Well he looks like an Oak King, that's why, does Peter S. Beagle. And he's as fine a storyteller as any bard who ever lived, you know. Which makes it better still in the bargain to give him the title for 2007, as there's no point in crowning the change of seasons without a fine spray of words to wave at each falling leaf, each subtle change of color, each morning just that much cooler and clearer than the one before. As winter harkens and we pull in the last of the year around us, laughing about days past, dreaming of green times to come, a bright smile and a song or two will be just the stuff, I tell you — and this Beagle fellow has got tunes and grins to spare. A king among men he is, so our Oak King he shall be.

Of course, a King's no King without a proper procession! So here's Peter's. Written by Will Harmon (tunes fall off that man like apples fall off a cart), and played by Roger Landes, it makes me picture the flashing colors and light of his court moving quickly through that brickwork walk named for the Oak King, just to the west of the Green Man Building, with Oberon's Wood at the other end.

I love the tune Will wrote, with its easy, swinging rhythm and just a slightly sinister, dark edge to it.

As I write this I am about an hour from giving a convention concert, and the lyrics of Dick Feller's 'Uncle Hiram and the Home-Made Beer' have been going around and around in my head for most of the day. Under the circumstances, I'm not at my speechwriting best.

But I'm enormously touched to be named the Green Man's Oak King for this year. As long as I don't have to be sacrificed. I'm a long way from being a true scholar of mythology, but among my rags and tatters of education, there's something fairly sinister about the necessity of the king's death in winter in order to ensure the fertility of next spring's crop. I don't do fertility.

The Green Man Review has become my favorite online magazine — and not only because it's been so flatteringly kind to me. Any given issue always feels like a rambling late-night conversation with one or another — or all — of my longtime, long-disreputable friends. 'Did you ever read — ?' 'Do you know that weird old Celic legend — ?' 'There's this song I heard once — ?' 'Is there any more of that beer?' Much the best part of the literary life.

I could not be more honored by this title if beer came with it.

Well...yes, yes I could, but this will do. This will do me just fine. Thank you all, with all my crabby old heart, as the seasons turn and I hold the post 'til Spring.

[Peter S. Beagle]

 

And to honor Peter's ascension to the throne, here's a brand-new essay by Kathleen Bartholomew on how he has recently reinvented himself as a writer not just of amazing novels, but of astonishing short fiction as well.

Donna Bird was already reading a WWII novel when she offered to tackle The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, a memoir set in the same time period by author Lucette Lagnado. Ms. Bird confesses, 'Although I have kept diaries and journals and other self-reflective written records ever since I learned how to write, I haven't read a whole lot of memoirs written by other people. I guess I always felt that reading about other (real) people's thoughts and actions was just a little too voyeuristic.' Her review reveals whether she regretted the experience.

Sometimes one book leads to another, which leads to another. Such was the case for Donna Bird with this next book by Barbara Hodgson. The Lives of Shadows is subtitled 'An Illustrated Novel,' and that it certainly is, although not quite in the way one usually thinks of an illustrated novel. The illustrations don't directly portray characters or scenes from the story. Intrigued? So was our reviewer. She gives a lovely in-depth explanation of the particulars in her full review.

How about a memoir and a graphic novel, rolled into one? Donna Bird takes a look at the The Complete Persepolis, which started out in France as four separate books, cleverly titled Persepolis 1 through Persepolis 4. When Pantheon initially released the English translation in the United States, they combined the book into two volumes. The present edition, which combines both of those, is about 350 pages long — but a fast read because of the relatively small amount of text on every page. It was apparently published to coincide with the 2007 release of the animated feature film version. Will you be joining Ms. Bird in the queue for this movie? Find out here.

In another of several reviews of illustrated works in this edition of the Green Man, senior reviewer April Gutierrez tells us what she thinks of Neil Gaiman's Eternals, illustrated by John Romita, Jr. 'In the present day (one assumes a continuity much like today), the Eternals, immortal superheroes of a sort, created by the even more powerful interstellar Celestials, and opposed by another Celestial creation, the Deviants, walk among humans, living human lives, having forgotten their true identities.' See what she thinks of the first volume of this new spin on Jack Kirby's 1970's creations of the same name by reading the entire review here.

Managing editor Tim Hoke reviewed for us a double CD set of Robin Williamson's Four Gruagach Tales. Some may be asking 'What, pray tell, is a gruagach?' In many tales, a gruagach is akin to a brownie. Not in Williamson's stories: a gruagach is a wizard, long of hair and beard, often red-haired, and usually malevolent. See what Tim has to say about these wizards and those who dare to go up against them by reading this review.

Michael M. Jones delves into the adventures of a succubus from the pits of hell in a pair of Jackie Kessler novels, Hells Bells and The Road to Hell. What becomes of a succubus on the run? 'Armed with stolen credits cards and a meager wardrobe, disguised as a human and barred from the use of her infernal powers, Jezebel gravitated towards a profession right up her alley. She became a stripper.' Has Mr. Jones had enough of succubus heroine Jezebel, or does he eagerly await the next book in the series? Find out in his twofer review.

Next, Mr. Jones gives us his opinion of the first book in another brand new series, C.E. Murphy's Heart of Stone. 'You might find this book in the romance section, you might find it in science fiction, but regardless, it's definitely worth picking up.' And what does he have to tell fans of Murphy's other Luna series, The Walker Papers? Well, '...so far, it's shaping up to be just as good, if not better than her previous works.'' Learn why he thinks so in his review.

Want hot and fun? Michael Jones promises both: 'Stray is a fun, hot new take on the idea of werecats living among us. Rachel Vincent has really done a good job of creating an intriguing hidden society where werecats can either live in organized prides, or roam the unclaimed territories as rogues, depending on what sort of quality of life they want. Her cats act very much like cats, so that even when human, they have a certain alien quality to them in mood and behavior.' See if he decides the book ultimately holds up in this review.

But did Mr. Jones enjoy the fourth novel in Laura Anne Gilman's Retrievers series? 'No vampires or werewolves to be found here, just oddball demons, piskies, griffins, angels, nausanni, dryads and more, hiding in plain sight...' Does Michael think this is a bad thing or a good thing? Reading his review will help you decide whether Burning Bridges is worth picking up at the bookstore.

Michael Jones takes a chance on a debut novel, Halfway to the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost. Mr. Jones asserts that 'There may be a lot of vampire-themed paranormal romances already on the shelves, but Halfway to the Grave still manages to stand out from the pack...'' Want to find out what makes this one a 'don't miss?' Look here.

Michael Jones serves up another review, this time for the fourth book in the Menagerie saga, Crashing Paradise. 'Once again, the fate of the world lies in the hands of a bunch of outcasts, oddballs, and monsters.' Is this 'unusual blend of dark fantasy, superhero, and pulp influences' worth a read for those of us unfamiliar with the series? Judge for yourself.

Green Man Music Production editor David Kidney has an unusual one for us this issue: a large format picture book of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, called Runnin' Down a Dream: 'From early days in Florida, through Mudcrutch, the birth of the Heartbreakers, solo albums, lawsuits, the Traveling Wilburys, and the continuing story of the Heartbreakers these 240 pages tell it all. No holds barred. You might say 'Damn the Torpedos and full speed ahead.' '' Full speed ahead? Read on here.

Graphic novel fans will definitely want to check out Mr. Kidney's review of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. He says, 'The graphic novel is a unique and vibrant way to tell a story. Both visual and verbal, it combines sensory input to tell stories, making them more tactile and rich.' See how this 'story of a childhood' measures up to the medium.

Curling, cold, and the Canadian winter each get a mention in David Kidney's next review, a new English translation of a French graphic novel, White Rapids by Pascal Blanchet. 'We're a peaceful people,' claims Mr. Kidney in his review, '...No civil wars, no struggle between cowboys and Indians (well — not too much). Our conflicts are political. And they're settled politically. We have a rebellion...we just take the leaders to trial, and hang 'em! No problem.' Get more of an insider's perspective on this graphic historical by reading the rest of what Mr. Kidney has to say thisaway.

Senior Green Man reviewer Kestrall Rath has heard the echo across the 'Nets: 'What should I read after Harry Potter?' It seems to have been proposed by some that Michael Dylan Scott's The Alchemist: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel may fill the gap. 'On the surface, the basic story sounds incredibly appealing: fifteen-year-old twins Sophie and Josh Newman are the children of archeologists, but have opted to spend the summer away from their parents so that they can work and save up money to buy a car when they turn sixteen.' But when the twins find themselves caught between two alchemists vying for possession of an ancient book containing the secret to eternal life, does the story hold up? See what our reviewer thinks.

Another master reviewer, another graphic work. Robert M. Tilendis gives us a glance into the past of the illustrious graphic novel & comic tradition with a look at the first volumes of Matt Wagner's Grendel saga in Dark Horse Books' newly-released Grendel Archives. Says Mr. Tilendis of Wagner's and others' early desire to reinvent the graphic medium: '...we, the beneficiaries of this desire, have been the recipients of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, and Wagner's own creations, Mage and Grendel.' Find out more here.

Robert Tilendis provides most thoughtful and detailed insight into Thomas Pynchon's 2006 release, Against the Day. He tells us that 'Pynchon tends to make his own reality — time travel in nineteenth-century America, for example. He blurs distinctions between the various elements of his arsenal — high art and low art, high culture and pop culture, have the same weight.' Ultimately, it seems he liked this one very much. Decide if you will too by reading his review.

Looking back at a classic, Robert Tilendis reviews what he calls 'one of the more bizarre science fiction novels in the canon.' He's referring to Roger Zelazny's 1970 novel Creatures of Light and Darkness. He continues with his description: 'One finds oneself rebounding from image to image, sometimes stark, sometimes almost cloying, and even Zelazny's characteristic stilted dialogue fits right in.' Read the entire review to understand why this is so.

Robert Tilendis has been enjoying the Tor series, A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Since this was planned as a ten book series, Mr. Tilendis decided midpoint was a good time to take stock of the novels so far. 'Erikson has created his own mythology/cosmogony here, strange but tantalizingly familiar. There are archetypes — the gods of death, of life, lords of chaos and order — but they are not like the gods we know from our own universe.' See why Mr. Tilendis believes 'this is becoming one of the best contemporary works of heroic fantasy' by reading his five-novel review in its entirety.

New Green Man reviewer Chris Tuthill dips slightly into the past to review the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. 'To try to summarize these three books...would be akin to summarizing the plot and characters of The Lord of the Rings, so I will not attempt that here. Instead, my review will offer some insights and observations on this unique and wonderful work of fantasy.' Never seen nor heard of Gormenghast? Rectify forthwith by heading here.

'We were the ring-around-the-rosey children, they were circles 'round the sun
Never give up, never slow down, never grow old, never ever die young.'

James Taylor said that. In fact he's still saying it, it's the second track on his new live CD/DVD set. I saw James Taylor live at Mariposa on Toronto Island one day long ago. When I was a 'ring-around-the-rosey child' and he was (as he continues to be) three years older than me, and we all thought it would be that way...we'd never give up, slow down, grow old, and never ever die young. Another one of our heroes said, 'life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.' And James and I have certainly made other plans over the years. Mr. Lennon...someone else had plans for him. All of this brings us 'round to today's music reviews.

Today we have music from around the world, from many eras and milieus. From artists who provided inspiration to all of us...to continue, to fight on, to never grow old, never die young.

Senior writer Denise Dutton leads off with her review of People Take Warning!, an anthology of murder ballads and disaster songs. She leads off thus, 'With cable and satellite TV, we can all sit back and watch whatever horrible things catch our eye. Let's face it; we take notice of suffering. Whether it's because our hearts go out to those in troubled times, or for a vicarious thrill, if there's a disastrous event, people know about it. And strain for more.' And proceeds to describe the seventy songs of 'disaster of all kinds' collected within the album. Transferred from 78rpm records, still possessing the scratches, the songs tell the tales of the Titanic, Casey Jones, the flood of '27 and more. Some of these folks did die young, but their stories encourage the listener to continue the struggle. Read Denise's Excellence in Writing Award winning review here.

Robin Williamson & his Merry Band was a post-Incredible String Band project from the late '70s. American Stonehenge is a new release of some of their archival recordings. Tim Hoke tells us that 'the music here is difficult to categorize. It isn't warmed over Incredible String Band, though hints of that legacy appear in spots, and despite the instrumentation and obvious strong Celtic influence, it doesn't fall neatly into a generic Celtic pigeonhole, either.' So, what is it like? Well, you'll have to read Tim's review to find out!

Staffer Michael Hunter is excited to hear Live, Worts'n'all. Why? 'After 15 years of existence, Adelaide-based Pagan folk rock band Spiral Dance has finally released a live CD — and about time, too!' Sounds like a good one, and it even features an enhanced multi-media section. But read all the details here.


David Kidney
listened to three different blues artists, each one putting his or her unique spin on the standard blues form. Three chords and the truth they call it. Mason Casey, Debbie Davies and Mem Shannon...whether playing guitar, harmonica or just singing their hearts out they each provide help for the listener who is 'Looking for a new direction in blues... because they won't find much better material than these three fine new collections.
'

Martin Graebe & Shan Cowan are two singers drawn together by a common liking for the traditional works collected by Victorian collector Sabine Baring-Gould, who was one of the first collectors of traditional English songs and a mentor to the later collectors. Parallel Strands is a recording which Senior reviewer Peter Massey recommends with some reservations. 'The plain vocals may be an acquired taste for some...they have enlisted the concertina of Keith Kenrick, the guitar and mandola of Jeff Gillett, and the fiddle of Paul Burgess for simple accompaniment. All of this is held to a minimum, allowing the words of the song to carry it. You have to be in the right mood or frame of mind to enjoy this album fully...but it is an album that will be enjoyed by the traditionalists among you.'

Next up some guitar music by Martin Simpson is assessed by Senior reviewer Lars Nilsson. Lars says, 'from the opening 'Batchelor's Hall' you know that this is a master at work. Simpson has always been an expert guitar player, always in total control of his playing, and a fine banjoist. He is confident enough not to show off on his instruments.' Prodigal Son sounds like an album I need to hear. Read Lars' full review here.

Master reviewer Robert Tilendis looks at a collection of music by Bela Bartok, who is named by Bob as 'one of the century's most singular and prodigious talents.' See how Mr. Tilendis describes his career. He calls Bartok ''prodigious' because his career spanned the first half of the century, from the artistic ferment of the pre-World War I Austrian Empire to the artistic ferment of post-World War II America, and produced many important works; and 'singular' because, although his music reflected most of the trends in musical thought of the time, it somehow never quite became mainstream in the same way that, say, that of Stravinsky or Ravel did. Did he give up? Slow down? I think not.

Finally, we have a review by Mike Wilson (Senior reviewer) of a new CD from Robin Huw Bowen, harpist extraordinaire. Mike seems to be enchanted by this music which he describes as 'the intricate, delicate sound of the Welsh triple harp...an absolute beauty to behold, and Robin Huw Bowen skillfully harnesses its winsome charisma to the most breathtaking effect on 'The Road To Aberystwyth.'' Read his review for all the joyful details!

Mike also listened to Marsha Swanson's Sentient Stardust. He notes that 'comparisons to the likes of Carole King, Beth Nielsen-Chapman and Suzanne Vega are not merely fanciful; Swanson delivers a similar brand of grown-up, well-written pop.' And he declares Ms. Swanson ready '...to seduce the music-listening public who are looking for intelligent, well-produced and thoughtful music.'

Whether it's by orchestral folk songs, solo guitar, Welsh harp, the blues or anything else...I'm ready to be seduced. But I still will follow James Taylor's orders...and 'never give up, never slow down, never grow old, never ever die young.' Not if I have anything to say about it!

Robert here with the final word this edition, finally getting to show off some of our letters. I guess you must have had a busy year, but now that fall is upon us, you're finding time to write. I had really been afraid that Arthur, our postman, had gotten lost again. We have to be careful that he doesn't wander off into the conservatory, you know — last time, we barely rescued him from the vines. At any rate, he finally paid us a visit, with lots of nice letters. Looky here!

 

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Entire Contents Copyright 1993 - 2007, Green Man Review and Midwinter Publishing except where specifically noted. Photo is of Peter S. Beagle, copyright Conlan Press.

 

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