Saturday, April 30, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - April 30, 2022

If no one noticed before, it’s clear now that Russia has weaponized energy it its war on Ukraine. Europe has certainly taken notice; Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria and Germany is now taking steps to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. The war has injected a healthy dose of realism into Europe’s energy policy, writes Peter Cleppe at The Critic Magazine. That realism, however, hasn’t made its way across the Atlantic. 

Author and speaker Randy Alcorn. Director of Eternal Perspectives Ministries, lost his wife Nanci last month after an extended illness. He writes about mourning her, but he reminds us all of what death is for the Christian: Dying is but going home.


E.C.R. Lorac (1894-1958) was a mystery novelist whose life and writing career spanned the Golden Age of Mystery. The British Library Crime Classics has republished some of her books, and editor Martin Edwards tells us they’ve gone a step farther with the well-known series. They’re publishing one of Lorac’s unpublished novels, the manuscript for which was recently found. It’s called Two-Way Murder.


More Good Reads


Writing and Literature


How to Write History While It’s Happening: Lessons from Tacitus – Richard Cohen at Literary Hub.


The Jovial Father and Tom Bombadil – C.R. Wiley at The Imaginative Conservative.


The Hard Stories of Katerine Peterson – Jessica Burke at Story Warren.


British Stuff


The Tower of Old London – Spitalfields Life. 




War without end: Putin’s Syria model – David Smith at The Critic Magazine.


The fate of the Moskva: The sinking of the decaying Soviet-era warship symbolizes Russia’s military malaise – Peter Caddick-Adams at The Critic Magazine.


The World Order Reset: China’s Ukraine Catastrophe, the Rise of Trans-Atlantis, and a New Age of Power – N.S. Lyons at The Upheaval.




The Tale of Two Kingdoms – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.


Revitalising the West – Marc Sidwell at The Critic Magazine.


John and Amy’s Kitchen Table (and what it says about worship) – Stephen Mcalpine.


Words in the Dark – Kara Dedert at Tabletalk Magazine.


Dispelling Unbelief – Andrew Kerr at Gentle Reformation.




Counting Snails – Todd Wedel at Story Warren.


Proper Poetical Education – Peter Wayne Moe at The Millions.


Cold Pleasure – Curtis Yarvin at Imperial Melodies.


Life and Culture


Injured Parties: Considering the Wider Effects of Harmful Speech – Alan Jacob at The Hedgehog Review.


Come What May – We are Messengers

Painting: A young woman reading on a balcony, oil on canvas by Carl Schmitz-Pleis (1877-1943).

Friday, April 29, 2022

Broadcast news

After Luke 24:1-12

The women return, murmuring

among themselves, grappling

with the shock of the stone

rolled away, an empty tomb,

dazzling messengers saying

he was not there but risen.

They speak the news, meet

denial (what do women know?),

find accusations of idle talk,

fake news, ridiculed

in disbelief of what they say,

what they say they’ve seen.

Except for one, only one 

who runs to see, to prove

one way or the other, and

he finds the broadcast news

to be good.


Photograph by Kane Reinholdtsen via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

"Or Else" by Joe Hart

Alan Drake is a writer of thrillers. He’s returned from New York City to his hometown in upstate New York to care for his father, who’s been diagnosed as being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Drake moves into a house across the street from his father. His mother died some years before; his divorced younger sister Kelly lives in a nearby community with her two young daughters. 

The town is filled with memories good and bad. His youngest sister Emma committed suicide here. His primary memory of the local Catholic church his family attended is being locked in the cavernous basement by his older brother, for which his mother blamed him. The neighbrohood has something else – his childhood friend Rachel Barren and her verbally abusive husband David, with their two young boys. He and Rachel fall into an easy friendship, and then fall into an affair. That is, until; Alan finds an anonymous note, telling him to stay away from Rachel. 

Joe Hart

One night, Alan hears a bang at two in the morning. Across the street, his father hears it, too. The bang turns out to be a gunshot; David is found dead, and Rachel and the two boys are missing. The police investigation goes nowhere. Alan is determined to find Rachel and her children, or at least find out what’s happened. He knows that if the police find out about the affair, he’d be Suspect No. 1.


And that takes the writer on his own journey of chases in the dark, financial skullduggery, the death of a beloved family friend, and an almost-successful attempt to kill him and his father. 

Or Else by Joe Hart is the story of Alan and his investigation. It’s an excellent fast-paced, layered story of love, family drama, the past haunting the present, and murder.


Hart is the author of 14 other novels, several novellas, and two short story collections. He lives in Minnesota. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

"We the Fallen People" by Robert Tracey McKenzie

The calls for a new Constitution, changing the Supreme Court, cumulative voting, and doing away with the Electoral College seems to happen whenever a particular political viewpoint or candidate fails to prevail. We’re told none of this works any more, that the founders used flawed or biased reasoning, and that direct democracy is the preferred alternative. 

What most people don’t know, or have forgotten, says Robert Tracey McKenzie, is the founders considered direct democracy and saw what problems it could lead to. They understood the tyranny of the majority. They knew from history how easily democracy can fail. They were trying to deal with an immediate failure in democracy – the Articles of Confederation. And what they crafted with a republican form of government for the United States, with its three branches and its notable checks and balances.


McKenzie, the Arthur Holmes Chair of Faith and Learning and professor of history at Wheaton College in suburban Chicago, also argues something else, something fundamental to understanding why the founders did what they did (and how they’ve been proven right over and over again). He says that the founders knew that people were fallen, that people were not inherently good, that, if given the chance, would inevitably suborn the common good to their own self-interest. As Christians would say, man is a sinner.


The founders, he says, were not so much focused on creating a God-inspired document in the Constitution as they were a mankind-aware document. They knew what, if left to their own devices, what people could be capable of. 


Robert Tracey McKenzie

In We the Fallen People: The Founders and the Future of American Democracy, McKenzie makes his well-researched case. He concisely recounts the history of how the Constitution was written, and why. He explains how the presidency of Andrew Jackson clearly demonstrates how majorities can become tyrannical – with the examples of the U.S. Bank and the removal of the Cherokees from their native lands in Georgia. He reviews what Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19thcentury writer about and admirer of America, really had to say. And he offers ideas on how we Americans today can go about renewing our thinking about government, republicanism, democracy, and the Constitution. 


We the Fallen People makes a strong case. It might have been stronger if McKenzie had been less dismissive of some of his fellow historians, and if he’d examined more closely what happens when the problem is less tyrannical majorities and more political, social, and economic elites.


McKenzie has also published Lincolnites and RebelsA Little Book for New Historians, and The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History.


McKenzie’s argument is a somewhat brave one to make. We have a long history of believing that Americans are special because Americans are good, and our presidents and others have spent an enormous amount of time telling us that. Not to mention that we like being told we’re basically good. The reality is that we’re not inherently good, and the Founders of our country knew that and planned a government accordingly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Poets and Poems: Andrea Potos and "Marrow of Summer"

It’s somewhat obvious to say that a poet writes with precision, defined as a carefully chosen word that delivers exactly the meaning the poet intends.  But rarely have I read a collection of poems in which the poet’s precision in constant in poem after poem as Marrow of Summer by Andrea Potos. In this latest collection, Potos has written 52 generally short poems, many of them about relationships – and her precision packs a wallop.  

Perhaps it is the brevity of each poem – very few longer than 15 lines – that requires succinct and precise words. One thinks of Emily Dickinson often while reading these poems, and, in fact, two of them cites Dickinson. But Potos also cites her inspiration as John Keats. One poem is about the poet (“Conversing with Keats”) welcoming her to the house in which he lived in Camden, London near Hampstead Heath. If you’ve been there, or even seen photos of the house, her poem becomes a piece of visual reality.

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

Monday, April 25, 2022

"Above the Rain" by Víctor del Árbol

How does one describe a book like Above the Rain? A literary novel that dances closely to a crime story? A crime novel as good as any literary novel? A story that starts slowly and then takes such hold of you that you can’t let it go? A story about aging and the past and memory, with an undercurrent of violence and darkness? 

This novel by Víctor del Árbol, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman.


The characters live in different places in Europe – Tangiers; Seville, Madrid, and Barcelona in Spain; and Malmo in Sweden. A brief glance tells you they have no connections to each other. But as you read, you discover that, while several different stories are being told, they are related. And they are converging. The connections become gradually apparent over the course of this almost-600-page novel.


Miguel and Helena are 70-somethings who first meet in a retirement home. Miguel has reluctantly agreed to living there after he’s diagnosed with early very dementia, with a prognosis of two to three years before it changes into full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease. Helena is a widow, her husband having died some years before. They both have back stories. Each is a parent of a single child. Miguel’s daughter is married to a man he can’t stand, a serial abuse whose uncontrollable rages leads to beating his wife. Helena is haunted by her relationships with her dead husband, her son, and her best friend. But only slowly do we learn all of the details for both characters. 

Victor del Arbol

The Swedish story concerns a crime boss, simply known as Sture, his wife and stepson, and the family of one of the prostitutes working for him named Yasmina. She has one basic job: stay aware of what a deputy police chief is up to regarding Sture. Unfortunately, she’s also fallen in love with the policeman. And her family, immigrants from North Africa, go back decades with Sture. Her grandfather owes Sture a debt, and part of paying it off has been Yasmina’s prostitution. 


As the ties and connections start to be made, the reader sees not many stories but ultimately only one, a story about the past never really staying the past and how parents can haunt their children. It’s a hard story at times; some of the violence is graphic. But it is also a compelling story, a story that slowly gets its fingers around your throat and then doesn’t let go.


Del Árbol has also published the novels Breaking Through the WoundA Million DropsThe Sadness of the Samurai, and The Heart Tastes Bitter. From 1992 to 2012, he was an officer with the Catalan police force. He’s won several European prizes for his work: the Nadal prize, the Tiflos Prize, and the Prix du Polar Europeen. A Million Drops was named a Notable Book of the Year in 2018 by the Washington Post

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Truth dazzles

After Luke 24:1-12

The messengers dazzle 

in their brightness,

their message a meteor:

He is not here,

He is risen.

It is the first proclamation

of the billions to come,

a shooting star to remind

them of what they were

told, what they heard

before, what he would do,

that he would rise.

The living is not to be

found among the dead.

You knew this.

He said this, 

that he would die,

that three days pass,

that he would rise.

The messengers dazzle

in their brightness,

the message even more.

It’s early dawn.


Photograph by Wonderlane via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Saturday Good Reads – April 23, 2022

You would have to be a true Ringhead to buy the new illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings, published by the Folio Society. Limited to 1,000 sets, it’s a cool $1,500. Alan Lee is the illustrator, and he describes what the experience was like.  

It is a staple of every writing book, workshop, lesson, and speech about writing fiction: Show, don’t tell. Well, yes, except virtually every successful writer has often told, not shown. Lincoln Michael at Counter Craft takes a hard look at the myth


Samuel James made a few waves this week with an article at The Gospel Coalition. He put a stake in the ground: “Evangelicalism is decadent.” Then he asked the question: “So, now what?”


More Good Reads


American Stuff


Occupied Cities of the South: New Orleans – Caroline Davis at Emerging Civil War.


From Lincoln to King – Wilson Shirley at American Purpose.


The Reaper Man and the Meeting at Philippi – a Civil War Era Church Battle Turns into a Confrontation over Slavery and Union – Max Longley at Emerging Civil War.


How the Transcendentalists Shaped American Art, Philosophy and Spirituality – Dominic Green at Literary Hub.




Easter Monday – Cynthia Erlandson at Society of Classical Poets.




Casualties of War – Robert Ginzburg at Quillette.


Lesya Ukrainka: Ukraine’s Beloved Writer and Activist – Emily Zarevich at JSTOR Daily.


Writing and Literature


Why do we keep worn-out books? – Laurie Hertzel at Star Tribune.


How Did Shakespeare Kill (And Heal) His Characters? – Kathryn Harkup at Literary Hub.


Becoming Boethius: The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis – Jason Baxter at Church Life Journal.


News Media


Washington Post seeks brave, skilled reporter to venture into mysterious heart of Jesusland – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion.


Life and Culture


The People Who Decide What Becomes History – Louis Menand at The New Yorker.


Did the Blues Originate in New Orleans? – Ted Gioia at The Honest Broker.




The Bible’s Not an Instruction Manual – Jared Wilson at For the Church.


Seeing Clearly Through the Tears – Paul Phillips at He’s Taken Leave.


Reading with Christian Eyes – Paul Krause at Front Porch Republic.


How Great (Psalm 145) – Sovereign Grace

Painting: Interior with Man Reading, oil on canvas (1784 or 1789) by Jan Ekels the Younger (1753-1793). 

Friday, April 22, 2022

The stone rolled away

After Luke 24:1-12

The stone, a barrier

a separation of life

and death, the stone

is rolled away, removing

the separation, the barrier,

revealing the emptiness

within, a slab, some cloths

of linen, an emptiness,

the death of death. The body

is not here, the tomb is empty,

death is revealed as destroyed,

swept into the ash bin, forever

gone, forever defeated, Yet

another parable, a contradiction:

life to be seen and symbolized 

by emptiness, a silent tomb,

death vanquished,

death destroyed.


Photograph by Krisjanis Mezulis via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

"After She Left" by Claire Amarti

I thought I would be reading a thriller or mystery. But it turned into something else entirely. 

Abigail Gibson walks out of her suburban New York home one morning, and she disappears, leaving behind her husband and 10-year-old son. Her mother and her sister Gillian try to call her, but the phone is unanswered. No one knows where what’s happened to her.


When Abigail’s husband is called to the other side of the world for a humanitarian emergency, Gillian takes charge of Sam, the 10-year-old. Gillian is having her own problems; she and her husband Oliver have been trying to have children for years, and it’s beginning to tear the fabric of their marriage. And she discovers that Sam is showing a number of sigs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.


Everyone in the family is in upheaval over Abigail’s disappearance. Then her credit card shows use in Miami. Abigail finally calls. With news. She’s found her birth mother.


Claire Amarti

No one, except their mother, knew she’d been adopted as a baby. Her birth mother turns out to be their father’s younger sister. The sister is dying from cancer. Everything Abigail and Gillian understood about themselves and their family has just been turned on its head. Giliian, their mother, and Sam fly to Miami. When Oliver and eventually Abigail’s husband follow, even more family secrets become known.


After She Left by Claire Amarti is the story of Gillian, Abigail , and their family. It begins as a mystery and turns into what is likely classified as women’s fiction. But it’s an absorbing story, even when the mystery turns out not to be one after all.


Amarti is also the author of The First Wife’s Secret and The Silent Daughter. She lives in New York City.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

"A Body at a Boarding School" by Benedict Brown

It’s 1925, and the last day of school term at Oakton, a rather posh school for boys in England. Lord Edgington, the peer who became a detective for Scotland Yard and is now retired, is an alumnus. His son attended. And his grandsons, including 16-year-old Christopher Prentiss, the younger son of Lord Edgington’s daughter Violet and apparently the grandson upon whom the lord has set his eye. 

In the middle of last-day festivities, the headmaster is called to the office. And it is Christopher who finds his body, bludgeoned with a decorative monkey’s head. The police are called in, but Lord Edgington himself takes an active interest in investigating the murder, assisted by Christopher, who’s usually finding himself bewildered by what’s going on. No matter, as the lord is training his grandson to be a detective.


It's a case full of suspects and motives – jealousy, petty crime, embezzlement, and lust all play a role. Everyone knows something, but no one wants to admit to anything. Two of the school employees who know more than they should are the Crabb sisters, whom Lord Edgington recognizes as having prosecuted for theft in the past. And the lord and Christopher discover the school is being used for far more than educating upper-class boys.


Benedict Brown

A Body at a Boarding School
 is the second of the Lord Edgington mysteries by British author Benedict Brown. It’s somewhat unusual in that the story takes place over the space of an afternoon. Like the other novels in the series, it’s something of a send-up of mysteries of the period, and it may be aimed at younger teen readers more than adults. But it’s still a fun read, with an effective use of the grandfather and grandson playing off each other.


In addition to the five published Lord Edgington stories, a sixth is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2022. Brown has also written seven Izzy Palmer mystery novels and three novellas. A native of south London, he lives with his family in Spain. 




Murder at the Spring Ball by Benedict Brown.


The Mystery of Mistletoe Hall by Benedict Brown.

Poets and Poems: Dave Malone and “Tornado Drill”

I live in a suburb of St. Louis. If asked what they know, most people might think of the Gateway Arch on the riverfront, or the St. Louis Cardinals. Before I moved here more than 40 years ago, that was all I knew. Living here, I’ve found my most surprising experience to be living in a hilly city. St. Louis is in the foothills of the Missouri Ozarks. Drive southwest, toward Springfield, and the hills become increasingly more serious. 

I think of the Missouri Ozarks as Dave Malone country. His poetry springs from the Ozark landscape, and it’s not all about hills. And it springs from the people of the Ozarks, his own family, the people he grew up with, and the people he knows. This is not the Winter’s Bone or Ozark of Hollywood’s imagination, but the real landscape of where one grows up, and where one’s family and friends still live. 


As the poems of Malone’s newest collection, Tornado Drill, demonstrate, that landscape is not so different from the ones the rest of us grew up in, and live in. 

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

Monday, April 18, 2022

"Water from My Heart" by Charles Martin

It says something about author Charles Martin that he could successfully turn the character of a drug runner into a sympathetic hero. 

But that’s what he does in Water from My Heart, first published in 2015. And that’s what Charlie Finn is – a drug runner. Finn is a crackerjack poker player, holding an MBA from Harvard, with experience at high-flying hedge fund, and he’s making a living from running drugs for his friend Colin. If all those wealthy marks in Miami want to snort white powder up their noses, someone’s got to do it, right?


And it works, until it doesn’t. Colin’s 18-year-old son takes his little sister for a ride, shadowing Uncle Charlie and helping himself to the drop-off – and the suppliers come looking, with a pit bull. The sister ends up in the hospital, and the 18-year-old takes off for Central America, unable to face his parents, his sister, or Charlie.


Charles Martin

Charlie follows, and all of Charlie’s sins will soon find him. Because Charlie has a history in Central America, especially Nicaragua, where years before he helped destroy a thriving coffee plantation employing thousands of people – all because the hedge fund owner wanted it, and the plantation owner refused to sell. Charlie’s looking for his friend’s son, but he finds his own past in the process.


Water from My Heart has all of the classic Charles Martin hallmarks – a broken hero, complications with the people he loves most, a bit of low-key romance, a dash of violence, facing past sins, and the discovery redemption even when the hero’s not really looking for it. In the afterword, Martin explains there the story is based upon some actual events.


Martin, who lives with his family in Florida, has published numerous novels, and if he’s written a bad or mediocre one, no one can find it. He tells an enthralling story every time, and Water from My Heart is no exception. 




River Road by Charles Martin.


Charles Martin talks about River Road.


Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin


Unwritten by Charles Martin


Charles Martin’s Where the River Ends


Charles Martin’s The Mountain Between Us


Charles Martin’s Wrapped in Rain


Crying with Them Crickets

Sunday, April 17, 2022

An empty tomb

After Luke 24:1-12

The first day of the week,

the women return to the tomb,

bringing their spices and

ointments to prepare the body.

The stone covering the tomb

has been rolled away, leaving

the space open. The tomb is

empty, Stunned, shocked,

perplexed, the women see

the men arrayed in clothes

that dazzle and shine, telling

them not to seek the living

among the dead, that 

he is not here, 

he is risen, 

he is living,

just as he told you he would.

He kept his word.

The women are the witnesses,

the first to see an empty tomb.

The one who denied him,

three times, runs to see

for himself. What he sees:

only the strips of linen



Photograph by Nicolas Hans via Unsplash. Used with permission.