Old Stories, new collection: The Best of Jerry Pournelle

The Best of Jerry Pournelle edited by John F. Carr, Baen Books 2019 trade paper, science fiction and biographical essays

While this is a new collection, many of the stories are decades old.

Summary (from the publisher):

“For the better part of five decades, Jerry Pournelle’s name has been synonymous with hard-hitting science fiction. His Falkenberg’s Legion stories and Janissaries series helped define the military sf genre, as did his work as editor on the There Will Be War series of anthologies. With frequent collaborator Larry Niven, he co-wrote the genre-defining first contact novel The Mote in God’s Eye, which was praised by Robert A. Heinlein as “possibly the greatest science fiction novel I have ever read.”

Here, all of Pournelle’s best short work has been collected in a single volume. There are over a dozen short stories, each with a new introduction by editor and longtime Pournelle assistant John F. Carr, as well as essays and remembrances by Pournelle collaborators and admirers.”

My take: I enjoyed this a lot. It had been a while since I read any Pournelle (and then almost always with Niven). I’m now tempted to reread The Mote In God’s Eye. 


  • Introduction
  • Survival with Style
  • Peace and Honoe
  • Jerry Pournelle’s Future History by Larry King
  • The Mercenary
  • The Hospital visit by David Gerrold
  • First Patrol
  • Spirals with Larry Niven
  • The Science and Technology of Jerry Pournelle
  • Reflex with Larry Niven
  • The Secret of Black Ship Island
  • Remembering A Master of Excellence by Steven Barnes
Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Science Fiction | 13 Comments

My 2019 Reading

I had a less than stellar year, reading-wise. Not that I didn’t read lots of good books, I did; but the number of books I read is down. My usual goal is 104 books, two per week. So, a year with less than a hundred is somewhat disappointing.

I know several people (you know who you are!) who read many more books than this, but I’m not a terribly fast reader [as in: slow] so I have to be satisfied with what I manage:

This is also the time of year, and post, when I mention favorite books, but I’ll make that a separate post, in a few days. I also usually mention goals for the forthcoming year, in addition to the total of at least 104, such as reading more of one type of thing than another.

Last year I said I’d read more fantasy, and I did, fifteen of the fantasy and science fiction number was fantasy, much of it read early in the year. I’ll do more of that in 2020, as the last two volumes in a six book fantasy series I’m reading are due to be published this year.

I expect to read a few more graphic novels in 2020, starting with Watchmen in a week or so, and I have several things from British Crime Library awaiting my attention, plus a handful of ebooks burning a hole in the good old iPad Kindle app.

I hope you had a good 2019 reading year, and an even better one in 2020!

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Forgotten Book: The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann, US publication: Elsevier/Nelson Books 1979 hardcover, fiction

I came across this in a bookstore in 1979, and as I sometimes like adventure books with talking animals, I bought it, as much for the beautiful dust jacket as anything. The scan is of my own copy, I haven’t seen any other image of it anywhere.

The Animals of Farthing Wood is a series of books about a group of woodland animals. It originated with the 1979 book, The Animals of Farthing Wood, by Colin Dann, and was followed by six sequels and a prequel by Dann. An animated Animals of Farthing Wood television series based on the books aired in the 1990s, created by the European Broadcasting Union.

In the UK, this was first published by John Goodchild Publishers in early 1979 as two separate paperbacks. The first was known as Escape from Danger and the second was known as The Way to White Deer. After this one instance, they have been released as one novel.

The original book was meant to be a stand-alone book, with the animals reaching White Deer Park at the end. The success of the book led to a further six novels detailing the adventures of the animals once they reached White Deer Park, and a prequel showing how Farthing Wood came to be destroyed. The cover illustrations for this original series were painted by Portal artist Frances Broomfield.

The story here is about the animals of Farthing Wood, a badger, a fox, an adder, an owl, a kestrel, a toad, a mole and families of hares, rabbits, hedgehogs, mice and voles.  The book begins during a drought and quite soon after the animals discover that their precious pond has been filled in by developers.  They realize they need to do something and they band together to try and find a solution.  At that point, Toad, who had disappeared shows up.  Turns out he had been snatched by a child, put in a jar and then released quite far to the north.  He made his way home which took four mating seasons.  Learning what happened to his pond, he tells the animals that he had discovered a nature reserve and could probably find his way back there.  The animals decided, after some debate, that escape to this place may be their only choice.  Their decision is confirmed the next day when the bulldozers show up. It is a true adventure journey.  They battle weather, forest fire, nasty farmers, big agriculture, the hunt, predators and traffic.

I reread it toward the end of 2019 after reading a December 11 Forgotten Book piece on Olman Freeny’s blog, Olman’s Fifty. He said:
The Animals of Farthing Wood was very straightforward, a little bit too simple for me to really get into.  Despite that, by the end, I was quite moved and felt a real sense of triumph at the completion of the adventure.  The stakes don’t feel that high, though in the narrative animals do die and the threat of human destruction and cruelty is very real and depressing.  This was Dann’s first book and judging by my memory of King of the Vagabonds, I suspect his work increases in subtlety.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t up to the standard of Richard Adams’ Watership Down, nor Duncton Wood by William Horwood or even The Redwall books by Brian Jacques. But for this sort of thing, it’s enjoyable. I haven’t seen the sequels nor the animated series.

Posted in Books & Reading, Fiction, Friday Forgotten Books | 13 Comments


Nope, not making any this year.

Oh, I’ll try the usual stuff, read more, get more exercise, lose some weight, but those aren’t really “resolutions” so much as good sense.


Posted in Books & Reading | 7 Comments

Just a Reminder

I’m taking the next week or so off. See you January 12th-ish

Taking off - Freas



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Gratefully Received – part THREE of three

Finishing up with the books I received for Christmas…

The Dutch Shoe Mystery by Ellery Queen (1931).

An eccentric millionairess is lying in a diabetic coma on a hospital bed in an anteroom of the surgical suite of the Dutch Memorial Hospital, which she founded, awaiting the removal of her gall bladder.

When the surgery is about to begin, the patient is found to have been strangled with picture wire. Although the hospital is crowded, it is well guarded, and only a limited number of people had the opportunity to have murdered her, including members of her family and a small number of the medical personnel.

Murder in the Mill Race by E. C. R. Lorac (1952)

When Dr Raymond Ferens moves to a practice at Milham in the Moor in North Devon, he and his wife are enchanted with the beautiful hilltop village lying so close to moor and sky. At first, they see only its charm, but soon they begin to uncover its secrets―envy, hatred, and malice.

Everyone says that Sister Monica, warden of a children’s home, is a saint―but is she? A few months after the Ferens’ arrival her body is found drowned in the mill-race. Chief Inspector Macdonald faces one of his most difficult cases in a village determined not to betray its dark secrets to a stranger.

Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life edited by Marta McDowell

Emily Dickinson was a keen observer of the natural world, but less well known is the fact that she was also an avid gardener—sending fresh bouquets to friends, including pressed flowers in her letters, and studying botany at Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke. At her family home, she tended both a small glass conservatory and a flower garden.

In Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life, award-winning author Marta McDowell explores Dickinson’s deep passion for plants and how it inspired and informed her writing. Tracing a year in the garden, the book reveals details few know about Dickinson and adds to our collective understanding of who she was as a person. By weaving together Dickinson’s poems, excerpts from letters, contemporary and historical photography, and botanical art, McDowell offers an enchanting new perspective on one of America’s most celebrated but enigmatic literary figures.

I love this sort of book, and also have Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by the same author.

That concludes my listing of the books I received for the holiday. I’ve read one (the graphic novel) and am well into another, but it will take a while to get to them all.

I’m taking the next week or so off. See you January 12.

Posted in At Home in Portland, Books & Reading, Mystery, Non-fiction | 6 Comments

Gratefully Received – part TWO

Continuing with the books I received for Christmas…

The Bellamy Trial by Francis Noyes Hart.
One of the very first legal thrillers. Hart (1890-1943) drew on accounts of the 1922 Hall-Mills murder, the most notorious of her day. But the trial of Stephen Bellamy and Susan Ives for the fatal stabbing of Bellamy’s wife would have been sensational on its own. Mimi Dawson had been romantically involved with both self-made stockbroker Patrick Ives and equally eligible Elliot Farwell, and Pat had eloped with Sue Thorne, Elliot’s former girlfriend whose wealthy father disinherited her in disgust, only a few days before Mimi married Stephen. The combustible mixture of once and future lovers, linking Pat and Mimi once more despite their marriages to others, boils over when Mimi is found stabbed to death in the gardener’s cottage on the grounds of Orchards, the old Thorne estate. “For both nostalgia buffs and casual readers, this seminal tale of legal intrigue holds up remarkably well.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Complete Casebook of Sgt. Brinkhaus by Frederick Nebel.
Following Donahue and Cardigan, Frederick Nebel’s longest-running detective series featured the hard-boiled exploits of Sgt. Otto Herman “Brinky” Brinkhaus and Inspector Peter Larsen of the Portsend Detective Bureau as chronicled in the pages of Detective Action Stories, Dime Detective Magazine, and Detective Fiction Weekly. Now, for the first time, all of their cases are reprinted in another volume in the uniform Nebel Library by Altus Press.

The Complete Cases of The Rambler by Fred MacIsaac
Meet the “Rambler”: peripatetic newspaper reporter Addison Francis Murphy. A tall, rangy redhead, the Rambler behaves like a tramp, wandering from city to city, often arriving on a railroad boxcar, never taking root. Renowned for his reporting skills and deductive abilities, Frank Murphy never has any difficulty landing a job with the local newspaper; wherever he winds up, he finds that his reputation has preceded him. The Rambler has a knack for getting into trouble, and every search for a front-page scoop puts him in jeopardy sooner or later. He seems to have a genius for running afoul of violent gangsters, wealthy businessmen, corrupt politicians, crooked cops, and the occasional double-crossing dame.

Created by Fred MacIsaac, at one time a redheaded journalist himself, Frank Murphy rambled through 19 terse, tough yarns published between 1933 and 1940 mainly in the pages of Dime Detective, the prestigious crime pulp second only to the legendary Black Mask in its impact on the genre.

Part THREE coming Tuesday.

Posted in Adventure, At Home in Portland, Books & Reading, Mystery | 8 Comments

Gratefully Received – part ONE

Santa was generous this year, as always, and in addition to a scarf featuring Edward Gorey’s Doubtful Guest, and a really nice sweater, I did receive some books. Due to the bounty I’m going to make this a multi-part post.

They Called Us Enemy written by George Take and others. Non-fiction. It’s is a memoir that tells the story of George Takei (known for his groundbreaking role as Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek as well as his activism for social justice) and his family’s imprisonment in two different internment camps during World War II. Shameful.

For many years I had a wonderful neighbor whose parents were incarcerated at Manzanar, in the California high desert during this time, and he told me a lot about it. Takei’s family were taken from Santa Ana, CA to Arkansas for their incarceration.

The Best of Jerry Pournelle edited by John Carr, science fiction. This is a collection of short works from the late Pournelle (1933–2017), interspersed with remembrances of his life from colleagues and collaborators. It’s an engrossing retrospective of the half-century career of a defining author of the military sci-fi genre. The tales range from the famous, like “The Mercenary,” the first story in the Falkenberg Legion series, to the lesser-known, among them “Kenyons to the Keep,” which explores a postapocalyptic California. Among the essays on Pournelle’s life comes a barrage of memories from Larry Niven, whose short collaborations with Pournelle are all included. – Publisher’s Weekly

The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen, mystery. Originally published in 1934, this is one of the earlier Queens, which I have not yet read it. Note that this is one of the books in the Otto Penzler Presents American Mystery Classics series. I like the artwork on these, and the selections are good.

I received more books in the series, as you will see in Part Two, in a few days.

Posted in At Home in Portland, Books & Reading, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Mystery, Non-fiction, Science Fiction | 15 Comments

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to All!

Posted in Books & Reading | 19 Comments

Ready for Christmas?

Merry Gift giving!

It’s just about that time!

There’s always the last minute shopping, wrapping and decorating, but we’re pretty much ready! Time for a delicious glass of eggnog (or your favorite beverage).



Posted in Books & Reading | 18 Comments