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
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!
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 Kinrowan — Jack 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.‘
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?’
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.
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.’
Gary 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.’
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.’
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.