News I Missed Over the Holidays

Richard Marcinko, first commanding officer of SEAL Team 6, dies at 81

Fortunately, the National Review missed it, too, and only got to it in this week’s issue.

No, scratch that: Their This Week feature that appeared this week, the January 24 issue, apparently originally appeared on the Internet on January 6.

It should maybe be called Three Weeks Ago.

This generally wouldn’t bother me, as I tend to read the magazine months later. This week was an aberration, as I needed a magazine to read whilst waiting in the son’s school car line yesterday, and I grabbed it from the top of the stack.

And, yes, I did resubscribe. They did drop the subscription rate from $60 a year to $10, and I’ll get that much value out of it from the book reviews and columns at the end. The regular Kevin Williamson “Those Republicans in the interior states are stupid/crazy” features? Not so much.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Firefly: Still Flying (2010)

Book coverI bought this book, along with Firefly: The Official Companion Volume One and Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two at my last trip to Calvin’s Books in Branson in June of last year. I also got the Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, and that would probably have been the next published–this book came out in 2010, seven or eight years after the television show and five years after the movie. I picked it up now because the 2022 Winter Reading Challenge has a category Short Stories, and the cover of this book says Featuring New Stories From Writers Of The Original TV Episodes.

Sounds like a book of short stories, ainna? Oh, but no.

The 158 page book has four “stories,” but one of them is a pair of single-panel cartoons looking like they were from a brutal children’s book featuring Jayne. The other stories don’t really break any new ground. One, “What Holds Us Down”, is the most akin to an episode–Kaylee and Wash break into a floating junkyard to steal some parts needed for the Serenity but it goes sideways, and Kaylee has to quickly fix up another ship to escape before the searchers find them amid the rubble. Another story, “Crystal”, is about River visiting the people on the ship before the motion picture takes place and telling them a little about their fates in her inscrutible way. The last short story, “Take the Sky”, deals with an old retired Mal receiving a package from Zoe, the current pilot/owner of Serenity, and reflecting upon his aging and their adventures. So the stories are not exactly what I would have expected, and they’re but brief interludes in the book.

The reminder of it is celebrity/fan material. Each of the stars of the program gets a section with photos and quotes from various sources–nothing new, and we get to hear from the shows costumers, designers, and stunt coordinators. It has a little feature on what happened to the Jaynestown statue–Adam Baldwin kept the head, but the rest likely got discarded–and on the endurance of Browncoat fandom, which might be a little different ten more years on–are they still doing those? A quick Internet search says no, but I see some speculation that Disney might throw something together for Disney+ with a new cast. Kind of like the new (but now as old as the original series was to its time) Battlestar Galactica that ran longer than the one-season television show it rebooted and updated. It will be interesting to see the old Firefly fans acting like I did when the new Battlestar Galactica came around.

At any rate, given that the book only has, what, a dozen pages of short stories, I cannot in good conscience slot it into the Winter 2022 Reading Challenge–I will probably pick up one of James Blish’s Star Trek books for that. And I will likely pick up the Serenity: The Visual Companion book later this year just to make a clean sweep of the Firefly titles. As I have mentioned, I think the film really lost a bit of the playful spirit of the series–this won’t probably come across as much in the script as in the execution. Which is why I have been avoiding it.

Oh, and should you come across a fan suffering from what Disney does to the property, be sure to point out that more people see Nathan Fillion and think Richard Castle than Mal Reynolds. Or even Johnny Donnelly from Two Guys and a Girl. Remind me to drop into conversation cryptically that Fillion played John Donnelly.

So it’s a good bit of trivia and nostalgia, but not something to stand the test of time. More like a flat spine fan magazine than anything else.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Terror Near Town by James R. Wilder (2017)

Book coverI got this book in June of last year at the author’s book signing at ABC Books. It was the same weekend that I got Tea in the Time of COVID, so apparently I am making a tear through the books I bought that weekend. AND apropos of nothing, this is the second book I’ve read this month with the word terror in the title (Terror Intent being the other).

So when I bought this book, I mentioned one in the series has the town name of Grubville in the title, and I grew up in northwestern Jefferson County, so I know where Grubville is–along with a lot of the other towns (Cedar Hill, Dittmer, House Springs, Murphy Flats–when I lived in the trailer, it was in Murphy, and my sainted mother was the only one who affected to call it Murphy Flats) and other geographical markers (Big River, Meramac River). So I got a bit of a kick out of reading a Western novel set where I partly grew up.

The book centers on a young man freshly back from Cuba as part of the Rough Riders. He rescues a horse and brings it home to his family’s ranch, where they raise horses and mules. A neighboring farmhouse burned down, killing all inside but for a pretty young lady, so the Harbisons–the ranch family–take her in and help her manage her family’s cattle. Meanwhile, the young men on the ranch have encounters with the local ruffians, who it turns out helped start the fire that killed the girl’s family because her father was in a financial scam that took an out-of-town man who wants his revenge.

So it’s got a number of Western set pieces, and it’s got a lot of vignette/slice of life stuff to give you a feel for life in the era, but it’s a little light on the plot–I wasn’t sure of the main conflict until the big gun fight two thirds of the way through the book.

Still, it’s a pleasant read, although not really a mystery–perhaps the other books in the series will have more mystery to them. And I am looking forward to reading the others in the line, but only after the end of February and the Winter 2022 Reading Challenge. Where this book slots into the Set in Missouri category.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Not A New Error

In a comment on a recent post about the arthur c. booke Time’s Eye, I said:

Niven got a healthy assist from his stable of co-authors. I don’t know if Clarke’s co-authors were as good, but I’ve not read any of Stephen Baxter’s work although I probably have some around here. And I hope I’m forgiven for confusing him from time to time with Steven Barnes.

In 2017, I bought a Stephen Baxter book at Hooked on Books, and I said then:

A science fiction novel by Stephen Baxter. Whom I confess I confused until just now with Steven Barnes, the Larry Niven collaborator. ONLY NOW IS THE TRUTH OF MY FOLLY REVEALED! Well, the proof of the pudding is in the reading, so perhaps it was not folly after all.

To reiterate, I have not read a book by Barnes or Baxter without their benefactors.

Which is only fair. The few people who have read my science fiction work have done so because of my benefactor editor, Jerry Pournelle.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge (1865, 1954)

Book coverAs with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, I read a nice cold winter story in winter, which means I put a couple extra logs on the fire while reading. The 2022 Winter Reading Challenge has a Young Adult category, so I picked this up–I have four or five other young adult books from the Children’s Classics series that I will probably knock out later in the year just to move them en masse from my to-read shelves.

You know, I think a copy of this books was amongst the children’s books that my aunt gave us when her stepchildren outgrew them. Not this copy, though–if it exists, it’s on the shelves of unread children’s books in our family room. My boys have probably outgrown that collection, composed of books from my beautiful wife’s childhood and my childhood that the boys really didn’t cotton onto. They did not get into Hardy Boys or similar boys’ adventure books. But I digress.

Hans Brinker is a peasant boy in Holland. His father used to work on the dikes; the union’s been on strike, they’re down on their luck, it’s tough. Wait, no, that’s someone else. Father Brinker did work on the dikes, but he took a fall and has been insensible ten years by the time the story opens. Hans does some odd jobs; his sister tends geese. The well-to-do kids look down on them, except for a couple of good-hearted kids. Before the father went to work on the fateful day, he did something with the family savings and came home with a mysterious pocket watch that he would explain later–but he couldn’t. A local well-to-do family decides to hold a skate race with a pair of silver skates as the prize–but the Brinker children only have handmade skates with wood runners instead of blades.

I mean, that’s the story as it’s laid out. The first sixty or seventy pages set this up, and then we get 150 pages of the boys not named Hans Brinker deciding to take a trip skating to visit Amsterdam and The Hague, so they do. They go off, skating the canals, and they visit a hella lot of art and history museums and talk with a visiting English boy about Holland. Which is what teen boys do. When written by an older woman.

After the long interlude, we return to the title character. A noted surgeon performs brain surgery on the father right there in the hovel, where the father recovers in a matter of days. The family finds their savings. The mystery of the watch is solved–it’s from the son of the surgeon, who fled after fearing he’d accidentally killed someone working as his father’s assistant–and he ran off to be a successful manufacturer in England. He returns, Hans becomes the surgeon’s assistant, Father becomes the foreman in the surgeon’s son’s new Dutch facility, and everyone gets enough to eat.

Oh, and the race: Gretel wins among the girls, and Hans withdraws, giving a piece of his equipment to help one of the other boys. We get a little bit about how the characters grow up and grow old, and finis.

So it’s as much a book designed to educate young’uns on Holland as to tell a story. The narrator sometimes shifts into first person plural, especially trying to create excitement during the actual race, so it’s a bit strange, too. Children’s literature was such a strange thing back in the olden days, ainna?

At any rate, another category down in the Winter Reading Challenge. You know, I rather like the gamification of my reading in the first months of the year–it’s more interesting and exciting to me than the things with which I finished the year last year, anyway.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Time’s Eye by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter (2004)

Book coverThe Winter 2022 Reading Challenge has a category Time Travel, so I found this book first amongst the many I have on my shelves that deal with time travel of one sort or another (all of them, at least the fiction books, deal with time travel at the speed of now, anyway). It helped that this book had “Time” right in the title.

At any rate, it’s an Arthur C. Clarke book. You know, he’s considered one of the big three with Asimov and Heinlein, but in the years since someone made that judgment, he’s really tailed off, ainna? He had, what, Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, and 2001: A Space Odyssey followed by a bunch of sequels for each. Except, of course, with the one with end right in the title. Perhaps his short stories were something else, but barring that, I would not put him in Asimov or Heinlein’s class. Maybe the people who put him in the big three were his publicists.

This book, the first in a series called A Time Odyssey, has the premise that a couple of groups of mid-21st century people find themselves removed from their time and placed somewhere/somewhen else. A UN Peacekeeping reconnaissance helicopter is shot down and manages to crash in Afghanistan near a 1890s-era British fort. Just over the horizon, scouts find an army–Macedonians led by Alexander. Three astronauts returning to earth from the International Space Station arrive in the same time period in Mongolia–where Ghengis Khan’s army has found itself also. A member of the missing link species is captured with her daughter near the fort; and amid all the disruption, one of the helicopter officers’ phone calculates based on the position of the stars that they’re in the 13th century. The descending astronauts did not detect many signs of human life or activity aside from themselves. Oh, and alien orbs, impossibly perfect spheres, float above the landscape in various places.

So we’ve essentially got a book that throws a game of Civilization into a blender with tropes from Clarke’s other works (an ape, elevated; a computer that asks if it will dream when it’s shut down; an advanced civilization’s artifacts) and maybe some other works (Under the Dome, although that book came out five years after this one) to make a readable book that leaves one saying, “What’s it all about?” The groups and armies come together in a great battle at Babylon, where the biggest of the alien artifacts resides. And after that climactic battle, we get sixty pages of denouement that leads to…. What? The next book? One of the protagonists is returned to her own time, only to find one of the alien artifacts there.

You know, I read the Wikipedia entries for this series to see where it goes, and it goes like an Arthur C. Clarke series does. A conceit, readability, and then it’s an alien reveal that doesn’t lead to a triumph or resolution for man, but rather a big conceit. Meh. I prefer space opera, thanks.

So I checked off a book, and I have revisited Clarke and find my opinion of him has not changed since I read 2001: A Space Odyssey in 2007. I still haven’t gotten to that series’ sequels yet, and they’re on the outside edge of the to-read shelves in my office. Maybe next year since I’m finding myself in a mood to clear some of these old books out (which will last one or more of these old books or until my next trip to ABC Books).

But the first entry in the 2022 Winter Reading Challenge is complete.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Terror Intent The Executioner #219 (1997)

Book coverWell, my first book of the year–why not make it one of the less than a handful of Executioner novels I have left? Especially since they’re really now something to be finished rather than really enjoyed by the late 1990s, when they’ve bloated a bit and have kind of lost their roots and what made them most enjoyable at their best–the philosophical musings.

In this book, Bolan is in north Africa when an Egyptian band of Islamic terrorists begins targeting tourists, especially Americans. With funding to buy expensive explosives and the hired know-how of a Palestinian terror expert, the group–The Holy Voice–presents a real threat, although not on the scale of Chinese nationalists attacking nuclear plants or Caribbean dictators trying to buy nukes; but some of these smaller side missions could be satisfying, but in the execution (ahut), not so much.

I mean, you have set pieces, and you have bang-bang, but that’s about it. Perhaps I’m hoping for too much, or perhaps I’m idealizing the early books that I read fourteen years ago (whose publication date was a mere twenty-four years and 204 books prior to this volume). Still.

I flag a couple of things in these books as though I’m going to bother reviewing the little tabs while writing these little reviews. The first thing I flagged, though, again was the “A Brit wrote this” because it talks about height in terms of yards. We Americans tend to measure distance in yards, not height. But I have pointed that out in recent books which turned out to have been written by an American, so never mind.

At any rate, March 1997 is the publication date. I often like to track what I was doing at the time the book came out. That was a big year: A couple weeks before this book came out, a girl at the University of Missouri emailed me where to read poetry in St. Louis. And that worked out all right for me. You know, I printed out every email she sent me during those first few months, and when I admitted that I was emailing a girl to one of my friends, I used the two inch stack of paper to indicate she might be serious, I dunno. I have them all in binders here; I should re-read those instead of an Executioner novel sometime.

Never mind, the Winter 2022 Reading Challenge is on. It will have to wait until spring, as will the next Executioner novel.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

So It Begins

The 2022 Winter Reading Challenge has begun.

I have been a little under the weather the last couple of days, so it’s been a little like a vacation, allowing me to read in my reading chair during the day, so I have already finished one of the categories.

Undoubtedly, I will find some books to cover multiple categories, which will give me a lot of flexibility when the final reckoning comes at the end of February.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to sit in my reading chair under a blanket and possibly a cat and enjoy some of this mini-vacation.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Tea in the Time of COVID by Ann Kynion (2020)

Book coverWhen I bought this book last June, I said I thought I would confuse it with Coffee Is Better Than Therapy. And so I did; as I was reading, I was picturing the woman living in Webster Groves, but then she would mention something from Springfield, and it would throw me off.

The book comes from a bit of a vanity project: It’s a book collecting 100 of her online posts during the first 100 days of the pandemic, which she counts from the lockdown order in Springfield in Spring 2020–although that’s a localized start date. I was skipping triathlon classes for weeks before that to limit my exposure to a disease I feared might be akin to something out of The Stand or The Andromeda Strain (books, gentle reader, books–although I have seen a contagion movie before, but not Contagion, I can’t think of what it would have been). In my paranoid defense, I’d like to point out I thought about cancelling a trip to DisneyWorld during the Ebola outbreak in, what, 2014? That experience–my own fears not coming to pass–mitigated my fears about Wuhan flu as time went by and the dead were only lying in the streets in pictures on the Internet and not in Springfield, Missouri.

So we have 100 entries of a couple paragraphs, more or less, talking a little bit about what she did that day, the tea mug that she used (she collects hand-crafted tea mugs from around the world), the little aphorism or proverb on her tea bag, and maybe a little bit of something else. Most of them cross some of the Country Grandmother/Rural Reporter column from small-town newsletters. They give a little insight into the mindset in early 2020 about the state of the disease and the government responses to it. I think Ms. Kynion continued believing in its potency and virulence longer than I did–after all, I was out in person several times a week going to essential businesses to keep things topped up even though I’d laid some things up before the lockdowns, and I saw the same checkers week after week meaning that they were not dying of a plague.

At any rate, an interesting project and a bit of a time capsule, but not something to read straight through as many of the entries cover the same ground and very similarly. It took me months to read it, as I would read a bunch of them and put it aside for a while. Also, I think it got lost in the truck for a while after I took it out to read elsewhere at one point.

Perhaps pace one’s self to a couple a day to better mimic the daily updates that each entry represents.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

2021: The Year’s Reading in Review

Herein I present to you the list of books that I read in Book Year 2021, which starts the week after Christmas and runs to the week after Christmas (so this is technically Book Year 2022, wherein the Executioner novel I’ve been nibbling at a chapter a night will likely be the first entry).

So, my assessment? I started strong with a number of classics finished (Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield, and The Picture of Dorian Gray among them). The Winter Reading Challenge from the library propelled me strongly along. Later in the year, though, I kind of bogged down and did not read as much–poetry and football browsers being the bulk of Q4. The Eric van Lustbader thriller The Ninja really bogged me down late in the year.

But I read:

  1. Black Hand The Executioner #178
  2. Boxer’s Start-up by Doug Werner
  3. War Hammer The Executioner #179
  4. One-Step Sparring by Shin Duk Kang
  5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  6. Whiskey Words & a Shovel by r.h. Sin
  7. Like the Pieces of Driftwood by Jon Francis
  8. Complete Karate by J. Allen Queen
  9. We Live on Mackinac Island
  10. Gettysburg Visions by Sam Weaver
  11. The House on the Rock
  12. Sid Meier’s MEMOIR! by Sid Meier and Jennifer Lee Noonan
  13. Book Lust by Nancy Pearl
  14. The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Susan McBride
  15. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  16. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi / Translated by Thomas Cleary
  17. Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry
  18. Widows by Ed McBain
  19. Danger on Vampire Trail by “Franklin W. Dixon”
  20. Force Down The Executioner #180
  21. Vespers by Ed McBain
  22. Chocolate: The Consuming Passion by Sandra Boynton
  23. She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo
  24. The Judgment of Caesar by Steve Saylor
  25. Karate! by Russell Kozuki
  26. A Ginger on a Mission by Lynn Daake
  27. Alien Nation by Alan Dean Foster
  28. The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly
  29. Mission: Impossible by Peter Barsocchini
  30. Supercarrier by George C. Wilson
  31. More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl
  32. The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
  33. True Lies by Dewey Gram and Duan Dell’Amico
  34. Men in Black II by Michael Teitlebaum
  35. On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
  36. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  37. The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald
  38. Hackers by David Bischoff
  39. Babylon 5: The Coming of Shadows by Jane Killick
  40. Mr. Monk Goes To The Firehouse by Lee Goldberg
  41. Mr. Monk Goes To Hawaii by Lee Goldberg
  42. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  43. Home Is Where The Heart Is by “Thomas Kinkade”
  44. Alien by Alan Dean Foster
  45. Heroes and Outlaws of the Old West by Shane Edwards
  46. The Great Optimist by Leigh Mitchell Hodges
  47. Journey Through Heartsongs by Mattie J. T. Stepanek
  48. Cocoon by David Saperstein
  49. The Blues Brothers by Miami Mitch
  50. Lethal Agent The Executioner #182
  51. Life After Favre by Phil Hanrahan
  52. Whoppers by Alvin Schwartz
  53. Rescue Run The Executioner #204
  54. Hell Road The Executioner #205
  55. I Remember Vince Lombardi by Mike Towle
  56. Moon of Mutiny by Lester del Rey
  57. Rock On by Dan Kennedy
  58. Coffee is Cheaper Than Therapy by Ann Conlkin Unruh
  59. Selected Poems by Mary Phelan
  60. The Pessimist’s Guide to History by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flecner
  61. Death Whisper The Executioner #208
  62. Three Comedies by Aristophanes
  63. My Cat Spit McGee by Willie Morris
  64. Asian Crucible The Executioner #209
  65. Fission Fury The Executioner #214
  66. Oriental Love Poems by Compiled by Michelle Lovric
  67. Firefly: The Official Companion Volume One
  68. Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two
  69. Poetics South by Ann Deagon
  70. Sonic Warrior by Lou Brutus
  71. Laugh Lines by Alison Pohn
  72. Fire Hammer The Executioner #215
  73. Poems by Chris Alderman/Harold Alderman
  74. Four Past Midnight by Stephen King
  75. Descartes in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern
  76. Lake Honor by Alan Brown and Brian Brown
  77. A Bend in the Road by edited by Mary A. Shaugnessy
  78. Gone in the Night by Alan Brown and Brian Brown
  79. Shadow Valley by Alan Brown and Brian Brown
  80. Carver: A Life In Poems by Marilyn Nelson
  81. The Controlled Clasp by John Bahnke
  82. Prayers and Meditations by Helen Steiner Rice
  83. We’re Doing Witchcraft by E. Kristin Anderson
  84. Thoughts from a Dark Room That Lit Up by Denzel Norris featuring Joel Smith
  85. The Legend of the One by Orlea Rayne
  86. Something to Someone by Javan
  87. One World, One Heart by Susan Polis Schutz with Stephen Schutz
  88. Thanksgiving Ideals magazine
  89. American Art Deco by Eva Weber
  90. Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation by edited by Tom Kratman
  91. Look What God Did! by Patty E. Thompson
  92. Whose Job Is It Anyway? by Patty E. Thompson
  93. Kung Fu Mace #4: The Year of the Dragon by Lee Chang
  94. Fugitive Blues by Debra Kang Dean
  95. I Marry You by John Ciardi
  96. Vengeance by Richard Marcinko and Jim DeFelice
  97. The Hirschfeld Century by David Leopold
  98. End Game The Executioner #218
  99. The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson
  100. Little Thoughts On Love by Anne Geddes
  101. Antoine Watteau
  102. Edward Hopper: A Modern Master by Ita G. Berkow
  103. At the End of the Rainbow by Mary Worley Gunn
  104. Field Stones by Robert Kinsley
  105. Terse Verse by Roberta Page
  106. In Praise of East Central Illinois by Alex Sawyer
  107. The Ninja by Eric Can Lustbader
  108. The Wisdom of Father Andrew by edited by Kathleen E. Burne

That’s a lot of Executioner novels–what, 11? I’m clearly making it a priority to finish that series presently.

I have a lot of fine, fine books–the Summa Theologiae now among them–to read, so perhaps I should make a greater priority of reading in the evenings.

108 is not as many as SupaTrey, but he includes audiobooks he listens to, and I only count the actual books I read (and physical books, too, not ebooks).

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: The Wisdom of Father Andrew edited by Kathleen E. Burne (1949, 1950)

Book coverI must have gotten this pamphlet tucked into a pack of chapbooks bought from the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County. It is a mid-(twentieth)-century pamphlet, apparently one of six in the set, from Britain collecting the wisdom of Father Andrew, real name Henry Ernest Hardy, one of the founders of the Society of Divine Compassion, an organization dealing with the poor in London.

This 32-page book has a bunch of paragraph or two snippets from Father Andrew’s other works, presumably. A number of them deal with focusing on one’s work as a vocation, not merely a job, but doing work for God no matter what the work is. So it reminded me a bit of C.S. Lewis’s work blended with Buddhism, perhaps. It’s definitely Christian work, though, as Father Andrew wants you to live like Christ. Father Andrew died in 1946, so this book and its brethren are posthumous.

More interesting, though, is the provenance of the book. Kathleen E. Burne was apparently a female poet of the World War I era (just like Joyce Kilmer!), but if you search for her now, you find some mention of her books of the life of Father Andrew (you can find Prayers from Father Andrew online here). The booklet I have is a second impression from 1950, and in the intervening fifty seventy years, it’s made its way across the ocean and into the interior of another continent (not as quickly as Five Themes of Today, but still).

Imagine a tract in the little plastic holder in the front of your church in the hands of someone in another country in 2095. Hard to imagine, ainna? And yet, my beautiful wife’s current Portals of Prayer might go far. If we did not recycle them at the end of every month. I think that might be a bit of a difference: Ephemera like that, and current Reader’s Digests that we read, we discard–unlike people in the last century, and certainly not like people in mid-century Britain would have.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

A Quiz, But Not A Definitive Guide

In 2011, The Mystery Bookshelf posted a four-part series entitled 20 Must Read Hard Boiled Classics (hey, I’m late to the party, but OregonMuse just posted it on the world-famous Ace of Spades HQ Book Thread this week).

So of course I decided to turn it into a quiz to find out how many of them I’ve read.

The results are not pretty. I have highlighted the titles of the ones that I have read.

  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  • Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane
  • It’s a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  • The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
  • Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson
  • The Drowning Pool by Ross MacDonald
  • The Chill by Ross MacDonald
  • The Deep-Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald
  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley
  • Eight Million Ways To Die by Lawrence Block
  • When The Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block
  • Miami Blues by Charles Willeford
  • Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke
  • L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

40%, If you throw in movies, I would be all the way up to 45% (unless you counted varied renditions of The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye as extra credit).

I am not sure if I have any of the ones I have not read that I do not have on my to-read shelves. I have some James M. Cain–Mildred Pierce, which I started once but did not finish yet–but not the two listed here. I bought a couple of James Lee Burke books last year, but not Black Cherry Blues.

I would like some extra credit for reading the complete works of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald as well as extensively in John D. MacDonald (all the Travis McGee novels, to which the Deep-Blue Goodbye belongs) and Mickey Spillane.

What would I add to this list? I don’t know that I could right away. Perhaps after some thought, reflection, and perusing of my shelves.

But I don’t have time for that now.

I will maybe keep an eye out for some of these books, but I would expect to find many of these out of print, or at least out of the print that would put them on the cheap bookshelves I haunt.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader (1980)

Book coverAs you might remember, gentle reader, when I bought this book last month, I said that the back of the book called this a “sprawling erotic thriller.” So of course I jumped right on this book–as you know, I am a sucker for the smut. But wait, Brian J., you bought Fanny Hill a year and a half ago? Well, gentle reader, I like to cover up my propensity to read diry books by spacing them out a great deal indeed.

So is it erotic? Well, on page 30, we learn that the love interest read de Sade in college, so one might expect the book to turn into Fifty Shades of Ninja, but it does not. It has a bunch of sex scenes with some brief explicity, but we’re talking only a couple of sentences or paragraphs per, and they’re spread through 500 pages. We do get a variety of sex scenes that would have been called deviant in 1980, including incest, pedophilia, lesbian sex with a firearm as sex toy, and male anal rape. The book might have been shocking in 1980, but it’s definitely less titilating than a Gunsmith novel.

But is it sprawling? Oh, boy, Mister, is it!

All right, so the plot: A guy from an ad agency has quit and is living in the suburbs when a neighbor dies from what looks to be an accident, but a World War II veteran medical examiner finds traces of metal in a puncture wound, reminding him of an experience in World War II when he met the ninja. Our hero, Nicholas Linnear, is really a ninja! Spoiler alert, but, c’mon, man, the “twists” are pretty obvious as we go along. He meets the modern love interest, the daughter of a tycoon, soon after the murder (who turns out to be a former co-worker of Linnear). He becomes involved with her, but we also get long, vivid flashbacks of his upbringing in post World War II Japan by an English (Jewish) father and a Chinese mother (who might not be his real mother).

So we’ve got the past and the present interwoven; in the present, we have the good ninja agreeing to guard the tycoon from assassination by the ninja and collaborating with the local medical examiner and talking with some of his Japanese friends in New York, and they’re all systematically killed by the bad ninja, leading the good ninja to realize that maybe the bad ninja is targeting him as much as the tycoon. Whoa! And in a twist you can see hundreds of pages in advance, the bad ninja is his cousin! Or is he really Nicholas’s brother?

And then we go into a flashback of Nicholas’s young life in Japan, with some Nipponophilia and Japanese history worked in along with his love for a Japanese girl, Yukio, who might be playing him for a fool and in the service of his cousin, a student at the same ryu as Nicholas until Nicholas beats him–at which time he goes to a black school to learn the dark arts of bujistu. To be honest, a lot of words in the book are italicised to emphasize their exotic flavor.

But the backstories–each character gets his or her pages or paragraphs, if only to flesh out a character to be killed later–really chonk this book up. I mean, it goes into greater detail about the characters than classical literature which often weighs in at 500 pages or more. But I prefer my genre fiction a little punchier, and this book could have lost probably half of its words to tighten it up.

Oh, and the book is broken into five sections–rings based on The Book of Five Rings, and the author is name checked a bunch. I felt smaht for knowing this as I read the book earlier this year.

At any rate, not my kind of “thriller.” Overly long and wordy. I will probably not bother with the rest of the series which spans six novels through 1995 and two e-book short stories in 2014 and 2016.

Definitely the second-best book entitled The Ninja that I’ve read recently (The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art, which I read in 2019, was the best–I was surprised to see I already had an image called theninja.jpg for book reports).

I get a little money if you click here and buy:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Field Stones by Robert Kinsley (1997)

Book coverThis book, the less expensive of the books by this author that I spotted at Hooked on Books almost a month ago, is the work of a professional poet. The author is the assistant editor at The Ohio Review at the time, so he’s definitely a pro. But for all that, it’s not so bad.

Some of the poems to do fall to the two-to-four-syllable-lines problem. How can you develop a thought or image in lines that short? Short answer: unless your name is Issa and some of the beauty of the poetry is in the brushstrokes themselves, you can’t. But modern poets lurve it, and when I read poems like that, I can here them reciting a couple of short words and then pausing ponderously at the end of the line. Eesh.

At any rate, many of the poems contrast growing up on the farm with today, which although it was then was later than growing up on a farm. I liked it a little more than I thought I would, but I found enough in it to not dislike it.

But none of the poems really touched me. You know, I’ve read a lot of poetry this year–what, about 20 books, give or take how you account for some of them–and not many of the poems or poets stick with me. I liked some of the Mary Phelan and John Ciardi I read this year, the poem I remember most en toto and even quote bits of to myself comes from Robert Hayden whom I read in 2020. So I guess the best I get out of most poetry is that’s nice and move on.

Perhaps that’s the best I can hope for from people reading my poetry. Or people reading my poetry at all.

I get a little money if you click here and buy:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Terse Verse by Roberta Page (1973)

Book coverThis hardback comes from Carleton Press, a self-publishing firm, in 1973. Not only is it a hardback in a dust jacket, but the dust jacket is Mylar-wrapped, so someone thought highly of it. Perhaps Ellen Massey, the teacher extraordinaire, to whom the book is inscribed.

One might think of this as grandmother poetry, based on the photo on the back, but the author bio indicates that she still has a child in the house. I certainly made that mistake; she’s likely in her late thirties or early forties when this book came out, so not grandmother yet.

It doesn’t touch on the normal grandmother poetry themes of religion, patriotism, and so on. Instead we get short (well, terse is right in the title) bits about personal relationships and whatnot. The poems’ lines are not short, so she’s not a Professional, but many of the works are light on imagery and heavy on abstractions and explaining emotions.

So the poetry is not very memorable or compelling to a poetry glutton like me, but she must have been very proud of it, and she pursued her dreams, spending likely thousands of dollars in the process.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, December 11, 2021: Christmas Shopping Done Wrong (II)

So yesterday, I had a couple of hours whilst my son was at an event in Republic, Missouri, so I thought I would do some Christmas shopping. My first stop took me to Mike’s Unique, where I bought some records. The second stop was at ABC Books, where a local radio personality, Marla Lucas, was signing her book.

I did my circuit, although I stopped by the local authors and science fiction authors books to see if I could find something for my nephew.

I found some things for me, certainly.

I got:

  • Hope Always Wins by Marla Lucas. She mentioned that she wrote it in 30 days. Meanwhile, I’m up to beyond 30 months on whichever novel I happen to finish next.
  • Hard Start: Mars Intrigue by S.V. Farnsworth, a local author. I usually pick up a copy of something I’ve read an enjoyed during the course of the year for my nephew, but I haven’t read much this year in science fiction or fantasy that wasn’t tied to a movie or television show. So, instead, I bought a copy of this book for both of us. Mrs. E. asked if I had been to her book signing last week, and I had not. To think, I could have gotten a signed copy for myself my nephew. And, confession: ABC Books has been having so many book signings these days that I cannot get to all of them. I feel like I’m letting the proprietrix down.
  • The Inner Game of Fencing by Nick Evangelista. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually done the outer game of fencing.
  • Perry Rhodan: The Wasp Men Attack by W.W. Shols and Atlan #1: Spider Desert by Ernst Vlcek. ABC Books as a lot of old paperbacks in the Perry Rhodan series (which I only know of as a lot of them are at ABC Books). Since I’m running low on Executioner books, perhaps I should look for another midcentury series to waste my time on invest in.

I also got my nephew a copy of Gateway by Frederik Pohl that I enjoyed…in 2013? That’s can’t be right. I just read that, and my beautiful wife got me the others in the series, which I have not yet read, that Christmas.

At any rate, the ratio of Christmas gifts at this stop was 2/4, so I’m getting better. Unfortunately, after running all the way to the north side of town after my stop at the antique mall, I really did not have time to stop anywhere else except to pick up a couple of gift cards for the stockings. So I might have do something like this again next weekend.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: In Praise of East Central Illinois by Alex Sawyer (1976)

Book coverInstead of some grandmother poetry, how about some grandpa poetry instead? Ah, but for the depth of grandmother poetry. This volume has 51 pages of landscapes with little beyond describing the flora of East Central Illinois. Many of the poems within are cinquains, which are short five line verses. Longer than a haiku, but not by much.

Still, the book I have is autographed and is from the third printing, somewhere in the 601st through 800th copies made available. So the fellow sold or gave away more books of poetry than I have amid my two chapbooks and one self-published print-on-demand title, and like At the End of the Rainbow, it’s available on Amazon almost fifty years after publication.

I get a little money if you click here and buy:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: At the End of the Rainbow by Mary Worley Gunn (1974)

Book coverNow this is what you would expect of good grandmother poetry. The book, comb-bound when I was but two years old (but not by my grandmother) runs 94 pages on high-quality cardstock for the most part. It touches on themes of holidays, religion (lightly), family, and patriotism, but not unalloyed with a touch of pain (apparently, she lost a son in World War II). We get the gamut of history in the poems: She married in 1918, in the shadow of World War I, lost a son in World War II, and wonders about kids these days in the 1970s.

The poems are tidy little bits with end rhymes; the introduction says that the author had pieces published in the newspaper; I remember when newspapers published poetry. I will have to admit, of all the papers I take these days, only one drops in a poem from time to time, and of all the magazines I take (which, to be honest, is fewer than the newspapers), only one or two have a poem from time to time. But in the olden days of the last century, gentle reader, you might get your little ditty in the paper, read by people, enjoyed a bit and mostly forgotten. Unlike today, where you pump the poem into a database somewhere to be eventually discarded with a click of a No button instead of a nice form letter, and even if you get it published in a proper place, only other poets will read it.

You know, that’s why I read grandmother poetry and old Ideals magazines. Because I remember when poetry like this was a staple of the people and not The Poets and Power. 1974, maybe 1980, might have been the high mark of this; by the time I was dropping chapbooks in 1994 and 1995, nobody at the coffeeshops was buying.

Compare and contrast: Although you can get a print-on-not-much-demand copy of Coffee House Memories on Amazon, you can actually order a print copy of this book on Amazon. Unrequited and Deep Blue Shadows, my laid-out-and-printed-at-Kinko’s chapbooks, are not available.

Or maybe that’s because they’re more collectible.

I get a little money if you click here and buy:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Edward Hopper: A Modern Master by Ita G. Berkow (2006)

Book coverI saw someone–perhaps the Ace of Spades Midmorning Art Thread–mention Edward Hopper. Of course, I knew about “The Nighthawks”, which the particular post mentioned. So when I got a chance to pick up this book at Hooked on Books, I did.

The book mixes biographical text with large renderings of the paintings as well as some detailed close-ups. It definitely uses the page effectively; some books have fairly large margins and tiny reproductions of the art, but this book really illustrates how to do a monograph. Of course, it is from the 21st century. Clearly, printing has improved since the 1970s and 1980s, when a lot of the monographs I review were published.

The author of this book talks about how grim and isolated, how despondent the people in the paintings are, and he lays out a good argument for that, but I think the scenes are not quite as bleak as the author would have us believe. They’re scenes of working people, often urban or newly developed areas, and they depict not portraits but moments in time in the urban landscapes and in the peoples’ lives. The almost impressionistic blurring of the lines works well, and this author indicates that Hopper might have influenced Noir cinema instead of vice versa.

So I liked the book. Of course, I live in the country now, so city living is but a memory, which might be why I like the gauzy focus urban paintings–paintings from a time way past when I lived in the city, but how I imagined myself in that city even as I lived there and even now.

I get a little money if you click here and buy:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Masters of World Painting: Antoine Watteau (1980)

Book coverYou know, ABC Books has amongst its dwindling artists section a thick volume on Watteau, and I felt a bit like a traitor when I bought this book at Hooked on Books two weeks ago. Of course, that’s odd, since I was a Hooked on Books patron before I even moved here, twenty-some years ago when I came to Springfield with my beautiful-then-girlfriend. So perhaps I should feel like a traitor to Hooked on Books for buying so much at ABC Books, but Hooked on Books has changed hands once or twice since then, and ABC Books has not changed hands since I’ve known of it.

At any rate, watteau to say about this artist. A late seventeenth and early eighteenth century French artist–Voltaire might have thought him old school. You know, if I read and remember enough of these monographs I will see he’s more Gainsborough than Caravaggio. The brief text introduction in the book explains how he was misunderestimated in his age, but how he’s really a towering figure. Except fewer people remember his name than Caravaggio, probably.

Not bad to look at; group scenes where you can tell the subjects are people. I don’t know that I would hang any reprints of his work in my home if I were to come upon one somewhere. But I probably wouldn’t, as, c’mon, it’s Watteau.

The book, though, is nominally a Harry N. Abrams book, but it’s also credited to Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad. Most of the pieces depcited on the plates were in Soviet museums, and this was a nice, artificialish “We like art, too” reach across the Iron Curtain where the book was published in the Soviet Union, but the art images are all pasted in by work-from-home people circa 1979. I have mentioned before that I dated a girl in the 1990s who caught on with one of these publishers who would send her books and art plates to paste into them, and the girl would get dinged on quality control if the plates were a little crooked, so it wasn’t something you could do while watching television (as the ads in the magazines promised).

You know what? I have forgotten Watteau since I started typing this review. Which explains why it’s the only monograph left at ABC Books besides the $30 “comic” art one (which I will probably buy in 2022). So, consider that the ultimate meh.

I get a little money if you click here and buy:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories