Steven Pressfield: The Lion’s Gate

The Lion's Gate: Paperback

Last year I read and reviewed Steven Pressfield's excellent book The Lion's Gate, which tells the story of many of the men and women involved in the Six Day War in their own words:I was surprised by this book in a number of ways. My notions of Israel are unavoidably colored by my impressions of the biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the days of David, Solomon, and their successors; though I knew better, from other reading I’ve done, I still rather expected the Israelis to be zealous f … [Read more...]

Puttin’ on the Ritz in Fits: Fred Astaire meets Gene Wilder


Because these things make me smile, here are two famous performances of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz". First, let's have Fred Astaire:Next, of course, Gene Wilder and Froderick Fronkensteen's Monster:And for those of you who just can't enough, here's the original performance, sung by Harry Richman in the movie of the same name:Finally, here's Mr. Astaire again, with some Club de Belugas. The additions are occasionally jarring, but … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: Night at the Vulcan


Night at the Vulcan, also published as Opening Night, is the sixteenth of Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn mysteries, and yet another set in the world of the theater; I had forgotten how many of these there were.  I had almost completely forgotten it, and found it enchanting on re-acquaintance.  The only problem with it is that it isn’t terribly satisfying considered strictly as a mystery; there’s a little too much deus ex machine about the conclusion.The tale concerns the days leading up to the … [Read more...]

Julian May: The Saga of the Pliocene Exile

The Many-Colored Land

Julian May's Saga of the Pliocene Exile is a collection of four books: The Many Colored Land, The Golden Torc, The Non-Born King, and The Adversary.  It was first published back in the 1980's; I remember reading positive reviews of it in Analog Science Fiction and thinking it sounded rather uninteresting. The reviews, as I remember them, conveyed something like this to me: A hundred years or so in our future, a French physicist named Guderian has invented a time machine that only works one way: i … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie


I’ve been re-reading Ngaio Marsh’s “Roderick Alleyn” mysteries in publication order; and one of my favorites so far in this read-through is Death in a White Tie, which is set in 1938 or thereabouts but still manages to evoke Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances.   You have the young debutantes, and the various balls and other events associated with their “coming out”; you have the ambitious mamas, on the look out for noble suitors for their young ladies; you have the fathers, stuffy or otherwise; y … [Read more...]

They’ve Seen Him Out Dressed In My Clothes

Johnny Cash sings the best song about Original Sin I've ever heard: "The Beast in Me"."...the beast in me/That everybody knows/They've seen him out dressed in my clothes..."Yes, I rather suspect they have.The beast in me Is caged by frail and fragile bars Restless by day And by night rants and rages at the stars God help the beast in meThe beast in me Has had to learn to live with pain And how to shelter from the rain And in the twinkling of an eye Might have to be … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder


Ngaio Marsh’s first novel, A Man Lay Dead, is a competent, entertaining mystery, and already quite distinct in tone from the work of Marsh’s contemporaries; yet, as I noted last week, it’s still lacking that which makes Marsh’s novels so special.  By Vintage Murder, the fifth “Roderick Alleyn” novel*, Marsh has quite hit her stride and her skill is in full force.I chose this one because it is the first in which Inspector Alleyn is shorn of his regular support, and in particular of his “Watson … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: A Man Lay Dead


Ngaio Marsh (pronounced "NYE-oh") is one of my favorite mystery authors; and she’s striking because she’s so quietly different than her contemporaries from the 1930’s.  Her sleuth, Chief-Inspector Roderick Alleyn of New Scotland Yard, is a gentleman like Lord Peter Wimsey; but he’s neither as whimsical nor as damaged as Lord Peter (we gather that Alleyn had some formative experiences in the Great War that led him to leave the Foreign Office for the CID, but they don’t come into the foreground), a … [Read more...]

A Tour of Tim Powers: On Stranger Tides

On Stranger Tides

After the disappointment of Dinner at Deviant’s Palace I waited with muted anticipation for Tim Power’s next book; perhaps The Anubis Gates had been a fluke.  And then, two long years later, came On Stranger Tides, a book about pirates in the Caribbean that inspired the Monkey Island series of point-and-click adventure games as well as (much later) the fourth of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies.Like The Anubis Gates, On Stranger Tides riffs on actual historical figures and concerns wh … [Read more...]