Depending on how you figure it, some folks think there's but a week left in Summer, but we 'ere at Green Man prefer to take the view that that blessed season lasts well into October if the weather cooperates. But August is still a bittersweet time 'ere as there's an awareness that the days will all too soon grow short as Winter is coming as it always does 'ere in the northern climes. Of course, that means spiced pumpkin ale, bonfires, and all-night ceilidhs in the Courtyard!
Before you get to our reviews this edition including featured looks at a new chapbook by Heather Shaw, a look at London folk clubs, and the latest recording from Taraf de Haidouks, do read the story told by Green Man Librarian Mackenzie about the author he's reading this summer -- Peter S. Beagle, author of A Fine and Private Place, The Last Unicorn, Tamsin, and many other outstanding works of fantasy.
Mackenzie this, and Mackenzie that -- I swear I do not understand why a man can't be left alone for a half a minute to finish the thoughts that come of a morning's walk, even if he is in the door now, seated at his desk. And it was such a lovely morning, too, with just enough spark in the light and tremor in the air to make you sure a great day was arriving, all unexpected. Like you were about to trip over a Christmas package that had been set aside and left unnoticed for eight whole months. Just like that.
Ahh, you can't blame me for getting poetic, not with that Peter S. Beagle fellow hanging about the last few days, spreading his papers over two whole tables in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room. I gather he's come to think of Green Man as a bit of a home away from home. Call it an author's twofer: nights in the pub, drinking beers by ascending order or darkness, signing books, singing songs, and generally making merry, then days deep in my library stacks, digging away at one thing or another, scribbling down notes and bits of prose, filling up those yellow legal pads he favours.
I gather there are three different novels nearing the finish line, and a stack of new stories. Let's see... there's a Summerlong polish going on (our own Cat has read an earlier draft of this novel, lucky sod, and speaks highly of it). That one's a take on Persephone and Hades, but being who he is, the man can't make it any P & H you've ever seen before. Then there's the finale of I'm Afraid You've Got Dragons to wrap, so Firebird can publish it next summer, and a charming little book called Sweet Lightning due out eventually from Tachyon. That one ought to please folks, most specially if they like baseball as much as Beagle does. Not my game, but those as love it do.
What? Well I can't help looking over his shoulder, can I? Not since he won those awards last year and I finally got around to reading him. There's not a finer writer working in fantasy today, I swear, and I'm not just saying that because he once bought me more rounds of Heavy than I could drink, a feat no one here would have thought possible.
The book reading contest mentioned last edition seems to be going strong, with many of the staff nose deep in the final volume of the Harry Potter series. I've seen a few biting their tongues (literally) as they can't believe the ending. (One fey member of the staff has ears that are still twitching!) But me, I'm ignoring the whole bloody Potter thing, and spending my summer reading Beagle. He's a headier brew.
Donna Bird leads off our featured reviews with a look at a band she and Cat love quite a bit: 'We first heard of Taraf de Haidouks a few years ago. They played a gig at one of our favorite local venues, the Center for Cultural Exchange, now under new ownership as One Longfellow Square. Alas, they played less than a week after Les Yeux Noirs, another Rom band. Tickets for the first show were much more affordable than those for the second, so we opted in favor of Les Yeux Noirs (see our live review here, and thus skipped the Tarafs. But, they sounded sufficiently interesting to prompt us to begin a quest for their recordings. Counting the just-arrived Maskarada, we now have seven of their CDs.' Read her review for a look at a most cool band!
Lars Nilsson pays a return trip to his favourite city of London and catches up with all things musical, taking in music shops, folk clubs, musicals and string quartets. 'About two years ago I wrote a report about music in London based on a four-day-trip to my favourite city. Now I am back with a new report, this time after spending eight days in that same city, but this time not entirely for the sake of music. After all, bringing your grandchildren means you have to devote some time to places such as London Zoo and going on boat trips on the river, but still plenty of time left for musical adventures. So here it is, this time not in chronological order, my musical experiences, some of them together with my wife, my son, his friend, and the singer from one of my groups, Still No Bagpipes.' Have a read of Lars' review to see why he's already planning his return trip!
Kestrell Rath reviews another Tropism Press book, this time a chapbook by Heather Shaw, When We Were Six. Kestrell says that she has 'a new respect for Shaw's skill as a writer and her particular writing style which blends dark fantasy with an almost photographic realism. The photographic aspects of Shaw's writing should not come as a surprise, considering the fact that her photographs appear both in Flytrap and in When We Were Six. Shaw's sense of landscape and architecture, form and detail, often adds to the vividness of her stories, adding an almost tactile sense to the prose.' Read on for details of what she liked about the six stories in the chapbook.
Donna Bird takes a trip back in time to 17th century Iran with Anita Amirezvani's novel, The Blood of Flowers, of which she says, 'In her author's note at the very end of the book, Anita Amirrezvani admits that this novel took her nine years and three trips to her native Iran to complete. I think it's safe to say that this beautiful book was, like the carpets that are central to its plot, the product of considerable effort and personal sacrifice.' To see more of why Donna thinks this is a 'lovely debut novel', read her review.
From Iran, Donna turns her eye to Egypt, reading Ibrahim Meguid's No One Sleeps in Alexandria. She admires the 'extent to which it is grounded in real historical events' and believes that the 'novel represents an interesting and rare amalgamation of Middle Eastern and Western narrative approaches'. Read her review for further details.
Richard Dansky says of John Shirley's The Other End: 'At first blush, The Other End is not a subtle book. It's a tale of the end of the world, one placed directly in opposition to the Christian fundamentalist flavor of Armageddon that's all the rage these days. There's a double handful of Gnosticism in there, some not-so-subtle political commentary, and a one-two punch to simplistic fundamentalist Scriptural analysis where Shirley lets one of his characters just go.. . and go, and go, and go'. Whoa. If that sounds like your cup of tea, check out his review
Of course, we have a review of the final Potter and Denise Dutton does the honours: 'A saga ends. The story is over. No more Midnight Madness runs to the bookstore at 12:01 wearing wizarding robes and odd glasses. No more counting down the days until Mary Grand Pre's new cover artwork is released. And no more secret surprises at J.K. Rowling's Web site . . . well, hope springs eternal for that last one. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we say goodbye to all things Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Harry. This is the last stop folks; you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. Come on now, no tears. Just take my hand, and we'll get through this. No, I haven't been crying; it's just these darn allergies that have my eyes red. Shell-shocked? Sad? Disappointed? No, kinda and not really. Since this is a review and not a critique, I'll leave spoilers out of it, so those of you who haven't had a chance to get through yours (and those of you who don't read the books and instead catch the movie version) won't have had the cat let out of the bag. Too much.' Read her review 'ere.
Cat Eldridge turned his eagle eye to Christopher Golden's The Borderkind next. Of it, he says: 'like a play, the first act of a trilogy, The Veil in this case, sets up the premise for the plot herein and establishes the characters involved in the plot, whereas the second act must simultaneously build off the first act and stand on its own for those readers who haven't experienced the previous narrative. It is far easier to do this in fiction, as you can build in a preface of sorts which tells the new reader what happened, than you can in a play which assumes that you have already experienced the first act. So does The Borderkind succeed well at doing both?' Read his review to see that it does, and how!
Michael Jones takes a look at Goblin Hero which 'is the entertaining followup to the first in the series, Goblin Quest. Once again, Jim C. Hines turns the fantasy world on its ear with this insightfully hilarious look at the traditional cannon fodder of the genre. They may be small, vicious, and untrustworthy, but Hines proves there's more than enough cunning and resourcefulness in your average goblin to carry quite the enjoyable story.' To see just how enjoyable, read the review.
Michael then turned to Richelle Mead's Succubus Blues, which he thinks is 'an excellent start to a new series, a memorable heroine and a genuinely interesting take on the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genre'. For the nitty gritty, read more.
David Kidney's reviewed a number of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux novels for GMR. The latest -- number sixteen! -- is The Tin Roof Blowdown -- 'chronicles the latest criminal activities in the parish, but it also details the incredible disaster that was Hurricane Katrina, painting a shocking and vibrant picture of the events that unfolded in the real world occupied by his fictional characters.' Read David's review to see how he thinks Burke keeps the series fresh and relevant.
David also returns to the works of Drew Friedman, this time The Fun Never Stops: an anthology of comic art, 1991-2006. Comparing it to a previous volume David reviewed, he says it 'collects much more of Friedman's work, with a less defined theme. That gives it a much broader base to work from, and yet, it still seems filled with wrinkles, liver spots and cigar stubs.' David thinks the book lives up to its name -- for details on how, read on.
Next up, David takes a look at Salomon Grimberg's I Will Never Forget You: Frida Kahlo and Nickolas Muray, wherein he asks the all important question, 'But who is Nickolas Muray, and why would she never forget him? Or . . . was it the other way 'round?' To find out the answer to that question, read 'ere.
David's reaction to Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy's A Book Addict's Treasury seems to be lukewarm, at best: 'within these covers, contained in 200-odd pages, are hundreds of comments about books, and reading. As long as there have been books, writers have written about them. Pick up a copy for yourself. Make your own decision. Squash a fly with it, lull yourself to sleep, or wake yourself up. . . .' To find out what the heck he's talking about, go here.
The Theatre of Illusion, a play by Pierre Corneille, may have convinced Claire Owen that she might actually like reading plays. In fact, she admits that she found this play 'captivating, riveting, witty and funny'. To find out what won her over, read her review!
Claire then dives into Charlaine Harris' seventh Sookie Stackhouse novel, All Together Dead. Once again evoking Louisiana's tragedy in this issue, 'Sookie must follow the queen to Rhodes for a vamp conference following in the wake of the destructive power of hurricane Katrina'. Claire concludes that although she's come to the game late, this volume is 'a must read for those who like vampires and southern belles with brains and spunk'. For more of her thoughts, go this-away.
Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw's 'zine, Flytrap 7 found favour with Kestrell Rath, who feels that it 'demonstrates that Tropism Press is a source for consistently intelligent and experimental speculative fiction' and that it upholds the ''zine tradition of creating a sense of shared conversation between publishers, writers, and readers'. For a peek at this seventh issue of the twice-yearly publication, read her review
Robert Tilendis takes a look at a re-release of Henry Kuttner's short stories, now titled The Last Mimzy, and likes what he sees: 'I ran across a comment recently, probably while surfing the blogosphere, that art needs to be entertaining or all the artist's erudition and technical proficiency go to waste. Kuttner makes it on all points. There is not a weak story in this collection, and it's all the more dazzling to realize that they were all written before Kuttner's untimely death in 1958, when science fiction was still 'escape literature' for geeky little boys'. For Robert's thoughts about the stories themselves, check out the review.
Robert's last review for this issue is a compilation of Robert Silverberg's work, To The Dark Star, 1962-69 -- The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Two. He says that 'Silverberg considers this period in his career as the time when he really came of age as an author, and looking at these stories, it's hard to disagree.' And further adds, 'If you don't want to wade through Silverberg's entire career (although I can certainly think of much less rewarding ways to spend time), this is the volume of his stories to have. It contains some of his most important work, and it's just fun to read. How can you go wrong?' Check out his review for a sampling of the contents of this compilation.
Donna Bird takes a trip back to the English middle ages, casting an eye over The Tudors, a ten-part television series. 'The entire ten episodes of this first series (another series is under development) take place about ten years after Henry assumed the throne and married his late brother Arthur's wife, Catherine of Aragon. The most straightforward historical marker in the series is the so-called Field of the Cloth of Gold, a meeting between Henry's court and that of his sometime ally, Francis I of France, that took place in the summer of 1520. This event occurs in the second episode. I would say that the primary plot threads of the overall series concern Henry's increasing frustration with Katherine's failure to produce an heir, his mounting desire to wed Anne Boleyn, the downfall of his chief advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, and the wavering alliances between England, France, and Spain.' Donna's review can be found here!
Denise Dutton enjoys a DVD release entitled Dub Side Of The Moon, where The Pinks Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon is given a dub makeover, courtesy of Easy Star All-Stars. 'It's not like the Easy Star All-Stars play Dark Side with a cheesy reggae track tacked on, then call it their own. They reimagine riffs, add vocals and take different turns with the music, all the while staying true to the course of the original album's main concepts... Dub Side Of The Moon is good fun, good music and a great interpretation of the original material.' Find out more by reading Denise's review
The 5 Browns' No Boundaries get high praise from Samantha Gillogly: ' Anyone who says classical music has no future in youth culture is clearly unaware of a recent piano phenomenon. Five of them, to be exact.' Read her review to see why this is so!
A recording called Time And Tide was the liking of Michael Hunter: 'Given the usual wait between albums, it seems almost surreal to be reviewing a new Steve Ashley CD just a year or so after his previous release, Live In Concert. I guess since that one wasn't strictly a collection of new songs, we can say the spell hasn't really been broken in that sense. One track on the live set was 'Ships Of Shame' which was a foretaste of this studio album, and its promise was that Ashley still had important matters to comment on, and still had a unique musical approach in which to set his thoughts. Now the latest collection of songs has been delivered, and it must be said the promise has definitely been fulfilled.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review 'ere.
Arminta's Forged in the Fire is billed as 'Celtic with a pop sensibility'. For Peter Massey, this didn't work 'tall. Read his review to see why.
Nick Barraclough and the Burglars's Daylight Robbery was much better he says: 'What is loosely termed as folk in the U.K. is an ever-changing genre, particularly in the midlands and south of the country. Cambridge Folk Festival is probably the biggest, and most famous, now encompasses all branches of folk music. This leads me to say, perhaps this album may not be taken on board by some of the traditionalists amongst you, but it is still damn good listening and I recommend you buy it and go with the flow.'
Lars Nilsson looks at Underdog: 'Wishing Chair is a female duo from Kentucky. They both sing, and Kiya Heartwood plays guitar and bouzouki and writes most of the songs, while Miriam Davidson plays accordion, hammond organ and banjo. They have been playing together since 1995, and Underdog is their sixth album. Wishing Chair operates on the borders between folk, rock and country. They have kept the story-telling traditions from folk and country, but the structure of their songs is close to modern country; likewise their harmonies. And the way they tackle some of the songs is very much rock. I guess they have been listening a bit to Mr. Springsteen's later recordings.' Is that a good idea? Read his review thisaway to find out!
Hillstomp's After Two But Before Five and Adam Scramstad's No Sun Around Blues get a look-see by Gary Whitehouse: 'My home state, Oregon, isn't well known as a home of the blues. But in fact, there's quite a lot of great blues music being made around here. That was the case even before a certain number of musicians who fled New Orleans in the wake of Katrina settled in Portland, but that event did boost the blues and jazz scenes here ... just an aside. But among some of the better known blues names connected with Oregon are Robert Cray, who lived and played in Eugene and Portland before he hit it big on the national scene, as well as the late great Tom Delay, Linda Hornbuckle, Curtis Salgado and Terry Robb. At any rate, here we have two recent releases by quite different Oregon blues acts, one a solo acoustic guitarist, the other an electric swamp blues duo.' Read his review 'ere!
A recording called Migrations is to the liking of Mike Wilson: 'The Duhks are a five-piece band hailing from Canada, combining traditional instrumentation with some lively, contemporary arrangements. The band has an enviable live reputation, and Migrations captures this essence perfectly. The potent mixture of Tania Elizabeth's powerful fiddle and Leonard Podolak's fluid banjo lend a bluegrass leaning to many of the Duhk's arrangements, whilst Jordan McConnell's uilleann pipes and low whistle add a delicate Celtic flavour. It is Scott Senior's impressive array of percussion that accentuates the bands slightly edgy, contemporary sound, which is further bolstered by Jessee Havey's vibrant and smouldering vocals -- at times offering echoes of Bonnie Raitt's bluesy singing.'
You can't read Summerlong, I'm Afraid You've Got Dragons, or Sweet Lightning yet but you can find out what else Peter has written to date by checking out our special, and I mean special, edition on Peter and his works over thisaway. There's also a splendid interview with Peter, looks at his film work, and a constantly updated forthcoming works page. First pint's on the house after you read this edition!
He came home late, driving very slowly, almost on the shoulder of the road, singing to himself in a peaceful murmur. Joanna would have called from Chicago, left a message and undoubtedly gone to bed by now; he'd call her suitably late in the morning. The night was warm and clear, and nearly starless, owing to the steel dazzle of the full moon, and from the top of his driveway he could see the full spread of the Sound and all the golden walkway to Saturday Seattle. He was about to start the wary descent when he saw the fins.
There were a dozen of them, at least, cruising so close inshore that, even from such a distance he could make out individual nicks and scars in the moonlight. They passed back and forth like shining sailboats, like dancers: unhurried, unthreatening, not drifting but waiting. He could never have distinguished the rescued young orca of a week before from the rest, but there was no mistaking the slender figure poised on the slanting bluff that had long since been Joanna's daffodil bed, before a tremor had sliced it in two. Lioness Lazos was standing there, not at all like a witch, arms raised to order tides and powers to her bidding, but as calmly as the great dorsals themselves: greeting, perhaps, but never commanding, even seeming at one point to wave them diffidently away. And still the orcas danced for her. — from the upcoming novel Summerlong, by Peter S. Beagle