Welcome to Green Man

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, Nordic live music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,  Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novels, action figures such as that of Spider-Man, the new Doctor Who series, fiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his Library Apprentices. You’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in the New Library. There’s even stories about the felines here. And you’ll also get to hear music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album.

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What’s New for the 27th of November: sf, mysteries, and an sf mystery; Finnish light jazz and tango, plus music of a leftover nature; autumnal gardening, Oysters with June Tabor; and rhubarb wine?

Sometimes, she reflected, she dressed for courage, sometimes for success, and sometimes for the consolation of knowing that whatever else went wrong, at least she liked her clothes. — Eddi in Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks

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We’ve got our first snow here at the Kinrowan Estate — not that much but enough to turn everything properly white. It was interesting to watch our sheep dogs, Irish wolfhounds all, play in the snow as they’re wont to do.

And there was several attempts to make snow beings of various sorts but the snow wasn’t quite right for that. As for myself, I was content to watch from the Pub here while enjoying an Irish coffee while reading the screenplay for War for the Oaks.

Oh if you’ve not seen it, there is a short trailer that Emma and company made for the novel. It’s quite charming and here it is. The music is by Boiled in Lead. Our review of it is here and well worth reading for all the details about it.

Bjorn, our Estate Brewmaster, five years ago laid down for ageing the elderberry liqueur he’d distilled. If you’d like to join us in the tasting room after you read these notes, I’m sure you’ll find it to your liking!

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April leads off our reviews with an unusual novel from a SF writer doing his only thriller: ‘Dead Man’s Brother is a delight to read — Roger Zelazny’s language and characters seem right at home in this genre — and regrettably over all too fast at less than 300 pages. If only more such jewels were left to unearth…’

Gary says Arkady Martine’s first full length sf tale is a very assured debut. ‘A Memory Called Empire is the first book of a planned trilogy. It won the 2020 Hugo Award for best novel, and deservedly so, for Martine has created in Teixcalaan a unique and complex civilization peopled by memorable characters – and an equally memorable character in this book’s lead, Dzmare. The book’s themes include the trauma inflicted by colonialism, which has become something of a trope (although a necessary one) in modern space opera – but it also delves into complex ideas about language and memory and personality, with a new twist on the old chestnut of free will vs. fate.’

Jennifer gets her greedy little paws on Barbara Monajem’s third Rosie & McBrae Regency mystery, Lady Rosamund and the Plague of Suitors, and gets to watch Rosie wallow in wads of wicked mothers, wealthy would-be wooers, and the wit of that hot Scot, McBrae.

From the Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovitch, Lis has a review of the audiobook of Whispers Under Ground. ‘When Peter Grant’s young cousin, Abigail Kamara, drags him and his colleague and fellow magical apprentice, Leslie May, to a railroad track running under a school playground, they do find the ghost. But the ghost is no threat, and doesn’t seem to be pointing to anything of concern now. So when the first case that lands on his desk on Monday is a man stabbed to death on the track at Baker Street Station, he puts the ghost aside, and sets about finding out why the British Transport Police officer, Sgt. Kumar, thinks there’s something odd about the case in a way that makes it the Folly’s business.

Lis has another of the Rivers of London books for us, Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection: ‘Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London world includes more characters than Peter Grant and his coworkers, and more places than just the neighborhoods and suburbs of London. In this collection, we meet a very odd book with a mind of its own, a drug dealer with a taste for fine cloth who meets an infant river goddess, and a “favourite  uncle” whom one of the teens becomes very concerned about when she realizes he’s not on the family tree and has been visiting at Christmas for generations. And more.’

And then there’s her latest Roger Zelazny reviews which is of Isle of the Dead and Eye of Cat in an omnibus that he did. She says ‘They each feature a solitary adventurer, who faces a new enemy and a world that has changed around him over his long life. William Blackhorse Singer in Eye of Cat is a 20th century Navaho, a hunter and tracker who lived long enough to make a career of stocking interstellar zoos, extending his life still further by relativistic travel. He learns the Navaho are no longer his Navaho people, and one of the “animals” he caught for a zoo is a person who wants to hunt him.

Francis Sandow in Isle of the Dead is also a 20th century man, an adventurer and entrepreneur, who has built conglomerate in which the key component is his work as a worldscaper—building and shaping worlds to suit the client. He’s had enemies over his thousand years of life, but now he has an enemy whose identity and grievance he doesn’t know, a missing friend, and an alien mentor who taught him his art and is now dying—and has something important to tell him first. Sandow is going to confront his values, beliefs, and very identity.’ 

Paul comments that ‘Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man provides the most seductive of settings for a space opera novel – an interplanetary cruise liner with all the trimmings – and deploys that setting to tell a crackerjack murder mystery.’

Robert has two books that are really Autumnal in feel: “Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of KinrowanJack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.‘

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It is Autumn so an English country house murder mystery set in the time of year gets reviewed by David: ‘As traditional as the genres he chose might have been, in Altman’s hand they were turned upside-down, and sideways. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie became anti-hero and opium addict in Altman’s “western” McCabe & Mrs. Miller, set to the music of Leonard Cohen! A laconic Elliott Gould became Raymond Chandler’s private dick Phillip Marlowe in an updated LA for Altman’s “detective” classic The Long Goodbye. Robert Altman has been the most American of directors, and now, in Gosford Park, he takes on the English country house murder mystery. Altman’s Agatha Christie film? What could this mean?’

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Yes, you can keep harvesting this particular plant until Autumn, that huge tropical-leafed plant in your grandmother’s garden with red, red stems, and you chew the stems and your mouth goes dry for the next three days? Jennifer reviews Red Ass Rhubarb wine and gives us a recipe for dark chocolate mousse to eat with it.

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Though not strictly an Autumnal tale, it could be. Mia says that ‘A Circle of Cats is intended to be the prequel to the de Lint/Vess collaboration Seven Wild Sisters. Since I’ve been thwarted in every attempt to procure a copy of Sisters, and haven’t had a chance to read the story sans Vess artwork in Tapping the Dream Tree collection, I have no idea how A Circle of Cats stands in relation to that rare release. In relation to de Lint’s body of work as a whole, and indeed to the field of modern fantasy and fairy tale overall, this piece is simply outstanding.’

PGary has a lot of fun listening to an album by a Finnish band that plays a nostalgic version of Nordic light pop jazz. ‘Life seems very serious these days, and a lot of music is very serious, too. But sometimes it’s good to dive into some music that’s just fun, and that’s what the Nordic ensemble Uusikuu is handing out on a cake platter – their fifth album Karuselli.’

Folks in the U.S. are recovering from their biggest feast day of the year, Thanksgiving, and eating a lot of leftovers. With that in mind we took a tour through the Archives for music reviews that touch on that theme. Let’s see what we have …

‘Whew! Just listing his albums requires effort!’ David said. Who’s he talking about? ‘Anybody named after one of the most beautiful buildings in the world has to be special! Born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks in 1942, Taj Mahal has produced an impressive body of work and has maintained a reputation of one of the music world’s “all ’round good guys,” even amongst his ex-wives!’ See David’s impressive career overview of this international treasure of a musician.

David and his buddy SPike took an extensive look at the underappreciated middle period of The Kinks. Have you encountered SPike yet? You’re about to. David: ‘What separated the Kinks from the rest of the British Invasion were the songs of Ray Davies. While his peers were writing about love and lust Davies focused on the British middle class. His lyrics describing the “Carnaby-tian army” in their fancy duds, the “Waterloo Sunsets,” and “Sunny Afternoon[s]” used satire and wit, and a fair dollop of charm to lift them from the mass of blues-based rock. And the power chords of brother Dave helped!’ SPike: ‘Oh, aye, they @#$%in’ DID!’

David also reviewed Stolen Roses, one of two then extant tributes to the songs of the Grateful Dead. ‘The album begins with a sprightly bluegrass version of “Cumberland Blues” by the Cache Valley Drifters. Jerry Garcia spent his life fascinated with bluegrass. He started out as a bluegrass banjo picker, and ended his career playing something very near to that form with his good friend David Grisman. The Cache Valley Drifters play great!’

While we’re on that subject, Jack reviewed the other Dead tribute, a wonderful affair called Deadicated. ‘If you’re a Dead fan, get ready to really hate me. I truly hate Jerry’s singing as I think he had a weak voice with limited range. I much preferred the instrumentals to the songs because of this. Hell, the best vocalist the Grateful Dead ever had (I’m using their full name as the new version of them that formed this year is called simply the Dead which I suppose makes them something out of a Joyce novel) was Donna Godchaux, a woman whose voice was truly good. Jerry was a great guitarist, but a dreadful singer. What Deadicated does is correct that problem by having bands who have true vocalists sing songs that are classic Grateful Dead material.’

Our man Peter was less than thrilled with a release from one of his (and our) favorite groups, Waterson:Carthy’s Dark Light, ‘From the entertainment point of view, it is a very dour experience. Waterson:Carthy are very brave to bring out this album, for if the album had been put out by someone not so famous or well known, it would get panned! Pains me to say so, as I am normally a great fan, but this may not be the best album Waterson:Carthy have released.’

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Gus, who many of you already know is our longstanding Estate Head Gardener, is one of our excellent storytellers. He has an Autumnal gardening tale for our What Not this time as we approach that season. He leads off his story in this manner: ‘Oh, hello. It’s you again. How is it that every time we meet up, I’m clomping around in muddy boots? Come out to get some fresh air, have you? Give me your name again? I’m Gus, if you remember, the gardener around these parts. Here, I need to head out to the kitchen gardens, come walk with me a bit. They’re behind that wall over there.’

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I think a bit of rather lively music in the form of ‘Red Barn Stomp’ to show us out this edition will do very nicely. Recorded sometime in June of 1990 in Minneapolis by the Oysterband with June Tabor joining them there as well. The lads were on tour in support of their Little Rock to Leipzig album where you can find another version of this tune.

Ian Tefler, a band member, tells me that the name of this piece was chosen to sound trad. It features John Tefler calling the tune and very neatly incorporates the actually trad tune, ‘The Cornish Six-Hand Reel’ in it as well.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Of Puppets and Their Masters (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I was lusting after a wee dram of Laphroig very late one night as I wasn’t sleeping well so I got dressed, left my sweet wife sleeping, and made my way to the Pub. As you know, it never closes, though other than the handful of Neverending Sessions musos, it’s rather quiet in the dead of the night hours. So I was quite surprised to see a fair number of folk there!

I was even more surprised to have The Old Man tending bar and he pointed to a storyteller cloaked in fall colours sitting in the Falstaff Chair near the Fireplace.

She was maybe fifty years old with deep green eyes and long red hair; no ornamentation could be seen and shadows lay deep around her. I saw that there were deep lines on her face, maybe from the sun, maybe from whatever life had tossed at her. Then I noticed she had a bagful of hand puppets: queens, knights, kings, dragons, and Queen Mab only knew what else was in there.

Her voice matched her clothing — like old oak leaves rustling in the wind. I listened carefully and discovered her tale was one of knights unjustly slain, kingdoms lost from sheer stupidity, and justified regicide turned to ashes in the mouth. The story I admit sounded like a combination of something written by William Shakespeare and G.R R. Martin, but her telling was so moving that it mattered nought what the source material was, as her voice and her puppets made it come alive. When her Queen puppet stabbed her king puppet, it seemed as though blood dripped from his back. Her Ghost really looked like it it was semi-transparent and was truly chilling.

I sipped my dram of Laphroig and appreciated the sheer artistry of her show. Then the weirdest thing happened — she went lifeless, all animation gone from her, and she fell slowly to the floor. Out of the deep shadows behind the massive chair, a woman looking much like the puppet that The Storyteller had been stepped out and bowed deeply. As all of us looked on stunned at what happened, both her and her puppets disappeared when The Old Man briefly blinked the Pub lights.

All that was left was a handful of oak leaves swirling in the air in front of her chair.

The Old Man refused to answer any questions. Reynard the next day just smiled and went back to making Irish Coffee for a Pub patron, and Jack when I cornered him in The Library claimed that I’d obviously been too sleepy to see what really happened. I know they know what happened but I’ll be deviled if I know why it’s a secret.

Your puzzled friend, Iain

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What’s New for the 13th of November: SF from G. Willow Wilson, R F Kuang, Emery Robin, Everina Maxwell, Larry Niven, and some detective fiction; Persepolis; Vonnegut-inspired jazz, English and Welsh folk music, Balkan music; truly bad candy; some Tolkieniana, and more

Every book tells a different story to the person who reads it. How they perceive that book will depend on who they are. A good book reflects the reader, as much as it illuminates the author’s text. — Charles de Lint’s The Little Country

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I can smell garlic, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, and even a hint of ginger on the whole baby lamb being slowly cooked as  I approach our Kitchen… All welcome smells, especially on this raw, slefty afternoon on this Scottish estate where the temperature will be hard pressed to reach freezing on this November day. Yes, everything is getting a thin coating of ice too. Nasty indeed.

It’ll be a day of naps, reading and noshing for most of the Estate staff who can avoid going out into the treacherous weather. Rebekah, our newish Kitchen staffer who’s from Haifa, uses a day like this to do a stunning array of Jewish sweets, to wit date-filled hamantash, krembo (a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat), rugelakh, some filled with raspberry jam and some filled with chocolate, and even ma’amoul, small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts.

And that yeasty smell that is ever appreciated is freshly baked whole wheat sourdough rolls more than warm enough still as they are covered with a soft cloth to keep them warm to warrant butter and the jam of your choice on them.Me, I go for them strawberry jam or raspberry jam…  Join me in the Kitchen after you peruse this Edition.

PAre you horrified that you’ll have to wait another whole year for Halloween to come ’round? Fear not! Kestrell brings a review of three timely books: A collection of horror stories, a book on writing horror, and an annotated Lovecraft. Check out her thoughtful review of Al Sarrantonio’s Halloween and Other Seasons, Matt Warner’s Horror Isn’t a Four-Letter  Word, and H. P. Lovecraft and S. T. Joshi’s The Annotated Supernatural Horror In Literature.

Lis says of Larry Niven’s Hugo Award winning Ringworld: ‘Louis Wu is 200 years old, and … bored.When a Puppeteer, a member of a species that’s been absent from Known Space for a bit over 200 years, diverts Louis’ transfer portal shift in the course of his birthday celebration, Louis Wu is ready to be recruited into a new offworld adventure. The fact that this will involve traveling with the Puppeteer, called Nessus; Speaker-to-Animals, a very junior diplomat of the predatory, big-cat-like species humans have been at war with multiple times, the Kzin; and a fellow human, Teela Brown, who is genetically “lucky”; and all of them in an untested, experimental hyperdrive ship much faster than any existing hyperdrives…what could possibly go wrong?’

Now she looks at a novel from G. Willow Wilson, a favorite around here:  ‘Alif the Unseen takes us on a wild ride through life in a Middle Eastern city-state, cyber-duels between State Security and gray hat hackers, jinn, a magic book, Arabic mythology,political chaos, and the difference between infatuation and love.’

Paul exclaims lovingly ‘R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world.’

And he looks at another novel as well: ‘Emery Robin’s debut novel, The Stars Undying, attempts, with uneven success, to transplant the story of Cleopatra and Gaius Julius Ceasar to a space opera setting.’

Warner has a brought few interesting reads. The first is Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell, a return to her sci-fi setting from the previous Winter’s Orbit.

He had good things to say about Loren D. Estleman’s Paperback Jack, starting with the fact the author is ‘best known for his detective novels, and this book brushes closely up against that area without quite matching.’

On the topic of earlier detective novels, E.C.R. Lorac’s These Names Make Clues made an impression as ‘a recently rediscovered or at least republished volume by a popular author.’ At the same time Tasha Alexander’s Secrets of the Nile calls back to an older style.

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Gary has a look at Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock, The Director’s Cut: ‘What started as a three-day music and art festival in the farmlands of upstate New York in July 1969 became one of the touchstones of a generation and an era. This 25th Anniversary “director’s cut” edition of the movie that documented the phenomenon that was Woodstock captures the event in all its sprawling chaos and unlikelihood.’

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Oh, we review some odd things as Denise proves in her review of the Kit Kat Fruity Cereal Candy Bar:  ‘Limited Edition Froot Loops candy? Sure. I’m game. Though I guess KK couldn’t spring for the rights for the official cereal, or didn’t want to do a collab. I can see why. DAMN this smells like candy plastic. You know what I’m talking about; when a food has so many chemical reactions going on that all you can think of is an ’80s Strawberry Shortcake doll and that “strawberry” smell. But with more plastic. It was so weird-in-a-gross-way I was actually scared to bite into this bad boy.’

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Donna took a dive into Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis, which might offer some recent historical background on current events in Iran. ‘Persepolis relates events of Marjane’s childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, living through the so-called Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. It’s sometimes mordantly funny, but more often scary and sad. She and members of her very secular family are often arrested or otherwise persecuted for engaging in activities that violate the rules of the Islamic republic – like neglecting to wear a veil in public, or serving wine at parties.’

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Gary enjoyed the Welsh chamber folk trio Vrï’s Islais a Genir. ‘The multitude of sacrifices people make in everyday life, the oppression of hard and low-paying work, and the way their humanity shines forth through music and song – that’s the spirit and message of Islais a Genir</i> the second release from the Welsh trio VRï.

Gary reviews the influential English folk album, The Watersons’ Frost and Fire: A Calendar of Ritual and Magical Songs, on the occasion the release of a new vinyl LP version. ‘The Watersons – Norma, Mike and Lal Waterson and their cousin, John Harrison, were known for their stunning, muscular four-part vocal performances, usually unaccompanied, of traditional songs from around the U.K. Their importance is hard to overstate.’

Pianist and composer Jason Yeager has created a suite inspired by the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., called Unstuck in Time, played by a nine-piece ensemble. Gary, a big Vonnegut fan himself, says ‘Yeager has very nicely captured Vonnegut’s eccentricity, and his thematic and stylistic depth with a musical pallette to match – aided and abetted by the varied colors and styles accessed by the big band.’

The turning of the weather put us in the mood for some Balkan music, so we combed through the archives for a few reviews.

To Brendan fell the enviable task of reviewing one of the greatest Balkan compilations ever, Balkans Without Borders, which at the time raised funds for Doctors Without Borders (medecins sans frontieres). ‘This CD cuts across the spectrum of Balkan music from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea, from the Ural River to the Ruhr, and stretching even beyond those boundaries. Taken as a whole, it clearly shows the shared musical and cultural heritage that all of the people of the Balkans share, a heritage that, given the current violence of the region, is that much more heartbreaking to witness.’

Big Earl loved the music but not the presentation of One To Remember, a live disc by the American Balkan group Sviraj. ‘This disc is a live recording of a particularly fine performance in November 2000: it is superbly recorded for a live disc (although the bass could be louder). The problem is, as a double disc set, it is far too drawn out. So, by the time the high points come around, like “Niska Banja,” or “Zorice, Zoro Moja,” the songs turn into a blur. The disc never sounds forced or dull, but long-winded.’

Gary had fun with Balkan Jam I, a re-release of an early recording by Sviraj previously available only on cassette. ‘The 15 tracks on Balkan Jam I are full of the kind of passionate performances cited by GMR’s Naomi de Bruyn in her review of Ciganine. This disc came to me without anything in the way of documentation, so I’m relying on my ear, but it seems to draw on much the same sources, particularly Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Romania, Hungary and the Roma. It also includes a cover of Dick Dale’s surf classic, “Miserlou,” sung in some Balkan tongue, with Spanish-style guitar and Balkan-style three-part harmonies. Dudes!’

Gary also enjoyed Many Languages, One Soul, a live recording by a one-off group called Balkan Clarinet Summit. ‘If you at all like instrumental music from southeastern Europe, if you enjoy the sound and versatility of the clarinet, or if you just like wildly eclectic international music – personally, all three describe me – then this Balkan Clarinet Summit disc is a must-have.’

Kim nearly ran out of superlatives in her review of Reptile Palace Orchestra’s We Know You Know. ‘This album is chock full of songs that pique the interest, encased in some fine horns and rhythms that gallop along almost out of control, but never quite. Great fun.’

Naomi had unqualified praise for Sviraj’s disc Ciganine. ‘This CD has 17 tracks, filled with a music containing so much passion it is impossible not to let it work its magic upon you. The lyrics are in both their original tongue and in English, allowing for a complete understanding of the song. The handful of instrumental tracks are delightful in many ways, some with the simplicity, others with their complex arrangements.’

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Our What Not is a rather unusual review today which means Warner has a bit of a treat for us today. For those feeling a bit of Tolkien withdrawal, The One Ring role-playing game, Second Edition can serve as a game manual or enjoyable art book.

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Now let’s have some music to finish out this edition. It’s Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell performing   ‘The Pipes Lament’, a tune written by her,  which was recorded at the Shoreditch Church, London on the 15th of June 2010, should do nicely. Tickell, by the way, connects indirectly to Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel as smallpiper Janey Little in the novel lists Northumbrian Bill Pigg as one of her inspirations to become a musician, something that Tickell also claims.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Foxes

PThough fox hunting by the gentry was common in Scotland for centuries, this Estate never allowed them to be hunted here, so the Estate foxes have thrived. Even when we had a Gameskeeper here, before we abolished that position and created the Estate Head Gardener position that I now hold, they were safe from being hunted.

There are, roughly speaking, two types of foxes here — those who like humans and those who really could do without us. Given the size of the Estate, both types can easily find their preference here. There’s a long history of the human inhabitants here noting in The Sleeping Headehhog who were the foxes they were especially interested in.

There was Tess, who according to the Estate Ghillie, had a burrow down by one of the salmon breeding pools; he fed rabbits to her and her kits during a particularly bad winter; there was the fox that bedded down with the Irish wolfhounds who guarded the sheep; there was one fox that, based on his markings, was estimated to be over thirty years old, an impossible age for a fox, even in captivity; and one Estate Gardener swore he had not been drunk when he had a conversation with a ghost fox out in the Wood.

The foxes that are truly wild are harder to get a handle on as they avoid us at all costs. Some have only been glimpsed, being known as individuals solely because of their unique characteristics, such as the male known as Diamond as he had a perfect white diamond bit of fur on his forehead, or the one called Broad Arrow as he had such a marking on his back.

So if you visit our Estate, do take the time to look for our foxes. It’ll be worth your while to do so.

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What’s New for the 30th of October: Spooks galore! Stephen King, Ellen Datlow, William Gibson; Halloween on screen; bad Dracula; Singing Bones, Metallica on cellos, scary chocolates and more

Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked. — Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree

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Now where I was? Ahhhh, having a pint of  Dark Hollow Stout while enjoying this fine October evening — first frosts and earthy leaf-mould and the bitter tang of wood smoke, and the smell of the winter yet to come — while thinking of what there is for Halloween songs…

I’m now watching with rather great amusement the Mouse in The  Wainscotting musicians — over  pints of Autumn Ale, a libation with a rather earthy taste —  debate what dance tunes they are going to play on All Hallows Eve in the Courtyard where the bonfire will be lit for that most sacred of nights in the Celtic Year. A great deal of thought goes into the set list on the part of the musicians and the caller.

Their list of possible dances so far includes ‘All Saint’s Day’ right after ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, ‘The Black Hag’, ‘The Booship’, ‘The Discorporation’, ‘Draper’s Graveyard’, ‘Gathering Pumpkins’, ‘Ghoul in the Wall’, and ‘Jack O’Lantern’s Health’.  Gus chimed up that’d be appropriate to do ‘ The November Reel’ as a coda after the dance concluded. It was composed by Keona Mundy of Cleia, a brilliant band whose recording he recently heard.

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April observed some thematic similarities in two otherwise disparate Stephen King books: the hefty tome Under the Dome and the slight novella Billy Blockade, which she reviewed together. ‘In both these stories, King effectively portrays the kind of horrors we’d like to believe people wouldn’t inflict on others, and yet they do. His examples may be extremes, but they’re reminders of the fears that lurk in the darker shadows of our psyches.’

And April turned in a hefty tome herself, in the form of a thorough review of the first three books of King’s Dark Tower series: The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, and The Wastelands, the saga of Roland. ‘Roland is the last of a dying breed, the last of a dying age: a worn and weathered man with naught left but his guns, his memories and an unyielding desire, nay, overweening need, to overtake the man in black. We meet Roland as he’s chasing his quarry across a nameless, faceless wasteland, always behind, but slowly, inexorably closing the distance.’

Cat always has good things to say about the anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow, and that includes Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror. ‘Nightmares is a companion volume to an earlier work, Darkness: Two Decades of Horror, which covered the previous twenty years of horror literature. If you’re looking for an excellent look at the last thirty years of horror, I’d say these two volumes will do nicely.’

Lis starts off her her with Ben Aaronovitch’s The October Man (Rivers of London #7.5): ‘ I like the characters, the story is interesting, intricate and satisfying. It’s also quite fun to get the German perspective on the British and the Folly, including Tobias’ study of every detail the Germans have on Detective Constable Peter Grant. It seems there’s a lot of possibility for both rivalry and cooperation between the two magical law enforcement organizations. I’d really like to see some of that.

Let’s not give away what happening in the story Lis reviews of Roger Zelazny‘s A Night in the Lonesome October: ‘ Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event. Jack has a very sharp knife, which he and Snuff use in gathering the necessary ingredients for the ancient and deadly ritual that will be performed on Halloween.’

Speaking of William Gibson (you were, weren’t you – and if not, why not, what with the superb new adaptation of his The Peripheral now airing on Amazon Prime?) our archives contain Wes’s enthusiastic overview of Gibson’s “Sprawl Trilogy” – Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. ‘It challenges while entertaining, and explores cyberspace as if it were Tartarus, a demanding land where ghosts and spirits interact with data, where riches are to be had as credit, or information, where Baron Samedi, Papa Legba, and their cohorts manipulate the land of the living. It is certainly worth reading, and will likely remain a benchmark, a staple of science fiction, for years to come.’

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Denise here. Shh, don’t tell Cat, but I’ve hijacked this edition’s film section. Because what’s better on Halloween than a look at some spooky films? Ready? Let’s go! *cue spooky background music*

First off, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a mix of possession horror and courtroom drama. ‘As children, we all thought about things living in our closet, underneath the bed, or in the basement. Dark, scary things that made us jump into bed, calling for our parents when things became too much to bear. As we got older, creaks in the stairs late at night gave us the chills, and we called out to friends or told ourselves that it wasn’t anything but a sure sign of shoddy home craftsmanship. But are those things signs of the devil among us?’

Next up, something a bit more fun and action-y; Underworld Evolution. ‘This is a good film that only suffers from the potential the first film laid out. A common curse with many sequels, but one that doesn’t harm the basic story of this film . . . if that’s all you’ve got.’

Something for the kiddies, perhaps? Why not try The Haunted Mansion? ‘Stir it up, keep it loud, and everyone will think they’re watching something really cool…. This is a lovely film to look at, but there’s not a lot of substance. Just double-check to make sure any young children you take are up for a pretty good scare.’

And last, but certainly not least, Halloween III. Because the OG Halloween has been done to death, so why not check out the sequel that’s not really a sequel, now that Halloween Kills is currently in theaters? This film’s divisive as hell, but I sure did enjoy myself writing up my thoughts…and though it’s grown on me since, I stand by my words when I first watched this film. ‘There are some reviews that are meant to have you rush to the theater. Others will leave you to decide whether or not to head out to the multiplex (or rent the video). Then there are reviews that serve as warnings, specifically designed to save the movie viewing public unnecessary pain and agony. This review falls into the latter category.’

Gary reviews a film that’s not spooky, but it’s new and timely and currently making the round of festivals, Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi’s Roots Of Fire. ‘Anyone who enjoys Francophone Louisiana roots music and music documentaries in general will love Roots of Fire. The film focuses in particular on the young musicians who are bringing Cajun music into the 21st century, honoring their past and their forbears while moving the music forward and making it their own.’

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Denise has many a Halloween treat – and one trick – for us all this fine day. First off, she digs into a Cadbury Screme Egg. No, not creme. SCREME. ‘I recommend splitting an Egg with a friend, or saving a half for later. I’ve done the stomach work, so you don’t have to overindulge. Unless that’s your thing. Then? Happy Halloween!’

Next, she indulges in a four pack of Chocolats Passion Skulls. ‘The attention to detail is staggering; I can barely draw a straight line, yet these beauties have red in their sockets, golden teeth, and a splash of gold on the “parietal” that could be the sun glinting on them…or the reason for their demise. Six of one, half dozen of the other, I say.’

Need a drink after all that candy? Denise obliges with Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer! (We don’t dig TERFs here, but we do dig interesting mythology…and soda.) ‘Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer is a light, fizzy soda that’s non-alcoholic, for the wee muggles/no-mags in your life. Don’t think that means adults won’t like it, however. As cream-esque sodas go, it’s not that sweet.’

Aiming for something savory rather than sweet? Denise’s review of Aldi’s Happy Farms Preferred Transylvanian-Romanian Cave Cheese is sure to satisfy. ‘There are two types on offer, the regular and “soaked in red wine.” Naturally, the wine version went into my tote.’

Last but not least, a treat that was more of a trick for our stalwart foodie; Dunkin’ Donuts’ Spider Donut. ‘Impressive, no? No. It’s a mess. Somewhere, Mary Berry is sobbing.’

Whatever you decide to eat and drink this fine Halloween, have a wonderfully spooky time!

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If you’re looking for a graphic treatment of the story of Vlad the Impaler, the historical ruler who was the purported inspiration for the character we’ve come to know as Dracula, Robert has some advice for you: Don’t look for it in Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón’s Vlad the Impaler: The Man Who Was Dracula. ‘The characters are cardboard, the action is trite, the graphic and narrative elements are a mismatch, and it’s all thrown into perspective by the appearance of the Count Dracula — or a caricature, at least — in the last two pages. This book has to be a put-on.’

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A new recording, Sweet Tooth deftly blends Indigenous music with folk, jazz, hymns, field recordings and more, Gary says. ‘Aptly described as “a suite for Indigenous resistance,” this suite from Wabanaki jazz bassist, composer, and songwriter Mali Obomsawin is all about the way Indigenous peoples’ adaptation and resilience have fueled their art and culture – in this case, specifically of Wabanaki people.’

Gary reviews a new release from a new ensemble. Bach to Folk is by Lodestar Trio, three fiddlers from Norway, Germany and Sweden. ‘These days I particularly enjoy music that combines roots or folk music with other traditions including jazz and classical. The musicians of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland seem particularly adept at this sort of thing: Norwegian guitarist Jakob Bro, the Swedish ensemble Väsen, Finnish accordionist Maria Kalaniemi … the list is long and includes a lot of fiddlers. Add to the list Lodestar Trio.’

Gary reviews Love Hurts, and he found it not painful at all. ‘The third studio album by Finland’s folk quartet Enkel is an altogether enjoyable affair. Enkel is Finnish for angel, and Leija Lautamaja, Miia Palomäki, Maija Pokela, and Iida Savolainen indeed sing like angels, sometimes solo or in duet, sometimes all four together in the intricate and rhythmic harmonic style that’s made other Finnish group popular worldwide. In addition, two of them play melodeons, one the viola, and one the kantele, a dulcimer-like affair also known as a psaltery.’

From the archives, we found a few reviews that felt right for the current holiday season:

Big Earl had mixed feelings about Firedancing, a CD of neo-klezmer music with influences from reggae, Roma music, and more. ‘Souls of Fire is a British group who take their influences from the klezmer recordings of the Twenties and Thirties, among other related sources. Although they add a more modern twist to their music, this disc sounds rather like any early traditional recording compilation that you’ll come across. And that’s a compliment.’

Chuck reviewed a stack of Celtic CDs, and his favorite seems to have been Gill Bowman’s Toasting the Lassies, a set of Robert Burns’s more colorful – or is that off-color – songs. ‘Bowman has one of the nicest singing voices I’ve heard. It’s a very polished voice with a sense of knowing. Or maybe I’m just partial to women who sing – and know how to sing – bawdy songs. While the CD doesn’t include Burns’ more colorful lyrics, there are definitely some very suggestive songs here.’

Singing Bones sounds scary, and Gary found lots of spookiness on this disc by The Handsome Family. ‘The setting of many of the songs on Singing Bones reflects the move from the urban blight of Chicago to the blasted desert-scapes of the Southwest. No more songs about snowy parking lots and elevated trains this time. Instead, the songs feature couples shooting their beer cans with rusty rifles while the desert sun sets in “Gail With the Golden Hair”; lonely shoppers wandering the aisles of the “24-Hour Store” as ghosts make the automatic doors open and close; and amphibians singing as a lost gold-miner dies in “The Song of a Hundred Toads.” ‘

Does heavy metal scare you? It doesn’t scare Mia but she’s not the biggest fan, especially of Metallica. Two albums by the Finnish cello quartet Apocalyptica changed her mind. How so? ‘Heavy metal traditionally lends itself to images of anger, sexual abandon, and general debauchery. Apocalyptica strips the anger from the music, but leaves the darkness. If heavy metal is lusty, Apocalyptica is erotic. If heavy metal is cold malt liquor and busty bikini clad blondes, Apocalyptica is dark porter and absinthe and kohl-eyed velvet-cloaked sorceresses.’

Jack got all worked up about a cache of bootlegs by The Doors that he stumbled upon, and cranked out a review of his favorite album of theirs, The Best of The Doors. ‘I could rave as I’ve been known to do for hours about this CD, but why bother? Go get it, play it loud, and savour a truly amazing blues influenced band that still rocks. You’ll have have a frelling good time, or, well, don’t blame me as you obviously are lacking in your musical tastes!’

 

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Our What Not is a matter of a very special pumpkin as Denise tells about the Folkmanis’ Mouse in a Pumpkin puppet: ‘All hail the spice! Pumpkin everything is the rule of the day this time of year, and I’m all for it. Give me my pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pies, spicy roasted pumpkin, and pumpkin crumble. And okay, a PSL or two while we’re at it, though I’m more a Chestnut Praline Latte gal myself. So when Folkmanis decided to indulge my love of the orange squash, my grabby hands eagerly shot out. And I’ve been snuggling with this adorable puppet ever since.’

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I forgotten that Paul Brandon had sent us music by Rambling House, one of his bands. So here’s ‘Out in the Ocean’, a jig and a reel he wrote for them. Nice late Autumnal music, isn’t it?

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A Kinrowan Estate story: All Hallows’ Eve

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Gus, here. All Hallow’s Eve is eight days away, and the Staff is deep in preparations. Mind you, a lot of those are just fun and games: putting up decorations and scurrying around with secret costume plans. Some of the more inventive around here won’t be able to move for the weight of their guisings on the night itself. Those who are already done are creeping about vying for dibs on copies of Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads – we’re giving them away this coming month, and they are the most anticipated Treat in the place: a entire book/bag of bittersweets by the likes of Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman.

It’s a busy month in the gardens, but I am leading from the rear at the moment; sitting here and watching the main courtyard, wondering if the great oak there is going to win this year’s contest with my lads pruning deadwood. Our esteemed cook  Mrs. Ware has requested my feedback, as it were, on an experimental batch of triple Brie and fig scones for the annual Halloween feast, and it’s my pleasure to sit and give it my deepest attention. That woman brings inspiration to a plate of crackers and cheese; what she does to a risen dough enters the realm of the sacred …

For the Kitchen Staff, Reynard’s Tap Crew, and for my own lads in the garden, there’s a lot of real work leading up to Samhain celebrations. Mrs. W. is, as I said, already cooking: she’s been laying aside a veritable treasure trove of pickles, relishes, butters, marinades, sauces, curds, creams and other culinary conceits — when the freshly baked and just roasted masterpieces hit the tables, they will be accompanied by her usual astonishing condiments. Do you fancy pork roast rolled in leeks and apples, with whipped sweet potatoes in a cognac sauce? And new bread? Well, plan to move fast when it’s served, then, because so do I.

Reynard, of course, is both laying in appropriate potables and fretting over the batches brewed here specifically for All Hallow’s. All this month he’s been serving Headless Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale in the Pub. Come try a pint, but be careful! I’m told the name is not only seasonal, but a fair warning of the effects of over-indulgence. And there are the porters, the stouts, the dark brews like liquid bread that are required for this holiday; the cider and perry and aged brandies to keep off the growing chill and light the holiday bonfires in us all.

The Endless Session has been having night ceilidhs in the gardens, before the nights get too cold and they retreat to the Pub for the winter. Autumn evenings the wind rises in the woods, and gives the music in the courtyards a special pace and chorus … the secret’s in the pruning, of course, though I doubt the Session has figured that out. But I go out and do the trimming myself, tuning the oaks like an Aolian harp, so their voices will be clear on All Hallow’s night.

Most of all, though, my lads and I are responsible for the bonfires. No one cuts wood in my gardens except me and mine, and at this time of year I’m just as particular about the fallen wood as I am about the trimmed. That wood’s been gathered and stacked with great deliberation, you know. The Halloween bonfires have to be carefully planned, and meticulously built; I daresay the mix of firewood I use is as complicated as Mrs. Wares’ pumpkin butter or Reynard’s Samhain Stout. It needs a particular scent, a notable stamina and even special colour … which is why that one oak has to be pruned just so. The eastern boughs have seen soaking up the salt mist and should burn like tourmalines. It will make the perfect King Log … if that fool Andrew doesn’t hang himself with that guy rope!

Hi! Look sharp, lads! What are you about? We don’t do that anymore… But then you’re dead, so you wouldn’t know, would you?

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What’s New for the 16th of October: Fantasy maps, Bradbury mysteries, Middle Earth history; Cajun music on film; comfort foods; Daredevil; classical music reviews, and more

The soldier came knocking upon the queen’s door
He said, “I am not fighting for you any more”
And the queen knew she’d seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside

Suzanne Vega’s ‘The Queen and the Soldier’

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Here in this quite remote Scottish Estate where the nearest town’s a good fifty km away, the group of thirty or so souls here year round forms a community that’s at its most cohesive when the weather turns decidedly cold and oftimes unfavourable to travel. This ‘hunkering down’ is a gradual process that starts in early Autumn and doesn’t really end ’til after lamb season in April as it’s hard to be a good host when you’re covered with blood, shit and other stuff that’s unpleasant in general.

Pumpkins are versatile food here, so you can help us harvest them now that our first light frost has passed; likewise apples and potatoes need harvesting and proper processing for the uses they’ll be put to. Gus, our Head Gardener, uses the entire staff who must be properly picky at what they’ll be doing.

All work and no play makes Gutmansdottir an unhappy girl indeed, so there are contadances pretty much weekly here. Tonight a visiting band, The Black Eyed Susans, are playing. But first, let’s see what’s in this Green Man edition…

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Geographies, both those in the mundane world and the imaginary ones as well, have something within them that fascinates readers. Cat starts us off with a look at Stefan Ekman’s Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings: ‘Now we have a really detailed look at the role of fantasy maps and the settings they help create in fantasy literature. (Though weirdly enough, Here Be Dragons has only three such maps in it suggesting the author either had trouble getting permission to use more such maps or the use of them was deemed too costly.) It is not the usual collection of edited articles but appears an actual cohesive look at this fascinating subject.’

Craig has a look at three mystery novels by the venerable Ray Bradbury, as collected in an omnibus. See for yourself why Craig says, Where Everything Ends is a trio of fine detective novels (together with the short story that provided the starting point) from Bradbury in his inimitable style. He plays with the conventions, but since he so obviously loves the genre, this is easily forgiven — embraced, even — because the end results are, simply put, fine additions to the canon. This series is also dear to fans because it is likely the closest thing to an autobiography we will receive from this man who has brought so much joy to so many people for so many years.

So how about a major reading experience – whether or not you’re watching the current Tolkien adaptation on TV. Let me offer you The History of Middle Earth which is the extensive background Tolkien wrote for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I suggest you get comfortable before reading Liz’s look at it as it is a very detail essay on this massive work: ‘The History of Middle-Earth offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine a great writer’s creative development over a period of 60 years. At his death, J.R.R. Tolkien left a huge body of unfinished and often unorganized writings on the mythology and history of Middle-earth. In The History of Middle Earth (HoME), his son, Christopher, has sought to organize this huge collection of drafts, revisions and reworkings into an organized and intelligible whole.’

We have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a looked by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Reynard reviewed Mark Cunningham’s Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography: ‘Horslips were, and in many ways still are, the Irish equivalent of Steeleye Span and, to a lesser extent, Fairport Convention, as they blend English and Irish traditional material and a rock and roll sensibility into what was the first Irish folk rock group.’ Did they get ft hey deserved? Oh yes

Speaking of imaginary geographies, it’s appropriate that Ryhope Wood, the setting of Robert Holdstock’s series of the same name gets a book of scholarly papers largely devoted to it. Richard looks at Donald E. Morese and Kalman Matolcsy’s The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction: ‘The myth-infested landscape of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood would seem to be fertile ground, not only for walking legends and “mythagos”, but also for literary criticism. After all, in the sequence Holdstock tackles not the structures of mythic fiction – dark lords, questing heroes, magical macguffins and so forth – but rather the concept of myth itself, and how the same core stories have echoed down through the millennia, amplified and distorted and reflected by centuries of human experience. The books start in a critical space, with scientist-protagonists attempting to unravel the nature of the wood and all it contains and it only dives deeper from there, familiarizing characters and readers alike with the tropes and concepts of discussion of myth.’

And what about geographies that are not imaginary? Robert has some thoughts on a book that may very well throw the distinction between real and imaginary out the window, namely, Denis Wood and John Fels’ The Natures of Maps: ‘You may wonder why the pages of Green Man Review, a ‘zine devoted to the roots of arts and culture, which purview most often results in insightful and intelligent studies of music, speculative fiction, and film, should play host to a discussion of a book on maps. Well, the subtitle of The Natures of Maps may give you a hint: the book is about “Cartographic Constructions of the Natural World.”‘

Steven has a look at a novel in a long running mystery series: ‘Tony Hillerman’s Hunting Badger was inspired by a real 1998 case that resulted in the murder of a police officer. The author refers to the case repeatedly but doesn’t offer any clues to its solution. Instead, he uses it as the springboard for a story that plays on Navajo history and mythology, with the “Badger” of the title turning out to be both a legendary Ute warrior and his son, the former having been thought of as a witch by mystified Navajos and the latter perhaps taking advantage of his father’s tricks following a murderous raid on a casino.’

has his own look at Middle-Earth, with The Great Tales Never End, a wonderful book of tributes to the late Christopher Tolkien. Next he looks at some classic detective fiction with Ed Lacy’s Room To Swing.
Warner says that Mindy Quigley’s Six Feet Deep Dish is ‘a paperback original on a clearly tasty theme’. While he is at it he looks at the latest Cambridge Bookshop Mystery, A Treacherous Tale.

span style=”font-weight: 400;”>He also talks about what is ‘in some respects a textbook legacy sequel” when discussing Will Do Magic for Small Change. Finally Warner checks out a collection by Ray Bradbury he describes as “a glorious collection of short stories by one of the masters of the form released by the Library of America.’

 

 

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Gary reviews a new film currently making the round of festivals, Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi’s Roots Of Fire. ‘Anyone who enjoys Francophone Louisiana roots music and music documentaries in general will love Roots of Fire. The film focuses in particular on the young musicians who are bringing Cajun music into the 21st century, honoring their past and their forbears while moving the music forward and making it their own.’

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We asked a goodly number of folks we encounter here this question: ”Is it a bowl of your mother’s fish chowder? Or a warm doughnut dusted with powdered sugar? Comfort food is as individual as each of us. We here at Sleeping Hedgehog (the in-house newsletter of our Estate) are interested in your story!’  Jennifer, a Winter Queen who’s responsible for the best Winter Solstice story ever, gives her answer here.

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Robert delved into a superhero character that was new to him. ‘One has come to expect tight, absorbing writing from Alexander Irvine, and one is not disappointed in the Daredevil installment of the Marvel Noir series. Daredevil is not one of those superheroes who’s been very much on my radar, so I had the added attraction of a new character without, in my mind, any history to muck things up.

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Kelly was highly impressed with Music of Russian Princesses: From the Court of Catherine the Great, by a group called Talisman: ‘Formed in 2000 by soprano Anne Harley and guitarist Oleg Timofeyev (who is noted for his expertise in the Russian guitar tradition), Talisman is dedicated to the performance and promotion of music from Russia’s little-known Baroque and Classical era, roughly 1750-1850.’

Kelly also had nothing but praise for Vladimir Horowitz’s Horowitz Live and Unedited: The Historic 1965 Carnegie Hall Return Concert: ‘Horowitz was known in life as “the Last Romantic,” and hearing his playing here, it’s not hard to see why. For all Horowitz’s amazing technique – there are no pianists today who have such command of the instrument as he did – he was celebrated all the more for the expressiveness of his playing. He had absolute control over the tone of the piano, and could make it sing better than any pianist I, personally, have ever heard.’

Mike admitted the Brazilian jazz on Morelenbaum2 / Sakamoto’s A Day in New York was out of his wheelhouse, but in spite of its being well received almost universally, he wasn’t having it. ‘OK, here it is: This is a CD of piano bar smarm Jazz. You know, “The Girl from Ipanema” type of thing. I confess that my opinion of this type of music cannot be adequately represented by anything original on my part.’

Robert was very pleased with an album containing two works by Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel and Why Patterns? ‘These are two remarkable works by one of America’s most noteworthy composers. They are ethereal, energetic, thoughtful, and yet possessed of a kind of earthy reality. Their intellectual underpinnings, which are formidable, become invisible, and one is simply left with an event that is out of the ordinary. Hearing them is an engaging and enlightening experience, and one I can heartily recommend.’

He also found a lot to like on Trio Mediaeval’s Messe de Tournai, Words of the Angel. ‘One is struck in this recording by the clarity and transparency of their voices in singing music that was originally intended to be sung by men … The fact that the voices are soprano and alto rather than tenor and baritone really makes little difference here – there is the same otherworldly feeling to the music that one hears in chants rendered by male choirs, although there is an ethereal quality to some sections that I’m not sure male voices could challenge.’

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So I’m going to give you as our What Not the late Kage Baker reading one of her own works, that being her Empress of Mars novella. It was supposed to be included on a CD in the limited edition version of the story that was going to be published by Nightshade Books but that never happened, so she gave us permission to publish it digitally. So find a quiet place to listen and settle in to hear a most excellent sf story told by a master storyteller!

Kathleen, her sister and a damn fine writer as well, notes that ‘she was an old-fashioned storyteller. She loved adding dimensions, and felt that all her stories should be either copiously illustrated or read out to an audience.’

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If you’re truly fortunate, you’ll encounter a song that truly makes your heart ache for the raw emotion that it contains. For me, it was the song I heard sung by Suzanne Vega in some club down London way oh so many years ago: ‘The Queen and the Soldier’ which is breathtakingly mythic in scope and so damn personal that it hurts. All I know about the provence of this song is that it was performed in  London on the twenty fourth of October, thirty one years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Staging Shakespeare

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Come in! Glad you got here in time for some theatre tonight. Let’s drop your kit off in the room you’re staying in for the next fortnight before heading out.

It shouldn’t surprise you at all that we do theatre in the colder months here at this isolated Scottish estate. And it further won’t surprise you that Shakespeare is a perennial favourite here century in and century out. So why is that playwright so popular?

Setting aside the literary genius of Shakespeare, he’s one of the easiest playwrights to stage, as the focus on the words allows for a minimalist staging to take place. Oh, I’ve seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged at summer solstice deep in an English wood, Macbeth performed in the ruins of a Scottish castle, and even The Tempest against the backdrop of a sullen sea. But those admittedly spectacular performances are only one side of a ha’penny.

The other side of that ha’penny is staged readings, just actors reading the words on a bare stage. Now that’s where you can really see who understands in their heart and soul the magic of Shakespeare, as you can hear that belief in the way they do the lines. Now if they’re lacking in that belief, the words feel as if they’re being read by a politician using a teleprompter for the first time.

We fall somewhere just off being a staged reading by making use of strategic props and even a bit of fey magic where appropriate, such as Lady Macbeth washing her hands in a basin on stage and her hands coming away in red that drips upon the front of her white dress, or using a skull in the gravediggers scene in Hamlet combined with an ever so convenient service stairway as the grave itself.

And I find that my Several Annies, the Library apprentices from around the world, all grasp the joy and agony of Shakespeare. Indeed one of them, I’m proud to say, is now a research fellow concentrating on the interstices between Shakespeare as a writer of fiction using history and Shakespeare as a chronicler of history without interpreting that history.

Enough of my prattling on, it’s time we headed off to hear the performance of Much Ado About Nothing in our Theatre in The Round, which is the former livestock auction house. Rebekah, one of my former Several Annies is directing it, a honour for her indeed!

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What’s New for the 2nd of October: Contradance music and Arabian fuzz, William Gipson redux, military SF and horror, soul cake, and more

The most complex programs in existence are used for consumer analysis. They’re everywhere, watching and analyzing every aspect of our lives. The amount of data gathered on any one of us is mind-boggling.
Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light

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Care to have a pint of our new All Hallows Eve Ale? It’s quite good. I’ll get Finch to draw you a pint. I’ve been getting stellar comments about it from those who’ve had a few. Or a few too many.  Bjorn, our Brewmaster, always seems to enjoy creating new Autumn libations more than those he does for the other seasons. And he’s hinting that he’ll be doing an authentic Octoberfest beer very soon but he’s kept everything a secret from even me.

In the meantime, I’m writing up this edition as Iain, your usual host, is running through the tunes that Red Robin will be playing later this evening in the Sanctuary as he’s the caller. Two violinists, one smallpiper plus a mountain dulcimer player — all from Ashville, North Carolina — and it should be quite tasty to dance to.

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Cat says for some time he’s been looking forward to a full length novel in P. Djèlí Clark’s Dead Djinn series set in an early 1900s alternative Cairo where magic has returned to the world. It’s now here in A Master of Djinn, which Cat enjoyed on audio. ‘Now let me be clear that this is a pulp story with a heroine who has her own sidekick and truly deliciously evil antagonists. The story starts fast, gets faster and never slows down.’

Drawing Down The Moon: The Art of Charles Vess is is an exhibition catalogue for a show that should’ve been for someone who’s illustrated such works as Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a favourite of mine. Let’s have Charles explain why I believe this: ‘All you need to do is flip through the book to realize that when it comes to traditional fairy, folk tale and fantasy art, there are few artists who do it better than Vess.’

Gary found Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light, to be quite a page-turner. ‘I think of myself as … not exactly a pacifist, but pacifist adjacent. It’s hard to square that with how much I enjoy good military SFF. My experience with it goes back to early Heinlein like Starship Troopers, through Niven-Pournelle and Joe Haldeman, and now you can add Linda Nagata to that list.’

With the new TV series adapted from William Gibson’s The Peripheral beginning Oct. 21 on Amazon Prime, we thought we’d re-run Gary’s review of the 2014 book. ‘Once again, a William Gibson book seems ripped from today’s headlines, extrapolated forward a bare few years. I like The Peripheral as much as I’ve liked any of Gibson’s books. Probably better. It takes place in a very real-seeming world, among real-seeming people.’

And while we’re at it, here’s his review of the sequel, Agency. ‘It’s the second book in yet another trilogy by Gibson, the septuaginarian North American who since the 1980s has made a career of writing plausible tomorrows by looking hard at today. This one picks up sometime after the action in The Peripheral. The gist of these tales, as it continues to emerge in Agency, is that the world’s political, social, and climate upheavals that we see happening around us today culminated in a catastrophe they now call the Jackpot (in one of these timelines), which led to the extinction of three-quarters of the world’s human population and at least that much of its other animal life.

Leona gives an incisive review of Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, an Ellis Peters novel: ‘Originally published in 1967, this is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and facts combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

Ben Aaronovitch‘s The Furthest Station (Rivers of London #5.5) is a cool story says Lis: ‘ The London Underground has ghosts. Well, the London Underground always has ghosts, but usually they’re gentle, sad creatures. Lately there’s been an outbreak of more aggressive ghosts. Groping, shoving, insults that are racist and/or misogynistic–offensive and provocative. Victims of the assault report them, but have completely forgotten them by the time Transport Police get back to them to follow up.

Joseph Campbell’s Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth got reviewed by her: ‘This book is a collection of his lectures and writings on the Arthurian adventures and Grail Quests of the Middle Ages, specifically the “Matter of Britain” stories of the 12th and 13th centuries. These are the stories, or the basis of the stories, of Arthur’s court and its knights and ladies that we are most familiar with, and have nothing to do with the probable historical Arthur figure of the late 5th/early 6th centuries who may have led the Celtic Britons in resistance against the invading Saxons. If the historical Arthur existed, Arthur would have most likely been a nickname or title, not his name.’

 

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Denise got a kick out of the contemporary horror film Jeepers Creepers. ‘Controversial filmmaker Victor Salva acts as writer and director for this film, and proves himself a capable storyteller. This film grabs your attention in the first few minutes and doesn’t let it go. It is a fast-paced 90 minutes with few unessential bits. As I watched the ending credits roll, I wished it had been a little longer; the bits of exposition as well as the glimpses of The Creeper’s lair hint at a larger mythology that I would like to have learned more about. As it stands, it’s a well-paced thrill ride that goes by so quickly you don’t have time to think about wanting more until you realize it’s over.’

PThe late and much missed Kage Baker, a woman who loved all things culinary such as the Two Fat Ladies series, once upon a time taught the bakers in our kitchen to make a most excellent soul cake according to what she says is a traditional Scots recipe. Let’s listen in as she tells them how she makes these nibbliesP
Richard was a little disappointed with Brian Azzarello & Victor Santos’s Filthy Rich modern noir comic Filthy Rich. ‘Considering the way in which the Vertigo imprint helped revolutionize American comics, one would hope that the lead title for Vertigo Crime would offer some of that same freshness. Instead, it’s just solid work. Victor Santos’ strong artwork helps — the tone of period film is evoked perfectly, with square-jawed men and seductively rounded women — but the ultimate effect is a strong take on a timeworn formula, rather than something new.’

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Cat turned in a wide-ranging interview with Nick Burbridge of McDermott’s Two Hours.  ‘I first encountered his band when reading George Berger’s 1998 book Dance Before the Storm: The Official Story of the Levellers, which had this lovely bit about his band: “All the Levellers are keen to cite McDermott’s Two Hours as their original inspiration. A Brighton band, they were the natural fusion of the anger of Crass and the Irish-driven music of the Pogues.”

David wrote up an omnibus review and remembrance of Canadian folk and blues musician Jackie Washington. ‘He was born in 1919, and the family has lived in Hamilton forever. Jackie worked as a porter on the railroad; he worked at American Can for a time, bottling soda pop; and his whole life he has been a musician. A quick glance through the quasi-autobiography More Than a Blues Singer [compiled from interviews by poet James Strecker] shows a connection from Jackie to some of the greatest names in 20th century jazz and blues.’

Gary enthusiastically reviews Slash, a new album of Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and American old time tunes by American guitarist Alex Sturbaum and a host of guest musicians on fiddle and a few other likely instruments. ‘I’m just gobsmacked at how much wonderful music there is on this album. Maybe my reaction is partly due to the fact that I haven’t been to a contradance since late 2019, and I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever get to go dancing again. But if you’re a contradancer or just enjoy energetic, rhythmic fiddle music out of these traditions, you owe it to yourself to check out Slash.’

Gary was pleased with the ‘Arabian fuzz’ emanating from Al-Qasar’s Who Are We? ‘What do you get when you combine a French-American electric guitar whiz-kid, a Moroccan singer and percussionist, a versatile rhythm section, and guest singers and players from the top ranks of World music and punk rock? Probably something like Al-Qasar, whose first full-length album Who Are We? raises the flag of Middle Eastern psychedelic rock with a decidedly political focus.’

Lory checked out a set of holiday music from an established musician and his daughter, Craig and Kara Markley’s Once Upon a Winter Moon. ‘There’s nothing wildly original here, but the arrangements are well-crafted and pleasant to listen to. The two original instrumentals, “Lady With the Silver Thread” (by Craig) and “Tinuviel” (by Kara) are cut from the same cloth, fitting in seamlessly with the more traditional melodies.’

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Robert brings us a review of something that has nothing to do with witches: ‘Well, another cutie from Folkmanis came across my desk — or maybe I should say, “swam” across my desk: it’s their Baby Sea Otter hand puppet, and it’s a real cutie.’

PSo I’m going to finish off this Edition with  a live recording of the Dead doing ‘The Music Never Stopped’ which appropriately was recorded near Summer Solstice, the nineteenth of June, forty two years ago in Passaic, New Jersey. Blues for Allah, their eighth studio album, which had been released in September of 1975, included this song.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Chasing Fireflies

Raspberry dividerCome on in, you’re just in time! We haven’t started yet… don’t just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I’m Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I’m also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we’ll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and… oh, there’s a fiddler missing! Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub?! I’ve danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something.

As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we’ll walk through the first dance. You’ll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, it’s very easy. It is so! It’s just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don’t you worry, the other dancers will help you.

Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?

It’s that new porter that’s been tapped in the pub, I’m sure. Béla’s developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You’re certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you’ll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in …

Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Let’s dance ‘Lady of the Lake.’ Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back… cast around. Do a ladies chain over… and back. Now balance and swing with that person below… and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You’ve got it! Now, everyone back to place and we’ll dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please…

Raspberry divider

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