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Let’s go surfin’ now, everybody’s learning how…

Amazing Leroy Grannis surfing photographs.

photo by Leroy Grannis

His photos have been collected in a book, too.

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Global Warming? or Climate Change?

If you really want to fuel the debate on global warming/climate change/whatever, you can’t do better than read Brian Fagan’s The Little Ice Age.

It’s a fascinating book about the years between 1300AD and 1800AD, a period following the Medieval Warm Period, which extended between the years 800-1300AD. “The heyday of the Norse,” Fagan writes, “…was not only a byproduct of such social factors as technology, over-population and opportunism. Their great conquests and explorations took place during a period of unusually mild and stable weather in northern Europe.” During this Warm Period, the polar ice retreated and the Norse were free to ransack coastal communities all the way to Constantinople and to emigrate all the way to Maine. The Basques made it all the way across the Atlantic to find the cod fishing grounds off the Grand Banks. European farmers started planting crops farther north and reaping harvests large enough to fund the building of magnificent cathedrals.

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You Mean the First Detective Wasn’t C. Auguste Dupin?

[from the stabenow.com vaults, July 11, 2011]

Fascinating story about the first detective novel, The Notting Hill Murders, whose existence was ferreted out by author Paul Collins (The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars, June 2011). The novel itself sounds pretty darn good, too, a story of wife murder that could star Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. You know, if they were still alive.

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A pioneering adventure story about two well-matched, high-hearted heroes.

Wild Geese CallingWild Geese Calling by Stewart Edward White

My aunt gave me this book (along with Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf and Richard Halliburton’s Royal Road to Romance), when I became a dedicated reader at age eight. Recently I stumbled across a copy in a used book store. White was a contemporary of Zane Grey and Rex Beach and all those he-man dime-store novel-writing types, but they could never write women. White can. He also writes scenery and weather as well as Grey and characters better than Beach.

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jackofspies
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A triumvirate that would set any British statesman’s hair on fire.

Jack of SpiesJack of Spies by David Downing

It’s 1915, they’re shifting from butter to guns in Europe, and British espionage is as yet only a twinkle in the British Navy’s eye. They contract hire their spies, as in Jack McColl, a car salesman currently in the German-occupied part of China (a place I never knew existed until now).
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NightHeron
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Knives are pulled, shots are fired, people die and governments sell out.

Night HeronNight Heron by Adam Brookes

A man named Peanut escapes from prison in western China, where he has been incarcerated since 1989, and makes his way to present-day Beijing. There, he gets in touch with British journalist Philip Mangan, whom he mistakes for the heir to his previous contact. Mangan, who isn’t a spy, yet, is perfectly appalled, at first. When he passes the Peanut info on to someone he knows at the British Embassy, the scene shifts to London and SIS, where case officer Trish Patterson runs it up the food chain and discovers that Peanut may in fact be a Chinese asset who mysteriously disappeared over twenty years before and who is now the potential producer of vital information on current Chinese MIRV ballistic missile capability. In spite of himself Mangan, succumbing to the temptation to become part of the story instead of just reporting it, slips and slides into the shadow world of international espionage. It proves just as dangerous and as deadly to those around him, lovers, friends and strangers alike, as he at first suspected it would be.

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Before the Poison
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An instant Golden Age classic crime novel.


Before the PoisonBefore The Poison
by Peter Robinson

In England in 1953 Grace Fox is hung for poisoning her husband. In 2010 Hollywood composer Chris Lowndes returns to his Yorkshire birthplace and buys a house in Swaledale which once belonged to Grace, and becomes obsessed with finding out if Grace was guilty or innocent of the crime.

Before the Poison reads like an instant Golden Age classic crime novel, an unhurried, deliberate unraveling of a mystery paralleled by a long, slow reveal of the narrator’s own motivation, told with a ratcheting up of tension that I found excruciatingly delicious. It is so well plotted, and the two narratives dovetail at the end so naturally, without a hint of contrivance. The scenes of Grace in World War II are devastatingly real. I wrote to Peter Robinson when I finished the book and he wrote backā€¦ Continue reading