Friday, October 7, 2022

End of the Talk

After Matthew 7:28-8:3

He finishes his words,

what he wants to say.

The ones around him

remain silent; the rest

of us are stunned.

This carpenter speaks

with the authority

of the rabbis. He’s less

than a scribe, yet 

his words poured forth

like a teacher of the law

as we’ve never heard

the law before. Surprise

is so deep that we don’t

know what to say, how

to accept these words,

this message. Never

have we heard words

like this. We watch

his descent from

the mount, and then

we followed. And

the first thing he did

was to heal a leper,

heal with a touch,

demonstrating authority.


Photograph by Thom Milkovic via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

"Murder in the Village" by Faith Martin

Just as she’s leaving work for the day, Detective Inspector Hillary Greene is stopped by her boss and handed what he knows will make her happy – a murder investigation. A man running for the Conservative Party slot for Parliament has been found in his kitchen, his head bashed in. Greene and her team begin the case, but every possible lead goes nowhere. 

At the same time, a major police operation is in the works – to get, once and for all, Oxford’s local crime boss. This time, the new police superintendent is in charge – the man sent to Oxford from the Met in London. It’s an elaborate operation involving two police forces; Hillary is involved as is her boss, her team, and several other police officers from their office.


The operation goes wrong, badly wrong. The villain is killed; Hillary herself is shot while pushing her boss out of harm’s way. While she recovers, she begins to think of all the anomalies that arose during the operation – things that happened that shouldn’t have. She begins to investigate what really happened.


Faith Martin

Murder in the Village
 is the fourth Hillary Greene mystery by Faith Martin, and after a slow start, it becomes one of those stories you simply can’t put down. Martin builds the tempo and the tension very well indeed, with two separate crimes under investigation and a major dose of internal police politics.


In addition to the DI Hillary Greene novels, Martin (a pen name for Jacquie Walton) has also published the Ryder and Loveday novels as well as the Jenny Sterling mysteries. Under the name Joyce Cato, she has published several non-series detective stories. Both Cato and Martin are also pen names for Walton. (Walton has another pen name as well – Maxine Barry, under which she wrote 14 romance novels.) A native of Oxford, she lives in a village in Oxfordshire. 




Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin.


Murder at the University by Faith Martin


Murder of the Bride by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Mistake by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Flaw by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Secret by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Truth by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Affair by Faith Martin.


A Fatal Night by Faith Martin.


A Fatal End by Faith Martin.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

"The Backstreets" by Perhat Tersun

Perhat Tursun is a writer and poet. To read his short novel The Backstreets is to be reminded of The Plague by Albert Camus, or Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. It’s a disturbing, unsettling kind of book, and it becomes more so when you realize it’s largely autobiographical. 

Tursun (born in 1969) is a Uygher, the large Muslim minority that for generations were farmers and herdsmen in Xinjiang in western China. Life became difficult under Chinese communist rule, until the death of Mao Zedong. Life became easier, until about the turn of the century. Then began what became a systematic effort by the Chinese government to submerge the Uyghers into Chinese culture and life and, barring that, eradicate their society. Persecution began in earnest when the Chinese began to borrow the language of the global “War on Terror.” The Chinese deny the charges of genocide, but it’s becoming increasingly impossible to say it’s anything but that. The evidence is too strong, and it’s growing stronger. That the Uyghers occupied land that contained sizable energy reserves didn’t serve their security in a Chinese state desperate for energy to power factories.


Tersun had been one of the favored few to be educated at a Chinese university in Beijing, but he began to arouse the government’s concern with the publication of his work, like his poetry collection One Hundred Love Lyrics, his novella collection Messiah Desert, and his novel The Art of Suicide which led to his blacklisting as a writer for the next 15 years  The manuscript of The Backstreets was completed in 2015 but never published in China.


The main character, a man, is never named. Trained at a university in the east, he works in a western Chinese city that is dominated by ethnic Chinese, although it wasn’t always so. His boss is the “smiling man,” whose smile increases the angrier he gets. And he gets very angry with the narrator, who intentionally and unintentionally doesn’t conform to expectations. 


Perhat Tersun

The man spends a great deal of the novel walking the backstreets of the city, trying to find his room. He’s frustrated by both a thick, almost impenetrable fog and the fear of the few people he meets. The search for his room symbolizes the search to find (and understand) his place and thus his own identity. But it never happens, and he never learns who he is, because it’s been taken away. He has memories, pleasant and unpleasant of his childhood, but his family seems to exist only in a distant past. 


The novel draws from Tursun’s own life – his education, his childhood, and his work in the city of Urumchi in Xinjiang. And he’s lived the experience of the Uyghers in China. In early 2018, he disappeared. It was heard later that he’d been sentenced to 16 years in prison; the charges were unknown. 


The book has its own story. The translator, Darren Byler, teaches at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and has published several books on China. He met with Tursun before the writer’s disappearance, a meeting arranged by a source only known as D.M. Another person, known as A.A., was helping with the translation. Both D.M. and A.A. also disappeared.


Reading The Backstreets is a sobering experience. Tursun depicts the alienation, the fear, and the persecution that happens when a person, and a people, are objectified by the state as terrorists or extremists. It’s a difficult book to read, but a necessary one.




A Uygher Author and Translator Were Detained. Now Their Novel Speaks for Them.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

"The Illustrated Emily Dickinson" for Children - and Adults

Ryan Van Cleave has a passion for writing, his own and that of others. He’s a writing coach. He’s a teacher and writing program coordinator. He’s a speaker. He’s written and produced a number of children’s books about poetry, like The Illustrated Emily Dickinson. 

It’s an oversized, colorful book, likely aimed at ages 5 to 9. It includes what Van Cleave calls “25 essential poems” by Dickinson. The poems include some of the poet’s best-known works – “Success is counted sweetest,” “Because I could not stop for death,” “I never saw a Moor,” and “A Light exists in Spring.”

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

Monday, October 3, 2022

"the Civil War in Mississippi: Major Campaigns and Battles" by Michael Ballard

If there is a state we most associate with the American Civil War, it is Virginia. Numerous battles occurred there; the federal and confederate armies faced each other for four years, most often in a stalemate; and the two enemy capitals ensured that Virginia was a major theater of the war. And it was in Virginia that Robert E. Lee ultimately surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant.  

Some have argued that the United States really won the war farther west – the fall of New Orleans and Vicksburg, the battles around Nashville and Chattanooga, the capture of Atlanta in 1864, and Sherman’s March to the Sea. 


And then there was Mississippi, the second state (after South Carolina) to secede from the Union. The Civil War in Mississippi was more – far more – than Vicksburg. Historian Michael Ballard (1946-2016) tells the story in The Civil War in Mississippi: Major Campaigns and Battles (2011). The book is volume 5 of the Heritage of Mississippi published by the University Press of Mississippi for the Mississippi Historical Society and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Two houses

After Matthew 7:24-27

I’ve always wanted

a beach house, a home

to face the waves,

listening to the sounds

of the gulls and the sea,

embracing the sun and

the sand. Yet I have

a choice, the realtor

says, a house on the beach

or the house on the bluff

above. One has access

to the sea; one sits above

the ocean, set apart,

serenely and securely

above what happens

below. One exposes

itself to the life and

excitement of the sea;

one rests on the rock,

perhaps a bit boring,

always looking 

to the sky. The realtor

says it’s my choice.


Photograph by Durian Bullet via Unsplash. Used with Permission.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Oct. 1, 2022

British author Hilary Mantel – two-time winner of the Booker Prize – died last week at age 70. She had had a number of physical ailments for most of her life. Her three Wolf Hall books are marvelous stories about Henry VIII and his chief man, Thomas Cromwell. Brian Dillon at The Yale Review remembers Mantel as a singular prose artist.  

One vivid childhood memory is my mother taking me to see the Walt Disney movies – BambiDumbo, and Peter Pan, to mention only three. I also remember Pinocchio, the story of the wooden boy brought to life. (For some reason, my favorite character was Jiminy Cricket.) Jeffrey Overstreet at The Rabbit Room remembers Pinocchio, too, and what the story still means to him


Chris Naffziger is a St. Louis photographer who documents the city’s surviving and not-surviving architecture. Recently, he went on vacation to France, and he took some photos of something most tourists miss – the foundations of the Louvre


More Good Reads


News Media


Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann at 100 – Andre Forget at The Bulwark.


Life and Culture


The Politicization of the Department of Justice – Harmeet Dhillon at Imprimis / Hillsdale College.


Western governments should blame themselves for the energy crisis – Derrick Berthelsen at The Critic Magazine.


Financial censorship: The new front in the war on free speech – Freddie Attenborough at The Critic Magazine.




Egg Tempera Underpainting of Zechariah 3 & 4 – Jack Baumgartner at The School of the Transfer of Energy.


Writing and Literature


Flowers and Dust: Summer in The Great Gatsby – Michial Farmer at Front Porch Republic.


What Don Quixote Reveal About an Empire at Its Peak – Giles Tremlett at Literary Hub. 




Say God is the Tough in the Prison Yard – Matthew E. Henry at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).




When “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” Is All the Logic Left – Justin Pythress at Reformation 21.


The Search for Manly Men of God: A History of Muscular Christianity – Greg Morse at Desiring God.


The Danger of Chronological Snobbery to Discipleship – Michael Kelley at Forward Progress.




Anthony Beevor on How Russia's History Explains Putin and the War in Ukraine – David Kindy at HistoryNet.


Lessons from the brink: We should not be complacent about nuclear war – Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski at The Critic Magazine.


British Stuff


Treasures of Guildhall Library – the library of London History – Isabelle Chevallot at English Historical Fiction Authors.


American Stuff


Fort Harrison: What can a little-known fort teach us? – Bert Dunkerly at Emerging Civil War.


Lauren Daigle - You Say / Sonata Path̩tique (Piano/Cello) РThe Piano Guys

 Painting: Lady on a Sofa, oil on canvas (1910) by Harold Gilman (1876-1919).