harrygbutler's Tomes and Trifles in 2017, Part 1
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Hello, I’m Harry, and this will be my second year in the 75 Books Challenge. 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. 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. Our pets occasionally make an appearance in my thread. My other interests include model railroading, gardening, and birding, so you'll sometimes see something related to them as well.
I enjoyed the Take It or Leave It challenges in 2016, and I'm sure I'll take part again. I may try some other challenges this year, too, if time permits.
I try to provide some sort of comment on the books I read, but they aren't really reviews.
1. Why Shoot a Butler?, by Georgette Heyer
2. The Exeter Book Riddles, trans. by Kevin Crossley-Holland
3. Bear Island, by Alistair MacLean
4. The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 919-966, ed. and trans. by Bernard S. Bachrach and Steven Fanning
5. Murder in Maryland, by Leslie Ford
6. Kate Carnegie, by Ian Maclaren
7. Babylonian Literary Texts in the Schøyen Collection, by A. R. George
8. The Destroying Angel, by Norman Klein
9. Sweet Danger, by Margery Allingham
10. Rudder Grange, by Frank R. Stockton
11. Best Cartoons of the Year 1943, ed. by Lawrence Lariar
12. Norse Romance I: The Tristan Legend, ed. by Marianne E. Karlinke
13. The Footsteps at the Lock, by Ronald A. Knox
14. Proverbs of Ancient Sumer, by Bendt Alster
15. Solomon Kane, by Robert E. Howard
16. Hägar the Horrible: The Epic Chronicles: The Dailies 1983 to 1984, by Dik Browne
17. The Case Is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth
18. Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, ed. by Milton J. Davis and Charles R. Saunders
19. Ava's New Testament Narratives: "When the Old Law Passed Away", by Ava
20. The Blackout, by Constance and Gwenyth Little
21. Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West, ed. by Alan Thacker and Richard Sharpe
22. Early Medieval Rome and the Christian West: Essays in Honour of Donald A. Bullough, ed. by Julia M.H. Smith
23. Lonesome Road, by Patricia Wentworth
24. Gray Dusk, by Octavus Roy Cohen
25. East of Samarinda, by Carl Jacobi
26. Partners in Crime, by Agatha Christie
27. The Crock of Gold, by James Stephens
28. The Eye in the Museum, by J. J. Connington
29. The Life of Bishop Wilfrid, by Eddius Stephanus
30. League of the Grateful Dead and Other Stories, by Day Keene
Hanging my star...
>9 bohemima: Hi, Gail! It's always nice to find someone with similar interests.
>10 thornton37814: Thanks, Lori! The thread topper is from Joseph C. Lincoln's Christmas Days, which I just read this month. I'm going to try to include more illustrations from the books I read in this year's thread.
>11 cbl_tn: Hi, Carrie! Hildy will likely make an appearance soon.
>12 The_Hibernator: Hi, Rachel! Thanks for stopping by!
I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.
Thank you for also being part of the group.
Littera me pavit nec quid sit littera novi:
In libris vixi nec sum studiosior inde;
Exedi Musas nec adhuc tamen ipsa profeci.
I thrive on letters yet no letters know,
I live in books, the made more studious so,
Devour the Muses, but no wiser grow.
(text and translation from The Hundred Riddles of Symphosius)
January TIOLI Challenge #16: Read a book in which bad/extreme weather plays a part
Barrister Frank Amberley, wandering the countryside while attempting to follow a shortcut to his aunt and uncle’s place, happens upon a car stopped by the side of the road; a woman is standing beside the car, and within the car is a man who has just been shot. Frank believes Shirley Brown when she tells him she did not kill the man, and later, when reporting the murder to the police, Frank suppresses her involvement, deciding instead to investigate the affair — which he considers bigger than the murder alone — himself. His course is made easier when the police ask for his assistance, and a subsequent encounter with Shirley at a fancy dress ball at Norton Manor (where the murdered man had been butler) gives him a lead. More murder follows, with moves and countermoves and a thrilling chase.
Why Shoot a Butler? is an entertaining mystery from Georgette Heyer, though one in which the reader is not privy to all the clues. Still, the solution to the main mystery is fairly obvious, so the pleasure is rather in watching the effort to thwart villainous plans and bring the crimes home to the guilty. A standout character is Frank’s Aunt Marion, Lady Matthews, who despite appearances proves generally keen and decisive. Recommended.
First line: "The signpost was unhelpful."
I've quite liked all the Heyer mysteries that I've read (most of them now, but possibly not all; I'll have to check).
January TIOLI Challenge #4: Read a book you received for free in December 2016
The Exeter Book, one of the four major surviving manuscripts of Old English poetry, includes within it nearly 100 poetic “riddles” — some apparently based on, or parallel with, Latin riddles, while others seem rather more homegrown. Of the 96 riddles, Kevin Crossley-Holland provides poetic translations of 75 in the main text of this volume; another 16, which are in a damaged or incomplete state in the manuscript, are translated in the notes; 5 are left untranslated, generally because too much is missing. Agreed-upon solutions to the riddles are provided in the notes as well, and Crossley-Holland notes when there is substantial disagreement or uncertainty. All in all, a decent set of translations, but I think it would have been a much stronger volume had the Old English originals been included as well.
Opening of the first riddle in Old English (lines 1 – 6a):
Hwylc is hæleþa þæs horsc ⁊ þæs hygecræftig
þæt þæt mæge asecgan hwa mec on sið wræce
þōn ic astige strong stundū reþe
þrymful þunie þragum wræce
fere geond foldan folcsalo bærne
Who is so clever and so quick-witted
as to guess who goads me on my journey
when I get up, angry, at times awesome;
when I roar loudly and rampage over the land,
sometimes causing havoc; when I burn houses
and ransack palaces?
An illustration with a large initial.
A close-up of the illustration.
One of the full-page illustrations.
Here's the opening of the book:
The hustle and bustle of a railway station that is handling a rare abundance of passengers is well done in the first chapter, "Pandemonium," with some amusing and enlightening incidents that drew me in.
If you wanted to sample Ian Maclaren you might want to take a look at his first bestseller, Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush, as it is really a collection of stories.
January TIOLI Challenge #13: Read a book whose title includes, or whose subject concerns, an animal that hibernates
As the converted trawler Morning Rose heads north through the Norwegian Sea toward Bear Island (Bjørnøya), part of the Svalbard group, death strikes both passengers (a film crew) and crew: food poisoning, apparently, kills three and leaves four ill. Doctor Christopher Marlowe, who has been hired by the film company, suspects more than an accident, and he concludes that aconite may have been introduced into the horseradish served at dinner. Circumstances suggest that he is correct, and that his interest and suspicion have been noted. More deaths follow as the doctor pursues his investigation, and it isn’t clear whom he can trust.
I was a bit surprised to find this more mystery than adventure, though there are some good descriptions of the island and the arctic environment. An unexpected and effective twist helped add dimension to the story of a reasonably capable man attempting to thwart a clever killer. Recommended.
First sentence: "To even the least sensitive and perceptive beholder the Morning Rose, at this stage of her long and highly chequered career, must have seemed ill-named, for if ever a vessel could fairly have been said to be approaching, if not actually arrived at, the sunset of her days it was this one."
Episodes are available at archive.org: https://archive.org/details/OTRR_Crime_and_Peter_Chambers_Singles
This year we had some planters on the back porch that I've been using as feeding stations for the ground-feeding birds. The dark-eyed juncos in particular seem to like them, and it brings them up close enough for us to watch them easily through the kitchen window. Here is one that has just gotten a bite to eat.
January TIOLI Challenge #6: Read a book whose title includes at least two of the same number
Tenth-century cleric Flodoard of Reims wrote a number of works, including a history of the church of Reims (in present-day France); poetic accounts of saints of Palestine (in three books), Antioch (in ten books), and Italy (in fourteen books); and the work translated in this volume, his Annals chronicling the years 919–966. The Annals provide an account of the fracturing of Carolingian rule, particularly in what is now northern France, the Low Countries, and western Germany, and the struggles of the dynasty and its supporters against the representatives of what would become the Capetian dynasty. They also highlight the important role of Saxon king and emperor Otto the Great even in areas outside his realm, in part thanks to familial ties. Finally, they reveal the power of invading groups during this time of fragmentation and internecine strife; Scandinavians (not just the early Normans around Rouen, but a large body along the Loire and those dominating Brittany for a time as well), Saracens (who had a fortified outpost in southern Provence but operated as far north as modern Switzerland, interdicting travel from England and France to Rome), and Magyars (the future Hungarians, who raided through Italy and as far west as Aquitaine, though they were decisively defeated by Otto at the battle of Lechfeld) engaged in both raids and alliances with various contending parties. A surprise was a successful Byzantine naval operation against the Saracen base in Provence; though the tenth century was a period of recovery and resurgence of Byzantine power, I hadn’t realized they operated quite so far west. Unusual events — weather, astronomical phenomena, etc. — are also included, as well as the deaths of notable persons.
An interesting chronicle of events, but at times hard to follow because of the abundance of people and place. The translators helpfully provide bracketed identifiers for many, as well as copious notes. Recommended for those interested in the history of the period.
First line of the Annals: “In the year 919 from the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, a marvelous hailstone fell at Reims.”
January TIOLI Challenge #9: Read a book honoring SqueakyChu
Dr. Ruth Fisher is called to the home of Antoinette Wyndham, a mean but wealthy old woman estranged from her niece and two of her nephews (the third, the caddish but apparently devoted Richard, is expected to be her heir), by a young woman, Daphne Lake, who is staying the night. Upon arrival, she finds Nettie Wyndham dead — and clearly poisoned, as her dog has died as well from drinking her spilled water. What’s more, her will, which was seen earlier that day, has disappeared. Aside from her relatives, who all had cause to hate her, or at least want her out of the way, Nettie Wyndham also gave cause to the Penniman family, inducing an attack of pseudoangina in Alice Penniman at lunch earlier that day by threatening to burn down the Wyndham home, which Alice had wanted to buy for years. Police lieutenant Kelly comes down from Baltimore to investigate, and Dr. Fisher is an interested witness to his activities, as the clever detective uncovers secrets and threads his way through a maze of clues and false and true stories. Recommended.
First sentence: "Judge Garth's cold, ancient gray eyes met mine searchingly across the dusty ink-stained green baize top of his office table."
January TIOLI Challenge #11: Read a book that contains some illustrations alongside the text
Ian Maclaren’s third bestseller in two years, Kate Carnegie, is a leisurely tale of religion and rural life in Scotland in the late nineteenth century. A romance provides the framework for the novel, which spans some six months, but with various digressions into the past and sketches of strife and saintliness. As with Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush and The Days of Auld Lang Syne, the author casts a gentle and sympathetic eye on humble sorrows and joys, day-to-day tragedies and triumphs, natural beauty and human nobility and kindness. I think Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush a more powerful book, but I quite liked this one as well and will probably read it again someday. Recommended.
As I read this for a challenge that highlighted illustrations, I’m including a couple more here. I’ve already posted a few above: http://www.librarything.com/topic/243932#5871693
First sentence: “It was the morning before the Twelfth, years ago, and nothing like unto Muirtown Station could have been found in all the travelling world.”
I quite enjoyed this passage on an abundance of books:
Book-shelves had long ago failed to accommodate Rabbi's treasures, and the floor had been bravely utilised. Islands of books, rugged and perpendicular, rose on every side; long promontories reached out from the shore, varied by bold headlands; and so broken and varied was that floor that the Rabbi was pleased to call it the Ægean Sea, where he had his Lesbos and his Samos. It is absolutely incredible, but it is all the same a simple fact, that he knew every book and its location, having a sense of the feel as well as the shape of his favourites. This was not because he had the faintest approach to orderliness — for he would take down twenty volumes and never restore them to the same place by any chance. It was a sort of motherly instinct by which he watched over them all, even loved prodigals that wandered all over the study and then set off on adventurous journeys to distant rooms. The restoration of an emigrant to his lawful home was celebrated by a feast in which, by a confusion of circumstances, the book played the part of the fatted calf, being read afresh from beginning to end.
I think we all can realte to that ;-)
The cover illustrates the first story, "The Gift of the Ob-Men," about an exile who encounters alien creatures who give him powers that enable him to return and survive peril along the way. Unfortunately, this lead story was one of the weaker in the volume, with an uncertain style for the protagonist (including turns of phrase that jarred with the material); it seemed too short for the amount the author was trying to accomplish as well.
"This Day, at Tilbury," in which a young wizard comes of age during a Spanish invasion of England at the time of the Armada, was better — a slight tale, but readable. "At the Feet of Neptune's Queen" was a largely successful sword-and-planet tale fatally weakened by an annoying twist at the end. "Rose by Any Other Name" was an OK story of an episode in the life of a lost time traveler, but it seemed more of an excerpt from a longer work than a separate tale. "Late Bloom," a steampunk sort of story, didn't really engage me. "The Hour of the Rat," on the other hand, worked well, with a protagonist on a quest for her stolen property ending up a witness to a battle between stronger forces. "A Hill of Stars," a novelette with a touch of alien menace mingled with swordplay, was pretty good. The one poem included, the first part of a poetic retelling of Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, was weak. An essay discussing the old role-playing game Traveller and E.C. Tubb's Dumarest books was interesting but in need of some editing.
Overall a tolerable first effort. Much of the content was only so-so in execution, and there were some editing and formatting issues (particularly with odd line breaks and hyphenation), but I'll be willing to try another issue.
For those who might want to sample the magazine, the content of the first two issues is available for free online at the Cirsova website at present.
Issue 1: https://cirsova.wordpress.com/cirsova-magazine/issue-1/
Issue 2: https://cirsova.wordpress.com/cirsova-magazine/issue-2/
I liked also that the essay "Panegyric and Reflection in a Poem of Abbo of Fleury to Ramsey Abbey" included the Latin poem that was the subject of the essay as well as a translation:
O Ramesiga cohors, amplis que claudere stagnis,
purior obrizo niteris esse Deo.
O noble throng of Ramsey, secluded by spreading waters,
You strive to be purer than gold for God's sake.
(ll. 1-2, ed. and trans. by Michael Lapidge)
inim.bal inim.šár.šár an.ta eme uriki.ra ki.ta e[me.gi7.ra] an.ta eme.gi7.[ra ki.ta eme uriki.ra] i.zu.u
inim.bal.e.da šu-ta-bu-la e-liš ak-ka-da-[a] šap-liš šu-me-ru šap-liš ak-ka-da-a e-liš šu-me-ru [t]i-de-e
Do you know translation and interpretation, from Akkadian into Sumerian, from Sumerian into Akkadian?
—Examenstext A 14, ed. Å. W. Sjöberg, in Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 64 (1975):137–76, as quoted and translated in the notes to an item in a book I'm reading right now, Babylonian Literary Texts in the Schøyen Collection
The first line is Sumerian, the second Akkadian.
(My answer is "no.")
>64 harrygbutler: My dogs have a couch that they let humans sit on. Some would claim it actually belongs to my father, but anyone who uses it quickly learns otherwise.
>72 harrygbutler: I actually took some Sumerian courses when I was in Germany, which were fun but taught me that the answer is definitely "no".
It's amusing to me that our various animals have clear preferences in terms of places that they seem to consider "theirs." Hildy will share the recliner with either of us, and will grudgingly allow a cat on the person's lap as well, but she doesn't usually want the cats to share the couch.
It's cool that you studied Sumerian! My interest is purely casual, and I doubt I'll ever make an attempt at learning to read cuneiform or any of the languages it was used to represent, but I'm pretty fascinated by what has survived from ancient Mesopotamia, and by the painstaking scholarly piecing together of literature, history, and documentary witnesses to daily life.
When the Sumerian decided to Spring
And would Fall in the Winter of his days.
Then would lose a language that once was king
But proved seasonal and that nothing stays.
January TIOLI Challenge #1: Read a book with at least five names in the title and/or subtitle
This book, the tenth volume in the series Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, provides an edition and translation of 19 texts that could in some way be considered “literary”: narrative poems (including fragments of the Gilgamesh story), love poetry, a prayer, letters, a dialogue, the story of a lawsuit, and more. The first text, “The Song of Bazi,” is important because it introduces a hitherto unknown god, Bazi, a son of the god Enki who establishes his home in the mountains of Syria; according to information included on the clay tablet where it is recorded, the song was used on a ceremonial occasion. Also interesting are “The Scholars of Uruk,” a dual-language piece (in Akkadian and Sumerian), apparently the product of a scribal school, in which a father chides his son, another scholar, and “The Tribulations of Gimil-Marduk,” which is an account of the title character’s nearly fifty-year struggle to obtain justice after his uncle blocked him from his inheritance (whether this account is fact or fiction is unknown). Recommended.
Lines 1–4 of “The Song of Bazi” (some parts of the lines are missing, as indicated by the x’s and the ellipses:
wa-a-ši-ib ˹am-x x˺ ni[m…]
[k]a-az-zum bu-ku-ur ˹den-ki˺ x[…]
ilum(dingir)i-lum ba-a-ri te-né-ši-e-˹tim˺
mu-˹ú˺-de li-ib-bi-im za-wa-nim ù i-ša-ri-im
He who dwells in …[…,]
ram, son of Enki […;]
the god who surveys the human race,
who knows the minds of the wicked and the just!
The first line of “The Scholars of Uruk”:
Sumerian: uru.šú.gìn šubax (ZA.MÙŠ.ba) uru.gá.àm uru lugal
Akkadian: ki-ma a-li ki-iš-ša-tim ú-ru-uk a-li-i-ma a-li šar-ri
Like a city of supreme power is my city Uruk, a city of kings!
Opening of “The Tribulations of Gimil-Marduk”:
Gimil-Marduk mār Utlatum mār Ēṭirum apil Lu-Dumununna maḫar awīlim Awīl-Nabi’um šukkallim kī’am idbub umma šūma
Gimil-Marduk, son of Utlatum, son of Ēṭirum, heir of Lu-Dumununna, complained thus before His Excellency the vizier Awīl-Nabi’um, saying as follows:
January TIOLI Challenge #1: Read a book with at least five names in the title and/or subtitle
Detective Kennedy Jones, a brash fellow modeled at least in part on Louisiana politician Huey Long, reluctantly agrees to be hired by millionaire G. Howard Leland, who says that he fears for his life. Jones, with operatives in tow, goes up the Hudson to the Leland estate, where he indeed discovers a murder. The victim is not Leland, however, but neighbor Charlie Farmer, a friend of Leland’s son Paul who apparently was having an affair with Leland’s second wife, Carlotta. Suspects for the killing of young Farmer abound, and the investigation is complicated by the discovery that Farmer was shot after he had died of poisoning — perhaps by mushrooms grown on the Leland estate, though no mushrooms were found in his stomach in the autopsy. The members of the Leland family resent the presence of the detective and urge Leland to get rid of him, but Leland won’t take that step, though the hostility does impede the detective’s inquiries. Then there’s another murder…
Norman Klein’s The Destroying Angel, from 1933, is not well written, with annoyingly frequent scene jumps and an unlikeable cast of characters overall. Even those who are supposed to be sympathetic mostly don’t come off that way. Not recommended.
Even those who are supposed to be sympathetic mostly don’t come off that way.
I find that a lot with American mysteries and thrillers of that time, very odd.
I don't think I've seen that before either and I've read quite a lot of Burt books; perhaps it was introduced in 1933?
Love Otto and Hildy! My cats each claim specific territory, but constantly launch invasions, most of which are unsuccessful.
I'll have to keep an eye out for other instances of the Burt logo.
We have three cats: Elli, who is a bit older, and then Otto and Pixie, who came from the same litter. Pixie is the smallest of the cats. Elli will share space with Pixie, and Otto will share space with Pixie, but Otto and Elli will seldom share space. I was very surprised to find all three on the guest-room bed one day last week. Hildy will grudgingly share space with one or another of the cats, but she clearly wishes they'd go somewhere else.
In "Five Auspicious Clouds," the magistrate investigates an apparent suicide; in "The Red Tape Murder," he is asked to assist in establishing the truth in a murder that occurred in the nearby fort; in "He Came with the Rain," he investigates the stabbing of a retired pawnbroker. The short story form unfortunately leaves little scope for the interwoven narratives that add greatly to the interest of van Gulik's novels. "The Red Tape Murder" is probably the best, despite a rather unsatisfactory murder, in its unexpected tying together of bureaucracy and crime.
The issue I find with the American cosy mysteries is a tendency to confuse "rich" with "nice". :)
An excellent entry in Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion series, Sweet Danger finds the mild-seeming but ruthlessly competent Campion in a race to secure three items that are key to control of a newly important minor Balkan country, Averna. Aided by Augustus (Guffy) Randall, Jonathan Eager-Wright, and Dicky Farquharson, and of course his servant Maggersfontein Lugg, he follows the trail to Suffolk and battle against the villainous Brett Savarake for the goods. There Campion and his comrades find the Fitton siblings — Mary, Amanda, and Hal — and their aunt, Harriet Huntingforest, who may all have a connection to Averna, and who occupy an old mill near the village of Pontisbright. Strange doings in the countryside may be related to their quest, and Campion finds an unexpected and quite clever ally in one of the Fittons. Recommended.
First sentence: "A small window in the sunlit, yellow side of the Hôtel Beauregard, Mentone, opened slowly, and through it a hand appeared, which, after depositing a compact brown suit-case upon the sill, speedily vanished."
January TIOLI Challenge #11: Read a book that contains some illustrations alongside the text
Frank R. Stockton’s Rudder Grange is the amusing story of a couple who set up housekeeping in suburban New Jersey in the late nineteenth century. Their first suburban home is a worn-out canal boat whence the name of the home and the title of the book. Here, to cover costs, they take on a boarder; they also hire a servant, Pomona, an eager reader of romances. Ill-considered modifications to the boat, including a window cut too low on the side and a garden on the deck, lead eventually to the loss of the vessel. After some time, the narrator and his wife Euphemia locate a new house to rent, with an eye toward eventually buying the place; soon Pomona shows up, and they once again hire her. Humorous episodes include an attempt at camping, a vacation in the hills, and Pomona’s honeymoon. Recommended.
First sentence: "For some months after our marriage, Euphemia and I boarded."
Rudder Grange. The illustrator for the copy I read was A. B. Frost.
Each chapter begins with an illustraton and a historiated initial.
Here Pomona reads to the narrator, his wife, and a servant after their guard dog has driven them up onto the roof; she is providing them with the passage in her current book that made it possible for her to subdue the beast.
Have a great weekend.
January TIOLI Challenge #17: Read a book whose title or author's name includes the word "year", or a synonym
Cartoonist Lawrence Lariar for many years edited a series of books compiling the “best cartoons of the year” among cartoons for (usually major) American magazines. The series got its start in 1942 and ran through 1971, with its demise roughly coinciding with the end of the era of general-interest American magazines, like Look and The Saturday Evening Post. Best Cartoons of the Year 1943 is an early entry. With World War II raging, many of the cartoons focus on military matters — some are by cartoonists who were now serving in the military — while others take a look at homefront issues like rationing. The book also includes brief bios of the contributing artists. Not all the cartoons work, including some that are sufficiently topical that they might not be immediately clear to a modern reader, but the mix is pretty good. Recommended.
In "Skulls in the Stars," a battle with a spectral killer leads to knowledge that will permit the laying of the ghost, though it almost costs Kane his life. In "The Right Hand of Doom," a necromancer reaches out to bring death to his betrayer before his own demise. These are both effective pieces, and though I hadn't originally planned to do so, I think I'm going to go ahead and finish the book now that I've started it.
I also read "Pigeons from Hell," in The Book of Robert E. Howard, which is a creepy horror story of voodoo and vengeance, but rather too dated.
"Skulls in the Stars": "There are two roads to Torkertown."
"The Right Hand of Doom": "'And he hangs at dawn! Ho! Ho!'"
"Pigeons from Hell": "Griswell awoke suddenly, every nerve tingling with a premonition of imminent peril."
I have The Laquer Screen here with Judge Dee. I've dipped into it just a bit. It looks like a fun read.
I find I have Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush, probably fro Liz's thread last year, in the depths of the Kindle. I'd like to get to it this year.
I remain quite fascinated by your reading choices.
Courtly romance is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Norse and Icelandic sagas, but Arthurian tales nevertheless found an audience there. Boydell & Brewer published three volumes of Norse romance with English translations in its Arthurian Archives series, and I have just read the first volume, chiefly concerning the famous story of Tristan and Isolde, though two Old Norse translations of Old French lays are also included. (For clarity, I’ll refer to the main characters by their best-known names in what follows.)
The first of the included lays, Geitarlauf, does deal with the Tristan story; it tells how honeysuckle got the name “goat’s leaf.” The second lay, Janual, is the tale of a knight’s romance with an otherworldly lady.
The main work in this volume is Tristrams Saga ok Ísöndar, based on Thomas of Britain’s Tristan is important for its completeness, as Thomas’s poem survives only in fragments. The reader learns of Tristan’s prowess, his journey to Ireland to bring back the princess Isolde as a bride for his uncle King Mark, the fateful love potion that Tristan and Isolde accidentally drink, their continuing deception of the king, and the death of the lovers. Memorable episodes include Tristan’s slaying of a dragon in Ireland and a courtier’s claim to have done so instead; the crafty way by which the lovers cheat a trial by ordeal; King Mark’s discovery of the two apparently living chastely in the forest; and the echo of the story of Theseus, with black sails leading to death. It is all interestingly and well handled, but I’ve never been a big fan of the story, so I can’t really say that I liked it.
Only one poem is included: Tristrams kvæði, a retelling of the tale as a ballad, with the refrain “Þeim var ekki skapat nema skilja” (“They had no other fate than to be parted”).
The final piece in the book is Saga af Tristram ok Ísodd, an amusingly bad version of the story probably written in the fourteenth century. Luckily it is relatively short, so the author’s infelicities (e.g., the completely undramatic resolution of the jealous courtier’s claim to have slain the dragon) and oddities (Tristan’s strange and ill-explained desire to trick a group of 60 people from his uncle’s kingdom into killing each other) are more entertaining than otherwise.
Mioc licar mér ok giarna vile ec syna yðr þann strengleic er heitir i volsku Chefrefuillenn, Geitalauf [i norr]œno, hvar þessi strengleicr var gor [ok kveðenn ok] með hverium hætti.
It greatly pleases me, and I want very much to present to you the lai which is called “The Chefrefuill” in French and “Geitarlauf” in Norse, and where this lai was composed and told and in what way.
Janual (the beginning is missing because of a lost leaf of the manuscript, so here is where the surviving text starts):
…ok lengr mynde hann hafa dvalzc ef henni licaðe.
…and he would have stayed longer if it had pleased her.
Tristrams Saga ok Ísöndar:
Hér skrifaz sagan af Tristram ok Ísönd dróttningu, í hverri talat verðr um óbæriliga ást, er þau höfðu sín á milli.
Written down here is the story of Tristram and Queen Ísönd and of the heartrending love that they shared.
Frúr ok herligir sveinar / heldu vel sína trú.
Ladies and warlike lads / kept their loyalty well.
Saga af Tristram ok Ísodd:
Þá er saga þessi gerðiz, hefir sá kóngr ríkt yfir Englandi, er Philippus hét; hann var bæði vitr ok góðgjarn.
When this story took place, there was a king ruling over England who was called Philippus.
dub-sar eme-gi7 nu-mu-un-zu-a
a-na-àm dub-sar e-ne
A scribe who does not know Sumerian,
what kind of scribe is he?
dub-sar lú gù-ra-aḫ(!) nam-tag-ga-ni ab-gu-ul
A chattering scribe, his guilt is very great!
Regional fiction (Vermont):
Hillsboro People, by Dorothy Canfield (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)
The Poems and Fables of John Dryden, by John Dryden
Westward to Paradise, by W. D. Hoffman
Crime and Mystery:
Murder Too Late, by Gordon Ashe (John Creasey)
The Man Who Changed His Name, by Edgar Wallace & R. G. Curtis
Gunman's Bluff (aka The Gunner), by Edgar Wallace
The Indescribable Insurance Company’s investigator, Miles Bredon, returns in this mystery by Ronald A. Knox. While cousins Derek (who is insured by the Indescribable) and Nigel Burtell are on a canoe trip on the Thames, Nigel leaves the vessel while it is passing through a lock and goes to Oxford for an exam. He awaits his cousin’s arrival at a downstream inn, but Derek never shows up. The canoe is found, drifting nearly sunk, with a hole in the bottom, but there is no sign of Derek’s body. Did he leave the canoe? If so, why? Did Nigel do him in? Certainly Nigel’s actions that morning seemed intended to establish an alibi? What of the unknown man in a punt who passed the cousins heading upstream? And who is the American, Erasmus Quirk, who seems quite interested in the investigation? Recommended.
First sentence: “It is an undeniable but a mystifying fact of natural ethics that a man has the right to dispose of his own property at death.”
This two-volume work includes an assortment of Sumerian proverbs, grouped in collections based upon matching texts/tablets, with some single-tablet proverb texts at the end. The second volume contains notes on the texts and plates of photographs or facsimiles of the tablets. I found the proverbs themselves of moderate interest, with some echoing universal concerns that remain salient today, and others tied into the society of ancient Mesopotamia, and often the interests of the scribes (frequently students) responsible for the texts.
First proverb in the first collection:
níg-gi-na-da a-ba in-da-sá nam-ti ì-ù-tu
Who compares with Justice? It creates life.
This one was quite striking:
eriduki hé-gál-la dù-a-ba
uguugu4-bi é-nar-ra-ka igi-lá-bi al-tuš
In Eridu, built with abundance,
the monkey sits with longing eyes.
When I learned that the publishers of the fantasy and science fiction magazine Cirsova were running a Kickstarter for subscriptions for 2017, I decided I should take a look at a second issue to help me decide whether to back this year's offerings.
The second issue, for Summer 2016, overall marked an improvement on the first, with better editing and proofreading in evidence (fewer bad breaks, typos, etc.) and overall an entertaining batch of stories. The featured novella, "Images of the Goddess," by Schuyler Hernstrom, was a quest story told with some humor and sufficient action, though the "twist" involving the object of the quest was fairly obvious from the start, and there may have been a touch too many odd elements thrown into the mix. The previous issue's "The Gift of the Ob-Men" by the same author suffered from the same problem, and in addition was too short for the weight of the narrative; the novella form used here was better suited to the author's approach.
The two longer short stories, "Hoskins' War," by Brian K. Lowe, and "Squire Errant," by Karl Gallagher, were pretty good, with the latter, narrated by a squire who carries on after his knight is killed by a monster, better than the former, a tale of magic set during the American Revolution but weakened by a choppy narrative pacing. "The Water Walks Tonight," by S. H. Mansouri, the first of the two shorter stories, was an OK tale of supernatural vengeance in a quasi-Norse setting. "Shark Fighter," by Michael Tierney, finds an underwater photographer struggling without his memory in a tiger shark breeding ground; I didn't care for this one, as the fragmented memory conceit is one that I don't much enjoy. I skipped the second installment of the retelling of A Princess of Mars in verse, as I didn't care for the first.
This issue's essay, "Rescuing Women," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is an interesting account of the way that generations of women fantasy and science fiction writers and publishers have often tended to minimize or distort the history and accomplishments of the women who were their predecessors in the field, both on the writing side and on the publishing side. Her essay's title is a call to give more prominence to the involvement and importance of women in the field in the past — an involvement recognized at the time but subsequently effectively erased — in contemporary attempts by both men and women to understand the genre(s).
Prominent in the popular literature of the Philippines in the 19th century and before were the corridos, verse romances generally founded on European tales, such as chivalric stories in the Charlemagne cycle or the story of Romeo and Juliet. I think they are largely unavailable in English translation, but in Volume 29 (pp. 203ff.) of The Journal of American Folklore*, published in 1916, there was an article by Dean S. Fansler surveying the genre and including a facing-page translation of one of these metrical romances, Corrido at Buray na Pinagdaanan nang Princesa Florentina sa Cahariang Alemania (Story of the Eventful Life of Princess Florentina of the Kingdom of Germany). The translation is by Fansler and Salvador Unson. This romance, written in Tagalog, is a version of the Constance story (found in Chaucer’s The Man of Law’s Tale,, for example), with features such as the heroine being set adrift (twice!), a wicked mother-in-law, and a false claim of the birth of a monstrous child. This corrido is not great literature by any stretch, but I can see why it was popular, and I’m glad I read it.
First stanza (Tagalog and English):
Oh Dios na Poong mahal
Hari nitóng sangtinacpán,
acó po,i, iyong tulungan
O God! great Lord of all,
King of the whole world,
Help me, Lord,
To speak out and to narrate!
(*Note: I found this volume of the journal online via Google Books.)
The terrible cover of the edition I read.
Last month, in connection with the 111th birthday of pulp author Robert E. Howard, best known of course for creating Conan the barbarian, I instead read a couple stories starring a lesser-known character, the Puritan Solomon Kane, who witnesses and battles supernatural evil and oppression. I then went on to read a whole collection of them. The book I read, Solomon Kane, published by Baen in the mid-1990s, gathers stories and poetry about the dark and driven Puritan, including three that were completed by modern horror writer Ramsey Campbell.
Standouts include "Skulls in the Stars," in which a battle with a spectral killer leads to knowledge that will permit the laying of the ghost, though it almost costs Kane his life; “Red Shadows,” in which a quest for vengeance sees Kane stalking a bandit and his men; and “Blades of the Brotherhood,” in which Kane comes to the aid of a young Englishman and his abducted sweetheart. Other stories owe a good deal to H. Rider Haggard, including “The Moon of Skulls” and “The Children of Asshur”; interesting twists on vampires and harpies can be found in “The Hills of the Dead” and “Wings in the Night” — the latter with a particularly grim resolution as Kane takes revenge for the destruction of a village. “The Footfalls Within” has a touch of Lovecraftian-style horror. Some of the material is rather too dated, but the horror and adventure are effectively done.
"Skulls in the Stars": "There are two roads to Torkertown."
"The Right Hand of Doom": "'And he hangs at dawn! Ho! Ho!'"
“Red Shadows”: “The moonlight shimmered hazily, making silvery mists of illusion among the shadowy trees.”
“Rattle of Bones”: “’Landlord, ho!’” The shout broke the lowering silence and reverberated through the black forest with sinister echoing.”
“The Castle of the Devil”: “A rider was singing down the forest trail in the growing twilight, keeping time to his horse’s easy jog.”
“Death’s Black Riders”: “Solomon Kane reined his steed to a halt.”
“The Moon of Skulls”: “A great black shadow lay across the land, cleaving the red flame of the sunset.”
“The One Black Stain”:
“They carried him out on the barren sand
where the rebel captains died;
Where the grim gray rotting gibbets stand
as Magellan reared them on the strand,
And the gulls that haunt the lonesome land
wail to the lonely tide.”
“Blades of the Brotherhood”: “The blades crossed with a vicious clash of steel; blue sparks showered.”
“The Hills of the Dead”: “The twigs which N’Longa flung on the fire broke and crackled.”
“Hawk of Basti”: “’Solomon Kane!’”
“The Return of Sir Richard Grenville”:
“One slept beneath the branches dim,
Cloaked in the crawling mist,
And Richard Grenville came to him
And plucked him by the wrist.”
“Wings in the Night”: “Solomon Kane leaned on his strangely carved staff and gazed in scowling perplexity at the mystery which spread silently before him.”
“The Footfalls Within”: “Solomon Kane gazed somberly at the native woman who lay dead at his feet.”
“The Children of Asshur”: “Solomon Kane started up in the darkness, snatching at the weapons which lay on the pile of skins that served him as a crude pallet.”
“Solomon Kane’s Homecoming”:
“The white gulls wheeled above the cliffs,
the air was slashed with foam,
The long tides moaned along the strand
when Solomon Kane came home.”
You hit me with a BB re: Footsteps in the Lock. I have some Knox on the kindle, but I'm not sure if that one is included. It sounds like an entertaining story.
So far I've enjoyed Knox's Miles Bredon series. They have a certain amount of humor in the telling — not as madcap as, say, Phoebe Atwood Taylor's Leonidas Witherall series, or the many "black" mysteries from Constance Little and Gwenyth Little, but somewhat lighthearted nonetheless.
Dik Browne’s comic strip of Viking times, Hägar the Horrible, debuted in 1973 and met with immediate success; it remains in widespread syndication today in the hands of Dik’s son Chris. Several years ago Titan Books / Titan Comics began a series reprinting the daily strips from the beginning, and I’ve been buying them as they are released. These were not the first reprints of the comics — the strip’s popularity meant that there were many paperback collections issued starting in the 1970s — but the Titan series is, I think, the first that is tackling them chronologically. As is to be expected with a daily gag strip, especially ten years in, the quality of the humor in this volume, covering half of 1983 and all of 1984, varies from day to day, but the volume as a whole is pleasant enough, and I’ll continue to get them if Titan keeps producing them.
Geoffrey Grey languishes in prison, convicted of murdering his uncle, James Everton, after that uncle made out a new will in favor of Geoffrey’s cousin Bertie Everton. Geoffrey’s wife Marion drags out a miserable existence with her world crushed. Marion’s cousin Hilary Carew accidentally encounters Mrs. Mercer, who had been James Everton’s cook, and the woman’s obscure comments prompt Hilary to probe the circumstances again, convinced as she is that Geoffrey is innocent. When she finds herself followed by Alfred Mercer, the woman’s husband, who attempts to convince Hilary that his wife is mad, Hilary turns to her former fiancé, Henry Cunningham, for help. And though Henry is not convinced of Geoffrey’s innocence, he does hire private investigator Maud Silver to uncover the facts about the Mercers and the case. Meanwhile, Hilary pursues her own inquiries…. The focus remains on Hilary (especially) and Henry in this, the second of the Miss Silver novels. As in the first in the series, Miss Silver is a competent professional agent who is instrumental to the resolution of the investigation but is not the protagonist. Recommended.
February TIOLI Challenge #7: Read a book that is a collection of short stories
Griots is a good collection of (mainly) sword and sorcery tales set in a fantastic version of Africa or with black protagonists in other fantasy locations. The quality of the tales included certainly varies, and it is clear that some of them would have benefited from an editor’s help in avoiding infelicities that tend to pull the reader out of the story. Some highlights: The work of the two editors bookends the collection, with Milton J. Davis’s “Mrembo Aliyenaswa (Captured Beauty)” an opener that sets the pattern for the volume and Charles R. Saunders’ “The Three-Faced One,” starring his hero Imaro (who was featured in novels published by DAW some 35 years ago or so) a strong closer. “Skin Magic,” by P. Djeli Clark, is effectively creepy in its beginning scenes and draws the reader in. Anthony Kwamu’s “The General’s Daughter” is a well-crafted tale of a journey to the Underworld, and I found Ronald T. Jones’ “The Queen, the Demon, and the Mercenary” entertaining as well. Recommended.
- “Mrembo Aliyenaswa (Captured Beauty),” by Milton J. Davis: “Eager spectators crowded the bulwark of the Sada, packing the merchant dhow from stern to bow.”
- “Awakening,” by Valjeanne Jeffers: “The nine-year-old girl ran to catch up with them.”
- “Lost Son,” by Maurice Broaddus: “’Favor us with a tale, storyteller,’ Ghana Menin asked in his way of implying a threat if disobeyed.”
- “In the Wake of Mist,” by Kirk A. Johnson: “Vapor and smoke covered his eyes, hiding the sky and earth, and all in between.”
- “Skin Magic,” by P. Djeli Clark: “Makami stumbled, almost falling.”
- “The Demon in the Wall,” by Stafford L. Battle: “The horses wandered about the camp without supervision; but because of weeks of routine and strict discipline they kept their distance from the supply tents and the tempting sacks of oats.”
- “The Belly of the Crocodile,” by Minister Faust: “My brother hated me, do you understand that?”
- “Changeling,” by Carole McDonnell: “Lacking beauty, regal will, or imperious bearing, Iyoke, the third daughter of Queen Mizaka, was mocked as a cuckoo’s egg.”
- “The General’s Daughter,” by Anthony Kwamu: “Abyssinia, 1274 AD: The people of Roha chanted, danced and made merry as the army marched in from the wars, with victory over the rebels in Amhara Province achieved at last.”
- “Sekadi’s Koan,” by Geoffrey Thorne: “His blade entered Sekadi’s body between two ribs on her lower right side and proceeded to carve an elliptical path through her abdomen.”
- “The Queen, the Demon, and the Mercenary,” by Ronald T. Jones: “Ajunge the demon-sorcerer narrowed his scarlet eyes in contempt.”
- “Icewitch,” by Rebecca McFarland Kyle: “Ashlan spurred his tired stag the last few measures toward the warlord Lyrell’s camp.”
- “The Leopard Walks Alone,” by Melvin Carter: “The city was in high celebration.”
- “The Three-Faced One,” by Charles R Saunders: “The warrior peered intently over a high sandstone escarpment.”
Challenge #11: Read a book containing a work or works originally written in an earlier form of a modern language
In the early 12th century, a poet named Ava wrote a set of Middle High German poems on John the Baptist, the life of Christ, the Antichrist, and the Last Judgement. Ava was likely an anchorite who had withdrawn from the world in later life; in the concluding passage of her Last Judgment poem, she makes mention of two sons, one who had died and another still amid the world’s travails.
The poems are written in couplets linked sometimes by rhyme but often by assonance; they may have actually been long lines with internal rhyme or assonance. Adding some interest in this dual-language edition are reproductions of some of the pen-and-ink illustrations found in one of the two manuscripts that contained the poems.
The poems are significant for their early date and their authorship, but unfortunately I found them rather pedestrian — though part of the problem seems to have been with the translator, who flattened out poetic variation (e.g., when two different words, what would be Modern German Straße and Weg, appeared within three lines of one another, the translator chose to render both as road in English). Still, there’s a good chance I’ll revisit these, especially if I ever get more comfortable reading Middle High German. Recommended.
Nu sule wir mit sinnen
sagen von den dingen,
wie die mit aneviench
daz di alte e zergiench.
Now we should — in a clear and thoughtful way —
tell about things,
how the time began
when the old Law passed away.
Das Leben Jesu:
Do got hie in erde geborn
do hiez er iz vor sagen
Ysaiam den wissagen
und ander propheten,
daze er is willen hete,
daz in ein magit gebare,
daz iz deste gelouplicher ware,
swenne iz darnach geschahe,
daz man in mennisc gesahe;
wan diu magit ungeborne
tet vil manic werlde verlorne,
daz daz widertan wurte
mit der magitlichen geburte.
When God wanted to be born
here on earth
he ordered it to be foretold
by Isaiah the prophet
and other prophets
that it was his will
that a virgin bear him,
so that it would be more believable
when it happened, afterwards,
that he was seen as a man;
for the virgin who was not born
caused the loss of a great may people,
and that was undone
by the virgin birth.
In dem jungisten zite
so nahet uns des Antechristes riche.
At the end of time,
then the Antichrist’s kingdom will near us.
Das Jüngste Gericht:
Nu sol ich rede errechen
von dem jungisten tage,
als ich vernomen habe,
unde von der ewige corone,
die got gibet ze lone
swelhe wole gestriten
an dem jungisten zite.
Now I shall speak
of the last day,
as I have heard of it,
and of the eternal crown
that God will give as a reward
to those who fight well
at the end of time.
I've only read one or two of the Miss Silver mysteries. I'll have to make that series a project after I finish my Agatha Christie reread.
I read one or two several years ago and liked them well enough to pick up the rest (well, I'm still searching for one or two) when I came across them at used book sales. I've started reading them in order; Liz (lyzard) and Julia (rosalita) and I are aiming to do a shared read of the fourth, Danger Point, in April. Maybe you'd like to join us?
I'm also working my way through all of Agatha Christie's mysteries in publication order — though I'm stalled at the moment because I can't find the next one. (It's in the house somewhere, but not on the shelves where we keep the Christies.) Some are rereads for me, but many aren't.
February TIOLI Challenge #20: Read a book whose title only contains one noun
The Blackout, a late entry in the long-running series of mysteries by the Little sisters, Constance and Gwenyth, is a lackluster book, suggesting that the authors were growing tired of writing — and indeed they would stop altogether just a couple years later. And although many of the staples of the Littles’ tales — a mixed group of relatives and strangers or near-strangers thrown together in a boarding-house, hotel, or similar setting filled with odd characters in an atmosphere of seemingly inexplicable, albeit minor, unusual occurences — are present, the whole lacks the charm of their earlier books. The final resolution was a bit of a disappointment to me, with less creativity and unexpectedness than I have come to expect from their intricate plotting. Only recommended for completists, I’m afraid.
First sentence: "Joseph Crolliz turned the clipping over in his hand, but he didn't really see the portion of a tire advertisement that was on the other side."
From time to time Coachwhip has made interesting pamphlets and other small items available freely for download. Now, however, it is a whole book: three novellas and a novel by engineer, academic, and inventor Nevil Monroe Hopkins (1873-1945) — The Strange Cases of Mason Brant and The Raccoon Lake Mystery.
The PDF can be downloaded from Coachwhip's Early Detective Stories page: http://www.coachwhipbooks.com/early-detectives
I'm not much of a mystery fan, but I will check it out for later. :)
The Eye in the Museum, by J. J. Connington
Mandrake the Magician: The Hidden Kingdom of Murderers, by Lee Falk and Phil Davis
Prince Valiant, Vol. 12: 1959-1960, by Hal Foster
February TIOLI Challenge #17: Read a book by an author whose full name is at least 5 syllables long
When inventor Ted Dustin’s experimental missile hits the moon, it leads to unexpected retaliation by the hitherto-unknown inhabitants, and that retaliation escalates into a war of conquest by the Lunites, under their emperor, P’anku. Leaving his able assistant, Roger Sanders, in charge of producing new weaponry to enable Earth’s defenders to repel the attackers, Ted heads to the moon in a secretly-built small spacecraft, where he nearly falls prey to the satellite’s plant life but his rescued at the last moment by Maza, ruler of a different group of the moon’s inhabitants. Circumstances soon permit him to return the favor, and the two become allies against the empire of P’anku. Meanwhile, back on Earth, a foolhardy effort to gain intelligence about the attack leads to the capture of noted scientist Professor Ederson by the Lunites.
Fast-paced adventure ensues, as the author switches among the various characters’ stories in the race to end the P’anku menace. Kline effectively maintains interest, varying among large-scale battles involving barrages, individual combat involving disintegrator pistols or fencing with red and green ray projectors (effectively light sabers long before Star Wars), imprisonment and escape, and the wonder of alien surroundings. Though in some ways a bit dated, it is an appealing sword-and-planet adventure (and since reviews indicate that Kline’s Planet of Peril series is better, I think I’ll be on the lookout for them). Recommended.
First sentences: "'We've got to win that reward, Roger, or close up shop.' Ted Dustin, youthful president and general manager of Theodore Dustin, Inc., reached mechanically for his tobacco pouch, filled his briar, and sighed."
February TIOLI Challenge #1: Read a book whose one-word title is composed of four letters and/or numbers
Shag is a throwback — unlike his brothers, who are pure in color, he has a mottled coat, rendering him unsuitable for breeding purposes. So Tom Glen, his owner, proposes to give the pup away, despite signs the dog is active and intelligent. But the friend who promised to take the dog is called east, and during the two years in which Tom keeps Shag for his friend, the love of the dog for this master grows. When an accident means Tom must seek another person to take the hound, he tries diligently to find a good home for him, but Shag repeatedly escapes and tries to return to Tom — until finally he ends up taking to the wilderness because of a misunderstanding. This is a good dog story, with imperfect but good and sympathetic characters who try to make the best decisions they can based on the limited information available to them, and who are willing to acknowledge errors and try to make things right. Some exciting battles and escapes add interest. I’ll be on the lookout for more animal stories by this author. Recommended.
First sentence: “The faintest little whining cry attracted Tom Glen’s attention as he tightened the saddle cinch on his horse early that morning.”
Elli is quite happy with the unseasonably warm and sunny weather.
We have wet, clouded and rainy weather :-(
Have a great weekend.
This is a solid collection of academic essays dealing with history, hagiography, archaeology, and more, with a focus on France and the British Isles. Standouts for me included Richard Sharpe's "Martyrs and Local Saints in Late Antique Britain," with its emphasis on continuity in a post-Roman setting; the archaeologically oriented essays "The Enshrinement of Local Saints in Francia and England," by John Crook, and "Celtic Saints and Early Medieval Archaeology," by Nancy Edwards; and O. J. Padel's "Local Saints and Place-Names in Cornwall." Finally, John Blair's "A Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Saints" (as well as the related essay) was fascinating in the tidbits of saints' legends and folk memory on offer. Particularly interesting was the recap of a relic thief's stealing of the relics of Saint "Lewinna" (perhaps Leofwynn) from an Anglo-Saxon church in 1058; the most noteworthy detail was that sheets of parchment bearing accounts in the vernacular of the saint's life were attached to the walls of the church. Not really recommended for the casual reader, but it does have something to offer someone with a stronger interest in the topics.
Under way, to be finished:
Early Medieval Rome and the Christian West: Essays in Honour of Donald A. Bullough, ed. By Julia M. H. Smith
The Eye in the Museum, by J. J. Connington
Cirsova #3 / Fall 2016 — completed March 1
Lonesome Road, by Patricia Wentworth
Moon of Israel, by H. Rider Haggard
The Crock of Gold, by James Stephens
The End of Time: A Meditation on the Philosophy of History, by Josef Pieper
Prince Valiant, Vol. 8: 1951-1952, by Hal Foster
The Black Stallion Returns, by Walter Farley
When Eight Bells Toll or Ice Station Zebra, by Alistair Maclean
The Riddle of the Yellow Zuri, by Harry Stephen Keeler
Gray Dusk, by Octavus Roy Cohen
The Amazing Adventures of Letitia Carberry, by Mary Roberts Rinehart
And I see you have The Black Stallion Returns on your tbr list as well. I read it as an adult, a few years ago, and it wasn't bad, but not as good as the original The Black Stallion, imo.
Hope you enjoy it/them.
I'm definitely up for a shared read of Ice Station Zebra. Maybe mid-month, so you can finish up When Christ and His Saints Slept?
I re-read The Black Stallion for the first time in years in 2015. I meant to get to The Black Stallion Returns sooner, but didn't. :-) My goal is to read the whole series again, including those that I missed when I read them as a kid.
I've read most of the Black Stallion books, but have only reread the first two since I became an adult. I think I petered out about the time of The Black Stallion and the Girl, but did read all three of The Island Stallion stories.
The Island Stallion books were my favorites at the time. I read all the Walter Farley books that my Dad had had and then some from the library, but I don't recall just where I dropped off.
Cover, illustrating "Blood and Bones: Caribbean 1645"
The first couple stories were science fiction: "War in a Way That Suits You" involves a mercenary learning a lesson from foes, and "The Lion's Share" is a pirate story in space — with an irritating narrator. "Blood and Bones: Caribbean 1645" is another pirate tale, in an alternate world of magic, as is "The End of the Golden Age"; both were OK. "The Mad God's Scepter," wherein a mercenary and others face a monstrous foe, worked as an adventure, though the "twist" was obvious and the ending somewhat disappointing. "Othan, Liberator" is pretty much the story of a caper gone awry; it is one of the better stories in the volume. "The Space Witch" is a good, brief tale of duty. "Clock's Watch" was just irritating, with a world too-little realized to bring much investment in the story. And the novelette, "The Wooing of Etroklos," would have benefited from another round of revision to provide clearer motivation and characterization and also prune some of the irrelevancies. This issue's essay, on the excellent pulp author C. L. Moore, provides a decent, if argumentative, survey of some of her works, her style, and her themes in a fairly small compass.
Here's the front end paper from Tish:
And here's the back end paper:
More Tish at one point had similar sketches, but they have been erased.
My mother had sketchbooks, I now remember, but don't know what happened to them. :(
This Festschrift focuses on the two topics mentioned in the title. The first half contains essays devoted to Rome itself and its development from Late Antiquity through Carolingian times. Particularly noteworthy to me was how archaeology reveals Rome's participation in long-distance trade and the continuance of a money-based economy (with small-value coins supporting day-to-day transactions) through the end of the seventh and early eighth centuries, when the Muslim conquest of Byzantine Carthage put an end to the trade with North Africa and the other setbacks the empire suffered (e.g., the Lombard conquest of Ravenna) left Rome more on its own. The second half of the book looks at the ways in which other areas of western Europe interacted with Rome and the Papacy through Carolingian times, with essays dealing with the importance of Rome in the development of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England, the translation of relics from Rome to England and to Carolingian regions, and the creation of display scripts for notable manuscripts based on Roman models.
Here's a stunning example, the beginning of the Gospel of John from MS Harley 2788, folio 162r:
Image source: The British Library, http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=harley_ms_2788_f162r
>171 fuzzi: Although the essay was a little too technical, focused on comparing letter shapes, it certainly pointed to some beautiful manuscripts.
Mainly Horses, ed. by Ernest Rhys and C. A. Dawson-Scott — an anthology of short stories, part of a series
The Black Stallion's Filly, by Walter Farley — eighth in the series
Tales of Our Coast, by several authors — another anthology of stories, possibly for youths
The Mystery of Hunting's End, by Mignon G. Eberhart — third in the Nurse Sarah Keate series
I have stalled on the Sarah Keate series because my next one up is one of those infuriating instances of something being on Kindle in America but not here, though others in the series *are*, and I keep going around in circles hoping it will show up. However---it turns out that there's a copy in the Rare Books section of the library, so I think I'll have to tackle it that way.
I like the Sarah Keate character and the novels I've read so far. I'm picking them up when I have a chance to get them. I'm likeliest to stumble across the 1960s-era paperback reprints.
In fact I have three or four series at the moment where that's the case and I have to decide how to proceed (and how much to spend doing it). Very frustrating!
Wealthy Rachel Treherne seeks out private investigator Maud Silver after several occurrences make her suspect someone has marked her for death — threatening letters, extra-slippery steps on a staircase, a fire, and poisoned chocolates. The events escalate: first adders are found in her bed, and then someone attempts to push her over a cliff. Which of her relatives might it be: Her sister and brother-in-law, who resent her control of the family money? Their grasping children, Maurice and Cherry? Caroline, who seems crushed by some secret sorrow? Her fiancé Richard? Devoted cousin Cosmo? Or is it someone outside the family, such as her apparently devoted servant Louisa, or the American stranger Gale Brent, though he rescued her from the cliffside?
The culprit is fairly obvious in this exploration of the burdens of responsibility, a reluctance to suspect those who are loved, and the desire to be fair to those who are disliked, but the story nevertheless works. Miss Silver remains perceptive and efficient, and I look forward to her next case. Recommended.
First sentence: "Rachel Treherne got out of the first-class carriage in which she travelled to London, gave up her ticket at the barrier, and after walking a little way in the direction of the exit stopped and looked up at the station clock."
Nice, Harry! I don't know if you saw the debate I had with Julia about this one on her thread---I felt that 'whodunnit' wasn't really the point. I think you've summed it up nicely in your second paragraph.
It is interesting that the back of the bookmark bears an advertisement for a local theater, and the advertisement makes it easy to date the bookmark, as the movie "David Copperfield" was released in 1935.
No spoiler here: the daughter of the Black Stallion has a very short tail, due to an accident. Does that help you remember?
Here's the cover I recall:
>189 fuzzi: Thanks. The cover doesn't ring a bell, nor your short description, so either I missed that one, or the details are so far gone that I won't recognize the story until I read it again (which may be the case, as I have no recollection of the details of The Black Stallion's Sulky Colt, and I know I read that one, probably multiple times).
>190 alcottacre: It has been awhile since I found something like this in a book. One shop where I used to go had a case filled with items they had found in the books that they bought; it made for an interesting display.
Murder hits close to home in the third and final David Carroll mystery by Octavus Roy Cohen, Gray Dusk. He receives a desperate telegram from his good friend Stanford Forrest, who is being held in jail in Karnak, South Carolina, for the brutal murder of his bride, Mary, just a few days after the wedding where Carroll served as best man. Carroll rushes to Forrest’s aid, accompanied by his clear-thinking assistant, Jim Sullivan, whose detachment offers balance to Carroll’s support of Forrest’s innocence.
The setting — rural South Carolina — and the generally positive depiction of law enforcement — in the person of the local sheriff, who is himself sympathetic toward the accused man but who realizes he is no detective — make a contrast with the previous books in the series. The author shows some sympathy for the swamp angels as well, especially for the Devarney family, whose daughter Essie, whose education in Charleston, which her family ensured she got, has made her ill-fitted for the backcountry life, may be implicated in the murder.
I spotted the murderer fairly early on, as one clue in particular stood out starkly. I did miss most of the others, however. Recommended.
First sentence: "David Carroll felt suddenly ill."
I remember little bits about Sulky Colt, not enough to review it.
I knew I'd encountered some Herbert Jenkins books, but had to check which they were: that company was the original publisher of the 'Clubfoot' stories.
And with more formatting:
However, it looks like the character of John Dene in the Malcolm Sage book first appeared in this, which sounds like a comic spy thriller:
Enough for the list? :-)
A few of us are planning a shared read of the Miss Silver series, picking up with #4 next month, if you're interested.
I think this cover is illustrating the story “Tiger Island” included in this collection.
East of Samarinda is an excellent collection of adventure stories — good enough, in fact, that I’m considering tracking down a copy to purchase after reading a copy obtained via the library. These are tales of vengeance and redemption, justice and the thwarting of crime, with scarcely a week story in the lot, which were culled from those that Jacobi had contributed to an assortment of pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. It is difficult to pick standouts in this volume, as nearly all were quite good. Some favorites:
- “Crocodile,” in which “the ‘wrong’ story is told to the ‘right’ person”
- “Letter of Dismissal,” in which a young officer bearing a letter kicking him out of the service faces the temptation to betray his trust
- “The Jade Scarlotti,” in which radio codes prove critical to solving a mystery
- “Leopard Tracks,” in which an engineer faces crooks trying to prevent a railroad from being built
- “Deceit Post,” in which reels of film play a part
- “Quarry,” in which a crook on the run tries to escape a dogged pursuer
- “Trial by Jungle” — a quest for vengeance
Highly recommended to readers with a taste for adventure stories.
You should never go deep-sea diving without your revolver!
I'll post the list here first, once I get it done, as I'd prefer to pass them along to those who might want to read them.
Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are asked to take over a detective agency that was being run by foreign spies. Seeking a change of pace, they agree to do so, and over the next few months solve a variety of cases, ranging from the lighthearted to the grim. In each investigation, they propose to adopt the methods of a famous fictional sleuth, and the stories are to some extent thus imitative parodies or homages.
This volume was fun, but not really a success. I tired of the conceit of “following the Classics.” Moreover, where I didn’t think the imitations/parodies always very effective — and as I felt that most with the authors or detectives I knew best, I have my doubts about the rest. In particular, the Edgar Wallace parody in the case of the Crackler missed the mark for me. This is not a surprise, I guess, as I’ve been unimpressed by Christie’s attempts at books in the Wallace thriller vein; I think she just wasn’t sympathetic enough to the genre.
Recommended for completists or fans of Tommy and Tuppence.
I want to like science fiction and fantasy more than I usually do when I actually try some. I think in general I find the older stuff a better fit for my tastes.
Curtains for the Judge, by Thomas Polsky
The Corpse Steps Out, by Craig Rice
Nothing Venture, by Patricia Wentworth
Out of the Past, by Patricia Wentworth
Poison in the Pen, by Patricia Wentworth
Sailors' Knots, by W. W. Jacobs
The Affair at the Inn, by Kate Douglas Wiggin et al.
The Birds' Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
New Chronicles of Rebecca, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Mother West Wind's Children, by Thornton Burgess
Copy-Kitten, by Helen & Alf Evers
Son of the Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
The Black Stallion Mystery, by Walter Farley
Shanks' Mare, by Ikku Jippensha (translation of Japanese comic novel from the early 19th century)
The Towneley Plays (Early English Text Society edition of these Middle English plays)
The most surprising find was probably the EETS volume; I never run across those at used book sales. The best finds, though, were probably the two by Walter Farley, as they are first editions still in their dust jackets and fill in a couple holes as I look to assemble a complete series.
* * *
After the book sale, we went to the Brandywine River Museum (http://www.brandywine.org/museum), which is currently featuring the exhibition "From Homer to Hopper: Experiment and Ingenuity in American Art" and a smaller exhibit on American landscapes that I quite liked. The museum is a good stop for fans of late 19th and early 20th century books, as it features paintings by N. C. Wyeth (the museum overall is focused on the Wyeth family artists), Howard Pyle, Frederic Remington, and others that were the originals for book illustrations. Here's an example, the endpapers for an edition of Treasure Island: http://www.brandywine.org/museum/collection/collection-highlights/treasure-islan... (I'm unable to embed the image directly.)
Best American Mystery Stories, as selected by Carolyn Wells. Most, if not all, the stories included seem to have been published in 1930 (and, based on the copyrights, chiefly in the "slicks"). Many of the authors are unfamiliar names, so they may have had few reprints in book form.
Strange Tales from The Strand. This is a companion volume to another that I've had for several years, Detective Stories from The Strand, but with stories concerned with the fantastic and supernatural in some way.
With my slightly straightened circumstances at the beginning of the year I am not living up to the coined "Cranswickian" behaviour so it is good to see someone else is.
Have a great Sunday.
The Crock of Gold was a real disappointment. An Irish comic novel first published in 1912, it features the adventures of a Philosopher and his wife, the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, in their dealings with leprechauns and gods and the police and others. I never really warmed to it, however. Parts were fun, but the action was too much interrupted by commentary — not by the Philosopher (whose opinions were amusing in general) but by the author. I found it well written, but not something I’m likely to revisit.
First sentence: "In the centre of the pine wood called Coilla Doraca there lived not long ago two Philosophers."
What a prolific author!
More Forgotten Towns of New Jersey, by Henry C. Beck (hc)
The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott (4-volume 19th-century -- I think -- Collier hc edition with very cheap paper and a few loose pages in one volume)
Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope (hc, Everyman’s Library edition)
Stories from the Italian Poets (First Series): Dante Alighieri, by Leigh Hunt (hc, decorative binding)
Matthew Arnold: Prose and Poetry, ed. by Archibald L. Boulton (1927) (hc)
The Bride of Lammermoor, by Sir Walter Scott (hc, Collins’ Clear-Type Press illustrated edition)
A Dictionary of Non-Classical Mythology (hc, Everyman’s Library edition, binding loose)
Balladen und Romanzen, ed. by C. A. Buchheim (hc, Macmillan, 1904)
Rasselas, by Samuel Johnson (hc, decorative binding, but loose)
The Crock of Gold, by James Stephens (first published 1912; this copy 1926; hc)
Hidden Creek, by Katharine Newlin Burt (hc western, first published 1920)
All six Automobile Girls books Laura Dent Crane (hc; these are definitely somewhat tattered — weak hinges and some damage to covers/spines):
- The Automobile Girls at Newport; or, Watching the Summer Parade
- The Automobile Girls in the Berkshires; or, The Ghost of Lost Man's Trail
- The Automobile Girls Along the Hudson; or, Fighting Fire in Sleepy Hollow
- The Automobile Girls at Chicago; or, Winning Out Against Heavy Odds
- The Automobile Girls at Palm Beach; or, Proving their Mettle under Southern Skies
- The Automobile Girls at Washington; or, Checkmating the Plots of Foreign Spies
The Mayfair Mystery, by Frank Richardson (hc, Collins Crime Club modern reprint)
Murder in Piccadilly, by Charles Kingston (pb, British Library Crime Classics reprint)
Death on the Cherwell, by Mavis Doriel Hay (pb, British Library Crime Classics reprint)
The Double, by Edgar Wallace (hc, Grosset & Dunlap)
Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries, by Melville Davisson Post (Collier pb)
The Case of the Constant Suicides by John Dickson Carr (Collier pb)
The White Priory Murders, by Carter Dickson (pb)
Death Knell, by Baynard Kendrick (Dell mapback pb)
Trent Intervenes, by E. C. Bentley (Dover)
Fire Below (aka By Royal Command), by Dornford Yates (pb)
The Tragedy of X, by Ellery Queen (pb)
Mr. Fortune Speaking, by H. C. Bailey (hc)
The Shadow on the Wall, by H. C. Bailey (Rue Morgue pb reprint)
The Garston Murder Case, by H. C. Bailey (ex-lib in lib binding, missing title page but otherwise complete)
Gideon’s Ride, by J. J. Marric (pb)
Gideon’s Art, by J. J. Marric (pb)
Gideon’s Badge, by J. J. Marric (pb)
Gideon’s Staff, by J. J. Marric (pb)
Jasper Fforde books (all hc):
The Fourth Bear
The Eyre Affair
One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
Lost in a Good Book
The Big Over Easy
Louis L’Amour paperbacks:
The High Graders
The Trail to Crazy Man
Standing in the Rainbow, by Fannie Flagg (hc)
The Phormio of Terence – edition of Latin text with notes (hc)
Phantastes, by George MacDonald (Eerdmans pb)
South of Sulu: The Adventures of Singapore Sammy, by George F. Worts (pulp reprint, pb)
Amusement Inc. vs. the Scarlet Ace, by Theodore A. Tinsley (pulp reprint, pb)
Amazon Nights, by Arthur O. Friel (pulp reprint, pb)
Stopping at three. ;)
I love Frank Stockton, so can I please have Rudder Grange?
And I would love to have Pussy Meow - I've read a little bit of it online.
And I can't resist a motoring romance either. May I have one of the Automobile Girls, please? Not particular as to which one.
I checked out The Crock of Gold page, and have to save the quotation from one of the reviews:
"A thought is a real thing and words are only its raiment, but a thought is as shy as a virgin; unless it is fittingly appareled we may not look on its shadowy nakedness."
I'll set these aside; I'll figure out the Automobile Girls selection.
I like Frank Stockton, too, and have picked up several volumes of his stuff. I quite liked Rudder Grange, but I have two copies, so one must go. :-)
I'm of two minds about The Crock of Gold. I finished it because the writing was quite good, but it wasn't a good fit for me, so I think it best to let it find a more appreciative audience. I do recall that quotation from the book.
The first author listed, Jean Lilly, is unfamiliar to me.
I'm planning to read my first Keeler soon, The Riddle of the Yellow Zuri.
I read Francis Gérard's Secret Sceptre many years ago. An odd book, which I think my mother got via the Mystery Guild or one of the other book clubs, and which I quite liked. I never knew it was part of an ongoing series starring the character John Meredith, though.
Since I don't think Harry would mind, I'll add a book to the "anyone want this?" list: Luck of the Irish by Ruth Adams Knight. You can read the review on the book's main page, as I'm the only one who has reviewed it!
I'll keep an eye out for those Alistair MacLean books. I've definitely seen them around, but I had tapered off buying because I had a backlog to read already on hand.
Don't buy it, I'm sure your public library has a copy of that book.
My reading jag this weekend was because I was feeling too ill to get off the recliner, but not too ill to read...
I hope you're feeling better!
Mmmmm... But checking reveals that the books on your list which most catch my eye are available here, so I will pass.
I know I have Jean Lilly on The Series List, but I haven't read her yet. On the other hand, I have already dipped a toe into Lake Keeler, naturally (from my point of view) starting with his fist novel, The Voice Of The Seven Sparrows, which was a lot more normal than I'd been led to expect. :)
ETA: I have Jean Lilly listed with a three-book series featuring a District Attorney called Bruce Perkins.
The Eye in the Museum opens with a visit by Joyce Hazlemere and her fiancé Leslie Seaforth to the local museum, in which we learn of its signal architectural feature, a camera obscura that allows visitors close-up views of parts of the town below. We also learn of Joyce’s bitter hatred toward her controlling and vicious aunt, Evelyn Fenton, and it is no surprise that Joyce is the immediate suspect when her aunt is found dead thereafter. Other suspects emerge, however, including the victim’s estranged husband, who desperately wanted a divorce that she refused to give; an estate agent who may have been cheating her; and Dr. Simon Hyndford, who lived just across the river and was very close to the victim. Cagy lawyer James Corwen works to shield his client, Joyce, from arrest, while methodical Superintendent Ross uncovers an array of clues, including, at the last, a crucial one that depends on the museum’s camera obscura. Recommended.
First sentence: "'Not so very far to walk, was it?'"
Stay warm, and stay safe.
Bishop Wilfrid of York was an important but controversial figure in the church in late sixth and early seventh-century England. Clashes with kings and the archbishop of Canterbury resulted in imprisonment, exile, and the temporary loss of his see, leading to more than one trip to Rome to appeal to the pope for support — support that he got, although it wasn’t always effective. Over the course of a lengthy ecclesiastical career, he founded monasteries, built churches on the Roman model (indeed, references to his imitations of Roman churches in my recent reading helped prompt this rereading of The Life of Bishop Wilfrid by Eddius Stephanus), converted Frisians (albeit temporarily, it seems) and South Saxons, and was influential in political developments in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the time. Eddius Stephanus apparently wrote his Life shortly after Wilfrid’s death. It is a highly partisan account by a follower of the oft-exiled bishop, but interesting and worth reading nonetheless. The edition I read includes both the Latin original and a facing-page English translation. Recommended.
This collection of stories from the pulp magazines by Day Keene offers an interesting contrast in styles. The first story, “League of the Grateful Dead,” was published in Dime Mystery Magazine in 1941 and is an example of the “weird menace” tale, in which seemingly supernatural events are unraveled by an investigator, here a washed-up alcoholic doctor whose friend, a reporter, is murdered. The story is perhaps noteworthy for being the source, apparently, of the name of the band, as according to the introduction Jerry Garcia in an interview once told a reporter that he took the band’s name from “an old pulp magazine.”
Most of the rest of the stories, all of which were published in Detective Tales between February 1945 and May 1948, are more hard-boiled, with a protagonist, often either a serviceman or an ex-serviceman, tackling murder and more. A few of the stories feature the same detective, Tom Doyle, who struck me as unusual in that he is married, with young children; another story seems to have the same character, but under a different name. These are serviceable tales with a recurring setup, including the opposition of the state’s attorney to the “kill-crazy” PI, a respectful and even friendly relationship with at least some of the police, and lots of violence on the way to a solution to the crime. Another story has practically the same character, but with a different name (Matt Mercer); that one also has a version of the Winchester Mystery House. “Marry the Sixth for Murder!” features a detective, employed by a movie studio, who is called upon by a fading star after an apparent accident; the investigation uncovers more, including an unexpected back story for the detective. “Dance with the Death-House Doll” has a much-decorated soldier on leave trying to carry out the last request of his brother, who was killed at Anzio, and becoming entangled in a mystery involving murder, robbery, and a woman just a few days from being executed for the crime.
Happy weekend :)
Murder in Room 700, by Mary Hastings Bradley (1931)
Common or Garden Crime, by Sheila Pim (Rue Morgue Press reprint)
Knocked for a Loop, by Craig Rice (1957)
The April Robin Murders, by Craig Rice and Ed McBain (1958)
Jorrocks's Jaunts and Jollities, by R. S Surtees (1903 Methuen illustrated edition)
"Hoots!", by J. J. Bell (1929 collection of jokes/humorous stories)
"Care for a Merger?" Cartoons from The Wall Street Journal, ed. by Charles Preston (1958)
Heidi by Johanna Spyri (Thrushwood edition)
Nordenholt's Millions, by J. J. Connington (Penguin reprint)
Tam O' the Scoots, by Edgar Wallace (A. L. Burt reprint of short stories about WWI fliers)
I can't say I know anything about her mystery writing (though she has found her way onto the wishlist), though I'm aware of her travel writing. And of who her daughter was...
>273 fuzzi: I've been looking for a copy of Heidi for quite some time, but the copies I've found till now were in bad shape (or abridged). I'm a fan of the movie, which I think I first saw as a child, but I've never read the book. Glad to hear it's good!
I'll get started on The Black Stallion Returns this evening, then!