Greek Sci-Fi

This Immortal

By Roger Zelazny

Published by iBooks

Copyright: © 2011

Original Book Publication Date: 1966

Roger Zelazny was a giant of science fiction and fantasy from the mid-1960s till his death in 1995 at the age of 58. For 42 years, beginning slow, learning to crawl in 1953, sprinting from the mid-60s onward, his prodigious writing produced 46 novels and novellas, more than 140 short stories, and plethora of poems, chapbooks, anthologies, and collections which earned him six Hugos and three Nebula Awards.

Zelazny’s prolific output flowed from an inventive mind wrapped around the mythology and literary fiction of the distant past. Homer to Shakespeare, Greek gods to Norse myths — Zelazny’s fictional future was filled with characters reprising roles from civilization’s long-gone coterie of rogues and heroes, some real, most not.

His greatest commercial achievement, the ten novels of Amber weave through the book’s fictional universe’s two true worlds: Amber, an Arthurian legend with Shakespearean Histories and Chaos, Greek myth at the edge of the abyss with all else in between being nothing but shadow of no real substance. Zelazny credits Farmer’s World of Tiers and French legend including the Song of Roland for inspiration in writing Amber with allusion to much that is Shakespeare: Hamlet, As You Like It, Julius Ceasar, and many of the other Histories and Romances. With an M.A. in Jacobean literature and a love of poetry it takes little imagination to suspect the shadows of Amber may also have a connection to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 53:

What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you but one, can every shadow lend.

This Immortal or …And Call Me Conrad is a story of Greek myth meeting nuclear Armageddon of Earth. With the remaining population of a couple million living in the few places left on Earth that aren’t toxic, the galactic future appears to belong to the Vegans. The Vegans, from the star system of Vega, who may incidentally have been herbivores, were blue skinned aliens preferring humans as a source of cheap labor and prostitution and not much else. A Vegan author has come to Earth to write a book on the remaining locations of civilizational wonder left on the planet. He has requested that Conrad serve as his tour guide.

Conrad or Konstatin Nomikos, a young man, a rather ugly young man of innumerable years bearing a mysterious past would rather not. Would rather not serve as a tour guide. Would rather not serve as protector of a blue alien that Conrad’s former freedom party wishes to kill. But he does because he is curious, and it may be important.

With promises to protect and to serve Conrad, the blue alien, a few old acquaintances from his old freedom party and a hired assassin set off to survey the Earth’s past glories.

The story plays out as a film noir in words. A detective novel solving mysteries that may or may not be crimes. A cynical protagonist questioning motivations of all. A page-turner of mutant battles, robot wrestling, life squabbles, and glib dialogue. A piece-by-piece narrative of what Conrad wants and who he is. All brought to you through the lens of ancient Greek gods, myth, and literature.

Major Awards:

  • 1966 Hugo Novel Award for: …And Call Me Conrad (published in book form as This Immortal)
  • 1966 Nebula Novelette Award: The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
  • 1966 Nebula Novella Award: He Who Shapes
  • 1968 Hugo Novel Award: Lord of Light
  • 1976 Hugo and Nebula Novella Award: Home Is the Hangman
  • 1984 Hugo Novelette Award: Unicorn Variation
  • 1986 Hugo Novella Award: 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai
  • 1987 Hugo Novelette Award: Permafrost


Novels and Novellas:

  • 1965…And Call Me Conrad
  • 1966 This Immortal (book form of the serialized …And Call Me Conrad)
  • 1966 The Dream Master
  • 1967 Lord of Light 
  • 1969 Creatures of Light and Darkness
  • 1969 Isle of the Dead (Francis Sandow)
  • 1969 Damnation Alley
  • 1970 Nine Princes in Amber (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1971 Jack of Shadows
  • 1972 The Guns of Avalon (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1973 Today We Choose Faces
  • 1973 To Die in Italbar (Francis Sandow)
  • 1975 Sign of the Unicorn (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1976 Deus Irae (co-authored with Philip K. Dick)
  • 1976 Home is the Hangman
  • 1976 Doorways in the Sand
  • 1976 Bridge of Ashes
  • 1976 The Hand of Oberon (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1978 The Courts of Chaos (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1979 Roadmarks
  • 1980 Changeling (Wizard World)
  • 1981 Madwand (Wizard World)
  • 1981 The Changing Land 
  • 1982 Coils (co-authored with Fred Saberhagen)
  • 1982 Dilvish, the Damned
  • 1982 Eye of Cat
  • 1985 Trumps of Doom (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1986 Blood of Amber (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1987 Sign of Chaos (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1987 A Dark Traveling
  • 1989 Knight of Shadows (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1989 Wizard World (omnibus)
  • 1990 The Mask of Loki (co-authored with Thomas T. Thomas)
  • 1990 The Black Throne (co-authored with Fred Saberhagen)
  • 1991 Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (The Millennial Contest co-authored with Robert Sheckley)
  • 1991 Prince of Chaos (Chronicles of Amber)
  • 1992 Flare (1992) (co-authored with Thomas T. Thomas)
  • 1992 Here There Be Dragons (written 1968/69)
  • 1992 Way Up High (written 1968/69)
  • 1993 If at Faust You Don’t Succeed (The Millennial Contest co-authored with Robert Sheckley)
  • 1993 A Night in the Lonesome October
  • 1994 Wilderness (1994) (co-authored with Gerald Hausman)
  • 1995 A Farce to Be Reckoned With (The Millennial Contest co-authored with Robert Sheckley)
  • 1998 Psychoshop (co-authored with Alfred Bester)
  • 1997 Donnerjack (posthumous collaboration with Jane Lindskold)
  • 1999 Lord Demon (posthumous collaboration with Jane Lindskold)
  • 2009 The Dead Man’s Brother (written in 1971)

Short Stories:

  • 1953 Conditional Benefit
  • 1954 And the Darkness is Harsh
  • 1954 Mr. Fuller’s Revolt
  • 1955 Youth Eternal
  • 1958 The Outward Sign
  • 1962 Horseman!
  • 1962 Passion Play
  • 1962 The Teachers Rode a Wheel of Fire
  • 1962 Moonless in Byzantium
  • 1963 On the Road to Splenoba
  • 1963 Final Dining
  • 1963 The Borgia Hand
  • 1963 A Thing of Terrible Beauty
  • 1963 Circle has Her Problems
  • 1963 The Malatesta Collection
  • 1963 The Stainless Steel Leech
  • 1963 Monologue for Two
  • 1963 Threshold of the Prophet
  • 1963 A Museum Piece
  • 1963 Mine is the Kingdom
  • 1963 King Solomon’s Ring
  • 1963 The Misfit
  • 1963 A Rose for Ecclesiastes
  • 1963 The Great Slow Kings
  • 1964 Lucifer
  • 1964 The Salvation of Faust
  • 1964 The New Pleasure
  • 1964 The Monster and the Maiden
  • 1965 But Not the Herald
  • 1965 He Who Shapes (shorter version of The Dream Master)
  • 1965 The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
  • 1965 Passage to Dilfar (Dilvish)
  • 1965 Of Time and Yan
  • 1965 The Furies
  • 1965 The Drawing
  • 1965 Thelinde’s Song (Dilvish)
  • 1965 Devil Car (Sam Murdock)
  • 1966 Synopsis of Part One…And Call Me Conrad (became This Immortal)
  • 1966 Comes Now the Power
  • 1966 Love is an Imaginary Number
  • 1966 Divine Madness (republished by Lightspeed Magazine 2018)
  • 1966 For a Breath I Tarry
  • 1966 The Bells of Shoredan (Dilvish)
  • 1966 Late, Late Show
  • 1966 This Moment of the Storm
  • 1966 The House of the Hanged Man
  • 1967 The Knight for Merytha (Dilvish)
  • 1967 Dawn (Lord of Light)
  • 1967 The Man Who Loved the Faioli 
  • 1967 In the House of the Dead (excerpt from Creatures of Light and Darkness)
  • 1967 Angel, Dark Angel
  • 1967 Damnation Alley
  • 1967 The Last Inn on the Road (with Dannie Plachta)
  • 1967 A Hand Across the Galaxy
  • 1967 Death of the Executioner (Lord of Light)
  • 1968 Dismal Light (Francis Sandow)
  • 1968 Heritage 
  • 1968 Stowaway 
  • 1968 Corrida 
  • 1968 He That Moves 
  • 1968 Song of the Blue Baboon 
  • 1968 Creatures of Light
  • 1969 The Eve of RUMOKO (Nemo)
  • 1969 The Steel General
  • 1969 Creatures of Darkness 
  • 1969 Come to Me Not in Winter’s White (with Harlan Ellison)
  • 1969 The Year of the Good Seed (with Dannie Plachta) 
  • 1970 The Man at the Corner of Now and Forever
  • 1970 My Lady of the Diodes 
  • 1970 Alas! Alas! This Woeful Fate 
  • 1971 Sun’s Trophy Stirring 
  • 1971 Add Infinite Item 
  • 1973 ‘Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k (Nemo)
  • 1974 The Engine at Heartspring’s Center 
  • 1975 Home is the Hangman (Nemo)
  • 1975 The Game of Blood and Dust 
  • 1976 The Force That Through the Circuit Drives the Current
  • 1977 No Award 
  • 1977 Is There a Demon Lover in the House? 
  • 1978 Shadowjack (Jack of Shadows)
  • 1978 Stand Pat, Ruby Stone
  • 1979 Halfjack
  • 1979 Go Starless in the Night 
  • 1979 A Very Good Year …
  • 1979 Garden of Blood (Dilvish)
  • 1979 The White Beast (Dilvish)
  • 1980 The Places of Aache (Dilvish)
  • 1980 Exeunt Omnes
  • 1980 Fire and/or Ice 
  • 1980 The George Business 
  • 1981 The Changing Land (Dilvish)
  • 1981 Tower of Ice (Dilvish)
  • 1981 Last of the Wild Ones (Sam Murdock)
  • 1981 Recital 
  • 1981 Walpurgisnacht 
  • 1981 Unicorn Variation 
  • 1981 And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee
  • 1981 The Naked Matador
  • 1981 The Horses of Lir
  • 1981 Madwand (excerpt)
  • 1982 A City Divided (Dilvish)
  • 1982 Devil and the Dancer (Dilvish)
  • 1982 Eye of Cat (excerpt)
  • 1983 Shadowjack (character Outline) 
  • 1983 Mana from Heaven (Magic Goes Away)
  • 1984 Itself Surprised (Berserker with Fred Saberhagen)
  • 1984 LOKI 7281
  • 1985 Dayblood 
  • 1985 A Mars rózsája 
  • 1985 Dreadsong 
  • 1985 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai (Cthulhu Mythos)
  • 1985 Prolog to Trumps of Doom (Amber)
  • 1986 The Bands of Titan 
  • 1986 Permafrost 
  • 1986 Night Kings 
  • 1987 The Sleeper (Wild Cards-Croyd Crenson)
  • 1987 Quest’s End 
  • 1987 Ashes to Ashes (Wild Cards-Croyd Crenson)
  • 1988 Concerto for Siren and Serotonin I-VIII (Wild Cards)
  • 1988 Deadboy Donner and the Filstone Cup
  • 1988 Concerto for Siren and Serotonin (Wild Cards-Croyd Crenson)
  • 1989 Kalifriki of the Thread
  • 1990 The Deadliest Game 
  • 1992 Flare (excerpt with Thomas T. Thomas)
  • 1992 Way Up High
  • 1992 Come Back to the Killing Ground, Alice, My Love (Kalifriki)
  • 1993 The Long Sleep (Wild Card-Croyd Crenson)
  • 1993 Prince of the Powers of This World
  • 1994 The Salesman’s Tale (Amber)
  • 1994 Tunnel Vision
  • 1994 Godson 
  • 1994 The Shroudling and The Guisel (Amber)
  • 1995 Blue Horse, Dancing Mountains (Amber)
  • 1995 Coming to a Cord (Amber)
  • 1995 Epithalamium
  • 1995 The Long Crawl of Hugh Glass
  • 1995 The Three Descents of Jeremy Baker 
  • 1995 Lady of Steel
  • 1995 Postlude (Forever After) 
  • 1995 Prelude the First (Forever After)
  • 1995 Prelude the Second (Forever After)
  • 1995 Prelude the Fourth (Forever After)
  • 1995 Prelude the Third (Forever After)
  • 1996 Hall of Mirrors (Amber)
  • 2000 Lord Demon (excerpt with Jane Lindskold)
  • 2005 A Secret of Amber (Amber. Co-authored with Ed Greenwood between 1977 and 1992)
  • 2009 Sandow’s Shadow (Francis Sandow outline)
  • 2009 Shadowland (Jack of Shadows outline)
  • 2009 The Sleeper (Wild Cards-Croyd Crenson outline)
  • 2009 Hand of the Master
  • 2009 Studies in Saviory
  • 2009 The Great Selchie of San Francisco Bay
  • 2009 The Juan’s Thousandth
  • 2009 There Shall Be No Moon!
  • 2009 Through a Glass, Greenly 
  • 2009 Time of Night in the 7th Room 
  • 2009 Bridge of Ashes (outline) 
  • 2009 Doorways in the Sand (summary) 
  • 2009 Guns of Avalon: Deleted Sex Scene 
  • 2009 The Hounds of Sorrow
  • 2009 The Insider
  • 2009 The Window Washer
  • 2009 Alien Speedway (outline) 
  • 2009 Changeling (film outline) 
  • 2009 Coils (outline) 
  • 2009 Donnerjack, of Virtù: A Fable for the Machine Age (outline) 
  • 2009 Dysonized Biologicals (outline)
  • 2009 Godson: A Play in Three Acts 
  • 2009 Head Count 
  • 2009 The Ahriman Factor (outline) 
  • 2019 Seven Tales of Amber (Amber)


  • 1974 Poems
  • 1980 When Pussywillows Last in the Catyard Bloomed
  • 1981 To Spin Is Miracle Cat
  • 1996 Hymn to the Sun: An Imitation
  • 2011 Collected Stories (poetry and unpublished works)

Snippets and Chapbooks:

  • 1974 Poems
  • 1979 The Bells of Shoredan
  • 1980 For a Breath I Tarry
  • 1980 The Last Defender of Camelot
  • 1981 A Rhapsody in Amber
  • 1986 The Bands of Titan / A Freas Sampler / A Dream of Passion
  • 1991 The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
  • 1992 Here There Be Dragons
  • 1992 Way Up High
  • 1996 Home is the Hangman
  • 1994 And the Darkness is Harsh
  • 2003 The Last Defender of Camelot


  • 1967 Four for Tomorrow
  • 1969 Three for Tomorrow
  • 1971 The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth, and Other Stories 
  • 1976 My Name Is Legion (Nemo)
  • 1978 The Illustrated Roger Zelazny 
  • 1980 When Pussywillows Last in the Catyard Bloomed
  • 1980 The Last Defender of Camelot (Pocket Books and SFBC)
  • 1981 The Last Defender of Camelot (Underwood-Miller)
  • 1981 Today We Choose Faces / Bridge of Ashes (omnibus)
  • 1981 A Rhapsody in Amber
  • 1981 To Spin is Miracle Cat
  • 1981 Alternities #6
  • 1982 Dilvish, the Damned
  • 1983 Unicorn Variations 
  • 1989 Frost & Fire (1989)
  • 1991 Gone to Earth
  • 1992 The Graveyard Heart/Elegy for Angels and Dogs 
  • 1992 Gone to Earth / Author’s Choice Monthly #27 (Pulphouse)
  • 1996 Hymn to the Sun: An Imitation
  • 2001 Isle of the Dead / Eye of the Cat (omnibus)
  • 2002 The Last Defender of Camelot (ibooks)
  • 2003 Manna from Heaven 
  • 2003 To Die in Italbar / A Dark Traveling (omnibus)
  • 2005 The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth, and Other Stories
  • 2009 The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny
    • Volume 1: Threshold
    • Volume 2: Power & Light
    • Volume 3: This Mortal Mountain
    • Volume 4: Last Exit to Babylon
    • Volume 5: Nine Black Doves
    • Volume 6: The Road to Amber
  • 2018 The Magic – October 1961-October 1967
  • 2022 The Scarlet Lady
  • 2022 Kalifrike


  • 1953 Thurban 1 #3
  • 1955 Senior Scandals 
  • 1964 The Graveyard Heart (Party Set)
  • 1968 Nebula Award Stories Three
  • 1968 Nozdrovia #1
  • 1989 He Who Shapes / The Infinity Box (with Kate Wilhelm)
  • 1990 Elegy for Angels and Dogs / The Graveyard Heart (Party Set with Walter Jon Williams)
  • 1990 Home is the Hangman / We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line (with Samuel R. Delany)
  • 1995 Forever After 
  • 1995 Warriors of Blood and Dream (with Martin H. Greenberg)
  • 1995 Wheel of Fortune 
  • 1996 The Williamson Effect
  • 2017 Shadows and Reflections: Stories from the Worlds of Roger Zelazny
  • 2022 The Night Kings and the Heirs


  • 1988 Roger Zelazny’s Visual Guide to Castle Amber (with Neil Randall)


Biography and Tributes:


(The 1988 picture of Roger Zelazny comes from his Wikipedia page.)

Words Without Letters

Six Novels in Woodcuts

By Lynd Ward

Published by Library of America

Copyright: © 2010

Lynd Ward was born in Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century, a son of a Methodist minister who became the first chairman of the ACLU, Harry Ward. Lynd inherited his father’s socialist-communist beliefs which he liberally infused into his books, usually without any pretense of subtlety.

After graduating with a fine arts degree from Columbia Teachers College he with his wife immediately left for Germany where he studied etching and wood engraving at the National Academy of Graphic Arts and Bookmaking. While in Germany he stumbled across a novel by a Flemish artist, Franz Masereel which was done entirely in woodcuts without words, showing him the path to his future.

Lynd and his wife returned to the States in 1927 and a few years later America’s and Ward’s first wordless woodcut novel appeared in 1929: ‘Gods’ Man’. ‘Gods’ Man’, a Faustian tale in 139 engraved woodblocks made Ward’s name synonymous with graphic novels and woodcuts.

Ward went on to create five more woodcut novels plus two more that he never finished. The second novel, ‘Madman’s Drum’ revolved around a slave trader and the evil he brought into his family. ‘Wild Pilgrimage’ brings a blue-collar worker face to face with the responsibilities of life. ‘Prelude to a Million Years’ is the second shortest novel at 30 engravings that Ward produced which attempted to find beauty in a world of ugly. The shortest novel, ‘Song Without Words’ consisting of twenty-one woodcuts, came next, drawing a picture of a woman’s fear of bringing a newborn into a less than perfect world. His final book was his epic ‘Vertigo’ in 230 engravings telling the story of three intertwined individuals coming to grips with the economic realities of the Great Depression.

Except for ‘Gods’ Man’ which was printed on Black Thursday, the day that brought the world the Great Depression, all the other novels were created during the 1930’s providing a backdrop for Ward’s often dark, fatalistic novels.

Lynd Ward’s novels usually take more than one ‘reading’ to formulate the story he is drawing for you. With multiple readings you may reach the meaning he intended but I had more fun creating my own story from his black and white visions.

(The woodcut in the upper right is a self-portrait of Ward as a young man. The skeleton in the top hat is from his first novel, ‘Gods’ Man’.)

Class and Money

By Anthony Trollope

Published by Norilana Books

Copyright: © 2007

Original Copyright: © 1858

Anthony Trollop

Anthony Trollop was a successful English Victorian novelist with a bibliography that stretches to almost ninety novels and short stories plus numerous articles, letters, and a couple of plays. Before he obtained fame as a writer, he was unsuccessful in about everything else including politics, prostrating himself for a seat in the House of Commons in which he came in fourth in a field of, well, four.

His first major success as a writer came with his fourth novel in 1855, ‘The Warden’, the first book in the Barsetshire series, a collection of novels that made him famous and what he is most remembered for 125 years later. The series, which are loosely connected and can be read in any order, consist of six novels set in the fictional English county of Barsetshire. The county was a fictional composite recollection of his travels into the English countryside observing the bucolic, but poor life of the peasants juxtaposed with the landed gentry and nobility of 19th century England. The Chronicles of Barsetshire as the series came to be known deals almost exclusively with the Church of England clergy and landed gentry with peasantry narratives sporadically thrown in for local color. The gentry were a class below the British peerage but due to ownership of land were occasionally above them in wealth if not status.

Doctor Thorne is the third novel in the Barsetshire series and is considered the best of the six. The novel revolves around the lives of Squire John Gresham’s of Greshamsbury family and their physician, Doctor Thorne, and his niece Mary. Gresham is slowly selling off his estate to pay debts, leaving little for his oldest son Frank to inherit in the years to come or for the family to live on in months to come. The only solution is for Frank to marry money. Frank loves Mary but Mary has no title or money. The story progresses as expected but the read is a romp anyway.

A fictional Map of Barsetshire – After Trollop – drawn by Spencer Van Bokkelen Nichols in 1925, painted by George Frederick Muendel. 

God and Greene

The Power and the Glory

Original Title: The Labyrinthine Ways

By Graham Greene

Published by The Viking Press

Copyright: © 1968

Original Copyright © 1940

Graham Greene traveled to the back water, impoverished central Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas in 1937 to research religious, anti-Catholic persecution by the country’s political rulers, army, and police. Repellent politics and dysentery almost sent him packing for his native England, but a tawdry, although meritorious, liable suit being litigated in the British courts between the then precocious child star, Shirley Temple, and Greene over his ill-advised movie review of the star, promised him plenty of scorn, justified mockery, and a room at a London gaol if he went back home. He chose to keep digging for local color and background in Mexico over the less inflammatory subject of religious bigotry.

Since the days of Mexican independence in 1810, anti-clericalism, anti-Catholicism has lurked around every bell tower and dusty church courtyard in the country. Challenges to the Church’s authority became constant as time progressed. Politicians with few opportunities to fleece the ubiquitous poor were envious of its land holdings and material wealth. And predictably the Church could be counted on to be its own worst enemy.

In 1913, Victoriano Huerta seized the presidency in a bloody coup that deepened the ongoing revolution and rebellion led by Emilio Zapata. Huerta’s ruthless tactics in suppressing Zapata’s rebellion were not popular and he had few friends within or outside of Mexico, but the Catholic Church supported him. In 1914 Huerta through the loss of support fled the country and died in an U.S. Army jail in 1916.

Graham Green in 1975

After the revolution, a new Mexican constitution was approved in 1917 that included the anti-Catholic Article 130 which codified that the church, and the state were to remain separate. It obligated state registration of all churches and religious groupings along with restrictions on all priests and ministers. The restrictions prohibited priests and ministers from holding public office, campaigning on the behalf of political parties or candidates, and they could not criticize government officials.

A few years later in 1924 a new president of Mexico, Plutarco Elias Calles, sanctioned through executive decree strict and absolute enforcement of Article 130 which became known as Calles’ Law in 1926 or the “Law for Reforming the Penal Code”. Calles’ Law provided specific penalties for priests who violated Article 130. A priest wearing clerical dress outside of a church was to be fined five hundred pesos, a huge sum that a priest was unlikely to have the means to pay. Criticizing a government official was penalized with a 5-year prison term. Most states chose not to see the priests’ transgressions, and the citizens chose not to speak of priestly trespasses of Calles’ Law. The state of Tabasco though chose law, and lucre, over morality, enforcing the decree with a lustful zeal, adding further insult by requiring priests to marry.

Calles’ Law initiated almost immediately the Cristero War, hostilities starting in 1926 and ending in 1929 with an U.S. brokered peace between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church, although the government continued to prosecute the war well into the 1930s, murdering an additional 5-6000 Cristero soldiers and leaders after the official end of hostilities. The law and the war reduced the number of practicing priests by over 90 percent with only 335 priests, forty believed to have been killed, remaining to administer to fifteen million people, with more than 70 percent being Catholic. It is believed that 5 percent of the population fled to the United States, during and immediately following the war.

Sinners abound in “The Power and the Glory”. The protagonist and anti-hero, an unnamed whiskey priest sinner looking for redemption. An antagonist and foil, a policeman sinner seeking social justice where the ends justify the means. A contagonist, a half-Indian peasant sinner seeking acceptance and awards. Numerous sidekicks who are all sinners, venial sinners but still sinners, all seeking a life that is less hard, less exhausting.

A temptress and confidant who is not a sinner, but the protagonist’s conscience and salvation. A temptress and confidant guiding the whiskey priest, forgiving him his follies, moving him slowly to accept his fate, his calling, to be a man of God for God.

Graham Green was a nominal Catholic, an agnostic Catholic was his term, when he set out to write this book, but his interactions with the simple and God loving peasants of Tabasco brought him to an understanding with Christianity. An understanding towards a belief and faith in someone more powerful and glorified than oneself.

Master of the Short

The Tales of Guy de Maupassant

By Guy de Maupassant

Translations by Lafcadio Hearn and others

Published by The Easton Press

Copyright: © 1977

Guy de Maupassant was a man of stories, a writer with few equals, and he shared his talent with the world: voluminously and consummately.

His passion was the short story, writing 300 beautifully succinct stories of love and hate, mirth and war, drama and satire, a fertile mind cataloguing an earthly no-frills style of life, a life of intensity and expanse with little or no satisfaction. He wrote an astounding 295 of his short stories in the last 11 years of his abbreviated life of 43 years. His pen brought him wealth and fame, but life brought him a wordless ending of pain and madness.

The female form was likely his only happiness, stating, “The essence of life is the smile of round female bottoms, under the shadow of cosmic boredom.” adding, ” Love always has its price, come whence it may.” Death haunted him, commenting, “The past attracts me, the present frightens me, because the future is death.” followed with an epitaph, which he wrote: “I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.” A very heavy price to pay for talents that came from God.

The Stoic

Decline and Fall

By Evelyn Waugh

Published by Everyman’s Library

Copyright: © 1993

Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was selected by Time magazine, in 2016, as 97th most read female writer on college campuses. Number 1 is a non-fiction manual on writing, well, non-fiction. So much for layers and layers of fact checkers and editors not to mention the gross ineptitude of today’s journalists. Waugh’s fifth novel ‘Scoop‘, a farcical and possibly autobiographical look at newsrooms and their paid occupants, should be required reading for our exalted modern journalists if for no other reason than to familiarize themselves with one of the 20th century’s best writers–and humor. The less than flattering reviews by journalists of the book ‘Scoop’ suggests that as a profession, journalists are incapable of recognizing or appreciating sarcasm and irony, much in a similar vein of reasoning that has reporters fact checking the Babylon Bee or the Onion.

Leaving the critique of Time magazine’s prowess to others, Evelyn Waugh authored 13 novels or 10 novels and 1 trilogy from 1928 through 1961 plus numerous short stories, letters, travel logs, essays, articles, reviews, diaries and an autobiography. By the numbers a productive life of writing, which after publication of the novel ‘Brideshead Revisited‘ also made him a wealthy man.

Waugh’s ‘Decline and Fall’ is also a partially autobiographical farce chasing early 20th century English society down the rabbit hole with relish and ridicule. For some reason Waugh had to tell his readers that the book was meant to be funny, and it is, very. Maybe journalists are not the only ones having difficulty with recognizing humor.

Paul Pennyfeather, ‘Decline and Fall’s’ luckless, not really a hero, protagonist, plays it straight for a large cast of stooges, miscreants, and demented characters bent on bringing him down to their level, whether deliberately is not necessarily pertinent to this story. Philbrick, a butler, living more biographies in his head than a school library. Mr. Grimes, a peg-legged opportunist taking the profession of teaching to lengths not attainable by those who went before him. Pendergast, synonymous with a bad toupee, finds his doubts about scripture inimical with his chosen profession as man of the cloth. Pennyfeather joins them all, without censure, in their world much below where he would rather be.

Boo in the Night

Ghosts: A Treasury of Chilling Tales Old and New

Edited By Marvin Kaye

Published by Borders Classics

Copyright: © 2005

A ghostly collection of 53 short stories of the supernatural by authors known and unknown, many memorable, a few best forgotten, the frightening mingled with the ridiculous, overall, a compilation worthy of nighttime reading and bedtime frights.

This selection of stories mainly spans from the 1850s through the 1980s, with the big gun authors of Dickens, Wilde, Irving, Asimov, and Collins providing the most entertaining accounts of ghosts and their distressed victims. Dickens supplies the best punch line ending – ever in the ‘The Tale of Bagman’s Uncle”. Wilde’s ‘The Canterville Ghost” keeps it on the light side with a ghost slowly losing his mojo. Washington Irving’s contribution is from one of his lesser known, but delicious tales: ‘The Tale of the German Student’, a cautionary story for the good Samaritan. ‘Legal Rites’ is a tongue in check, but altogether a very original story by the sci-fi master Isaac Asimov featuring a ghost deciding that an imaginative lawyer trumps a milquetoast haunting.

There is more in this book of short stories, much more with plenty of authors that you have known since your younger years and a few that will turn out to be new friends in the future. The tales are all fun and short enough to read to go to sleep by. Sweet dreams.

Lawyer Stories Three

Sparring Partners

By John Grisham

Published by Doubleday

Copyright: © 2022

A trilogy of quick read novellas, although the form is closer to that of short stories; few characters with limited development and abrupt, into the concrete wall endings, detailing new tales of old friends and old tales of corrupt and feeble lawyers all wrapped around a common theme of dysfunctional families.

Digressing a bit, estimates for the number of books ever written, from Gilgamesh and the Book of Genesis, 3500-4000 years ago to the present day exceed 100,000,000 to maybe 150,000,000 with a couple million new titles added every year. I insert this tidbit of data into the discussion because I seldom read anything current in fiction for the simple reason that the catalogue of available books is unimaginably vast, hopelessly unreadable quantities with literature quality spanning parsecs of space and ink. Books of fiction that remain in print for 25-30 years and longer commonly have survived because a large audience has voted favorably on the work. Waiting for others to pass judgement relieves me of the painful task choosing good reads.

Returning to Grisham’s Sparring Partners, as I was hopping around Texas spending uneventful nights alone in uninteresting hotels, I went looking for a quick read from a known author in a shop selling mainly current best sellers. From the cover of this book the publishers state that Grisham has an unbroken string of 47 best sellers, a decent record for believing that the Sparring Partners would provide a fair bit of entertainment, possible reading enjoyment. The jury is still out but reverting to reading old books seems prudent.

A Bygone Era

Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book

By Molly Rockwell

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Copyright: © 1977

A beautiful collection of Norman Rockwell’s Christmas and winter scenes interspersed with Christmas stories, music, and more that you have experienced and loved since you were a little, wide-eyed tyke waiting for permission to tear into your presents.

The book not only contains some great Rockwell snapshots of Christmas but timeless stories of Christmas cheer, that if you haven’t read you should, just for the heart-warming smiles they will bring to your fuddy duddy lips and cheeks. O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi is here along with Moore’s Night Before Christmas, Dicken’s Christmas goblin short story, Virginia’s, “Is there a Santa Claus?” letter, and the newspaper’s response, all to remind and reinforce why Christmas is the world’s favorite holiday.

This book was first published in 1977, which is the one I have, with various reprintings and content expansions through the years, the most recent edition coming out in 2009. The new edition contains additional Rockwell paintings along with poster size prints that are ready for framing. Merry Christmas.

Sketches of Melville’s Mind

Herman Melville Short Stories

Written by:  Herman Melville

Published by:  Easton Press

Copyright:  © 1996B Melville Short Stories

Herman Melville lived for 72 years and 59 days, all in the 1800s, beginning and ending in New York City, but in-between, traveling the worlds oceans and terrains; experiencing, and surviving, some of the greatest land and sea adventures ever told. Many of these affairs surviving as autobiographical elements within in his fictional writings.

As an illustration, the tale of Moby-Dick follows from his real-life quests, on various sea-boats, usually as a deck hand, including the 1820 sinking of the whaler, Essex, going down in the Pacific Ocean; all due to the foul mood and intransigence of a opprobrious sperm whale. Immediately pivoting from the fortuity of surviving the fantastical attack of a mad, but likely, provoked, cetacean; the equally extraordinary tale of the shipwrecked and hapless sailors continues; surviving on the open sea, aboard the whaler’s life-boats, combating storms, thirst, illness, starvation and cannibalism. The totality of the experience should have shattered the sanity of the cursed swabs, but didn’t–maybe. (Melville was subjected to a battery of inconclusive psychiatric  tests in the early 1850s: his friends and family believing that his behavior was not normal.) Pi knows this adventure.  Eventually the few remaining survivors are rescued off the coast of South America, leading Melville to eventually write the knowingly, not-so-absurd tale, of a sea-captain seeking revenge on a whale.

Easton Press’s collection of Melville’s short stories is a seemingly, eclectic compilation of sketches and traditional prose; exhibiting his talent and genus for writing descriptive narratives and telling stories; weaving themes of morality and politics into everything he created. He wrote 17 short stories in his lifetime, 13 of which are collected here. The 13 stories were published between 1853 and 1856, with the exception of The Two Temples, which was published posthumously in 1924.  These short stories were written during the period when Melville’s star, as a writer of fiction, had dimmed to a feeble ember, and which did not flare up again until after his death, some 30 years later in the 1920s.  Melville’s writing, to the uninitiated, can leave one exhausted and bewildered with his detailed narratives, and subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, symbolism and irony. Successfully reading Melville requires a summary of the story beforehand, and an understanding of the themes buried in his tales.  Surely a paradoxical statement, but one that will magnify your enjoyment, and comprehension of his works.  With that in mind, I offer up below, a brief review of the short stories in this collection; listed in their order of appearance in the book.

Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street,  originally published in 1853 in Putman’s Monthly Magazine. Ignored mostly by the public at the time of publication, it is now recognized as one of the greatest of all time, American short stories; hilarious and poignant, a tale interpreted to mean just about anything the critics and the readers want it to mean. Bartleby will surely make you a fan of Melville.

Bartleby is a scrivener, a copier of legal documents, who is hired by unnamed lawyer and proceeds to do extraordinary and prodigious amounts of work for his master until he “prefers not to”, at which point Bartleby begins his descent into a void, a nullity of existence.

The Encantadas, originally published in 1854 in Putman’s Monthly Magazine. The Encantadas or The Enchanted Isles is a collection of 10 narrative “sketches” describing life, habitat, and terrain of the Galapagos Islands, mostly from a downbeat, life as a tragedy, viewpoint. The “sketches” were a critical success, likely due to the similarity of the descriptive prose with his earlier, successful novels; though that success did not translate into financial prosperity.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! or The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano, originally published in 1853 in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.  A little read, and little understood story about a man in the depths of depression uplifted by the crowing of a cock. Interpreted variously as a criticism of transcendentalism, a critique in the belief that man is naturally good; or alternately, as a satire on the Puritan sexual mores of the early 19th century.  These critiques are way too deep into the essence of symbols when the story appears to be just a simple expression of hope.  The story ends with an inscription on a tombstone placed over the grave of the cock and its owner’s family, erected by the narrator of the story:

O death, where is thy sting                                                               O grave, where is thy victory

These are not sophomoric expressions of sexuality or words of wickedness or thoughts of hopelessness. Is it not likely that the author intends them to mean that death is not to be feared? That you do not lose the fight, your fight, upon entering a grave? That death is just another beginning, a continuation of the journey.

The Two Temples, originally published in 1924 in the book Billy Budd and Other Prose Pieces.  This story was written in the 1850s but Harper’s wouldn’t publish it  because of its potential to upset the religious sensitivities of the time.  This tale is all about contrasts and beliefs. Contrasts within the practice of the Christian faith, where the meek shall inherit the Earth and the proud and mighty shall perish; the low is high and the high is low. Contrasts of religion versus the arts; religion’s aversion to the low, the arts acceptance of everyone. Beliefs that the wolf and the lamb should lay down together. Beliefs that charity is not an at-arm’s-length transaction but a clasp and a hug of your fellow, suffering brother.

Poor Man’s Pudding and Rich Man’s Crumbs, originally published in 1854 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Another tale in two parts describing the perceptions of the rich about the poor’s needs and wants. The stories detail an American rich man’s pompous, and false, perspective on the quality of a poor family’s meals while cooking with the meager ingredients of their pantry,  and an urban Londoner guide’s, smug, and erroneous, thoughts on feeding the poor with the wealthy’s leftovers. A tale defining false charity and false charity is no charity.  A tale of understanding by walking in foreign shoes.

The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids, originally published in 1855 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Again a tale in two parts comparing the lives of educated, rich bachelors in London with the menial work of young maids in a New England paper mill. The narrator, the same for both stories, describes the care-free life of unmarried Englishmen, unencumbered by the responsibilities of wives or children.  The flip side is of young, unmarried women living a meaningless existence making paper from the unwanted clothing of the rich.  The maids assist the bachelors in maintaining their uncomplicated and comfortable lives while the bachelors contribute to the maids’ living hell, Tartarus, by casting their unfashionable used clothes to the them.

The Lightning-Rod Man, originally published in 1854 by Putman’s Monthly Magazine.

What grand irregular thunder, thought I, standing on my hearthstone among the Acroceraunian hills, as the scattered bolts boomed overhead and crashed down among the valleys, every bolt followed by zigzag irradiations, and swift slants of sharp rain, which audibly rang, like a charge of spear-points, on my low shingled roof. I suppose, though, that the mountains hereabouts break and churn up thunder, so that it is far more glorious here than on the plain.

Thus begins the straightforward tale of a lightning rod salesman showing up on the narrator’s step during a terrific electrical storm, peddling his copper rods while the thunder crashes around the mountain home. The narrator, skeptical of the salesman’s claims, parries the latter’s sales pitch of the horrific outcomes of unprotected lightning strikes with scientific fact and maybe, just a tad of false courage; arguments that produce a vast schism between the two, each believing that the devil exists in the others skin.

The Happy Failure:  A Story of the River Hudson, originally published in 1855 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. A very short story about ambition, a man trying to leave his mark in the world, and failing against a greater ambition; the river’s need to reach its destination.  Fighting the good fight against a superior opponent and rejoicing in the effort of trying, not the conclusion. If you are not the giant, be a happy Lilliputian.

The Fiddler, originally published, anonymously, in 1854 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. A story along similar lines as The Happy Failure, a man’s dreams of greatness are dashed against the unkind, the uncaring, the immovable monolith of opinion, leading to a much-needed re-evaluation of ones life and purpose.  If you write bad poems try playing the fiddle instead. Melville abandoned prose in the late 1850s, became a lecturer, a custom inspector, and wrote bad poetry.

Jimmy Rose, originally published in 1855 by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.  A tale that has been told many times and in many ways; success has many fathers, failure is an orphan. A Londoner, rich and witty, is the toast of town, especially when he is paying, but misfortune strikes, he loses his fortune, and his friends abandon him. Through old age, bereft of friends and money, he retains his cheer and his dignity to the end. Some find this story as an indictment of society’s downward trajectory; an allegorical spin on the decline of morals and religious beliefs. On a simpler level it’s an autobiographical sketch of Melville’s loss of readership, and popularity as an author, with the concomitant loss of financial security, in the 1850s.

The Bell-Tower, originally published in 1855 by Putman’s Monthly Magazine. Bannadonna, an artist creates a bell tower that all of Italy can be proud of, massive and tall, but, unfortunately, not strong enough to support the ill-conceived, even more massive, bell. A story of pride, passion and ambition summed up in the final 3 sentences of the tale:

So the bell was too heavy for the tower. So the bell’s main weakness was where man’s blood had flawed it.  And so pride went before fall.

I and My Chimney, originally published in 1856 by Putnam’s Monthly Magazine.  Melville’s narrator loves his very large chimney and he loves his even bigger house that encircles the chimney.  The narrator’s wife hates the chimney wants to tear it down or at least make it smaller. The narrator loves tradition as he loves his chimney, conservative to his core; a preservationist hoping for continuity of the whole.

In the 1850s, the U.S. was gearing up to tear itself apart, to enter into the largest bloodbath this country has ever known.  Melville expresses his wishes, through the narrator; preserve the chimney, preserve the federal union; preserve the house, preserve the United States. Melville is prescient in his symbolism, publishing this story 2 years prior to Lincoln’s House Divided speech, which he delivered as a campaign speech in Springfield, Illinois. The similarities of story and speech culminate in the best known passage of Lincoln’s address:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

The Apple-Tree Table or Original Spiritual Manifestations, originally published in 1856 by Putman’s Monthly Magazine. Melville layers at least 2 themes into this quaint little tale of ghosts and bugs, all wrapped up in a little apple-tree table, rescued from a dark, dusty attic. The narrator places the cloven-footed apple-table in a prominent location of the family’s parlor and over a few days all hear a distinct tick-tick-tick coming from the petite piece of furniture; a spectral cackling, instilling a creeping fear into the man and his daughter, but not his wife. The mystery of the tick-tick resolves itself as two long, dormant bugs chomp their way to freedom from the wooden confines of the table.

Theme one of the tale, is a composition on gender reversal. The narrator exchanges his masculinity for a more feminine style along with endowing his wife with the more traditional male roles of the husband.  The man wishes to decorate, the woman could care less. The narrator fears the table; the woman looks for a logical explanation. Men and women are not what society says they are, but what they are.

Theme two involves the awakening of the soul.  Shining light, infusing fresh air, into the dark, musty corners of ones mind, creating an atmosphere for spiritual revival; a renewal of cheer and faith, an escape from the cloven, hoofed body of seclusion and depression.

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