Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Magic of Reading Arthur Conan Doyle's Letters

From CrimeReads:
Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters, edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley, is a real treat for Sherlock Holmes fans. The letters were written to Doyle’s family, publishers and others, but most of them are to his ‘Mam’, who he was very close to all his life. He describes her as a wonderful storyteller, and attributes his own gifts to her influence, while his gift for dramatic effect came from his father, an artist whose alcoholism led to lengthy stays in sanitoria and asylums in the latter part of his life.

As well as some fascinating insights into Conan Doyle’s personal life and politics, they also provide some background to the development of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

read more from author Mick Finlay @ CrimeReads

Friday, July 3, 2020

"Silent Angel" A Novella By Antonia Arslan

The story of the rescue of the Homilary of Moush, the largest surviving Armenian manuscript, has for many years traveled through Armenian memories and legends. It- like Franz Werfel’s epic of Musa Dagh is one of the few stories that are source of pride and honor for this defeated and humiliated people. Now dispersed in every corner of the world, having been almost completely destroyed by the 1915 genocide, the Armenians have had their ancestral land taken from them forever.

According to the most widely diffused legend, two women found the book in the rubble of the monastery and carried it to safety by dividing it into two. One of the women died, after having buried her half of the book. That half was discovered by a Russian officer and taken to Tbilisi, while the other half was taken to Yerevan and given to the monks of Etchmiadzin.

The book was put back together in the 1920s. A few of its pages, removed in the nineteenth century, are conserved in the collection of Mekhitarist fathers in Venice and Vienna.

Paula Guran Reviews The Heart Is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories by Angela Slatter

British and World Fantasy Award recipient Angela Slatter’s writing is elegant, elo­quent, evocative, and exquisitely disturb­ing; polished to the rich patina found only on the finest quality antique silver, it casts a spell on the reader. Luckily, the Australian author is nearly as prolific as she is talented. The Heart Is a Mir­ror for Sinners and Other Stories is her eighth collection (two of the seven previous ones were co-written with Lisa L. Hannett.)

This latest compilation offers a wide range of stories: mythic/folkloric, gothic, dark humor, Lovecraftian (both serious and not), even forays into science fiction and hard-nosed detective fic­tion. The women in Slatter’s stories tend to be cut from the same fabric: they may make mistakes, but they gain the strength to claim life or gain revenge or do whatever must be done. They are shrewd, brave, and usually triumph – not that they are always on the side of good or light.

read more here @ Locus Online

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Disrupt and Deny by Rory Cormac

Cover for 

Disrupt and Deny

British leaders use spies and Special Forces to interfere in the affairs of others discreetly and deniably. Since 1945, MI6 has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has instigated whispering campaigns and planted false evidence on officials working behind the Iron Curtain, tried to foment revolution in Albania, blown up ships to prevent the passage of refugees to Israel, and secretly funnelled aid to insurgents in Afghanistan and dissidents in Poland. MI6 has launched cultural and economic warfare against Iceland and Czechoslovakia. It has tried to instigate coups in Congo, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere. Through bribery and blackmail, Britain has rigged elections as colonies moved to independence. Britain has fought secret wars in Yemen, Indonesia, and Oman — and discreetly used Special Forces to eliminate enemies from colonial Malaya to Libya during the Arab Spring.

This is covert action: a vital, though controversial, tool of statecraft and perhaps the most sensitive of all government activity. If used wisely, it can play an important role in pursuing national interests in a dangerous world. If used poorly, it can cause political scandal — or worse.

In Disrupt and Deny, Rory Cormac tells the remarkable true story of Britain's secret scheming against its enemies, as well as its friends; of intrigue and manoeuvring within the darkest corridors of Whitehall, where officials fought to maintain control of this most sensitive and seductive work; and, above all, of Britain's attempt to use smoke and mirrors to mask decline. He reveals hitherto secret operations, the slush funds that paid for them, and the battles in Whitehall that shaped them.

Hawkwood series by James McGee

McGee's historical novels are set during the Regency period, when Britain was at war with Napoleon. His hero, Matthew Hawkwood, is working as a Bow Street Runner, an early investigative officer working out of London's Bow Street Magistrates' Court. He is called upon to solve a number of civil crimes, including murder, body-snatching and highway robbery, but his previous military experience makes him ably suited to investigate issues of national security.

Hawkwood has a complicated back-story, which is touched upon at various stages of the novels. He once served as an officer in the 95th Rifles, but was cashiered after he killed a fellow officer in a duel. With Wellington's intervention, he was spared a court-martial, and joined the Spanish Guerrilleros, liaising with the British intelligence officer Colquhoun Grant. It is Grant's influence that enables Hawkwood to get a job at Bow Street on his return to England.

McGee's creation of Hawkwood's past was deliberate, as he wanted a hero who was "at home in both the military and criminal worlds". Many reviewers and readers have drawn similarities between Hawkwood and the author Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe, particularly as they both served in the Rifles. McGee admits this similarity was a concern for him, but giving Hawkwood a background in the Rifle Brigade was important to the plot. Much of the action within the novels is inspired by historical events. 

Hawkwood (also titled Ratcatcher):
The year is 1811, and Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood is ordered by Chief Magistrate James Read to investigate the double murder of a coachman and a naval courier on the Kent Road.

Hawkwood initially wonders why Read is so concerned by this relatively mundane case, but before long, another body is discovered, and a higher agenda emerges—an attempt by the Emperor Napoleon to deliver a crushing military and psychological blow to Britain that could lead cause terror on the seas for years to come. . . .

Hawkwood is back in the second adventure in the rollicking historical series featuring the enigmatic Bow Street Runner.

Resurrectionist (Matthew Hawkwood, #2)Death can be a lucrative business. But it’s the corpses the body-snatchers leave behind, horribly mutilated and nailed to a tree, which sets Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood on their trail.

A new term at London’s anatomy schools stokes demand for fresh corpses, and the city’s "resurrection men" vie for control of the market. Their rivalry takes an ugly turn when a grave robber is brutally murdered and his body displayed as a warning to other gangs. To hunt down those responsible, Hawkwood must venture into London’s murkiest corners, where even more gruesome discoveries await him.

Nowhere, however, is as grim as Bedlam, notorious asylum for the insane and scene of another bizarre killing. Sent to investigate, Hawkwood finds himself pitted against his most formidable adversary yet, an obsessive genius hell-bent on advancing the cause of science at all costs.

Rapscallion (Matthew Hawkood, #3)
For a French prisoner of war, there is only one fate worse than the gallows: the hulks. Former man-o-wars, now converted to prison ships, their fearsome reputation guarantees a sentence served in dreadful conditions. Few survive. Escape, it’s said, is impossible. Yet reports persist of a sinister smuggling operation within this brutal world, and the Royal Navy is worried enough to send two of its officers to investigate.When they disappear without a trace, the Navy turns in desperation to Bow Street for help. It’s time to send in a man as dangerous as the prey. It’s time to send in Hawkwood.

October 1812: Britain and France are still at war. France is engaged on two battle fronts - Spain and Russia - and her civilians are growing weary of the fight. Rebellion is brewing. Since Napoleon Bonaparte appointed himself as First Consul, there have been several attempts to either kill or overthrow him. All have failed, so far! 

Rebellion (Matthew Hawkwood, #4)Meanwhile in London, Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood has been seconded to the foreign arm of the Secret Service. There, he meets the urbane Henry Brooke, who tells him he's to join a colleague in Paris on a special mission. Brooke's agent has come up with a daring plan and he needs Hawkwood's help to put it into action. If the plan is successful it could lead to a negotiated peace treaty between France and the allies. Failure would mean prison, torture and a meeting with the guillotine!

The Blooding:
The Blooding (Matthew Hawkwood, #5)1812: Matthew Hawkwood, soldier turned spy, is stranded behind enemy lines, in America, a country at war with Britain.Heading for the safety of the Canadian border, Hawkwood’s route takes him to Albany, where the chance sighting of a former comrade-in-arms—Major Douglas Lawrence—within a consignment of British prisoners stymies to his plans. For as the two men make their escape they uncover an American plot to invade Canada. If it is successful, the entire continent will be lost. The British authorities must be warned.

Pursued by a relentless enemy, Hawkwood and Lawrence set off across the snow-bound Adirondack Mountains; the land the Iroquois call ‘The Hunting Grounds’. But they are not alone.Buried deep in Hawkwood’s past is an old alliance – one that could save both their lives and help turn the tide of war…

The Reckoning:
London, 1813: Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood is summoned to a burial ground and finds the corpse of a young woman, murdered and cast into an open grave.

The Reckoning (Matthew Hawkwood, #6)At first the death is deemed to be of little consequence. But when Chief Magistrate James Read receives a direct order from the Home Office to abandon the case, Hawkwood’s interest is piqued.

His hunt for the killer will lead him from London’s backstreets into the heart of a government determined to protect its secrets at all costs. Only Hawkwood’s contacts within the criminal underworld can now help.

As the truth behind the girl’s murder emerges, setting in motion a deadly chain of events, Hawkwood learns the true meaning of loyalty and that the enemy is much closer to home than he ever imagined

Court of Richard II and Bohemian Culture by Alfred Thomas

The Court of Richard II and Bohemian Culture
Bohemian culture exercised an important influence on the court of King Richard II, but it has been somewhat overlooked, with previous scholarship on its writers and artists generally confined to the role played by the French court of King Charles V and the Italian city states of Milan and Florence. 

This book aims to fill that gap. It argues that Richard's marriage to Anne of Bohemia, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, one of the greatest rulers and patrons of the age, exposed England to the full extent of this international court culture. 

Ricardian writers, including Chaucer, Gower and the Gawain-poet, wrote in their native language not because they felt "English" in the modern national sense but because they aspired to be part of a burgeoning vernacular European culture stretching from Paris to Prague and from Brabant to Brandenburg; thus, one of the major periods of English literature can only be properly understood in relation to this larger European context.

A Plague of Informers by Rachel Weil

"A Plague of Informers" by Rachel WeilStories of plots, sham plots, and the citizen-informers who discovered them are at the center of Rachel Weil's compelling study of the turbulent decade following the Revolution of 1688. 

Most studies of the Glorious Revolution focus on its causes or long-term effects, but Weil instead zeroes in on the early years when the survival of the new regime was in doubt. 

By encouraging informers, imposing loyalty oaths, suspending habeas corpus, and delaying the long-promised reform of treason trial procedure, the Williamite regime protected itself from enemies and cemented its bonds with supporters, but also put its own credibility at risk.

English Convents In Catholic Europe 1600 - 1800 by James E. Kelly

In 1598, the first English convent to be founded since the dissolution of the monasteries was established in Brussels, followed by a further twenty-one foundations, which all self-identified as English institutions in Catholic Europe. Around four thousand women entered these religious houses over the following two centuries. 

English Convents in Catholic Europe, c.1600–1800This book highlights the significance of the English convents as part of, and contributors to, national and European Catholic culture. Covering the whole exile period and making extensive use of rarely consulted archive material, James E. Kelly situates the English Catholic experience within the wider context of the Catholic Reformation and Catholic Europe. He thus transforms our understanding of the convents, stressing that they were not isolated but were, in fact, an integral part of the transnational Church which transcended national boundaries. 

The original and immersive structure takes the reader through the experience of being a nun, from entry into the convent, to day-to-day life in enclosure, how the enterprise was funded, as well as their wider place within the Catholic world.

Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses by Gábor Klaniczay

Holy Rulers and Blessed PrincessesMedieval dynasties frequently relied upon the cult of royal saints for legitimacy. After the early medieval emergence of this type of sainthood, in the central Middle Ages most royal dynasties had saints in their family: Edward the Confessor, Olaf, Canute, Louis IX, Charlemagne, the Emperor Henry II, and Wenceslas are some of the best-known examples. 

Within this context the saints of the Hungarian ruling dynasty - the Arpadians - constitute a remarkable sequence: St Stephen, St Emeric, St Ladislas, St Elizabeth, St Margaret and other central European blessed princesses, whose convents mirrored the Court of Heaven. 

This sequence of dynastic saints provide an example of the late medieval evolution of royal and dynastic sainthood. Building upon a series of case studies from Hungary and central Europe, Gábor Klaniczay proposes a synthesis of the multiple forms and transformations of royal and dynastic sainthood in medieval Europe.