Mullen, Thomas. The Revisionists.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

I’ve always read a lot of science fiction and I have a particular thing for time travel stories, perhaps because all my academic background is in history. There are certain themes and tropes you’re almost certain to come across in those books, one of which is the “time patrol” — a body of travelers whose job it is to make sure visitors to the past don’t screw up their own future. That’s sort of the conceit here, but Mullen takes it much farther than I have ever encountered before.



Forester, C. S. Hornblower During the Crisis.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1967.

Captain Jack Aubrey is widely considered the “best” Royal Navy hero of the Napoleonic wars these days, and he might well be (those books are amazing), but for modern readers over forty, Horatio Hornblower is where it all began. It certainly did for me, when I began reading my father’s collection as an adventure-addicted adolescent back in the ‘50s.


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.


Le Carré, John. The Secret Pilgrim.

NY: Knopf, 1991.

Le Carré is the most skilled author of spy stories in English in the 20th century, or perhaps ever. And George Smiley, the tubby, bespectacled genius of “the Circus” (named for the Intelligence Service’s location in a nondescript building on Cambridge Circus, London), is one of the most famous characters in modern fiction.


Jones, Nigel. Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London.

NY: St. Martin, 2011.

I have a longstanding interest in both English history and the medieval period generally, so it follows that my focus is generally on the Norman dynasty, from the Conquest to the coming of the Angevins. I manage to get to London for a visit every few years and on almost every occasion, I make time to wander through the Tower (timing it to avoid the tide of tourists), the most visible and best-maintained Norman structure in Europe.


Deighton, Len. SS-GB.

NY: Knopf, 1979.

What if Hitler had second thoughts about his planned attack on the Soviet Union in 1940 and decided to go back to concentrating on the defeat of Great Britain instead? What if the Wehrmacht invaded southern England, took London, destroyed Buckingham Palace, and put the king in the Tower? That’s the set-up, what alternate history fans call the “Point of Departure.”


Published in: on 28 October 2013 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hobb, Robin. Assassin’s Apprentice.

NY: Bantam, 1995.

It’s always nice to discover a new fantasy series (new to me, anyway) that displays such high quality of plotting, writing, and characterization. I knew “Megan Lindholm” was a pseudonym for an author of contemporary urban fantasy novels, but this is the same author’s nom de plume for fantasy in a medieval setting. Which is to say, she’s no beginner, and her experience shows.


Published in: on 23 October 2013 at 12:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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Deighton, Len. The Ipcress File.

London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1962.

Len Deighton has been writing thrillers for an awful long time. In the early ‘60s, he was a commercial artist and illustrator with an art degree, working in his native London, having spent some time in the army and then several years as a flight steward with BOAC, which gave him a certain international perspective. And then, largely, he says, from boredom and just for the heck of it, he decided to try writing a spy novel, which was this one. Helped by the concurrent release of Dr. No, the first James Bond film, he was an immediate success. (Deighton is also the absolute antithesis of Ian Fleming.)


Published in: on 15 October 2013 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Le Carré, John. The Tailor of Panama.

NY: Knopf, 1996.

For many years now, Le Carré has been one of my favorite writers. In fact, in terms of his storytelling abilities alone, I consider him one of the best authors of any variety of the past sixty years. I own all his books and I reread all of them every few years.


Bowen, Rhys. A Royal Pain.

NY: Berkley, 2008.

This is the second in Bowen’s most recent mystery series and it’s not bad — as long as you’re not expecting hard-boiled noir, shoot-outs, car chases, or the Mafia. Lady Georgiana of Rannoch is the half-sister of a duke and while she has the Swiss private school education and the social contacts, she has barely a shilling to her name.