Saturday, November 17, 2018

View from the Underground

He looked out 
of the window into the darkness of the underground. Almost ten months earlier, Trevor’s life had changed with a single phone from Josh Gittings, once the prime minister’s political assistant but better known as the PM’s hatchet man. Now chief of staff to King Michael, he’d contacted Trevor, asking him to meet with the king. Somehow Gittings had ferreted out Trevor’s hobby and avocation – monarchial law and history. The king, Gittings, said, needed help understanding the history, role, and legal considerations for being the monarch. Trevor had been as stunned as his wife and his colleagues on chambers. Never before had he been called upon to advise a king, and on a subject his colleagues often snickered at. They called him “The Monarchist.” That was then. Now they called him “The Rain Man.” 

-       From Dancing Prophet

Photograph by Christopher Rusev via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday Good Reads

We’ve been watching “The Woman in White” on PBS, and it’s a good rendition of the Wilkie Collins novel, first published in 1860. At CrimeReads, Radha Vestal has an article on what we owe to this story – arguably one of the first crime thrillers. (The PBC series concludes tomorrow night, and right now we’re at a nail-biting pause.)

On Nov. 10, 1975, the ore-hauling ship Edmund Fitzgerald encountered an unexpected storm on Lake Superior and sank, with a loss of 29 lives. The next year, the sinking of the ship was immortalized in a song by Gordon Lightfoot. Jason Peters at Front Porch Republic has a meditation on November, borrowing some of Lightfoot’s words. 

Violet Nicholson was once a hugely best-selling poet in Britain but has fallen into obscurity. She’s buried in India, and Andrew Whitehead at BBC takes a look at the poet and her poetry (Hat Tip: J of India). 

Speaking of poets, Robert Koons at First Things Magazine has an article on T.S. Eliot – and his insights into culture, class, and populism. Andrew Prideaux at The Gospel Coalition talks about how the poetry of John Donne affected his life

More Good Reads


Adjusting to Darkness – Lisa Williams at Image Journal.

Fire: A Sestina for Soldiers – Malcolm Guite.

A Mystery – Daniel Kalwitter via Kingdom Poets.

Transhumanism – Joe Spring.

Writing and Literature

Weird Writers of History – Eleanor Parker at History Today.

Waymarks: Willa Cather and the Quest for Sacred Form – Jonathan McGregor at Image Journal.

Expert expounds Chesterton’s philosophy of literary criticism – Sarah Kaderbek at The Troubadour (Hat Tip: Monica Sharman).


Freedom That is Worth Fighting For – Kristin Brown at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.

Difference -Bill Grandi at Cycleguy’s Spin.

Life and Culture

Surviving the Cultural Tsunami – Rod Dreher at American Conservative.

The Battle of Empty Minds: Can’t Anyone See Beyond the Hatred? – John Horvat at The Imaginative Conservative.

Art and Photography

Images of America: The Art of William Sidney Mount – Michael De Sapio at The Imaginative Conservative.

Grassology – Tim Good at Pixels.

“Music of the Night” by Countertenor Terry Barber

Painting: Portrait of Arvid Jarnefelt, oil on canvas by Eero Jarnefelt (1888)

Friday, November 16, 2018


After Psalm 1

Four paths to follow, or choose,
places to be, to stand (note to self:
standing is more active than being)

first path: advice from the wicked
second path: the way of sinners
third path: the seat of mockers
(note to self: watch for mockingbirds
on social media)

fourth path: the law

this is a choice, or a description
this is a statement of being
   or decisions faced

to delight in the law
to meditate on the law

meditate on the law?

write yes to the question,
   the questions

yes means life,
   a tree planted
   by streams of water
   flowing past
   trees bearing fruit
   when the time is come
   when no leaf dries and withers

no means death
   chaff blown away
   by the wind
   exiled from judgment
   torn from the righteous
   severed from life

the shepherd watches over his sheep

the answer is yes
the answer is no

the answer is one path
   not four
   not three
   not two


the path of delight
the path of meditation
the path of life

Photograph by Davide Foti via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

“The Unlucky Woman” by Jonathan Dunsky

Private detective Adam Lapid is drinking coffee at Greta’s CafĂ© in Tel Aviv. It’s about 1949 or 1950, not long after Israel’s war for independence. A boy hands Lapid a letter; it looks like a woman wants to hire him to find out what her husband is up to in the evenings. He takes the case, believing he knows what he’s likely to find. 

He talks to his client, a woman on bed-rest during her pregnancy because of previous miscarriages. She and husbamd met in a refugee camp after World War II; both survived the Holocaust. She thinks her husband is having an affair; Lapid thinks so, too, but he follows the husband anyway to see where the case will lead. But he, and his client, in for a surprise. Lapid tracks the man to the Hadassah Hospital.

The Unlucky Womanis a long short story published as a single by Jonathan Dunsky, author of the Adam Lapid detective mysteries and other works. Lapid, a Holocaust survivor himself, had been a police detective in Hungary before the war. His wife and two daughters died in the gas chambers; he survived the concentration camp. He made his way to Israel and fought and was wounded in the war for independence. He’s now a private detective, often able to out-guess the police.

Jonathan Dunsky
The story is available as an ebook; its print length would be 68 pages.

Jonathan Dunsky has published four Adam Lapid mysteries: Ten Years GoneThe Dead SisterThe Auschwitz Violinistand A Debt of Death. He’s also published The Favor: A Tale of Friendship and MurderGrandma Rachel’s GhostsFamily TiesTommy’s Touch: A Fantasy Love Story; and other works. He was born in Israel, served four years in the Israeli Army, lived in Europe for several years, and currently lives in Israel with his family. He has worked in various high-tech firms and operated his own search optimization business.

By the end of the story, Lapid is learning that it might be one case he wishes he hadn’t solved. The Unlucky Woman is an entertaining – and poignant – read.


Top photograph: The old Hadassah Hospital in Tel Aviv; the photo is from the 1920s but the hospital looked about the same at the time of “The Unlucky Woman.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

“Lights on the Mountain” by Cheryl Anne Tuggle

It’s the farmland of the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania in 1952. Teenager Jess Hazel lives and works on his family’s dairy farm. Jess’s older brother Walter had unexpectedly joined the Marines, and after basic training had been sent to Korea. The two brothers were close, with Walter taking the lead in their relationship despite Jess’s physical height – 6’7”. Jess adores his brother, while he maintains a respectful distance from his father. 

On this day, which may be the last normal family day Jess will know, he wakes up in the darkness to milk the cows. As he walks to the barn, he sees the unexpected light on the mountain, shooting up from the distant sunrise. His father tells him it’s “Shekinah Light,” the name given by the ancients Hebrews to God dwelling on earth.

In almost rapid succession, the Hazel family receives the news that Walter is missing in action and presumed dead, and then Jess’s parents are killed when their pickup truck runs off the road. Jess is left to tend the farm by himself, at a time when mechanization is transforming general agriculture and dairy agriculture. Jess tends to stick to the old, proven ways, his one nod to modernization being a used tractor. But like other small farmers, he finds himself having to take an off-the-farm job to make ends meet. 

At the neighboring farm, eccentric Eli Zook is raising a young child, born after her gypsy mother died in childbirth at Eli’s house. The child is not Eli’s; he’d taken her mother in when she had no place to stay. Jess will see the girl running wild near his own land and in the woods. 

Ten years later, Jess meets Galina Morozov, whom everyone calls Gracie. Her parents are Russian, and they don’t think much of Jess. But Gracie opens up Jess’s world.

Cheryl Anne Tuggle
These are the people inhabiting Cheryl Anne Tuggle’s fine, quiet novel Lights on the MountainThey endure love and hardship, wonder and revelation. Their lives are broken and remade, and often more than once. But they endure in their faith, Gracie in her Orthodox faith, and Jess in his faith in Gracie.

If this novel is about anything, it’s about endurance in everyday life.

Tuggle, a native of Oklahoma, grew up in the hills of western Pennsylvania. Her first novel, Unexpected Joy, was published in 2011. She’s a member of the Good Seeds Writers Society and a writer for the blog Orthodox in the Ozarks

Lights on the Mountain is the kind of story where you know you’re sitting with Jess and Gracie at the kitchen table at their farmhouse. Jess is rather quiet; Gracie’s conversation and lively eyes tells you who the conversationalist in the family is. But you sit with them both as you hear the wind and glance through the window to see the lights on the mountain.

It’s a beautiful, moving novel.


Top photograph by Neil Rosenstech via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Poets and Poems: Mary Karr and “Tropic of Squalor”

Poet Mary Karr is as well known for her memoirs as she is for her poetry. Her memoir The Liar’s Club sat on the The New York Times’ bestseller list for more than a year, won non-fiction prizes, was chosen a “best book” by several major publications, and was followed by two other successful memoirs, Cherry and Lit. Then she wrote The Art of Memoir

Karr has published four collections of poetry, The Devil’s Tour (1993), Viper Rum (2001), Sinners Welcome (2009), and now her most recent collection, Tropic of Squalor (2018). If there is any one writing skill at which Karr excels (and there are more than one), it’s her use of vivid imagery and metaphor. Even the titles of her poems are arresting and often jarring: “Illiterate Progenitor,” “Discomfort Food for the Whole,” “The Organ Donor’s Driver’s License Has a Black Mark,” “The Child Abuse Tour,” and, well, you get the picture.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, November 12, 2018

“Mayfly” by Joe White

The story begins with a young man, Harry, rescuing an older man, Ben, from drowning in a river. And yet it looks less like an accident and more like an attempted suicide. The young man works at a local pub that’s closing, likely to become an art gallery or antique shop. He meets an older woman named Cat (for Catherine) at the pub, and her flirting has more than edge to it; it seems almost self-destructive. And he meets a young woman, known only as Loops, dressed in camouflage, who tells him she’s a soldier.

The young man will learn that the man, the woman, and the girl are nothing like what they first seem like – a would-be suicide, a woman on the make, and a soldier who talks military but doesn’t seem military. In fact, they are a family, struggling to understand themselves, what their lives have become and to be reborn. 

Only gradually do we see that their struggle has to do with the death of the family’s son, who killed himself. The story of that struggle is Mayfly, a debut play by young British playwright Joe White,which debuted earlier this at the Orange Street Theatre in off-West-End London (analagous to off-Broadway in New York). 

The story is set in Shropshire, in central England. It might be easy to overlook since it doesn’t have an overtly critical role in the story; in a sense, the play could be set anywhere. But White has placed it Shropshire, often considered the heart of England Shropshire is the setting for A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, that long narrative poem that was so popular among soldiers in World War I. It was what the soldiers considered home as they sat in the mud and the lice of the trenches, watching their mates die of disease, mustard gas, and artillery shells. 

Joe White
In Mayfly, Shropshire is England’s heart, but the family in that heart is broken and trying to reconstitute itself. The characters are not trying to tear each other apart so much as tearing themselves apart, desperate to find a meaning from the personal tragedy.

White has been associated with the Orange Tree Writers Collective and a “playwright on attachment” at Pentabus Theatre Company. He’s also been a member of the Old Vic 12, a group of young theater writers and producers selected by the Old Vic Theatre to nurture the next generation of theatre creatives.

Mayfly is unsettling and often disturbing, exactly what you’d expect a family to be when it finds itself unmoored and adrift.

Top photograph: A scene from the production of Mayfly in April 2018.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Made in fear

After Psalm 139:13-16

Made in fear, and wonder,
a work full of wonder molded
in intricate design, woven
in the depths of the earth,
an unformed substance before
the spirit hovered, with each day
already formed, already written,
planned and designed with purpose
and intent, created in the image,
a physical essence, a soul, a heart,
a mind crafted in the image, to be
a bearer of the image.

Photograph by Alex Hockett via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday Good Reads

The voting in the mid-term election is over; the election will be with us for weeks to come. Seven trees were sacrificed to print misleading postcards that flooded my mailbox, and that I ignored, except to note that most of them carried no “paid for by…” identification. All of them urged a vote against a candidate for the U.S. Senate, or the candidate for our congressional district from the same political party. I don’t know who advises campaigns to do this, but it isn’t necessary. Many of us don’t need tacky postcards with screaming headlines to tell us how to vote. (Both the candidates in question won, by the way.)

Some 850 years after his death, Thomas Beckett’s bloody tunic has been returned to Canterbury Cathedral. It had been kept in Rome all that time.

My friend Luke Davis is publishing a new Cameron Ballack detective novel in serial installment on his blog. I’m a fan of the detective and Luke’s stories. So far, you can read the Author’s Preface, the PrologueChapter 1Chapter 2, and Chapter 3. The mysteries are all set in the St. Louis area, and this new one is almost next door to my own community, in the neighboring suburb of Webster Groves. And it’s fun for me to play “I know that place” and “I’ve driven down that street a million times.”

Speaking of crime fiction, Paul French has a good article at CrimeReads about the crime fiction of Tel Aviv. He includes an author whose books I’ve read and reviewed, D.A. Mishani. And Sean Johnson at Forma goes deep into the mystical vision of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton’s famous detective.

Nolan Peterson tells the story of what his Ukrainian wife discovered on her first visit to the United States, helping the rest of us realize what a precious thing it is to live in this country.

More Good Reads

Writing and Literature

British Stuff

Flights of Fancy Set in Stone – Deborah Swift at English Historical Fiction Authors.


Dead Thick with Known Dead – Jeffrey Bilbro at Front Porch Republic.

First Kiss – Todd David at Image Journal.

3 Classic Poems Every Christian Should Read – Leland Ryken at The Gospel Coalition.

Being Alive and Labyrinth - Joy Lenton at Poetry Joy.

Darkest hour – Chris Yokel.

A Letter to a Ghost – Samuel Sey at Slow to Write.

Life and Culture

Live Like a Tree – Mark Manry at Front Porch Republic.

Prayer and comfort in Sachsenhausen – George van Popta at Reformed Perspective.

Academia is a Cult – Andrew Marzoni at the Washington Post.


Living Within the Truth: Vaclav Havel Applied to Christianity – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Marks of a Spirit-Filled Mother-in-Law – Michelle Morin at Desiring God.

American Stuff

Five Great Books on the Puritans – Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition.

Art and Photography

Prairie Joy – Tim Good at Pixels.

NASA UHD Video: Stunning Aurora Borealis from Space in Ultra-High Definition (4K)

Painting: Young Woman Reading, oil on canvas by Mary Cassatt (1876); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

"I Will Raise Them Up a Prophet"

Martha Orlando at Meditations of My Heart posted a wonderful review of my novel Dancing Prophet today:

Deuteronomy 18:18
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth.  He will tell them everything I command him.

It is always a deliciously refreshing experience to bury myself in a compelling, engaging story, where characters jump off the page to sit next to you like a best friend, and the plot thickens with unexpected twists and turns.  And that is precisely what happens when I have the privilege of reading Book Four in Glynn Young's Dancing Priest Series, Dancing Prophet.  Although Young masterfully crafts this novel as a stand-alone read, I can't urge you enough to order the first three that you can find at Young's blogger page, Faith, Fiction, Friends.

To continue reading, please see Martha's Review at Meditations of My Heart.

And you know

After Psalm 139:1-13

I sit down, and you know.
I rise up, and you know.
I think, and you know.
I speak, and you know.
I weep, and you know.
I ascend, and you know.
I descend, and you know.
I take wing, and you know.
I disappear, and you know.
I fall into darkness, and you know.
I am created as fusion of cells, and you know.
Even before I exist and an impulse, you know.

Photograph by Teddy Kelley via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"The Discourtesy of Death" by William Brodrick

William Brodrick, author of the Father Anselm mysteries, doesn’t shy away from tough questions. In The Day of the Lie, he tackled the multiple shades of gray in old communist regimes, and how secret police and prisoners might not be so different after all. In The Whispered Name, the subject was cowardice in wartime. 

In The Discourtesy of Death, Brodrick considers mercy killing. Or is it assisted suicide? Or is it murder?

The prior of Larkwood Monastery, where Father Anselm lives and works, has decided that Father Anselm’s gift of detection needs to be shared, a “light in the darkness,” so to speak. Without his cooperation, Father Anselm has just been featured in a splashy Sunday newspaper story – about how a monk solves crimes. It results in the monastery receiving all kinds of communications seeking Father Anselm’s help. 

Then an anonymous letter arrives. It suggests that a woman who had been paralyzed had not died of cancer but was actually murdered. And that’s the case Father Anselm is told to pursue. The woman’s husband, a well-known television personality, is the likely suspect. He’s due to be discharged from prison after throwing a brick through a store window that injured a boy. The couple’s young teenaged son has been living with his grandparents; the grandfather is a former British Army commando who was stationed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. And there’s the attending doctor, who signed the woman’s death certificate and would have known if it had been murder.

In short, there’s no lack of suspects. Father Anselm enlists the help of a former client from his law practice days whom he successfully defended twice for fraud, even though the man was likely guilty. Through all of the investigation, Anselm hopes the man will show remorse and make restitution. 

William Brodrick
But in a Father Anselm mystery, things are never what they appear to be. And Father Anselm knows far more than he lets on, even to his prior.

Brodrick was a friar in the Augustine order before he became a barrister and a writer. He’s written six of the Father Anselm mysteries, with A Whispered Name winning the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in 2009. A seventh, The Silent Ones, is being published this month. He lives in France. (And the Gilbertine Order was a real order of monks but was disbanded by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.)

The Discourtesy of Death is a compelling mystery that forces the characters (and the reader) to seriously examine beliefs and notions of life, compassion, and mercy. No one, including the reader, is going to be let off easy.


Top photograph by Andrei Lazarev via Unsplash. Used with permission.