What’s New for the 21st of May: a Gothic novel, Sayers on Holmes and other matters

The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what we are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others. — Iain M. Banks in Complicity, one of his many novels not set in The Culture series he did.


It’s a little cooler than last week which touched thirty celsius, eighty to you Yanks, but still quite pleasant. Though it certainly wouldn’t hurt if we got a few days of rain now.

The Kitchen made sourdough waffles this morning, which of course require starting about ten or twelve hours beforehand, being yeast-raised. We top them with one of our favourite toppings, be it applesauce or preserves such as strawberry or blueberries. Even on rarer occasions, whipped cream from Riverrun Farm. And I had the twice-smoked applewood bacon as well.

The Estate wolfhounds were restless and in need of a good walk, as was I after that filling breakfast, so I packed a light lunch of some beef jerky for them, sourdough rolls, our own cheddar and an apple, with a thermos of tea, Earl Grey this time, and headed off for the Standing Stones. It made for a pleasant walk and my canine companions certainly enjoyed it as they chased a number of hares but never caught any.

Now it’s time to wrap this edition, so I suggest you have one of our Spring Peeper blonde ales and go out to the Courtyard to enjoy the warm weather. I’ll have this edition to you shortly …


Denise takes a turn to the Gothic with Eleanor Wasserberg’s Foxlowe. While it may not be the horror show she’d hoped for, Denise found this debut novel fascinating. “‘Foxlowe takes your mind and plays with it much the same way the Family do each other. A sly, stealthy feeling of dread you can’t quite put your finger on, and little by little, their life feels understandable. Backwards, even dangerous at times, but I could understand how they got there… Which might be the scariest thing of all.’

Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’

J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec are the editors of Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes of which Kage says, ‘All in all, Gaslight Grimoire is well worth picking up if you enjoy lighting the fire, curling up in your armchair with a glass of sherry at your elbow in the gloom of a winter afternoon, and having a good Victorian-era read.’

Kestrell looks into the future to review John Langan’s House of Windows. What does Kestrell have to say of this work of literary horror? Well, this might help — ‘House of Windows can be read on many levels — as a modern updating of the old-fashioned ghost story, as a commentary on the psychological ‘ghosts’ created by physical and emotional abuse, and as a perceptive reading of the overlapping of classic literature with supernatural fiction. Beneath all of these, however, runs the ongoing questions of why we read at all, why do words and stories possess such an irresistible attraction for us, and what these stories can reveal — or tragically fail to reveal-to us about our own lives and experiences.’

We like Shakespeare madly, deeply here but alas, a certain work of scholarship about him doesn’t please Robert: ‘Forest, trees: there is a certain brand of scholarship that tends to focus on minute examinations of trees in the attempt to discover a forest. I am the last to decry the idea of analyzing parts in the hope of understanding the whole, but there are limits, particularly if the need for clear relationships between the parts falls by the wayside.. In the case of Laura Shamas’ We Three: The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, I have to confess that by the end, I felt as though I had been buried in a pile of kindling.’

Robert was also somewhat disappointed in a new book inspired by Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint: ‘Tremontaine is the latest foray into the world of Swordspoint, but it is not, as I had at first supposed, a collection of stories. It is, rather, an ongoing narrative with chapters by a group of writers, most of whom are new to me. . . . Like Swordspoint, Tremontaine is about political intrigue, the use and misuse of power, and gossip.’


Big Earl gives us a look at a Rough Guide that covers a music few of us know: ‘Bhangra, for the few of you who don’t know, is a British musical genre, created by East Indian musicians mixing traditional Punjabi music with, well, whatever happens to be hip. There are even Bhangra raves. You get the picture: an up-to-date rendition of ancient music. Since its beginnings in the early 1980’s, Bhangra has not only become extremely popular throughout Britain and Europe, but also crossover success, often hitting the non-world pop charts.’

Gary says Willie Nelson’s new album God’s Problem Child is one of his best. ‘Like his friend and fellow road warrior Bob Dylan, Willie has tossed off so many records that some of them are bound to be sub-par, but this ain’t one of ’em.’

About a decade ago, Mike wents to see a legendary group: ‘The Dubliners are true legends of folk music, having now performed together as a group for 44 years. Many of the stories they tell of Dublin, are of a city that has all but disappeared in this day and age, and they are now as much a part of folklore as the songs and tunes that they perform.’


Our What Not today is a look at reviewing — or at least, one reviewer’s take on what it’s about. Turns out it’s not as easy as you might think.


Our quote from Iain M. Banks at the top of this post, particularly the bit about how we put ‘our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others,’ put me in mind of this song by Rhiannon Giddens. It’s one of several songs on her 2017 release Freedom Highway that are inspired by 19th century slave narratives. This one is a dialogue between an enslaved person and her owner, and it’s called ‘Julie’.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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