Frank Denton - The Rogue Raven

Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

What you have here is an old guy. In education for 30 years, started teaching elementary, ended as library and media director of community college. I've enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival, walking and hiking later in life. Now fairly sedentary. Enjoy reading, esp. mysteries and fantasy, but my reading is pretty eclectic. Enjoy movies, giving Netflix a workout.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Victor Gunn: I picked up a book in the library the other day, mostly because of the title. The title was Murder on Bodmin Moor and the author was Victor Gunn. It reads quickly and is about the murder of an American walking in the fog on the moor. I picked it up mainly because we had stayed at a Bed & Breakfast on Bodmin while we spent a few days exploring the southern part of Cornwall. It’s fairly close to Jamaica Inn (see novel by Daphne DuMaurier or movie with Jane Seymour). I was curious about Victor Gunn because I read mysteries quite a bit and I had never run across him before. I thought I’d let the internet do my research for me. Revealing. Victor Gunn was the pseudonym for Edwy Searles Brooks. Between 1933 and 1969 he wrote 126 novels under his own name and four pen names: Rex Madison, Carlton Ross, Berkeley Gray and Victor Gunn. As Victor Gunn he wrote 43 novels, the final one in 1966. I figure that he averaged 3.5 novels a year during his writing career. This novel is a fast moving mystery that one can read in an evening or two. It’s quite average in comparison with the better writers of mysteries today, say Ian Rankin, Reginald Hill, Anne Perry, Laurie King, William Kent Kreuger or Steve Hamilton. Or even the older (now dead) English mystery writers, say for example, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Nicholas Blake. One of the funny things I found by using Google is that Victor Gunn must be very popular in Germany. Many websites are devoted to him. He obviously has been translated into German. I may never read another book by Victor Gunn but it was fun learning about him.

Friday, July 30, 2004

The Tour de France: For the last several weeks I have been watching the Tour de France bicycle race whenever I could. To me these bike riders are superb athletes even those who ride at the back of the peloton or the pack. (Oh, don’t we get very French when we watch the Tour?) Day after day they ride 100 miles or more, then take a day off to ride individual time trials. Out on the road by themselves, with no one in front to draft, just their own individual effort. And then there are the mountains. Some days there have been five mountains to climb.

The crowds have been stupendous. One day this last week it was estimated that there were a million people by the side of the road. Most are cheering the riders on, no matter the country they are from. But sometimes I think they are crazy and are going to cause serious injury to the riders. This was especially true on time trial days. They crowded the route, barely giving a lane for the rider to get through. They wave flags in their faces, run along side and generally encourage a rider. But, as Lance Armstrong said in an interview, sometimes they spit on riders and throw water bottles at them.

Lance Armstrong should win again this year, for an unprecedented sixth time. No one has won that many Tours. A couple of riders have won five times. When I left home for a weekend at our cabin Lance was ahead by a total of 4:05 minutes with three days to go. It is incredible to watch his leg speed on the climbs. It seems never to vary. I was once upon a time casual bike rider. I cannot conceive the condition these riders must be in and stand in awe of that rate. Of course credit must go to Lance’s team, U.S. Postal, for allowing him to win. They have set the pace for him every day.

Other riders have put in incredible rides. Jan Ulrich from Germany originally was thought to be a challenge to Armstrong, Ivan Basso from Italy challenged him for a couple of tough days in the mountains, and Thomas Voelker held the yellow jersey for ten days. The mountains and an unorthodox climbing style undoubtedly did him in. But all the riders are champions in my view. Three grueling weeks. I’m sorry I’m not at home where I can watch the end of this race inParis.

You may note a discrepancy between the time these are posted and the time they are written. Electricity at the cabin but no telephone connection. So I write ‘em when I can and post ‘em when I can. I did arrive home Sunday night to see a replay of the final sprint through Paris and to see Lance on the podium for the 6th straight time. Stupendous! Sorry this is a bit out of date.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Friends Blogs: Since I’ve begun writing blogs, I’ve become quite attached to several other blogs. I thought I might let you know what they are. You can go look and if you find them entertaining or educational, you can bookmark them and return early and often. (Oh, excuse me. That’s for voting.) The guy who got me started is Bill Crider. I’ve known Bill for lots of years. He’s from Texas. He recently retired from a career of teaching and administration in universities and community colleges. Moreover Bill has been a writer of mysteries, horror, and even some children’s books. He a great book collector, especially of older paperbacks and his blog is always interesting. Find Bill’s Blog at:
Another Texan and another writer is James Reasoner. James has been a writer of westerns and Civil War stories since 1976. He’s a recent friend whom I met at a Bouchercon in San Antonio a couple of years back. He loves collecting pulps, westerns in particular, and western movies . Read how many pages a day he writes when he’s on a roll. It exhausts me to read about it. You can find Rough Edges at:
Another writer with an expansive website is Ed Gorman. Ed writes both mysteries and westerns. If you like those genres, Ed’s books are very very good. Buried early on in Ed’s website is the link to Ed’s Place, Ed’s blog. You’ll find all kinds of interesting things here, including others commenting on what Ed has said or sometimes entering short essays of their own. Find Ed’s Place at or simply click on the link at his wesite:
Bob Sabella is not a writer, at least not a full-time writer, although he does write science fiction short stories. He’s a full time high school mathematics teacher and devoted to his family as well as his students. He sometimes writes about his special Asian students who are in honors classes. But he also writes about other interesting things, science fiction and fantasy and Bastille Day among them. Check Out of the Depths, Bob’s blog out at:
Finally I can’t pass up the blog of a fellow I don’t know. He is Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. and his blog is called Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. His blogs tend to be longer than that of most bloggers. He is an incredible font of knowledge about movies, old and new, and about old time radio. And he displays wonderful links to place that will keep you occupied for days, movies, old time radio organizations, even some download sites for old time radio. Thrilling Days of Yesteryear can be found at:
There you have it. Good blog-reading!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Birthday Girl: Today was my daughter’s birthday. Shannon is 49 years old and doesn’t look it. Matter of fact, she looks just swell, as we used to say. She’s been driving truck these last few years and loving it. She always wanted to be a truck driver. I remember that when the kids were little and we were on a trip somewhere, she would make signs out the window as we passed a truck. Usually she got back a blast of the horn from the trucker. She’s usually driving truck and trailer to the Port of Seattle or the Port of Tacoma picking up container cargo. She calls them "cans." Today she took a driving test for a new job. She’ll be driving one of those huge gravel trucks with the big trailer on behind. She’s really excited about the job since it has medical benefits, profit sharing, 401K, and retirement. Many truckers don’t have that. While waiting for the driving test several people came up and said "I know you." They were people she had worked with at a previous company. Drivng test done, they sent her to a hospital in Tacoma for a drug test. So she’s pretty sure that she’s got the job. Hooray for our Shannon!

She asked me where I was 49 years ago today. It brought up this story. My parents were not feeling well. Anna said we should go out and prepare dinner for them. She was having pains and the farther we away we got from the hospital the more I questioned her wisdom. We got there, she prepared the meal, and sat down to eat. She explained later that she wouldn’t get to eat for a long time. We hurried back to the city, I dropped her off at the hospital, then continued on to deliver the two boys to their other grandparents. By the time I got back to the hospital our daughter, Shannon, had been born. Exciting, what?

On another note, I’ve been meaning to reread the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber. This seems like a good night to begin.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Butterflies and Squirrels and No See-Ums: Another one written at our cabin. We went for a small stroll after supper. On the way back, looking into the lowering sun, we could see batches (herds, gatherings, whatever) of midges about fifteen feet off the ground, dancing the dance of life or something. Indians call them"no see-ums." There was a butterfly, probably a tiger swallowtail, fluttering around aimlessly, at least that’s how I think of them. An article in Smithsonian Magazine belied that, telling of the migration of Monarchs from the east coast to California or Mexico. Anyway, my butterfly reached probably an altitude of twenty-five feet, then sailed for probably forty feet. I have never seen a butterfly sail like that before. They are always flying, wings in motion, flitting from place to place, changing direction constantly. His wings held perfectly still he just sailed. Finally we arrived back at the cabin and reaching the front corner of the porch, we were greeted by a squirrel of some sort. After forty plus years of coming to this place I thought we were well acquainted with the wildlife. Squirrels have always been golden-mantled ground squirrels. This guy wasn’t. Dark gray, almost black above and red underneath. And a brave little guy. He gave us stare for stare before he scampered under the porch. A small research question for me. What species is he? Last night we searched for nighthawks over the river. They are sometimes seen at dusk catching high flying insects. They are easier to hear than to see. There are not many. We used to see lots of them. In the 70s spraying with DDT killed many of them. Not directly but their eggs were soft and none hatched. They were gone for many years and now we only see one or two when we go out at dusk.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Common Reader:  I presume that you do not have enough books around the house. It is to laugh. My house is loaded with books, more than I can ever read before I die. I am trying to work on ‘attachment,’ the Buddhist principle of owning and wanting more. Or not owning and not wanting more, as the case may be. The Common Reader is not helping. What is the Common Reader, you ask? It’s a book catalog, but unlike any ordinary book catalog you’ve ever received in the mail. It’s generally about 136 pages long and filled with all sorts of books, from the classics, to travelogues, to works of philosophies, novels, mysteries and many other categories. What is so enticing about this catalog is the descriptions of the books listed. Often I sit down in my easy chair and spend most of an evening reading about every book. It's like having an intelligent conversation with the owner or whoever puts the list together. The list on the notepad at my side grows longer and longer. I know I can neither afford all of those books nor if I acquired them could I read all of them. Aha, I say. We have a very good library system in the county where I reside. Their catalog is available on-line. I go there and check my Common Reader list against their holdings. The hits are always well over 90%. This is eminently unfair to the Common Reader company, I know. I try to order something from the catalog a couple of times a year so salve my conscience and to keep the catalog coming. So far it’s worked. Through this catalog I’ve discovered some very interesting books which I might never have read. And the list grows longer. The last time I added to it the number of books hovered around 150. The last book I read from the list was Kelly James’ Dancing with the Witchdoctor. But I’ll leave that for another blog. If you’re interested the address is The Common Reader, 141 Tompkins Avenue, Pleasantville, NY 10570-3154. Good reading, or should I say, good browsing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Bobby Fischer: Well, they finally caught that desperado Bobby Fischer. Immigration has been hunting for him since 1992. It only took twelve years to catch that frightening criminal. I’m beginning to feel much safer already. Bobby was America’s hero back in 1972. An eccentric, fairly low in social skills, but boy, he could play chess. He went to Reykjavik, Iceland to play the Russian master, Boris Spassky, and he beat him. The Cold War. Many of you probably don’t remember. But Americans were ecstatic. We beat the Russians at their own game.

How did Bobby Fischer, chess master, become Bobby Fischer, international criminal? Well, it happened this way. A rematch was called for in 1992. Bobby Fischer went to Jugoslavia (remember Jugoslavia?) against the express wishes of Immigration or the State Department or some such. Bobby went anyway. Beat Boris again and won 3.3 million dollars. He’s been flitting from country to country ever since and Immigration has been unsuccessfully tracking this elusive criminal. Now, I’m the first to admit that Bobby has said some harsh things about the United States since he’s been on the run. Not nice things. But since when has dissent and saying, nay even swearing, about our government been a crime? I do it every day. And how much money has our government spent in pursuing this ruthless felon? Oh, my, I do run on. Well, now that they’ve arrested Bobby trying to board a plane in Japan, I can sleep better at night.

Monday, July 19, 2004

We spent the weekend at the cabin again.  Mostly peaceful.  Sometime Sunday afternoon we walked along Kernahan Road to the bridge to see what the river was doing.  About the time I reached the bridge, three motorcycle riders came over the rise.  The lead rider pulled a big wheelie just as he drew even with me.  I thought how stupid that was.  I was in no danger but he was taking a chance that he could control the bike when he was up on one wheel.  Yeah, I know.  We see it all the time on tv.
As we were driving home later that evening, we saw flashing lights ahead.  I slowed because there were people by the side of the road, some walking on the verge.  As we drew closer I could see that there were three State Patrol cars and three motorcycles.  Two guys were sitting on a guard rail.  I was busy driving but Anna spotted something covered with a blanket.  Undoubtedly it was the third rider.  And they only cover somebody completely when they're dead.  It was quite sobering.  I don't think it was the same three riders that I had seen earlier.  But if the wheelie rider happened by, it might have given him something to think about. 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Lorna Doone and Exmoor

Some of you may know that I work for a friend who owns a bookstore, usually one day a week.  That's about to end soon but that's another story.  Besides waiting on customers and filling internet orders it falls to my lot to enter books and their descriptions on ABE, the Advanced Book Exchange.  For those of you who might not know, this is a listing of the inventories of over 9,000 second hand book dealers.  Once in a while there falls into the stack  from which I work a book which gets my special attention.  Today was such a day.
A copy of R.D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone.  It was published by Harpers in 1903.  It contained something like 44 black-and-white photographs.  It had no dust jacket but a wonderful illustrated cover and spine very much like the designs of William Morris, the English designer and craftsman.  The book is not a first edition nor is it particularly expensive, listed at only $22.
Lorna Doone has been one of my favorite books for a long time.  Along with Stevenson's Treasure Island and Rudyard Kipling's Kim, it's a book I need to read every few years.  What is the attraction, you ask?  On our very first trip to England in 1971 we tried to see everything.  Who knew when we would ever be back.  So it was pretty much a trip on the dead run.  One evening, after a day spent touring up the west coast of Cornwall, we found ourselves in the town of Lynton in Devon.  The owner of the B&B in which we found lodging recommended that we see the moor, Exmoor.  The next day we drove out to the moor, sampling its vastness, its quiet and its solitude, visiting Oare Church where we read that John Ridd and Lorna were married and John was shot by Carver Doone.  Well, I had to read the book.
When we returned to England two years later I told my wife that we must spend at least five days exploring Exmoor.  And we have spent at least five days every trip since.   There have been twelve.  So I guess we've spent nearly two months on Exmoor.  The photographs in the book I was handling are photos of places used by Blackmore in the novel; Dulverton, Porlock, the Cheese Ring near Lynton, Lynmouth with The Rising Sun Hotel, and of course, the Water Slide and Doone Valley.  We've hiked into the isolated and hidden Doone Valley several times.
Funny thing.  Blackmore was an extremely popular writer and his books were printed in the tens of thousands.  Yet these days they are hard to come by.  Lorna Doone is readily available in many editions, including paperback.  But I've only been able to acquire Perlycross, Springhaven, and The Maid of Sker.  When I've asked proprietors of book stores in England they always say, "we have a waiting list.  Would you like us to put your name on it?"  Anyway, it was joy to handle the book.  Did I buy it?  After all, I get a 20% discount.  No.  I already have three copies, one bound in fiull parchment, with many, many steel engraved illustrations.  And this one had much too fine print for these old eyes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I've just finished reading

I've just finished reading a fascinating book on the blues. It's entitled Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues by Elijah Wald (Amistad, 2004). Robert John was a blues player in the mid-30s and is often said to have invented the blues. He is said to have sold his soul to the devil to learn to play the guitar. Wald says not so, in both cases. There were several other players who moved up the Mississippi, landing in Chicago and playing music. He claims that these musicians played all kinds of music but when record companies came to record them, they categorized them for marketing purposes. (Still goes on today, doesn't it? Same with genre books. My friend, Keith Roberts, was told by Mrs. Gollancz of Gollancz Books in England, that Keith Roberts did not write mysteries and that he should stick to science fiction.) The category when Johnson did record was "Race Records." So although he played other kinds of pop music, it was only blues that he recorded. And not much, at that. Forty-one cuts altogether. He recorded three days at the end of November, 1936, sandwiched in between hillbilly bands, Mexican bands, and the likes of the Light Crust Doughboys, Blue Ridge Playboys, John Boyd and His Southerners and others. He did two takes on many of his short blues songs. He recorded in June 1937 under much the same circumstances. Those recordings seem tinny by today's recording standards. Still Johnson's guitar playing and his voice come through quite clearly. He never got to record any more because he was poisoned in 1938. Some say it was because he was messing with someone's woman. The CD set on two disks is the complete recordings.

I've been listening to several cuts each night with earphones. It made the book more enjoyable as I read about Bessie Smith, Lonnie Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Dixon and Josh White, contemporaries of Robert Johnson and often more popular and better known. And I did get to attend a concert by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, who were just a little later. Blues has come a long ways since then. It got electrified and developed different styles, Chicago style, Piedmont style, west coast style. But there will always be a delta style, where it all began.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I mentioned yesterday the five old guys getting together at our cabin. Eat, sleep, read, argue, discuss. Gradually we've built up quite a reference library to help settle arguments or answer questions. And every evening we watch movies. Everyone brings a selection of something he likes or something he thinks would be of interest to the others. Of course, not all of it gets viewed. This summer the movies were interesting. We only saw three: They Might Be Giants, Without a Clue, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The first two are alternate looks at Sherlock Holmes. They Might Be Giants has a successful lawyer thinking he is Sherlock Holmes after his wife dies. George C. Scott is Sherlock and Joanne Woodward is Dr. Watson, who is supposed to be treating him but soon falls in with his scheme. Together they go searching for Moriarity. Without a Clue has Ben Kingley as Dr. Watson, the real brains and Michael Caine is the actor Watson hires to play the part of Holmes. Of course, you've all seen Pirates of the Caribbean. You haven't? Well, one of the guys had not, either.

But stranger yet was what we viewed along with these movies. One person had found a number of episodes from very early television series. Black and white. We watched two episodes of Tales of Tomorrow, which I had never heard of. We also saw three episodes of Mr. and Mrs. North. Another fellow had brought Shotgun Slade, an early western series and we saw two episodes of that. I had run across a DVD of The Return of Chandu, a Saturday matinee serial and we sat still for four episodes, though not all at once. Finally yet another guy had a tape which contained Black and Tan, a 1933 short subject shown in movie theaters and featuring a young Duke Ellington and his band.

All in all, it was quite a varied program. I would rather it had been all movies, preferably some I had not seen. But I enjoyed seeing the old stuff. A little goes a long ways.

Monday, July 12, 2004

I've been gone, for those of you who noticed. I've spent the past five days at my cabin near Mount Rainier with a group of friends. We've been doing this annually for over thirty years. In recent years the feeling from the guys (yes, it's a male chauvinist group)was that it should be twice a year, so this was the summer gathering. The cabin is close to the Nisqually River and I often walk down to see how the river bed has changed. It's one of those rivers, at least here near the source, the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier, that looks like one that is often used in western movies, broad and sprawling and relatively shallow with several channels which the river chooses as it pleases.

This week I found a real puzzle. Along a stretch of fairly moist sand, elk tracks were easily seen. What was peculiar about these tracks was that there was a single line of them. The last time I saw an elk it had four legs and four hooves, two on each side. Here was this single line of hoof prints and there should have been a second set parallel to the first. Nothing but smooth sand. A real enigma. To make up for this, one early afternoon we saw three young deer, two does and a young buck, with single spikes. Obviously these three are siblings, I thought. And it won't be long before the buck goes off alone. But then I remembered that a doe usually bears one or two fawns. I don't think three. So how did these three get together?

Wildflowers abound along the road nearby, white field daisies with their golden centers, tall stalks of foxglove and wild sweet peas. I found a low plant with red lacey leaves which my friend, Dan, thinks is stinky geranium. I picked a leaf to dry between the pages of a book. I'm curious to know whether it will hold the red color. And then I found a mutant fern. Well, not quite. It didn't glow in the dark. Nor attack. But it was almost white, having very little chlorophyll. Well, I guess that's enough of a nature tour for one day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Hugh B. Cave died the other day. Most people won't know who he was. He was one of the great pulp fiction writers and continued to write at the time of his death. He was born in 1911 so that made him 93 years old. In the heydays of the pulps Hugh wrote all kinds of stories, westerns, mysteries, fight stories, sea stories, tales of the South Seas and faraway exotic Asia (at least it was at that time). He wrote for such magazines as Terror Tales, Horror Stories, Dime Mystery, Spicy Adventure and Thrilling Mystery. Later he wrote for the so-called slicks, such as Colliers, Saturday Evening Post and American Magazine. That was for big money, sometimes as much as $3-5 thousand a story, and that was during the depression. I have several small collections of stories set in the South Seas that have been published recently, collected from the pulp. Hugh was recently awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Horror Writers of America. Just last year Mountains of Madness, a tale of voodoo, was published. In 2005 a collection of his hard-boiled detective stories garnered from the pulp will be published. I can't wait. Hugh B. Cave wasn't a literary writer but he was one heck of a storyteller. Rest in Peace, Hugh.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I've been away for a couple of days to our cabin near Mount Rainier. Doing a little reading and writing. We saw some pigeon guillemots on the Niqually River, heard some ravens but did not see them; juncos, winter wrens. We usually are scolded by squirrels but didn't hear a one. And some bird we call 'One-Note Johnny" which we always hear and have never been able to find. I did hear the nighthawks Sunday about dusk. That's when they search above the river for high flying insects. My wife saw a deer cross the road further down but I wasn't looking. I listened to a lot of blues and an old time radio episode of Nero Wolfe with Sidney Greenstreet playing the role of Nero. We really should get the cabin more often.

On another note I wrote a blog here the other day but it didn't show up. I may try to recover it and re-post.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

I took some time out yesterday to watch a very fine documentary film. My wife had caught just the end of it on television. She looked it up in our library catalog and ordered it. The film is entitled PALE MALE and is about a red-tailed hawk who came to live in Central Park in New York, something that had never been done before. The food source was plentiful. There must be enough pigeons for a whole herd of hawks. He attracted a large following when he arrived a little over ten years ago. More people were attracted when a female showed up the following year. They gathered to watch the two mate and later on when three chicks were born. They were born 120 feet above the park on a ledge of a building where Barbara Streisand had been turned down from buying a condo. Woody Allen was a neighbor and they often landed on the railing of the balcony outside his condo. The worry of those who watched then became 1) when would they fly and 2) would they fly safely. The fledglings had only one chance to learn between the time they left the condominium ledge and reached the ground below. Since that time the red-tailed hawk named Pale Man has had two other mates and a total of nineteen chicks. The first two females have died. Aside from the story of this bird, there is the accompanying story of the people who assembled below to watch, making friends, worrying about each other, showing up as early as 4:30 in the morning for fear that the fledglings would fly before they were present to see it happen. There is some wonderful photography of the hawks flying and soaring taken from above. Check your library to see if they have a copy. And if you are really interested and they don't have a copy in your library system, remember inter-library loan. They should be able to find it somewhere so you can see this remarkable film.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Lest you should think I never read the newspaper, the following; Saddam Hussein was at the heighth of arrogance during his appearance before the Iraqi court yesterday. "I am the president of the Republic of Iraq." The trial next year should be both entertaining and infuriating. I don't think Saddam gets it yet.

The other item that fascinated me was the report of Cassini's approach to Saturn and the maneuvering that Nasa accomplished in getting the spacecraft through the rings. Sure, there was a 270-mile space between the rings through which they had to maneuver the craft, but NASA engineers were also a long ways away. It must have been delicate. I watched the faces of the engineers in the lab as they accomplished this and could see the excitement on their faces. And the spokeswoman later said that this was more important than most laypersons could possibly envision. They hope to find more about the birth of the universe. Well done, NASA. You've taken a lot of heat in the past few years. Maybe this makes up for some of it.