Forester, C. S. Hornblower and the Atropos.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1953.

Hornblower was first introduced to the world in the trilogy consisting of Beat to Quarters, Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours, published in 1937-38 — and later reissued in a single volume as Captain Horatio Hornblower, my father’s copy of which I read in junior high in the ‘50s, and which made me a lifelong fan of Napoleonic sea adventures.

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Haythornthwaite, Philip J. Borodino, 1812: Napoleon’s Great Gamble. (Campaigns, 246)

Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2012.

This author is a well-known expert in the minutiae of military history — uniforms, equipment, and so on — but he also does a very good job with tactics and wider strategy. Half his forty-odd books have been written for Osprey and this one, on the first modern European invasion of the vastness of Russia, is well up to his usual high standard.

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Published in: on 26 August 2014 at 3:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Shipway, George. The Knight.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970.

Born in India, educated at Sandhurst, Shipway was a career officer in the Indian Army, especially the cavalry. After World War II, he became a prep-school master and took up the writing of historical novels with a heavily military slant. His first, The Imperial Governor, set in Roman Britain, is still one of the best historicals I’ve ever read — and I read a lot of them. This is his second one, set during “The Anarchy” of early 12th-century England, and it’s also quite good.

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Pope, Dudley. Ramage’s Challenge.

London: Alison, 1985.

This is the 15th book in the series about the adventures in the Napoleonic wars of Captain Lord Nicholas Ramage, RN, which appears to be slowly running out of steam. The first third of the book is mostly a detailed travelogue of Tuscany, where the author, like his protagonist, obviously acquired many nostalgic memories. Unfortunately, this consists mostly of inflicting long strings of Italian place names on the impatient reader, and not much else. Pope seems determined to note the identity of every village, hill, and stream he can locate. And, just in case you weren’t paying attention, he points all this out numerous times.

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Lovesey, Peter. Upon a Dark Night.

NY: Mysterious Press, 1997.

Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond of Bath — “the murder man,” as he describes himself — has been almost too successful. There hasn’t been enough serious crime lately and his blood pressure is up for lack of intellectual exercise. His rival, DCI Wigfull, has the apparent suicide by shotgun of an aged, reclusive farmer to look into, and Diamond wonders what the odds are that it might really be a murder.

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Published in: on 17 August 2014 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Brown, Julia Prewitt. A Reader’s Guide to the Nineteenth-Century English Novel.

NY: Macmillan, 1985.

The title of this slender but useful volume is actually a bit misleading; the real focus is shown in the descriptive subtitle, “An informal introduction to the world that shaped the novels of Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy, Eliot, and Bronte.”

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Harrison, Kim. The Undead Pool.

NY: Harper, 2014.

I don’t ordinarily read vampire and werewolf books, but I read the first one in this hugely popular series a decade ago on a friend’s recommendation and got hooked almost by accident. Now it’s a guilty pleasure — now matter how much the author’s stylistic ineptitude continues to annoy me. I had also heard suggestions that Harrison was on the way to wrapping things up, and the flap copy says this twelfth volume is the “penultimate book,” so I guess that’s going to be it.

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Published in: on 12 August 2014 at 5:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ashley, Mike (ed). The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF.

Philadelphia: Running Press, 2013.

The publisher’s “Mammoth Book of . . .” series, under a variety of editors, has included some pretty good anthologies and others that are painfully inept. This, happily, is one of the more successful ones. Even better, there are many authors among the twenty-five represented here with whom I’m completely unfamiliar, so I’ve made some discoveries to add to my “To Read” list.

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Rankin, Ian. Saints of the Shadow Bible.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

A couple of books ago, Edinburgh Detective Inspector John Rebus was forced into retirement by the age regulations. His long-time associate, DS Siobhan Clarke, got her promotion to DI in his place. Rebus put in a year or two on the cold case squad, simply because he couldn’t leave the job behind. If he wasn’t a detective, he wouldn’t really be anything.

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Published in: on 6 August 2014 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Forester, C. S. Hornblower and the Hotspur.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1962.

I’ve always thought this was one of the best entries in Forester’s groundbreaking series about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, because the focus is on young Commander Hornblower’s first experience with the responsibility of sole command and how he deals with it. And also how it shapes the development of his own personality.

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