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Michele L. Worley (Kingdom of the Mouse, United States)

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Thus Was Adonis Murdered
Thus Was Adonis Murdered
by Sarah Caudwell
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £55.40

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing Hilary Tamar and the members of the Nursery at 62 New Square, 5 April 2007
"'I don't believe Shakespeare told Julia to try fainting,' said Cantrip. 'He's dead.'

'She is referring,' said Selena, 'to his early poem "Venus and Adonis". Julia read it at an impressionable age and has since regarded it as a sort of seduction manual.'

'It is a most indelicate work,' said Ragwort. 'Not at all suitable reading for a young girl.'

'It's hardly Julia's fault,' said Selena. 'They told her at school that Shakespeare was educational.'

'As I recall,' I said, 'the methods employed by the goddess in her pursuit of Adonis, though forceful, achieved only limited success. Doesn't Julia find that discouraging?'"

- the members of the Nursery, discussing with Hilary Tamar Julia's latest letter, herein

There you have a sample of the speech and manner of four of the principal performers of Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar mysteries: honey-tongued Selena, who could get someone out of a deal with the devil on a good day; the incorruptably prudish Ragwort; legal scholar and Oxford don Hilary Tamar; and Cantrip, the token Cambridge graduate among a flock of Oxonians. It always tickles me that while the others dazzle us with floods of sophisticated wit, Cantrip sounds like an escapee from P.G. Wodehouse who might hang out with Bertie Wooster. Cantrip also has the least reputable skills, such as lockpicking, and associates, such as his connections at the newspaper that uses him to check for potentially libelous material before going to press.

As the story opens, the four junior barristers of 62 New Square, unable to take their own holidays thanks to the tyranny of their clerk, are whiling away their days of toil by looking forward to two things: holiday letters from their colleague Julia Larwood, and coffee and gossip sessions with their old mentor Hilary Tamar, at which the letters are shared around. The most they expect are cheerful travelogues of an Art Lovers' Holiday from their hapless friend who hopes for more Love than Art from her holiday, having spent a very stressful few months doing battle with the tax authorities. Her friends, for their part, hope that putting Julia on a packaged tour will compensate for letting their accident-prone friend out without a keeper.

At first, all is pretty much as expected: Julia reports a series of very funny mishaps and minor disasters in her encounters with her fellow Art Lovers, beginning with attracting the pursuit of the Major (old ex-army bore, now selling shady antiques and art objects), failing to attract the lovely Ned (already in a relationship with rising sculptor Kenneth Dunfermline), and accidentally giving the impression of attempting to attract her friendly shopping companion Marylou (whose husband broke a promise not to make it a working vacation, then picked an awkward moment to walk in on them). The last member of the group, wealthy art gallery owner Eleanor Frostfield, far from involving any attraction to/from anyone, distributes insults and starts fights with all the generosity she fails to show financially to her artists - or to fellow travellers who have to pick up the check at a cafe. Her holiday, naturally, is being put down as a business expense.

Speaking of working holidays, several characters turn out to have them. Timothy Shepherd - another member of the Nursery - amid many grumblings from his colleagues is sent to Venice to reason with a client who needs to take steps to avoid paying heavy taxes on an inheritance. Several of the Art Lovers are professionally involved with the Tiverton Collection forming part of the client's estate, though whether as legitimate valuators, potential buyers, or hopeful sneak thieves is an open question.

As Ragwort later remarks, if anyone were to be murdered, it's surprising that nobody murdered Julia. :) Fortunately, Cantrip at his part-time newspaper consulting job intercepts a report that she's a suspect within hours of the murder, he and the rest of Julia's friends need waste no time getting to work on solving the problem.

The story has very polished language, helped along by the fact that it alternates between long chatty letters and conversations among the recipients analyzing them both for clues leading to the actual culprit and for any plausible-sounding line of defence that might hold up in court. I highly recommend listening to the unabridged recording read by Eva Haddon, who handles all the characters superbly, from Julia's perpetual inability to understand what's going on if it doesn't involve the Taxes Acts to Hilary Tamar's discourses on the usefulness of scholarship in identifying and sorting out discrepancies in evidence.

Highly recommended.


The Tolkien Reader
The Tolkien Reader
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A collection of some of Tolkien's short works, 31 Mar. 2007
This book is a collection of either 4 or 5 shorter works, depending on how you count; Tolkien himself grouped "On Fairy Stories" and "Leaf by Niggle" together as "Tree and Leaf", but I think of them as being very different.

The 1986 edition in front of me was illustrated by Pauline Baynes. My understanding is that her work with Tolkien on "Farmer Giles of Ham" led him to recommend her to C.S. Lewis; the style of the pictures for that story resembles those she later created for "The Magician's Book" in Lewis' THE VOYAGES OF THE DAWN TREADER.

"The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son" is part analysis of an epic poem, and part play based on the poem. I find this hardest to get into of all the pieces in the book.

"On Fairy Stories" A serious essay, starting with prettified Victorian fairy tales and tracing them back to their origins in more serious stories of Faerie and its inhabitants. Personally I would have paired this up with SMITH OF WOOTTON MAJOR rather than "Leaf by Niggle" in terms of subject matter.

"Leaf by Niggle" I acquired the book solely for this story; everything else was icing on the cake. Niggle, although he knows that he will someday have to go on a long journey with no return, finds the idea distasteful and avoids preparing for it; instead, he prefers to spend all the time he can painting, being 'the sort of painter who can paint leaves better than trees'. But when the time for his journey finds him completely unprepared, it turns out that neither his time working on leaves nor helping his disagreeable neighbour Parish has been wasted.

"Farmer Giles of Ham" is another of Tolkien's 'translations', but along the lines of THE LORD OF THE RINGS - that is, when discussing it he refers to it seriously as a translated history rather than an original story, to the point of identifying his source texts and criticizing some earlier scholar's carelessness about detail. (Tolkien and Lewis indulged in games like this often; see THE LAYS OF BELERIAND for examples of some of their letters analyzing the work of 'translators' on various poems of Tolkien's.) The hero of the story, Giles, starts out as an ordinary farmer who almost accidentally causes a giant to leave his village alone (the giant being hard of hearing, and not caring for what he took to be stinging insects). Unfortunately for Giles, being an official hero isn't always convenient when the professional knights inexplicably can't spare the time to chase *real* monsters, and the giant gave other people quite the wrong impression of his home. I happen to like Tolkien's sense of humor myself, so I enjoy this story, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea. The story's style also reminds me a bit of THE SWORD IN THE STONE, particularly in dealing with professional knights.

"The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book" is a collection of 16 poems; note that only the first two poems feature Bombadil. The preface identifies them as coming from THE RED BOOK (the 'historical' record from which THE LORD OF THE RINGS was 'translated'), and identifies the chararacters who wrote some of them. "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late" and "The Stone Troll" also appear early in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, but there are more poems along similar lines such as "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon", "Perry-the-Winkle" (another troll-song), and "Oliphaunt". About a quarter of the poems have a more serious tone.


Spend Game
Spend Game
by Jonathan Gash
Edition: Audio CD

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "No matter what people say, you can't help getting into trouble...", 25 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Spend Game (Audio CD)
"...and the antiques game is nothing but trouble. Beautiful, lovely trouble, all the bloody time."

"That was Leckie all over. Didn't care much about difficulties, knowledge, and education. He just knew his attitude would carry him through. Most times he'd been right. Like the time our platoon went into a high scrubland plateau where the tribes spoke a weird private language of clicks, hisses, and croaks. Within a week, he was our official translator, having absorbed the language by a sort of osmosis."

- Lovejoy, on how Leckie managed to jump into the antiques game

Lovejoy and Leckie ("Mr. Leckworth" only to official types) never had much in common. Lovejoy is scruffy, often shifty, and cursed with a knack for getting into trouble; Leckie was never at a loss and had a knack for fitting in anywhere, even the antique dealers of East Anglia. Nevertheless, as the story opens it's Leckie who's just been killed by thugs unknown and Lovejoy who, thanks to a terrifying expedition to blow up a railway tunnel during their time in the army, has been trusted by Leckie to carry on. But Lovejoy's only clue to what Leckie's been up to is that he was apparently killed for some worthless stuff auctioned off from a doctor's estate: a locked reproduction escritoire, a bag of medical instruments, and a privately printed book about local railway history written by the doctor himself.

As usual, the reader gets a number of little stories supplied along with the main plot; Lovejoy continually sizes up all the potential antiques he meets with fascinating little bits of commentary on how the genuine ones came to be made and how hard-working fakers simulate them. He can't settle down in anyone's house on first being allowed in, what with sniffing all over the place on the off chance that antiques might be present.

While this is the fourth Lovejoy novel, there's no need to read the preceding three to get an introduction to him; he never learns. :) Lovejoy himself tells the story in the first person, always; he's a highly plausible rogue in more ways than one - not merely charming, but a believable character who'll make you roll your eyes when he can't imagine why people are so suspicious and lacking in trust. I highly recommend listening to the unabridged recording narrated by Christopher Kay for the full effect.

Drive-in totals:

- Six dead bodies.

- Two car crashes.

- Lovejoy's current female apprentice is away on a course throughout the book, but he is not of course between lady friends.

- An uncomfortable number of medical men, as Lovejoy's own doctor uses unscrupulous tactics to pressure Lovejoy into an exercise program as part of a study.

"Women like to see appetites - any sort. I have this theory that appetites are the cause of most troubles, especially mine."


Word for World is Forest, The
Word for World is Forest, The
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What does it mean to be a god among dreamers?, 25 Nov. 2006
"Many words of the Women's Tongue, the everyday speech of the Athsheans, came from the Men's Tongue that was the same in all communities, and these words often were not only two-syllabled but two-sided. They were coins, obverse and reverse...Often [the two meanings] were connected, yet not so often as to constitute a rule."

- anthropologist Raj Lyubov, herein

Athshe is a world of ocean and islands, whose land-dwelling lifeforms were obviously imported from Earth about a million years ago. Similar enough to be recognizable - and to trip up Earth-humans attempting to understand the people of Athshe who fail to take into account the subtle differences. The land-based portion of the ecosystem is small, but stable - forests that keep the topsoil from washing away, a small population packed relatively close together, with a culture that channels their aggression into (mostly) non-violent outlets. In particular, while they're in an environment unsuitable for some kinds of development, they've mastered the arts of controlling their dreams. Their language is a particularly interesting key in understanding their culture.

Then the humans of Earth arrived, determined to exploit the planet for its resources and colonize it, faced with a native population without a tradition of warfare or advanced weaponry with which to fight - a population which those in charge aren't interested in understanding, but who aren't fools, and who are being *shown* how to make war in a series of pitiless, unending lessons.

In an interesting twist, two of the three viewpoint characters are Earth-humans, representing opposing points of view on Athshe's true worth and the worth of its people, while the third is a Dreamer of Athshe. Davidson, who fancies himself as a pioneer and Conquistador, opens the book with his bigoted view of the native "creechies" - only to find himself flat on his back, at the mercy of a man whose wife he killed, left alive to carry a message back to the other humans. Lyubov, the planet's only anthropologist and the only human to have properly studied the languages of its people, provides a window through which the reader can gain a clearer understanding of Athshe's culture. Finally, Selver, Lyubov's friend and Davidson's victim, has become a god among his people, though what that means isn't quite what an Earth human might think; and having learned what will happen if the humans are left unresisted, he has also absorbed their lessons of warfare. The contrast between Davidson's view of Athshe - rotting forests to be cleared away, animals to hunt - and that of Selver's people is in itself worth reading the book for. (In fact, the nuances of Athshe culture that lead them to practice warfare, and the accompanying nuances of understanding their language and their mastery of dreams are as important, if not more so, than the brewing revolt.)

Less than three thousand aggressive, armed Earth people - only a few hundred of them women, incidentally - against a native population of about three million, wherein the Earth people are cut off from the rest of interstellar civilization by the barrier of lightspeed. The lack of supply lines is a serious handicap to the better-equipped Earth-people, but numbers and familiarity with the terrain are on the side of those born on Athshe.

As one outsider points out, "You have not thought things through." The ecological disaster shaping up on Athshe is quite logical in its development - the loggers are following profitable plans of exploitation drawn up on Earth, where the communications lag prevented sensible feedback from being applied when the native ecology was better understood, and naturally enough, military and management personnel are in charge on "New Tahiti", not ecologists, and they don't *want* to believe that logging out the islands will turn them into desert rather than farmland. The slow build-up of native resistance is due to most of Athshe's people not having even seen the new invaders, while few of those who *have* suffered from them are in a position to make their people see the danger, being enslaved under conditions that for an Athshean interfere with the ability to think clearly, since Earth-human and Athshean sleeping patterns differ as much as their cultures do.


"A Knot in the Grain" and Other Stories
"A Knot in the Grain" and Other Stories
by Robin McKinley
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five excellent stories, previously hard to get, 24 Nov. 2006
"The Healer" - First appeared in Terri Windling's ELSEWHERE, volume 2. Set on the Damarian continent. Lily, eldest of a large family, was born voiceless, though she and those who loved her learned to communicate by setting meanings to the birdsong she could whistle. The birds themselves came only to Lily's hands, though, and it was in Lily's presence that fevers broke and animals quieted while giving birth. So Lily apprenticed to Jolin, the healer serving Rhungill and the villages round about, and only one person cared that Lily couldn't talk - Lily herself. So when a chance-met stranger on the road answered Lily's thoughts with mindspeech, seeking an inn thereabouts, Lily brought him to the spare room at Jolin's, where travellers always put up, and hoped he might stay awhile.

Sahath, too, is sorely wounded by the lack of something - a mage who lost the greater part of his mage-strength years ago, when it drained away on a battlefield as armies lay dying at his feet. He's been wandering without a destination ever since. Has he found safe harbour at Jolin's? Are Lily and Jolin right to trust him? Can he or Lily find a way to regain what he lost and she never had?

"The Stagman" - First appeared in ELSEWHERE, volume 3. Set on the Damarian continent. Ruen grew up in her uncle's unkindly shadow after her parents died, leaving him as her Regent. He kept her isolated, and as uneducated as he dared, longing to take the throne in his own right but not wishing to make a martyr of her with murder. So in the days leading up to Ruen's eighteenth nameday, when she should have come into her queenship, the Regent uses his self-taught magery to create false signs and portents that will give him an excuse to do away with her. Then a *real* portent appears, and the monster he proposes to sacrifice Ruen to turns out to be something unexpected.

I'm quite fond of this story, which explores the problem of how a princess would really react who was duty-bound to rule a country that would have seen her murdered by her uncle without a second thought, and duty-bound to marry a 'proper' husband who doesn't really care about her as a person. Ruen is quiet but strong; as Luthe says of her later, when discussing the Regent, "Only a real queen would describe that poison-worm as only 'not entirely honourable.'"

"Touk's House" - First appeared in the anthology FAERY!, edited by Terri Windling. May be set on the Damarian continent, but possibly not. At first, the story may sound like a retelling of Rapunzel, but it isn't. The local leech, who isn't very good, recommends a certain herb to cure the fever of a certain woodcutter's youngest daughter, so the woodcutter tries to steal it from the herb garden of a witch in the forest. When the witch, Maugie, catches him and questions him, she gives him the herb he *really* needs, but at a price: his next daughter is to be brought to her, to be raised as her apprentice.

Maugie always wanted a daughter and someone to teach her herb lore to, and Erana is a fine daughter, but she doesn't have Maugie's 'green fingers'. She grows up happy with her adopted family: not only Maugie, but Maugie's son, Touk. Maugie's late husband was a northern troll, so Touk lives alone in and around a pool in the forest rather than in Maugie's own house. (Erana likes to badger him about that.) For Erana's fifteenth birthday, Touk presents her with a stick, to be laid as the first log of his new house, now that he finally not only wants one, but wants to build one.

"Buttercups" - Set on the Damarian continent, though no mages, princesses, or dragons appear. The person whose heart is caught in a spell of winter is Pos, an elderly farmer whose heartbreak on the death of his wife many years ago never really healed. His heart finally begins to thaw when one day he meets Coral, whose odd family is new to the village. (Each actually notices the other's horse before noticing the rider - Coral's horse is an unusually fine animal.) But Pos worries about why such a vibrant young woman would take notice of an old grumbler - or rather, if an old grumbler can keep her if he wins her hand in marriage.

"A Knot in the Grain" - Set in this world. Annabelle's parents, now that she's the only child left at home, have been plotting their retirement for the last couple of years, with a target of moving to a smaller house upstate by the time she's 16, so she'll have at least two years in her new school. (They got the house for a song: "Not even a song. A sort of warm-up exercise, like Czerny before you tackle the Beethoven sonata." "The Beethoven sonata is what it'll cost us to fix it up." But their family likes challenges, as a rule.)

Annabelle takes her time about finding OK things about the move, while nursing her sorrow at leaving all her friends. An excuse to break up with her tiresome old boyfriend was actually one of the OK things. So is the view from her new attic room. While tracing the woodgrain of one of the beams, trying not to cry after getting a letter from her best friend, she finds something her eyes didn't detect: a trapdoor, leading to another attic, with several odd things about it...


SLIGHT MOURNING
SLIGHT MOURNING
by Catherine Aird
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It wasn't blood alcohol that caused the car crash, 24 Nov. 2006
Bill Fent, driving old Professor Berry home dinner, would have been just another Road Traffic Accident at Tappet's Corner for Inspector "Happy" Harry Harpe - that perenially depressed member of the Berebury Force, who's never seen anything to smile at in Traffic Division - just another accident on the way back from Berry's, one life gone and the life of another driver hanging by a thread. Unfortunately for somebody, Dr. Dabbe is *very* thorough in his work as police pathologist, so during the routine post-mortem, he found the poison somebody slipped to Bill Fent during dinner at Strontfield Park. If Dr. Washby hadn't been called away unexpectedly, Fent wouldn't have had to drive Berry home, and a poisoner might have got away with murder.

Now, of course, the case belongs to Harpe's friend "Seedy" Sloan and his raw assistant Crosby of the CID, working out who at a dinner for twelve could have poisoned the host without being seen. After attending the funeral, they have another loose end to worry about: the widow, hearing of their presence, fainted dead away, then shut herself up in her room - but it seems more like fear than guilt.

Who would want to murder Bill Fent, a respectable local magistrate burdened with an entailed estate? His next of kin seems to have had a good reason *not* to - both the owner and an adult heir have to work together to break an entail and start turning land into cash, and the Fents had had bad luck in meeting the requirements, what with the World Wars killing off family members at inopportune moments. But *somebody* thinks Sloan can make sense of it; before long, he has a second murder on his hands...

This isn't what I would call a country house party case, although Constance Parva is definitely in the country. The dinner guests were local worthies: the local doctor, his new bride (hence the reason for the party), the old rector's daughter Cynthia Paterson, Quentin Fent the heir, to name a few. Cynthia Paterson alternates with Sloan as the viewpoint character, filling in background information in a gentle way; as a rector's daughter, she's attended far too many funerals to concentrate solely on the service, and contemplates the attendees instead, with some of her father's taste for literature thrown in. (In one of Aird's many references to Italian art, the notion that Charity's opposite is Folly was always good for a sermon. That kind of thing.)


The White Bull
The White Bull
by Fred Saberhagen
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction as fantasy, but from an engineer's perspective, 17 Sept. 2006
This review is from: The White Bull (Paperback)
"Here...we found a frieze, marvellously carved in stone, and some other artwork as well, showing some of the Bullheaded people in the act of bringing light to the poor human people of earth. Most of these in the picture stretched up their carven arms in gratitude. I supposed this must have been carved by the Bullheads themselves."

- Daedalus the inventor, herein

I first read THE WHITE BULL on the strength of an implied comparison on the front cover with PYRAMIDS and AFTER THE FACT (the two books making up Saberhagen's omnibus PILGRIM). Like PYRAMIDS, THE WHITE BULL shows someone from a starfaring civilization operating in a Bronze Age civilization that classifies him as a god.

Pilgrim's goals were self-centered and his means of accomplishing them rather dubious, though he himself often gave the impression of being a charming rogue at worst. The White Bull, on the other hand, is openly working for the betterment of humanity, but is quickly established as having somewhat disturbing means of achieving his goals (with the added benefit to the story of establishing his non-human perspective). Readers can decide for themselves which of Saberhagen's protagonists is the greater threat to those around him.

As Daedalus, the narrator - already a mature man and famed artisan even before encountering this strangest of strangers as a fellow exile at the court of Minos of Crete - says, "[W]henever I see someone approaching to do me a favour - be it man or woman, god or goddess - I generally do myself a favour and flee in the other direction. Through experience I have acquired this habit, and it lies near the root of whatever modest stock of wisdom I possess." As a man who has survived in more than one king's court despite disclaiming any skill at intrigue, Daedalus' distrust of a stranger bearing gifts is well in character.

Saberhagen uses a very free adaptation of various myths - not just the most obvious of those involving Daedalus and Crete, either - as Daedalus recounts his story from memory, long after the fact, allowing for reinterpretation of the myth not only as 'true' history versus what distorted legend (and chroniclers mindful of pleasing royal patrons) later came to say, but a personal perspective from someone more technically minded than most people of his day even before the Bull's teachings came into his life. Saberhagen is quite artful in presenting enough of the White Bull's background and aims to make him somewhat comprehensible while still leaving him both alien and mysterious, and in telling a complete story while making clear that still more stories could be told to illuminate the setting.

Daedalus' narrative slips occasionally into somewhat more scientific jargon than even his esoteric experience and education can justify. The presentation of Cretan culture and that of the surrounding nations isn't as well handled as Renault's THE KING MUST DIE, but on the other hand this is secret history, involving alien contact that has since been buried under millenia of myth and legend.

Worth reading, though it may not wear well for re-reading.


Festival of Deaths (Gregor Demarkian Series)
Festival of Deaths (Gregor Demarkian Series)
by Jane Haddam
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Father Tibor strikes again, 17 Sept. 2006
To get the most out of the series, you should first read, at a minimum, NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING. One of the plot points in this book is that the murderer from that case is finally running out of appeals. Although the name is very carefully omitted, you'd be able to eliminate some of the suspects in the previous case if you read this book first.

When Father Tibor Kasparian emigrated to the United States from the old Soviet Union by way of Israel, Rabbi David Goldman sponsored him. Now the rabbi needs a couple of favors.

The more complicated favor is something that obviously must be done: helping a Hasidic temple in Philadelphia that's being harassed by some white supremecist group. Gregor gets in touch with an old friend at the FBI who tracks those groups for this one.

The simplest favor, unfortunately, is least to Gregor's taste, but all the ladies of Cavanaugh Street want him to do it: to appear as a guest on _The Lotte Goldman Show_ (hosted by the rabbi's elder sister) during their annual visit to Philadelphia. Worse, the other guest is a serial killer on loan from prison, one Herbert Shasta (fortunately, not somebody Gregor personally had to deal with, but bad enough). Mr. Shasta's presence immensely complicates things when one of the young men working for the show is found murdered backstage; Shasta didn't do it, but any defense attorney could use him for reasonable doubt.

As it happens, this is the 2nd murder the show has had in recent weeks: Maria Gonzalez, the former talent coordinator, was killed in New York. Is another serial killer present - this one on the staff of the show?


Mr Revere And I
Mr Revere And I
by Robert Lawson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.26

4.0 out of 5 stars 'Did you bring your mother a bit of that lovely English tea?', 7 July 2006
This review is from: Mr Revere And I (Paperback)
"It all started with the imbecile, practically sacriligeous, determination of these stubborn Colonists to defy the sacred authority of our Royal and Sovereign Majesty King George III."

- Scheherazade, on her early career as a horse in His Majesty's armed forces

Lawson wrote at least four books in this vein: a famous figure in American history as seen by a close animal companion (ranging from a mouse acting as advisor to a ship's cat). This is the only one of the four in which the narrator would seem at first glance to be based on something that definitely existed, since Revere in his role as a courier obviously *did* have at least one horse.

Lawson, however, isn't attempting to be meticulously accurate; he's concerned with writing an entertaining story that will bring the human historical figure to life, aimed mostly at young readers. So what we have here is historical fiction in which the broad historical details are reasonably correct, including the characters of the leading figures of the Sons of Liberty, but most of the Loyalists are caricatures - the most notable exception being the storyteller, commonly known as "Sherry".

Sherry tells the story as a retrospective in her near-retirement years after her involvement in Revere's pre-War courier work have ended, starting with her early career as the personal mount of an officer in His Majesty's 14th Regiment of Foot. She's careful to retell events as she saw them at the time, underscoring the laughable arrogance of her former associates - at least, of the officers and so-called gentlemen. The "most thrilling moment of [her] entire military career" was the Regiment's last Royal review before being dispatched to Boston - through which her rider and his immediate superior slept on horseback. Lawson's portrait of Sherry's former owner Lt. Barnstable could serve as a poster about the evils of inbreeding among the gentry - and that's just Lawson's illustration. At the time, though, Sherry was deeply devoted to him just because he was her master.

The first two years of the Regiment's posting to Boston are skimmed over very quickly, mostly serving to illustrate how unsanitary long-distance ocean transport could be, the drawbacks of conscripting convicts for jobs they're neither trained nor motivated to perform well, and the high-handed behaviour of the regulars toward the people of Boston (and the cold shoulders they got in return). Unfortunately for Sherry, Barnstable opts to kill time by gambling, and has to sell her to a local factory owner to settle some of his debts.

Thus begins Sherry's long path of disillusionment with her old loyalties, when her devotion to her former master is repaid with life as an ill-treated carthorse, and her former best friend rejects her with "I never speak to civilians". Life is very bleak, until the day she wrecks her cart trying to avoid being seen by her former associates - and comes to the attention of Sam Adams, who arranges for her to be 'appropriated' and turned over to Paul Revere for his courier work. And as Sherry becomes acquainted with the revolutionaries' point of view - and even that of the rank-and-file regulars, mostly homesick conscripts - she herself begins to change.

Revere's personal tragedies in the year in which Sherry comes to live with his family are omitted, but Lawson goes to some trouble to humanize him, emphasizing his family life - particularly along the lines of implying that he couldn't afford a horse of his own, and had never ridden a horse before Sherry was given to him.

A fun story, and while it can't be taken as historical gospel, it might inspire the reader to learn more about the people involved. For that, I recommend PAUL REVERE'S RIDE by David Hackett Fischer.


George Washington Had No Middle Name: Strange Historical Facts from the Days of the Greeks and Romans to the Present
George Washington Had No Middle Name: Strange Historical Facts from the Days of the Greeks and Romans to the Present
by Patricia Lee Holt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, though not scholarly - emphasis on military history, the twentieth century, and the U.S., 5 July 2006
The subtitle of this book is "Strange Historical Facts from the Days of the Greeks and Romans up to the Present", but this is deceptive, if the reader expects an even distribution of time periods or locales to be covered. In fact, all but two of the six chapters (and two of the facts in the "This and That" chapter covering miscellaneous recent history), are concerned largely with U.S. history, mostly dating from the twentieth century.

The book's blurb suggests that it would be good for trivia games. However, since the book provides no citations for where the author got her information (and no bibliography), it is not suitable for use as a research tool on its own. The facts would have to be verified elsewhere. Furthermore, some of the anecdotes included that don't involve U.S. history are only roughly assigned to historical periods, so they might be challenging to verify independently, e.g. a story about an incident described as being "during the Crusades" rather than specifying which crusade. (Not that these are necessarily ambiguous if the reader is already familiar with the information, but starting from scratch, the details of some of these incidents could be difficult to look up.)

All that said, however - if the reader is only looking for some light entertainment, and isn't particularly concerned with being able to back up any of the book's stories, some of those stories are interesting, and they're written in a style meant more to entertain than for historical research.

The book is fairly short, containing only six chapters. "Greek and Roman Days" provides about a dozen bits of trivia, mostly about the Roman Empire but with a few anecdotes about Alexander the Great and Archimedes. The last two stories in this chapter properly belong to the next chapter, "Around the World", which in turn includes a few items that properly belong to the first chapter, and a few that should be in the final "This and That" chapter of modern trivia, but otherwise is mostly concerned with trivia from the tenth century to the nineteenth.

The three chapters "Early America", "World War I", and "World War II" take up about two thirds of the book. While the chapters about the world wars are largely concerned with the U.S. military, other interesting bits of trivia are included. Some are fairly general facts, such as "The British and French armies in WWI did not advance more than three miles at any point on the Western front in the whole year of 1915. The three miles cost the French Army alone more than 1.5 million men." Other bits of trivia are much more individual, such as "The model for Uncle Sam in the famous 'I want you' poster of WWI was the artist who designed the poster, James Montgomery Flagg."

A good read, though not suitable as an independent reference.


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