Seeking Revenge Becomes Something Else

 

Gregory Roarke is a Trailblazer. He and his Kadolian partner Selene conduct surveys of unexplored worlds. It does not pay as well as bounty hunting, the pair’s previous career. Trailblazing covers the bills, barely. And that only if you include the money they make diverting samples from their hiring client for resale elsewhere and unskilled short-term jobs they take between trailblazing contracts. It is safer than bounty hunting. That cost Roarke an arm before he quit.

“The Icarus Plot,” by Timothy Zahn, follows Roarke and Selene. As the book opens, they are one step away from getting their spaceship seized to cover debts. Things get worse when Roarke gets fired from his job as server cum bouncer at a bar. They stand to lose everything.

A reprieve comes through a thuggish sort named Geri.  He and an associate named Freki hire Roarke and Selene to survey of Bonvere Seven, a Terran-type planet. They pay well, and Selene is able to identify a very marketable seed, samples of which they extract and hide from their employers. Only the whole point of hiring them for the survey was to catch the two in an illegal attempt to hide samples from the employer.

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Even from me, good judgment is possible: I think I will drop my idea of posting something on Portuguese Wikipedia about Brazil’s fictitious Nobel laureate. Even the sperges and soyboys who edit that online resource would have a point: the sum of knowledge is not increased by adding made-up stuff to an encyclopedia. Especially when […]

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This is yet another book I began reading some time ago, and have just now finished. Published in 1985, it could not be more timely. Folklore has it that the Constitutional Convention, meeting in Philadelphia in 1787, had a designated secretary (someone’s nephew, no doubt) assigned to record the debates on Madison’s novel constitution as […]

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Who Really Killed the Unpleasant Lord?

 

Kitty Worthington is back for her third adventure in solving crime. In her first, she prevented her brother from being convicted of murder. In the second, she saved her sister’s fiancé from a murder charge.  Now she had a new challenge.

“Murder at the Masked Ball,” by Magda Alexander, follows the same template as the first two books. It is the 1920s, and Kitty Worthington, the youngest child in her wealthy family, is trying to avoid her mother’s attempts at matchmaking.  But she stumbles into a murder, one of her friends and relations seems to be the guilty party, and it is up to Kitty and her crew to prove otherwise by finding the actual culprit.

In this case, the accused is her good friend Lord Newcastle. He has carried a torch for Lady Wakefield since before World War I. He even proposed marriage to her, only to be turned down by her family. (He was not then Lord Newcastle, only inheriting the title and fortune due to the death of other heirs during World War I.) Rather than allowing Lady Wakefield to marry a penniless love, they forced her to marry the wealthy Lord Wakefield. He turned out to be as cruel as he was wealthy, regularly beating his wife for failing to produce an heir.

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The last time I looked on ABEBooks, the book I wanted to find was out of print, and had been for decades.  Good used copies were about $100, and first editions were up to $1,000.00.  So, last week I decided to check again, and I was quite pleasantly surprised.  It turns out that the book […]

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A Pilot’s View of the Battle of Britain

 

Ian Richard Gleed was one of Churchill’s few, the RAF fighter pilots who fought the Battle of Britain and defeated the Luftwaffe. He put his experiences down on paper, detailing his experiences during the Battle of France, The Battle of Britain, and the 1941 nighttime Blitz.

“Arise to Conquer: The ‘Real’ Hurricane Pilot,” edited by Dilip Sakar is a new release of this classic. Sakar adds an extensive introduction, framing this forgotten story for the modern reader. It also contains footnotes that explain Gleed’s slang and technical terms which might baffle today’s readers.

Gleed’s memoirs were originally published in 1942. It was one of the earliest first-person accounts of the battle available to the public. Although fictionalized, it shows what it was like to be a fighter pilot during the opening days of World War 2. You experience Gleed’s triumphs, terrors, and disappointments.

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Having recently seen the Metropolitan Opera production of Brett Dean’s opera Hamlet, I naturally had to take my Riverside Shakespeare from the shelf and read the original play (again, I think). The differences are striking. Understandably, much, even most, of the play has been dispensed with. The political aspects are gone (No Fortinbras). There is […]

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Who was Phyllis Wheatley?  She was an African-American who was a slave but taught to read and write and showed a natural gift toward poetry.  According to Wikipedia, she was born in West Africa, enslaved at about seven or eight, brought to the colonies where she was sold to the Wheatley family in Boston.  This […]

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Wheat and Its Role in Civilization

 

Do empires build trade routes or do trade routes build empires? Have the United States and Russia been locked in an economic rivalry since the 1860s? Was World War I triggered by international grain trade and the desire of Russia to control Constantinople?

“Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World,” by Scott Reynolds Nelson, examines these questions and much more. It is a study of grain, its trade routes, and the impact grain trading has had throughout history. Bread is the staff of life. Nelson follows it from prehistory to the present.

Nelson’s theme is simple: food production drives history. Abundance or absence creates or destroys empires, fuels economic and technological growth, and drives world history. Grain is the most important food. Storable and transportable, it can also be used to create more food, especially meat. The two biggest breadbaskets are the Ukrainian and US plains. There were others, but none as productive.

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I just finished reading Justice Thomas’s memoir My Grandfather’s Son because he has been in the news recently and it looks like progressives are going to try to intimidate him for his concurrence to the Dobbs decision (among other reasons). What a great book! The first two chapters are as good a description as can be found […]

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The Wild West in Outer Space

 

John Abbott is the All-American boy of the future. He is scrupulously honest yet ambitious, getting ahead on his abilities. An accountant, he is a family man, with a wife, two young daughters, a family dog and a mountain of student loan debt.

“Abbott in Darkness,” a science fiction novel by D. J. Butler follows Abbott and his family as John Abbott pursues a career to pay off his debts. He has taken a job with an American interstellar corporation, moving his family to a planet circling a remote star. The move offers an opportunity to get rich quickly.

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Shortly after the recent death of the brilliant humourist P.J. O’Rourke, John Podhoretz gave an enthusiastic encomium to his life and work. Podhoretz gave special praise to the Sunday Newspaper parody from O’Rourke’s days at the National Lampoon. As Podhoretz pointed out, this is a remarkable object that could not have been produced by the […]

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I cannot tell that anyone is. I don’t mean the country, I mean Michael Crichton’s 1980 novel. It predicted computers would drop electrical for optical circuitry; warfare would be completely entrusted to such computers because anything else would be fatally slow; the U.S. would fight a war in the Congo over the diamonds needed for […]

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As an undergraduate, I read as little of the Iliad as I could get away with, although I did get points for a good speaking voice when reading passages aloud. Many years later, I read the whole of the elegant Richard Lattimore translation (skipping, as everyone does, the long list of Captains and Tribes in […]

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A Mystery Wrapped in a Mystery

 

Four people sit in the reading room of the Boston Public Library. One, an Australian mystery writer, is in Boston for a year on a writing fellowship. Two others are college students. Another is an author from the Carolinas. They are strangers who have never met.

“The Woman in the Library,” a mystery written by Sulari Gentill, opens with this. The four are quietly observing yet ignoring each other. When a woman screams outside the reading room, library security asks them to remain in the room while they investigate. Nothing is then discovered, and they are told they are free to go.

The incident breaks the ice. They start talking to each other while waiting in the room, then decide to go for coffee together. Soon they bond and become friends. They agree to meet again. When they do meet the next day, they learn a woman’s body was discovered hidden in a room near the reading room. She was murdered. At the urging of one of the four, a psychology student they decide to investigate the murder. The four soon  quickly discover their investigation has led them into danger.

A Novel You’ll Love: Bill Rivers, Last Summer Boys

 

So one of my friends is a novelist, Bill Rivers, or rather he’s a young man with a career in D.C. who’s written a novel about kids growing up in Pennsylvania in ’68, getting involved in one way and another in the turmoil of America at that time. It’s a good summer read and I am looking forward to reviewing it. Buy it, read it, you’ll thank me and you’ll be happy to help a young conservative who puts his talent to work our side seldom rewards (link to Amazon). Well, I’m writing now because Bill and I met today, we walked around Capitol Hill and I asked him about himself, thinking about how I might introduce him on a show or in a review and his life story is too earnest to be believable; the phrase, I believe, is all-American.

Let me just give you the quick official bio about his work: “Bill Rivers grew up along the creeks of the Brandywine Valley in Delaware and Pennsylvania. A graduate of the University of Delaware, he earned an MPA from the University of Pennsylvania as a Truman Scholar, one of sixty national awards given annually for a career in public service. Bill worked in the US Senate before serving as speechwriter for US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, developing classified and unclassified messages on national security and traveling throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. He and his family live outside Washington, DC, where he still keeps a piece of a crashed fighter jet they found in the hills of southeastern Pennsylvania.”

Quote of the Day: Thomas Sowell on Ending Slavery

 

“What was peculiar about the West was not that it participated in the worldwide evil of slavery, but that it later abolished that evil, not only in Western societies but also in other societies subject to Western control or influence. This was possible only because the anti-slavery movement coincided with an era in which Western power and hegemony were at their zenith, so that it was essentially European imperialism which ended slavery. This idea might seem shocking, not because it does not fit the facts, but because it does not fit the prevailing vision of our time.”
― Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals

The Iron Law of “Quote of the Day” Posts: when in doubt, go with Sowell. A few months back I read his 2005 book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, and it was even more brilliant than the high level we’ve all come to expect. With seeming ease, Sowell dismantles the divisive racial narrative our media and political culture have peddled for decades. “Seeming ease,” because everything he writes is backed by years of research.

In 1833, the British Empire radically reconsidered the morality of slavery, an institution present throughout every previous era of human history. Once the Crown and Parliament deemed it an intolerable evil, they converted most of the world to their newly held view — often at the point of a bayonet. Only three decades later, the United States fully adopted this new morality, fighting its bloodiest war to remove slavery’s Southern holdouts.

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When Barbara Tuchman, writing in ‘The March of Folly’ comes to Pope Clement VII, the last of the Renaissance Popes, it is as the culmination of a long series of follies committed by feckless popes who squandered the moral authority of the Catholic church. The result was the overwhelming of the church by the Reformation, […]

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