current reading: Rogues edited by Martin & Dozois

Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Bantam 2014 832 page hardcover, various genres

This twenty-one story anthology is large. The hardcover page count is shown above, but the paperback edition I read had even more, a whopping 909 pages.

It took me almost a year to work through, but during that time I was reading other things: novels, other short story anthologies and collections, graphic novels. Still, my interest didn’t flag, and I’d say I enjoyed better than 90% of the stories, many of them quite long.

Here’s the table of contents…

  1. “Tough Times All Over” by Joe Abercrombie
  2. “What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn
  3. “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes
  4. “Bent Twig” by Joe R. Lansdale
  5. “Tawny Petticoats” by Michael Swanwick
  6. “Provenance” by David Ball
  7. “The Roaring Twenties” by Carrie Vaughn
  8. “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
  9. “Bad Brass” by Bradley Denton
  10. “Heavy Metal” by Cherie Priest
  11. “The Meaning of Love” by Daniel Abraham
  12. “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell
  13. “Ill Seen in Tyre” by Steven Saylor
  14. “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix
  15. “Diamonds From Tequila” by Walter Jon Williams
  16. “The Caravan to Nowhere” by Phyllis Eisenstein
  17. “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” by Lisa Tuttle
  18. “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back” by Neil Gaiman
  19. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis
  20. “The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss
  21. “The Rogue Prince, or, the King’s Brother” by George R. R. Martin

This is a really top notch anthology, and a good one to have on the shelf, whether you want to read it straight through, as I did, or just hunt and peck Highly recommended.

So, what have you been reading?

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Friday Forgotten Stories – G Stands for Glory by Norvell Page

G Stands For Glory by Norvell Page © 1936-1939, originally published in Ace G-Man Stories, this edition: Altus Press 2010 limited edition hardcover (also available in trade paperback)  – pulp crime short stories featuring the F.B.I.

It’s the stories, not the book, that are forgotten here. From the publisher’s website:

Known best for his work on Popular Publications’ The Spider, pulp scribe Norvell Page proved he was no slouch when it came to penning gangster and G-man epics! This book collects all eleven stories Page wrote for “Ace G-Man Stories” between 1936 and 1939, which are reprinted here for the first time!”

I’ve read some of the Spider adventures, and while I like them, I find these even more to my taste, since the plots elements are less outlandish. These stories are fast and furious, great fun reading though a bit predictable. There are at least three stories with similar set-ups: two agents, either in “G-school” or in their first year and still on probation, competing against each other both to make a good showing to their chief but also to get the girl. In both there is also a gang of crooks that needs to be caught. The crooks and the girl are a standard part of these stories, a required element by the story editor of Ace G-Man Stories.

These stories won’t be mistaken for anything serious or thought-provoking, but if it’s simply an enjoyable few hours that’s wanted, these may be a good choice. I’ll read more of Page’s non-Spider stories.

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current reading: nothing this week

I’ve been reading a little of this, and a little of that, but not anything to fill a post this time. I’ll have something next week.

Meanwhile, what have you been reading?

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Friday Forgotten Stories – Space Pioneers edited by Hank Davis

Space Pioneers edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio, Baen 2018 mass market paperback, science fiction

This nineteen story anthology is edited by one of Baen’s best, Hank Davis. Though the book is pretty new, the stories range from as early as the Thirties all the way to now. So I think it qualifies as a Friday Forgotten Book for it’s contents.

For the most part, this is the kind of science fiction I grew up on and still love. These are what is now – with the exception of two of the newest stories – thought of as “old fashioned” hard SF.

Davis provides brief editorial comments before each story. I particularly enjoyed the Pournelle and Simak. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Contents:
Introduction: Will The Space Ocean Have Gems? By Hank Davis
“Third Stage” By Poul Anderson
“Becalmed In Hell” By Larry Niven
“Delilah And The Space-Rigger” By Robert A. Heinlein
“Expedition” By Fredric Brown
“Not Yet The End” By Fredric Brown
“Superweapon” By David Drake
“In From The Commons” By Tony Daniel
“Home Front” By Sarah A. Hoyt & Jeff Greason
“Incident On Calypso” By Murray Leinster
“All The Traps Of Earth” By Clifford D. Simak
“The Cave Of Night” By James E. Gunn
“He Fell Into A Dark Hole” By Jerry E. Pournelle
“What’s It Like Out There?” By Edmond Hamilton
“The Man Who Lost The Sea” By Theodore Sturgeon
“The Parliament Of Owls” By Christopher Ruocchio
“Quietus” By Ross Rocklynne
“Men Against The Stars” By Manly Wade Wellman
“Over The Top” By Lester Del Rey
“Kyrie” By Poul Anderson

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current reading: Foreign Bodies

Foreign Bodies edited by Martin Edwards, Poisoned Pen Press 2018 trade paperback, British Library Crime Classics series, mystery short stories.

The first ever collection of classic crime in translation from the golden age of the genre in the 20th century. Many of these stories are exceptionally rare, and several have been translated for the first time to appear in this volume.”
– from the introduction

This volume contains fifteen stories, all translated from foreign (non-English speaking) authors from around the world.

I was impressed with the concept and ordered the book as soon as I found out about it. Now, having read it, I admit I’m less enthusiastic. I found several of the stories not to my taste at all, and only two of them really enjoyable. This could well be simply a matter of taste, or present mood, but I’m afraid this isn’t an anthology I can recommend.

Does this sound interesting to you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 13 Comments

Friday Forgotten Stories: Bodies From the Library

Bodies From The Library selected and introduced by Tony Medawar, mystery, subtitled Lost Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Agatha Christie and other Masters of the Golden Age, Collins Crime Club 2018 hardcover. Stories from the Golden Age.

Sixteen forgotten tales which have either been published only once before – perhaps in a newspaper or rare magazine – or have never before appeared in print.

These stories are almost all really good, and I was very glad to have bought the book. I had some particular favorites, and I’m sure you, if you are a fan of golden age stories, will too. But I won’t say a lot more because EVERYTHING you need to know about this book is in the very fine post on the Cross Examining Crime blog post HERE. I couldn’t do a better job of describing the book or stories. Go there! Read it!

Contents:

Introduction by Tony Medawar
“Before Insulin” by J. J. Connington
“The Inverness Cape” by Leo Bruce
“Dark Waters” by Freeman Wills Croft
“Linkes Great Case” by Georgette Heyer
“‘Calling James Braithwaite'” by Nicholas Blake
“The Elusive Bullet” by John Rhode
“The Euthanasia of Hilary’s Aunt” by Cyril Hare
“The Girdle of Dreams” by Vincent Cornier
“The Fool and the Perfect Murder” by Arthur Upfield
“Bread Upon the Waters” by A. A. Milne
“The Man With the Twisted Thumb” by Anthony Berkeley
“The Rum Punch” by Christianna Brand
“Blind Man’s Bluff” by Ernest Bramah
“Victoria Pumphrey” by H. C. Bailey
“The Starting-Handle Murder” by Roy Vickers
“The Wife of the Kenite” by Agatha Christie

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current reading: Cinda Williams Chima

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, fantasy, Hyperion Books, 2009 hardcover, 519 pages

16-year-old Han Alister encounters three underage wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Alister is unaware that this will lead to a series of events that threaten to consume the world in chaos. To prevent the wizard Micah from using a magical amulet against him, he makes Micah give him the amulet. Later Alister learns that the amulet has an evil history, and it once belonged to the Demon King. The Demon King is an evil sorcerer who almost destroyed the world a millennia ago. Now, the wizards will stop at nothing to get their amulet back.

Princess Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Gray Wolf throne of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. After spending three years of freedom with her father’s family at Demonai Camp, riding, hunting, and working at the famous Clan markets, she learns that her life is going to completely change. Court life in Fellsmarch pinches like a pair of tight shoes, and Raisa feels like a cage is closing in around her. However, an arranged marriage and an eroded inheritance are the least of her struggles. The power of the Wizard Council is growing, and her people are starving and rebellious.

Even though both Alister and Raisa come from different backgrounds, they wind up in a race to keep balance in the Queendom and to save Fellsmarch.

The action takes place in this first novel mainly in the mountainous Queendom of the Fells. The Seven Realms, which are seven loosely related areas that were once ruled by the Gray Wolf Queens and their wizard consorts, or kings: Queendom of the Fells, the Kingdom of Tamron, the Kingdom of Arden, the southern Kingdoms of Bruinswallow and We’enhaven, the Southern Islands, and the Northern Islands.

As readers of this blog have noticed, I seem to have a real appetite for fantasy this year. I really enjoyed this one, and as I have all four books on hand, went straight on to the next one. Pretty darn good for those who enjoy fantasy.

The Seven Realms novels:

The Demon King (2009)
The Exiled Queen (2010)
The Gray Wolf Throne (2011)
The Crimson Crown (2012)

A sequel series has been announced, titled The Shattered Realms. The first novel, titled Flamecaster, was released in April 2016.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fantasy | 13 Comments

Friday book: The Smoke at Dawn by Jeff Shaara

The Smoke at Dawn by Jeff Shaara, Ballentine Books 2014 historical novel, Civil War

It is Summer, 1863. The Federal triumph at Vicksburg has secured complete control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy, cementing the reputation of Ulysses S. Grant. Farther east, the Federal army under the command of William Rosecrans captures the crucial rail hub at Chattanooga. But Rosecrans is careless, and while pursuing the Confederates, the Federal forces are routed in north Georgia at Chickamauga Creek. Retreating in a panic back to Chattanooga, Rosecrans is pursued by the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg. Penned up, with their supply lines severed, the Federal army seems doomed to the same kind of defeat that plagued the Confederates at Vicksburg.

A disgusted Abraham Lincoln has seen enough of General Rosecrans. Ulysses Grant is elevated to command of the entire theater of the war, and immediately replaces Rosecrans with General George Thomas. Grant gathers an enormous force, including armies commanded by Joseph Hooker and Grant’s friend, William T. Sherman. Grant’s mission is clear: break the Confederate siege and destroy Bragg’s army.  Meanwhile, Bragg wages war as much with his own subordinates as he does with the Federals, creating dissension and disharmony in the Southern ranks, erasing the Confederate army’s superiority at exactly the wrong time.

This third book in the series has both historical detail and stark depictions of battle. Again, the real historical figures take most of the stage, but the reality of the fighting is brought to the reader by fictional soldiers on the front lines, musket in hand.

From the Union side come the voices of Generals Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George Thomas—the vaunted “Rock of Chickamauga”—as well as the young private Fritz “Dutchie” Bauer. From the Rebel ranks come Generals Bragg, Patrick Cleburne, and James Longstreet, as well as the legendary cavalry commander, Nathan Bedford Forrest. History played out on a human scale. The Smoke at Dawn vividly recreates the climactic months of the war in the West, when the fate of a divided nation truly hangs in the balance.

Next week, a break from the Civil War for something more mysterious.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

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current reading: Eight Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block

Eight Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block, graphic novel version, adapted and illustrated by John K. Snyder III, IDW Publishing (July 17, 2018), 144 pages

There were several mentions of this in the latest issue of Mystery Scene magazine. Several reviewers listed it as a “favorite” of 2018. So I got a copy from the library.

As the fifth entry in the Matthew Scudder series, Eight Million Ways to Die  comes about in the middle of his story. He’s had his share of problems, most recently the tragic shooting that drove him off the force, away from his family and into a bottle. He’s trying to understand that last part, sometimes happy to drown himself in the booze, sometimes attending an AA meeting.

He seems to be comfortable with the unlicensed, off-the-books private detective world he’s created for himself. So when Kim Dakkinen, a prostitute who wants help to get out of the life comes to him, he takes her case without much hesitation — only to find himself with a heap of regret after he worked things out for her only to find a few days later she has been hacked to death.

That’s enough of the plot. If you haven’t read this one, and most of the people who visit this blog probably have, you’ll probably want to read the book. But this graphic novel is pretty well done, the artwork of rough and gritty, just like the world Scudder lives in, and the whole package is well done.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 12 Comments

A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara

A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara, Ballantine Books 2013, volume 2 of The Civil War Western Theater, historical novel (fictionalized)

Continuing with Shaara’s Civil War books, which I read in ebook format. Last week I reviewed A Blaze of Glory, about the battle of Shiloh. This time, it’s Grant’s campaign against Confederate General John Pemberton, leading to the South’s loss of the citadel of Vicksburg.

As the war in the West turns badly for the South, the Union knows the one great barrier to their control of the Mississippi River, considered critically important, lies at the Confederate bastion of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Protected by high embankments, and a formidable presence of Confederate artillery, the Confederate forces there under the command of John Pemberton, are confident that Vicksburg is a citadel that cannot fall. But Federal commander Ulysses Grant believes otherwise.

So Grant launches an overland campaign that avoids a direct frontal assault on the town from the river, and instead, maneuvers his army downstream, crossing from Louisiana into Mississippi where the Confederates are too weak to make an effective stand. Instead of pushing directly at Vicksburg, Grant employs an audacious strategy, slicing quickly through the Mississippi countryside toward the capital city of Jackson.

Pemberton’s superior, General Joseph Johnston arrives in Jackson and sees Pemberton’s situation in Vicksburg as hopeless. Thus he holds his own forces back from the fight, allowing Grant the freedom to focus all his energies on Vicksburg itself. Johnston’s reluctance to engage Grant, and thus offer relief to Vicksburg, is one of the most controversial decisions of the war.

The story is told primarily through the voices of Union General William T. Sherman, and, returning from the first volume (A Blaze of Glory), the young private from Wisconsin, Fritz Bauer. On the Southern side, the story is told through the eyes of Pemberton himself, as well as a young civilian woman in the town, Lucy Spence, who serves her cause the only way she can, by volunteering for nursing duties in the makeshift hospitals,

Like the first novel, this book is excellent. Next week I’ll be going on to the third book.

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