Galbraith, Robert [J. K. Rowling]. The Cuckoo’s Calling.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

It’s not uncommon for an established writer who is heavily identified with a particular genre to use a nom de plume when they want to break out and try something different. This was exactly J. K. Rowling’s situation, and she was more in danger than most of being trapped in the YA/fantasy literary ghetto by her own enormous success. In her second post-Harry-Potter novel, she takes on the noir private detective tradition and does it very well indeed.

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Tantimedh, Adi & Hugo Petrus. La Muse.

Round Rock, TX: Big Head Press, 2008.

This is one of the best graphic novels I’ve come across in awhile. In fact, I’d definitely call it a romp, at least for liberals. (The right-wingers and the fundies are probably demanding the authors be investigated for subversion.)

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Gathorne-Hardy, Jonathan. The Old School Tie: The Phenomenon of the English Public School.

NY: Viking: 1977.

The English “public school” — which is to say, very private school — is a distinctive institution with a long history which has had a major influence on education in every other English-speaking country, as well.

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Published in: on 22 June 2014 at 6:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Frazier, Donald S. Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the South.

College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1995.

When I did my M.A. in History forty years ago, my major professor and thesis adviser was, among other things, an authority on the attempt by the government of Texas during the Civil War to capture and hold the Arizona Territory (which also then included what is now New Mexico) and establish a Confederate outlet to the Pacific, or at least to the Gulf of California.

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Published in: on 20 June 2014 at 5:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cornwell, Bernard. The Pagan Lord.

NY: Harper, 2014.

This is the seventh installment in the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, and while it’s a good, rousing series of adventures, it nevertheless feels a bit as though the author is marking time. But that may be somewhat the fault of the historical record, which doesn’t always cooperate with novelists.

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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Dragon Ship.

NY: Baen Books, 2013.

I had originally thought, when I picked up Fledgling, that this new story arc in the “Liaden” universe would be a trilogy — but this is volume four and the cliff-hanger ending makes it clear it isn’t meant to be the last word in the adventures of young Pilot Theo Waitley. But that’s a good thing.

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Briggs, Asa & Archie Mills. A Victorian Portrait: Victorian Life and Values as Seen through the Work of Studio Photographers.

NY: Harper & Row, 1989.

Prof. Briggs is a well-regarded specialist in 19th century history (who later became a life peer and Chancellor of the Open University) with a number of books to his credit. Mills is a professional photographer with a special interest in the history of his craft. The former’s narrative contribution to this oversized volume is quite good. The latter’s production of images (mostly from his own collection), . . . not so much.

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Published in: on 11 June 2014 at 7:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Baker, Kage. In the Company of Thieves.

San Francisco: Tachyon, 2013.

It’s not uncommon for creative artists, including authors, to start out strong and then begin to slip. The late Kage Baker’s first published work about the rapacious Company (a/k/a Dr. Zeus, Incorporated) was In the Garden of Iden, and it deservedly won a number of awards. The next couple of entries about the Company’s use of time travel and augmented immortals (cyborgs, that is) to reap amazing profits in the future were also pretty good. Then Baker seemed to lose track of what she was doing, to become distracted.

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Landrigan, Linda (ed). Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense.

NY: Pegasus Books, 2006.

I read a lot of mystery, private detective, police procedural, and general crime fiction, but it’s nearly all novel-length. In my experience, mysteries just don’t work well in short-story form — unlike science fiction, say, where short stories have been a major part of the market since the 1930s.

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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Ghost Ship.

NY: Baen Books, 2011.

This is the third book about young Theo Waitley, raised in a scholarly atmosphere on Delgado, then trained as a pilot on Eylot, and now abruptly thrust out into the universe to make her own way.

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