Beaton, M. C. Death of a Gossip.

NY: St. Martin, 1985.

Beaton didn’t begin writing (or at least publishing) until she was into her forties, but in the thirty-five years since then she has produced almost forty novels in numerous series and under several pseudonyms. (When does she sleep?)


Horowitz, Anthony. The House of Silk.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

The production of pastiches of and literary homages to Sherlock Holmes began before Arthur Conan Doyle even finished the series — “the Canon,” as his avid fans refer to it. Dozens of later adventures of the Great Detective have been written, some of them deliberate send-ups (usually not very successfully), and many placing Holmes and Watson in new situations and far distant settings that would never have occurred to Sir Arthur.


Sawyer, Robert. Illegal Alien.

NY: Ace, 1997.

I’ve read most of Sawyer’s novels over the years and the one thing they all have in common is, they’re just so . . . Canadian. Sometimes almost to the point of cliché, in his portrayal of both nice Canadians and untrustworthy Americans.


Lovesey, Peter. The Circle.

NY: Soho Press, 2005.

Lovesey is probably best known for his mystery series featuring Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, and Diamond gets a one-page walk-on here, but the main cop is DCI Henrietta Mallin from Bognor — but even she’s not the main character and she doesn’t even show up till you’re nearly halfway through the story.


Kyvig, David E. & Myron A. Marty. Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You. 3d ed.

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.

I’ve been fascinated by history all my life and that’s the direction my undergraduate degree went in. Unless you teach, however, it’s not easy to earn a living in history, and I knew early on I would make a terrible professor.


Moore, Alan. The Ballad of Halo Jones.

NY: DC Comics, 2005.

Moore is one of the Big Names in graphic novels — and deserves to be — and this is one of his best works. It’s not only a “ballad,” it’s practically a saga. It’s several thousand years in the future and Halo Jones is an eighteen-year-old who was born and has spent all her life on “the Hoop,” a huge floating habitat off Manhattan.


Ferguson, Niall (ed). Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals.

London: Picador, 1997.

“What if” stories have been a staple of science fiction for a long time, and a very enjoyable one, too. They allow one to play with questions of historical causation and to think about the impact of minor events on world history. Many professional historians, however, sneer at the whole idea. What happened, happened, they insist, and it couldn’t possibly be any other way, and to think otherwise even for a moment should be greeted with condemnatory condescension. (Now you know where my bias lies.)


Published in: on 15 July 2015 at 6:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Rev. ed.

NY: Harper, 2014.

In the decade since this book was published, it has become a favorite of college and even enlightened high school teachers of English and American literature. And that’s fine, . . . if you want to teach young readers to ignore the story and instead only analyze the author’s use of symbolism and codes.


Published in: on 12 July 2015 at 5:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Crombie, Deborah. To Dwell in Darkness.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

This is the sixteenth installment in a generally pretty good police procedural mystery series with a British setting, even though it’s written by someone living in McKinney, Texas (not far from my old home). On the last page of the previous volume, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid (who is now married to DI Gemma James, who used to be his sergeant) came back from paternity leave to find his office at Scotland Yard cleared of all his belongings and his usually supportive boss, the chief superintendent, disappeared.


Published in: on 9 July 2015 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fox, Kate. Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior. 2d ed.

London: Nicholas Brealey, 2014.

Fox is a noted anthropologist (as are her father and her sister) who decided to forego South Sea islanders and African tribal villages for the study of her own country. Her objectivity (always a problem for an anthropologist) was enhanced by the fact that much of her childhood was spent in the States, and then in France.