Stockwin, Julian. Mutiny.

NY: Scribner, 2004.

This is the fourth in the Napoleonic naval series about Thomas Kydd, now a master’s mate risen from the gundeck, and in certain ways it’s the least satisfying so far. The story concerns Tom’s return from the Caribbean and his ship’s lengthy docking at Gibraltar at a time when the Royal Navy has had to completely abandon the Mediterranean. There he becomes involved inconclusively with a young army wife (more…)

Published in: on 29 December 2009 at 5:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Forshaw, Barry. The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction.

London: Rough Guides/Penguin, 2007.

Any heavy reader enjoys finding a new source for authors and titles. There are the usual literary and professional library serials, but for targeted recommendations you really need a book, and I’m always on the look-out for new ones. This small volume is recent enough to include newer authors, which is always useful. (more…)

Published in: on 28 December 2009 at 7:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stockwin, Julian. Seaflower.

NY: Scribner, 2003.

This is the third novel about the maritime adventures of Thomas Paine Kydd, only a couple of years before a young wigmaker in Guildford, pressed into the Royal Navy, and now, in 1794, not only a prime, intuitive seaman but a quartermaster’s mate — and at the end of this volume he’s on the brink of receiving his step in the form of an Admiralty warrant as master’s mate. (more…)

Published in: on 27 December 2009 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  

McGuane, James P. Heart of Oak: A Sailor’s Life in Nelson’s Navy.

NY: Norton, 2002.

I’ve been a historian for a long time but my interest is much less in grand theories and international politics and much more in local history, especially material culture — also known as artifacts. That’s one of the reasons I became interested in local preservation and old cemeteries, and why I got certified as an archivist after earning my library science graduate degree. I’m also a longstanding fan of Napoleonic sea stories, having begun in junior high with my father’s collection of C. S. Forrester. (more…)

Published in: on 24 December 2009 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Connelly, Michael. The Black Ice.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1993.

Connelly has been a popular writer of detective stories for awhile now, still cranking them out in several character series, but he seems to be coasting lately, not always investing sufficient time in his plots or in the bits of “business” that add verisimilitude to the story. It’s a common hazard for a successful popular author. (more…)

Published in: on 23 December 2009 at 7:50 am  Comments (1)  
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Brin, David. The Practice Effect.

NY: Bantam, 1984.

This was Brin’s third novel, but it has many of the hallmarks of a first novel — and a pretty good one, too. Dennis Nuel is a talented young physicist of a generation or two in the future, a post-doc working on what amounts to a university-financed teleportation machine. They’ve having problems with it, though, so he finds it necessary to go through the portal himself to do a little calibration. Naturally, once there, he’s not going to find it easy to return. (more…)

Published in: on 20 December 2009 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Bricker, Lauren Weiss. The Mediterranean House in America.

NY: Abrams, 2008.

I have no training whatever in architecture but I do have a strong interest in social history and material culture, and housing and architecture is an important part of that. Buildings tend to last longer than most man-made objects and the necessities of society and climate incorporated into the design of one’s living space are a major source of historical interpretation. (more…)

Published in: on 19 December 2009 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Connelly, Michael. The Scarecrow.

NY: Little, Brown, 2009.

Connelly has several series going at once, not only the long-running Harry Bosch stories but also those about investigative reporter Jack McAvoy, hardnosed FBI agent Rachel Waling, and several others. But in another sense, they’re all one big series, since the characters appear in supporting roles in each other’s stories and there are frequent references to past cases which were the focus of earlier novels. McAvoy is the narrator this time and he’s just been given his pink slip after a dozen years on the police beat for the L.A. Times; (more…)

Published in: on 17 December 2009 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Williams, Robin & John Tollett. The Non-Designer’s Web Book.

3d ed. Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2006.

What I know about graphic design is a result of self-education, obtained through working as editor of a journal and by hand-building a couple of Web sites in the ’90s, when things were much more basic, technically. But good design is still good design, (more…)

Published in: on 15 December 2009 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Baker, Kage. The Women of Nell Gwynne’s.

Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2009.

Baker has built up quite a fan base for her novels about The Company but where the first one, The Garden of Iden, was an amazing piece of invention and narrative style, they’ve been sliding slowly downhill every since. This novella (a little over 100 pages) is a pretty lightweight offering, (more…)

Published in: on 13 December 2009 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment