Monday, February 28, 2022

“Passage to Inis Mór” by Brian O’Raleigh

John Clayton was born Conor O’Rourke. When he was 8, his father was killed in an accident, while driving them both to a special event. His devastated mother left Ireland for Australia, where she eventually married and renamed her mother, as if to eradicate any connection to Ireland. 

Clayton is now in his 30s, with a family of his own. But it’s an estranged family. His wife has left with their son for France; John is too caught up in becoming a success in his advertising and marketing business to give his family the time they deserve. The business is failing; he’s about to lose both his car and his home. And then a call comes from his Irish grandmother, dying at her home on Inis Mór, one of the Aran Islands near Galway off the west coast of Ireland. 


John goes to Ireland. But weather delays prevent him from reaching his grandmother before she dies. She had something to tell him, and something to ask his forgiveness for. And neither he, nor anyone who knew her, knows what it is. He thinks at first that he call sell the property he’s inherited and save his business and home in Australia, but her will prohibits a sale for two years. With nothing but disaster facing him in Australia, he decides to stay for a short while. And John Clayton begins to return to Conor O’Rourke, aided by an old man he meets, an old man who knew his father and tells him of the gift his father had, the storytelling gift. And Conor will discover that he, too, has the gift. And he might just save himself.


Brian O'Raleigh

Passage to Inis Mór
by Brian O’Raleigh is Conor O’Rourke’s story, and a wonderful story it is. Conor and his new friend, whose name he never learns, work on restoring a fishing boat, a boat built by Conor’s grandfather and sailed by Conor’s father. And Conor will come to find himself and learn who he is, the gift he’s ignored, and the possible way back to his family.


O’Raleigh has also published two memoirs, The Boy in the Boat and Waking Walter; a poetry collection, Poetry of Inis Mór, and the non-fiction book Quest for Meaning: The Magical Power of Purpose. He lives in Australia, Ireland, and the island of Bali. 


Passage to Inis Mór is a story of Ireland, its history, and a man who finds his way back home.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The garden at night

After Luke 22:39-45

He withdraws into the garden,

separates himself from the rest,

a stone’s throw away, close

but with space, with privacy,

for prayer.


the most alone for all time.

He knows the cup is 

before him;

if it were his choice,

he’d refuse it, have it

removed, have it

taken away.

But it is not his choice;

the cup remains. Even as 

the angel comes

to strengthen,

to bring him strength.

he prays in agony,

agony of spirit,

agony of heart,

agony of mind,

agony of soul,

agony sufficient

to draw blood.


Photograph by Olivier Miche via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Feb. 26, 2022

The week seems bookended by international crises.  

Last weekend, Canada moved on its protesting truckers, laying bare what many have often observed about elite opinion in the United States: when the elites like your protest, they join with you. When they don’t, or feel vaguely threatened by your protest, they respond in often drastic and heavy-handed ways. Damon Linker at The Week discusses how the Freedom Convoy scrambled the left’s view of history.


By the end of this week, Russia was invading the Ukraine. Vladimir Putin didn’t bother to invent even false pretenses for his actions; he just did it. Like many dictators, he moves when he perceives weakness (we forget his snatching of the Crimea in 2014). Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative turns to a Russian prophet – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – and his words on the Ukraine Crisis.


I was a college sophomore studying for exams when I picked up a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and started reading. Bad timing on my part; I couldn’t put it down. Rand has always been associated with far right and libertarian beliefs. Not so fast, says a new book by Aaron Weinacht. He takes a look at the intellectual father of the Russian Revolution, a writer named Nicolai Chernyshevskii, whose really bad novel What is to Be Done? inspired a generation of nihilists, and he says there’s more than a strong connection between the two writers. Paul Krause at Front Porch Republic reviews the book. (I read the Chernyshevskii book in college, too, and I can testify that it was very easy to put down.)


More Good Reads




Another Year Under the Sun: Learning Wisdom from a Long Pandemic – Matt McCullough at Desiring God.


Dances with Wolves: Recognizing False Teachers – Clint Archer at The Cripplegate.


None of Us Will Ever Forget What You Did – Tim Challies.


Life and Culture


The Flight of Big Tech – Joel Kotkin at Tablet Magazine. 


Herald of a new politics: The old coalitional politics of left and right have given way to tribal identity – Sebastian Milbank a The Critic Magazine.


The Information Superhighway is a Dead End – Chris Martin at Terms of Service.


The Fight for Curriculum Transparency – Christopher Rufo at CityJournal. 


Sick with guilt: On the loss of purpose in cultural institutions – New Criterion.




Mouse – Jodie Hollander at The Hudson Review.


Lines to My Father – Countee Cullen at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Finding the Right Angle: Considering the perspective of poet and painter David Jones – Jack Hanson at Lapham’s Quarterly.


American Stuff


Underground Railroad secrets revealed with drones, lasers and radar – Mindy Weisberger at Live Science.


Writing and Literature


Contemplative Realism: The Germinal Yearnings of a New Literary Movement – Joshua Hren at Mere Orthodoxy.


The lady vanishes: TV adaptations have masked the complexity and skill of Agatha Christie – Jeremy Black at The Critic Magazine.


News Media


A Word from Solomon about Social Media – Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition. 


A Bird Without Wings – Celtic Thunder

Painting: The Messages Read, oil on canvas by James Tissot (1836-1902).

Friday, February 25, 2022

Short statement

After Luke 22:39-45

It is a short statement

he makes, as the end

draws near and disciples

gather round, a simple

statement that he is

to be counted among

the transgressors, he is

to be numbered among

the criminals.

Transgressors and

criminals often face

death. But here, 

in this court case, 

the sentence will be

meted out to fulfill

the prophecy, to fulfill

the word of the prophet:

he poured out his soul

to death,

he bore the sin of many

to death.


Photograph by Markus Spiske via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

"Closer to the Dead" by Scott Hunter

Detective Chief Inspector Brendan Moran and his team at the Thames Valley Police have been given a cold case, a 40-year-old cold case to be precise. In 1981, a young woman working at a Royal Air Force base was waiting to be picked up for a babysitting job for the family of a senior RAF officer. She never made it; she was stabbed to death and her body found the next day. The police investigation at the time went nowhere.  

A related team, under Moran’s former subordinate Charlie Parker, is trying to find Connie Chan, the murderous villain of The Cold Light of Death was caught at the end of that story but managed to escape from her hospital bed. What Moran, Parker, and their respective teams don’t know is that Chan is out for revenge – against Moran – and has hacked her way into a team member’s laptop – and thus the police system. She’s tracking the inside accounts of the police investigation, as well as private, non-investigation emails, and she knows exactly how she’s going to extract revenge against Moran.


What neither Chan nor the police teams see coming is the convergence of the two separate investigations.


Scott Hunter

Closer to the Dead
 is the ninth Irish Detective story by British crime writer Scott Hunter. It’s an action-packed police procedural that, like its predecessors, sees its police team members facing as much physical harm as the murderer’s victims and intended victims. 


The “Irish Detective” series includes Black DecemberCreatures of DustDeath Walks Behind YouA Crime for All SeasonsSilent as the DeadGone Too Soon, The Enemy Inside, When Stars Grow Dark, The Cold Light of Death andCloser to the Dead. Hunter has also published the novels The TrespassThe Ley Lines of LushburyLong Goodbyes, and The Serpent & the Slave, and the memoir Rattle and Drum.  In addition to writing fiction, Hunter is an IT consultant and musician. He lives with his family in England.


Closer to the Dead maintains the same high quality and fast-paced narratives of the previous Brendan Moran stories. And we see a lead detective struggling with his own personal issues and those of the people he’s coming to care for.




My review of Black December by Scott Hunter.


My review of Creatures of Dust by Scott Hunter.


My review of Death Walks Behind You by Scott Hunter.


My review of Silent as the Dead by Scott Hunter.


My review of Gone Too Soon and A Crime for All Seasons by Scott Hunter.


The Enemy Inside by Scott Hunter.


When Starts Grow Dark by Scott Hunter.


The Cold Light of Death by Scott Hunter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

When You Hit the Writing Wall

I’ve learned there is more than one kind of writing block. 

I’ve been blessed with never to have experienced writer’s block, that immobilization that often afflicts writers and stops them cold from writing another word. I’ve sympathized with people who’ve had it, and I know it’s real. They stare at a blank page or screen, and – nothing.


The sources of writer’s block are legion – stress, tension, deadlines, family tragedy, accidents, illness, writing one’s way into a dead end with no resolution, finances, success of a novel (creating high expectations for the next one), the end or beginning of a relationship, and more. F. Scott Fitzgerald had it. So did Herman Melville. So did composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. Writer’s block is so well known and so well-documented that there are scores of books on the subject, classes you can take, and writing coaches who can help guide you through it. 


Most writers experience it to one degree or another.


To continue reading, please see my post today at American Christian Fiction Writers.


Photograph by Ryan Snaadt via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Fairies, Lovers, and Warriors: “Book of Celtic Verse” by John Matthews

Writer John Matthews has published more than 90 books on the history, culture, and literature of Britain. He’s written novels, short stories, poetry, children’s books, histories, and cultural studies. He’s especially well-known for his works on King Arthur and the Holy Grail, and he’s often served as consultant for movies and television programs. With his wife, Caitlyn, he’s published numerous other works. 

Matthews has previously studied Celtic literature, and he now is turning his publishing attention to Celtic poetry. The modern mind almost inevitably associates “Celt” with “Irish,” and for good historical reasons. But the Celts emerged as a group of tribes in central Europe, and at one time they occupied the geographies we know today as Romania, Hungary, Austria, southern Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, northern Italy, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Turkey, as well as the British Isles. 


Today, Celtic heritage is most pronounced in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany in France, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man. And it is from those areas that Matthews draws the poems he’s collected in The Book of Celtic Verse: A Treasury of Poetry, Dreams, & Visions.


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

Monday, February 21, 2022

“This Much Huxley Knows” by Gail Aldwin

Huxley Griffiths is a seven-year-old with an ability to play with words and expressions that turns playfulness into insight. “Brexit,” for example, becomes “Breaks-it.” Like most children, he hears and see far more than his parents or other adults expect. He’s bullied at school and gets into trouble for defending himself; yes, you shouldn’t bite but that can happen when you’re in a headlock. 

He's apperceptive child; he knows one friend is a close friend when they’re home but a distant acquaintance when they’re at school. He attends church with his mother but takes note of the fact his father doesn’t come with them. He also notes that his father tries to compete, usually unsuccessfully, with the father of his best friend. And he’s not sure what his mothers are up to with massaging things like stretchmarks. What are stretchmarks? 


And Huxley is trying to be a friend to Leonard, the older man who navigates via motorized mobility scooter, but it’s difficult. Leonard is bullied by teenagers and suspected of pedophilia by the adults. No one, except for Huxley, suspects Leonard is lonely and needs a friend.  


Gail Aldwin

Huxley is the central character of This Much Huxley Knows by British author Gail Aldwin. It’s the story of a boy trying to navigate an adult world, seeing and experiencing the stained relationship between his parents, looking for friends, trying to help an older man without his parents finding out, and stepping his way through school, an unsympathetic teacher, bullies, and fair-weather friends. And all he really wants is a baby brother or sister. 


Aldwin in a writer and poet living in Dorset in the United Kingdom. Her novels include The String Games and Pandemonium. She’s published a collection of short fiction, Paisley Shirt, and a poetry chapbook, adversaries / comrades. Her work has also been included in several anthologies.


This Much Huxley Knows is an engaging story of a boy who’s smarter than his years might indicate, a boy who’s looking for friendship and acceptance. And this story of a boy could stand as the story of all children and all adults, looking to find their place in the world. 

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Arms and the man

After Luke 22:39-45

They were armed.

We should know that,

after all, a servant’s ear

was cut off in the garden,

but it seems a surprise

to consider that disciples

carried arms, swords,

mentioned (both times)

in or near the garden,

the beginning of the end

of the beginning. Disciples

carried weapons. Why is

that so surprising to know

that they were armed,

likely for protection?

Perhaps because he



Photograph by Andre Pfeifer via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Feb. 19, 2022

If there was ever an event that captured what the culture wars are all about, it’s been the Canadian truckers’ protest of recent weeks – and the response of Canada’s prime minister. N.S. Lyons writes about it at length with “Reality Honks Back,” one of the best analyses of the culture wars I’ve ever seen. And Canadian pastor Tim Challies offers some typically well-considered thoughts on the protest. 

One hundred years ago, two things happened that transformed literature and the literary world. Ulysses by James Joyce was finally published (by a Paris bookshop), and T.S. Eliot published The Waste Land. John Self at The Critic Magazine calls it “Literature’s Year Zero.”


In September, 2012, my wife and I stood on The Strand near Trafalgar Square, watching (and waving our British flags) as London celebrated the British Olympic and Paralympic teams with a big parade. We stood directly across from the Charing Cross rail station. What we didn’t know is that the station occupies a physical piece of London history – the Hungerford Market. A London Inheritance has the story of the market, which opened in 1833, and the Hungerford Bridge, something of a technological marvel of its time.


More Good Reads




Intellectual Freedom in Medieval Universities – James Hankins at First Things Magazine.


Why is "Re-Converting" Easier than Repenting? – Samuel James at Insights.


The Music of Heaven – Tim Challies.


What Does ‘Deconstruction’ Even Mean? – Jon Bloom at Desiring God.


Life and Culture


Tilting at Windmills: The “Threat” of Christian Nationalism – Mark David Hall at Freedom Center.


A retired 3-star general explains ‘critical military theory’ – Gregory Newbold at Microsoft Start.


What happens if government unions get control of an entire state? – Mailee Smith at Real Clear Policy.


Studies in a Dying Culture #1 – David Rieff at Desire and Fate.


When Activists Do History – Alex DiPrima at The London Lyceum. 


The Guardians in Retreat: The Art Institute of Chicago Redefines Its Purpose – Heather Mac Donald at CityJournal.




Where Did I Lose My Mind? – Richard Buchanan at Society of Classical Poets.


Salt waves and red rowans – Jane Dougherty at Jane Dougherty Writes. 


American Stuff


The Myth of Mrs. Bixby’s Letter – Chris Mackowski at Emerging Civil War.


Writing and Literature


The Irresistible Rebellious Irreverence at the Heart of Noir – Michael Ledwidge at CrimeReads.


Searching for the Mythical Viking North of Yore – Bernd Brenner at Literary Hub.


Grace – City Alight

Painting: Lady in an Interior, oil on canvas by Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (1863-1935).

Friday, February 18, 2022

The best to come

After John 14:1-14

Believe as you’ve

been taught, believe

in the One who’s

taught you, believe

and do what I have

done, do the works

that I have done,

and even greater

than these, even

when I am gone.

Anything you ask

in my name, anything

at all, I will do

for you, will be done

for you, and the reason

is glory, glory

to the father,

which means glory

to the son, it is

all the same,

because the father 

is the son

is the father

is the spirit

is the son

is the father,

are one.


Photograph by Karl Magnuson via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

"Murder in the Mine" by Roy Lewis

Inspector John Crow of Scotland Yard is called to a murder case in Wales. A woman’s body has been found at the bottom of a mine shaft, and it’s a fairly recent death. Crow is told by his boss that he’s being called in as a consultant; he won’t be in charge of the investigation. And Crow knows that will inevitably cause problems. 

The local police are welcoming and accommodating, up to a point. Crow begins to trace the dead woman and learns she’s from the Durham area in Yorkshire. She’d also developed something of a reputation with having an eye to the main chance. And she’s been entangled in Durham with a situation that sailed close to fraud.


But there are connections, too, in Wales. Too many connections. She’d employed a private detective to find her husband. A former lover lives there. Crow and a local detective finally confront whom they believe is the likely murderer. And they hear a confession. The local detective is thrilled; Crow is dissatisfied. Something is wrong with the confession.


Roy Lewis

Murder in the Mine
 is the fourth Inspector John Crow mystery by Roy Lewis, and it may be his best in the series yet. Lewis takes the reader into a tangled web of past and present, suspect and hidden motives, and few people being what they appear to be at first sight. It’s an intriguing and highly satisfying mystery.


Lewis is the author of some 60 other mysteries, novels, and short story collections. His Inspector Crow series includes A Lover Too ManyMurder in the MineThe Woods MurderError of Judgment, and Murder for Money, among others. The Eric Ward series, of which The Sedleigh Hall Murder is the first (and originally published as A Certain Blindness in 1981), includes 17 novels. The Arnold Landon series is comprised of 22 novels. Lewis lives in northern England.  





A Lover Too Many by Roy Lewis.


Error of Judgment by Roy Lewis.


Murder for Money by Roy Lewis.

A Cotswolds Murder by Roy Lewis

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

"Terms of Service" by Chris Martin

Chris Martin works at Moody Publishers as a content marketing editor and a consultant in social media, marketing, and communications. He has a deep background in social media and digital content strategy. He perhaps best known for his blog, Terms of Service, where he writes thoughtfully and with great insight about topics as diverse as the metaverse, TikTok, Wordle, and the impact of social media on society and culture. 

His new book is entitled, appropriately enough, Terms of Service: The Real Cost of Social Media. The book is a primer on social media and the internet but is also more than that – a look at how the internet shapes us and what can we do about it. And his solutions are not “let’s pass a law” type of prescriptions, but instead what individuals can do themselves.

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Poetic Voices: River Dixon and Thomas Colquith

New collections by two very different poets, River Dixon and Thomas Colquith, deal with a number of subject and ideas, but I found myself pairing them together with how they explore the similar and related themes of regret and loss. To be sure, they deal with different types of regret and loss, and they deal with them in very different ways – Dixon with a what-might-have-been approach and Colquith with a more hopeful understanding. But both express a depth of feeling, and sometimes raw emotion and pain, that are gripping and almost riveting. 

The differences between the two poets are obvious. Dixon writes in free verse; Colquith is more formalist but employs free verse as well. Dixon’s poems tend to be shorter and almost journalistic, pared down to essentials. Colquith’s poems also tell stories but add more description and detail. Dixon often forgoes punctuation; Colquith does not. Dixon sometimes writes poems in all lower-case; Colquith is more conventional with capitalization. 


The similarities between the two are in the themes and the emotions their poems evoke.

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

Monday, February 14, 2022

"Nathan Coulter" by Wendell Berry

Reading Nathan Coulter by Wendell Berry (born 1934) reminded me of reading A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean (1902-1990). Two brothers, flyfishing, and a father are to Maclean what two brothers, farming, and a father are to Berry. I wondered which book might have influenced the other, until I saw the publication dates. Nathan Coulterwas published in 1960. A River Runs Through It was published in 1976. 

Nathan Coulter, Berry’s first novel, is a coming-of-age story of the title character. The story occurs in small-town and rural Kentucky from roughly 1929 to 1940. The Coulters are tobacco farmers, and Nathan’s family lives nearby his grandparents and Uncle Burley. The family is close-knit, until the death of Nathan’s mother sends the boys into the arms and the home of their grandparents. Their father is barely able to cope with his grief. 


Nathan and his older brother Thomas are inseparable, until Thomas discovers girls. And then they become more like boys living in the same house. As the brother being “left behind,” Nathan feels the loss most keenly. But it is a tobacco harvest that amplifies the loss and makes it irrevocable, a harvest that becomes a competition between Nathan’s father and his sons and then something far more between his father and his older brother. And in a brief moment, Nathan will see everything change irrevocably. 


Wendell Berry about the time he wrote "Nathan Coulter"

Nathan Coulter
 is a story of family, of family farming, and especially of place. The family is rooted in place (a common theme in Berry’s stories, novels, and poems). The disruption of place will bring the disruption of family.


Berry is a poet, novelist, essayist, environmentalist, and social critic. His fiction, both novels and stories, are centered in the area he calls Port William, Kentucky, on the Ohio River. He’s won a rather astounding number of awards, prizes, fellowships, and recognitions. He lives on a farm in Kentucky.


With Nathan Coulter, Berry has written a beautiful novel. It tells it story, but it also tells a broader story. If you’ve grown up in the South or even the Midwest, the Coulter family is not recognizable; it’s like the family you grew up in.




My review of Berry’s That Distant Land.


Wendell Berry and the Land.


My review of Berry’s Jayber Crow.


Wendell Berry and This Day: Poems at Tweetspeak Poetry.


Wendell Berry and Terrapin: Poems at Tweetspeak Poetry.


Wendell Berry’s Our Only World.


The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry.