Tag: fiction

C. S. Lewis Was a Bad Writer? Now That’s Fiction


I enjoy listening to Andrew Klavan – when he had a daily podcast on Ricochet I listened almost every day. His reflections on Trump through the last few years have often mirrored my own, appreciating the many unexpectedly good policy decisions the man made, while being quite critical of the man’s character. Klavan is often insightful on matters of culture and faith, and I was encouraged by his memoir, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. He is also very, very funny.

But I have never cared for him as a fiction writer. I struggled all the way through his novel Empire of Lies. The characters never came alive to me; they were rather cardboard spokespeople for points about the mainstream media’s attacks on Christians and conservatives. I’ve tried to read a number of his other novels, but they’ve never captured me. (Including Werewolf Cop, and believe me, it takes a lot to make me put down a book about werewolves. The idea of crime-solving wolf man was done much better in Nicolas Pekearo’s The Wolfman.)

As far as his screenwork, I very much enjoyed A Shock to the System. It’s a clever, cynical thriller with Michael Caine, but it is based on someone else’s novel. I haven’t seen One Missed Call, but Klavan says that the screenplay was butchered by the director. I have seen True Crime, a Clint Eastwood film based on a Klavan novel, but I don’t think there are many Eastwood fans that would find a place for that film in Clint’s top twenty.

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A year ago Andrew Klaven released this book. I remember him talking about it on his podcast; he figured he could turn this main character into a series if he’s given half a chance. Well, he’s been stumping on the Andrew Klevan show recently about the sequel, A Strange Habit of Mind, so I figured […]

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Resupplying the Dragon Resupply is not exactly elegant but simple and utilitarian. The Dragon cuts power; drops to about 45,000 feet and coasts. A special fitted Boeing 737 jet with a bi-fold retractable bay door attaches to the top of the Dragon, drops supply modules and shuttle pods with personnel, detaches, and separates when the […]

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Old Doesn’t Mean Dead – Or Submissive


Cal Yarborough was a farmer. A widower and old, he was living alone on his farm. While he was in the hospital, his children used their power-of-attorney to sell the farm and settle him at Sun City, a Central Texas retirement community.

“Sun City: A Hilariously Addictive Story of Rebellion,” by Matthew Minson, opens with Yarborough’s arrival at Sun City. His dismay at losing his farm is compounded when he learns he cannot even put in a vegetable garden. The community board has banned them.

Most of Sun City’s residents resent the board. It is made up of retired flag officers, appointed by the developers. The board enjoys throwing their weight around committing petty tyrannies.  The residents cannot replace the board because the corporate bylaws allow the corporation to appoint the board until 97 percent of the properties are sold. The Corporation plans to expand Sun City before that happens. Nor can residents sell without incurring a big loss. Buyers prefer new properties.

Madness and the Mirror Universe


My reflection is better-looking than me.  Not only that, but I’m also pretty sure his bathroom is bigger than mine. These things vex me to no end.

One day I mentioned them to a science-nerd friend of mine while we were having lunch.  That was a mistake, as the comment sent my friend on a mission to educate me, and he began to issue, between his disgusting forkfuls of alfalfa sprouts dripping with some odd vinaigrette, an oral dissertation on light waves, photons, reflection, refraction, asymmetrical facial features, and blah, blah, blah.

Quote of the Day: Truth and Fiction


“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” — Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar, Mark Twain

Ain’t it the truth. All you have to do is look at the news today. If in 1960 someone had written a science fiction novel about the 2020s with even half the things that are going on today his editors would have laughed at the draft when they encountered it on the slush pile. The world would lock down for a respiratory virus with a 1% fatality rate? Get outta here!  That will never happen. The FBI would be colluding with a major political party and the New York Times to subvert justice? That’s wacko conspiracy theory territory. Big Brother would not come from the government but rather from public sector technology companies? That idea’s kinda out there, isn’t it?

Simulation, Revelation


The surest way to appreciate a work is to try to recreate it.

Toddlers help us to appreciate the difficulty of drawing or painting by their laughable scribbling. One might first pity the child’s lack of eye-hand coordination, lack of patience, or lack of barest attention to detail (“Is it an airplane? Oh, a cat! Of course, it is. It looks great!”). But few adults can sketch anything worthy of pride either. The more we advance in skill, the more we recognize the full challenge. 

When Silicon Valley Values Meet West Texas


Texas ranching has been under economic siege almost since it began. It has always offered an opportunity to make a small fortune, nowadays by starting with a large one. Yet for all its flaws, ranching is addictive. So is abandoning ranching.

“The Big Empty,” a novel by Loren Steffy, steals one of the classic tropes of Texas letters: modern technology displacing ranching. The oil industry is the traditional disrupter. Set at the dawn of the 21st century, Steffy makes high tech, computers, and the internet ranching’s competitor. He adds a spin. The ranchers are rooting for high tech to win.

Conquistador is a dying West Texas cattle town. While not at the end of the world, on the flat West Texas plains it might as well be. Ranching is fading as a business. Conquistador’s residents are desperately seeking new industry to draw jobs there. They even tried getting the state to build a prison, just for the jobs, only to be turned down. Conquistador is too remote even for prisons.

A British Police Procedural Updated to the Present


The British police procedural is one of the most popular forms of detective fiction. The twentieth century brought Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and P. D. James’s Adam Dagliesh. There are many others, including some set in the nineteenth century.

“Queen of Swords,” by Robert Mills, brings the genre into the twenty-first century.

Senior nurse Jenny Butcher is found strangled in her London flat. Detective Inspector Sanjay Patel, a British-born Indian is the case’s first investigator. He is assigned as deputy to Chief Inspector Tracy Taylor, and an important part of the investigation.

Holy Thou Art


What does it mean for something to be holy? I think it means that a thing or person directs us to God or expresses His presence. Holiness is connected with pious awe. 

What artistic works seem holy to you? Which are the most peculiarly holy — holy in some unusual and perhaps less obvious sense? Is there some work of sculpture or architecture, painting or music, oration or literature that draws you closer to God in a way your associates don’t fully share? 

For Want of Wild Beasts: Meet Me at the Corner of Auburn and Prescott


“Botany is 98% burnouts and potheads.”

The registrar, a kindly, aging woman with a sharp Boston accent, had said that to him on the first day of orientation, handing over his class schedule. Strictly speaking, a medical doctor shouldn’t have been teaching botany at all, but there had been a blank space in his teaching schedule, and the matter of various athletes and sons (and daughters) of privilege who needed science credits. Mix in a few naive humanities majors, frightened of the harder sciences and without any older friends to warn them against it, and that about made up one of his classes. If nothing else, it made his litany of pre-med modules more bearable. 

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There is not a clear line between them.  Novels are often considered more intellectually challenging than movies. But many readers prefer what I call “junk fiction” which, though respectable, offers thrills and little else. It’s mind candy to be enjoyed and quickly forgotten. Films can similarly offer shallow but pleasing content, of course.  Preview Open

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The Great Books: Modern P.I. Series


These are the series I will reread time and again, the ones that suck me back in and have held up over time. By “modern” I mean 1960s on, and include both licensed P.I.s and sole investigators. I’ll occasionally go back to some individual classics by Hammett, Chandler, Christie, and Ellery Queen (especially the trilogy of Queen failures at the center of which is Ten Days Wonder, a masterpiece.) But these twelve are the ones I will reread in their entirety.

JOHN D. MACDONALD, Travis McGee (21 books)
A hardcore beach bum burnout who lives on a houseboat in Florida, Travis is a prototype for many to come, including Jack Reacher. The Kindle versions are high-priced, but individual ones pop up occasionally for $1.99.

Overthinking It


Scene, on a hill in a field we see a car. A GUY and a GIRL laying on the hood, stargazing. After a moment passes, the GUY’S INNER MONOLOGUE steps out from behind the car, paces a bit, rolling his shoulder.

GUY’S INNER MONOLOGUE: “Man oh man, if she keeps lying there like that my shoulder is going to fall asleep. I should say something. There’s no way I’m going to say something; if I do she might move. If you lose circulation doesn’t the limb die eventually? If I don’t move I’m probably going to get shoulder gangrene or something. I can leave it a little longer though. Probably.

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Heat! Heat in stifling blanket layers. Heat that enveloped all of California from the arid Mexican border in the south to majestic Klamath Forest, elbowing northward into Oregon. Heat, oppressive and enervating…Throughout cities and suburbs, in factories, offices, stores and homes, six million electric air-conditioners hummed.  On thousands of farms in the fertile Central Valley–the […]

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