Wooster, Robert. Soldiers, Sutlers, and Settlers: Garrison Life on the Texas Frontier.

College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1987.

For the generation before the present one (or two), John Wayne in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and similar films epitomized the public’s image of the U.S. Army on the 19th century American frontier. Such depictions made it clear that the military life had at least as much to do with social interaction and raising families and alleviating boredom as it did with actually suppressing the Indians. Frontier garrison life has always intrigued me, perhaps because I grew up on army posts myself.

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Published in: on 30 August 2010 at 6:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Robinson, Peter. Aftermath.

NY: Morrow, 2001.

Robinson’s novels about the cases — and the life — of DCI Alan Banks of the North Yorkshire CID just keep getting better and better, and this, the twelfth in the series, is the best yet. A couple of young police constables get a call to check on a domestic disturbance and what they find in the basement leads to the death by machete of one cop and haunting nightmares for the other, though she manages finally to subdue their attacker.

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Published in: on 26 August 2010 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Todd, Charles. Search the Dark.

NY: St. Martin, 1999.

The first novels in this series about Scotland Yard homicide investigator DI Ian Rutledge (recent returnee from the trenches in France and now haunted by the voice of a Scots soldier he reluctantly had executed) focused on stately homes (or at least “country houses”) inhabited by gentlefolk of extended pedigree. This one is different, and probably the best of three, centering as it does on Mowbray, a desperately unemployed working man who, like Rutledge himself, is a psychologically damaged combat veteran.

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Published in: on 25 August 2010 at 3:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Todd, Charles. Wings of Fire.

NY: St. Martin, 1998.

This is the second in the series about Ian Rutledge, recently returned from the trenches in France and trying to resume his career as a homicide detective at Scotland Yard. But he’s a damaged being, like so many survivors of the Great War, struggling with the effects of “shell shock” and carrying around a passenger in his head — the voice of a young Scot whom he was forced to put in front of a firing squad.

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Published in: on 14 August 2010 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Robinson, Peter. In a Dry Season.

NY: Avon, 1999.

In the previous book in this excellent police procedural series, North Yorkshire DCI Alan Banks and his wife had come to a parting of the ways after more than twenty years. Now, Sandra has gone off back to London and Banks is trying to get used to living by himself in a small-but-scenic cottage. His son has barely scraped through college and is trying to make a go of it with his band. The Chief Constable hates him for unspecified reasons and is determined to force him out by giving him almost nothing to do. And on top of all that, the Dales are in the middle of a drought. A “dry season” all round.

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Published in: on 11 August 2010 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Todd, Charles. A Test of Wills.

NY: St. Martin, 1996.

This author — actually an American mother-son team — is new to me but I shall be eagerly searching out the dozen or so novels they’ve since produced in this very interesting series. DI Ian Rutledge had a promising career under development as a homicide detective with Scotland Yard before 1914, when he went off to war and came back a very different person. Now it’s 1919 and he’s trying to re-establish himself as an investigator, but he has to deal with the effects of PTSD — what they then called “shell shock” and often considered an “unmanly” weakness — which includes a voice in his head that follows him around and tries to drive him over the final edge.

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Published in: on 10 August 2010 at 12:35 am  Comments (1)  
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James, P. D. Unnatural Causes.

NY: Scribner, 1967.

This is only the third of this author’s detective novels and already it’s a considerable improvement over the first two. James was a fast learner. Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh has just completed a difficult and exhausting case and he’s headed for a week’s holiday up in Suffolk with his spinster aunt, Jane. Being rather like Adam in various ways, she’s easy to be around and he’s looking forward to peaceful walks on the beach and sitting quietly by the fireside.

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Published in: on 7 August 2010 at 9:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pope, Dudley. Ramage’s Prize.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1974.

In the previous novel in this excellent naval historical series, Lieut. Lord Ramage barely survived French privateers and a hurricane in the Caribbean, and his brig ended up with her bottom torn out on a reef, though Ramage was able to save all her people. As the fifth novel opens, he’s sitting on the veranda of a Kingston hotel, wondering what the next phase in his career will bring — assuming he can get another ship. Then the Commander in Chief of the Caribbean station taps him for an unusual assignment:

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Published in: on 3 August 2010 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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