Green, Peter. Classical Bearings: Interpreting Ancient History and Culture.

NY: Thames and Hudson, 1989.

Green, now well into his eighties, has been a noted classicist nearly all his life, having been educated in the old classics tradition at Charterhouse and then taking a Double First at Trinity, Cambridge, followed by a professorial career in universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Published in: on 30 March 2012 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cannadine, David. The Pleasures of the Past.

NY: Norton, 1989.

The author, in addition to being an academic historian on both sides of the Atlantic and a Fellow of the British Academy, has reviewed a great many books over the years for the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Review of Books, and other publications. This volume collects thirty of his review essays from the 1980s, all on British subjects as diverse as the House of Windsor, Sir Edward Elgar, the Dictionary of National Biography, and the BBC.

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Published in: on 29 March 2012 at 6:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Block, Lawrence. A Dance at the Slaughterhouse.

NY: HarperCollins, 1992.

The opening chapter of this eighth outing for ex-New York cop Matthew Scudder, set at a third-tier boxing match in the back end of Queens, offers a fine display of Block’s narrative skills and strategy. He introduces the characters, provides some dialogue that just sounds absolutely right, and clues the reader in to certain parts of Scudder’s personal life.

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Published in: on 27 March 2012 at 8:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

This is, to put it very simply, an amazing book. It’s so filled with humanity and understanding and love and memories, it’s almost impossible to review. You want to just hand it to people and say, “Here. Read this. Now.”

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Heyer, Georgette. The Talisman Ring.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1936.

This book appeared early in the author’s career but after she had hit her stride and had established her reputation as a writer of light, highly enjoyable and impeccably researched historical fiction. All of her books include an element of humor, but this was the first one in which she pulled out all the stops.

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Published in: on 25 March 2012 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Block, Lawrence. In the Midst of Death.

NY: Avon, 1976.

This is the third outing for Matthew Scudder, late of the NYPD and now living in a mediocre hotel room and working occasionally as an unofficial private detective (he hates licenses and making reports and filing taxes on his earnings). It’s quite short, less than 200 pages, dating from a time before Block’s best and most popular character had really crawled out of his chrysalis and assumed his later form.

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Published in: on 23 March 2012 at 6:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heyer, Georgette. Black Sheep.

NY: Dutton, 1967.

This is one of the author’s last Regency romance novels and the plot is largely a warmed-over variation of one she has made use of on numerous occasions — but it works, which is a solid tribute to Heyer’s skill.

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Published in: on 22 March 2012 at 7:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Miers, Mary. The English Country House, from the Archives of Country Life.

NY: Rizzoli, 2009.

Country Life magazine was founded in 1897 and in every issue since then it has featured, in glorious photographic detail, one or another of England’s rural homes. Moreover, the editors have concentrated not on “greatly stately piles and ducal palaces,” as Miers calls them, but on actual residences still inhabited by actual families — often the descendants of the original folks who built them many centuries ago.

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Whitman, S. E. The Troopers: An Informal History of the Plains Cavalry, 1865-1890.

NY: Hastings House, 1962.

Sidney Whitman was an army brat and though he was born about the turn of the 20th century, he grew up in the remaining cavalry posts of the West. He also served as an infantry private in World War I and as a middle-aged platoon sergeant in World War II, and then, in the ’50s, produced a number of adventure novels about the Plains cavalry. With this background, it’s not surprising he’s so knowledgeable about the mobile U.S. Army during the twenty-five years of the Indian Wars.

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Published in: on 19 March 2012 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Morgan, Richard K. The Cold Commands.

NY: Ballantine, 2011.

Morgan has almost invented a new flavor of sword and sorcery adventure with this saga of the three dragonbanes, all of them flawed and at times untrustworthy — Ringil Eskiath, exiled and outlawed nobleman from the north, stone killer and queer as a three-dollar bill, and Egar, the Majak barbarian from the steppes who never feels at home in the southern cities but still can’t leave (and a much simpler soul than Gil), and Archeth, last remaining member of a technologically advanced alien race, left behind when all her people departed after the successful war against the Scaled Folk (and far more complex than her two comrades).

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