Sunday, May 27, 2012


By C.S. Forester

Better known for his Horatio Hornblower tales, Forester also wrote this series of short stories about the US destroyer Boon set in the Pacific during WWII. Forester is an odd sort of adventure writer, he always seems more at home with the unassuming fellow who does his duty quietly in a very decent, English sort of way. I am particularly fascinated by Forester’s attention to the role of supply and the men who get supplies where they need to be. It’s a subject close to me, for my mother served as a supply clerk in the WAVES in 1944-45 and later worked as a civilian employee of the navy in the supply department.

Quite frankly supply departments are not terribly dramatic. Supply issues get rather more interesting when they involve unloading thousands of gallons of gasoline while being bombed by the Japanese. But that is really Forester’s drawback. While he’s excellent at depicting the quiet, unassuming fellows, who keep the machine running even in the midst of disaster, one seeks in vain for a sense that sometimes things just won’t work. I occasionally found myself yearning for a character to snap under pressure. Or a hint that landing the gasoline is not enough. That war is about pointless death and waste. But that is antithetical to the style of heroism Forester strives to depict, the quiet, unassuming execution of the plan, until the job is done. It’s not a bad sort of heroism, I think a lot of people got through the war that way. God bless ‘em.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, May 20, 2012


By Cornell Woolrich

Cornell Woolrich was the undisputed master of noir. His tales were less about crime than explorations of the human heart, the twisting byways of trust, betrayal, and the deeply irrational side of fear. Black Alibi fits squarely in that tradition. The mcguffin is an escaped black panther, a dangerous “pet” belonging to an American movie star, on the loose in a South American city. The actress’s manger is honor bound to retrieve the creature. What Woolrich tells is only partly the tale of the pursuit of the panther, but a series of sketches of prospective victims, with the reader never knowing if they will pass through safe, or die under the fangs of the beast.

It’s not your usual crime novel.

Woolrich lived for part of  his youth in Mexico City. Black Alibi is infused with the poetry and rhythm of life in Latin America, the joys and sorrows heightened. No Black Alibi isn’t a crime novel, it’s a romance, a love story, a story about life in its glory and misery. It’s a fantasy, an idyll, it’s noir.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, May 13, 2012


By Barrington J. Bayley

Another of Barrington Bayley’s swinging philosophical space operas. This is no less than the decline and fall of an empire that rules not only space, but time. Unlike H. Beam Piper’s Paratime worlds, they don’t simply observe and exploit the past, the people of Chronopolis have gone beyond Fritz Leiber’s Spiders and Snakes, they are not content to infiltrate and alter the time stream. In true imperial fashion, Chronopolis just re-makes it, with vast temporal roadblocks keeping their bubble of time pristine and free of any influence save the empire’s. Time exists in nodes, wave peaks and troughs, always marching onward serenely, never interfering with one another.

But no wave can avoid ripples. Imperial princes may form misalliances between past and future selves. The borders are under attack. Within secretive cults seek to spread chaos and fear. Against the rising tide of temporal decay, a hero arises, Aton, a disgraced time-ship commander on a deadly mission to confront the demonic forces at the heart of time.

This is classic Bayley, part science fiction, part fantasy; sharp, to the point, with a headlong pace that has room to offer wild insights into science, philosophy, and human nature.

-Dave Hardy


Sunday, May 06, 2012


By Michael Kunze

This is an extraordinary work of history. Michael Kunze is not the usual sort of historian, he is best known as a translator, but he studied history and wrote his thesis on the trial of the Papenheimer family. In due course he produced this work of one of Europe’s best-documented witch trials.

In the early 1600s Germany was spiraling toward all-out war between Protestants, Catholics, Imperial authority and independent principalities. Munich in the duchy of Bavaria was a center of the Counter Reformation, a place where Catholic intellectuals gathered at the ducal court to lay the groundwork for a new century. Into this came the Papenheimers, a family of itinerant septic-tank cleaners. An accusation by a thief they had some acquaintance with led authorities to arrest them on the charge of witchcraft. What followed was an atrocity of small-scale, yet savage, bestial cruelty. The Papenheimers became the focus of an effort to purge the troubled land of Satan’s influence. They were tortured with inhuman cruelty until they confessed a myriad of crimes. Even more unspeakable was their execution, carried out with demented brutality. Every act was meticulously documented and carefully authorized under the rule of law.

Kunze examines the world of the Papenhimers and their persecutors. His account considers the lives of beggars, thieves, travelling fold, lawyers, and nobles. Kunze does not shy away from the cruelties inflicted on the Papenheimers and others caught up in the withchunt. This is not an easy book to read, it took me well over a decade before I could bring myself to read it to the conclusion.

Kunze sticks closely to the facts, presenting them in a straightforward fashion. One almost senses a subtle message at work here. The 17th century permitted abominations like the Papenheimer trial despite the warnings of men troubled by the flawed logic and evident cruelty of witch hunting. For the most part witch-hunters were honored and rewarded. Indeed, given the seeming collective insanity that perpetrated the Thirty Years War, the witch hunters crimes are at least limited. Indeed, when Kunze wrote this in the early 1980s, the crimes of the Third Reich were living memory. There were yet men willing to shoot and kill people for the crime of crossing the Berlin Wall. Germany was still divided from the last global war and the common wisdom that the next, by no means an unthinkable occurrence, would annihilate mankind. In his own, understated way, Kunze throws a piercing light on the recurring moral questions of mankind.

-Dave Hardy

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


I'm usually the one doing the reviewing, so it's a pleasure when someone reviews one of my works. This one is courtesy of  Keith at Adventures Fantastic blog. It's a review of "The Last Rune" (online at Sorcerous Signals).  Adventures Fantastic is a great blog for fans of SF, Fantasy, and Adventure. Keith is, I should add, a Robert E Howard fan of long-standing and some distinction.