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.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Scott's Visitors

I’ve been reading a biography of Sir Walter Scott, a very long, 2-volume biography. It’s probably more than I need to know about Scott but I find it interesting so I continue several pages a day. Truth to tell I read it during the late evening news. The news is pretty much the same every night, another drive-by shooting, another attempt to grab a child, another bad accident on the freeway. Even the several minute segment on the weather is pretty much the same. And the sports, another home run for Barry Bond, another loss (or sometimes win) for the Sonics or Mariners. So it’s quite easy to read about six or seven pages a night in this sometimes ponderous tome.

I was struck last evening by the number of guests who were visiting Scott. This was at a time when his novels did not identify the author. They were still being published as "by the author of Waverly." Several people did know that he was the author, but speculation among the public ran rampant about who the author was. Scott was well known and very popular for his poetry and his reviews and other contributions to the Edinburgh Review and similar publications, as well as for a History of Scotland. And I’ve just come to the part of his life where he was made a baronet and became Sir Walter Scott. He also continued his career in law.

So he was a very popular man and having acquired an estate with the money, he had built Abbotsford, the home for him and his family. I have visited Abbotsford and I can attest that there was plenty of room for visitors. What amazes me is with all the visitors and Scott acting the gracious host he was able to find time to write. He was usually working on one or two novels at a time (at the time I speak of he was writing Ivanhoe and Kenilworth plus an article for another publication). And he was hosting at least five people from two different families and had recently hosted the Prince of Sweden. But then he had previously been grievously ill, in much pain and continued to write through it all. My admiration increases with every page.

Monday, May 14, 2007

More Spy Stuff

I still have spy novels on my mind. I was wondering if anyone could suggest a book concerning either or both of the following: 1) A book that brings up to date the book I have read, The British Spy Novel which was published in1984. That’s twenty-three years ago and there are surely writers who have come upon the scene in the ensuing years. 2) A book that covers American spy novelists. I know of Helen MacInnes, sometimes called the Queen of American Spy Novelists. But were there any other women spy novelists? Robert Ludlum whom I tried a couple of books and wasn’t enthusiastic about. Although I must say that I like the movies of The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy. And I understand that a third Bourne movie is being made. Trevanian was around for a while but I never tried any of his books. Don’t know for sure whether he was American or not. And I don’t know whether you can call Hammond Innes a spy novelists or not. An adventure thriller writer for sure. And Adam Hall (Elleston Trevor) whom I met one time at a Bouchercon shortly before his death. He was going to send me some notes on writing spy fiction but never got around to it, alas. My loss. I was looking forward to what he had to say. Anyway, I’m open to suggestions of books about the writing and writers of spy novels as well as recommendations of any that I’ve missed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spy Novels

By chance the other night I spotted a book on the shelf in the family room and wondered what it was. When I plucked from the shelf it turned out to be The British Spy Novel by John Atkins. I started to look through and pretty soon settled down to read it front to back. It pretty much covers the major spy novelists from the beginning, probably Erskine Childers’ SandThe Riddle of the Sands up to the year 1984. Not very contemporary, is it? But I realized that I hadn’t read any spy novels, or as Atkins likes to say, espionage and counter-espionage novels, for a very long time. When I get onto a kick like this I like to visit the Fantastic Fiction website and make lists. (A very useful website for anyone who reads a lot.) I ended up with a dozen spy writers I would like to read more of. Then it was a dash to the library on Sunday afternoon before they closed at five. I came home clutching Len Deighton’s City of Gold and Eric Ambler’s Journey Into Fear in my hot little hands. I’ll let you know how they are. But I am confident from reading previous books by each of these authors that I’m in for an exciting ride.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Emerald Downs

This is my 200th post. I'm not the talkiest person in the world but I'm quite amazed that I've come this far. Shall we shoot for 300?

Ah, the best part of the year. The ponies are running again. Emerald Downs, our local race track opened for the season on April 20. The season will consist of ninety-one race days. We’ve been four times already. The early part of the season is made up mostly of 5 and 5½ furlong races but as the horses round into racing shape there will be longer races. Last week saw the first mile race of the season. The ushers who work the grandstand welcomed us back. One of them, a special ed teacher originally from Georgia, works this as a second job. She is pretty knowledgeable about the horses at this track. Week nights there isn’t a huge crowd and most of them are downstairs in general admission. Evidently few want to pay the extra cost of the grandstand. So we have time to talk. She’s introduced us to some regulars and one owner, this latter when I wanted to be assured I was reading the pedigrees right. Turns out that not many pay much attention to pedigree but I do. Anyway, we’re having a grand time and so far are ahead in the betting. The weather has been good. Racing is only three days a week this early, Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Maybe no trips this years, just lots of days at the track.