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”.