Thursday, June 30, 2022

"Death by Dark Waters" by Jo Allen

The weather in Cumbria has been dry – ideal for grassfires, both natural and set. After one fire, which engulfed part of an old, abandoned farm, a body is found. But it doesn’t appear to be a victim of the fire – the coroner determines the victim was dead before the fire.  

The victim is the 12-year-old son of a wealthy app developer, known for his online dating sites.


Detective Chief Inspector Jude Satterthwaite of the Cumbria Police investigates with his team, including a new (and very attractive) detective sergeant. Satterthwaite is three years out from his divorce, and it doesn’t help that his ex-wife lives next door to his mother.


Jo Allen

The victim’s father has no use for the police; he’d almost been framed for a crime he didn’t commit by a former police officer in another part of England. He has his own security force at his mansion, which obviously didn’t help protect his family. But the family has secrets, and those secrets will send Satterthwaite and his officers down rabbit holes before they find they right one.


But before that, a second murder happens, and the suspects are getting increasingly few on the ground..


Death by Dark Waters is the first of eight DCI Satterthwaite mystery novels by British author Jo Allen. It’s a dark tale of passion, betrayal, and utterly ruthless business competition, one with innocent victims suffering the consequences. 


Allen is a native of Wolverhampton, England, and has graduate and postgraduate degrees in geography and earth science. After a career as an economic consultant, he began writing short stories, romance, and romantic suspense under the pen name of Jennifer Young. She began writing the DCI Satterthwaite crime novels in 2017. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Encounter in the Woods : A Story

Sam woke with a crick in his neck and a sore backside. He stretched, trying to ease the hurt in his muscles. In the past two years, he’d slept more nights with a tree canopy for a roof than anything manmade, and he still wasn’t used to it.  

With a group of soldiers bound for South Carolina, he’d followed the main road into Chatham, a small Southern town typical of its kind a day’s walk from Appomattox. The smithy and stable, the general store, and a few other establishments lined the town’s main street. Also lining the street had been townspeople with rifles and pistols.


“Just keep on moving through,” said a large man in clothes worn but still presentable. “We don’t mean to be inhospitable, but we’ve had too much trouble with soldiers and others. Keep moving and we’ll all get along just fine.”


A few soldiers had looked as if they were ready to be less than accommodating but were stopped by others. Sam kept walking, wondering if this is what returning soldiers would find everywhere – frightened people trying to protect what little they had left.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Poets and Poems: Sara Eddy and “Tell the Bees” and “Full Mouth”

I will admit having talked with family pets over the years as if they were human. I’ve even projected conversations into their mouths. When my children were young, I wrote hand-illustrated stories about their pets. Judging by what I’ve seen in books and social media, I am not alone.  

When it comes to food, I’m more utilitarian; some might say cretinous. I don’t get excited into flights of rhetorical fancy over food, with one possible exception: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s the Texas-based company’s most popular flavor – and with good reason. They should market it as “heaven on earth.” Blue Bell ice cream is not sold in St. Louis, but I have a friend who makes runs to Rolla, Missouri, where it is sold, just to buy the ice cream.


Poet Sara Eddy is a beekeeper. She talks with her bees. She projects conversations and thoughts into the mouths and minds of her bees. And judging by her poetry, Eddy also enjoys food – each jam, truffles, honeycake, oysters, cantaloupe, dumplings, muffins, raspberries, donuts, olives, and burritos, to cite a few.


But in her hands, bees and food are something more than humorous stories or tributes to favorite things to eat. They are metaphors for life and its experiences, and she writes about both bees and food in ways both original and profound. 


Eddy has published two chapbooks, or short collections, Tell the Bees (2019) and Full Mouth (2020). Published by Writing MapsTell the Bees is a short collection of eight poems, published as a type of pamphlet with color photographs of her own beehives. Full Mouth, part of the New Women’s Voices Series of Finishing Line Press, includes 30 poems, published in a more traditional short book format.

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

Monday, June 27, 2022

“Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864” by Chris Mackowski

Once Ulysses S. Grant became commander of all the Union’s armies, he undertook two efforts that ultimately helped defeat the Confederacy. First, he coordinated the campaigns of all of the Northern armies, and not only those forces under his immediate command. Second, he made a concerted effort to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond.  

In 1864, the campaign against Richmond was renewed in earnest. Grant was attempting to avoid a frontal assault and instead sweep around and back. To do that, he had to move his Army of the Potomac through 70 square miles of densely wooded terrain known as the Wilderness. The area was inhabited, if sparsely. Moving an army through it, with its artillery and supply wagons, would be difficult, but Grant was determined.


So was Robert E. Lee. He understood what Grant was attempting, and he was just as determined to stop him. Two steel wills clashed – and the Wilderness exploded. Literally.


In Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864Chris Mackowski does two things. He tells the story of the main points of the battle, and he provides detailed directions for a tour of the battlefield by automobile. (“Battlefield” is a limiting term here; there was no one field or area of open terrain where everything happened.) The book is part of the Emerging Civil War Series


Chris Markowski

In addition to writing some of the volumes, Mackowski serves as editor for the entire effort. A professor at St. Bonaventure University, he has B.A., M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. degrees in communication, English, and creative writing. The author of some nine books, he’s written extensively on the Civil War for a number of publications. He also worked for the National Park Service and gave tours of the Civil War battlefields at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. 


The Wilderness was a horrific battle, deserving of the name given by one its participants, “Hell Itself.” The terrain and denseness of the forest often meant hand-to-hand combat. Artillery fire often resulted in the woods catching fire, and soldiers on both sides were burned to death. 


Hell Itself brings the battle to life, making the reader feel almost a first-hand observer. You wonder, as did many who fought there, how anyone made it out of those woods alive.




Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862 by Gregory Mertz.


The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863 by Robert Orrison and Dan Welch.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Love your enemies

After Matthew 5:43-48

Republicans, pray for Democrats.

Democrats, love Republicans.

Hamas, love Israel.

Israel, pray for Hamas.

Progressives, pray for conservatives.

Conservatives, love progressives.

Everyone, pray for China.

Trumpers, pray for Hillary and Joe.

Hillary and Joe, pray for the Donald,

and love the deplorables.

Congressmen, love rioters and insurrectionists.

Rioters and insurrectionists, pray for congressmen.

Everyone, pray for Adam Schiff.

Everyone, pray for Hollywood.

Red states, pray for your blue cities.

Blue cities, love your red states.

Cardinal fans, love the Cubs.

Cub fans, pray for the Cardinals.

Everyone pray for journalists.


Photograph by Clay Banks via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - June 25, 2022

In “Renunciation and Re-enchantment,” Corbin Barthold at Front Porch Republic starts out by discussing British author Peter Ackroyd (a favorite writer of mine; his Dickens biography is monumental and so is his multi-volume History of England). And then Barthold moves to another British writer, Paul Kingsnorth (yet another favorite writer of mine), and his journey to faith.  

I would wager that very few people in America actively encourage their children to go into politics, except perhaps for the members of political dynasties. Few professions are viewed with such disdain, and not without good reason. But should it be like this? Adam Carrington at Ad Fontes makes a case for restoring Christian dignity to politics and political life.


If there is any common denominator across political, social, cultural, and economic lines these days, it would have to be outrage. The internet repeats and amplifies it. The editorial and op-ed pages screech with it. It is the lifeblood of cancel culture. So how do you explain it to your children? Alyssa Ramsey at Story Warren talks to her daughter.

And in this past contentious week, these past contentious 24 hours, I'm thinking of Father Richard John Neuhaus (1936 - 2009): We Shall Not Weary, We Shall Not Rest.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


Forgetting vs. Overcoming: Nietzche on Abuses of History and the 1619 Project – Robert Thornett at Front Porch Republic.


3 Ways to Live Humbly Online – Chris Martin at Terms of Service.




Your past is my present – how Volodymyr Zelenskyy uses history – Beth Daley at The Conversation.


Russian Journalist’s Nobel Medal Sells for $103.5 Million – NBC News.


Saturday Bad Read


Beyond our ‘ape-brained meat sacks’: can transhumanism save our species? – Celina Rebeiro at The Guardian. And its partial antidote: How to prevent the coming inhuman future – Eric Hoel at The Intrinsic Perspective. 


Writing and Literature


Shelf Life: On the Stories Our Books Tell About Us – Bryan VanDyke at The Millions.


B-Sides: Agatha Christie's at Bertram's Hotel – Briallen Hopper at Public Books.


The deracination of literature – Mary Gaitskill at UnHerd.




Featured Poet: Michał Choiński – The High Window.




What Mother Theresa Told the Supreme Court: “Your Decision in Roe v. Wade Has Deformed a Great Nation” – Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition.


Sky Painting – Tim Suffield at Nuakh.


If You Believe the Bible – Blake Long at Theology & Life.


News Media


Politics on Twitter: One-Third of Tweets from U.S. Adults Are Political – Pew Research.


Good News – Brian & Katie Torwalt

Painting: A woman reading, oil on canvas (1835) by Friedrich von Amerling (1803-1887).

Friday, June 24, 2022

Everyday practices, revoked

After Matthew 5:38-42

Everyday practices refuted,

revoked, redrawn, recast.

They are (in order):

first, an eye for an eye,

a tooth for a tooth

   (so proclaims the law).

Second, a slap on the right

cheek now requires 

an offering of the left cheek.

A lawsuit to take your shirt

becomes an opportunity 

to offer your coat as well.

Forced to go one mile,

respond by going two.

Confronted by a beggar

or asked to make a loan,



with love

with the love 

you’ve been given.


Photograph by Joshua Earle via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

“The Tangled Treasure Trail” by Benedict Brown

It’s a London winter in early 1926. The newspapers are full of stories about the Bright Young Things, a group of mostly young adults who are partying all over the city. Their latest activities focus on madcap treasure hunts, starting at places like the street in front of Buckingham Palace and racing their cars and each other to the next clue in their hunt. 

At one such hunt, there’s a death. An older member of the group, an industrialist, dies in a car crash. It appears accidental. Lord Edgington, now 75 and retired but at one time the chief superintendent at Scotland Yard, grabs his 17-year-old grandson Christopher Prentiss and races to London. They’re just in time to participate in the next treasure hunt of the Bright Young Things.


Christopher is starstruck. He’s even more starstruck when the leading members of the group – an artist, the wealthy aristocratic heiress the artist is engaged to, and the rather flamboyant hunt organizer take a shine to the teenager and pull him into their antics. But, during yet another treasure hunt, the artist is found dead. This time, there’s no mistake. This was no accident; the artist was shot dead.


Benedict Brown

Lord Edgington and Christopher investigate, both helping the police and being helped in turn. And slowly they’re sucked into a case that has its roots in World War I.


The Tangled Treasure Trail is fifth Lord Edington mystery novel by British author Benedict Brown. As with its predecessors, it’s full of period context, an action-packed story, and a host of suspects. It’s a rollicking good read.


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. The Lord Edgington mysteries are likely aimed at both the general reader as well as the young adult audience. And they’re well-researched stories, full of information about the mid-1920s.





Murder at the Spring Ball by Benedict Brown.


A Body at a Boarding School by Benedict Brown.


The Mystery of Mistletoe Hall by Benedict Brown.


 Death on a Summer’s Day by Benedict Brown.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A History Lesson About Gettysburg, and More

I’ve been reading some of the books in the battle series published by Emerging Civil War. So far, I’ve read about Shiloh (1862), Gettysburg (1863), and the Battle of the Wilderness (1864). It was while reading this third one that the author mentioned something as almost an offhand comment that threw me – and upended something I believed for 50 years. 

The book was Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864 by Chris Mackowski, but the comment was about Gettysburg. At the time of the battle in 1863, he said, “No one recognized Gettysburg as anything other than a setback, and certainly no one looked at it as the ‘High Water Mark of the Confederacy.’”


How it gained that reputation was due to a marketing-savvy photographer, lithographer, and Gettysburg historian named John Badger Bachelder, who was a tireless promoter of the Gettysburg Battlefield and worked to promote the site as a tourist destination.


In other words, the whole idea of Gettysburg as the turning point in the Civil War came from a promoter for the battlefield, decades after the battle was fought.

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

Painting: Battle of Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrap.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

"Making Darkness Light: The Lives and Times of John Milton by Joe Moshenska

John Milton (1608 – 1674) is one of those poets who seem to be largely ignored today. Shakespeare we still read and study; Milton, who was just as brilliant a writer as Shakespeare, comes with baggage, from a contemporary cultural perspective.  

For one thing, he was religious. For another thing, he was one of those Puritan-types, having even written a poem condoning the execution of Charles I. And a third thing was that he served in the British government under Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector. Cromwell was so hated by the royalists that, upon the Restoration in 1660, his body was removed from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, hung, beheaded, and thrown into the Thames. 


The young John Milton

Milton was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower. (Why does this sound so vaguely like current American politics?) And yet he had written some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language that Charles II relented and freed the blind poet after a few months. Ours was the benefit: Milton’s epics, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, still lay ahead, published in 1667 and 1671, respectively.


Joe Moshenska, professor of English literature at University College, Oxford, loves the works of Milton. His study, research, and teaching center in the 1500 to 1700 period in English literature. He received his Ph.D. degree from Princeton University. He’s published Feeling Pleasures: The Sense of Touch in Renaissance England (2014), The Stain in the Blood: The Remarkable Voyage of Sir Kenelm Digby (2016), and Iconoclasm at Child’s Play (2019).


And now Moshenska turns his full attention to Milton. Making Darkness Light: The Lives and Times of John Milton is a biography, of sorts. 

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

Monday, June 20, 2022

“The Last Road North” by Robert Orrison and Dan Welch

The Battle of Gettysburg occurred from July 1 to July 3, 1863. The forces under Confederate General Robert e. Lee had carried the Civil War into the North, crossing the border state of Maryland and then invading southern Pennsylvania. The outcome was important – a Union defeat would have put Baltimore and Washington, D.C. in imminent peril and perhaps convinced the Northern public that it was time to let the South go. 

The campaign, which followed the remarkable Confederate victory at Chancellorsville (April 30-May 6, 1863), began on June 9, 1863 at the Battle of Brandy Station. Gradually, confederate forces made their way north, with the major confrontation near the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.


Robert Orrison

As part of the Emerging Civil War Series of combined historical accounts and motor tour guides of Civil War Battlefields, in 2016 Robert Orrison and Dan Welch published The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863. The book is a concise discussion of the campaign from both the Confederate and Union perspectives. It carefully explains why Lee made the decision to go to the North (and how he had to convince Jefferson Davis and his cabinet), how the Confederates advanced, how the Union armies responded to the advance, how Jeb Stuart brought his forces to the campaign (something of a near thing), the battle itself, and the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg.


Dan Welch

The campaign was complex, requiring a number of river crossings. The Union generals understood from almost the beginning that the Confederates were up to something, but it took time to determine exactly what that something was. In the meantime, as Confederate forces moved north and the Union forces parried and probed, a number of engagements or minor battles developed, usually involving cavalry. 


The book includes very specific instructions on how to drive (or come close to driving) the campaign routes on both sides, as well as for the three-day battle itself. Instructions are so specific that they’ll note the need for caution in trying to cross busy roads and highways. The book is small enough to be portable and carried with you as you do the tour.


Profusely illustrated with photographs and maps, The Last Road North is an excellent guide to one of the most significant military engagements of the Civil War.




Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862 by Gregory Mertz.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The new way

After Matthew 5:38-42

He sits on that hill,

speaking softly, firmly,

as one with authority

because he is One

with authority. He speaks

of a new path to follow,

a path that is not a choice

but a mandate. Revenge 

is put aside; no more

repayment in kind. In fact,

instead of revenge, now

you respond with mercy,

you respond with love,

you respond in the same way

that you are forgiven. Wrongs

you commit are set aside,

forgiven, forgotten, you are

made new. And you respond

the same way to those who

wrong you.

You forgive.

You forget.

You show love.

You show mercy.


Photograph by Benjamin Wedemeyer via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - June 18, 2022

The media seem awash in stories about misinformation, disinformation, fake facts, and other statements we used to call lies or distortions. A prime example has been the COVID pandemic, when disinformation seemed to engulf everything. Joelle Renstrom at Nieman Lab doesn’t point to the usual suspects but instead points out that science itself helps fuel a culture of misinformation. 

Guess who’s the latest hot new writer? Someone who died in 1976. Jeffrey Trachtenberg at The Wall Street Journal explains how the younger adult generation has discovered Agatha Christie.


The Jan. 6 Committee may be the big thing for the news media right now, but still going on is the war in the Ukraine. And not all Russians support their fearless leader. Vadim Smyslove at GQ talks about the Russian cultural drain – writers, actors, filmmakers and rock stars are leaving the country.


More Good Reads




Evangelicals and Whig History – Miles Smith at First Things Magazine.


The Longest Years of Ministry: Courage for Weary Pastors – Ray Ortlund at Desiring God.


How Did We Get Our Bible? – Michael Krueger at Canon Fodder.


Writing and Literature


The Hidden Life of Stories – Mary Gaitskill at Out of It.


The Birth of the Hardy Boys – Leslie McFarlane at CrimeReads. 


How Being a Ghostwriter Has Shaped My Fiction – Daniel Paisner at The Millions.


Life and Culture


Come and See – Melissa Kline at Story Warren.


What Are Bookstores For? – John-Paul Heil at First Things Magazine.


Churches, Polls, and a Few Lessons – Jeffrey Stivason at Gentle Reformation.


The Era of Free-Lunch Economics is Over – Brian Reidl at City Journal.




Not so perfidious Albion – Harry Phibbs at The Critic Magazine.


In Occupied Cities, Time Doesn’t Exist: Conversations with Bucha Writers – Ilya Kaminsky at Paris Review.


Pope Francis says Ukraine war was ‘perhaps somehow provoked’ – Angela Giuffrida at The Guardian.




A Living Poem – Seth Lewis.


Why This Time, Why This Place? – Michael Charles Maibach at Society of Classical Poets. 


Portugal – Curtis Yarvin at Imperial Melodies.


Like the Ocean – Kellie Haddock

Painting: Portrait of Gustave Geffroy. Oil on canvas (1895) by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)