Rankin, Ian. The Hanging Garden.

NY: St. Martin, 1998.

Several novels ago, Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh CID was responsible for putting “Big Ger” Cafferty, the local crime boss, in prison. They have an odd relationship, given the circumstances, and Rebus seems to end up visiting Cafferty on a regular basis.

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Published in: on 29 March 2014 at 6:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End.

NY: Harcourt, 1989.

Clarke, of course, is one of the Big Three in science fiction, the other two being Heinlein and Asimov. These gentlemen, while not necessarily the best writers, or even the best storytellers, and certainly not on all occasions, are generally agreed to have had the greatest influence on the subsequent development of the field over the past half century or more. And this book is widely regarded as one of Clarke’s two most important, along with 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Published in: on 26 March 2014 at 6:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Leonard, Elmore. Get Shorty.

NY: Delacorte, 1990.

Leonard is justifiably highly regarded as the author of a couple of dozen generally first-rate crime novels, and they’re all a lot of fun (sometimes viciously so), but this relatively light-hearted caper is still arguably his best. There’s a lot of Damon Runyon in it, in fact.

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Published in: on 24 March 2014 at 5:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Burke, John. Roman England.

London: Artus Books, 1983.

There are two kinds of pictorial, coffee-table-type history books: Those for which the pictures are the main reason for picking up the book at all, and those for which the illustrations are, um, only illustrative.

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Published in: on 21 March 2014 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nicolle, David. The Venetian Empire, 1200-1670. (Men-at-Arms series, 210)

London: Osprey, 1989.

I’ve long found the history of Venice and its sprawling commercial empire to be fascinating. Built on pilings in the lagoons at the top of the Adriatic, it was in most ways a thoroughly Italian city-state, but it also borrowed heavily at various times from the Byzantines and the Turks. In many ways, Venice deliberately set itself apart from the rest of Western Europe.

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Published in: on 19 March 2014 at 5:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Girouard, Mark. The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman.

New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

Around about the time of its wars against the French Revolution and then Napoleon, England witnessed an odd and interesting phenomenon that lasted through the entire 19th century and right up to the end of the Great War: The revival of the medieval code of chivalry, with King Arthur, knights in armor, the notion of courtly love, and all.

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Published in: on 16 March 2014 at 5:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Johnson, Stephen. Hadrian’s Wall.

London: Batsford, 1989.

Hadrian’s Wall, spanning seventy-three miles from coast to coast across the north of Britain, isn’t the largest or longest such construction (that would be China’s Great Wall), nor is it the oldest known (that’s the Greek wall across the Peloponnese to keep out the Dorians), but it is probably the most carefully thought-out strategic design in the ancient world.

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Published in: on 13 March 2014 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lynch, Scott. The Lies of Locke Lamora.

NY: Bantam, 2006.

Good, edgy fantasy is hard to come by but there have been a number of series appear in the last decade or two that are of very high quality, especially those by Joe Abercrombie and Robin Hobb. Now we can add Scott Lynch to that list.

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Published in: on 10 March 2014 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Nicolle, David. Attila and the Nomad Hordes. (Elite Series, 30)

London: Osprey, 1990.

Nicolle is an academic with a Ph.D. in oriental studies and military history, but he’s also an experienced print and media journalist, the result of which is, he not only knows what he’s talking about, he knows how to communicate it vividly and fluently.

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Published in: on 7 March 2014 at 6:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pohl, Frederik & C. M. Kornbluth. Space Merchants.

NY: Ballantine, 1953.

Fred Pohl was (and still is — he’s 93 now) one of the great names in modern science fiction. He published his first work in Amazing Stories in 1937 and his last novel (so he says) came out in 2011. That’s a career of nearly 3/4 of a century. He was mostly an editor, though, during the 1940s and didn’t begin to hit his stride as a writer until the postwar years, when he teamed up with Cyril Kornbluth.

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