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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Clearing Out Books

I thought I'd better check in before my readers (both of them) would think I'd fallen off the face of the earth. Really don't have much to say. After months of procrastinating, I have finally begun to tackle the awesome job of clearing out some of the books that I've acquired over 65 years of buying. In the last couple of days I've managed to fill three boxes. Tomorrow I will haul them off to a used book dealer. No doubt he will give me a pittance for them. It's bad enough to leave the offsspring to make a decision about when I should die. But to leave them the chore of unloading all of these books...well, that would be unforgiveable. I must admit, though, that I have handled books that I haven't even seen for years. That was Kind of fun. Hopefully I will continue to pursue this task day after day until I have a handle on the accumulation; I never would call it a collection. I will report later on how well I do.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

London 1849

I’ve almost finished reading Michael Alpert’s StorLondon 1849; a Victorian Murder Story. It’s an interesting sort of social history of London during that year, the year in which Maria and Frederick Manning murdered Patrick O’Connor. They dug a hole in the basement of the house they rented, stuck poor Patrick in it and poured quicklime on the body. Unfortunately for them, they were quickly found out, although Maria did have time to take the train to Scotland. But her freedom did not last long.

What is fascinating about the book is how Alpert uses this murder, quite a sensation in London at the time, as a basis for exploring the social conditions of London. He takes a look at what people wore, how they ate, the state of medicine and health care, housing and who could afford to own their own home. He speaks about class, learning, literature and the Church of England as well as other churches, particularly the Catholic Church which had been very unpopular since the Reformation. He tell of the various forms of entertainment, from the museum and opera to the circus, street performers and organ grinders. There is a chapter on transportation and the post, from coaching and coaching inns, through horse drawn trams and of course the very new railway system. (A good mystery about the railways of the period is Edward Marston’s The Railway Detective.) He does not neglect politics. There was the Chartist movement, which was rejected by Parliament several times during the two decades. He mentions Jews who were elected but were not allowed to be seated because they would not take an oath which included references to the Christian religion.

He finishes the book properly with the conviction of the Mannings for murder and their subsequent hanging. Charles Dickens was one of the prime sources for various aspects, with quotations both from his novels and from newspaper articles which he had written. Other writers from that period are also quoted. But the reader can easily tell that Alpert has read a lot of Dickens. I happen to read a fair number of mysteries set in the period and I enjoyed learning a bit more about it.

Friday, March 18, 2005

More Sherlock Holmes

It's been a Sherlock Holmes kind of time around here. I think I spoke recently of acquiring the recent edition of the Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which contains the fifty short stories in two volumes with annotations and illustrations. A wonderful book. Then recently a friend gave me the first half of a set CDs containing the dramatizations of the complete canon. Clive Merrison is Sherlock Holmes and Michael Williams is Dr. Watson. Wonderful radio acting, faithful to the Doyle stories and especially good sound effects. I am led to believe that, if I am a good boy, I will receive the second half in due time. Meanwhile I have slowly been acquiring the DVDs of the Holmes dramatizations featuring Jeremy Brett that were produced by Britain's Granada TV and shown here on PBS. I have most of them on videotape but I prefer to have all of them on DVD.

Finally I stumbled upon what I hope will be a marvelous book while wandering through the University Book Store, one of Seattle's two largest bookstores. It's entitled The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes; the Adventures of the Great Detective in India and Tibet. It was written by Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan writer. People who are familiar with the Holmes story will remember that Sherlock, after his presumed death in his fight with Moriarity at Reichenbach Falls, wandered in the east. He told Watson upon his return that he had been to Tibet and spoken with the "Great Lama," by which we presume him to mean the Dalai Lama. He used the assumed name of Sigerson. What excites me even more is that he wanders through northern India and on into Tibet in the company of Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, the famous Bengali spy known as Hurree Babu, a character in Rudyard Kipling's book, Kim. Kim is one of my top five favorite books of all time and I am really looking forward to reading this. I have several other books to finish first. I think that the wait is good discipline for me. But my mind is itching to set the others aside and to dive right into this.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Rocky Jordan

Today's mail brought a small shipment of old time radio on MP3 discs from OTRland. After supper I sat down to sample one of my favorite shows, Rocky Jordan. This show came rather late in the period when you could hear drama and comedy and westerns and mysteries on your radio every evening. Rocky owned the Cafe Tambourine in Cairo. His nemesis was Captain Sam Sabaaya of the Cairo Police. Rocky was played by Jack Moyles and Captain Sam Sabaaya was played by Jay Novello. The episode I listened to was "The Man in the Morgue" in which Rocky reads his own obituary in the newspaper. Come to find out the body was somewhat of a look-alike but had Rocky's papers on it. The person was a investigative reporter (they didn't call them that in those days) who was uncovering a plot to smuggle aliens to the U.S. with stolen identification papers. A good show with a comedy sidebar, so to speak, in the character of Moonlight Bey, a young Egyptian musician who is enamored with jazz and and knows all the cool phrases from that period. 42 episodes of this show are available. You can own them all for only $3.00.I'll put in a plug for this outfit. The sound of these discs is pretty clear. The catalog on the internet is pretty extensive. If you own a MP3 player or a DVD player that will play these discs you might enjoy trying some old shows. I play mine on a RioVolt (similar to a Discman). I don't know whether he has cleaned up the programs or not, but they are much cleaner than many of the shows that I previously collected on casette tape.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

In Memorium F.M. Busby

I've just gotten home from a memorial service for F.M. Busby. Buz died about a week ago but the party was held today. Buz was a late starter as a writer. He was somewhere around 50 years old when he realized that he could retire from the Alaska Communications System. Then he began to write science fiction. He published 19 books. About a hundred people came to the memorial. Many of them spoke, telling tales and stories about Buz that were warm and wonderful. Many of the stories were about young fans who met Buz for the first time and how he talked to them like an ordinary guy, not some stuck up author. They were grateful for that kindness. We met members of his family but the preponderance of the people were science fiction fans. Elinor Busby, his wife, seems to be doing quite well. She and Anna, my wife, often drive to opera preview group meetings together. There were many people in attendance whom I had not seen for fifteen or twenty years. I had a nice talk with Jessica Salmonson who writes weird and wonderful stuff. Another long talk with Brian Herbert who, along with Kevin Anderson, is continuing the 'Dune' series from notes that he found in a bank deposit box. I was able to ask him to give my regards to Kevin and to Bill Ransom, another fine writer who is now teaching creative writing at Evergreen State College. I even made a tentative agreement with a couple I have missed seeing to have dinner soon. Buz's memorial was not a sad thing. Buz was an science fiction writer but he was also and always a fan. This was a science fiction party. He would have liked it that way. This is the third memorial or funeral we have attended in the last couple of weeks. And there is one more to go. This must tell me something about my own age but I don't want to think about it. RIP, Buz.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Sky Captain

I watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow last evening. It reminded me very much of the kids' radio shows of my childhood and the very early comic books which I read. The computer generated images were terrific. The giant mechanical men coming down the streets and stomping on cars were sensational. Jude Law flies a P-47 like no P-47 I ever saw. It can fly underwater and it can fly around corners. "Turn left at his corner," Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) says and old Jude does so at a couple of hundred miles an hour. And the rocket ship that Dr. Totenkopf has designed is right of a cover of a science fiction pulp. That's exactly the way space ships are supposed to look with the three fins supporting the upright ship when it's docked. Has anyone from NASA watched this flick? They should. The movie just pushed a lot of buttons for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I will probably watch it again sometime soon.