Wednesday, November 30, 2022

"North Against South" by Ludwell Johnson

The first thing you should know about Ludwell Johnson’s North Against South: The American Iliad 1848-1877 is that it’s controversial. First published in 1978 under the title Division and Reunion, 1848-1877, the book argues that Reconstruction was an extension of the military warfare carried out by the North during the Civil War, that Jefferson Davis was a more able leader than Abraham Lincoln, and that Robert E. Lee was a better military leader than Ulysses S. Grant. 

That’s just for starters. Johnson (1927-2017) also says that the writing of Civil War history after World War II has been filtered through the lens of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s not that this vast multitude of history works are wrong and should be rejected, but more that readers and students need to understand the lens through which the Civil War has been seen and understood.

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Poets and Poems: Andrea Potos and "Her Joy Becomes"

You reach an age when you discover that, no matter how hard you’ve tried not to, you’ve become more like your parents than you thought possible. And you wonder how that happens. 

Poet Andrea Potos, in her new collection Her Joy Becomes, writes about her own mother – aging, becoming ill, not there any longer. The loss leaves a gap, until she catches herself doing the things her mother did, or is surprised by that familiar facial expression, or a memory surfaces. And she realizes that her mother hasn’t really left her after all. 

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

Monday, November 28, 2022

"Nothing But the Truth" by Simon Michael

For more than a decade, the Kray Twins ruled London’s underworld. From the late 1950s to the late 1960s, identical twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray ran what they called “The firm,” involved in just about every criminal activity there was – drugs, prostitution, gambling, protection rackets, and more. The Krays are the subject of numerous books and five films. including “Legend” in 2015, starring Tom Hardy as both the twins. 

The Krays also have a somewhat starring role in the Charles Holborne legal thrillers by British author Simon Michael. And in the recently published eighth book in the series, Nothing But the Truth, the Krays finally meet justice – with a little help from Holborne.


Scotland Yard has had enough of the Krays – and Detective Superintendent Leonard Read has a highly secretive operation underway to nab them. It’s based away from Yard headquarters – the Krays have a lot of the police force on the payroll. When they’re arrested for involvement in a murder, they turn to defense attorney Charles Holborne. Like the Krays, he’s East End born and raised. His birth name is actually Horowitz; he changed it in an effort to escape his Jewish and East End roots. But those roots have a habit of ensnarling his feet. The simple fact is that the Krays have a file on Holborne – enough to get him disbarred and sent to prison.


Simon Michael

A Kray cousin is set up to take the fall for the murder rap, and it’s Holborne’s assignment to get him to plead guilty or defend him in such a way that he’s convicted. But there are some things Holborne simply cannot do, even if it means disobeying the Krays. What follows is one of the best literary sleights-of-hand that I’ve read in a very long time. 


Michael studied law at Kings College, London University and was called to the Bar in 1978. He worked primarily in the field of criminal law until the late 1990s, when he focused his practice on clinical negligence. He began writing in the 1980s and resumed it when he retired from legal practice.


Nothing But the Truth has the feel of a final volume in the Charles Holborne series, as it’s difficult to imagine Holborne without the Krays breathing down his neck at every turn. But if Simon can write a story with such a delightfully unexpected turn as this one, I’m confident he can figure out how to keep Holborne moving ahead.




My review of The Brief by Simon Michael.


My review of An Honest Man by Simon Michael


My review of The Lighterman by Simon Michael.


My review of Corrupted by Simon Michael.


My review of The Waxwork Corpse by Simon Michael.


My review of Force of Evil by Simon Michel.


My review of The Final Shot by Simon Michael.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Daniel's dream

After Daniel 7:9-14

The vision of the one

in white, the beasts,

the son of man, the vision

arriving in a dream,

a dream or nightmare

ending well but still

terrifying., a singular

vision used to explain

what was to come, 

what is still to come,

a revelation renewed

six hundred years

later, an arc of prophecy,

an alpha and omega

bridging then and now.

And all in a dream.


Photograph by Daniel Olah via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Nov. 26, 2022

Tuesday was the 59th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy, and the 59th anniversary of the death overshadowed by Kennedy’s – that of C.S. Lewis. Poet Malcolm Guite wrote a sonnet in honor of Lewis. 

“Christian Nationalism” seems to have become a thing, especially for the news media, which has been sending reporters scurrying all over the country to uncover those pockets of what we’re supposed to dread. At Front Porch Republic, Matt Carpenter has a little fun with the term and uses it as something like clickbait. Like he says, who would click on a story headlined “Who is Stephen Leacock?


You read Steve Knapper’s story at Evangelical (another term of dread) Magazine, and you’re left more than a bit stunned. If you want to know what deep-seated faith in God is, then read “Trusting God Through Terminal Illness.”


More Good Reads




And It Was Good – Kelly Lindquist at The Lamp Magazine.


In Search of Social Justice – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.


How Many New Testament Manuscripts Do We Have from the Second Century? – Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder. 




Sam Bankman-Fried and the scam of woke capitalism – Jennifer Sey at The Spectator.


Debunking the grievance industry in our schools – Casey Chalk at The Spectator.


British Stuff


The Antiquarian Bookshops of Old London – Spitalfields Life.




The Manifestation – Richard Jones at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


What Kind of Angel: On Percy Shelley – Bryan Van Dyke at The Millions.


Inviting Some Friends to a Birthday Dinner – Jeremiah Johnson at Society for Classical Poets.


'Transition of the Leaves" and 'Life Abundant in the Garden of Ms. Ziegler' – C.F. Shushok at South Writ Large.




Russia: The Burden of History – Michel Mandelbaum at American Purpose.


Writing and Literature


How Virginia Woolf Shunned—and Then Embraced—T.S. Eliot – Lyndall Gordon at Literary Hub.


Will the Real Shakespeare Please Stand Up? – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative. 


The Armed Man “A Mass for Peace” XII. Benedictus – Gabriel V

Painting: Man Reading, oil on canvas (1870) by Edouard Brandon (1831-1897).

Friday, November 25, 2022

And the vision

After Daniel 7:9-14

It begins as a dream,

a vision, a declaration

of what is to come,

in the three parts.


First, the throne, where

one in white and fire

takes his seat,

surrounded by servants

by the thousands.


Second, the beast killed,

destroyed, to be burned

by fire. The rest are 

rendered powerless but

not destroyed.


Third, a son of man

is presented to the one

in white; he is given

dominion that cannot

be destroyed.


Photograph by Drew Beamer via Unsplash Used with permission.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving

We celebrate Thanksgiving Day because of Henry VIII, the Gunpowder Plot, the 1619 landing of 38 English colonists in Virginia (without slaves), the Pilgrims, the end of the American Revolution, the beginning of the American Republic, the Civil War, and the need to stimulate the economy in the late 1930s. And it might have been called Evacuation Day.  

Thanksgiving as we know it today in the United States evolved over a period of some 400 years. The idea of thanksgiving observances goes back to the Protestant Reformation in England under Henry VIII, consolidating a rather large number of thanksgiving holidays during the Roman Catholic period. Special days of Thanksgiving would be called for military victories and for deliverance from such events as the Gunpowder Plot of 1606.

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

Top photograph: Union soldiers celebrate the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1863.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

"Murder in the Farmhouse" by Roy Lewis

If there’s one thing the Senior Planning Officer of the Northumberland Planning Department doesn’t like, it’s publicity. Not to mention upset. Arnold Landon, the Senior Planning Officer’s #2, may be effective at his job, but he attracts publicity, upset, and even murder like flies. For his part, Landon doesn’t mean to attract attention; his idea of a great day is exploring old barns and medieval dwellings, looking for examples of ancient craftsmanship, just like he did as a boy with his father. 

When his boss goes on holiday, Arnold is left to deal with a rather prickly planning application – the taking of an old farm for a home for the elderly. By necessity, the farmhouse and adjacent buildings would be razed. But the woods would be left alone, for now. It doesn’t help that Landon suspects, and then learns, that the applicants are about far more than a home for the elderly. Or that one of the women living at the farm is a borderline terrorist when it comes to defending the place. 


At the same time, Landon must deal with an application for yet another money-making scheme at a nearby manor property. The applications form the owner have come in fast and furious over the years, and most are withdrawn; few are implemented, and of those that are, they all fail to raise funds to keep the manor alive.


Roy Lewis

Then the owner of the farm is found dead, murdered in her own home. And Landon is the one who finds her. And here comes the publicity and upset, followed shortly by the ire of the Senior Planning Officer (who remains nameless, as if stereotyped bureaucrats have only titles, not names). And it’s Landon who decides he will find out what happened.


Murder in the Farmhouse is the third Arnold Landon mystery by British author Roy Lewis. Continuing in the same vein as its predecessors, it’s the story of an unassuming planning department employee who finds himself thrust into the middle of serious crimes.


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.  




Murder in the Barn by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Manor by Roy Lewis.


Error in Judgment by Roy Lewis.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

"Christian Poetry in America Since 1940"

It’s said daily more times than anyone can count: Christianity in America is in serious decline. Cited are churchgoing statistics. The rise of the so-called “nones” people professing no church allegiance. The scandals in the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, Protestant churches, and independent megachurches. The rapid slide in membership in mainline Protestant denominations. 

Yes, there’s all of that. But there’s something else, too. Christian poetry. And if Christian poetry is any indication, Christianity in America may not be in as bad as shape as we read about in the secular and religious press.


To that point, professor Micah Mattix and poet Sally Thomas have joined together to select and edit Christian Poetry in America Since 1940: An Anthology. Featuring 35 poets, Mattix and Thomas have managed to showcase the talent, the range, and the depth of Christian poetry in the United States. The anthology includes only those poets born after 1940, and so by definition excludes such poets as Luci Shaw, Wendell Berry, and Fred Chappell.


Micah Mattix

The included poets represent a veritable feast of poetry: Paul Mariani, Jeanne Murray Walker, Robert Shaw, Kathleen Norris, Jay Parini, Dana Gioia, Mark Jarman, Marly Youmans, Scott Cairns, A.M. Juster, Marjorie Maddox, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, Julia Kasdorf, Christian Wiman, Tania Runyan, James Matthew Wilson, Benjamin Myers, and more. The breadth is as startling as the depth; all Christian faith traditions are represented.


But these poems are not what you might think of as “religious poetry.” These are poems addressing the same kinds of subjects that all poets address – the seasons, geography, relationships, crises, historical subjects like the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930s, brokenness, and more. The difference is the perspective and the self-understanding that these poets know they are part of a much larger story. 


Mattix and Thomas introduce each poet with a basic biography and summary of what they write about (an accomplishment by itself – think about writing 35 concise yet perceptive introductions and keeping them all interesting). Then they include three to five poems by each. What you get is a sharp snapshot of 35 poets with an overall composite of achievement and depth.


Here is an included poem by Andrew Hudgins, born in 1951.


Raven Days


These are what my father calls

our raven days. The phrase is new

to me. I’m not sure what it means.

If it means we’re hungry, it’s right.

If it means we live on carrion,

it’s right. It’s also true

that every time we raise a voice

to sing, we make a caw and screech,

a raucous keening for the dead, 

of whom we have more than our share.

But the raven’s an ambiguous bird.

He forebodes death, and yet he fed

Elijah in the wilderness

and doing so fed all of us.

He knows his way around a desert

and a corpse, and these are useful skills.


Mattix is a professor of English at Regent University, poetry editor of First Things Magazine, and the editor of Prufrock, a daily newsletter on books, the arts, and ideas. He previously taught at Yale and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


Sally Thomas

Thomas is a poetry and fiction writer. She’s published two poetry chapbooks, Fallen Water and Richeldis of Walsingham, and the poetry collection Motherland. Her novel, Works of Mercy, was published by Wiseblood Books this fall. Her poems have been published in a wide array of literary magazines and journals, and she currently serves as associate poetry editor for the New York Sun.


Between them, Mattix and Thomas have accomplished a great blessing for the Christian poetry community in particular and the larger poetry community in general. Christian Poetry in America Since 1940 resonates with a vibrancy that many might find surprising. The real surprise should be, why haven’t you been reading these poets all along?


Related – my reviews at Tweetspeak Poetry of some of the included poets’ works:


Marjorie Maddox Hafer Publishes 2 Poetry Collections.


Mark Jarman’s “Bone Fires.”


A.M. Juster and “Wonder & Wrath.”


Angela Alaimo O’Donnell and “Love in the Time of Coronavirus.”


Paul Mariani and “All That Will Be Knew.”


Benjamin Myers and “Black Sunday.”


Tania Runyan and “What Will Soon Take Place.”


Scott Cairns and “Idiot Psalms.”


James Matthew Wilson and “The Strangeness of the Good.”


Dana Gioia’s “Pity the Beautiful: Poems.”


Christian Wiman and “Once in the West.”

Monday, November 21, 2022

Bruce Catton's Civil War

Bruce Catton (1899-1978) grew up in Petoskey, Michigan, listening to the stories of old Civil War veterans. As a boy, he was enraptured by these first-hand accounts, but his own experiences in World War I led him to believe that those Civil War veterans didn’t really understand modern warfare. His memoir of growing up, which included his interactions with Civil War veterans, was published in 1972 and entitled “Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood.” 

At some point, he realized how wrong he was. He became a journalist and worked for such newspapers as the Boston American, Cleveland News, and Cleveland Plain Dealer. He never lost interest in the Civil War, and Catton continued studying and researching the period before, during, and after the war. He read extensively on the subject, and what he noticed was how historians talked about battles and generals, without paying much attention to the experiences of soldiers.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2022

With the lions

After Daniel 6:10-23

The lions pace as he sits

on the rock in their den.

They come close and sniff;

He flinches a bit when

they roar their hunger

in his ear. But it is 

a muffled roar, as if it

seeks to escape a closed

mouth. The lions pace;

one comes close and 

pushed against him, 

seeking weakness and 

fear and finding only

surprise and wonder.

The lions rest and then

stand in their hunger

and pace. The man grows

sleepy and dozes until

nudged again. He leans

against a wall and

sleeps, believing

the promise 

of deliverance. 


Photograph by Bisakha Datta via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Nov. 19, 2022

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of a new national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of the Battle of Gettysburg in July of that year. His speech (“The Gettysburg Address”) disappointed many of the people in the audience because it was only two minutes long. Much better received was the two-hour oration by Edward Everett, one of America’s premier orators at the time. Later generations made Everett’s speech the butt of the joke over long orations (especially compared to Lincoln’s), but, as Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War points out, Everett had many important things to say. 

Anthony Horowitz is the writer behind the popular British TV series Foyle’s War, which aired for some 14 seasons. He’s also the author of Magpie Murders, which he’s adapted for the PBS Masterpiece series of the same name. At Writer’s Digest, Horowitz explains how he imagined himself into Magpie Murders.


If I had to nominate the most beautiful post of the week, I would give the nod to Tim Suffield at Nuakh. In “After the burning,” he visits the site of destruction after a forest fire in the hills above Birmingham, England, and he finds something quite unexpected


More Good Reads




'Do Not Return' and 'Traveler's Rest' – Martin Rizley at Society of Classical Poets. 


Silence – Jane Dougherty at Jane Dougherty Writes.


Writing a Poem – Sally Cook at Society of Classical Poets.


The pillow – John Poch at New Criterion.


Life and Culture


Do Universities Educate? – Sarah Soltis at Plough.


Domestic Economies – Brian Miller at A South Roane Agrarian.


The Burden of Youth – Elizabeth Stice at Front Porch Republic.


Decline: On the rot in American institutions –New Criterion.


British Stuff


The Forgotten Corners of Old London and Samuel & Elizabeth Pepys at St. Olave’s– at Spitalfields Life.


Portrait of Shakespeare said to be painted while Bard was alive goes on display in London – Anglotopia. 




My ALS Diagnosis & the 23rd Psalm – Hugh Whelchel at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.


Patiently Hearing the Word – Kyle Borg at Gentle Reformation.


Your Tears Have Good Company – Chris Thomas at Ploughman’s Rest.


Life is Beautiful – at Manifold Witness.


News Media


2 Ways Social Media Propels Conspiracy Theories – Chris Martin at Terms of Service.


Writing and Literature


A Prophecy of Evil: Tolkien, Lewis, and Technocratic Nihilism – N.S. Lyons at The Upheaval.


The Earliest Known Detective Film: Sherlock Holmes Baffled

 Painting: Woman Reading in a Forest, oil on canvas (1875) by Gyula Bencz├║r (1844-1920)

Friday, November 18, 2022

Legally trapped

After Daniel 6:10-23

A law, an injunction,

to prevent a prayer,

any prayer, by any one,

to any god, most of all,

to the One.


He prayed anyway,

as if the law were null

and nothing had 

changed to make him

change his mind or

convince him to do

anything other than 

what he did, daily.


Seized and chained, he’s

thrown into the den of lions 

to receive the full penalty 

of an unjust law, watched

by a king trapped by his own

words, a king anguished

in almost physical pain.


The lions roam their den.

Morning breaks. The king

hurries to find the man

he trusted and revered, 

expecting to find bones.

Instead, he finds the man,



Photograph by Karsten Winegeart via Unsplash. Used with permission.