Mackintosh, Clare. I Let You Go.

NY: Berkley, 2014.

This is a new author for me, though she’s written a large number of thrillers and detective stories. This one begins when a young mother in Bristol is walking her five-year-old son home from school. He breaks away from her and runs across the street toward their small house but is struck and killed by a car — which then drives away. DI Ray Stevens of Homicide gets the call and he and a young female Detective Constable (only in CID for a few months, but she’s smart and eager) start their investigation. Ray’s whole team puts in great effort, but it all goes nowhere.


Fitzgerald, Meags. Photobooth: A Biography.

Greenwich, NS: Conundrum Press, 2014.

I’m old enough to remember when nearly every dime store, bus station, and amusement park had a coin-operated photobooth. Close the curtain, take a seat, feed in a couple of quarters, and smile — or, more likely, if you were a teenager, make faces. And out would come a strip of six black-and-white wallet-size portraits. Because the image was printed directly to paper and there was no negative, each shot was unique and non-repeatable — a tiny time capsule of a single moment in your life.


Published in: on 15 October 2018 at 5:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Laemlein, Tom. U.S. Small Arms in World War II: A Photographic History of the Weapons in Action.

Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2011.

If you’ve seen any movie about World War II, from The Sands of Iwo Jima to Saving Private Ryan, you’ve observed a variety of “small arms” (i.e., hand-held) in use by infantrymen. And the odds are, unless you’re a military historian, or you’re old enough to have been a veteran yourself, they all looked pretty much the same.


Published in: on 15 February 2015 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bentley, Nicolas. The Victorian Scene: A Picture Book of the Period, 1837-1901.

London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968.

The word “Victorian” instantly brings a host of clichés to mind, many of them inaccurate. It was a period of great and broad changes in the English-speaking world, in both culture and technology. A great many volumes of social history have been published about the 19th century in all its aspects, but it’s hard to find a good, readable survey that escapes being trite and superficial. I first read this one thirty-odd years ago and it’s still one of the best, even if it is a “picture book.”


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.


Published in: on 11 June 2014 at 7:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hall, Michael. Lasting Elegance: English Country Houses, 1830-1900.

NY: Monacelli Press, 2009.

I’ve developed, over the past couple of decades, a deep interest in the social phenomenon of the English country house — sparked, probably, by Mark Girouard’s marvelous Life in the English Country House. Much of this interest is rooted in my background in social history, but part of it, I confess, is a fascination with the pretty pictures in volumes like this.


Published in: on 25 January 2014 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Barry, Michael Thomas. Great Britain’s Royal Tombs: A Guide to the Lives and Burial Places of British Monarchs.

Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2012.

I have a longstanding interest in the history of the royal and aristocratic families of Europe (even though I don’t actually approve of them), so when a new book appears on the subject, I generally seek it out. Barry is a criminal justice graduate who, besides crime writing, seems to have made the history of cemeteries and who is buried in them a hobby. (Doesn’t seem strange at all to me.)


Published in: on 3 January 2014 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sykes, Christopher Simon. The Golden Age of the Country House.

NY: Mayflower Books, 1980.

The English country house was a major social institution among the upper classes for a couple of centuries, up to World War I, when society and national political and economic life changed rapidly and dramatically. Because the aristocracy basically ran things, weekend parties at the country house had political consequences, too.


Heinlein, Robert A. Starship Troopers.

NY: Putnam, 1959.

Robert Heinlein produced a number of seminal works in his career, and not only among science fiction fans. (Stranger in a Strange Land had considerable influence among college students in the 1960s, as much probably as Lord of the Rings.) But Starship Troopers spawned a reactionary series of subsequent novels by other authors


Gerster, Georg. The Past from Above; Aerial Photographs of Archaeological Sites.

Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005. [orig. publ. in Munich, 2003]

Aerial photographs began being taken in the mid-19th century, from tethered hot-air balloons, but it was a very iffy business. Among other things, the balloon gondola had to include a darkroom because the glass plates of the time couldn’t wait the photographer to return to earth. The invention of the airplane in the early 20th century made things much simpler in a technical sense, but also more complicated when it came to politics and borders.