We’re all such beings because we tell every story from our oh so personal viewpoint with little or no regard for what most of you know. Nor do we often care what you know. — A patron to Reynard late one night in our Pub
Gutmansdottir, our resident botanist and now junior only to Gus in terms of tending the Estate gardens and grounds, has been cultivating orchids in the Conservatory on the quite logical grounds that everyone needs flowering plants nearby. That’s why you’ll see them here in Kinrowan Hall pretty much everywhere they can be.
Likewise books are to found everywhere in this ancient Hall as books are creature comforts as well. Be it a well-used and beloved cookbook, a mystery that has entertained generations of readers or a novel from a favoured writer of fantasy, you won’t go far here without seeing someone reading something or a book sitting somewhere carefully marked with a personal bookmark to note where the reader left off.
So let’s see what works tickled the fancy of our reviewers this time. And we’ve got other good things for you to consider as well, so let’s get started…
Cat has a mystery for us: ‘Christopher Fowler’s Full Dark House is the best mystery set during the London Blitz of the early 1940s that I’ve ever read, bar none. It is also the best mystery set within the very peculiar world of the theater that I’ve read. It is every bit as good as Foyle’s War, the BBC series I watched, where the Second World War has just begun and England’s fate looks bleak indeed in the face of an inevitable German invasion, bur someone still has to fight crime on the home front. Who better than Christopher Foyle in that series, and who better in this mystery series than Arthur Bryant and John May of the newly formed Peculiar Crimes Unit?’
Craig has some prime horror for us: ‘Robert E. Howard wrote short stories during the heyday of the pulp era, mostly for Weird Tales, from 1924 until his death by suicide in 1936 at age 30. Howard wrote in various genres, but he is now best known for his stories popularizing the fantasy subgenre “sword and sorcery,” and especially the hero he created, Conan the Barbarian. His range of talent, however, is becoming better known as pulp-era fiction regains a modern readership. Del Rey Books is doing their part to keep his name in front of book-buyers with their affordable trade-paperback collections of his work, of which The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard is only the most recent.’
Richard says reading Elizabeth Bear’s New Amsterdam ‘for the mysteries is missing the point. As mysteries, they’re nothing special. There’s usually one suspect, who gets introduced late in the game, and their motivations are often given as exposition as opposed to revealed. If the mysteries themselves were the point, that would be aggravating.’ Need I note that it’s an alternative history with vampires and zeppelins?
Robert got to read Charles de Lint’s newest book, The Wind In His Heart, and was suitably impressed: ‘Let me put it this way: I’ve been reading de Lint’s fiction for about thirty years now, and a lot of it has been good enough to stand up under repeated readings. This one kicks the whole game up a notch.’
OK I’m not sure this exists anymore and I’m reasonably certain it was only released on VHS but Michael says it’s worth seeking out: ‘Adapted from the Charles de Lint short story of the same name, Sacred Fire was produced as an episode of the anthology television series, The Hunger, and first showed in 1999. A horror/dark fantasy series initially hosted by Terence Stamp and then David Bowie, The Hunger takes dark, twisted looks at the world around us.‘ In an email, the author notes that one of his favourite things about it is ‘David Bowie dressed up as a mad scientist as he introduces it!’
Denise decided to give Mast Sea Salt Chocolate a try, and liked what she tasted. ‘However you decide to indulge, you’ll be happy you did.’ If you’re a dark chocolate fan, you’ll want to read her review!
Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is a graphic novel that comes with a warning from April: ‘The Escapist is an original comic creation springing from Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And though it’s not at all necessary to have read that marvelous novel to enjoy The Escapists, readers should, because this graphic novel takes both its heart and inspiration from Chabon’s work.’ Read her full review to see why she liked this.
Gary says American guitarist Steve Tibbetts’ latest album Life Of draws on world, ambient, jazz and experimental musics, but ‘at its root, this music is a deeply Midwestern sound of wide-open space.’
Michael looks at What We Did On Our Saturday, the latest from a venerable English band: ‘Saturday, August 12 2017 to be precise. The final evening of Fairport’s Cropredy festival in their 50th year. It was always going to be a special occasion, and the likelihood of a recording was strong, after releases of similar previous anniversaries. The pun of the title, referring back to the band’s 1969 ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’ album, is carried over to the design of this new set, echoing the blackboard drawing of a now different and older grouping of band and friends.’
Robin Laing’s Ebb and Flow gets an appreciative look see by Peter: ‘This is the 6th album from Robin Laing, consisting entirely of his original songs. Robin, who is also a fine traditional singer, has, over the past 10 years, also established himself as one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary singer-songwriters. He draws a lot of his influences from everyday life, tales and stories, and some encountered by life on the road.
Robert brings us a group of works by Terry Riley: ‘Cadenza on the Night Plain (the disc, not the work of that title) presents four of Terry Riley’s works for string quartet, works that, if your only acquaintance with Riley has been pieces on the order of In C or other larger-scaled works, are going to be something of a surprise — no matter how complex and abstract their conceptual underpinnings, they are possessed of a refreshing liveliness and clarity.’
Scott has a look at a recording from the founder of Malicorne: ‘Gabriel Yacoub began his career singing and playing guitar in Alan Stivell’s band, before going on to form the legendary French Renaissance rock band Malicorne. Malicorne’s compilation CD Légende: Deuxieme Epoque exceeds the quality of any of the similar compilations from their English contemporaries Steeleye Span, and is on a comparable level with the best output from Fairport Convention. Malicorne split up twenty years ago, and I hadn’t heard any of Yacoub’s subsequent solo material until I recently got the chance to listen to 2002’s The Simple Things We Said. This album combines new songs with reworked versions of some older songs, with the specific intent of cracking the American world music market.’
Our What Not this week is a collectible from Guardians of the Galaxy, namely a figurine of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Says Cat: ‘Accurate representations of Rocket Raccoon, best known from the two Guardians of the Galaxy films are difficult to find without spending a lot of cash on the accurate one-sixth scale models costing in the hundreds of dollars. I wanted one such figure largely because I thought that Rocket and Groot were the most interesting characters in those films.’
Our Coda this time’s ‘Pierre De Grenoble’ by Malicorne, a band Scott noted in his review as being the French version of Steeleye Span for their blending of trad material and electric instruments. This was recorded at Hunter College, New York thirty-four years ago.