Friday, September 30, 2022

We line up

After Matthew 7:21-23

We gather ourselves

in line, patiently

walking forward,

walking in expectation

of recognition and 

reward. We try not

to look at others,

avoiding eye contact

because we don’t want

to embarrass anyone,

like those uncertain

of recognition and

reward, like we are.

We judge not, after all.

As we stand and walk,

stand and walk, we

take stock of all we

have done, the time

we’ve spent, the money

we’ve given, the work

we’ve done, the sacrifices

we’ve made. At the front

of the line at last, we hear

the unexpected:

I never knew you.

Be gone.


Photograph by Levi Jones via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

"Murder in the Barn" by Roy Lewis


Arnold Landon works in the Northumberland planning department. A part of his job in measuring and surveying for various development and land proposals is keeping his boss happy. That the boss only has the name of Chief Planning Officer tells you what you need to know about him, other than he doesn’t like mess and controversy.  

Landon’s a bachelor; his parents are deceased, and he lives in a small bungalow outside of town. He’s content with his life, a life with one extraordinary and abiding passion – wood. He may not have a college degree, professional certification, or any other formal recognition of authority, but Landon knows his wood, an understanding taught by his father.


And it is wood that gets in the way of a planning proposal. A company headed by a rather unsavory businessman from London wants to buy a rundown farm and develop it into a tourist attraction. Neighboring farmers and preservationists aren’t impressed; but many in the nearby town certainly are. The Planning Committee, which will or won’t approve the proposal, is divided. 


Landon is well aware of the stakes involved; the farm’s owner is not particularly well liked, and for good reasons. Landon surveys the property, as his job requires him to do, and finds the Old Wheat Barn, which will be torn down with the rest of the buildings if the proposal is approved. And in that barn, Landon discovers something extraordinary – a wooden joint in a beam, one that could only have been carved in the 1300s by the medieval craftsman John of Wetherby. And that means the wheat barn is in a protected class of heritage buildings. 


And from that discovery will flow murder and the discovery of secrets long buried in the past.


Roy Lewis

Murder in the Barn
by Roy Lewis was first published in 1982 under the title A Gathering of Ghosts. It is the first of 22 Arnold Landon novels, and it may be unique in having a planning department official as the series’ detective. This first story seems to start slow, with lots of information about Landon’s job. And then you discover you’re hooked and a fan of this unassuming man who stands for something seemingly wiped away in modern life.


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. Lewis lives in northern England.  


I thoroughly the Eric Ward series by Lewis, and I liked his Inspector John Crow series. If Murder in the Barn is any indication of what’s to come, Arnold Landon may end up being my favorite. 




Error in Judgment by Roy Lewis.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

"Midnight in Venice" by Meadow Taylor

This is a book that you tell yourself you should stop reading. It’s a mystery. It’s romantic suspense. It’s about Venice. And a billionaire who's a brilliant concert pianist, and a race car driver and a cop. It stretches credulity, and it keeps stretching credulity.  

And you keep reading because you can’t put it down.


Midnight in Venice by Meadow Taylor tells the story of Olivia Moretti, a Canadian who’s moving to Venice for several months to work for a prestigious art gallery co-owned by her cousin. She runs afoul a aa police detective Alexandro Rossi, at the airport. (The prequal short story, Christmas in Venice, was reviewed here last week. It’s the first chapter of the full novel.)


Rossi’s wife disappeared four years before, and she’s presumed dead. Her disappearance is the primary reason Rossi joined the police force; he was previously a concert pianist and a race car driver, and he’s fabulously wealthy. (You see the credulity begin to strain here – a billionaire cop who lives like a monk in a working-class neighborhood but happens to have an enormous home in nearby Padua.


Carnival time is approaching, and it’s not unusual for people to begin wearing costumes. Like the surprisingly common one of the “plague doctor,” invented to “scare away” the bubonic plague when it ravaged Venice centuries before. What is unusual is for someone dressed as the plague doctor to be following Olivia around Venice. 


Unexpectedly, Olivia is told take a suitcase full of Murano glass to New York. The suitcase contains the glass; it also contains several bags of heroin. And detective Rossi has to wonder if the woman he’s fallen in love with is part of a drug ring. And the implications are his wife may have been involved as well. 


And then the story gets really crazy. It doesn’t matter, because, by this time, you have to find out what’s happening. You don’t care that the story has passed the point of believability. And just when you think you have it all figured out – you don’t.


Meadow Taylor is the pen name of two (unnamed) Ontario authors of historical fiction. In addition to Midnight in Venice, Taylor has also published the novels The Billionaire’s Secrets and Falling for Rain and the short story Christmas in Bruges




Christmas in Venice by Meadow Taylor.


Top photo: The plague doctor at the Venice carnival by Conor Rabbett via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

"Making Peace with Paradise" by Tania Runyan

I’ve lived in Missouri for 43 years, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. But it’s Louisiana that I still think of as home, or my home state, the one I physically left when I was 21.  

I follow the news about hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. I read stories about the crime rate in New Orleans. I pay attention when I hear about new French Quarter restaurants, or old ones closing. I drink Community Coffee (Signature Blend), whose company is headquartered in Baton Rouge. When I eat a shrimp po-boy sandwich, I always compare it to the Shrimp Po-Boy served at the Come Back Inn in Metairie, the suburb of New Orleans where I grew up. The only football team I follow is LSU.


Tania Runyan left California more than 20 years ago, and she’s still coming to grips with her home state. She tells her story in Making Peace with Paradise.


Of course, as in my own case, coming to grips with your home state means coming to grips with your childhood and your family. And that’s what underlies the story Runyan tells.

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

Monday, September 26, 2022

"Eyewitness to the Civil War" by Stephen Hyslop

Sometimes I’m a sucker for coffee table books. And sometimes they turn out to be more than coffee table books.  

In 2006, National Geographic published Eyewitness to the Civil War: The Complete History of the Civil War from Secession to Reconstruction. Written by Stephen Hyslop and edited by Neil Kagan, the book appears to be a classic book meant for the coffee table. And it could certainly find a home there. But it turns out to be a lot more.


The book is like a documentary in print. It provides a basic (and well-written) account of the war from beginning to end, highlighting the major battles, developments, home fronts, and international repercussions. It tells the stories of generals and soldiers, slaveowners and slaves, and farmers and townspeople who lived the war. It shows how an increasingly split nation finally erupted into the violence of civil war.

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

Sunday, September 25, 2022

A gate so narrow

After Matthew 7:13-14

To enter this gate,

this gate so narrow,

remove all unnecessary

clothes, stripping down

to your underwear.

To enter this gate, set

aside anything you

carry with you, 

your cash, your jewelry,

your credit cards,

your stocks and bonds,

your real estate,

everything you’d want

to take with you.

To enter this gate,

crouch down on 

your hands and knees, 

even as rock and

stone and brokenness

tear at your skin. Then

move forward, forward

into the light.


Photograph by Lomig via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Sept. 24, 2022

The singer Rich Mullins died 25 years ago this past week. I never need to be reminded of the impact he had; just ask my wife and children. Kevin Burrell at The Rabbit Room remembers the man he calls the sparrow watcher, while Lsia LaGeorge describes the deeply personal reaction she had t the news of his death. 


If you didn’t see the funeral – all of it – for Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, you should find it on YouTube or PBS or BBC. Stephen McAlpine at The Gospel Coalition calls it “one last magnificent porous day.” And it was.


N.S. Lyons at City Journal sees the rise of a new counterculture. If it takes hold, and the signs are positive that it will, it will be “tectonic cultural and political shift.” This new counterculture? The right taking the place of the left.


More Good Reads 


News Media 


A lesson in wrongology: On the media’s humility, or lack thereof – James Bowman at New Criterion. 


Inside the Documentary Cash Grab – Mia Galuppo and Katie Kilkenny at The Hollywood Reporter.


Traffic to local news sites has plummeted. What happens now? – Rick Edmonds at Poynter.




Queen Elizabeth II and the Church of England: The late monarch’s faith beliefs – Deidre Reilly at Fox News.


Trusting in the Absence of Peace – Aubrynn at Grace Abounding in OCD.


Life and Culture


How to Keep Quarreling: A Brief Guide – David Deavel at The Imaginative Conservative.


Intermission: Last Post for Christian England – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule.


Farwell to the Elizabethan Era – Jonathan Van Maren at The Bridgehead.


The For-Profit D.C. Firm Staging America’s ‘Grassroots’ Movements – Hayden Ludwig at Tablet Magazine.


Focus on the Local: A Conversation with Carl Trueman – Mat Stewart at Front Porch Republic.


Scenes from a Marriage: Watching the “Thin Man” Movies as a Set – Hector DeJean at CrimeReads.




Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit – David Lyle Jeffrey at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


The scars of our days – Robert Rife at Rob’s Lit-Bits.


To Go to Lvov: Lessons in Exile as Mysticism – Ewa Chrusciel at Church Life Journal.


Writing and Literature


What Women Mystery Writers and Female Sleuths Owe to Nancy Drew – Virginia Hartman at CrimeReads.


Was This Letter Written by Sherlock Holmes? – April White at Atlas Obscura.


American Stuff


“Here I am . . . a Prisoner:” The Capture of Walt Whitman’s Brother – Tim Talbott at Emerging Civil War.


There is One Gospel – CityAlight

Painting: A Man Reading, oil on canvas (circa 1660) by an unknown artist; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Certain prophets

After Matthew 7:13-14

False prophets are

a dime a dozen.

They speak at TED

conferences, they

write books, they

have large followings

in Instagram and

twitter, people

sharing, liking, 

retweeting everything

they hear, everything

they see. Too often,

false prophets occupy

a pulpit, speaking

words of gold and

silver, words like

gilded thorns, thistles,

rotting fruit, words 

that appeal like

the siren’s call,

the call of telling

you what you want

to hear. Consider

what they create, 

what they produce:

weakness, rottenness,



Photograph by Hennie Stander via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

"Death at Whitewater Church" by Andrea Carter

The Inishowen Peninsula of County Donegal seems a cold, almost desolate place in the depths of winter. The northernmost extension of the Republic of Ireland, it’s most rural with some small towns. When they want a major shopping trip, residents head to the city of Derry. Dublin is a four-hour drive. 

Benedicta O’Keeffe, known as “Ben,” is an attorney. Her practice encompasses the northern part of the peninsula, and it usually involves land sales, probate, court filings, and the basic kinds of law practice. Ben is fine with that; she’s moved here to escape Dublin and the guilt she’s placed on herself for the death of her younger sister. She hasn’t seen her parents in two years. 


Inishowen Peninsula

She likes the people she works and lives with, especially the chief policeman, Sgt. Tom Molloy. She and Molloy seems to circle each other, trying to make up their minds if there’s something more to their relationship or not.


Ben accompanies a property surveyor to check a deconsecrated church property. An English couple wants to buy it and refurbish it as a holiday home. It’s known as the Whitewater Church; it served the community of Whitewater that all but disappeared in the mid-1980s with the death of the local shipping business. They’re about finished the surgery when the discover the church has a crypt. What remains there might have been were removed with the deconsecration. At the bottom of the stairs, however, they find a skeleton wrapped in a blanket. And it doesn’t belong in the crypt.


It might be the body of Conor DeVitt, who disappeared on his wedding day six years before, leaving a hole in his family and the community. What the discovery leads to is a decades-old story of an IRA terrorist bombing, family secrets, and the upending of other crimes both related and unrelated. And Ben finds herself at the center of all of it.


Andrea Carter

Death at Whitewater Church
 is the first of five Inishowen mysteries by Irish writer Andrea Carter. It’s so well written and so intricately plotted that at time I had to remind myself I was reading a crime novel, not a literary story. It requires  close reading to keep track of all the characters, a close reading that will be rewarded. And it’s such a good story that, immediately upon finishing it, I ordered the next four. Death at Whitewater Church is that good.


Carter studied law at Trinity College Dublin and managed the most northerly solicitor’s practice in the Republic of Ireland. In 2006, she moved to Dublin to work as a barrister and then turned to writing crime novels. She’s published five Inishowen mysteries featuring solicitor Benedicta “Ben” O’Keeffe: Death at Whitewater ChurchTreacherous StrandThe Well of IceMurder at Greysbridge, and The Body Falls.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

"Christmas in Venice" by Meadow Taylor

It’s Christmastime. Canadian Olivia Moretti has just landed at the airport in Venice. She’s excited to be starting a new job with an art gallery in Venice. She speaks flawless Italian; her late father was a native before emigrating to Canada. 

Still at the airport, tired and jetlagged Olivia first runs into Alessandro Rossi of the Venice police. He wants to see identification, and he wants to know where her suitcase is. The elderly woman she had left it with momentarily is gone; the suitcase remains, but something inside is ticking. And the President of Italy is due to land at the airport.


Christmas in Venice
 by Meadow Taylor is a short story and prequel to the romantic suspense novel Midnight in Venice. It’s designed to introduce the reader both to Olivia and the policeman, both of whom as major characters in the novel. The story blends the right amount of humor, suspense, and the possibility of romance to keep interest moving forward toward the novel. 


Meadow Taylor is the pen name of two (unnamed) Ontario authors of historical fiction. In addition to Midnight in Venice, Taylor has also published the novels The Billionaire’s Secrets and Falling for Rain and the short story Christmas in Bruges


Prequels, and especially prequel short stories and novellas, are an increasingly popular and effective way for an author to introduce full-length novels. Reasonably priced and sometimes free, they give the reader a taste of what the longer story is about. They’re also often used as a promotional giveaway to encourage readers to sign up for an author’s newsletter. Christmas in Venice is an example of the effective use of a prequel.


Top photograph by Federico Beccari via Unsplash. Used with permission

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Classic Biography: "Edgar Lee Masters" by Herbert Russell

The year 1915 was momentous in the history and development of American poetry and poetry in general. Poetry Magazine published The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot, launching the era of modernism in poetry. And a number of poems which had been published off and on by William Reedy of Reedy’s Mirror in St. Louis were collected and published under the title of Spoon River Anthology.  

The collection by Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950), a Chicago attorney, rocked the poetry world, the literary world, and even popular culture. The book went through seven printings in seven months. By 1916 (and 19 printings), an augmented edition was published. It was the top-selling poetry book for the next five or six years. 


The more than 200 poems written as tombstone epigraphs struck a deep, responsive chord in American culture and among the broad general public. People recognized the characters who emerged from the poems. They weren’t so much types as they were cleverly drawn and succinct summaries of your family members, friends, and neighbors. 

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

Photograph: Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950).

Monday, September 19, 2022

"Ends of War" by Caroline Janney

I have an image in my head, likely based on what I remember from American history in college, that when Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant agreed to surrender terms at Appomattox in April 1865, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia went home. Two weeks later, William Johnston surrendered to William Sherman at Greensboro, North Carolina, and Johnstone’s Army of Tennessee went home. And that was end of the Civil War. 

Well, not quite.


As Lee’s army fled west from Richmond and then Petersburg, what had been about 60,000 men was losing strength. Some were captured, some took off for points west, and some disappeared into the woods and valleys. By the time Lee and Grant met, Lee’s army was likely between 30,000 and 40,000, and more men were leaving every day.


Grant’s purpose, to which he stuck ferociously through the negotiations and through the coming months, was to bring peace. Lee’s men could go home. They would be issued rations and paroles. A parole was good to obtain rations from Union provosts and to obtain transportation on ships and trains to go home. There would also be no reprisals for having served in Lee’s army. 

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

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Two gates

After Matthew 7:13-14

It’s a narrow gate

by which you enter.

It’s a wide gate

by which you’re

swept along

with the crowd,

jostling, yelling,

swelling, angry,

believing the wide

gate is the entrance

to what the crowd 

wants. It is the entrance

to what the crowd

earns. The narrow gate,

requiring movement

in almost single file,

is a hard, difficult

path but also the true


Few choose it.


Photograph by Neil Martin via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Sept. 17, 2022

How long before the news media has to stop falling for hoaxes before it recognizes the need for basic journalism? The answer, in this day and age, is probably never. The Covington kids, Jussie Smollett, etc., etc., keep happening with nauseating frequency, and the news media wonders why trust is at its lowest level ever. Jessie Singal at Common Sense
 takes a look at the latest example, and how a small college newspaper, practicing basic journalism, upended the likes of The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, CNN, and ESPN, to mention only a few. 

One might think that after a century of intense ready, study, research, and a multitude of articles and books, a poem might finally be understood. One might think that, and one would be wrong. T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land turned 100 years old this year. Alexander Larman at The Critic Magazine says the poem still defies easy categorization


What is it with politicians and laptops? We’ve had Eliot Weiner, Hillary Clinton’s emails, and now Hunter Biden. When it surfaced in 2020, the FBI, CIA, former intelligence officials, and the news media all singing the now well-known hymn, “It’s Just Russian Disinformation.” As it turns out, our vaunted intelligence services notwithstanding, the Hunter Biden laptop was, and is, all too real. Andrew Rice and Olivia Nuzzi at New York Magazine’s Intelligencer (not exactly a conservative publication) tell the story of the now infamous laptop. And it’s, as they say, a story without heroes and a sordid one from start to whatever will be its ultimate finish.


More Good Reads


American Stuff


A Congregation on the Pennsylvania Frontier – Mark Wilcox at Emerging Revolutionary War Era.


Reading the Founding – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative.




The Poem as Shared Emotional Experience – Wendy Pratt at Wendy Pratt Writing.


The Silence of Thomas Aquinas – Benjamin Myers at Ekstasis Magazine.


Cast – Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.


Life and Culture


How Weed Became the New OxyContin – Leighton Woodhouse at Tablet Magazine.


The return of the sacred: The British monarchy is defying secular modernity – Sebastian Milbank at The Critic Magazine.


Why Progressives Undermine Civilization – Michael Shellenberger.


Do Parents Have Rights That Protect Against Transgender Ideology? – Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition.




Just War and Our Cultural Conflict – Kevin DeYoung.


Following Christ in the Machine Age: A Conversation with Paul Kingsnorth – Tessa Carman at Mere Orthodoxy.


British Stuff


The wars of the Windsors – Dominic Green at New Criterion


The Death of the Queen and a Christian Understanding of Sovereignty – Alastair Roberts at The Theopolis Institute. 


Cruikshank at the Tower of London – Spitalfields Life.


News Media


Google’s Revolution in Historical Research – Philip Johnson at Anxious Bench.


Writing and Literature


For Percy Bysshe Shelley, Literature Was the Spark of Revolution – Jared Marcel Pollen at Jacobin.


Let the Violent Bear It Away – Dwight Longenecker at The Imaginative Conservative.


Translation as Transgression: Bringing the Uyghur Novel 'The Backstreets' into English – Darren Byler at Words Without Borders.




The Industrial Visions of Precisionist Artists – Bill Morris at The Millions.


“The Civil War” Soundtrack: Ashokan Farewell

Painting: Lady with a Book, oil on canvas (ca. 1860) by Arthur Boyd Houghton (1836-1875).