The Rankin Files— the Award Winning Black and Blue

The novel which more than any other made Ian Rankin’s reputation was Black and Blue. It won the CWA Macallan Gold Dagger award for best crime fiction, and probably was the main thing that prompted the attempts to bring his novels to TV… not just once, but twice in the U.K. There is a reason of course why these novels do not translate so well to the North American scene. It is because, though they are clearly written, even telegraphically so at points, they nonetheless involve Scottish cul … [Read more...]

Fast and Furious 6—- London Calling

Fast cars, car chases, smooth criminals. It sounds like the material for a Michael Jackson song and video. Only this is now the sixth blockbuster car flick in the franchise of F+F and this one is mostly set in Europe--- Moscow, Spain, and primarily in London. Like the Bond franchises this series of movies thrives on visually stunning or exotic locations. Not to mention visually stunning and exotic humans of various species. And lest this movie does not finally whet your appetite for such … [Read more...]

The Rankin Files— Let it Bleed

I was driving on New Circle Road, the ring road around the center of Lexington Kentucky, and was passed at 95 mph by a police car... no siren, no flashing lights, no nothing. Just speeding. It raised the question in my mind, to what degree do the police have the right to bend or even break the laws, and all the more so this question arises when we are not talking about an emergency. This is the sort of question Ian Rankin's seventh novel 'Let it Bleed' raises in spades. Our main man, John … [Read more...]

The Many Moods Manifested when Music Moves You

Having spent a good deal of my life being involved in music, in one way or another (listening, playing, going to concerts, selling records.... you name it) it does surprise me from time to time how seldom people think deeply about the effect music can and does have on the human heart or soul. Music, if we bother to listen intently and purposefully and with an open heart, reaches us in places that mere words cannot reach or touch, most of the time. It reaches what some would call the … [Read more...]

The Rankin Files— Mortal Causes

'Getting mortal'--- it's an interesting phrase, and it recurs at various junctures in Ian Rankin's sixth John Rebus crime novel--- Mortal Causes. What it seems to mean is getting inebriated, inebriated enough that one loses one's inhibitions and the true self, the self below the facade, below the surface of the skin is revealed. Getting mortal then is in one sense, going the way of all flesh. In another sense its undressing one's real desires and thoughts in public. It's an apt phrase, and … [Read more...]

The Durham Chronicles– Botanic Gardens (2)

Obviously there is much more to see in a botanical garden than just trees and mushrooms. There are of course all kinds of flowers, both hot house plants like orchids, and outdoor flowers like tulips, and the Durham botanic garden has lots of both. Here's a familiar sampling.The remarkable thing about the eco-system of this area is that because the temperature normally only varies between about 35-75F all sorts of things can grow here, including sub-tropical plants. You can have … [Read more...]

The Durham Chronicles– the Botanic Gardens (1)

When you are married to a biologist and botanist, botanical gardens become regular ports of call. We once took a trip to see a big one in St. Louis (and oh yes, to see James Taylor and Carol King as well). And so today, on our 36th wedding anniversary, I am beginning a series of three posts in Ann's honor on the botanic garden in Durham, which did not really exist when we lived there in the late 70s. See the entrance to the place above, which is way up on a hill, on the south side of … [Read more...]

The Durham Chronicles– A Major Find!

Some 35 years ago, during my first tour of duty in Durham, I was browsing through the Monk's Dormitory portion of the Cathedral where ancient manuscripts and books of various sorts have been kept for who knows how long. Here, I came across the famous J.B. Lightfoot's unpublished notebooks on the Acts of the Apostles. I alerted my mentor C.K. Barrett to their existence, but nothing happened. Then when Jimmy Dunn became Lightfoot Prof. of Divinity at Durham in the 80s, I alerted him, but he … [Read more...]

The Durham Chronicles– The New Buildings

Since I left Durham the first time, there have been some new buildings built, though surprisingly not that many in a period of 35 years. The ones that caused the most comments, both positive and negative have been the Palatine Centre and the Bill Bryson Library (yes that Bill Bryson if you are a reader of good books). Here first of all are some shots I took on a nice bright morning of the Palatine BuildingThe Palatine Centre has all sorts of administrative offices for job placement, … [Read more...]