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.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Leo Malet Revisited

A while back I wrote about discovering Leo Malet, a French hard-boiled writer whose first book was published during World War II. He sounded interesting and I fired off an order for his very first book. I’ve read it and while it probably isn’t the best hardboiled novel I’ve ever read, still it is very good. And there is much to interest me in the time and setting. To my great surprise, some days letter came an e-mail from Kent Morgan up in Winnipeg, Manitoba saying he had found a nice copy of Mission to Marseilles in his local book shop. Would I care to have him buy it for me? Would I!! I was elated to find a reader so accommodating. I was even more elated to find a reader.

Then what to my utter delight a second reader, Peter Hopkinson, wrote to say that he had two titles which were extras. Would I care to buy them? Now I know that I have at least five readers of this blog. And what’s more I will soon have four of the nine Malet books that were translated and published by Pan Books in England. Wonders never cease.

So my hat is off to you two gentlemen for taking the time to respond and to Kent for taking the time to go to the shop and buy the book for me. He said that he goes there often but still he made the effort to contact me and to mail the package. Stay tuned and you may learn more about Leo Malet and his books.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Goodbye, Old Tree

I was surprised the other morning when looking out the kitchen window to see the top of a tree being lifted into the air. The neighbor four houses down had determined, for whatever reason, to have the tree removed. The tree was probably 100 feet tall, so it was one of the older ones in the neighborhood. I am always saddened when I see a tree being cut down. We have had to remove two trees from our back yard. One had been infected and eventually weakened and fell onto our house. Fortunately no damage. The other, originally a live Christmas tree, had grown too big and was infringing on our neighbor's yard.

The tree removal from our neighbor's yard was fascinating to watch. The tree surgeon, if that's the correct title, had scaled the tree and removed most of the limbs before I was aware of the operation. A truck with a crane was parked in the front of the property and a cable from the top was used to lift the sections of tree and swing them, above the house and deposit them in the front of the house. The sawyer had a loop around the trunk of the tree and I presume was wearing spikes. I had a little experience with this sort of thing when I worked on a pole line construction job in Montana as a lad just out of high school. I climbed several poles that were just about the heighth of that neighbor's tree. I continued to watch as he sawed sections about six to eight feet long and the crane lifted them out of the yard.

I suppose the removal was necessary. Perhaps it had been weakened or gotten too big. It's difficult to grow anything beneath an evergreen tree that large. The sun is shut out and the roots take all the moisture and energy out of the soil. There is no place to grow flowers or vegetables. Still I hated to see it go. Fortunately there are several other tall trees within sight of the kitchen window. Goodbye, old tree.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hadrian's Wall and the Fossatum Africae

I've been readin a book entitled Hadrian's Wall by David J. Breeze and Brian Dobson. The latter is one of the experts who comments on a fine DVD of Hadrian's Wall from the History Channel. I'm particularly intrigued with the wall because I've been along its length and have been fascinated in particular with two sites we visited. One was the excavation of Vindolanda, which has been going on for twenty-five years. The other was an excavation of a temple to Mithra near Chesters. The statuary found there is now in the London Museum but has been replaced with replicas so one can see what a Mithraic temple was like when the Roman army was on the wall. The religion of Mithra was particularly strong with the Roman army.

Last evening as I was reading I came across a reference to the Fossatum Africae. This was a new term to me. In trying to reseach it via Google today I found that the first five pages of references were in French. So it appears that the French are at the forefront of research there. I finally found a site in English. From it I learned that it was a wall also, apparently built at the same time as Hadrian's wall. It was in what is now Algeria and Tunisia and was about 2500 miles in length. It was comprised of ditches approximately 8 ft. deep with a mud brick wall not more than 8 ft. high with towers at intervals. Here apparently was the southern border of the Roman Empire as Hadrian's Wall set the northern limits in England. Apparently there was also a wall or palisade in eastern Europe setting the limits of empire. So that's your little history lesson for today.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Assortment, But Mostly Rhoda Williams

I was saddened to learn the other day that Rhoda Williams had died. Rhoda was an actress on radio, in television and movies. Her first role was at age five. She appeared on radio on Dr. Christian, One Man's Family, Arch Oboler Presents, The Life of Riley, The Lux Radio Theater, Father Knows Best and many other shows. She has appeared many times at The Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound's (REPS) Showcase, held each June in Seattle. She was very friendly and cheerful to everyone. She appeared on panels and in recreations of old shows with great enthusiasm, obviously enjoying herself. She was not with us last year due to ill health. I'm sorry about her death. She was a good friend to REPS.

On other fronts we just spent five days at our cabin near Mount Rainier. There was five inches of snow when we arrived and eight inches when we headed for home. We stayed inside most of the time, reading, writing some, and watching some movies on television. I had just read Margery Allingham's Mystery Mile and had just received the second season of Campion in the mail. So we got to watch the television production of that novel.

I was going to title this Hobson's Choice but held off because I'm not quite sure what Hobson's Choice means or what its derivation is. Will have to look it up. May report later.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Death, Oh, Death

I'm going away for a few days but didn't want to leave without mentioning a couple of deaths that affected me. The first was the science fiction writer Octavia Butler, a very important writer in the science fiction community and well-respected in the black community. Octavia was only 58, much to young to die. She fell and hit her head, was not found for several hours and apparently had a blood clot. She will be missed.

The other person was Dana Reeve, the wife of Christopher Reeve and the founder and pillar of The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. We attended the World Science Fiction in England the year that Reeve starred in Superman, the movie. Reeve also attended the convention and was very friendly, allowed people to be photographed with him and generally hung out. After becoming paralyzed from being thrown from a horse, he and Dana did a fantastic job with the foundation, helping paralyzed people, funding research and generally publicizing the plight of paralyzed people and what they still have to offer. Dana died of cancer. I feel great sorrow for their son, only thirteen years old.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Leo Malet

I ran across a reference to Leo Malet the other day. So I looked him up on the infernalnet to see what I could learn. The original reference said that he wrote fifteen hard-boiled crime stories each set in a different arrondisment of Paris. There are twenty arrondisments in Paris but Malet only managed to write fifteen stories set in Paris. He wrote many other novels set elsewhere in France. His character is Nestor Burma, who owns the Fiat Lux Detective Agency. Next I searched to see how many books had been translated into English. As far as I can tell only nine were translated. They were published in paperback editions by Pan Books in England. A trip to ABE Books told me that they might be a bit expensive to acquire. I’ve managed to buy the first paperback, 120 Rue de la Gare and have just started reading it. I’m liking it a lot. So the quest is on. The goal will require only a rather short quest. Eight more books doesn’t seem like a lot. I’m hoping that it won’t be too expensive. Since most of the books will have to come from either England or Australia, it’s the postage that will probably kill me. Although the first book I found was from Edmonton, Alberta. Wish me luck. There’s a good website at in case you are interested.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Western Union

I heard that Western Union has stopped sending telegrams and just this evenbing I've had time to reflect on that a bit. In the movies we used to see bellhops in their little round hats coming into hotel lobbies and shouting "Telegram for Mr. Smith, telegram for Mr. Smith." Matter of fact we don't see bellhops with little round hats anymore either. I guess they went out with Johnny when he quit shouting "Call for Philip Morris." I used to be able to imitate Johnny pretty well but a 76-year-old voice isn't the same as a young teens. My, how time flies. Well, anyway you can still send money by Western Union. But it costs a bundle. We had to send some to our son when the kids needed medicine and he was a bit short. It cost almost as much to wire the money as the amount of money we were wiring. Well, I guess things will never be the same. As if they ever were.