“Some people got high behind the wheel, drove drunk, went too fast on curb-less country roads that seemed wide-open. They were heedless of pets and wildlife. Heedless of playing children.” Jennie Cesario at Dappled Thoughts has a recollection of a childhood tragedy.
Have you heard of the writers Susannah Rowson, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Mari Sandoz, Anna Yezierska, Nella Larson, and Martha Gellhorn? I remembered Martha Gellhorn as one of the wives of Ernest Hemingway but drew a blank at the other names. David Mamet at National Review talks about great women writers who are forgotten or ignored today but shouldn’t be (they don’t fit the current academic or critical narrative). He also points out a meaning of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabinthat you never hear about.
A jury lobbed a multi-million-dollar grenade at Oberlin College in Ohio, and the story that began in 2016 reads like a contemporary American morality tale. A number of good accounts have been published; one of the best is “Ideology and Facts Collide at Oberlin College” by Daniel McGraw at Quillette. McGraw covered the story from the beginning. The college, one of its dean, and its vice president of communications didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory.
Crampton of the Brighton Chronicle is on the case again – but this time without
having an official reporter’s job.
local theatrical agent has been found in his office, stabbed to death with a
sword. The Chronicle’s theater critic is found there, too – with his hand on
the sword and crying hysterically. The police see an open-and-shut case. Crampton
isn’t so sure and begins investigating. When the Chronicle fires the critic,
Crampton tells his editor that he quits.
reporter learns that a lot of people are thrilled to see the agent dead,
including most of his clients. The case becomes more complicated when Crampton,
leaving a comedy club whose performers vastly outnumber the audience, is set
upon by two American goon-types, wielding a baseball bat and looking to use
Crampton’s head for a ball. They’re only stopped when Crampton’s girlfriend,
Shirley Goldsmith, arrives on the scene, brandishing a fire extinguisher. Who
would hire American mobster types over the death of a British theatrical agent?
Comedy Club Mystery by Peter Bartram is the newest
installment in the Colin Crampton of the Chronicle mysteries, and it’s just as
funny and fast-paced as its predecessors. Set in 1965, in rings with
authenticity of newspapers of the time, and for good reason. Bartram has had a long career in
journalism, including being a reporter on a weekly newspaper, an editor for
newspapers and magazines in London, and freelance journalism – all of which
have been utilized in creating the character of Colin Crampton. Bartram is also
a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.
Bartram fills the story with vivid characters. Frank
Figges is the balding, chain-smoking editor who is constantly running
interference between his staff and his publisher. Crampton’s landlady pounces
faster than a vulture on roadkill. The police captain is a recognizable type,
more than ready to lock the theater critic away because of a bad review the
critic gave his wife. And Crampton himself is the cynical, wisecracking
reporter who barely keeps himself out of the law’s reach.
The Comedy Club Mystery is a fun, entertaining story, and something of
an indulgence for those of us who remember what newspapers and reporters used
to be like.
Roseland, Ph.D., works at the University of Virginia – Charlottesville. She
works in speech and accent modification. She’s been assigned for a year to Blue
Ridge University in Ransom, in Virginia’s Appalachia country. She’ll be working
on a joint project managed by both schools, as well as another project.
colleague has also challenged her to help transform a local Ransom man for an
interview in Chicago in 12 weeks. And it’s a bet – if she wins, she gets to
make a big conference presentation, which will help her immeasurably in getting
a tenured position at the University of Virginia.
brings considerable psychological and spiritual baggage with her. Her father
died in an automobile accident when she was 14; her mother had already been an
alcoholic before his death. She’s still mad at her father for dying, and she’s
remained angry and distant from her mother. She’s also carrying significant prejudice
about the colleagues she’ll be working with and her expected clients, including
the man, Reese Mitchell, who has the Chicago interview.
her impressions conform to her prejudices. Reese Mitchell may be tall and lean
but his bushy beard and his accent, not to mention his grammar, seem like
something out of Deliverance. Only slowly does she look beyond her
prejudices and her ambitions, to learn about Reese the man, his extended
family, his charm, his faith, and his depth.
Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham
is an American Southern Christian take on Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.
Emphasizing the connection are quotations from Pygmalion at the beginning
of each chapter.
is the author of numerous historical and contemporary romance novels, novellas,
and stories. A Twist of Faith is the first in her Mitchell Crossroads
series; the second is Charming the Troublemaker. She and her family live
in Asheville, North Carolina.
a sweet, engaging story, and it fits well with our current national conversation
about coastal America and flyover country and the prejudices of the educated
it is a story, a narrative “in two acts,” that uses the poetic form. The 59
poems are a collective whole, tightly connected to the point where it’s
difficult to imagine any of them apart from their fellow poems. The poems work
like a narrative thread, weaving together people and events into a coherent
whole. The narrative’s two acts read almost like a play, and to emphasize that
connection the work includes a
The second striking feature is what the story is about
– a time of trouble in an occupied country, set in the town of Vasenka. The
occupation might be from the political left or the political right; the
orientation is not important. The occupying soldiers are present; the people
are feeling a kind of suffocation. Freedom and citizens’ rights are no longer functioning
words and ideas. A command is given; all the people obey, except for a child, a
boy who is deaf.
Inspector Nick Dixon of the Avon and Somerset Police has a bad habit. His intuition,
his guesses, his sense of how investigations are going and should go inevitably
turn out to be right.
isn’t a characteristic that endears you to colleagues and superiors, who may be
more concerned about police politics and career advancement.
Dixon is tracking, or trying to track, a serial killer, who’s left a few bodies
in his wake and is intent on taunting the police detective. The investigation
leads into a wholly different kind of case, one seemingly bungled by Dixon’s old
police foe, and then into a case of bribery and corruption in the construction
business. And Dixon keeps sensing and guessing correctly.
the Point by British writer Damien Boyd is the ninth Dick Nixon mystery,
and it may well be the best one yet – which is saying a lot, because there hasn’t
been a miss in the entire series. Boyd uses his own experience as a legal
solicitor and a member of the Crown Prosecution Service to frame his stories,
and then infuses considerable research in just the right way. In this story, for
example, the reader will learn a lot about big construction projects, like
bridges and nuclear power plants, but will never feel like this is a data dump
to impress with how much the author knows.
Boyd has done in these mysteries is no small feat. He’s mixed intriguing
premises, a diabetic hero who often has to stifle himself when he’s dealing
with superiors, the ongoing romance between Dixon and policewoman Jane Winter, and
the fascination of solid police work punctuated by Dixon’s tendency to try the
unexpected and the unorthodox. It’s no surprise that the detective often finds
himself in trouble at police headquarters.
the Point is an exciting, well-researched, and well-written
The first time I tried to visit the Charles Dickens House Museum in London was in 2012. It was the 200thanniversary of his birth. Through an inexplicable act of bad timing, the museum was closed for renovation. But I did go back, four times, in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017. If I return to London, I’ll visit it once again. Yes, I’m a Charles Dickens fan.
Not so fast, David Heddendorf at Front Porch Republic might say. He makes an argument for the fiction of Anthony Trollope over Dickens, and even this Dickens fan thinks he has some good points to make. You can read about it in Puppets and Portraits: Two Victorians.
Josh Hawley, a U.S. Senator from my state of Missouri, barely had time to catch his breath as the state’s new attorney general before he was catapulted into the U.S. Senate. A Republican, he’s struck something of an independent path, criticizing the tech giants before it became fashionable in Washington and opposing a Trump-nominated candidate for a judiciary position. He also surprised a lot of people with his maiden speech in the Senate – calling for a revitalization of the “great American Middle” (guaranteed to offend both parties but especially Republicans).
Imagine my surprise to discover a column this past week in Christianity Today on The Age of Pelagius – on how an ancient heresy continues to plague contemporary culture. And it was written by U.S. Senator Josh Hawley.
Exactly 130 years ago, Vincent Van Gogh was in an insane asylum, and in the space of one week painted five pictures, including two of his most famous works, Starry Night and Olive Trees with Les Apilles. Martin Bailey at The Art Newspaper tells the story of that week.
Craig Stephen Copland is a man with a mission –to write 60 new Sherlock Holmes stories. He’s well on his way. Two of them take Holmes and Dr. John Watson well away from England – to the United States and Japan.
In The Hudson Valley Mystery, Holmes and Watson (ably assisted by Mrs. Watson) travel to New York to investigate what appears to be an open-and-shut case. Charles McCarthy, who had made a considerable fortune in the California Gold Rush, has been murdered, and his nineteen-year-old son James has confessed, pled insanity, and is now confined in a prison for the criminally insane. The widow (and mother) has retained Holmes, not believing that her son could have committed the deed.
Involved are the nearby neighbor and Gold Rush partner John Turner and his daughter, and Holmes and Watson soon learn that few of the people in both families are telling the truth. Something is being hidden, and Holmes is determined to discover what it is.
In The Yellow Farce, Holmes and Watson travel to Japan at the behest (actually, the demand) of Holmes’ brother Mycroft. It is 1905, Japan and Russia are at war, and the Russian fleet is sailing around the world to battle the Japanese fleet. The head of the British legation in Tokyo is married to an American who happens to be a former Russian, and it looks like the woman is up to no good in trying to tilt the British toward supporting the Russians.
Craig Stephen Copland
It’s a vastly different culture from England or the United States, and the detective duo find themselves confronting gun smuggling, spies everywhere, and even what looks to be a planned assassination. The climax will come at the summit of Mount Fuji.
Copland is a longtime fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. After he retired, he set himself a goal of writing a new Sherlock Holmes mystery related to and inspired by each of the 60 stories published by Conan Doyle. He’s also written monographs on Holmes and two non-Holmes mystery stories featuring a detective in the Old American West, the Reverend Ezekiel Black. He currently lives and writes in Toronto, Buenos Aires, New York, and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
The stories are great fun, but readers should not expect an exact reproduction of Holmes and Watson. Copland’s Holmes make mistakes, and he often has to directed on to a better path by Watson and his wife. That said, it makes for a more realistic detective, one that is still paying homage to the original stories.
Jim Burnett has written a considerable number of novels set in the Old West, and now he’s published a collection of short stories, also set in the Old West and with a strong theme of faith. When Winter Breaks Softyincludes five stories that are simple and straightforward tales of good, evil, and redemption.
In “Blind Love,” a young couple have struggled for years to have a family. When a baby finally does come, their joy is cut short when they learn their little boy is blind. Not helping at all is the young woman’s mother, who’s constantly criticizing and belittling her daughter.
“Fiona’s Redemption” is a kind of Hatfield-McCoy or Romeo and Juliet kind of story. Two families have hated each other for a long time, and one family in particular has more than its fair share of bad men and bullies. Fiona Darcy finds herself attacked and raped by Clay Miller, an attack that leads to the birth of a child. It will be another Miller, however, who will fall in love with Fiona.
In “Fit to be Tied,” the Jackson family has four boys until the birth of their daughter Annabelle. They live on a big ranch in Wyoming, and as Annabelle grows up, she takes special delight in aggravating Danny Elder, the son of the ranch foreman. They always seem at odds, until an abandoned calf changes their lives.
“Maria’s Stubborn Love” is set in Texas. Maria Sanchez and her mother work at the Lazy D Ranch, where they are both the occasional object of ridicule by the ranch hands because of their Mexican heritage. But the son of the ranch owner will discover a very different kind of relationship with the beautiful girl.
“The Man Behind the Hammer” is Jess Slade, who once had been a farmer but had turned to blacksmithing after the accidental deaths of his wife and young son in a wagon crash. He’s never gotten over their deaths, and he seems to take his anger and guilt out on the iron and meatal he’s pounding in the shop. But Sarah Jane Nickels, the daughter of a cattle buyer and entrepreneur, has set her sights on the blacksmith.
The stories of When Winter Breaks Softly seem a bit old-fashioned, but that’s what gives them their charm. Good and evil are clearly drawn, and broken people find redemption and love.
Herod the Great (74/73 B.C. – circa 4 B.C.) lived 2,000 years ago, but he still causes arguments among historians. He built the second temple in Jerusalem, the port at Caesarea, fortresses, and palaces. He reorganized Judea’s social hierarchy. He rather artfully managed his Roman overlords.
Yet he was among the most violent and ruthless of kings, including within his own family. He’s most infamously associated with the slaughter of the innocents, the killing of the young children and babies to eliminate the king foretold to take his place. Some scholars doubt that story, recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew, but Herod certainly had the reputation to be credibly accused of it.
It’s 1938. Eighteen-year-old Elenor Cardew lives on a farm in Cornwall with her two brothers. Life is mostly drudgery, with her brothers’ expectations of her central role of taking care of them. And then an aunt, her dead mother’s sister, requires her to come to Coventry to take care of her as her health is failing.
At first, the aunt and her attitude seem little better than that of her brothers. A couple, George and Rose Sherbourne, and their five-year-old daughter Rose live in the home, Victoria serving as housekeeper and George behaving boorishly on a good day. He’s a tutor, and he’s often away. Rose, however, is bubbly and almost irrepressible, although she’s treated rather coldly by her parents.
As the months pass, the aunt warms to Elenor and arranges for her to buy some decent clothes. The aunt’s sternness gives way to genuine affection. Elenor grows close to Rose, while George and Victoria remain somewhat odd. And the clock is ticking toward September 1939 and the prospect of war. Elenor meets a young Canadian airman stationed near Coventry and finds herself falling in love. The aunt dies in the spring of 1939, and Elenor learns she’s her aunt’s heir.
The city centre of Coventry after the Move,ber 1940 blitz
The war starts; Elenor’s brother both enlist in the army and are caught at Dunkirk. Assigned to be the remained guard fighting the Germans while the main army escapes, neither brother returns. Elenor goes back to Cornwall to care for the farm and undertake a general rehabilitation of the property, farmhouse, and farming practices. Her brothers left a mess.
Coventry experiences the firebombing of November 1940; only Rose survives of her family. She’s brought by a friend to Cornwall; Elenor had been listed as next of kin. It’s after she arrives that Elenor discovers the little girl carries a dangerous secret with her.
The Secret Orphanby Glynis Peters tells the story of Elenor and Rose, and what happens when Elenor determines to protect the child at all costs. It also tells the story of Coventry, of life on an English farm during wartime, the ongoing prospect of enemy bombing, even on farms, and the romance between and English girl and a Canadian airman.
The novel is Peters’ first, and when it was published in 2018, it reached several international bestseller lists. The author lives in Dovercourt, Essex, England. A grandson lives in Canada – and that’s why she introduced a Canadian pilot as one of the novel’s characters.
It’s a good story of England before and during wartime. It might have done to exclude a character or two; the Land Girl assigned to the farm was interesting but doesn’t really advance the narrative. And an epilogue that ended as the book began – with an elderly Rose reliving some of her memories – would have tied it together. But The Secret Orphan is still an enjoyable story.