M. Mayes. This is the woman, who wrote under the Tuscan Sun. It is
a story of everyday life in Tuscany and includes many deliciousng recipes; lots of garlic. I also found a book called “The Dangerous Book of Heroes” which is really a compilation of short biographies of famous people, including George Washington, Sir Richard Burton, Oliver Cromwell, Helen Keller, and many others. This would be an excellent reference.

I labored into Gore Vidal’s “Creation” A rather heavy reading, but a fascinating story of the ancient world in the fifth century A.D. Cyrus Spitama, grandson of the prophet Zoroaster , Persian Ambassador for the great King Darius and friend of the mighty warrior, Xerxes. Cyrus was an old blind philosopher who traveled to India to talk to Buddha, to Cathay (very early China) to meet Confucius and to Athens in Pericles time to discuss creation, and evil and good with Sophocles, Socrates, Thucydides and Herodotus. I am sorry to say, I did not give this excellent work the time it deserved. When Cyrus was in Athens he was clearly in some danger because Persia had conjured Greece of old and he had to take some care in his speech. I kept looking for Cyrus to give the Persian version of the Battle at Thermopylae and King Leonidas of Sparta.

I, also, found a wonderful volume by Thomas Asbridge; “The Crusades”. There is a very comprehensive introduction that will give the reader a broad understanding of how and why the church decided it was important to fight these “Holy Wars” and how their power over the people of Western Europe was able to increase. The introduction also gives an overview of the Muslim World and a fairly comprehensive history of Islam. If nothing else, you must read the introduction and the notes.

For my Kindle, I bought and read:

David Baldacci’s “Deliver Us From Evil” (Special Edition) I have read every one of his novels and he has never disappointed me. My favorite, I think is “Absolute Power”, this one, however was pretty close. The “evil” is about as bad as it comes in the form of a madman, a monster who must be stopped. This was a real thriller; the interesting thing about the “Special Edition” is that Baldacci includes the notes he used as he developed the novel and he included discussion as to alternate endings and titles.

“Utopia” By Lincoln Child

Lincoln coauthors with Douglas Preston the splendid Special Agent Pendergast series, two museum thrillers, “Relic” and “Reliquary” and many other exciting novels.
Lincoln’s “Utopia” is about a fantasy amusement park with different world themes all run by super computers with software that will put you right into the action. The park is run by a mega Corporation that makes Millions of dollars each day. Hardware and software problems mysteriously develop in spite of failsafe programs; people are getting killed in the park!

“The Burning Wire” By Jeffery Deaver

The latest Lincoln Rhyme novel; Someone has found a way to manipulate the New York City power grid with devastating consequences. A madman? Rhyme must also deal with an old enemy who will trick him into some mistakes. This was a good one.

Through the Kindle, I “discovered” an author I enjoy very much; Tom Lewis is an interesting man educated here and in Europe, a Symphony Conductor for 38 years and now a novelist. He is. Certainly well read and articulate. I like the way he tells a story.

My first visit was “My King The President” a splendid and interesting thriller about a young Secret Service agent who gets up one morning, reports for duty at the Whitehouse, goes to the President’s office and shoots him dead and then kills himself. Why? The agent left some cryptic notes with a priest and old college friend who is an investigative reporter. The reporter was hesitant to do anything but the new President, concerned about rumors surrounding the assignation hires him to investigate and report to her only. One of the first persons he is contacted by is the dead president’s wife who hints of grave happenings, a president who is power hungry and has his own ideas of how the country should be run and will use the military and powerful people in government and industry to literally take over the country. Unfortunately, before they can have a more detailed meeting, she is dead. The official word, a grieving widow committing suicide. The man is warned off, other contacts either die or disappear. A hide and seek chase with danger and drama ensues and little by little the plot unfolds.. I read it in one sitting. Thanks, Tom.

I read “Lucifer’s Children” a strange novel; a “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Omen”, “Exorcist” and a rather original concept of Hell with Lucifer in charge of a simple mining town and master of a complex computer driven Empire hidden in a mountain. Bazaar but I enjoyed it.

I will start “Hitler’s Judas” tonight.

Two More Mentions: (Hard Covers from Amazon)

“Fever Dream” By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Claudia and I have been following Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast for many years; she has not read this one yet. Pendergast had a wife named Helen who was killed by accident on a lion hunt in Africa. Twelve years later, he finds some documents that indicate that she was murdered. Together with his friend and associate Vincent D’Agosta, Lieutenant NYPD, he will go back to Africa and follow every clue and lead until he discovers and kills the person responsible for his wife’s death. Pendergast learns many things about his wife and the trail is circuitous, extremely dangerous and full of surprises. You will like this one, Claudia; I did. Constance shows up again; in trouble.

“A River In The Sky” Elizabeth Peters

The “editor” has received from the heirs of Mrs. Emerson another volume of her memoirs. This story is not in sequence; it relates to an earlier time (1910) prior to WWI. Germany is increasing her influence in Palestine and British Intelligence thinks that they might be there to stir up trouble between the three religions. Germans used Archaeologists as a front for their activities – -remember the old novel “Seven Graves to Cairo” where a big group of German archaeologists hid gasoline and munitions across the desert in anticipation of the war?--

The Emersons are asked to go to Jerusalem to, ostensively, monitor an amateur treasure hunter to make sure he does not destroy any monuments (He thinks he knows where the Ark of the Covenant is hidden) but to, also, keep an eye on the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians who are on the verge of a holy war that is being instigated by people that would benefit.
Pretty good tale; not Egypt but Amelia and her extended family did good and it is always fun to see them again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Alchemy of Murder By Carol McCleary

Ms McCleary has written a wonderful, entertaining and perfectly delightful novel featuring investigative journalist Nellie Bly. Nellie Bly was a colorful pioneer in woman’s rights who pushed her way into the newspaper business and wrote an expose’ on the treatment of female factory workers. She went on to become a foreign correspondent in Mexico and to get a job with The New York World newspaper, she feigned insanity and had herself committed to a notorious Woman’s Lunatic Asylum and wrote an article about how the women were treated. Inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, she went around the world in 72 days beating Phileas Fogg’s time by 8 days. This was in 1890.

Our author has placed Nellie in Paris in pursuit of a serial killer who has been killing and mutilating young women. She has been tracking this evil person from America to England and now to France. The year is 1889; the World’s Fair and it’s special attraction, the Eiffel Tower has attracted hundreds of thousands of people. The killer of women has struck in Paris and if that were not bad enough, a strange, deadly plague is taking the lives of the people of Paris. The French Ministers are not anxious to expose either the killings of the mysterious deaths for fear of panicking the Fair visitors. They attribute the plague to the gases from the underground rivers. Nellie thinks that the there is a connection with her serial killer. In this exciting adventure, Nellie meets and enlists the aid of some of the most interesting and contemporary figures of the time; Jules Verne , Oscar Wilde, Louis Pasteur and even Toulouse Lautrec. Together they explored streets and alleys of Paris; they meet dangerous characters and visit some very scary places; Nellie even enjoys a little romance. There were some surprises and an exciting climax when Nellie faces the killer alone.

I,really, enjoyed this one and look forward to more Nellie Bly adventures. Thank you Carol!

Heresy By S.J. Parrish

A splendid, intriguing, historical novel about a fugitive Monk, Giordano Bruno, who is wanted by the inquisition because of his heretical belief in a heliocentric universe. Giordano is also a poet, a scientist and a scholar.

Giordano flees to England where the Protestant Queen Elizabeth is embroiled in the constant battle with Catholics. Her chief spy is Sir Francis Wolsingham a devious and clever master of an army of spies none of whom knows the identity of the other. Wolsingham suspects that Oxford University is a haven for rebellious Catholics who are plotting to assassinate Elizabeth. Giordano is hired to infiltrate and expose the underground network of Papists.

As a ruse to gain entrance, Bruno is to debate the theories of Copernicus with the head of the University. During the debate, which goes very badly for Bruno because the head of the University and the faculty had such closed minds that they refused to even accept the premise, the first of several murders occur. The Rector, fearing a scandal, refuses to bring in the authorities to investigate; Giordano recognizes the deaths as murder and investigates himself which puts him at odds with the Rector and the faculty. Giordano must use all of his skill in the face of deceptions and obstacles the Rector and some of the faculty put before him while at the same time keeping his mission secret and his life safe from the inquisition.

This was a brilliant and compelling story; I am sure that there will be another novel highlighting Giordano Bruno’s adventure.

Hester By Paula Reed

In the mid 1800’s, Nathaniel Hawthorn gave us “The Scarlet Letter”. Hawthorn’s famous work takes place in 17th century Boston in a rigid Puritan community and tells the story of Hester Pryne a young woman whose husband was presumably lost at sea several years ago being led from prison with her infant daughter in her arms wearing an embroidered letter “A” on the breast of her gown, a badge of her shame and the sin of adultery. Her further punishment in to stand on a raised scaffold for the next three hours to be viewed by the people of the village and to be questioned and shamed by the Governor and other high officials including the pious and respected young minister Roger Dimmesdale who joins the throng in an impassioned plea for Hester to name her lover. She continues to refuse to do so.

It is at this time that a stranger shows up who identifies himself as Roger Chillingworth a practice of medicine. He is actually Hester’s husband who refuses to admit his identity and later, forces Hester not to acknowledge him. He makes up his mind that somehow he will find out who Hester’s lover is and kill him.

Hester clings to the Scarlet Letter, she refuses to remove it; she is shunned by the community but because of her seamstress abilities she is able to make a living and raise her daughter. Hester, after a time of charitable deeds has an easier life but she becomes able to look at persons in the village and know their sins this ability shows her that no one seems to be without sin and many of the most pious share the sin of adultery.

The story goes on to reveal that Arthur Dimmesdale is Hester’s lover and the father of their daughter, Pearl. Hester and Arthur finally decide to confess and leave on a ship to England. As they stand before the village Arthur exposes his chest and presents an “A’ that has been burned over his heart. Arthur dies; Chillingworth does not get his revenge. When Roger dies, he claims Pearl as hi own and leaves her hi fortune.
Hester and Pearl Leave Boston for many years and Hester The returns alone. Hester lives the rest of her days in the village doing charity, she is accepted by the women of the village and when she dies, is buried next to Arthur. On the simple tombstone they share is written “On a Field, Sable, The Letter “A”, Gules”


Paula Reed, in her “Hester” has written a story she calls the missing years of the “Scarlet Letter”.

Hester and Pearl are still in Boston, Pearl is seven years old, Hester still has what she calls her “touch” but she is, now, accepted by the women in the community and they look to her for advice. Roger Chillingworth dies and leaves his very substantial fortune to Pearl who, in his will, he claims to be his daughter. Hester and Pearl leave for England to start a new life.

Seventeenth Century England was Protestant, Catholics and Jews were hated. Mary, Queen of Scot was maligned as a “Papist whore” Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of the Commonwealth and in his zeal to keep England Protestant and to ferret out “secret Catholics” he had spies all over and tortured his suspects into confession.

Hester and Pearl began their life in England by living with and becoming a part of the family of a girlhood friend who was married to a high ranking military man, one of Cromwell’s people, who was away from home most of the time fighting Catholic rebels. Through this connection she met Cromwell who somehow discovers Hester’s ability to see sin and hypocrisy in others and he blackmails her to help him expose disloyal people. One of Cromwell’s fears is that England might be attacked by one of the Catholic kings and be aided by the “secret” Catholics in England. Hester becomes very much involved in the political and social intrigues of the times to the point that she endangers her life and others close to her.

This was a very interesting and well told story. Hester had a love afair in England but after arranging a suitable marriage for Pearl, she returned to Boston to die alone.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Fifth Servant By Kenneth Wishnia

The setting is Prague in the late 16th Century; the Catholic Church and the newly formed Protestant groups are fighting for religious control of all of Europe. The inquisition is hard at work torturing folks for heresy and witchcraft and both the Protestants and the Catholics fear and hate the Jews who are segregated, forced to wear yellow badges and confined to the Ghetto. They are blamed for any misfortune that occurs in the city. Clearly, misunderstood, they are accused of sorcery and eating infants during “blood rituals”.

On the eve of Passover, a Christian girl has been found dead in a Jewish shop with her throat slashed. This brutal crime is a grand excuse for the people of the town to place the blame on not just the shopkeeper but on all of the Jews in the Ghetto. This has happened before in other towns and the Jews have paid a terrible price in blood and fortune.

A sexton of the Synagogue, (a “Shammes”) named Benyamin Ben-Akive has been given three days to find the real killer. Benyamin is a scholar well versed in the Talmud and all of the esoteric writings and laws that dominate Jewish lives but he is new to the village and must rely on others to assist him. He aligns himself with the High Rabbi of the Jewish community and together with a council of other Rabbis, Benyamin finds ways to investigate the crime and stay within the rigid rules relating to Jewish laws especially during Passover as outlined in the Talmund. No work is allowed, no words can be written; not even a single letter. The entire Gheto is in danger of rioting and burning by the zealots of the Christian community. Witnesses must be found and evidence must be uncovered all under the scrutiny of the Christian officials who raise objections to practically everything. The body of the young girl must be examined but the Jews are not allowed to touch the body; Benyamin's wits are constantly challenged.

The author, Kenneth Wishnia, has drawn marvelous, complicated and interesting characters and the story is replete with Jewish history, customs and scholarly discussions about the Jewish writings as compared to the bible as the Jews know it and as the Christians interpret the words.; it is so very interesting to see the wry humor expressed by Benyamin as his people resign themselves to their life in the Ghetto. There is even a debate between the High Rabbi and the Catholic Bishop representing the inquisition. The is not only a fascinating history but also a puzzling mystery.

Fortunately, the author provided a glossary to help the reader understand the Jewish words and phrases.

This was a fascinating read and I strongly recommend it.

Living Witness By Jane Haddon

Exciting and interesting story about a small town, Snow Hill, located in the hills of Pennsylvania. The native residents have been there “forever” have very fundamental religious views and are not very friendly to newcomers. They are very suspicious of the people who have settled in the new subdivision with their fancy cars, their college educations, the “big words” they use, even the clothes they wear. Snow Hill folks drive pick-up trucks, don’t read books except for the bible of course, wear parkas not coats and most of them hardly got through high school. Then, there is religious disagreement among the natives; one of the groups were snake handlers another created their own "Christian " school.

A new school board decided to introduce Intelligent Design into the curriculum and the town is in an uproar. People, immediately, take sides; “Creationists” who take the Bible literally (the earth and everything was formed in seven days), those who do not go that far but still do not believe in evolution and the “Evolutionists”. Very strong language and opinions are expressed openly on the streets and in the stores very insulting; there is no middle ground.
A law suit has been filed against the school board and a very public trial is eminent.

The oldest, wealthiest and most opinionated woman in town(very liberal in all of her views)is discovered close to death, badly beaten in her own home. The local sheriff, a very biased “Creationist” thinks that he might be among the “suspects” and because there is going to be a media circus when the trial starts hires former FBI Agent Gregor Demarkian to investigate. Demarkian is an “out of towner” (and an Athiest) the town people do not warm to him.

This was an interesting subject and Jane Haddon researched it well and presented it with vigor and some bias I think. This was my first meeting with Gregor Demarkian; I like him and I will read more Jane Haddon.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Beau Geste By Perceval Christopher Wren

The great classic story of the French Foreign Legion and the three Geste brothers, John, Digby, and Michael, the oldest, who was called Beau.
These inseparable boys were adopted by Lady Brandon a wealthy woman who included among her treasures a magnificent sapphire called “The Blue Water”. The story tells of their life in England, how the sapphire went missing and Beau’s sudden departure from the home of Lady Brandon to join the French Foreign Legion. Beau’s brothers joined him later; all of them had confessed to stealing the gem.

The life and hardships endured by Legionnaires, the assignment to North Africa, the great battle at the fort of Zinderneuf and the harsh treatment of the Legionnaires by the brutal and sadistic Sergeant Markoff are all told in this wonderful story. The “Viking funeral” was memorable!

In 1939 I saw the movie which stared Gary Cooper as Beau, Ray Milland as John and Robert Preston as Digby. Brian Donlevy was the mean Sergeant Markoff it was true to the novel that I have just read for the first time. A great boy’s story!!

Impact By Douglas Preston

Wyman Ford, former CIA, hero of two other Preston novels (Tyrannosaur Canyon and Blasphemy) has been asked to investigate the source of some very radioactive gems that are showing up in large quantities on the black market. The search takes him to Cambodia where he investigates a mine shaft that appears to be the source. His mission was to investigate, take pictures and report but the people running the mine were using child labor and terribly mistreating them, working them to death and dumping the bodies in open graves. Ford took it upon himself to move the workers out of the area and then blow up the whole complex including the overseers and the mine. The people in Washington were very angry; they had lied to Ford and Ford soon learned that they had an entirely different reason for their interest in the mine. Apparently two huge meteors were tracked to have landed in the Atlantic off the coast of Main and in the Cambodia location. Shortly after, the radioactive stones started showing up. The Government was concerned because of the danger of the gems in the “wrong hands”.

In Main, Abby Straw, the rebellious daughter of a Lobster fisherman was taking pictures of constellations when the meteor crashed into the sea and she got a digital picture. Her immediate thought was meteors are worth a lot of money and she had the savvy to use the picture to triangulate a very close location as to where it hit the ground. She found the point of impact but she could not find the meteorite.

At the same time a young analyst, Mark Corso, at the National Propulsion Facility, an organization that plots the orbits of planets has discovered something very special about the meteor. The NPF has traced the origin of the meteor as Mars, but Corso has been secretly studying the phenomenon and using classified tracking information finds that the Meteor originated on one of the moons of Mars. Careful study of satellite pictures show what appears to be an ancient alien machine.

The planet Earth is threatened by more than a natural happening. Wyman Ford’s pictures and GPS statistics taken in Cambodia indicate that the meteorite did not hit the Earth at the mine’s location, the pictures, clearly, showed that it left the Earth at that spot!

This was a good thriller, likeable characters and an improbable but interesting and fun plot; the Government bumbling as usual but Wyman Ford, Abby Straw and Mark Corso work together to an exciting conclusion. I enjoyed this one very much.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Last Stand at Saber River By Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard is known to me for his crisp, snappy dialogue in such tales as “Get Shorty”, Be Cool” and “Tishomingo Blues” but he also wrote great Westerns.

Paul Cable is returning to his home in Southern Arizona. He is a wounded Confederate officer leaving a war that has scared him inside and out. He finds the town drastically changed and learns from the new owner of the general store, a hard, secretive and perhaps, dangerous man that his land and home had been taken over by two brothers. Those brothers, both Yankees, own most of the land in the territory and sell livestock to the Union Army Post.

Cable must confront these people; an ex- Confederate veteran in Union country. A story of great danger, great courage, mean spirited and dishonest characters and a man and his family who refuse to walk away. Good Western!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pirate Latitudes By Michael Crichton

Christmas present from “Jill Baby”; thank you!

This is a recently discovered manuscript after the author’s death in 2008. I have always enjoyed Michael Crichton’s novels; “Timeline”, Jurassic Park”, “Sphere” and “The Andromeda Strain” were my favorites.

The time is 1665 and we are introduced to Port Royal on the island of Jamaica. Port Royal is an isolated English colony that survives the attempts of conquest by the Spaniards because Port Royal is a haven for pirates and cutthroats who protect the island and prey on the Spanish.

A fun tale about a cultured pirate (they call themselves “privateers”), Charles Hunter, and his hunt for Spanish treasure on his galleon “El Trinidad and how the corrupt Governor and other officials finance the adventure for a percentage of the treasure. Of course, everyone will try to cheat each other out of their share. Captain Hunter is going to attack a Spanish stronghold that is used as a safe holding place for treasure vessels on their way to Spain. His crew is a mixed bunch; mostly hard, ruthless men of the sea but his officers are clever and resourceful men who assist Hunter in a daring and dangerous plan to land on the protected Spanish island.

The adventures on land in the town of Port Royal are filled with stories of the taverns and grogshops, the ladies of the bawdy houses and deeds and misdeeds of the men and women of the “upper class”. I read the novel straight through and was sorry that it ended because it was great fun.

The War That Killed Achilles Carolyn Alexander

This is a truly wonderful book; replete with fascinating information, well researched and fun to read. The Iliad, the beautiful poem of Homer has been dissected and re-presented to us as a novel of the brutality and futility of war. Simply stated, the war between the Greeks and Trojans was directly caused when Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy, visited the Greek king Menelaos of Sparta and abducted his beautiful wife, Helen. Menelaos went to see his brother, Agamemnon, who put together an alliance of Greeks who sailed with an Armada to the walled city of Troy to bring back Helen. The city of Troy was very much protected and the war went on for 10 years. It came to a point where all of the warriors were ready to call it quits. Achilles quickly tired of Agamemmon’s hate and greed because it became very clear to all that this war was not about Helen but rather about power.

Ms Alexander, a Rhodes Scholar, tries to draw a parallel to the “wars” that the United States is currently fighting; the futility, and the blunders. She shows how the common people and the soldiers were affected by this senseless war which, seemingly, could not be ended. Achilles’ mother, Thetis, prophesized his death but he sacrificed himself in this stupid war in his quest for everlasting fame. Homer, certainly gave him fame if you read Homer's "Odyssey" when Odysseus met Achilles in Hades, Achilles regreted his sacrifice for fame and said "better to be the hireling of a stranger and serve a man of mean estate whose living is small than to be a ruler over all these dead and gone".

Senseless wars continue to this day and they will finally end in the down fall of all of the participants; will we ever learn from history or from good sense??

This was a great read; I picked up a copy of Homer’s Illiad to read along with this novel and because the Illiad contains very little reference to the “Trojan Horse” or Odysseus and the role he played in the war, I bought a copy of Homer’s “The Odyssey”. I am reading this now and thoroughly enjoying it. I recommend going on line to get a pronunciation guide for the Greek names; it will help a lot.
You might, also, want to read “Ransom” by David Malouf which is wholly devoted to Achilles’ relationship to Patroclus, his rage and revenge against Hector and the great sorrow of Priam who went to Achilles to plead for his son’s body. Another reference which is very well done is Alessandro Baricco’s “An Illiad”; this marvelous Spanish writer (“Silk”, “Without Blood”, “City”, “Ocean Sea”) has taken Homer’s poem and adapted it to a public reading. A really great read!

Monday, January 04, 2010


The Group keeps getting smaller and smaller; too bad, we miss the old folks.
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Sara and Alan far right,top.

This was at Julia's home; I am waiting for a copy of the first family thing held at Tims Ford Lake over 15 years ago. I will post it to show how we have shrunk over the years.

The Lost Symbol By Dan Brown

Long awaited but rather disappointing to me.

I like history and enjoy historical fiction but Dan Brown bored the heck out of me with his extensive background on the Masons and their confusing and dumb symbolism.
There was a little too much preaching and some characters, including Langdon, who were not equal to or as strong as those in his previous novels. The puzzles were forced and esoteric and not very interesting. He did have a very evil and malevolent antagonist and there were a few interesting and tense situations and a couple of surprises towards the end but overall, I found myself waiting for the novel to end.
I thought that “Deception Point” and “Digital Fortress” were excellent. I liked “Angels and Demons” a bit better than “Da Vinci Code”.