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Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde: The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means. I have often failed to find this line funny because I find it so easy to think of it as just a straightforward statement of how fiction should be written. Plato’s Republic […]

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A Methanolated Death

 

Julia Fairchild is a physician in a small southern Washington State town. She has long-term family roots in Parkview, a town of 38,000 built around the local pulp and paper mill. An internist at the local hospital, Julia has a hobby: solving mysteries.

“One Will Too Many: A Julia Fairchild Mystery,” by PJ Peterson is this series’s fourth book. In the first three, a peripatetic Fairchild (generally accompanied by her sister Carly) are vacationing in exotic locations. This one takes place in Parkview.

It begins with Pam, a childhood friend of Julia getting called out of town abruptly. Pam has to skip an important fundraising event to restore a landmark historic theater building in Fairview. She twists Julia’s arm into replacing her at the tux and formal dress event. This ends up involving Julia in a bizarre death. When banker Jay Morrison gets drunk, Julia gives his girlfriend Sophia a ride home. The next morning, Julia drives Sophia to Jay’s house so Sophia can recover her car. They find Jay unconscious in the dining room.

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I am old enough to remember when there was considerable controversy over a major restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the 1980s. A vocal minority contended that a layer of varnish, presumably applied contemporaneous to the painting, was part of Michelangelo’s conception and should be preserved. My guess is the varnish (actually layers of […]

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Pope Julius II is best remembered for the great art he commissioned. At any rate, the art is remembered, if not the Pope. In Durant’s telling, this is when the Renaissance shifted from Florence to Rome. Julius deserves credit for having commissioned the new St. Peter’s (Bramante), the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (Michelangelo), The School of […]

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Those of you who may have been following my diary for some time will recall that my interest in the Renaissance began with Barabara Tuchman’s ‘The March of Folly’ and her section on the Renaissance popes whose folly brought on the Reformation. I wanted to know more, and have been helped immeasurably by Will Durant’s […]

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A Sino-American Battle in Space

 

The time is the near-future, perhaps 50 years from today. Commercial space is a major industry. Human presence in space is continuous and widespread. The United States even has a manned and armed spaceship in cislunar: space the Borman. Not a warship, it is a space-faring Coast Guard cutter, an orbital beat cop.

“Frontier,” a science-fiction novel by Patrick Chiles opens in this setting. Marshall Hunter, a new graduate of the Space Force Academy, wants a piece of that action. He wants to explore space.

Hunter’s dream is an assignment aboard the nuclear-powered Borman. He busted his final check flight on the first go-around. Although he passed it the second time around, he believes he is bound for a dead-end assignment due to the screw-up. His worst fears seem realized when he is given a headquarters posting.

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I have mentioned before that there are a very small number of authors for whom I will drop everything in order to read their latest. Faith Hunter is one, and her latest book has landed at my door. Any author who comes up with one good idea has done a remarkable thing. Sherlock Holmes, Harry […]

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Death on a Narrow Gauge

 

Johann Mueller is a physicist. He fled Germany for the United States to escape Nazism.  The US is at war with Nazi Germany, with Mueller employed by the US government as a scientist. It is why he is on Denver & Rio Grande Western’s San Juan Express, heading towards a Colorado mining town.

In “Murder on the San Juan Express,” a historical mystery by K. C. Sivils, Mueller never makes it to his destination. His body is found along the track after he fell from the train. Was his fall an accident or was he pushed?

Since Mueller is a federal employee, the FBI investigates. Special Agent Nelson Paine is assigned the case. Paine’s boss, intends to steal the credit if Paine solves the crime, and shift the blame to Paine if Paine does not solve it. Paine knows this, but does not care. He wants to solve the mystery.

More year-end awards today!  Jim and Greg embark on the second half of their six-episode saga known as the 2021 Three Martini Lunch Awards. Today, they offer up their selections for the best political idea, worst political idea, and boldest political tactics for the year. For the first two categories, their selections are derived from the same big stories but each has a different focus. But they choose completely different issues when it comes to boldest tactics.

 

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I have mentioned before that I read Gibbon more as a work of literature than history, but having become curious about the time period covered by his fourth book, I thought I might find some modern historians on my shelves, and see what they had to say about it. One of my commenters, @GeezerBob , […]

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I confess that I write these book diary posts largely for my own amusement, and to get these thoughts out of my head, where they would otherwise rattle around without end. I don’t expect to add to anyone’s knowledge, unless it is to point out some odd cross-references that may be unknown to anyone but […]

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I have mentioned before that I read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall a little at a time, as the mood strikes. Having just now reached the end of the fourth book, I am inclined to make some comments here. There are three major inflection points in Gibbon’s book, excepting the endpoint of the fall of Constantinople […]

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A Mystery Series Opening on a Maiden Voyage

 

In 1999, published under the pen name Conrad Allen, a mystery was released.  It featured a murder aboard RMS Lusitania during its maiden voyage. It was the first of eight mysteries featuring detectives George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield aboard various Atlantic liners in the years prior to World War I.

“Murder on the Lusitania,” by Edward Marston, rereleases the book. Marston, like Allen, is a pen name used by author Keith Miles, the one he most commonly uses.

Dillman’s role is revealed gradually. He has been hired by the Cunard to operate undercover among the passengers aboard Lusitania during its 1907 maiden voyage. He is traveling as a first-class passenger, with the other passengers unaware of his true role. His mission is to mingle among the passengers keeping a watch out for petty criminals (pickpockets and thieves) and professional gamblers who might be working the passengers.

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When December comes around and the days turn gray and lonely, my inclinations turn toward reading a Charles Dickens Christmas Story or two. Unlike the Christmas Books (A Christmas Carol, The Cricket on the Hearth, etc.), these stories have nothing to do with Christmas. Rather, they are stories published in the special Christmas numbers of […]

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A Return Trip to the Past and Future

 

In Michael Z. Williamson’s novel “A Long Time Until Now” First Lieutenant Sean Elliott and nine US soldiers traveling in a convoy in Afghanistan suddenly found themselves flung into the Earth’s Paleolithic Age. Other time-displaced people from throughout history were with them. All had been accidentally displaced through a time travel experiment conducted by the Cogi, people in the far future. The Cogi eventually rescued them.

“That Was Now This Is Then,” by Michael Z. Williamson picks up the story after the soldiers’ return.  Some have been discharged; others remained in the Armed Forces. All are trying to pick up their lives.

Now they are being recruited for a new mission in the past. The Cogi need help. It turns out Elliot and his team were not the only American soldiers stuck in the past. The Cogi have found another group. Worse, a Paleolithic human displaced forward in time shows up in a now-time American base.

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The Kingdom of Naples is a constant presence throughout Durant’s history of the Renaissance. Naples is entwined in the history of the other Italian states as ally or enemy, conspiring with or against France or Spain, and apparently having no purpose but to make mischief in the rest of Italy. Here we finally get to […]

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In a Book-Buying Mood

 

I dislike acquiring stuff. You only own things in part; in part the things own you. I also have too many unread books already. My shelves are nearly full. And despite my best attempts to convince myself otherwise, I want more books.

I’ve been jotting down a list of books that I need to look up and read sometime. A couple quick notes from it:

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One of my authorial heroes was Joseph Bayly. He lived from 1920 – 1986 and worked for a number of Christian publications. He wrote a regular column for Eternity Magazine and occasionally those wonderful essays would be collected and reproduced. His book about death, A View from the Hearse, is still well worth reading.   One […]

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Emilia is perhaps the least known section of Italy, although Ravenna is a city well known to musicians. In the Renaissance, it was a contentious buffer zone between Venice and the Papal States. Durant does not have much to say about the history or the art of this region. He notes such art as is […]

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My son is – well, he used to say that all roads and highways ought to be privately owned and maintained perhaps by way of tolls.  Now he has a son of his own and has even less use for gummint. He’s also a certified historiophile and I suppose its natural that he suggest for […]

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