harrygbutler aims for 75+ in 2016

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harrygbutler aims for 75+ in 2016

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Edited: Mar 31, 2016, 8:20am

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Hello, I’m Harry, and I’ll be joining in the 75 Books Challenge for the first time in 2016. By training I'm a medievalist, by occupation an editor; my taste in reading runs to Golden Age and earlier mysteries, pulp detective and adventure fiction, Late Antique and medieval literature, and westerns, among others. I also have a fondness for collections of cartoons and comic strips. A fairly recent discovery for me is the appeal of late nineteenth and early twentieth century popular fiction, including regional fiction such as the novels of Joseph Crosby Lincoln about Cape Cod and the Scottish stories of J. J. Bell. I usually have a few books going at once.

My wife Erika and I live in eastern Pennsylvania with three cats — Elli, Otto, and Pixie — and a dog, Hildy. My other interests include model railroading, gardening, and birding.

I’m really looking forward to taking part in some of the challenges, and to picking up some ideas for potential reads.

I hope to provide some sort of comment on the books I read, though probably not full-blown reviews.

Books read
1. Gesta principum Polonorum (The Deeds of the Princes of the Poles)
2. The Day the World Ended, by Sax Rohmer
3. The Wedding-Chest Mystery, by A. E. Fielding
4. The Green Toad, by Walter S. Masterman
5. The Man from Scotland Yard, by David Frome
6. The House of a Thousand Candles, by Meredith Nicholson
7. The Life of Moses, by Gregory of Nyssa
8. The Crimson Alibi, by Octavus Roy Cohen
9. Black John of Halfaday Creek, by James B. Hendryx
10. Murder Ends the Song, by Alfred Meyers
11. Ipomadon (anonymous)
12. Three Byzantine Saints, trans. by Elizabeth Dawes & Norman Baynes
13. Information Received, by E. R. Punshon
14. Thirteen Guests, by J. Jefferson Farjeon
15. Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938, by Hal Foster
16. Uncle William, by Jennette Lee
17. The Hog's Back Mystery, by Freeman Wills Crofts
18. The Parlement of the Thre Ages (anonymous)
19. The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany
20. Something Fresh, by P. G. Wodehouse
21. The Legend of Duke Ernst, trans. by J. W. Thomas and Carolyn Dussère
22. The Mayfair Mystery, by Frank Richardson
23. The Three Taps, by Ronald Knox
24. Keziah Coffin, by Joseph C. Lincoln
25. On Wealth and Poverty, by Saint John Chrysostom
26. Ywain and Gawain (anonymous)
27. The Green Dragon, by J. Jefferson Farjeon
28. Generydes (anonymous)
29. Death Under Sail, by C. P. Snow
30. Blood of the North, by James B. Hendryx
31. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie
32. The Days of Auld Lang Syne, by Ian Maclaren
33. Athelston (anonymous)
34. Departmental Ditties and Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads, by Rudyard Kipling
35. Thebaid: A Song of Thebes, by P. Papinius Statius
36. The Nursing Home Murder, by Ngaio Marsh
37. Prince Valiant, Vol. 2: 1939-1940, by Hal Foster
38. The History and Topography of Ireland, by Gerald of Wales
39. The Whispering Ghost, by Stephen Chalmers
40. Moralia, Volume II, by Plutarch
41. Octovian (anonymous)
42. Lad: A Dog, by Albert Payson Terhune
43. The Black Coat, by Constance Little and Gwenyth Little
44. Jim, by J. J. Bell
45. The Lord of the Isles, by Sir Walter Scott
46. The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie
47. Doctor Syn, by Russell Thorndike
48. The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
49. The March Hare Murders, by E. X. Ferrars
50. The Lives of Simeon Stylites, translated by Robert Doran
51. The Guns of Navarone, by Alistair MacLean
52. Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries, ed. by Martin Edwards
53. The Temple of Glas, by John Lydgate
54. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions
55. Bat Wing, by Sax Rohmer
56. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, by Alice Caldwell Hegan
57. Panic in Box C, by John Dickson Carr
58. The Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie
59. Prince Valiant, Vol. 3: 1941-1942, by Hal Foster

Dec 27, 2015, 12:13am

Welcome. Dropped a star. See you in the new year

Dec 27, 2015, 7:42am

Welcome, Harry. I like some of the same things, and am curious about your unique reading interests. I've dropped a star and will follow your thread in 2016. Welcome to the fun and challenge!

Dec 27, 2015, 9:54am

Welcome Harry, starred your thread to follow your readings.


Dec 27, 2015, 4:49pm

Welcome! Looks like we have some interests in common. Your pic reminds me of the Wesrern Maryland Scenic Railroad - a fun ride/bike trip!

Dec 28, 2015, 12:51pm

>2 mahsdad: Thanks, Jeff! I'm looking forward to the conversations.

>3 maggie1944: Thanks, Karen! I'm already enjoying browsing the new threads and seeing the wide variety of ideas people have to structure their reading.

>4 FAMeulstee: Thank you, Anita! Good luck with your reading in 2016!

>5 drneutron: Thanks for the welcome, Jim, and for setting up this group! I've always been a fan of railroads, but I haven't made it to the Western Maryland yet. Mount Washington was a great place to visit, and we were fortunate that it was a clear day not only at the foot of the mountain, but up at the top (which is quite rare), so that we could see for miles and miles and miles.

Jan 1, 2016, 1:09am

Happy New Year!

I'm starting off the year with a few unfinished books:

Scottish Chiefs, by Jane Porter
The Day the World Ended, by Sax Rohmer
Gesta principum Polonorum

Up next, probably The Wedding-Chest Mystery.

Jan 1, 2016, 10:11am

Hi, Harry, and welcome to the group!

Jan 1, 2016, 2:13pm

Thanks, Amber! I see we have some reading interests in common, so I'll definitely be dropping by your thread.

Edited: Jan 1, 2016, 2:13pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 2, 2016, 5:06pm

Found you!

Welcome to the 75ers, Harry - I hope you enjoy the experience. I look forward to swapping notes on Golden Age mysteries with you. :)

(You also remind me that I have an unread copy of The Scottish Chiefs around here somewhere...)

Jan 2, 2016, 10:41pm

Thanks, Liz! Ditto.

And speaking of mysteries, I think all the entries in Annie Haynes' two series are now available as reprints. I wasn't particularly impressed with The Man with the Dark Beard, so I don't know how soon I'll be sampling the others.

I'm enjoying Scottish Chiefs, but I'm reading it rather slowly -- if I finish before the end of the month, I may use it for your historical novel TIOLI challenge.

Edited: Jan 10, 2016, 11:46pm

1. Gesta principum Polonorum (The Deeds of the Princes of the Poles)

The Gesta principum Polonorum (The Deeds of the Princes of the Poles) is a historical work composed in the early part of the 12th century by an anonymous author quite possibly from France (and thus know as “Gallus Anonymus”). The earliest history of Poland, the Gesta relates the beginnings of the Piast dynasty, starting in the legendary past (approximately the 9th century), through the reigns of the historical figures Duke Mieszko I (who converted to Christianity after marrying a Bohemian princess) and Bolesław I Chrobry (crowned king in AD 1025), among others, and into the reign of Bolesław III Wrymouth. The Gesta is ostensibly dedicated to the praise of this latter ruler, with what passes before leading up to his glorious reign, but the work often contains both apparent and implied criticisms of him and his activities, in the form of praise of others, perhaps less than positive comparisons, accounts of unsuccessful campaigns, and allusion to unsavory behavior (the blinding of his brother, Zbigniew). The Gesta ends rather abruptly just after some of this criticism, so perhaps external pressures brought about an end to the composition.

I read the English translation of the Gesta found in the Central European Medieval Texts series of dual-language editions. I have several of their editions, and I was glad to learn today that they are producing more.

The Gesta had some interesting passages (e.g., Bolesław I's dealings with the Rus'), but it was not particularly exciting. The Latin is relatively straightforward, so that it was easy to scan passages of interest. Recommended for those with an interest in early Poland or eastern Europe.

Jan 3, 2016, 4:31pm

>12 harrygbutler:

I had heard that the Haynes books were being reissued but wasn't sure where the process was up to - thanks! I haven't tried any of them yet but they're on The List so no doubt I'll get there sooner or later. :)

Jan 4, 2016, 6:45am

>13 harrygbutler: Interesting! I'll have to look into the CEMT series.
And yeah, Medieval Latin tends to be on the accessible side.
Whelp, I can see that yours will be an interesting thread this year! *grins*

Jan 4, 2016, 10:09am

>15 scaifea: Thanks, Amber! Have you seen the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (published by Harvard University Press)? So far there have been more than 30 volumes, spanning the period from Late Antiquity to the mid-fifteenth century, with facing-page translations of Greek, Latin, and Old English works (so far).

Edited: Jan 10, 2016, 11:46pm

2. The Day the World Ended, by Sax Rohmer

Sax Rohmer's The Day the World Ended begins with the trappings of a horror story, as a journalist visits the Black Forest to investigate claims of giant bats and vampires. He soon teams up with two other investigators, one an American agent and the other one of Rohmer’s series characters, the French detective Gaston Max (in his third appearance). The action is fairly nonstop, with people in disguise, mysterious disappearances, and investigations in the dark of night of spooky graveyard and ruinous castle. Some of the plot complications seem to be resolved rather perfunctorily (perhaps reflecting the novel’s initial publication as a serial in Collier’s), and the romantic subplot was unconvincing even in a genre where I expect things to move at a rapid clip. The ending seemed too rushed to be satisfying, and unimpressive – with the “heroes” succeeding largely because the archvillain wanted to sleep undisturbed, and with the actual destruction of the castle the result of either artillery fire or a betrayal from within (without confirmation of either alternative). Still, it was fairly entertaining ride, and I’d recommend it to fans of adventure stories.

Jan 4, 2016, 8:30pm

>16 harrygbutler: I haven't - my knowledge doesn't extend much beyond Silver Age Latin, I'm afraid. Thanks for the tip!

Jan 5, 2016, 1:24pm

Welcome Harry and happy new year!

>12 harrygbutler: I haven't read any of Annie Haynes' works but I've seen some positive comments on the recent reprints so may try them at some point.

Jan 6, 2016, 8:49am

>19 souloftherose: Thanks, Heather!

I didn't dislike the Haynes mystery I read, but I did find it nothing special. I'll likely try the other reprints from Dean Street Press — by Harriet Rutland and Ianthe Jerrold, for example — before I circle back around to another by Haynes.

Edited: Jan 21, 2016, 5:07pm

3. The Wedding-Chest Mystery, by A. E. Fielding
January TIOLI Challenge #1

The Wedding-Chest Mystery is the tenth in the series of 23 Chief Inspector Pointer mysteries by A. E. (or A.) Fielding—a pseudonym for Dorothy Feilding—, though the story opens curiously with a focus on a private investigator, Schofild, who is asked to meet with the financier Boyd Armstrong during a function at his house that afternoon. Schofild attends, and the gathering is surprised when the featured item in the Armstrongs’ Chinese suite, a wedding chest received that day as a gift from a friend, is opened to reveal Armstrong’s lifeless body instead of the dwarf birch trees that it should have contained. Schofild then works with the police (in the person of Chief Inspector Pointer) toward a solution of the crime, albeit he has disdain for the police’s ability to think. Pointer seems willing enough to work with Schofild but keeps his opinions to himself, and in the end he, not Schofild, correctly identifies and captures the murderer. Red herrings abound, and coincidence is strong. I’d say the culprit is more obvious from convention than from the clues, but it was a reasonably entertaining nevertheless, and I’ll likely give Fielding’s other mysteries a try—perhaps the first of the Chief Inspector series, The Eames-Erskine Case, which apparently is more of a police procedural.

Mildly recommended despite its flaws.

(I read The Wedding-Chest Mystery in a reprint by Resurrected Press, a small operation that appears to have come and gone, though the website is still around. The book suffered from a modest amount of typos and erroneous words that were presumably artifacts of the OCR process, but after a couple glaring errors in the first few pages—which had me worried—the incidence dropped off quite a bit, and the most annoying recurring errors were extraneous commas that also likely reflected working from a scan of the text.)

Edited: Jan 14, 2016, 4:54pm

I've been eager to lay my hands on a copy of The House of a Thousand Candles, the 1906 bestseller, since reading Liz's brief description in her last 2015 challenge thread, and today I was fortunate enough to come across a copy at one of my favorite local bookstores, the Book Garden in Cream Ridge, N.J. I wasn't able to get an edition with the cool candle cover, but I'm happy with the Grosset & Dunlap reprint that I did find.

The candle cover:

My cover:

I think it's going to move right up to the top of my TBR list.

Jan 7, 2016, 4:13pm


Finding a book like that is such a great feeling. :)

Jan 8, 2016, 12:36pm

Homemade chili, homemade biscuits, a good mystery -- an excellent lunch for a chilly day!

Edited: Jan 8, 2016, 4:38pm


Jan 9, 2016, 8:55am

>24 harrygbutler: Ooof, that looks amazing!

Jan 9, 2016, 2:53pm

>21 harrygbutler:

Meant to say, but forgot---apparently Resurrected Press were quietly bowdlerising their reissues, removing passages and words deemed "inappropriate" now, and without letting it be known that they were effectively releasing abridged versions. I began avoiding their books after the issue was publicised and I'm probably not the only one. It's one of those difficult situations---is it better to have the book in tampered-with form or not at all? (Of course, the short answer, if you're going to do it, do it properly!)

Edited: Jan 10, 2016, 2:35pm

The lunch was quite good, if I say so myself. :-)

My chili is more of a soup than many people prefer, but I like it. And biscuits are probably my "signature dish" (and pretty close to being the only bread I really like); I could eat them nonstop.

>27 lyzard: Thanks for the info, Liz! I hadn't heard about that. I certainly agree that the text shouldn't be meddled with. (I've found a couple other publishers of public domain works trying to use "minor" — and not explicit — changes to the texts as the basis for claims of copyright, largely as an attempt to prevent others from simply leveraging their work for editions of their own.)

Jan 10, 2016, 12:42pm

Yesterday I went to a 25-cent book sale at The Archive in Lansdale, Pa. A couple hours of scouring piles and tables and shelves full of unsorted books on their ill-lit second floor netted me 32 books, including about 22 mysteries and 4 westerns. I might have found more, but the pocket flashlight I borrowed from Erika died partway through, and I had to abandon close examination of the piles in the dark recesses under the tables.

The haul:

The Big Mogul
Death on Deposit
Aunt Jane of Kentucky
Gray dusk
The Crimson Alibi
More Heart Throbs
Hate Will Find a Way
Cross Trails
The Mystery at Chillery
North of Fifty-Three
The Bandbox
The Long Arm of the Mounted
The Man at the Carlton
The Pride of Palomar
Dan Carter and the Great Carved Face
The Burgess Big Book of Green Meadow Stories
The Catalyst Club
One Cried Murder
Beat Back the Tide
Murder in Time
Enter Sir John
The Listening House
Stand Up and Die
Blood Is a Beggar
Murder Comes Home
Death Takes the Stage
Baron Trigault's Vengeance
Gideon's Press / Inspector West at Home
The Whispering Ghost
The Hangman's Whip

Jan 10, 2016, 4:26pm

Aww, you are killing me! - a collection like that would cost my life's savings here. :(

(The Crimson Alibi! WANT!!)

Jan 10, 2016, 11:39pm

Sorry to hear that, Liz! This is probably the best mystery-dominated score I've had in some time (certainly at the best price). I'm considering going back once again before the sale ends, as they say they'll be putting out more books, and I could bring along another flashlight, but I don't know whether I'll have time.

I didn't really know anything about The Crimson Alibi and Gray Dusk when I picked them up, but some checking online makes them sound interesting. Have you read anything at all by Cohen? I've seen the movie Jim Hanvey, Detective, based on one of his other detectives, but of course I don't know how much the movie has in common with the book(s) on which it is based.

Jan 10, 2016, 11:45pm

4. The Green Toad, by Walter S. Masterman

January TIOLI Challenge #2

The Green Toad is a thriller of the Edgar Wallace type, with a creepy atmosphere (including the giant toad of the title) but perhaps a slightly more explicit glimpse of the sordid. Walter S. Masterman, the author (who was himself a convicted felon), reveals a good deal of sympathy for the villains of the piece, and the protagonist is not without his flaws.

I was intrigued by a clear allusion to Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse. Chesterton was a friend of the author’s brother, and he also contributed a foreword to the author’s first novel, The Wrong Letter.

Overall it was an enjoyable read, but not quite as fun as the same sort of thing by Wallace.

Edited: Jan 19, 2016, 5:09pm

>31 harrygbutler:

I haven't yet, but he's becoming imminent. I recently added the Jim Hanvey David Carroll series to my lists, which is why I reacted to The Crimson Alibi: it's one of the books held in Rare Books at my academic library and is therefore technically available.

I'm very ambivalent over Cohen's Florian Slappey stories, as you would appreciate.

Jan 11, 2016, 3:52pm

>33 lyzard: I assume that you would have to read the book on site if it is in the rare books holdings (at least that was the case when I worked as a student in my university's Rare Books & Manuscripts Library many years ago), so I can see how that could be less than ideal.

It's unlikely I'll read the Florian Slappey stories unless I stumble across them; I shan't be seeking them out.

Jan 11, 2016, 4:13pm

>34 harrygbutler:

Yes, though it isn't that that's the problem, rather that it's only open 9.00 - 5.00 on weekdays.

Still making up my mind over Slappey: I can appreciate their broader importance, but---

Jan 12, 2016, 3:27pm

5. The Man from Scotland Yard, by David Frome

January TIOLI Challenge #6

The Man from Scotland Yard is an entry in the series of Mr. Pinkerton mysteries by “David Frome” (a pseudonym for Zenith Jones Brown, 1898-1983, who was even better known under the pen name “Leslie Ford”). I don’t know where in the series this actually belongs, but I think it is the fourth. First published by Farrar & Rinehart in 1932, it was republished as Pocket Book edition in November 1942, and it is that edition that I read.

The story opens with some scene-setting introductions to characters who will play roles of varying importance in the coming narrative. Scotland Yard’s involvement begins when Inspector Bull is sent out in response to an anonymous note reporting the death of a mother and three little ones (which turn out to be cats), but more sinister doings are afoot, and soon one body (of a person) and then another are found. Mild-mannered Mr. Pinkerton, whose greatest pleasure in life comes from his (minor) participation in police investigations, contributes to Bull’s cracking of the case. The identity of the murderer was a surprise to me, as an early piece of misdirection by the author was quite successful.

This is the second of the Mr. Pinkerton mysteries I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more — though I may take a break to check out one of the Colonel Primrose/Grace Latham mysteries Brown wrote as Leslie Ford first.


Jan 12, 2016, 5:00pm


Ah, yes---Ms Jones-Brown and her endlessly confusing names; I haven't read her yet under any of them! The first of the Primrose / Latham stories, "The Clock Strikes Twelve" aka "The Supreme Court Murder", is a novella not a novel and isn't available as a standalone. However, it was reprinted in one of the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines from the early 70s and there are copies of that available online.

Jan 12, 2016, 9:05pm

Thanks for the tip, Liz! I'll keep an eye out for the relevant EQMM at bookstores and sales around here.

Jan 12, 2016, 9:18pm

Inspired by the success of the British Library's Crime Classics, HarperCollins has launched its own reprint series, dipping back into the Collins past with its new Detective Club line. One of the first to be reprinted is The Mayfair Mystery (original title 2835 Mayfair), by Frank Richardson, first published in 1907 and republished by Collins in 1929, and now once again. I just ordered a copy via the Book Depository, whence I snagged the cover image. I'm looking forward to reading it once it arrives.

Here's a link to an article from The Bookseller on the venture: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/hc-relaunches-detective-club-series-309334

It's not completely clear to me what volumes have been issued and are available, as I found different lists on different HarperCollins sites, and none seemed to include all the volumes that have been reissued.

Jan 14, 2016, 1:52pm

Hildy and I took a break from reading today to enjoy a bit of the sunny day. ("Hildy" is short for "Hildegarde" — she was named after Hildegarde Withers.)

Jan 15, 2016, 10:01am

>40 harrygbutler: Hi Hildy, with your sweet eyes :-)

Jan 16, 2016, 11:15am

6. The House of a Thousand Candles, by Meredith Nicholson

“The lines of the walls receded as the light increased, and the raftered ceiling drew away, luring the eyes upward. I rose with a smothered exclamation on my lips and stared about, snatching off my hat in reverence as the spirit of the place wove its spell about me. Everywhere there were books; they covered the walls to the ceiling, with only long French windows and an enormous fireplace breaking the line.”

The House of a Thousand Candles, by Indiana author Meredith Nicholson, was a top 10 bestseller in the United States in 1906. This mystery-adventure features an errant grandson, John Glenarm, who must sequester himself in his grandfather’s house (the “House of a Thousand Candles” of the title) in Indiana for a year to receive his inheritance after his grandfather unexpectedly dies. Though reputed a wealthy man, his grandfather left a fairly small estate, but rumors suggest that a treasure may be hidden somewhere in or about the house, in a secret passage or chamber. A bullet through the window on his first night there reveals that there are others eager to get rid of him and find the hidden bounty, and Glenarm suspects his grandfather’s attorney (and old school rival), Arthur Pickering, of being the ringleader. Glenarm’s butler, who had served his grandfather, acts suspiciously, and there is an alternate heir connected with the girls’ school next door. And so the battle begins…

The story reminded me to some extent of Seven Keys to Baldpate, by Earl Derr Biggers, which is one of my favorite novels, and which takes place in an isolated, shuttered summer resort in the wintertime, but unfortunately The House of a Thousand Candles isn’t quite as good. The romance is unconvincing, and the resolution of the mysterious noises a bit offhand. The final twist was not a surprise. Still, the book was an enjoyable enough romp that I’m willing to sample other works by Nicholson, who had two other top 10 bestsellers, The Port of Missing Men in 1907 and A Hoosier Chronicle in 1912. In fact, I just picked up his The Siege of the Seven Suitors to try sometime.

Edited: Jan 16, 2016, 12:06pm

>41 FAMeulstee: Hildy says to thank you, Anita. :-) She's a nice dog, and we were fortunate to get her. She wandered into our yard about 3 years ago as a stray; no one claimed her, so she has stayed with us. She had been fairly well trained at some point in her youth (she was an adult when we found her).

Edited: Jan 16, 2016, 6:24pm

"Just 19"!? If I could reach through this computer screen and slap you---

Cleek! Whoo! :D

(Awww, for Otto and Hildy! - as it happens I am just about due to resume the Hildegarde Withers series...)

Jan 17, 2016, 6:34pm

>45 lyzard: :-)

I don't know how soon I'll get to the Cleek. The first one I read (I'm not sure which now) was just so weird!

Hildy and Otto are my two most consistent reading companions (though not usually at the same time) — in fact, Otto is in the chair with me now. Elli will join me some of the time, but she doesn't like sharing space with Otto; she's happy to share with Hildy, though. Our third cat, Pixie, isn't a lap cat; she does come around for attention, but she just passes through.

Jan 17, 2016, 7:40pm

More photos! More photos!

Part of the ineffable charm of the Cleek stories is their weirdness - certainly read the first one of you haven't, it's hilarious.

I agree about the HarperCollins reprints; information tends to come up about individual books, rather than in any comprehensive manner.

>42 harrygbutler:

Yes, the brief synopsis I quoted for the best-seller challenge made me think of Seven Keys To Baldpate, too. "Unconvincing romance" is the plague of books from that era! Pity it didn't turn out better, though it still sounds like fun.

Jan 18, 2016, 10:50pm

>47 lyzard: Here's one of Elli.

I don't think it was the first Cleek that I read. I'll have to seek that out.

The House of a Thousand Candles was indeed fun overall — just not as fun as I'd hoped.

Edited: Jan 24, 2016, 5:47pm

7. The Life of Moses, by Gregory of Nyssa
January TIOLI Challenge #7

The Life of Moses, by fourth-century bishop and theologian Gregory of Nyssa, is a treatise concerned with Moses’ life as a model for the spiritual life and progress of the individual believer. The two major parts of the work are the historia, which provides a paraphrase of the Scriptural account of Moses’ life, and the much longer theoria, in which Gregory draws out the spiritual (tropological) meanings in that life. Gregory’s treatise is not a manual of practice, but rather provides guidance for thinking about how to progress and develop spiritually, using incidents in Moses’ life as examples or the bases for the spiritual discussion, though he advances some tentatively and makes clear that alternative interpretations are possible.

I read the Life in translation in a volume of the Classics of Western Spirituality series, which had a useful (albeit brief) introduction and good notes.


Jan 19, 2016, 4:22pm

8. The Crimson Alibi, by Octavus Roy Cohen

Unpopular but wealthy Joshua Quincy has been murdered, and famed detective David Carroll gets an unexpected client. Unsavory Roger Fanshaw confesses not only to having worked with Quincy on crooked deals but even to having planned to murder Quincy; he says, however, that when he got into the house to commit the deed, he found the victim already dead, so he asks Carroll to help keep him from being convicted of a crime he wanted to, but did not, commit. The police have already arrested Quincy’s nephew, Andrew, who had quarreled with the bitter old man, but they nonetheless call in Carroll to lead the investigation because of the prominence of the victim. There are other suspects as well: Quincy had discharged his butler, Dorrington, the evening before the murder, and the escaped convict Larry Conover had been convicted of theft at least in part owing to the special prosecutor paid for by Quincy some years before. And who was the man hiding in the maid’s room that night?

Implausible but entertaining, Octavus Roy Cohen’s The Crimson Alibi moves along at a rapid clip. The emphasis is on the dramatic; nearly every chapter ends with an exclamation, and frequently a revelation, often called out in italics.

Of some interest at this late date are the accounts of rapid automobile travel in 1918 or 1919. First, Carroll zooms toward police headquarter:
“The powerful roadster quivered and rolled ahead. He slipped into intermediate and thence into high. There was scarcely any vibration to disturb his thoughts as he rolled down the asphalted road at some eighteen miles per hour.”

Later, Carroll and Inspector Leverage speed to capture someone in the detective’s roadster, which a salesman had claimed would do 60 mph:
“Carroll clamped down on the accelerator until the sides of his shoe-soles caressed the floor of the car and the speedometer climbed slowly to fifty, then fifty-one, and gradually — and somewhat reluctantly — touched fifty-two miles per hour.
“Eric Leverage, teeth tight shut, and eyes staring with real fear, clutched desperately at the top uprights and prayed that the motor had developed its maximum. Even at fifty-two miles [per hour] the roadster bade fair to leave the road, turn on its side and die peacefully.”

Recommended to those with a liking for melodrama.

Edited: Jan 19, 2016, 5:19pm

I'm struck by the fact that all your adorable fur-kids like to pose for their pictures! If my Kara is in a clingy mood and bugging me, I get her to leave me alone by bringing out the camera. I mostly have to use stealth-mode to get decent shots of her.

The Crimson Alibi! (she said again). I realise now I mis-described this as involving Jim Hanvey, of course it's the first of the David Carroll books. I don't think plausibility was ever a great concern for Cohen!

And, oh yes, American books of this era (and not just crime books) are obsessed with cars and their fabulous speeds. Sixty mph seems to have been the Holy Grail of speeds, it crops up again and again. (I've just read Frederick Eberhard's The Secret Of The Morgue, from 1932, where a race-against-time hits a high speed of 78 mph.)

Jan 19, 2016, 6:14pm

>51 lyzard: Pixie is the hardest to get to pose because she is easily distracted, but today she was cooperative:

I didn't realize that you were describing The Crimson Alibi as a Hanvey book before; I thought Cohen was on your mind because of the Hanvey books.

Edited: Jan 19, 2016, 6:15pm

And one more photo for today:

Otto likes to curl up with a good book.

Jan 19, 2016, 6:33pm

Aww and Aww. :)

Pixie is such an unusual colour, how would you describe her?

Cohen published quite a lot in 1932 so I've been stumbling over the various streams of his writing lately and trying to find out what belongs in which series---David Carroll, Jim Hanvey, Florian Slappey.

Jan 19, 2016, 7:41pm

>54 lyzard: Erika tells me that Pixie is a tortoiseshell tabby, with white. It can be hard to see, but Otto's coloring is a bit unusual as well — he is more of a pale taupe than orange. They are siblings.

Jan 19, 2016, 7:43pm

Well, that explains why I was going, "Is she tabby or tortoiseshell?" Very striking!

Edited: Jan 20, 2016, 3:46pm

>56 lyzard: Thanks! That rounds out the pets, although I may end up sharing photos of one or more of the stray cats who shelter and feed on our porches. At least one is friendly enough.

Edited: Jan 20, 2016, 3:53pm

9. Black John of Halfaday Creek, by James B. Hendryx

Perhaps my favorite “northerns” are the stories by James B. Hendryx featuring Black John Smith, “czar” of Halfaday Creek, a community of (former) outlaws in the Yukon during the Gold Rush. These often-humorous tales generally see Black John, with or without the assistance of Lyme Cushing, the proprietor of the store-cum-saloon on the creek, and at times in cooperation with Corporal Downey of the Northwest Mounted Police, ensuring that truly villainous criminals are punished (generally for some new crime or attempted crime) and victims receive recompense. Usually, too, Black John manages to work things so that he ends up profiting from the circumstances, too.

Hendryx wrote dozens and dozens of Halfaday Creek stories, which were published in a variety of pulp magazines. Some were also collected into episodic novels, with some revisions to create connections between the originally separate stories. Black John of Halfaday Creek is one such; the reprint I read was published in the late 70s.

Recommended (and the stories are highly recommended).

(For those who might prefer the stories in their original form, pulp reprint publisher Altus Press has been issuing collections, with several volumes out already.)

Jan 20, 2016, 11:14pm

>57 harrygbutler:

You can never have too many pet photos. :)

>58 harrygbutler:

I'm not familiar with those - when were they first published?

Jan 20, 2016, 11:34pm

>59 lyzard: I'll bear that in mind. :-)

I'm not sure just when the Halfaday Creek stories first started appearing — sometime in the 1930s, I believe. Hendryx started publishing in the Teens, and was certainly appearing in magazines by the '20s (as one of his books from 1922 or 1923 appears to be a collection of stories from magazines), but I don't really know his bibliography. I think the oldest of his books that I own is The Gold Girl, but I haven't yet read it, so I don't know whether it bears any relation to the Halfaday Creek stories I have read.

Edited: Jan 21, 2016, 4:55pm

A brief foray to a couple local bookstores ahead of the predicted snowstorm netted me five books:

Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon

The Green Dragon by J. Jefferson Farjeon

The Wailing Rock Murders by Clifford Orr

Natural History, Preface and Books I-II by Pliny the Elder

Metamorphoses, Vol. II: Books IX-XV by Ovid

I was happy to come across the three mysteries, but the Loebs were the better find for me today — especially the second volume of the Metamorphoses, as I had had just Volume I for several years (or maybe even longer).

Jan 22, 2016, 5:21pm

10. Murder Ends the Song, by Alfred Meyers

“I have only three aversions: boiled cabbage, scrambled brains, and coloratura sopranos. Of the three I think the last the most noxious.”

Tenor Tony Graine thus commences his narration of the murder of diva Marina Grazie and his subsequent solving of the crime (and others that follow in its wake). Everyone in the soprano’s entourage apparently hated her, or at least had cause to wish her out of the way, and when the entire party journeys to an isolated, half-built mansion along the Columbia River in the midst of fierce wintry weather, someone takes advantage of the opportunity to silence her for good. The group ends up trapped when the ferry used to reach the mansion sinks, isolated with a murderer in their midst.

Alfred Meyers’ sole mystery novel is pretty good. An appealing narrator with amusing weaknesses definitely helps it along. Early clues raised my suspicions as to the guilty party, but didn’t reveal the motive or in fact give proof until later (although I missed one detail that confirmed the killer’s guilt fairly early on after the murder).


Jan 23, 2016, 1:11pm

A snowy day here will give plenty of time for reading. So far we've gotten a foot or so:

The juncos were happy to get more food.

But a big snow storm means it was possible to make ... snow ice cream:


Jan 23, 2016, 3:39pm

We just had some too! Chocolate's my fave. :)

Jan 23, 2016, 4:38pm

I'm not a fan of chocolate myself, Jim, but Erika is, so we may make both flavors next time. I might try a fruit flavor using a syrup, too.

Jan 23, 2016, 11:48pm

Hi Harry! I just had to stop by to see who you were since you discovered and joined my TIOLI challenges. Welcome to the 75 books challenge and to the TIOLI challenges!

I see you have a cat named Elli. I have a grandson named Eli (pronounced Elli). :D

I have a really good friend who is a model railroader. Do you go to the national conventions?

I admit to only reading cartoons by Steve Pastis. "Pearls Before Swine" is the only comic strip that makes me laugh.

I love gardening, but I'm really poor at it.

I love birding, but I usually limit my birdwatching to the species I see in my backyard. However, I do try to set up my small backyard as a wildlife habitat to attract as many bird species as I can. Today, during our snowstorm Jonas, I was able to spot 13 different species of birds. My favorite was the male red-bellied woodpecker (whom I named Elvis). I can find him from time to time on our dogwood snag or on our suet feeder.

Heh! I see that Liz already has her eye on your Golden Age mysteries.

I see that you're enjoying the snow as well. Stay safe, be warm, and eat snow ice cream!

Jan 24, 2016, 12:07am

Noticed you Harry with the number of posts exceeding 60 already (I am a "bit" of a stataholic as you will come to realise the longer you are in the group).

Great to have you on board if I may continue your railway theme for a moment.

Jan 24, 2016, 5:14pm

>66 SqueakyChu: Hi, Madeline! Thanks for stopping by! I've enjoyed getting started with the TIOLI challenges, so it's good to "meet" the person responsible. :-)

I don't usually go to the national model railroad conventions, but I do go fairly often to local train shows. I haven't yet been down to the big ones they have in Timonium, Md., but I'll get there sometime.

I don't tend to read current comics; I agree that many aren't particularly amusing, even if they were funny when they started out. Right now I'm reading a collection of the first couple years of Prince Valiant (1937-1938) — gorgeous drawings, full of vibrant color and action.

We didn't get a lot of extra variety in our backyard bird visitors thanks to the storm (just a couple species we hadn't seen so far in January but usually get). Unfortunately we've never had any luck attracting woodpeckers here; I think there aren't quite enough trees in the immediate neighborhood when there is much better habitat several blocks away. We have a flock of juncos that visits each winter for the feeders, who happily use our raspberry and blackberry bushes, as well as the shrubbery in the native plant bed, for shelter.

>67 PaulCranswick: Thanks for the welcome, Paul! I've been enjoying reading the various threads and taking part already.

Jan 24, 2016, 5:53pm

11. Ipomadon (anonymous)
January TIOLI Challenge #7

The verse romance Ipomadon is a Middle English version (one of three) of Hue de Rotelande’s 12th-century Anglo-Norman romance Ipomedon. The ME poem, written in 12-line tail-rhyme stanzas, recounts the eponymous hero’s service to the heroine (the Fere [the Proud One], princess of Calabria) in disguise as the “straunge valette”; his subsequent victories (while wearing several disguises) in a tournament designed to identify the worthiest knight as a suitable husband for the Fere, who is using the tournament as a way to avoid a forced marriage when she loves her former servant; and his final battling (again in disguise) on behalf of the Fere, defending her from a menacing knight who is seeking to force her into marriage.

One of the more interesting sections of this 8,890-line poem — which is among the longest Middle English verse romances — occurs toward the end, when the Fere is besieged by Lyolyne, and her maid Imayne comes for help to the court of Mellyagere (the Fere’s uncle), where Ipomadon has disguised himself as a fool and won the promise of the first “aventur.” Ipomadon asks to be able to go defend the Fere in battle against Lyolyne, and his request is granted. Though Imayne disdains him, on the journey back to Calabria Ipomadon defeats knights who seek to capture her, in an account somewhat reminiscent of Tennyson’s "Gareth and Lynette" (or Malory’s story of the same).

Jan 25, 2016, 8:37am

Oooh, lovely find with those Loebs!

Jan 25, 2016, 1:54pm

>70 scaifea: I was very happy to find them, Amber. The store had one more, but not one I wanted: Procopius' Secret History. A year or two ago they had a large selection of Greek Loebs (50 or 60 volumes, I think), but those didn't stick around long.

Jan 25, 2016, 8:16pm

12. Three Byzantine Saints, trans. by Elizabeth A. S. Dawes and Norman H. Baynes

I first read this book, which contains contemporary biographies of three late Roman/early Byzantine saints, for a course in college many years ago. The translations are serviceable.

In some ways the most interesting of the three lives here is the first, that of Saint Daniel the Stylite (ca. 409-493), one of a number of hermits who followed the model of Saint Simeon the Stylite by living (even standing) atop tall pillars for many years as a way of leading the ascetic life. Daniel, who had met Simeon, lived on his large double column for 33 years, and in his time there was consulted by emperors and patriarchs.

The second life is that of Saint Theodore of Sykeon (ca. mid-550s-613), the son of a courtesan who kept an inn with her mother and sister along an imperial highway in Asia Minor. The lengthy account of his life and miracles provides some insight into local religious activity and the day-to-day concerns of agricultural communities at some remove from the capital. The translation is unfortunately weakened by the translators’ tendency to omit or summarize chapters that they thought of less interest — an issue I find even in some current scholarly publications, e.g., in the Liverpool Translated Texts for Historians series.

That same weakness extends in part to the life of Saint John the Almsgiver, patriarch of Alexandria just before the Persian conquest in the early seventh century. A former layman constrained to be ordained and assume the patriarchate by Emperor Heraclius and his cousin Nicetas after the overthrow of the emperor Phocas, John’s focus was on championing orthodoxy and attending to the needs of the poor, and in particular refugees who fled to Alexandria after the Persians conquered Syria and Jerusalem.

Jan 26, 2016, 6:48am

You passed up a Procopius?! But, why?


Jan 26, 2016, 7:54am

>73 scaifea: Had it been a volume of History of the Wars or even On Buildings, but I don't particularly feel the need to have access to the Greek of the Secret History. :-)

Jan 26, 2016, 4:31pm

>39 harrygbutler: I haven't read any of the new HarperCollins' reprints but I do like the look of the covers.

Also appreciating all the pet photos!

>61 harrygbutler: You have been getting some good book hauls! I've only read one book by J. Jefferson Farjeon (the British Library republished Mystery in White) but Liz was kind enough to send me a copy of No. 17 and there are a few more British Library reprints and HarperCollins reprints of his books I'm hoping to read. The Green Dragon sounds intriguing - I'm trying to work out how a green dragon can figure in what I assume is a mystery novel?

>62 harrygbutler: Murder Ends the Song sounds interesting and looks like it's been reprinted too. I'll look out for it.

>49 harrygbutler: & >72 harrygbutler: I'm quietly fascinated by books about early Christianity but so far I haven't managed to actually apply myself to actually read anything (I've started some a few times and then lost focus). Anyway, just to say I may not be adding them to my to read list but I'm finding your comments interesting.

Jan 27, 2016, 7:15am

>75 souloftherose: Thanks, Heather!

I just finished up another Farjeon book Thirteen Guests (brief review soon) and will likely tackle The Green Dragon next month. (I'm assuming it's a mystery, too.)

Murder Ends the Song was reprinted by Coachwhip Publications, one of my favorites among the small (one-person, or nearly so) reprint publishers. That's the source for the Connington reprints I've read, though I think another publisher (in the U.K.) is also bringing them out.

Next up in early Christianity reading is probably On Wealth and Poverty, by Saint John Chrysostom, as it is in the nearby TBR stack, though I don't know just when I'll get to it.

Jan 27, 2016, 8:10am

13. Information Received, by E. R. Punshon

The first book in E. R. Punshon’s long-running series about policeman Bobby Owen, Information Received finds the detective early in his career, while still a constable patrolling a beat, but one who happens upon a murder. A theft was committed at approximately the same time in the same house, but circumstances make it likely that the two had different perpetrators.

Owen helps the C.I.D. man in charge, the famed Superintendent Mitchell and does some sleuthing on his own. Early on, Mitchell tells Owen that “the really successful detective is the one who sits in his office waiting for people to come and tell him things,” and unfortunately (from this reader’s perspective) to some extent that proves true. I spotted a flaw in an alibi right away, and it figures in the solution, but though the lead investigator apparently had some idea of the actual state of affairs, that is made clear chiefly in the conclusion. The resolution was unsatisfying, though Owen was likable enough.

Recommended only for completists; indeed, it is unlikely that I’ll keep my copy.

Jan 29, 2016, 7:32am

14. Thirteen Guests, by J. Jefferson Farjeon

John Foss, injured while getting off a train and with no place to go, is taken along by interested, and beautiful, widow Nadine Leveridge to Bragley Court, where Lord and Lady Aveling are hosting a house party in connection with a stag hunt.

Foss brings the number in the party to 13 — but who will be unlucky? Among the other guests are a politician being wooed to Lord Aveling’s party, an actress seeking backing for a comeback play, a newspaper columnist, an artist, and a suspicious man and his wife who don’t quite fit with the rest. And in town, waiting on each train to disgorge its passengers, is another stranger. Then follow vandalism, whispers in the night, death.

Thirteen Guests, by J. Jefferson Farjeon, is an interesting mystery that ends with the police satisfied and a final twist that — while not particularly surprising — yields a better explanation of events.

Jan 29, 2016, 7:53am

15. Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938, by Hal Foster

Modern movies and TV shows set in the Middle Ages (or the past more generally) are too often colorless, in cold blues and grays, gloomy even when they ought to be cheery. Not mine! Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant is much closer to how I see it.

Seattle’s Fantagraphics Books is reprinting this gorgeous adventure strip from original proof sheets. The books are large enough (10 x 14 inches) to allow each full-page strip to impress, and for the detail to be seen. So far 12 volumes have been published, spanning from the Sunday strip’s debut in 1937 to 1960, with more are on the way. With a dozen out already, I’ll be tackling one a month this year.

The first volume introduces Prince Valiant as a boy, growing up with his family in exile, his meeting with Sir Gawain and becoming that knight’s squire, his introduction to the court of noble King Arthur, his first quests, and his first love. A great start!

The volumes are too large for my little home scanner, but some of the artwork can be seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fantagraphics/sets/72157620742939060

Edited: Jan 29, 2016, 3:58pm

16. Uncle William, by Jennette Lee

In Jennette Lee’s Uncle William, a kindly old fisherman helps out a young artist and young music teacher who are in love. The story includes such events as the sinking of a boat, a lengthy illness, and the disappearance of a cat (who had only vanished to have kittens), amid mild comments on people, the past, music, art, companionship, and happiness.

Good people doing good makes for a pleasant little novel. I’ll be seeking out the sequel, Happy Island.


Jan 29, 2016, 5:28pm

>80 harrygbutler: nice! I used to read those in the Sunday comics, but by that time Val was married, and had adolescent children...I recall a son, "Arn"?

Jan 29, 2016, 5:41pm

>81 fuzzi: Yep, Prince Arn — named for the friendly rival who gave him the Singing Sword during one of the adventures in this volume.

Jan 29, 2016, 5:55pm

Good book hunting today. I've been replacing my paperback Louis L'Amour novels with hardcovers — generally the Bantam Books hardcover editions — when I can come across them. Today at the Hockessin, Delaware, library book sale, I found a whole table-full, including 28 that I needed. My haul:

Jan 29, 2016, 7:36pm

>83 harrygbutler: What a gorgeous haul!

I'm doing the reverse: weeding out my hardcovers, and replacing them with paperbacks. I have developed arthritis in my hands to a point where it is uncomfortable to read large and/or heavy books. I'll be rehoming my L'Amour short story collections soon.

Jan 30, 2016, 11:32am

>83 harrygbutler: Super sweet haul.

and >80 harrygbutler: Would you consider Uncle William to be a 'homegrown philosopher?'

Jan 30, 2016, 1:32pm

>84 fuzzi: Thanks! Sorry to hear about your arthritis. For me, paperbacks at present are harder to read because of the small print — I can do it, but it isn't quite as enjoyable.

>85 2wonderY: Thanks! I'd say "homegrown philosopher" is a fair description. A couple statements from early on in the book:

[Uncle William says,] "You learn jest about the same bein' happy as you do bein' miserable—only you learn it quicker."

* * *

"You don't allow for art," [the young artist] said.

"I dunno 's I do," returned Uncle William. "It 's like makin' money, I guess—suthin' extry, thrown in, good enough if you get it but not necessary—no, not necessary. Livin 's the thing to live for, I reckon." He stopped suddenly, as if there were no more to be said.

Jan 31, 2016, 6:35pm

17. The Hog’s Back Mystery, by Freeman Wills Crofts

Inspector French of Scotland Yard is called in after a doctor vanishes from his cottage, located near the Hog’s Back ridge, under confusing circumstances. He disappeared in a space of a few minutes, apparently without changing from house slippers or putting on a coat, despite unfavorable weather conditions. On the other hand, there is no evidence of a struggle, and a houseguest of the Earles, who are unhappy in their marriage, saw the doctor meet a woman in London earlier in the week, on a day when he said he was golfing — and that woman has also disappeared. Then a third person disappears, and in this instance foul play seems likely. But who could have committed the crime (or crimes), when all concerned had alibis. And if murder was done, where are the bodies?

The Hog’s Back Mystery is a solid novel from Freeman Wills Crofts, easily one of the best mysteries that I read this month and an excellent addition to the British Library Crime Classics series.

Definitely recommended.

Jan 31, 2016, 7:35pm

The Detective Club's reprint of The Mayfair Mystery has arrived, and I'm looking forward to reading it. The complete dust jacket is even better than the portion I had shared before:

And the cover of the book itself is decorated as well:

The book is perfect bound rather than sewn but still seems good quality for the price.

Jan 31, 2016, 8:32pm

>88 harrygbutler: looks very nice!

Edited: Feb 1, 2016, 10:34pm

18. The Parlement of the Thre Ages (anonymous)

The Middle English alliterative poem The Parlement of the Thre Ages belongs to a couple popular medieval genres, debate poetry (“Parlement” here meaning “debate or dispute”) and dream visions.

It opens with an account of the narrator of his hunting a stag (which turns out to be poaching). After concealing the evidence, he falls asleep while hidden and has a dream, in which three men — Youth, Middle Age, and Old Age — have a conversation of sorts. (It is perhaps noteworthy that Youth is about 30 years of age, Middle Age is about 60, and Old Age is about 100.)

First Youth and Middle Age dispute about what is most important in life, and then Old Age steps in, calls them both fools, and silences them with a long description of famous people, noting that all were at last undone by death: the Nine Worthies (three pagan — Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar; three Jewish — Joshua, King David, and Judas Maccabee; and three Christian — King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon); wise men — Aristotle, Virgil, King Solomon, and Merlin; and famous lovers (chiefly from romances), including Ipomadon and the Fere (nice to see a mention). After Old Age says the thing to do is prepare for death, because death gives no heed to fame or power or strength or love, the narrator awakens and heads back to town.

Some of the passages were a bit challenging, containing as they did technical terms from deer hunting and falconry. I was amused to see the line "Dede als a dore-nayle doun was he fallen," as I didn't realize the simile went back that far, but apparently it was common in the alliterative poems.

Feb 1, 2016, 5:48pm

19. The King of Elfland’s Daughter, by Lord Dunsany

The leading men of the village of Erl tell their ruler that they wish to be ruled by a “magic lord,” thinking that it will make the village famous. In deference to their wishes, their lord commissions his eldest son, Alveric, to journey beyond “the fields we know” to wed the King of Elfland’s daughter. The novel follows the resulting course of events, including the marriage of Alveric and Lirazelel, the birth of their son Orion, their subsequent separation, and Alveric’s long quest that follows, and the implications for the village of Erl. Particularly memorable is Lurulu, the troll, who brings a comic touch to some of the proceedings.

I enjoyed it well enough, but I never really warmed to it. I think I’ll fairly soon be rereading a couple others I remember liking better — The Charwoman’s Shadow and Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow Valley.

Feb 1, 2016, 7:24pm

Buddy is the friendliest of the strays that in part live and feed on our porches. He dropped by today to relax on the front porch out of the rain.

Feb 1, 2016, 7:30pm

Oooh! He's pretty!

I am still owned by two feral cats (out of 6 that adopted me in 2001). Lord Bravery (very much an alpha lady) is my favorite! :)

Feb 1, 2016, 7:55pm

>94 harrygbutler: Nice! The oldest of the feral cats that is still around here, Simon, has essentially been fully adopted by our next-door neighbor (it lives in their motor home now, though it still spends time outside), so I don't know that it even bothers to come over for food anymore. Buddy is fairly young, and only joined the crowd last spring. There's a (so far unnamed) Siamese-looking cat that is gradually overcoming its fear of people, but it still has a ways to go. Once it gets a bit friendlier I expect our neighbor (who also provides food and shelter) to name it. Others come and go, or have come and gone since we moved here in 2009.

Feb 1, 2016, 8:25pm

>92 harrygbutler: I've got three ferals right now. I trapped all three (individually) and had them neutered: no more kittens!

They sometimes let me touch them, but not always.

Edited: Feb 1, 2016, 9:12pm

>95 fuzzi: Buddy was the most recent to be neutered. We don't know about the Siamese yet, but I expect either we or the neighbors will try to capture it for shots and neutering (if it hasn't yet been done) in the spring.

Edited: Feb 2, 2016, 6:53am

20. Something Fresh, by P. G. Wodehouse

I closed out my January reading with a fast-paced mixture of comedy and caper. Something Fresh, the first of P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle series, opens with an encounter between Ashe Marson, who is exercising, and Joan Valentine, who laughs at his gyrations; the two quickly learn that they work for the same publishing house, with Joan writing tales featuring dukes and earls for “Home Gossip” magazine, and Marson grudgingly writing thrillers starring Gridley Quayle, such as “The Adventure of the Wand of Death.” Joan encourages him to look for adventure in the ads in the newspaper, and he finds it, in the employ of the millionaire J. Preston Peters, father of young Freddie Threepwood’s fiancée, Aline, after the prize scarab from the millionaire’s collection is appropriated by Freddie’s father, Lord Emsworth, and Peters desires it back.

Loads of fun — definitely recommended!

Edited: Feb 4, 2016, 6:14pm

21. The Legend of Duke Ernst, trans. by J. W. Thomas and Carolyn Dussère

February TIOLI Challenge #18

Herzog Ernst is a medieval German story found in a few different versions, including a later chapbook (whence I think the illustration comes), telling of the strife between Emperor Otto I and his stepson Ernst, Ernst’s subsequent exile on crusade with his friend Wetzel and some other companions, and their adventures in the East — their visit to and battle with the crane-headed men of the country of Grippia, their shipwreck on the Lodestone Mountain and the escape of some via griffin and travel on an underground river, adventures among the Arimaspi (cyclops people) and with other odd folk there, and Ernst’s return and reconciliation with his stepfather.

The Legend of Duke Ernst includes a lengthy introduction (half the book!) tracing the likely origins of the story in a few different disputes involving medieval rulers and members of the next generation, discussing the various medieval versions (the earliest existing is fragmentary), and then looking at the story’s survival in later literature, including a mid-20th-century East German play. The second half of the book is a translation of the lengthy 13th-century German verse version. It was interesting, but the translation was a bit flat (perhaps the original was, too).

I did like these lines:
ze latîne ez noch geschriben stât:
dâ von ez âne valschen list
ein vil wârez liet ist. (ll. 4474-4476)
“Moreover, it has been written down in Latin and is therefore a true story with no lies.”

The image shows the battle between the Grippians and Duke Ernst's men.

Edited: Feb 4, 2016, 6:19pm

22. The Mayfair Mystery, by Frank Richardson

February TIOLI Challenge #12

Unfortunately, the cool (and irrelevant) dust jacket design is probably the best thing about this “mystery” first published in 1907 under the title 2835 Mayfair (a less misleading, if less descriptive, title).

Though there are trappings of a mystery, this is in some ways more of a science fiction or fantasy novel, with mesmerism frequently referenced, for example. Major characters are callous and unlikeable, and the protagonist is a dolt as well. The plot holes are substantial, too. Also annoying is the repeated appearance of a thinly veiled version of the author (a humorist apparently noted for his campaign against facial hair, according to the introduction). It does offer a somewhat surprising, even shocking, ending involving bodily possession by another person's "soul" .

I was also dismayed to find artifacts of OCR scanning of the text and insufficient proofreading thereafter, albeit less frequently than I often do in books from smaller publishers.

Not recommended.

Feb 8, 2016, 6:04pm

23. The Three Taps, by Ronald Knox

February TIOLI Challenge #12

Suicide or murder? When wealthy J.W. Mottram is found dead of gas poisoning at the Load of Mischief inn, police — in the form of Inspector Leyland — and insurance investigator Miles Bredon, accompanied by his wife Angela, descend on the village of Chilthorpe, where they evolve competing theories of Mottram’s demise. With their friendly rivalry taking the form of a wager, Leyland bets on murder, suspecting, inter alia, both the dead man’s secretary and his estranged nephew, while Bredon backs suicide (in which case a sizable policy issued by Bredon’s employer, the Indescribable Company, will be void). Others who may be involved in some way include the sole other guest as well as the Roman Catholic bishop of nearby Pullford. The resolution of the mystery is a surprise, and the explanation satisfies.


Feb 9, 2016, 9:39am

24. Keziah Coffin, by Joseph C. Lincoln

February TIOLI Challenge #12

Keziah Coffin is an old-fashioned story, set in the late 1850s, concerned with conflicts between love and duty and the positives and negatives of small-town life, and in particular a town split by sharp religious differences. Keziah Coffin takes on the job of housekeeper for the new minister at the principal church in town, John Ellery, and helps to guide the young cleric, fresh out of divinity school, as he begins his career. The 39-year-old Mrs. Coffin is thought to be a widow whose husband was lost at sea, but there are indications early on that that may not be so. It is also clear that she loves Nat Hammond, son of the leader of the dissenting religious group in town, the “Come-Outers,” and he her. Meanwhile, Mr. Ellery finds himself drawn to Grace Van Horne, the ward of that same leader, despite the hostility between the two factions. Obstacles to happiness abound…

I didn’t find this one of the better books by Lincoln; I don’t particularly recommend it, save for completists.

Edited: Feb 11, 2016, 3:37pm

25. On Wealth and Poverty, by Saint John Chrysostom

In several sermons, fourth-century bishop Saint John Chrysostom (“the Golden-Mouthed”) explores the meaning of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man for his hearers. He draws out lessons for both rich — for example, the importance of almsgiving — and poor — for example, patience in trials. Though in part rooted in their historical context (e.g., with references to a recent earthquake in one), the lessons remain applicable.

As the volume includes sermons delivered on more than one occasion, there is some repetition in the book; it might better serve the reader to space out the sermons more than I did.

I read the sermons in a translation that was part of the Popular Patristics series from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. I have a couple other volumes in the series, including Saint Athanasius’ On the Incarnation (with introduction by C. S. Lewis) and am likely to get more.


Feb 12, 2016, 7:20am

Edited: Feb 13, 2016, 1:27pm

26. Ywain and Gawain (anonymous)

This Middle English poem based on Chretien de Troyes’ Yvain, or the Knight with the Lion, is an entertaining tale on the whole, including in its 4,000-odd lines the narrative meat of Chretien’s longer work with some additions of its own. A more conventional and less artful romance than its predecessor, it shares with it the problem of the odd behavior of the heroine (Alundyne), while retaining the effective advisor, Lunet, who assists Ywain in winning the heroine and later is in turn helped by him. Ywain faces a variety of foes in the latter half of the poem while estranged from Alundyne , culminating in a battle with Gawain, the paragon of chivalry, but eventually Ywain is restored to her favor.

Feb 13, 2016, 12:24am

I have to say Harry it is refreshing to see someone not reading the same things everyone else is. On Wealth and Poverty in particular is one I must go and find.

Have a great weekend.

Feb 13, 2016, 11:30am

>104 harrygbutler: Reminds me that I have the Dutch translation of Yvain, or the Knight with the Lion waiting for me at the shelves...

Feb 13, 2016, 1:27pm

>105 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! I'm glad you found something of interest. Have a great weekend, too!

>106 FAMeulstee: Thanks for stopping by, Anita! I've read a few Middle Dutch Arthurian romances — Roman van Walewein, Ferguut, and a few others (in this: Dutch Romances, Volume III: Five Romances from the Lancelot Compilation) — but admittedly only in English translation. I was glad to have the Middle Dutch on facing pages, though, so I could try reading lines or very brief passages of Middle Dutch from time to time as I went through the works.

Edited: Feb 16, 2016, 4:54pm

27. The Green Dragon, by J. Jefferson Farjeon

February TIOLI Challenge #8

An automobile accident strands newlyweds Jim and Joyce Cresswell, injuring Jim. A tramp, Alf, approaches, and he allows that there is a nearby inn where the Cresswells, who are fleeing Joyce’s uncle, could go, though he advises against going there. Still, as Jim can at best hobble along painfully with Joyce’s assistance, they decide to take refuge. Though they had separated from him, the tramp also ends up at the inn, which appears to have been abandoned. Who is the Chinese man who appears and disappears so mysteriously? What happened to the blind man and his dog? And what does the mysterious artist who chased the dog actually want? Other parties are introduced as well, in a tale of mysterious doings that includes captures, battles, escapes, a long narrative flashback, and more. A fairly light-hearted tale with an overall pleasing, if far-fetched, resolution.

Farjeon’s famous series detective is Ben the Cockney tramp, who appeared in several novels and also a play, Number 17, which in 1932 was made into a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Though The Green Dragon features a tramp, who gets ample space in the plot, it is not part of the Ben series.


Feb 16, 2016, 7:29pm

>87 harrygbutler: I must say that I enjoyed that one when I read it.

I love all your cat photos. I regularly tell each one of my three that he's my favorite. I hope all three believe it because I don't know which one really is.

Feb 17, 2016, 10:57pm

>109 thornton37814: Thanks, Lori! I've liked the kitten photos on your threads, too.

I like that our three cats have such different personalities; it makes it even more of a pleasure to spend a little time with each.

Edited: Feb 18, 2016, 4:59pm

28. Generydes (anonymous)

The Middle English romance Generydes tells the story of the eponymous son of the king of Inde (India), Auferius, and a princess (later queen) of Surre (Syria), Sereyne, as well as following the travails of his father, who is driven out of his kingdom. Generydes is raised in his mother’s country and then spends some time at his father’s court, until an attack by the steward who will betray his father causes Generydes to leave. He goes to the court of the sultan of Perse (Persia), where he takes service and falls in love with the sultan’s daughter, Clarionas, and she with him. An evil knight defames the pair, and Generydes is imprisoned by the sultan out of hand, despite those who defend the young knight. Then comes word that the king of Egypt threatens war, demanding the sultan's land and also Clarionas for himself....

The stanzaic Generydes survives in a single mid-fifteenth-century manuscript (another version in couplets also is extant). Its nearly 7,000 lines offer an enjoyable mix of battle and betrayal, true love and treachery, swooning and secrecy. Recommended.

Feb 18, 2016, 6:43pm

Definitely eclectic tastes here!

Keep up the good work, harrygbutler!

Edited: Feb 21, 2016, 8:49pm

29. Death Under Sail, by C. P. Snow

February TIOLI Challenge #12

C. P. Snow’s first novel sees death aboard a yacht. Roger Mills, the host of the sailing party, is discovered dead, apparently murdered while alone at the tiller early in the morning after the arrival of the narrator, the 62-year-old Ian Capel. A mediocre representative of the police, Detective-Sergeant Aloysius Birrell, begins investigating, but Ian calls in an old friend, Finbow, to conduct an amateur investigation at the same time, though the bulk of the “pleasant people” who are suspects aren’t told explicitly that that’s his role. Who murdered the unpleasant Mister Mills? It seems all had reason to dislike, perhaps even hate, him. Or could he have killed himself, though no gun was found? Why are the vessel’s log and pennant missing, as well as the automatic that Mills is said to have had?

Moderately engaging, but not a must-read.

Feb 22, 2016, 2:26pm

>113 harrygbutler: That one kind of sounded like one I might like when I read the description in the opening sentences. I may investigate further, but I'm not adding it to my colossal TBR list at the moment.

Feb 23, 2016, 10:37am

>114 thornton37814: I can understand that, Lori. I don't think I'll be actively tracking down anything else by Snow, but I might give them a try if I stumble upon them.

Feb 23, 2016, 10:39am

>111 harrygbutler: Thanks, fuzzi! I try for some variety in my reading to ensure I don't burn out on categories and have to abandon them for awhile (as has happened on occasion).

Feb 23, 2016, 10:40am

30. Blood of the North, by James B. Hendryx

February TIOLI Challenge #12

An interesting but, I think, ultimately unsuccessful novel, Blood of the North sets up conflicts between the rough and largely unfettered life of the frontier and the maneuvers and trammels of civilization. When his father is murdered by Larue, a known criminal — known but unprosecuted, for want of the evidence — Angus Murchie, having promised to avoid private vengeance against this particular villain, seeks to work within the law. In his efforts, Angus butts up against prejudice owing to his mixed parentage (his mother was an Indian). Angus also encounters the weaknesses of civilization as a “sharp” businessman comes into the northern lands to locate and acquire the land for a new hydroelectric dam to supply power to a new refinery, with an eye to gaining his object as quickly and as cheaply as he can.

The two struggles that Angus faces don’t really blend together, and the novel feels very disjointed. I suspect that it may have been put together from two separate novellas — perhaps not even originally involving the same characters.

The writing is good, and there are some engaging scenes, but I don’t really recommend this one.

Feb 23, 2016, 10:59am

31. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie

February TIOLI Challenge #12

I liked this novel, Agatha Christie’s first, and the one that introduced Hercule Poirot. Captain Hastings was OK as a Watson character (and the echoes are plain) — not too annoying. The murderous scheme seemed a bit far-fetched, but it was pleasant enough to travel along through the investigation and resolution.

Our copy includes Curtain as well, but I doubt I'll get to it for a long time, as I'm going to try reading the Poirot novels in order.


Feb 23, 2016, 1:24pm

I got rather behind but >87 harrygbutler: The Hog's Back Mystery sounds very good and I love the full cover of >88 harrygbutler: The Mayfair Mystery. Sorry to hear the book didn't live up to its dustjacket.

>92 harrygbutler: Buddy is a cutie.

>97 harrygbutler: I know the Jeeves and Wooster stories are more well known but I prefer the Blandings books. They are a lot of fun.

>108 harrygbutler: The mystery of the Green Dragon is revealed! I did wonder if it might refer to the name of a pub. They've reprinted the second Ben the Tramp novel, The House Opposite as part of the Detective Club reprints series.

Feb 25, 2016, 7:43am

>119 souloftherose: Thanks for stopping by! I'm going to be sure to get more Freeman Wills Crofts books when I can, as I've quite liked those I've read so far.

I've been working my way through the Jeeves books but paused and have mislaid the next, but I was in a Wodehouse mood, so I shifted over to starting the Blandings series. I always leaned toward Wodehouse's secondary (or even tertiary) series and stand-alone novels in my scattershot reading of his oeuvre, but tackling the Jeeves and Wooster stories in an organized fashion increased my appreciation of them.

Thanks for the tip about The House Opposite; I'll have to add it to my wishlist. :-)

Edited: Feb 25, 2016, 7:14pm

The book sales held by chapters of the American Association of University Women tend to be among the better sources of used books — large, with a variety to appeal to many tastes. I went today to this year's sale by the Delaware chapter and got a decent haul for less than $25:

Three humor/cartoon books (including two from a series I'm gradually, though not aggressively, collecting):
Best Cartoons of the Year 1966, ed. by Lawrence Lariar
Best Cartoons of the Year 1952, ed. by Lawrence Lariar
Happy Holiday: A Traveler's Treasury of Humorous Writing and Cartoons, ed. by Lawrence Lariar

One more by Joseph C. Lincoln:
Kent Knowles: Quahaug

And seven of the books published by The Mystery League in 1930-32:
The Mystery of Villa Sineste, by Walter Livingston
The Monster of Grammont, by George Goodchild
The Merrivale Mystery, by James Corbett
The Hunterstone Outrage, by Seldon Truss
The House of Terror, by Edward Woodward
The Hand of Power, by Edgar Wallace
The False Purple, by Sydney Horler

Feb 26, 2016, 1:21pm

32. The Days of Auld Lang Syne, by Ian Maclaren

February TIOLI Challenge #13

One of my favorite books in 2015 was Ian Maclaren’s Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush, recounting tales of life in the small Scottish village of Drumtochty earlier in the nineteenth century. I found it an effective and often moving blend of humor and sentiment, joy and sorrow, faith and fellowship. It was very popular in its day, topping the first Publishers Weekly bestseller list in 1895. (And a thank you to Liz [lizard] for launching her bestseller-reading project and inspiring me to get around to reading it.)

The author revisited Drumtochty in The Days of Auld Lang Syne, which was sixth on the bestseller list that same year. I found it another successful and affecting collection of stories, if nothing quite so powerful as the first volume’s “The Transformation of Lachlan Campbell” or “A Doctor of the Old School.”

I’ll be seeking out his other fiction, including Kate Carnegie, which was among the top 10 bestsellers in 1896.


Edited: Feb 28, 2016, 11:42am

I saw that you listed Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune in the March TIOLI listing for Coco's memorial challenge. What I great book! That was my very, very, very favorite book when I was in sixth grade. That was quite a while ago (haha!), but that book led me to read all other books written by the same author. However, Lad: A Dog is the book that still remains in my heart and soul. Some books have everlasting impressions (as do some pets).

Feb 29, 2016, 3:40pm

33. Athelston (anonymous)

In this 812-line Middle English narrative poem, four men who meet by chance swear brotherhood. When one (the title character, Athelston) becomes king of England, he rewards the other three with positions of power and authority, making two earls and one the Archbishop of Canterbury. Jealousy rears its head, however, as Athelston shows more favor to Egeland, Earl of Stane (who married Athelston’s sister) than to Wymound, Earl of Dover. Wymound accuses Egeland and his family of plotting treason, and Athelston has them arrested. He reacts angrily when his wife tries to intercede for the prisoners. When the archbishop hears of the arrest, he comes to plead for them — or at least for a fair trial — as well. A judicial ordeal is planned….

An odd work that is not without interest.

Feb 29, 2016, 3:44pm

>123 SqueakyChu: I'm glad to hear that Lad: A Dog is so good, Madeline! This will be my first time reading it. I read some dog books as a boy (a couple of the Silver Chief stories by Jack O'Brien, for example), but I don't recall ever encountering any of Terhune's books.

Edited: Feb 29, 2016, 4:33pm

>125 harrygbutler: you've never read Lad, a Dog? Oh, the humanity, er, canine-ity?

There's a slew of books by that author, but Lad is one of, if not, the best. I also recently reread Lochinvar Luck, by the same author, and it held up very well.

It's nice to see someone who also read the Silver Chief books. I read and reread them (and loved them) so much as a child that a few years ago I searched for and bought the series. They hold up very well as an adult read.

Feb 29, 2016, 4:59pm

>126 fuzzi: I guess I'll have quite a few treats in store once I finish Lad: A Dog.

I had just two of the Silver Chief books when I was young: Silver Chief, Dog of the North and Silver Chief to the Rescue. I was drawn to them (and The Call of the Wild) in part, I think, because we lived in Alaska for a few years just as I was hitting the right age to read them. I managed to track down a copy of The Return of Silver Chief a couple years ago, but I haven't yet revisited the series.

Feb 29, 2016, 5:23pm

34. Departmental Ditties and Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads, Rudyard Kipling

This is a very good book of verse (originally published earlier in a couple separate volumes), with adventure and humor, tragedy and romance, with sympathy — particularly noticeable in the second half — for the regular soldier (indeed, that portion is dedicated to him, “Tommy Atkins”). There’s much that’s familiar in these lines, but I had forgotten (or never realized) that the chorus of “The Whiffenpoof Song” (“We are poor little lambs, who have lost our way…”) is derived from Kipling’s “Gentlemen Rankers.”


Edited: Feb 29, 2016, 7:29pm

>128 harrygbutler: I was a big fan of Kipling growing up (I wrote my first "term paper" on his life, for 8th grade English), but that book escaped me.

I didn't know that about The Whiffenpoof Song!

>127 harrygbutler: do read The Return of Silver Chief, but avoid book #4, Silver Chief's Revenge, which was awful, with Commies, and a Russian dog as Chief's enemy. Thorne's name was changed and his family was non-existent. I have never reread it.

Feb 29, 2016, 7:54pm

>128 harrygbutler: Kipling is always such fun to read isn't he? His poem "If" would definitely make any anthology of poems I was putting together.

Mar 1, 2016, 10:05am

>130 PaulCranswick: I agree.

Sometimes at work I volunteer to go pick up cases of bottled water, and bring them back to the office. I referred to myself as "Gunga Din", and no one got the reference...sigh.

Mar 1, 2016, 7:04pm

>129 fuzzi: >130 PaulCranswick: I like most of Kipling's work that I've tried (and that's a good percentage of it, I think). His short stories and verse are always a pleasure to read. I know his novels are considered weaker, but I liked Kim and also The Light That Failed (though that one I doubt I'll revisit).

>131 fuzzi: 'Tis a pity, but sadly not a surprise, about the reference to "Gunga Din."

Mar 1, 2016, 7:29pm

35. Thebaid: A Song of Thebes, by P. Papinius Statius

Grim, gruesome, and gloomy, the Thebaid was a bit of a struggle to get through. This first-century epic of the struggle of the Seven Against Thebes — battling to place Oedipus’ son Polynices on the throne that he was supposed to share with his brother, Eteocles (who refused to step down per their agreement) — was an account dense with learned allusions (many quite obscure) and peopled with characters scarcely heroic. Grim, gruesome, and gloomy indeed: The epic is filled with malevolent deities, cannibalism, death of the innocent, blasphemy, and bitter vengeance.

The Latin poem in 12 books by P. Papinius Statius enjoyed a good deal of popularity for centuries, though its influence waned in the modern period. I can see its appeal, but it wasn’t really for me. I read it in the fairly recent translation by Jane Wilson Joyce, which, while largely successful, suffered from some infelicities of phrasing as well as signs of weak editing. Should I ever reread the poem, I’ll likely give the Loeb edition and translation by D. R. Shackleton Bailey a try instead.

Mar 2, 2016, 6:55am

Oh, yes, Shackleton Bailey! I hold a soft spot in my heart for the man, because of his work on Cicero's letters.

Mar 3, 2016, 9:19pm

>134 scaifea: I have his Loeb volumes of the letters, but I haven't really sat down to read them yet. Maybe after I get through the Moralia, which I'm finally trying to read systematically.

Mar 4, 2016, 8:58am

>135 harrygbutler: Oh, I predict that you'll love them! I'm a huge fan of Cicero, and in fact spent most of my dissertation on him...

Mar 4, 2016, 10:01am

>136 scaifea: Cool! I'll look forward to it, then. Much of my familiarity with Cicero is with the philosophical works, and I expect to return to some of them in the fairly near future.

What was your dissertation topic?

Mar 4, 2016, 11:01am

36. The Nursing Home Murder, by Ngaio Marsh

An unpleasant politician suffering from peritonitis dies shortly after surgery. One of the nurses in the operating room hated the man for political reasons and had said that his death would be a good thing. Another was one of his discarded lovers, and she had threatened his life. The lead surgeon, a former friend, had had words with the politician over the callous treatment of that nurse. And the politician’s slightly dotty sister was constantly pestering him to try various unproved medicines. Was the politician’s death natural, or did someone take advantage of the circumstances to cut short his career? His wife insists he was murdered, and Chief Detective-Inspector Roderick Alleyn is charged with investigating.

The developments of the plot were interesting, and there was an early indication of the final resolution that didn’t really register, so that I was surprised by the ending. This third entry in Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn series was good, and it kept my interest.


Mar 4, 2016, 1:39pm

>137 harrygbutler: The dissertation was on the tricky business of negotiating spectacle in the Roman triumphs. I worked a lot with Cicero's letter because he was a master negotiator on so many fronts, and he talks quite a bit about various triumphal processions and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at them. I think you'll be delighted to discover the human side of Cicero - he can be hilarious, haughty, petty, a worried and doting father, and a faithful friend. In a word, human.

Mar 5, 2016, 6:41pm

37. Prince Valiant, Vol. 2: 1939-1940, by Hal Foster

In the second volume of Prince Valiant reprints, Val aids King Arthur in repelling a Saxon invasion and is knighted as a consequence. Now Sir Valiant, he aids his exiled father’s restoration as King of Thule and then heads for the beleaguered lands of the Continent, which are suffering from a plague of invading Huns. After joining in the doomed defense of Andelkrag, which “stands above the smoke of burning Europe,” Val forms a band of “Hun-hunters,” who deal a blow to the ravaging Huns and reveal that they can be beaten. Then comes the Rome of the tyrant Valentinian III, and treachery and imprisonment, together with his friends Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain.

In these early years, the Prince Valiant strip takes place during the last years of the western Roman Empire, around AD 455, but the strip now takes place sometime during the reign of Justinian in the first half of the sixth century, I believe.

Mar 7, 2016, 8:17am

>140 harrygbutler: ::drooling::

Mar 7, 2016, 2:15pm

>138 harrygbutler: I started to ask you if that one had been done as a TV adaptation, but then I saw the "as seen on public television" on the cover. I'm pretty sure I've seen that one but not read it.

Mar 7, 2016, 9:12pm

>141 fuzzi: These books are gorgeous. The large format (possibly original size) really delivers an impact.

>142 thornton37814: I don't think I've ever seen any TV versions of the Roderick Alleyn books. I may look to track them down once I get through (more of) the series.

Mar 10, 2016, 6:35pm

38. The History and Topography of Ireland (Topographia Hibernica), by Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis)

March TIOLI Challenge #15: Read a book by a writer born in Wales

In this fairly short work, twelfth-century Norman-Welsh cleric Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) provides a valuable account of Ireland during the time of the Norman invasion near the close of the 1100s. His work offers a rare contemporary look at Ireland in the Middle Ages, with discussion of the island’s geography, history, and culture, along with a broad array of folk-tales and stories of wonders. As a supporter of the invasion, Gerald tends to emphasize the flaws and weaknesses of the Irish, and some of his accusations may be viewed as unlikely or unfair, but nevertheless the book as a whole is worth a look.

Gerald also wrote a book on the Norman invasion, the Expugnatio Hibernica (The Conquest of Ireland). He is more famous for his books on his homeland, the Itinerarium Cambriae (Journey Through Wales) and the Descriptio Cambriae (Description of Wales). (It is worth noting that in discussing the Welsh he is not uniformly positive.) According to the Topography, he intended also to provide a similar look at Scotland, but he apparently never wrote that work.

Mar 10, 2016, 7:08pm

39. The Whispering Ghost, by Stephen Chalmers

Who stole the ear off the body in the morgue, and why? Stephen Chalmers’ The Whispering Ghost opens with this little mystery, one that leads our stalwart protagonist, John McKim Merithew, into contact with the mastermind behind a global network of information gathering and a struggle to prevent a traitorous operative from using a newly invented, untraceable poison to blackmail the world.

Although it has some clever bits — such as the role played by ears — this is only mildly engaging as an adventurous crime thriller. The hero is fairly nondescript, the romance perfunctory, the resolution less than exciting (though it might have worked better on film).One interesting historical note is the positive portrayal of Mussolini, who at the time the book was written (at the start of the 1930s) was still in high repute. My edition was published in 1939; I wonder how that aspect was received among its readers then.

Mar 13, 2016, 9:09am

>144 harrygbutler: Fascinating Harry. It is of course good as someone with both English and Irish lineage to rely on the early texts which illustrate that it was the Normans who invaded Ireland, so as usual we have to blame the French!

Have a great Sunday.

Mar 14, 2016, 5:44pm

40. Moralia, Volume II, by Plutarch

Finishing the first volume of Plutarch’s “essays,” the Moralia, in the Loeb Classical Library edition took me a few years, as I carried it around in the car for emergency reading for quite some time. I find his approach to various topics, with statements mingled with quotations from poets, dramatists, philosophers, and rulers, among others, engaging, but also easy to pick up and set aside for varying amounts of time. However, this year I’ve decided to try to read most, if not all, the remaining volumes, so I will be more focused in giving them my attention with each volume.

Volume II, which I read recently, covers several topics — how to profit by one’s enemies, on (the possibility of) having many friends, chance, the possibility of making progress in virtue, advice on how to keep well, advice to a bride and groom, and superstition. It also includes a public letter of condolence to someone on the death of his son (a not-usual form of literary endeavor at the time). Though in some respects of course no longer applicable, often the observations and advice remain solid and apropos. Perhaps the most entertaining of the pieces in this volume, though, is “The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men,” which relates the table talk of luminaries such as Solon of Athens and Thales of Miletus at an imagined feast given in their honor by Periander, then ruler of Corinth.


Mar 14, 2016, 6:20pm

>146 PaulCranswick: Thanks for stopping by, Paul. Of course, the Normans invaded France first, thereby becoming "Norman" rather than "Norsemen." :-)

Mar 15, 2016, 10:48am

41. Octovian (anonymous)

Octovian is a moderately entertaining Middle English romance of around 1,700 lines. The action starts when the Emperor Octovian is tricked into believing that his wife had an affair and he banishes her together with their twin infant sons, Octovian and Florent. Mother is separated from the children while in the wilderness. Though she is reunited fairly quickly with Octovian, they largely pass out of the story, which concentrates on Florent and his adventures in Paris when it is besieged by the sultan.

There are two versions of the Octovian tale in Middle English; I read the northern version, which survives in two manuscripts (one damaged) and one incomplete early printed edition.

A pleasant enough way to spend a little time, but overall undistinguished.

Mar 15, 2016, 11:20am

42. Lad: A Dog, by Albert Payson Terhune

March TIOLI Challenge #6

Albert Payson Terhune’s stories of his dog, Lad, are outstanding animal tales, by turns exciting, amusing, and touching. It is no wonder that they proved quite popular with readers during Lad’s lifetime (in the early 20th century), and they remain eminently readable today. I’m eagerly anticipating reading more of Lad’s adventures, and about the other Sunnybank dogs.

Sunnybank, the home of the Terhunes and their many collies on Pompton Lake, is now a Wayne Township, New Jersey, park. Lad and the other collies are buried there and have monuments; I’ll have to try and visit sometime when we’re up that way.

Highly recommended.

Edited: Mar 15, 2016, 12:37pm

>150 harrygbutler: I'm so happy you read my favorite book from when I was in 6th grade (just a few years ago...Haha!).

Mar 16, 2016, 10:20am

>150 harrygbutler: I am so glad you enjoyed Lad, A Dog. I've read a bunch of the author's books, and they're all good to excellent. My other "favorite" aside from Lad is Lochinvar Luck.

Mar 18, 2016, 1:12pm

>151 SqueakyChu: I'm glad I did. I could see why it would be a favorite.

>152 fuzzi: Thanks for the tip, fuzzi! I'll keep an eye out for Lochinvar Luck. Right now the only other Terhune dog book I have is Further Adventures of Lad.

Mar 18, 2016, 1:16pm

43. The Black Coat, by Constance Little and Gwenyth Little

March TIOLI Challenge #9: Read a book where the author's first or last name starts with the letter "L"

One of many screwball comic mysteries from the Little sisters, Constance and Gwenyth, this post-war romp opens when the heroine meets a woman with the same first name (Anne) on a train to New York. This second Anne is on her way to meet her grandmother, but she apparently bolts from the train in Philadelphia, taking the first Anne’s coat with her and leaving an old-fashioned black coat behind (which the first Anne must perforce don). The switch leads to a mistaken identification and to Anne’s becoming entangled in the doings at the boarding-house the family owns. There are rumors of a secret treasure, and then murder strikes.

I thought this one of the Littles’ lesser efforts. It was reasonably entertaining, with some good scenes, but the characters fell rather flat.

Mar 18, 2016, 7:22pm

>153 harrygbutler: many of Terhune's works are available to read online, for free. See Open Library here: https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL19447A/Albert_Payson_Terhune

Unfortunately, Lochinvar Luck isn't, but many others are.

Mar 18, 2016, 9:02pm

>155 fuzzi: Thanks, fuzzi! It's good to know about their availability.

Edited: Mar 21, 2016, 1:08pm

44. Jim, by J. J. Bell

Jim recounts a young boy's visit to a small Scottish village with his father while his mother is abroad for her health, with a focus on the impact he has on an elderly brother and sister of the village. A mild story with minor events and a gentle humor; I enjoyed it.

As the cover image shows, my copy has seen better days, but Bell's books are uncommon, so I generally take them as I find them.

Recommended, but I'd suggest Wee Macgreegor or one of the Joseph Redhorn books as a better place to start with Bell's work.

Mar 21, 2016, 11:43am

>107 harrygbutler: Yesterday I started reading the dutch translation of Yvain or the Knight with the Lion.

When I was in highschool I had to read some old Dutch works like Esmoreit, Mariken van Nieumeghen and Den spyeghel der Salicheyt van Elckerlijc, did not like them back then, mainly becaus I HAD to read them. Maybe it is time for a revisit :-)

Mar 22, 2016, 10:02am

45. The Lord of the Isles, by Sir Walter Scott

March TIOLI Challenge #16: Reread a book

The Lord of the Isles is one of the last of Sir Walter Scott’s narrative poems, published in 1815, after he had begun the Waverley novels. In six cantos it relates in brief the return of Robert Bruce from exile in Ireland and his campaign and victory over Edward II at the battle of Bannockburn. In the opening canto Bruce interrupts the wedding festivities for Ronald, Lord of the Isles, and Edith of Lorn — perhaps fortuitously, as it appears he may love another. In the confusion around the discovery that Bruce is back in Scottish territory, Edith disappears; one aspect of the poem is the working out of her fate, as well as that of Sir Ronald.

My copy is among our oldest books: a second edition, printed in 1815. We had it rebound several years ago, as the binding had been damaged at some point in the past two centuries.


Mar 22, 2016, 10:17am

>158 FAMeulstee: I hope you enjoy it! I have a dual-language edition of Mariken van Nieumeghen, but I haven't yet read it — perhaps sometime this year.

Edited: Mar 22, 2016, 2:42pm

46. The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie

The first of Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence novels is more thriller (à la Edgar Wallace) than mystery. It’s a fun enough adventure, with disappearances, mysterious deaths, and more. Although it is clear fairly early on that one of two characters is the criminal mastermind, Christie does a decent job keeping suspicion alive toward both.


Mar 25, 2016, 12:15am

Have a wonderful Easter.

Mar 25, 2016, 8:21am

>162 PaulCranswick: Thank you, Paul! Have a wonderful Easter as well!

Mar 25, 2016, 3:48pm

47. Doctor Syn, by Russell Thorndike

One of the best stories to appear on the Wonderful World of Disney when I was a youth was “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh,” with Patrick McGoohan resisting the corrupt officials of the English king while disguised as Dr. Syn, alias the Scarecrow (and creepily so, too!). The show was based on the character created in a series of novels written earlier in the 20th century by Russell Thorndike, beginning in 1915 with Dr. Syn: A Tale of Romney Marsh. (One subsequent novel, Christopher Syn, published in 1960 and cowritten with another author, was apparently the direct basis for the show.)

I finally got a copy of Dr. Syn recently, and I’m pleased to say that the book is excellent — exciting and well-plotted. It successfully induces the reader to sympathize with the efforts of the smugglers to elude the king’s representative, despite the fact that the smugglers are indeed villainous and willing to kill to escape. An effective touch is the focus for part of the story on young Jerry Jerk, who dreams of becoming a hangman and serving in that capacity for his hated schoolmaster, Mr. Rash. Young “Hangman Jerk” is so keen on his future profession that he even pays to have a gallows built on the small bit of land he owns in the marsh — and this is later made to serve a grisly purpose.


Edited: Mar 25, 2016, 7:00pm

>164 harrygbutler: that one sounds intriguing!

Mar 29, 2016, 6:55pm

>165 fuzzi: Well worth a look, I'd say. I'm planning to keep an eye out for the others.

Mar 29, 2016, 7:02pm

48. The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

I recently reread The Hobbit for the first time in a number of years. It remains a treat, as it was when I first encountered it (sometime in my teens, I think). Not a treat, however, was reading the copy that I currently own. My Houghton Mifflin edition is an attractive book, well-illustrated by Alan Lee, but oddly shaped (8 x 10 in.) and heavy for its size (because of the high-quality paper stock used). The odd proportions in particular made it awkward and uncomfortable to handle, so much as I like this book as a physical object, I think I’ll be replacing it.


Mar 29, 2016, 8:27pm

49. The March Hare Murders, by E. X. Ferrars

E. X. Ferrars’ The March Hare Murders is an OK roman noir. The chief protagonist is David Obeney, a man recovering from a breakdown who has come to stay with his sister Stella and her husband Ferdie. In the opening of the novel, David comes face to face with the only person he’s ever wanted to kill, Professor Mark Verinder, whom he blames for the suicide of a woman he once loved. It is soon clear that Stella has had an affair with Verinder as well. The married Verinder has a neglected but apparently devoted wife, Ingrid, and a personal secretary (his wife’s brother). Also in the mix are a couple of sellers of rare books — Verinder appears to have a hold over them — and the attractive Dierdre Masson, whom Verinder may be pursuing.

A fire in the summer house at the Verinders’ place is followed by murder and attempted murder, with Verinder and Dierdre Masson shot in her home, the former fatally. Yet police are already around in advance of the shootings: What are they investigating? And how does it relate to the murder, if it does? Did David act on his hatred of Verinder? Did the jilted Stella put an end to Verinder, her former lover? Did Ferdie? And what, if anything, happened to David’s missing service revolver?

Recommended, though the end seemed a bit hurried.

Mar 29, 2016, 9:52pm

50. The Lives of Simeon Stylites, translated by Robert Doran

March TIOLI Challenge #1: Read a book with me in the title

Earlier this year I read the life of St. Daniel the Stylite (in Three Byzantine Saints) — one of a number of ascetics in the eastern Roman Empire in the fifth century who spent years living atop pillars, generally exposed to the elements with minimal shelter. This month I took a look at three biographies of St. Simeon Stylites, who inspired the movement: the first, composed while he was still living, was written by Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, and included in his A History of the Monks of Syria; the second, attributed to Antonius, a disciple of Simeon; and the third, an anonymous life written in Syriac and dated to AD 473. Overall, Theodoret’s is the most restrained; the popular tone of the Syriac life can be seen in the many tales of miracles performed by Simeon, including by means of ḥnana — mud made by mixing of water (or water and oil) and dust from where he stood. An interesting aspect of these lives overall was that the radical novelty of his pillar asceticism — he was the first — doesn’t seem to get that much attention; indeed, discussion of the pillars was much more central in the biography of St. Daniel the Stylite that I read.

Edited: Mar 29, 2016, 11:30pm

51. The Guns of Navarone, by Alistair MacLean

March TIOLI Challenge #7: Read a book with yellow on the cover

“The Guns of Navarone” is a terrific movie, one that I’ve watched multiple times since childhood and will likely watch again. Prompted in part by fuzzi’s comments on Alistair MacLean in a thread in the Tattered But Still Lovely group, I recently read the novel on which the movie is based. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling adventure, with tense action, heroism, and betrayal, as a small group of Allies seeks to destroy a fortified gun emplacement that is poised to prevent a naval operation to extract a thousand or so troops from a Greek island facing an imminent German assault. It held my interest despite my familiarity with the movie — and there are some differences, too. I’ll certainly be getting more of MacLean’s novels to read.


Mar 30, 2016, 5:40pm

The annual Bryn Mawr-Wellesley book sale was a good one for us again this year — more than 70 books, including quite a few we got at the bag sale day today.

Mar 30, 2016, 5:41pm


Well, not really...but I'm pretty darn jealous...

Edited: Mar 30, 2016, 6:24pm

>172 lyzard: :-)

I'm cataloging what we got today now. Overall, there weren't that many older mysteries, though a fair number of TBSL books, but I did find a few, including The Red Mouse, which is a pre-WWI "mystery romance," and 32 Caliber, from 1930, as well as a couple Edgar Wallace books.

Mar 30, 2016, 6:37pm


Mar 31, 2016, 12:53pm

>170 harrygbutler: yippee!

The movie sequel, Force Ten From Navarone was also a good movie, and book. It, like the first book, differed quite a bit from the corresponding movie, but both were good.

Apr 1, 2016, 4:53pm

>175 fuzzi: That's good to know about the book, fuzzi! I've seen the movie "Force 10 from Navarone" at least a couple times.

Edited: Apr 1, 2016, 5:05pm

52. Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries, ed. by Martin Edwards

March TIOLI Challenge #5: Read a book that mentions a fictional poison, medicine or drug somewhere in the text

Another in the abundant series of British Library Crime Classics, Resorting to Murder brings together an assortment of short stories by both famed and obscure authors with mysteries that can be said to have something to do with holidaying. As is to be expected in such an anthology, the stories vary in their appeal, but overall they are pretty good. My favorite was probably the Father Brown story by G. K. Chesterton, “The Finger of Stone,” which I had read before, but some of the others were fine as well, with but one or two duds. (Suffice to say that I was not particularly impressed by the “discoveries.”)

I avoided the general introduction by the editor, Martin Edwards, but did look over the introductions to the individual stories, which I found occasionally useful but often poor, and too prone to drag in details about the authors unrelated to the stories at hand, or even to their mystery writing in general. I’ll be skipping such introductions by Mr. Edwards going forward, should they appear in further British Library Crime Classics volumes that I get.


Apr 1, 2016, 5:32pm

53. The Temple of Glas, by John Lydgate

One of my favorite late-medieval authors is the monk and poet John Lydgate, an admirer of Chaucer and an important writer of the first half of the fifteenth century. His verse I find consistently readable, though I’ve not yet come near reading all the 100,000+ lines of poetry that he wrote.

The Temple of Glas is a Chaucerian-style dream vision in stanzaic verse. The narrator, in a dream, sees the temple of Venus, which is made of glass and thus transparent, and two lovers — first a lady, and then a knight — make their complaints to Venus and seek her assistance in gaining the love of their beloved.

In a couple manuscripts (and in the Early English Text Society edition I read), the poem is followed by another, a “Compleynt” by a lover who had to leave his beloved at the end of March (and so a read appropriate to the season). Likely not by Lydgate, this poem is not so good as Temple but was worth a look.

Apr 1, 2016, 6:01pm

54. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

Back at the beginning of February the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod shared on Facebook a blog post from Concordia Publishing House suggesting the reading of the Book of Concord, the Lutheran confessions, for Lent. As I had the volume on hand, I decided to give it a go. I found it well worth the time to read through the various components of the book: Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Formula of Concord, and the rest. Some parts were indeed challenging, but I’m glad to have gone through it.


Apr 1, 2016, 6:53pm

55. Bat Wing, by Sax Rohmer

Bat Wing, the first of two Paul Harley mystery novels by Sax Rohmer, opens with the detective and his Watson (Knox by name) preparing to depart on a holiday — only to be persuaded instead to go to the estate of Colonel Juan Menendez, who says that he fears for his life and indicates that voodoo may be involved (the bat wing being a warning). Harley and Knox begin their investigation after arriving at the estate, which also houses the colonel’s invalid cousin, Madame de Stämer, and her companion, Val Beverley. Knox finds himself drawn to Miss Beverley, who believes something is wrong in the household, and he also makes the acquaintance of a neighbor, Colin Camber and his wife Ysola, who were living in the area before the arrival of Menendez and his entourage. Camber hates Menendez; could he be plotting to kill the colonel? What is the colonel concealing from Harley, and why?

This was a reasonably entertaining mystery, though some of the surprises weren’t all that surprising. I hadn’t anticipated the outcome and its explanation. I’ll give the second Paul Harley novel, Fire-Tongue, a try. (I’ve also read some short stories featuring the detective, collected in The Voice of Kali: The Early Paul Harley Mysteries, published by Black Dog Books in 2013.)

Mildly recommended.

Apr 1, 2016, 7:34pm

>176 harrygbutler: it's one of the few movie sequels that is actually good.

Apr 2, 2016, 10:06am

56. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, by Alice Caldwell Hegan

March TIOLI Challenge #18: Read a book with a title word describing a place someone could live

A year or so in the life of the impoverished Wiggs family, led by their matriarch, Mrs. Wiggs, and how they are helped to somewhat less-straitened circumstances through their own efforts and the assistance (separately provided) of a pair of estranged young lovers.

This was the No. 2 bestseller in the U.S. in 1902 and remained on the list (at No. 6) the following year, when Alice Caldwell Hegan (also known as Alice Hegan Rice) had a second book in the Top Ten. I’ve not read that one but will do so when I get the chance.


Apr 2, 2016, 10:51am

57. Panic in Box C, by John Dickson Carr

An unpleasant retired actress is murdered while locked alone in a box watching the dress rehearsal of a play. It appears that she was shot with an antique crossbow that was earlier stolen from the foyer; its string is heard to snap, and it is found on the floor near the box opposite. Yet the woman was killed from behind: How did the killer get her to turn her back, when she was watching the play?

This late Dr. Gideon Fell mystery by John Dickson Carr was a puzzler, though aspects of the eventual solution were clear to me fairly early on. Still, I found the explanation of the crime somewhat disappointing. The novel is peopled with rather unlikeable characters (even those who should be sympathetic) as well, so I didn’t end up caring for it very much.

Recommended only for completists.

Apr 3, 2016, 11:00pm

58. Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie

The story opens with Captain Hastings meeting an actress, “Cinderella,” aboard a train bound for Calais, whose sister seems to have missed the train. Hastings proceeds with the crossing to England. Shortly after Hastings’ return, Hercule Poirot is asked to come to France by a wealthy businessman who says that he fears for his life. When Poirot arrives in company with Captain Hastings, they find that Monsieur Renauld has already been murdered — and his body found on the neighboring golf course. Madame Renauld tells a fantastic tale of bearded men who mentioned Santiago (where M. Renauld had had business dealings) and a “secret,” and who took him out after tying her up. Some of the evidence doesn’t seem to support the story. Who was the mysterious woman who called on M. Renauld earlier in the evening, but after his wife had retired? Was it “the mysterious Madame Daubreuil,” who had called before and was rumored to be his mistress? Or some unknown woman, as the maid averred? What of the son, Jack Renauld, who was supposed to be on his way to South America, having been sent there after quarreling with his father?

Another enjoyable mystery from Agatha Christie, with some successful misdirection that made the actual villain a surprise, and some diverting minor mysteries along the way.


Apr 3, 2016, 11:21pm

59. Prince Valiant, Vol. 3: 1941-1942, by Hal Foster

March TIOLI Challenge #3: Read a book with an embedded word in the title

In this third volume of Prince Valiant comics, covering the years 1941 and 1942, we see Val adventuring in the eastern Mediterranean and then to Africa with Vikings in pursuit of gold, before returning to England (with a stop on the Continent along the way). Entertaining adventures, and Val first meets his future bride, Aleta, Queen of the Misty Isles, during his wanderings.


Apr 4, 2016, 8:54am

>59 lyzard: those Prince Valiant books are on my wishlist....

Apr 4, 2016, 3:45pm

>186 fuzzi: They are well worth it!

Apr 4, 2016, 4:02pm

And that wraps up my first-quarter reading. Please stop by my second thread.
This topic was continued by harrygbutler aims for 75+ in 2016 -- Part 2.