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, August 27, 2005

Horse Race Crazy

I spent a most unproductive but very entertaining afternoon watching the horse races from Saratoga. I've visited the city of Saratoga Springs but it was not during the race meet. Part of the entertainment was ESPN's crew of Kenny Mayne, Randy Moss and Janine Edwards. Kenny made sure that Longacres was mentioned. Kenny is from the Seattle area originally and grew up watching races at Longacres. The track was sold a decade ago to Boeing who used the land to build office space on. Fortunately Ron Crockett built a new track, Emerald Downs, about ten miles south of the old track. Anna and I attended the 70th running of the Longacres Miles there last Sunday. A jockey who originally apprenticed at Longacres came north from California to ride one of the California horses entered in that stakes race, the richest race in the northwest. his week he was at Saratoga to ride Lost in the Fog in the King's Bishop Stakes. The horse won its ninth race in nine starts. Russell Baze is the 2nd winningest jockey of all times; only the retired Lafitte Pincay won more races. I should mention that Jerry Bailey rode Flower Alley to victory over Ballamy Road in the million Dollar Travers Stakes. Jerry Bailey is one of my favorite jockeys. A fun afternoon for me that I do not consider wasted.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Beautiful Ghosts

I just finished Beautiful Ghosts By Eliot Pattison. This is his fourth mystery novel taking place In Tibet and featuring a Chinese man, Shan. Shan had been an investigator in Beijing and ran afoul of a higher official. He was sent to a work camp in Tibet but released by the military commander of the territory who knew of his investigative skills. Through four books now he has managed to remain free while technically a prisoner. There is much about Tibetan Buddhist monks, with whom Shan associates, and their beliefs and ceremonies. This novel concerns the theft of Tibetan religious art by two conspirators, a museum director from Beijing and a wealthy American from Seattle. I enjoy this series a lot and recommend it highly. Not for people looking for a quick read, however.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I’ve just finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The premise is quite unusual, something of a mainstream novel but with a mystery underlying it. The young protagonist, Daniel is still quite a young boy when his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There he chooses a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Carax was neither a very popular nor a successful author. Only ninety copies of The Shadow... was sold in Spain. Carax only wrote eight books during his lifetime. As Daniel grows to be a young adult he finds that someone is buying every copy he can find and burning them. A strange shadowy man who limps follows our young protagonist and offers to buy the book. This, I think, is a book which any book lover would find fascinating. Certainly it begins with an enticing premise.

Here’s a quote as Daniel’s father tells his son about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books: "This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time a person runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. The place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you will be able to keep such a secret?"

The author is being compared to Perez-Reverte, Eco, Paul Auster, Marquez. The plot is complex and more than a bit sad. Daniel’s copy of Carax’s book may be the last one in existence. What are the dark secrets behind this tale of Barcelona in the mid-fifties?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Caesar, Mundy & Kamm

I’ve been reading The Last Frontier, the Roman Invasion of Scotland by Antony Kamm. This morning I read part of the chapter which has Julius Caesar’s first invasion of Britain. I was interested particularly because I had recently finished reading Tros of Samothrace by Talbot Mundy. I was struck by how close Mundy’s fictional account, published between 1925 and 1934, tallied with Kamm’s account. I don’t know whether Mundy went to Caesar’s own account or whether Caesar’s account was entirely truthful. Terrific storms damaged many of Caesar’s ships and prevented the Roman cavalry from joining his infantry in his first attempt. In the second attempt another storm destroyed forty of the eighty ships Caesar used. Of course in the end Britain was Romanized. But long after Caesar’s death at the hands of Brutus. It was nice to see that the very long fictional account of Tros (949 pp.) hued close to fact.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Day at the Races

Anna and I just returned from a fine afternoon at Emerald Downs, the Seattle area race track. There's nothing I love better than an afternoon watching the horses run. So sleek, so graceful, so powerful. It was near 90 degrees, blues skies without a cloud, Mt. Rainier looming its 14,000+ feet to the southeast. A rather spare crowd because of no stakes races. Next Sunday will be the $100,000 Longacres Mile and The Breeder's Cup Distaff for the fillies. I won't talk about the betting. Let me say that we only lost about $25 between us. So get out there and support your local race track.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Pride and the Passion

I watched The Pride and the Passion last evening. It was a movie that I vaguely remembered from the 50s and I wanted to see it again. I wondered whether it was as good as I remembered it. It was not. Interesting but not terribly good. The story takes place during the Napoleonic War. France has invaded Spain. Miguel (Frank Sinatra), the shoemaker, has captured a immense cannon. He wishes to take it across Spain and attack the town of Avila. Sophia Loren plays the peasant girl who is Miguel’s lover. Cary Grant plays an English naval officer who also wants the cannon. He and Miguel come to an agreement. Grant will accompany the cannon to Avila and fire it; he is the only one who knows how. Then he can have the cannon and the manpower to muscle it back across Spain to the coast. Of course, Grant and Loren fall in love. Sinatra did not make a very good Spaniard. I remembered spectacular scenery. There wasn’t very much. But some of the scenes with the huge cannon were worth it. Dragged by hundreds of men up hill and down dale. Getting away while crossing the river and crashing downstream. Being repaired in a cathedral during holy week right under the eyes of the French. The music was composed by George Antheil and it is very good. I remember that I have an LP of the soundtrack somewhere in my collection. While the movie wasn’t as good as I remembered I don’t consider the time wasted. A cast of thousand, literally. I’m pleased that I belong to Netflix and can obtain films like this when I’m in the mood.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Beltane the Smith

I’ve just finished reading Beltane the Smith by Jeffrey Farnol. Farnol was a very popular writer in the early 1900s. His most remembered novel is probably The Broad Highway. I only got around to reading Farnol a few years ago. In discussing various books with my old friend, Don Livingstone, Farnol was mentioned. I determined then and there that I would at least read his most popular book. I borrowed a copy from the library and I loved it. I’ve since read six or seven since and have enjoyed every one of them. I have many more to acquire and read. I think he wrote something over 40 books.

Beltane the Smith took me back to my high school days, where Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe was probably the first adult novel any of us had ever read. I think there was a general dread of reading anything that long. Our "Prose and Poetry" series that were our readers in the upper grades of elementary only had short stories and poems. Ivanhoe was an eye-opener and before many pages we were swept away into the middle ages with knights and derring-do.

Beltane may be a smith when the book opens but it becomes clear that he is of noble blood. His father, formerly Duke of Pentavalon, finally tells him. Beltane is determined to overthrow the evil Duke Ivo and win the hand of the lovely Helen of Mortain. He begins by burning the hated gallows upon which Ivo and his minions have hung so many good men. Gradually he gathers foresters and outlaws (shades of Robin Hood and The Black Arrow) and begins to chivvy Ivo and his partners, Guy of Allerdaine and Pertolepe. There is a wonderful array of interesting characters who are his closest followers, Giles, the archer, Black Roger, Walkyn and his mighty axe and Wulf, all of whom have mighty bones to pick with Duke Ivo. And of course there is romance, full-blown, thwarted, lied about, misunderstood until it is finally brought to full fruition. And of course the good guys win in the end but not before they fight against great odds and perform amazing feats. Battles, sieges, escapes, jousts, secret tunnels, forest glens and rocky caves to which to escape, everything that a 75-year-old boy could ask for. What a wonderful read, a glorious 572 pages first published in 1915.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


We are spending the week at our cabin near the Paradise entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. Today we dealt with a plumbing problem. If James Reasoner can talk about dealing with his plumbing problems then so can I. Our problem could be said to be slightly different from James’s however. You see, we have a little house behind the big house, as they say. You know, the little house with the crescent moon over the door. Oh, all right, an outhouse. It seems that the floor was giving way. The consequences of such happening are too horrible to think about. So off we hied to the lumber and hardware store in Eatonville. They are the closest, probably about twenty-five miles away. For a price they cut 2x4s to length and a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to the proper dimensions. When we got back to the cabin it was the work of a moment...Ha! It took 2-1/2 hours to put the thing all back together. We are not the swiftest workers in the world and I would never claim to be much of a carpenter. But the floor is in, solid and supported beneath by 2x4s. No one will ever have to face the horror unspoken.