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.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Very Merry Christmas

I take this opportunity on the evening of Christmas day to wish all of my readers... you know who you are... a Very Merry Christmas. I'll be gone for the week, lazing at my cabin near Mount Rainier with some very old... oops, longtime friends. We have been doing this for thirty-five years now. We eat too much, talk incessantly, occasionally argue over insignificant things, watch crumby movies and generally flake out. It's good for the soul. So I'll see you after the New Year. And once again, I hope you and yours enjoyed a very nice Christmas day. We enjoyed a very nice musical Christmas on Cape Breton show this morning on the PBS station and a pretty good football game between Chicago and Green Bay this afternoon. 'Tis the season.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Agatha Christie: A Reader's Companion

On a recent visit to one of the best bookstores in Seattle I spied a book that caught my interest. I’m a great reader of mysteries. Unlike many mystery readers I like not only contemporary writers but have a certain fondness for the older writers as well. Well, yes, they are dead, but that doesn’t mean that their books do not still entertain. I can recommend Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and of course, Agatha Christie. But she’s so old fashioned and the estates are so upper class and the people are from a time that rarely exists any more, with housemaids and gardeners and such. All true. I don’t deny. But the books still entertain. The principal characters, be they Poirot and Hastings, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence or Harley Quin still entice one into the investigation and keep you interested. The BBC production of the Poirot stories certainly attracted a huge following; perhaps only the Sherlock Holmes productions had a larger one.

But I digress, as I often do. The book is question is Agatha Christie, A Reader’s Companion. It is beautifully illustrated with dust jackets of the first editions, photos of places Christie used a models for settings, people in clothes of the period. It begins with Christie’s first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and continues right through the books. The authors, Vanessa Wagstaff and Stephen Poole, say that Christie wrote sixty-six crime novels. I’ve seen lists that were longer but perhaps they listed alternate titles as published in the U.S.. I’ll have to find some way to corroborate that number. But never mind. Looking through the books, a few pages at a sitting, I found I just had to go back and read that first book. I’ll finish it this evening. I read plenty of contemporary crime novelists from Dennis Lehane and Walter Mosely to Anne Perry and Deborah Crombie. But there’s nothing wrong with once in a while picking up a novel by Dame Agatha. Good stuff, Maynard!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Horatius at the Bridge Reprise

Some time back I wrote a blog about Horatius at the Bridge and memorizing poetry. I baldly stated that no one seems to require it any more. I received a splendid reply from one Sean Burke who teaches at Silver Tree Steiner School in Parkerville, Western Australia. Parkerville is a suburb of Perth. When he wrote he said that he was having his students memorize Horatius. Aha, I thought, there is someone out there having their students memorize poetry. I also was amazed that he had found my blog. Now I had three readers. Apparently the Steiner Schools are private schools with a mission of nurturing creativity. You can read about this school at Very interesting things going on there.

To my gratification I received another e-mail from Sean the other day. Not only had his students memorized Horatius but they had performed it as a play. The poem, by Thomas Babbington Macaulay, relates how Horatius Cocles, a Roman, defended the bridge across the Tiber from the attacking Etruscans. Apparently there were two performances by the cast of eight boys and four girls. Sean attached the program and a photo of the cast. All were in costume. It must have been fun to see this performance.

I profess my profound admiration for Sean for encouraging this activity and I congratulate the boys and girls of the cast. I wish I had been there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Detective Fiction

Reading detective fiction is indeed a disease. It makes one do weird things. I probably have 50 or 60 authors whose books I enjoy. And these have probably written four or five hundred books. That should keep me happy for a long long time. But I am constantly finding new authors that intrigue and beckon me to enter their world. When I first heard that Laurie R. King had paired a young Mary Russell with Sherlock Holmes I was a little perturbed. Enough people have screwed around with Holmes to make me doubt that any good could come of this. Then a good friend said he had read a couple and that they were pretty good. OK, I thought, I’ll give them a try but I don’t have to like them. I’ve read two of them now and they were very good. Laurie King writes very well. Another author to add to an already long list.

Christopher Fowler is another one. Reviews were so highly receptive of his Bryant and May mysteries working in the Peculiar Crimes Unit of the London Metropolitan Police that I’ve picked up a couple in paperback. The list becomes longer. I was going to write about another book when I sat down to write this blog. You can see how easily I’m sidetracked. So I’ll leave it for tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Herries Chronicles

I’ve just finished a wonderful reading least for me. It was the four novels by Hugh Walpole which are collectively called "The Herries Chronicles." They are titled Rogue Herries, Judith Paris, The Fortress and Vanessa. The story covers four generations of the Herries family in the Lake District of England and in London. It was really one long book and one that I could live in. Of course it helps that I have been to the Lake District a dozen times and have been to many of the places that Walpole uses in the novel. My wife’s cousin one time directed us out of Keswick and up the fell to Watendlath and pointed out Hugh Walpole’s home over in the next fell. The books are rich in characterization and in description. The Herries family, both immediate and more distant, are, as one might expect a varied lot, loving and hating, rich and poor, adventuresome and stick in the muds. I must search out more of Walpole’s work. Other than this I’ve only read a short story, "The Tarn," which is a bit supernatural. It’s one of my favorite stories of this type.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Netflix Again

I'm a little slow. Blame it on my age. I received several catalogs which featured, among many other things, a number of British shows on DVD. I was licking my lips and thinking about how I'd love to own many of them, especially the various detective series. Those who have followed this blog or who know me know that I've been enjoying movies, many of them old, for the past year through the Netflix rental system. Gosh, I thought, I wonder if Netflix might possibly have any of the shows that I liked. I don't have the BBC channel where many of them played, or the series ended many years back. And I missed many episodes of shows like Inspector Morse, Inspector Lynley, Brother Cadfael, Midsomer Murders. So I looked them up on Netflix and sure enough they have them all and then some. Along with Foyle's War, Wire in the Blood, Touching Evil , P.D. James 'Adam Dalgleish' mysteries, Lord Peter Wimsey, Inspector Alleyn, Campion. Well, now I'm really in seventh heaven. I'm set for a long long time. Idiot box bliss or something like it. Sorry to be a flak for Netflix but I'm loving it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Fortune Cookie

It's been a busy day, with much of it taken up by a meeting of REPS, The Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound. A visit with Merrill Mael's wife, Sandy. Merrill was an early supporter of REPS, and several times recreated his role as Uncle Fletcher from the Vic And Sade Show at our conventions. My wife, Anna, was happy to play the role of Sade opposite. Also at today's meeting there was a bit of a Jack Benny Christmas show, a visit by a Marine sergeant to pick up Toys for Tots, the annual Christmas tape exchange, the monthly meeting raffle (I won a CD with two shows from Our Miss Brooks from 1957), and the annual election. A woman member from Yakima brought us a gift of apples and pears from the fruit basket of Washington state, plus some discarded books on Indians from the Yakima library system. What a haul!

So we decided to have Chinese for dinner at King Wha, a local eatery and very good. Hot and sour soup, prawns and snow peas in lobster sauce, and rice. The fortune cookie said "You will go far, but be sure to come back." I hope so.