A TALE OF THREE BONDS – Rich Paschall

The new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, went into development in 2016. The often delayed project was set for release in April of this year but has been pushed back twice due to COVID-19. Under present circumstances, there can be no grand theater premiere or expectations of large box office success. The new release date is April 2021. Meanwhile, we look back at the very beginning of James Bond.

Casino Royale, By Rich Paschall


When Eon Productions, maker of all those James Bond movies, finally made a film based on the very first Ian Fleming novel, fans of the super spy may have wondered what took them so long. The novel, published in 1953, introduced us to the Cold War spy with a “License to Kill”, but why no movie? In the book as in the films (plural, follow along), Bond’s mission is to bankrupt the evil Le Chiffre of the Russian secret service by beating him at cards at the Casino Royale.

Original hard copy with dust jacket

Le Chiffre is desperate for the money but confident he will win. His own life will be at risk if he loses.

The book was a hit in the UK, but sales in the US were slow and this set into motion events that would keep a serious adaptation of the novel away from the big screen for over 50 years. In an effort to popularize his hero in America, Fleming sold the television rights for the novel to CBS to adapt to a live drama for the series Climax!

The program aired October 21, 1954, and probably would have been lost forever, if not for the eventual popularity of the novels and movies.

Casino Royale 1954
Casino Royale 1954

The television production starred Barry Nelson as James Bond, an American agent. Sometimes he is referred to as “Jimmy” which ought to make long-time Bond fans cringe. The American agent in the novel is now a British agent named Clarence Leiter (rather than Felix). For the live drama, parts are condensed or eliminated and the focus is on the card game. Since the game is baccarat, not poker as in the latest movie, a little time is spent explaining it for the American audience.

Le Chiffre is played by Peter Lorre, a veteran of the big screen, with just the right amount of evil. A film star of the 1940s and ’50s, Linda Christian, gets the honor of being the first “Bond girl.” You are left to wonder, at least at the outset, whose side she is really on. I guess for an early black and white television drama, it is not too bad, if you can get past Jimmy Bond as an American spy.

In 1955 Fleming sold the movie rights to film director and producer Gregory Ratoff for a mere 6 thousand dollars. Perhaps it was big money then. Unfortunately, Ratoff died in 1960, never having developed the story for the movies. Next up was the producer, attorney, and talent agent Charles K. Feldman who represented Ratoff’s widow and ultimately obtained the rights. By now, the Bond series was off to a good start, so how could Feldman possibly compete? Failing to negotiate an agreement with Eon, he decided to do something that may have been typical of the mid to late 1960s. He produced a “madcap” comedy, a spoof of the spy series.

There just is not enough space here to explain what the producers and various directors did to this film. Although they assembled what was meant to be an “all-star” cast, you can not say they got a lot of great performances from this crew. Various writers created sections that were to be filmed by different directors and all would be edited together. This allowed them to work with many stars doing different scenes at different locations and studios at the same time. A movie monstrosity ensued.

John Huston, who also appears in the movie as M, directed one segment and left. Five other directors worked on the project, one uncredited. David Niven is “Sir James Bond” who must be convinced by Huston, Charles Boyer, William Holden, and Kurt Kazner to come out of retirement to deal with Le Chiffre. Bond takes on the role of head of the spy agency upon M’s departure and they recruit Peter Seller’s (Evelyn Tremble), a baccarat expert, to impersonate Bond and play Le Chiffre at the Casino. Le Chiffre is played by Orson Welles.

Explanations are pointless. See it — or not. The temperamental Sellers left the project for a rest before his part was finished. He was asked not to return. Welles hated the unprofessional Sellers and they barely spoke to each other. A gaggle of stars performed cameos.  When all was said and done, it was a confusing mess.

Val Guest, one of the directors, along with the film editor, got permission to film additional scenes with Niven and Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd) — a hopeless attempt to add some continuity to the script and deal with the missing David Sellers’ performance. Watch for un-credited stars, especially at the end. There is no sensible explanation for the final scenes.

The critically-panned film did well at the box office, as many of the crazy comedies of the 1960s did. At least it provided a great musical score by Burt Bacharach, including the hit song The Look of Love. The film rights next passed to Colombia Pictures, the studio that had put out this disaster. They held onto them until 1989 when Colombia was acquired by Sony. A legal battle followed, and the rights were used as a bargaining chip with MGM/UA for MGM’s portion of the rights to Spiderman. Spiderman was traded for the original James Bond in 1999.

Casino Royale was not next as there was one more Pierce Brosnan movie to be made. When Brosnan declined a fifth film, the opportunity to “reboot” the spy series was at hand.

Daniel Craig is James Bond

Back to the beginning.  Our hero becomes “007,” and the silver screen welcomes Daniel Craig as “Bond, James Bond.”

THE CONSTANT RABBIT: A NOVEL BY JASPER FFORDE

The Constant Rabbit: A Novel

By: Jasper Fforde

Narrated by: Andrew Wincott

England, 2022. There are 1.2 million human-size rabbits living in the UK. They wear clothes and can walk, talk, and drive cars, and do pretty much anything most human beings can do. They are the result of an inexplicable Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event 55 years earlier. Nobody knows what the Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event was intended to accomplish. No one knows why the rabbits came to populate Great Britain, but as a result, there are people — human, standard people throughout the UK, and then there are rabbits. Human-like in terms of how they live, what they do with their lives. But they are oppressed. Avoided. Never given the “good” jobs.

It’s systemic Rabbit Oppression. And logically, by all the standards of British law, these rabbits should have the same rights as other sentient creatures, they don’t. What is more, there are human foxes who slaughter rabbits … because they are foxes and some weird law say that rabbits are prey and foxes have the right to kill prey. Those are some scary foxes, too.

Jasper Fforde used to write very funny books about books and nursery rhyme people, but in his last two standalone books, he has gotten more serious. He’s still lighthearted, at least some of the time … but the issues of the day have struck home and this one, in particular, is not an amusing romp. It isn’t a dark book, but it isn’t as twinkly as his earlier books. I think the world has changed so much, he can’t write the way he used to.

Suffice to say this is — in its own very unique way — a brilliant book. I can’t tell you a lot about it without giving away more plot than i want to offer. But there is a lot to think about in this novel. It gets stuck in our head, too and doesn’t go away.

Set in the ancient village of Much Wenlock in the middle of Hereford (which is in the middle of the UK), this is a book to read at least twice. It’s beautifully well-written and as an audiobook, also beautifully narrated. There is love, loyalty, fear, bravery, and romance (both human and rabbit-style). There’s bad government, unfair laws, and the distinct feeling that rabbits might really be immigrants. And there is also something strangely Beatrix Potter going on …

I highly recommend it. If you want — need — something to think about but not so dark that it makes you cry buckets of tears, this is the book. I’m not sure what you would call it. It’s sort of science fiction, but it’s not only that. It’s something else.

TZU HSI: THE LAST EMPRESS AND THE RAPE OF CHINA By PEARL BUCK

Tzu Hsi – The Last Empress and the Rape of China, by Pearl Buck

This is the story of Tzu Hsi, a woman who rose from obscurity to rule first as regent to her son, the boy emperor, then ultimately as the last Empress of China from 1861 to 1908. Her death heralded the end of the old China. The empire collapsed only three years after her death, in 1911. First chosen as one of many concubines to the young emperor – no more than a child himself – she manipulates herself into position as his favorite, cultivates his favor until he depends on her completely. Still in love with her childhood sweetheart, a single night of love produces a son, the next emperor.

Intelligent, highly (self) educated Tzu Hsi makes herself essential to her debauched, physically weakened, opium-addicted husband. His early death leaves her regent to her son. She is forced to preside over the destruction of Chinese culture. Her fight against white imperialism is hopeless. As the representative of the last Dynasty, she tries to find her way while the China she has known is assaulted by wave after wave of western imperialist pirates under the guise of missionaries, traders, and ambassadors.

Once the rape of China begins, she is powerless to stop it. Even the rare victory is no more than a holding action. Despite all evidence, she cannot believe China can lose to these invaders and she never loses her unyielding belief in the superiority of Chinese culture … the ultimate irony given the unyielding belief of the Western powers of their superiority. The unstoppable force meets the immoveable object and the result is – as might be expected – tragic.

In a way, she was more right than she knew. The old China collapsed but from its ashes, the new China has gained more power than the old ever had. There are a number of ways to read this book. It’s a brilliant, detailed picture of a vanished civilization … beautiful and to modern minds, bizarre. And, it’s the story of Tzu Hsi, her life, her deeply flawed, complex personality. Her bad decisions based on the logic of a world already gone to which the rules no longer applied.

You can also read Imperial Woman as a much larger story, how the western nations took the oldest culture on earth and destroyed it so we could plunder it for opium. How we destroyed thousands of years of art and cultural treasures so each country from the west — who had no right to any of China — treated the Chinese people as if they were the barbarians because they did not want to become just like us.

Portrait of the Qing dynasty Imperial dowager Empress of China –1900s

The European powers with the help of the United States transformed China into a monster. Then we have the gall to complain we don’t like the way it turned out. China would never have become what it is today or taken the path it did without the brutality and devastation wrought by European imperialism. And of course, look what opium and all that has followed in its wake has done to improve our society? Karma is a nasty bitch.

Written in 1956, the story is probably more relevant today, 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent to the transformation of Communist China into the world’s biggest, baddest economic superpower. On many levels, for a lot of different reasons, it serves us right. We destroyed China. Now, in its own way, China is destroying us. One good turn deserves another.

I read Imperial Woman not long after it first came out. I was in my early teens and it was just a story. I read it as an interesting, even fascinating story. But at the time, it meant no more than that. Reading it now meant a lot more not only because of the changes in my perspective, knowledge, and interest in China’s history, but because the world has changed.

Imperial Woman was written at the peak of the Communist witch hunts in the U.S. and during the hottest part of the Cold War. The world in which we live today different yet weirdly similar. If you have a reasonable knowledge of history, a sense of destiny and fundamental belief in Karma, you will find Imperial Woman contains many layers of meaning. It’s elegantly written, not even slightly dated.

Imperial Woman is available on Kindle. It’s also available on Audible.com and as a paperback. It’s probably available at your local library. It’s a classic and absolutely worth reading as much now as ever.

BATTLEGROUND BY JIM BUTCHER – COMING AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER!

We already know I’m a huge fan of Jim Butcher and while I dread the ending of this series, I’m also pretty much holding my breath for the next book. I have included the trailers for”Peace Talks” and “Battleground.” The latter is due for release on September 29th.

“Peace Talks” was beyond fantastic … and so were the books that came before it. I got into reading backwards through the books down to book 9, after which I decided it was time to start upward again to get myself emotionally in tune with what was coming.

I think the next book (I think — no, I have NOT read it) seems likely to be Jim Butcher’s Ragnorok, minus Loki — though who knows? A few Norse mythological characters might show up. Why not? It’s not like they haven’t been taking shape in the shadows of the previous sixteen books.

Now, here’s the trailer for “Peace Talks.” This was released last month. I bought the hard copy of the book because I was helpless. I had to have it. I have read it only once so far. I will read it again. Soon. I’m waiting. It’s like having a birthday but saving the best gift (you always know what the best gift is, don’t you?) until the end.

Next is the trailer for “Battleground.” It’s due for release September 29, 2020. I’ve pre-ordered the hard copy because, as I said, I can’t help it. The trailer took my breath away and I don’t think it was the heavy layer of pollen in the early autumn air.

You can follow Jim on Twitter at @longshotauthor. If you are as loony as I am about his books, you can also follow Molly Carpenter and more of Jim’s other characters, human, human-like, and bizarrely “other.” He writes (on Twitter) using the personality of various characters. This totally blows my mind since I can barely keep track of me these days, much less a panoply of human, fey, wizards, werewolves and oh so many more. Name the mythology and they are in his books, sometimes as major characters or lurking in the shadows, waiting for a turn in the spotlight.

Call me crazy, but I think this would make a gangbusters mini (or not so mini) series. I’ll even dig up the money to pay for yet one more streaming channel if this ever gets produced. Oh please make it real! I need this. Reality is not working for me.

TRUMP IS AMERICA’S BELLWETHER

BELLWETHER, by CONNIE WILLIS is a book I have read many times. I read it often because it’s funny and finding something to laugh about has become increasingly difficult. Each time I read it, I notice something new that rings true. Too, too true.

Yesterday, someone asked me, “Why do people follow Donald Trump?” He certainly doesn’t do it on his looks or charming personality. He’s not handsome, intelligent, witty, moral, or clever. He’s a criminal, a fraud, a bigot … and he is cruel. So why do people follow him? Not merely follow him, but treat him as if he is the second coming (or first coming, depending on where you are coming from) of the Messiah?

Connie Willis_1996_Bellwether


Trump is America’s bellwether.


What, you ask, is a bellwether? Well, unless you keep sheep, you probably don’t know. A bellwether is the sheep that all the other sheep follow. Why do all the other sheep follow him or her? Because they do. There’s just something about that ewe that makes her their lead sheep. Without a bellwether, you can’t get your flock to do anything. Mind you, a bellwether is not smarter than the other sheep. She or he has just got that special “thing” that other sheep instantly recognize as “leadership quality.”

Like Trump.

Without a bellwether, they will stand in the meadow, mill around, munch, baah, and squeal lamentations. They won’t do anything without a bellwether to lead them. But give them a bellwether and they will follow that ewe into nuclear war, into a fiscal deficit from which we will never recover, even into the jaws of a viral death or the ultimate climactic collapse of their planet. They will applaud his vindictiveness, vicious attacks, and forgive his obvious stupidity, and lack of education. Because he’s got that special something, you know?

Apparently we can’t help ourselves. We are sheep. Without a bellwether, we roam around baahing, blathering, bleating, and bemoaning our hopeless fate. Without our bellwether, we will wail endlessly into an uncaring world. That’s why you can’t talk to “those people.” They are not people. They are SHEEP! Have you ever tried to chat up a sheep? Give it a try. A goat, maybe might be conversational, but a sheep? I rest my case.

So I read Bellwether — again and as usual, it grabbed me. Having read it at least half a dozen times before, I didn’t expect a surprise, but suddenly, I was surprised. Aside from all the humor about chaos theory and fads, it explained the meaning of “bellwether,” a term I’d heard, used, and misused for years, but never understood. This time, I got it. The reason people follow insane, crazy, cruel tyrannical leaders is because they are stupid and just like sheep, they need a sheep with attitude to lead them to hell and back.

There is just something about that ewe!

That’s how a moron like Jim Jones can convince nearly 900 people to commit suicide and inject poison into their children’s mouths … and why these fanatics think Trump is right up there with God and Christ. You — me — us are not those people. We aren’t sheep. Our not being sheep hasn’t been much of a help to us, but i have to believe that somewhere along the line, smarter people will win.

Hillary Clinton got it wrong. She thought they were deplorables embodying evil. They aren’t evil, just incredibly stupid. It’s because, despite their human shape, they are ovine. Woolly-headed people who need a bellwether to tell them what to think, where to go, what to do. We no more recognize our bellwethers than does a flock of sheep. We follow them with the same mindlessness. Is it some atavistic instinct, embedded in our DNA? That some are born to lead and others to follow?

Bellwether suggests answers to previously unanswerable questions. Why do people vote against their own self-interest and do so many stupid things? They’re following bellwethers who are loose amongst us, the invisible shakers and movers. No longer invisible, we have given this particular bellwether a lot of real power … and guess what? He is using every part of his ovine brain to do as much damage as he can. Moral of the story? Never elect a sheep as president. It’s a terrible idea.

You should read this book. Whenever nothing makes sense, I reread it and suddenly, something makes sense that didn’t before. When all other explanations fail, look for the bellwether. He or she is the answer.

TIME TRAVEL AND DECISION MAKING

Fandango’s Provocative Question #85: LIFE DECISIONS & TIME TRAVEL

Time travel is my favorite science fiction subject along with witchery and wizardry. There are rules about time travel and always have been. I actually had to look up the rules, to make sure I remembered them. I found two sets, one from 2009 and another from 2015.

Both of these sets of rules are typically found in tales of time travel. The whole concept of time travel is mentally paradoxical and if you really think about it, it’s quite unhinging. That’s why I like it. I love the wild and crazy way you have to think about traveling in time. It’s impossible, but don’t we wish we could do it anyway? There’s a great series of books by Jodi Taylor called “The Chronicles of St. Mary’s” where nutty historians travel in time to view actual historical events and record them so that people finally get to know what really happened. The books are exciting and frequently hilarious. I think the series is beginning to wind down, but if you’ve never read the books, you have a whole series you can read or listen to on Audiobooks. I listen to them. Actually, I listen to them often. I’ve listened to the entire series several times, and a new book just came out which I have only read once … and I know there’s another one due in December.

So, about Fandango’s question:

The answer is yes, but no. Of course I’ve made bad decisions. Some were really terrible and I will regret them forever. But (there’s always a “but”), for every bad decision, in some way my life was changed, ultimately for the better. Change was not immediate or even quickly. Decisions made as a teenager didn’t come home to roost until I was well into adulthood. Karma doesn’t work fast, but but grinds very fine. Moreover, context matters. It can be decades before you realize that the bad decision you made in 1979 has somehow morphed over the course of decades to a great life.

I know there is no such thing as time travel. Even if there were “real” time travel, it would be dangerous beyond imagining because if you change one thing or one little part of a past event, other things will change. You cannot know what the potential fallout could be. Read Stephen King’s “11/22/63” about time travel and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s a brilliant piece of writing and it’s not one of King’s creepy horror stories. It’s genuine science fiction. Beautifully written and sometimes, almost poetry.

I know this sounds more like a book report than an opinion, but I’m seriously into time travel stories. If there’s not time travel, then I’m opting for magic. One of the other, but both would be lovely.

So, speaking of time …

THE END OF THE REPUBLIC

Cover of "Imperium"

Imperium, by Robert Harris
Random House
Sep 7, 2010
Fiction – 496 pages

It’s déjà vu all over again as we travel back with author Robert Harris to Republican Rome just before it became Imperial Rome.

In America, we complain of corruption. Lying politicians. Fearing the end of our Democracy. We wonder about conspiracies. We brood darkly on the failure of the government to address issues of inequality.

We deplore the bribery of officials. The world, we say, is going to Hell or, depending on our point of view, has already gone to Hell.

Except that the government went to Hell a long time ago and you could easily argue that government — all government — was always hellish. Compared to Rome, our government is a clean machine, as clean as a fresh snowfall. It’s a matter of perspective.

English: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rom...
Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Roma Italiano: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rome (Photo: Wikipedia)

Reading history puts the world in which I live into perspective. Whatever problems we face, we — the human family — have faced them before. We survived. It’s important to remember our ability to survive is greater (for the most part) than our ability to screw up.

Imperium, by Robert Harris, is about a guy named Cicero. You’ve undoubtedly heard of him. Famed as a lawyer, more famous as an orator, Cicero rose to power during a critical cusp in history as Rome was about to change from Republican to Imperial. Julius Caesar had just stepped onto the stage of history.

It was the beginning of the greatest imperial power the earth had ever seen … and the end of the greatest republic the world would ever know.

Perspective.

Marcus Cicero started his journey to power as an outsider from the provinces. His first significant legal case put him head-to-head with the dangerous, cruel and utterly corrupt Gaius Verres, governor of provincial Sicily. Using his stunning oratorical abilities and displaying a dogged determination and persistence in the face of impossible odds, Cicero beats Verres in court. He then goes on to triumph over many powerful opponents, making friends — but more enemies — along the way.

Cicero seeks ultimate power — imperium. His allegiance is to the Republic. Cicero’s secretary and slave, Tiro, is the inventor of shorthand and has become the author of this biography of his master. Tiro was at Cicero’s right hand throughout his career, by his side, through triumph and catastrophe. Through his voice, the world of ancient Rome is brought to life.

It’s a fascinating story. Pompey and Julius Caesar stride across the stage of this deeply corrupt, depraved, dangerous and strangely familiar society.

imperium audibleRobert Harris is a brilliant story-teller and author of historical fiction. He lures us into a violent, treacherous world of Roman politics simultaneously exotically different from and startlingly similar to ours.

This is part one of a duology.  The second volume in the American printing is titled Conspirata. In Great Britain, the same book is titled Lustrum.

Both books are available on Kindle, paperback, and Audible.com.

ANGELIQUE

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children? With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from French. I have been told that much was lost in a not-very-good translation. But I don’t read well enough in French to fully enjoy the books.. Once, I did, but that was a very long time ago.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was weird.

Then I met Angelique.


The fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins


Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy (and for being too politically powerful), Angélique finds herself homeless, penniless, with babies to protect in the underworld of Paris. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten. Her defeats are temporary setbacks, her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a woman taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own (and does). She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.

angelique french editionThey collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. We found her, in Paris, alive, well, and still writing. We learned — as of August, 2009 — there were three yet-untranslated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

Ms. Golon also announced 2 more books: Royaume de France, (“Kingdom of France”) to follow Victoire, and a 15th and final volume, yet untitled. None of these has been translated. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 35 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the new Angélique book. Anne Golon is well into her 90s, but like Angélique herself, nothing short of Death himself can stop this remarkable woman.

July 2017: Anne Golon passed away on Friday at the age of 95. She was writing until the end. She inspired me as a girl and instilled the belief I could do anything a man could do. She was a wind behind my back for a lifetime. If you read French, there is an article in Figaro here.

PEACE TALKS – HARRY DRESDEN IS FINALLY BACK! – by JIM BUTCHER

I looked it up. I have waited six years for book sixteen in the Harry Dresden world to be published. I have waited patiently, then less patiently. A few months ago, there was a book by Jim Butcher called (tada!) Spiderman: The Darkest Hours. It wasn’t Harry Dresden, but it was good and it was Jim Butcher. It kept me from madness. This is truly a year in which if books disappeared, my brain would slither out through my ears and I would be officially brainless (as opposed to intermittently brainless).

Peace Talks is as good as I had hoped it would be and it is eerily timely, given COVID-19 and our so-called president sending his own secret service into the streets to beat down protesters. Peace Talks are the least peaceful talks ever attempted. The next book, to be released at the end of September, will really be part two of this duology. I don’t know if it will also be the end of the series. I hope not, but I have a feeling it might be. Because I’m not sure what more Harry Dresden could become beyond what he has already become. He was always powerful, clever, and funny. But now, multiply the earlier Harry by the power of 10 and he’s one seriously magical dude.

I waited for the previous five years for this new episode. This year — year six — I was getting desperate. I couldn’t bear the idea of reading one more political insider story extruded from our dark and creepy White House. I’m pretty sure it has become the opposite of Demonreach — a place where the worst of the worst can safely hide.

I needed magic. I needed Harry. I needed Jim Butcher. Considering you-know-who is threatening Chicago with his secret police, Harry, it’s time to come out of hiding. Chicago won’t survive without your help. Hell, Harry, the WORLD is waiting. In the meantime, I need you.

Peace Talks is satisfying on so many levels. Earlier books ended with more resolution than these past few. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing storyline heading toward a Dresdenesque apocalypse. Jim Butcher extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces overwhelming odds, then adroitly weaves these events into the storyline, taking Harry and the series into the next book. He wastes nothing. No phenomenon is accidental. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of a picture to be finally revealed.

I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil in my reality plane makes fighting them similar to trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance.

There is one more book to come, though I can’t help hoping for more. Regardless, it is going to be gigantic.


The  Dresden Files


Book 1: Storm Front

Book 2: Fool Moon

Book 3: Grave Peril

Book 4: Summer Knight

Book 5: Death Masks

Book 6: Blood Rites

Book 7: Dead Beat

Book 8: Proven Guilty

Book 9: White Night

Book 10: Small Favor

Book 11: Turn Coat

Book 12: Changes

Book 13: Ghost Story

Book 13.5: Side Jobs: Stories From The Dresden Files

Book 14: Cold Days

Book 15: Skin Game

Book 16: Peace Talks (now available!)

Book 17: Battleground (September 29, 2020)

DOOMSDAY BOOK BY CONNIE WILLIS

I read this for the first time when it was first published in 2008. It wasn’t available as an audible book yet, though it would be soon. So my first reading was words on paper.

It’s the story of the plague, the Bubonic Plague in England. In addition to the many light-hearted stores Ms. Willis has written, she has written a four book series about Time Travel and this was the first of the series. She’s not very technical. Her idea of time travel is to take a modern person and move them in time back to a part of history when something unusual was happening and then watch this “modern” human interact with the real inhabitants of that period.

This is either the best or worst time in history to read about Bubonic Plague. On one level, it makes COVID-19 sound like a walk in the park. Bubonic Plague is a powerful disease, borne of a bacteria rather than a virus. Which means you can’t create a vaccine against it and in all these years while Plague has been coming and going around the world, there is no vaccine. These days, it usually can be beaten back with heavy doses of antibiotics, but not always. It still kills people and it pops up all over the world, including in the United States.

In 1348 when the plague hit England and killed at least half the entire population and in some areas, killed everybody leaving towns deserted, everyone knew what we know:


WEAR A MASK. DON’T GET CLOSE TO OTHER PEOPLE.
AVOID “THE HOT SPOTS.” 


The wealthy who had homes far out in the country went there and locked the gates. Those who had no recourse — peasants and merchants — did the best they could. Everyone wore masks until people started to get crazy and say “I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well have fun in the meantime.”

Just like now.

Basically, the Black Death rampaged through England, Europe, and Asia for a few hundred years The 14th century was the biggest hit, but not the only hit. It lurked, so when a new generation was growing up, it struck again. Which is why you see remnants of the plague hitting in the Gobi Desert in prehistoric times, the Justinian Plague in Roman times, then the big one that came in with infected rats to Italian ports and ultimately, everywhere in Europe and England..

This book deals exclusively with 1348 to 1349, the years that the Plague arrived and did its best to kill everyone. It did a pretty good job. No one really knows what proportion of the human population was killed during the plague years, but it was no less than 50% and might have been as high as 75% — and in some areas, as I said, It involved the complete elimination of the entire human population and entire towns and regions. Areas that are regarded as having not been hit by plague were indeed hit, but they only lost 15 to 20% of the population — not enough deaths to even put them on the map.

Ponder that.

Today, we have a problem with freight and moving goods in the world as the Pandemic wreaks havoc. They didn’t have freight or shipping. They barely had roads. Instead, they lost so many peasants there was no one left to grow crops. So in addition to dying of plague, many died of starvation.

I found it more relaxing to read than watching the numbers of new COVID cases on the news every night. This is history. It happened. It’s over. COVID is right now. We are not free from it and we do not know when or if we will be free of it. Although it isn’t as fast a killer as Bubonic Plague, it’s still killing a lot of people and beginning to take a toll on younger people who were supposedly “immune” to it.

Even though, way back in 1348, everyone knew there was no immunity unless you just got lucky, they were as stupid about caring for themselves and each other as we are today. Supposedly they were so much less knowledgeable … but in the end, the answer was exactly the same then as now.


Social distancing and masks.


People were stupid in 1348. They are equally stupid in 2020. Times change. People don’t.

FROM THE EARTH ABIDES PROJECT: YEAR 71 — BY RANGERDON

The Year 71 – EARTH ABIDES By George R. Stewart

This is certainly the Year of Earth Abides, Year 71 to carve on Indian Rock, and there will a new printing of Earth Abides in October to celebrate.  It will be notable for two reasons:

The new edition of “Earth Abides”

Most of the previous covers for the novel have focused on people or the ruins of a post-pandemic world. The new printing has a distinctive, beautiful cover featuring  Ish’s Hammer.(The Hammer of Ish is one of two major symbols in Stewart’s work.  The Pitcher in Sheep Rock is his female symbol. The Hammer of Ish, his male symbol.)

Its “Introduction” is by distinguished writer Kim Stanley Robinson.  Even if you already have a copy of the novel, buying this edition will bring the Hammer of Ish and Robinson’s excellent survey of the book and Stewart’s life and work to your library.  (You can preorder it from Amazon or your local independent bookseller.)

Ø Ø Ø

Robinson’s  “Introduction” joins two other essays on Earth Abides to make a trilogy of considerations of novel and author.    Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Introduction” is a wonderfully-written, well-researched essay about the book as influenced by Stewart’s life, and in comparison to his other work.  James Sallis’s fine essay is a poetic consideration of the book as great literature.  Pat Joseph’s article for Californiathe University of California  Alumni Magazine, is written with an eye to Berkeley and the University’s role in the novel; and  it examines the parallels with Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague

Source: The Year 71 | the EARTH ABIDES project

THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED By JOHN BOLTON – Marilyn Armstrong

I expected it to be dull, but it wasn’t dull. I think I’d describe it as “dry.” Not unlike the material I wrote for many years.

I wasn’t going to read it, but I decided my curiosity was stronger than my desire to avoid reading a book about Trump by a Republican I basically don’t much like. Surprisingly, I didn’t find the book nearly as distasteful as I expected.

For one thing, although on most levels I completely disagree with everything Bolton has to say — personally and politically — I was surprised that the book was not intentionally divisive. He pretty much describes the facts as he perceived them coming from many years as a very hawkish Republican. I’m not hawkish and I’m not a Republican, but I realized for the first time in years it’s possible to read a book with which I disagree and still find interesting material and not feel personally offended. In 2020 in the U.S.A., that’s a big deal.

Bolton’s comments on Democrats are the usually stupid ones you hear from Republicans, but they aren’t offensive. Just dismissive and mostly wrong.

However, not everything he said was wrong. We are today seeing just how awful the original Bill Clinton NAFTA agreement was. It did exactly what we thought it would do. It stripped manufacturing out of the U.S. and created massive job losses. It greatly complicated freight and shipping on everything from underwear to trucks. We are paying a heavy price for that now. Having closed all our major industrial centers, you can’t rebuild them nearly as quickly as we abandoned them. It was a bad deal and I doubt anyone will argue the point now. All it took was one international calamity for us to discover how bad a deal it is to have all of your goods made in China and have to get them here by airplane. Maybe we’ll go back to steamships?

Other than that, the issue of war and reprisals came up often. It never seems to be of any importance to any president of either party how “incidents” begin or what we did versus what they did. We — as a people — know shockingly little about what’s really going on internationally. Not only does our government not tell us, but once the press gets hold of it, the various versions that come out are astoundingly different from each other. Fox just makes stuff up, but all the news purveyors sell their version of events. The stories may not be outright lies, but they also aren’t the truth. You have to read a lot of news to get a grip on what really happened. And even so, there’s more we don’t know no matter how much we read.

Overall, I agree that the impeachment was a farce.I thought it would be before it started. Both parties made it an exclusively party-driven event. Once the GOP announced they wouldn’t allow witnesses and wouldn’t listen to them even if they spoke, what was the point of continuing? Trump absolutely deserved to be impeached — the single thing  Bolton and I agree on. He felt there was nothing he could say that anyone would listen to and I believe he was right.

It’s not a great book, but it’s interesting and if you are a liberal Democrat, it probably won’t make you froth at the mouth. I have a feeling the true Trumpistas are more likely to find themselves frothing. Whatever he says about Democrats pales in comparison to what he says about Republicans and Trump.

Bolton isn’t exactly a convert to my politics, but he has come very far from Trumpism — and that’s a good thing.

FILE PHOTO: National Security Advisor John Bolton adjusts his glasses as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Do I recommend it? If you have the time, it’s worth the effort. It’s interesting to get a different point of view. It’s also noteworthy recognizing Republicans aren’t the only party to have made a mess of our country. This disaster has been many years in the making. It didn’t all happen in 2016 and it won’t be over in four years, either.

We started in slavery and with the philosophy that “anyone could make it.”  This was never true. It was a lie when we wrote the Constitution and the years haven’t changed it. It will take a lot of work and a lot of  people working together to fix even a part of the disaster. I think it will take a lot longer than that to get it right, assuming we can remember after a year or so how bad it was in 2020.

We tend to have very short memories in this country and if we forget, decide it’s too much effort, the world will be no better in a decade than it is now — and that’s politically. In most other ways, it will be much worse.

We need to decide who we are, who we want to be, and how much effort we are willing to put into the struggle that is coming.