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.

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)

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.

THE WESTERN FILMS OF ROBERT MITCHUM By GENE FREESE

THE WESTERN FILMS OF ROBERT MITCHUM
Author: Gene Freese
Publication date: November 2019
244 pages in softcover, $39.95
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7849-8
eISBN  978-1-4766-3746-4
McfarlandBooks.com – 800-253-2187

McFarland, Publisher


Most biographies of Hollywood film stars are from the “print the legend” department. Collections of studio publicity releases, agents’ fact free notes and war stories from old Hollywood friends and foes. They’ve been repeated so many times by media outlets and film “historians.”  it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

That’s Hollywood.

Gene Freese, author

It’s not the case in “The Western Films of Robert Mitchum” by Gene Freese. This book is one of the rare times when you get more than what the title suggests.

Author Gene Freese has done his work the old-fashioned way. Lots of grunt work and untold hours digging through library archives, multiple screenings of films and videos, myriad interviews — in person, on line, by telephone, and through letters from a cross-section of people who’ve given insight to the complex puzzle of the man who was Robert Mitchum.

If you’re expecting a glossy account of the rebellious Mitchum who earned his Hollywood spurs as a hero, villain and contrary old-timer of the west, Gene Freese gives you far more that you expect from a book about a film star. In this book, you get to know the man who inhabited Robert Mitchum’s body, soul, and screen persona.

Practically every would-be Hollywood trivia buff knows about Mitchum’s much-ballyhooed marijuana arrest in the ’40s.  It’s an incident that’s gained legs, often overshadowing the actor’s impressive body of work.

It took Mitchum a while to come to terms with his infamous marijuana legacy while striving to become a diverse and accomplished actor. As Gene Freese explains, Robert Mitchum was so fond of playing the maverick on and off screen, he was perhaps guilty of printing his own legend, an irony not lost on the man who told friends to call him “Mitch.”.

Gene Freese traces Mitchum’s rough and tumble beginnings, separating fact from fiction. They are no less fascinating without the Hollywood public relations excesses. In fact, they are more interesting given Freese’s matter-of-fact detail of “Mitch’s” harrowing years as a young man, bumming his way cross country with real life hobos during the great depression.There was nothing glamorous or romantic about sharing a railroad box car with grimy men who had little to live for and were quick with a shiv to quiet upstart youngsters like Mitchum.

As author Freese explains, Robert Mitchum’s tough guy persona was born during his formative years. Hollywood was far from Mitch’s mind when he decided to see the country on his own terms. It was Woody Guthrie wanderlust.

Gene Freese’s anecdotes are rich with detail as the youthful Mitch is schooled by real-life hardliners who brooked no fools. Mitchum would use the behavior of those tough guys in his actor’s toolbox. Freese describes how Robert Mitchum closely studied the people around him, grew to understand them and ultimately allowed them to inhabit his screen persona.

Many of Gene Freese’s accounts of Robert Mitchum’s life hit home. I had the opportunity to spend a long social afternoon with Mitchum in the early ’70s when he was filming “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” in Boston. I was a television news reporter and the lunch followed the interview I’d done with Mitchum. Our time was spent in a seedy bar where Mitch could relax without having to deal with gawking fans. Mitch was relaxed and I got to see many sides of his personality, so well described by Gene Freese.

Garry Armstrong and “The Western Films of Robert Mitchum”

The Western Films of Robert Mitchum” reads like a friendly chat by a fire in the evening. It’s conversational and comfortable. Gene gives you film details much like your favorite sports writer breaks down a game. I found myself slowing down to get all the details, my fingers tracing the information from title, producer, director, stars, right down to the extras and wranglers.  If you ever wondered who played the henchman, the bully or the bartender, Freese has the names and terrific back-stories to go with character actors like Ward Bond, Paul Fix, and Morgan Woodward — names you might recognize if you are a western movie fan.

Freese gives you a fresh and honest look at Robert Mitchum’s family life. Robert Mitchum was married to one woman for his entire life, something the tabloid people rarely mention. Mitchum’s father role, as Gene Freese tells us, was far more accomplished than most of his peers.There are plenty of family stories that I’m sure will surprise and delight you.

Robert Mitchum’s “noir” westerns finally get some long overdue attention. Films like “Blood On The Moon,”  “Pursued,” and “Track Of The Cat” played in theaters and television and never got proper critical appreciation. “Just another western,” many folks thought. Gene Freese conducts Film 101 and you’ll be surprised, I think, at how good those movies are.

Robert Mitchum’s non-westerns are not overlooked. Think about “Night of the Hunter” and “Cape Fear” to mention two of Mitch’s scariest villains. Gene Freese gives you a lot to chew on about Mitchum’s approach and work on those two classics.

As a western fan, you’ll want to know more about Mitchum’s work with John Wayne. Their relationship, on and off screen, is fascinating and funny. Drinking prowess was just a small part of it. If you recall “El Dorado,” Wayne and Mitch (aka “The big two”), is exhibit A and the book has all the details.

In his later years, Robert Mitchum made some questionable professional choices.  Some mediocre films were made and other excellent roles were turned down. He worked a lot and Gene Freese pulls no punches as he explains how it happened.

“Tombstone” was Robert Mitchum’s last important movie job.  He was the narrator. He could’ve been in the movie but chose instead to be “the voice.”  Gene Freese, again, gives information which is unknown, even to many “movie mavens.”.

As a huge fan of old Hollywood, I loved the book. My heroes have really always been cowboys. Gene Freese’s “The Western Films of Robert Mitchum” not only left me better informed, it also left me smiling. We need more smiles.

“DOUBLE TROUBLE” By GRETCHEN ARCHER

Every mystery written by Gretchen Archer has been complex with multiple subplots and complication upon complication building to a crashing yet happy ending. In this novel, the complications are so intricate you have to read carefully to pick up the clues.

Many authors write convoluted stories with the inevitable corpse showing up where a dead body is most unlikely. When it gets too labyrinthine, ye olde “Deus Ex Machina” drops by to fix everything.

Ms. Archer doesn’t have a Deus Ex Machina. If Davis found her way into the disaster, she will claw her way out. For every knot, she finds a way to unknot it before the book concludes.

This story begins with the Bird lady who runs the Lost & Found department. She is old. No one is sure how old, but very would be a good guess. She is forgetful. She has a unique way of doing things and that being said, no one knows exactly how she does whatever she does. Her entries use a unique shorthand. Birdie has her own coding system.

Gretchen with granddaughter during COVID-19 pandemic

Her codes and shorthand made letting her go a bit scary. Who’d figure out what was going on unless Birdie explained it — if she could explain it? She didn’t hear well or remember much. No one entirely understood her and she didn’t seem to fully understand herself.

There has been a massive rebuilding of the Belissimo Casino and Resort since it was nearly destroyed by Category Four Hurricane Kevin.

Davis Way is no longer in charge. She is a part-time employee. A quarter-time employee or even less. She adores her children but misses her work. She was warned to let Birdie go before something went terribly wrong, but Davis hadn’t quite gotten to it. Firing a very old woman from the only job she ever had isn’t easy. She intends to take care of it, but it’s been waiting in the wings.

Then, calamity happens. Just like everyone said it would.

Five-million dollars that never should have arrived at the Casino go missing. Birdie might have the money (probably not).  It might be one of the people Birdie worked with who Davis had not been allowed to vet. Or a third unknown party.

Bradley’s away on business and Davis hasn’t told him what’s happening. Moreover, she can’t find a babysitter that she desperately needs. This is why her mother arrived accompanied by Bea (her former mother-in-law) who definitely should not be there.

Also arriving are many baby tomato plants doused with dangerous fertilizer and the smell from hell. Davis hadn’t wanted to tell Bradley what was going on, positive she could handle it in just a few hours (NOT). Bianca won’t talk to her and …

Where are the $5 million dollars? What does the money have to do with the wedding cake? Who is taking care of Birdie’s cat? Who stole the Mercedes? Did I mention all those Elvis impersonators?

“Double Trouble” is the most complex Davis Way caper ever. You’ll need your best mystery-solving abilities to find your way to the end. It’s an exciting ride with never a dull moment! But if you know Gretchen Archer’s work, you’ll know that somehow, despite the madness, it will be resolved … and hopefully, all will be forgiven.

On a personal note, I wish that Gretchen would stop keeping everything to herself and tell Bradley the truth. Upfront rather than after the disaster. I always find myself muttering, “Good grief, just TELL him already!” But of course, if she did, there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

Other reviews of previous Davis Way Capers:

NEW PRINTING OF AN 1896 COOKBOOK – Marilyn Armstrong

FANNIE FARMER 1896 COOK BOOK:
The Boston Cooking School


The predecessor to all the great Fannie Farmer cookbooks that would be printed over the next 50 years, this was the one I really wanted most. It was out of print for a long time, but now, it’s back in print and also on Kindle. However, cookbooks have to be something I can bring into the kitching without worrying about them getting wet or covered with flour or batter.

I finally ordered it. First, I had to move out some other cookbooks that I don’t use, some of which were duds in the first place. As a warning, never buy any cookbook that starts with “365 Ways to …”  The recipes are typically mediocre and sometimes a lot worse than that. However, whenever I traveled, I always bought one or more cookbooks. Sometimes they turned out to be fantastic. Sometimes uninspiring. I always thought the best souvenir you can bring home from someplace you loved than their food. So I have Caribbean cook books, Maine cookbooks, Cape Cod, Chinese. One book entirely devoted to rice and another devoted to people who can’t cook at all which I hoped would convince my husband to give it a try.

Nope. But he did laugh a lot, so I suppose it was worth the money just for that.

This one is a treasure. It’s available in hardcover. As a book, the only thing wrong with it is that it’s small so the type is small. If you are me, there’s a good deal of squinting involved.

Also (and this is not a problem but the inevitable result of buying a cookbook written before modern kitchens were invented) is you have to figure out how much of something no one uses any more equals whatever it is we use now. For example, how much dry yeast is in a cake of yeast? Answer: about a teaspoon and a quarter of dry yeast.

The book starts off by teaching you how to build a proper fire for baking in a wood-fired stove. I enjoy doing things the old-fashioned way, but not quite that old-fashioned. I wouldn’t mind a gas oven, though. I think natural gas produces a more stable heat with natural convection.

I live in an area where there is no natural gas. If you want gas, you have to buy big canisters and then you are cooking with propane, which is not nearly as hot as natural gas. So electric it is. My oven runs cool and I have learned from hard experience to bake hotter and for at least five to ten minutes longer than the recipe calls for.

One of the nicest things about this cookbook is that the recipes don’t call for any expensive gadgets. An eggbeater is an advanced cooking item in this book and I’m pretty sure most cooks didn’t own one. You needed strong arms and muscular wrists. It also helped if you didn’t mind getting burned a bit. Also, it contains a lot of recipes for everything from Parker House rolls to egg sandwiches.

In the very back of the book are lots of old advertisements for kitchen and other household goods. Hub ranges (wood-fired) and King Arthur Flour, which I still stock and it’s my favorite flour. Some things never change.


It’s available on Amazon and I’m sure elsewhere as well. It’s worth the price at just under $11 in hardcover.


 

“DOUBLE TROUBLE” IS NOW AVAILABLE! AUDIBLE, KINDLE, AND PAPERBACK! GRETCHEN ARCHER

“DOUBLE TROUBLE” DUE FOR RELEASE JUNE 9!

Every mystery written by Gretchen Archer has been complex with multiple subplots and complication upon complication building to a crashing yet happy ending. In this novel, the complications are so intricate you have to read carefully to pick up the clues.

Many authors write convoluted stories with the inevitable corpse showing up where a dead body is most unlikely. When it gets too labyrinthine, ye olde “Deus Ex Machina” drops by to fix everything.

Ms. Archer doesn’t have a Deus Ex Machina. If Davis found her way into the disaster, she will claw her way out. For every knot, she finds a way to unknot it before the book concludes.

This story begins with the Bird lady who runs the Lost & Found department. She is old. No one is sure how old, but very would be a good guess. She is forgetful. She has a unique way of doing things and that being said, no one knows exactly how she does whatever she does. Her entries use a unique shorthand. Birdie has her own coding system.

Gretchen with granddaughter during COVID-19 pandemic

Her codes and shorthand made letting her go a bit scary. Who’d figure out what was going on unless Birdie explained it — if she could explain it? She didn’t hear well or remember much. No one entirely understood her and she didn’t seem to fully understand herself.

There has been a massive rebuilding of the Belissimo Casino and Resort since it was nearly destroyed by Category Four Hurricane Kevin.

Davis Way is no longer in charge. She is a part-time employee. A quarter-time employee or even less. She adores her children but misses her work. She was warned to let Birdie go before something went terribly wrong, but Davis hadn’t quite gotten to it. Firing a very old woman from the only job she ever had isn’t easy. She intends to take care of it, but it’s been waiting in the wings.

Then, calamity happens. Just like everyone said it would.

Five-million dollars that never should have arrived at the Casino go missing. Birdie might have the money (probably not).  It might be one of the people Birdie worked with who Davis had not been allowed to vet. Or a third unknown party.

Bradley’s away on business and Davis hasn’t told him what’s happening. Moreover, she can’t find a babysitter that she desperately needs. This is why her mother arrived accompanied by Bea (her former mother-in-law) who definitely should not be there.

Also arriving are many baby tomato plants doused with dangerous fertilizer and the smell from hell. Davis hadn’t wanted to tell Bradley what was going on, positive she could handle it in just a few hours (NOT). Bianca won’t talk to her and …

Where are the $5 million dollars? What does the money have to do with the wedding cake? Who is taking care of Birdie’s cat? Who stole the Mercedes? Did I mention all those Elvis impersonators?

“Double Trouble” is the most complex Davis Way caper ever. You’ll need your best mystery-solving abilities to find your way to the end. It’s an exciting ride with never a dull moment! But if you know Gretchen Archer’s work, you’ll know that somehow, despite the madness, it will be resolved … and hopefully, all will be forgiven.

On a personal note, I wish that Gretchen would stop keeping everything to herself and tell Bradley the truth. Upfront rather than after the disaster. I always find myself muttering, “Good grief, just TELL him already!” But of course, if she did, there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

Other reviews of previous Davis Way Capers:

“DOUBLE TROUBLE” AT THE BELISSIMO! BY GRETCHEN ARCHER

“DOUBLE TROUBLE” DUE FOR RELEASE JUNE 9!

Every mystery written by Gretchen Archer has been complex with multiple subplots and complication upon complication building to a crashing yet happy ending. In this novel, the complications are so intricate you have to read carefully to pick up the clues.

Many authors write convoluted stories with the inevitable corpse showing up where a dead body is most unlikely. When it gets too labyrinthine, ye olde “Deus Ex Machina” drops by to fix everything.

Ms. Archer doesn’t have a Deus Ex Machina. If Davis found her way into the disaster, she will claw her way out. For every knot, she finds a way to unknot it before the book concludes.

This story begins with the Bird lady who runs the Lost & Found department. She is old. No one is sure how old, but very would be a good guess. She is forgetful. She has a unique way of doing things and that being said, no one knows exactly how she does whatever she does. Her entries use a unique shorthand. Birdie has her own coding system.

Gretchen with granddaughter during COVID-19 pandemic

Her codes and shorthand made letting her go a bit scary. Who’d figure out what was going on unless Birdie explained it — if she could explain it? She didn’t hear well or remember much. No one entirely understood her and she didn’t seem to fully understand herself.

There has been a massive rebuilding of the Belissimo Casino and Resort since it was nearly destroyed by Category Four Hurricane Kevin.

Davis Way is no longer in charge. She is a part-time employee. A quarter-time employee or even less. She adores her children but misses her work. She was warned to let Birdie go before something went terribly wrong, but Davis hadn’t quite gotten to it. Firing a very old woman from the only job she ever had isn’t easy. She intends to take care of it, but it’s been waiting in the wings.

Then, calamity happens. Just like everyone said it would.

Five-million dollars that never should have arrived at the Casino go missing. Birdie might have the money (probably not).  It might be one of the people Birdie worked with who Davis had not been allowed to vet. Or a third unknown party.

Bradley’s away on business and Davis hasn’t told him what’s happening. Moreover, she can’t find a babysitter that she desperately needs. This is why her mother arrived accompanied by Bea (her former mother-in-law) who definitely should not be there.

Also arriving are many baby tomato plants doused with dangerous fertilizer and the smell from hell. Davis hadn’t wanted to tell Bradley what was going on, positive she could handle it in just a few hours (NOT). Bianca won’t talk to her and …

Where are the $5 million dollars? What does the money have to do with the wedding cake? Who is taking care of Birdie’s cat? Who stole the Mercedes? Did I mention all those Elvis impersonators?

“Double Trouble” is the most complex Davis Way caper ever. You’ll need your best mystery-solving abilities to find your way to the end. It’s an exciting ride with never a dull moment! But if you know Gretchen Archer’s work, you’ll know that somehow, despite the madness, it will be resolved … and hopefully, all will be forgiven.

On a personal note, I wish that Gretchen would stop keeping everything to herself and tell Bradley the truth. Upfront rather than after the disaster. I always find myself muttering, “Good grief, just TELL him already!” But of course, if she did, there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

Other reviews of previous Davis Way Capers:

GEORGE R. STEWART AND EARTH DAY – RANGER DON

George R. Stewart and Earth Day

Many people credit the Sierra Club’s Exhibit This Is The American Earth and the subsequent Sierra Club book based on the exhibit as the foundation of Earth Day.  Others credit the first Whole Earth photographs taken by the Apollo 8 crew.  Both are important events.

I believe, however, that the initial inspiration came from the widely-read works of George R. Stewart – published and widely read decades before the exhibit, or Apollo 8’s photographs.

am earth

In 1936, Stewart’s Ordeal By Hunger opened with a view of Northern Nevada from low Earth orbit, so precisely described that eventual ISS images of the area closely matched his text.  And Stewart closed the history with the comment that “…I consider the land to be a character in the work.”

That is a remarkable statement of the ecological viewpoint 34 years before Earth Day I. Since the book was (and is) widely read, readers were learning the Whole Earth viewpoint long before there was a Day to celebrate it.

The blue marble of Earth

In 1936, Stewart’s Ordeal By Hunger opened with a view of Northern Nevada from low Earth orbit, so precisely described that eventual ISS images of the area closely matched his text.  And Stewart closed the history with the comment that “… I consider the land to be a character in the work.”

That is a remarkable statement of the ecological viewpoint 34-years before Earth Day I.   Since the book was (and is) widely read, readers were learning the Whole Earth viewpoint long before there was a Day to celebrate it.

In the next decade, Stewart wrote 3 ecological novels.  Two –- 1941’s Storm and 1949’s enduring classic Earth Abides –- included passages with the view of Earth from space.  All three were profoundly ecological in nature.  In fact, in 1948, before Fire was published George R. Stewart identified himself as “what might be called an ecologist” –– 22 years before Earth Day I.

Storm gave us the practice of naming storms. To make the point that the storm in his novel was the main protagonist Stewart didn’t name most of the human characters but named the storm.  It’s an excellent read, still frequently reprinted, as is Fire, his novel of fire ecology.

Both novels are tour de forces of ecology, weaving lifeforms, landforms, climate, humans, and human history and myth together with a deep sense of “the land.”


Earth Abides
is Stewart’s extraordinary never out-of-print classic.  It prophesied the current coronavirus pandemic 71-years ago.  When protagonist Isherwood Williams learns most humans have been wiped out by disease he decides to survive so he can observe the ecosystem adjust to the removal of humans — in what we would call the post-Anthropocene.

Ish observes what we are now seeing – the return of wildlife to human areas and humans experiencing a world without the noise, pollution, and similar nonsense of the Anthropocene.

Earth Abides is scheduled to be reprinted next October; it can be pre-ordered now.


Please see the original post at

The EARTH ABIDES Project

A site for George R. Stewart: Author of the classic EARTH ABIDES

IS CORONAVIRUS THE EARTH ABIDES PLAGUE? from the “Earth Abides” Project

In his amazing predictive authoring, Stewart revived the earth by a plague. Is it here?

The book is available in paperback from Amazon and as an audiobook. I have both versions. I’ve read it (repeatedly) and listened to it (at least another three times, once with Garry, who loved it). I’ve always been surprised it never became a movie, but I can see where it would present some serious cinematic challenges.

Still, it might make an incredible Ken Burns series. If you haven’t read it yet, this is definitely the time to read it. It is NOT depressing because everything works out as it should, though I suppose it helps to be a bit existential about the world, life, and humanity.


IS CORONAVIRUS THE EARTH ABIDES PLAGUE?

Posted on February 11, 2020
George R. Stewart was quite a prophet.

George R. Stewart was quite a prophet.

In his first great work, Ordeal By Hunger, he told the story from an ecological (or Ranger’s) point of view. But he began with the Astronaut’s point of view from Low Earth Orbit. Not bad for a book published in 1936. (It’s still the best book about the Donner Party).

As he prepared for the publication of his ecological novel Fire he sent a letter to a Book-of-the-Month club publicist that prophetically explained:

“I consider the main theme … to be the problem of the relationship of man to his environment. I really think of myself, in most of my books, as what might be called an ecologist. ” (From a letter in the Bancroft Library’s George Rippey Stewart Papers. Published here by permission of the Stewart family.)

In the Third Book of The Years of the City, Stewart pretty well predicted how societies fade away, in a novel that has disturbing parallels for today.

And in his classic work, Earth Abides, he predicted the end of the Anthropocene – the human era – through a disease that spreads rapidly throughout society, decimating most of the human race.

His interest in the idea came from his own experience. After graduation from Princeton University in the Class of 1917 (one of his classmates was F. Scott Fitzgerald), Stewart, like many of his classmates wrapped in patriotic passion by the US’s entry into WW I, enlisted. Like other army soldiers – young healthy men expected to be the most resistant to disease – he contracted the Spanish Flu. It nearly killed him, and it would interfere with his health for decades – eventually leading him to have one lung removed.

The flu infected ONE-THIRD of the human population of the Earth. It may have killed as many as 50,000,000 people. And, like other recent epidemics, it became deadly when some component of a virus jumped from animal populations into a strain of human flu. This is exactly what caused the launch of coronavirus – almost certainly from a live animal market in China. Read about the 1918 epidemic. It killed perhaps 50,000,000.

(An excellent article about the Spanish Flu epidemic, In Flew Enza, focuses on the effects at UC Berkeley — discussing Stewart’s experience, and Earth Abides.)

So far COVID has killed about 6000 and has a 95% cure rate. This is not meant to discourage prudence but to point out that we are far from the 1918 pandemic.

Be prudent. Don’t panic.

If this already frightening disease, coronavirus, should mutate, Stewart’s prophesy could well become (at least partially) true. There are still isolated human populations – as many as 100 tribes, the Sentinelese being the best known – which might avoid the disaster.

Will this be the Earth Abides virus? Hopefully not. At least Stewart helped prepare us with his novel. The book is so widely-read and in so many languages that certainly many of those who are in the leading roles to battle this epidemic have likely read it, and have thus been thinking for decades about what to do if and when such an epidemic should happen. It has in fact been impressive to see how quickly they have begun to respond to it. So we shall wish them well and hope for the best.

In the meantime, you may want to re-read Earth Abide.

POSTSCRIPT, on the first day of spring 2020:

There is major economic and social disruption today – the economic weakening of society, and the isolation of neighbors from each other when cooperation and high social capital are needed but prevented by locking down a town. A city with which I am familiar (as was George R. Stewart) has one case. They have demanded the closure of all businesses except food and drug stores and the hospital. Businesses can’t pay rent or employees; employees can’t pay rent or buy food. For ONE case in a city of more than 50,000.

And there are proposals to close the national parks – the best places for people to get the medical benefits of fresh air and exercise with the best of social distancing.

This would be a good time to consider Rudyard Kipling’s poem IF – especially the first few lines:


If

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, …


Let’s also follow the example of the locked-down Italians: Sing songs of hope.

Be prudent, keep your head, keep the faith. And sing from your balcony.