Parkinson, C. Northcote. The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1970.

The author is best known for his classic on politics, management, and economic psychology, Parkinson’s Law, but he also wrote a number of books in military and naval history, and was, in fact, a professor of history at Harvard, among other places.


Hamilton, Peter. Great North Road.

NY: Del Rey, 2012.

I was hesitant about committing myself to a science fiction novel of nearly a thousand pages, by an author with whom I was not really familiar. I’m glad I finally took the plunge, though. This is, in every way, a remarkable book.

The setting is the very near future. Kane North, who literally started it all, was injured by an IED in Iraq, and the cloning experiments he began are already, in our present time, secretly under way. Augustine, Bartram, and Constantine North, who will become the most powerful men in the solar system over the coming century, are toddlers in 2014.


Matyszak, Philip. Gladiator: The Roman Fighter’s Unofficial Manual.

London: Thames & Hudson, 2011.

I quite enjoyed Matuszak’s faux travel books on ancient Athens and Rome. His “handbook” on the Roman legionary, to which this is meant to be a companion, is also quite good. I learned new things from each of them. He attempts to follow the same model here, but it just doesn’t work as well.


Published in: on 24 September 2014 at 6:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Block, Lawrence. Random Walk.

NY: Tor, 1988.

In my view, Lawrence Block is the epitome of the professional writer. He started out in college in the 1950s, writing formula fiction for crime and western pulps and even for confession magazines. He gave erotica a shot, and even science fiction (which he enjoyed reading but found he wasn’t able to write). He moved on to the “slick” magazines and to paperbacks, and then to the hardback market. Since then, he has produced several hundred novels, including the award-winning Matt Scudder mysteries, as well as a number of nonfiction works for the would-be writer and also a couple decades’ worth of magazine columns. And while he’s very well read and has considerable respect for good “literary” fiction, he makes no pretense to doing that sort of thing himself. He writes for a living and always has. Suffering for his art in a garret has never been on his agenda.


Malzberg, Barry N. (ed.). The Best Time Travel Stories of All Time.

NY: ibooks, 2002.

I’ve been reading science fiction since discovering Heinlein’s juveniles in my elementary school library in the early ’50s. I’ve read all sorts of SF in those sixty years, but certain categories of the genre have become my favorites — especially alternate history and time travel, two themes that often overlap. Probably this preference is due partly to my deep interest in history generally.


Lovesey, Peter. The Vault.

London: Little Brown, 1999.

Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond was pretty much of an unsympathetic ass in the first couple of books in this series (he lost his job for two years, and deserved it), but the author has had the good sense to mellow him out.


Published in: on 14 September 2014 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kent, Alexander. Sloop of War.

NY: Putnam, 1972.

Richard Bolitho is one of the more interesting successors to Horatio Hornblower. In fact, his invention was one of the earliest after the death of C. S. Forester, even before that of Dudley Pope’s novels about Nicholas Ramage.


Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

I’m a very heavy reader. I get through 120-150 books per year, and have for several decades. So when I say this is one of the absolute best books I’ve read in several years, that means something. Usually, when I begin a really fat book (and this one is 775 pages), I know that, however good it is, the sheer size will become wearing and I’ll have to take a break from it halfway through and read something else for awhile. But that never happened with this one.


Price, T. Douglas. Europe Before Rome: A Site-by-Site Tour of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages.

NY: Oxford University Press, 2013.

This volume, with its hundreds of glossy color photos, is just what it says it is: A survey of prehistoric Europe. But rather than a theoretical overview, it deals with a large number of very specific excavation sites, and what has been found in each, and what the finds mean. And it’s all very up-to-date.


Published in: on 4 September 2014 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Necessity’s Child.

NY: Baen, 2013.

This latest episode in the checkered history of Clan Korval, focal point of the authors’ “Liaden” universe, is set on Surebleak at roughly the same time as their recent quadrilogy featuring Theo Waitley. It’s more of a domestic excursion, though, with no spaceships (except in the far background) or offworld adventures.