Monthly Archives: October 2007

16 posts

Almost a Miracle by John Ferling

As contemplated by Ferling, few, if any, colonial Americans escaped the impact of hostilities. Wars were frequent and while many men soldiered, many of these same soldiers died. Still others, the least fortunate in some respects came home from the wars, but not in one piece, physically or mentally. Nor were those who bore arms alone in experiencing the terrors of war. Civilians who dwelled on the exposed frontier in wartime lived with the constant fear of a potential surprise attack, and virtually every citizen, in every generation, and in every colony paid war taxes, tolerated wartime scarcities, endured war-induced inflation, and struggled through postwar economic busts.

Notes from Italy: Romulus and Neighbors

The next time you go to Rome, take a half-day to go to Pomezia, just south of the Alban hills, a few miles inland from the sea. The town is unlovely but the new Pomezia museum contains some of the most beautiful terracotta statues of women that I know, dating from several centuries before Christ. It also contains exhibits that trace the story of Aeneas in Italy back to at least the eighth century B.C. You may well leave Pomezia convinced that someone, whose name may have been Aeneas, landed on the nearby coast a millennium or so before Christ–and married the daughter of the king of the local Latins–and had a descendant named Romulus. Not just Virgil but Dionysius gives a detailed account of all this.

Mike Carey: Novelist and Comic Writer

“People too content with their lot make lousy protagonists. (laughs) There has to be a source of drama, a source of conflict. You can start with a character that’s out of tune with his time or his life or some aspect of his life. And then if it’s a Hollywood movie with a Hollywood happy ending it’s the story of redemption, the story of how you get from that discontent position to your own perfect space. The first Back to the Future movie is kind of archetypal in that respect. You start by showing all the things that are crappy about the kid’s life and then he comes back to this sort of paradise at the end. My characters don’t tend to find paradise, but they do sometimes find themselves.”

Fire in the Blood by Irène Némirovsky

Silvio’s tale proceeds to unravel the neighborhood secrets, as he uncovers them with a skill that only an exquisite sensibility like Némirovsky’s commands, revealing shockers — illicit passion, intense jealousy, illegitimate offspring, and … murder! Such untold events have remained long hidden, if gossiped over by villagers, vicious events these country people chose never to acknowledge.

Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger

The novel is set in the lake country of northern Minnesota and the wilds of bordering Ontario. Former sheriff Cork O’Connor has decided to take life easy with his wife and teenage daughter. He’ll fill in the slack times with a little private investigator action or at least that’s what he thinks. The short-lived halcyon period is broken when Objibwe medicine man Henry Meloux (as in “mellow”) asks Cork to find his son that he fathered more than a half-century ago in the Canadian boreal forest wild lands.

The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II by Andrew Nagorski

He focuses on the assault on Moscow, the largest battle in history between two opposing armies. In this battle seven million men took part, and of these 2.5 million were killed, taken prisoner, wounded, or went missing. The invading Nazi army numbered about three million, which as Nagorski might usefully have mentioned was six times larger than Russia’s last previous major invader, Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon by Crystal Zevon

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is sort of an extended wake for its subject. There’s very little biographical narrative per se; instead, the book compiles a massive array of anecdotes, memories, and opinions from dozens upon dozens of the people who knew him, from engineers, girlfriends, and backing musicians to a fairly astounding variety of celebrities who spent time with Zevon.

The Solution to History

These days the historical mystery buff can choose from works featuring Owen Archer, Prioress Eleanor, Petroc of Auneford, Mathew Shardlake, and many others. From a brief survey of the genre, it’s a wonder that anyone noticed when the Black Death took hold, as the inhabitants of Britain had apparently been offing each other in industrial numbers right through the medieval era.

William Gibson: The Father of Cyberpunk

“The part of me that walks around and does interviews is incapable of doing very much in the way of writing a novel. My unconscious is what I’m after and my unconscious is not very reliable. It doesn’t pay taxes and it won’t turn up every day to sit in the chair and type for me. I have to turn up and sit in the chair every day and type and occasionally it does turn up.”