Category Archives: Fiction

“A Close Run Thing”

David Donachie

This is the 15th and, so far latest novel in the John Pearce series. All of what I said about the series in my review of “The Devil to Pay” remains true, but there are some further things I’ve noticed. One is the variety of settings, not just geographic ones, but social ones as well. Another is the fact that Donachie keeps introducing new characters and isn’t afraid to kill off a major character. Third, the author is very skillful in juggling his several plot threads so that there’s always something the reader wants to find out and is always looking forward to the next book while at the same time he ties off certain subplots so that the reader occasionally gets the satisfaction of a story coming to an end.

This is a really great series and it’s frustrating to know that I’ll have to wait for more to be published now that I’ve caught up with it.

“An Onshore Storm”

Dewey Lambdin

I really like the Alan Lewrie series. With one exception they’ve all been good reads, and some have been excellent. This one, though, is a real clinker. It doesn’t move Lewrie’s story much, and the writing is dull and repetitious. Our naval hero attacking a bridge is about the most exciting thing in the book, something that’s no more exciting the second time he does it.

“Weegee: Serial Photographer”

Max de Radigu├Ęs

This is a graphic novel about the New York City news photographer Arthur Fellig, who used the pseudonym “Weegee”. I originally saw it in the store of the fantastic Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels. The fictionalized story didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it’s an interesting work nevertheless.

“Battle for Rome”

Ian James Ross

This is the third book in the “Twilight of Empire” series that started with “War at the Edge of the World” and continued in “Swords Around the Throne“. The main character is Aurelius Castus, a Roman soldier in Britain in the 4th century AD as the series starts who eventually becomes tribune of a legion. Castus’ career parallels the rise of Constantine and the third book ends with Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD.

I’ve enjoyed this series so far. The period isn’t a common one for historical novels about the Roman Empire. There’s a lot of variety in the settings and Ross is particularly good at writing about battles, of which there are many. One thing I appreciated is that Castus isn’t all that bright. It’s not that he’s stupid, but unlike most heroes in historical fiction he makes mistakes and gets taken advantage of. Those failings make him seem a bit more real and a more sympathetic character.

“The Aeneid”

Virgil (translated by Robert Fagles)

After reading “The Illiad” and “The Odyssey” I had to read Virgil’s story of the flight of Aeneas from the doomed city of Troy and his journey to Italy to found Rome.

It’s common, when visiting art museums, to see classical statues labeled “Roman copy of Greek original”. That’s when kept coming to mind as I read this book. Virgil, writing in the first century AD strove mightily to tie Rome to the ancient (ancient even to him) Greeks. I was almost always aware that it was a poem written to submit to the emperor to glorify Rome rather than a work of art focused on human nature (which is what Homer’s works are).

There are a lot of incidents in “The Aeneid” and some, for instance the fall of Troy and the story of Queen Dido, are satisfying on their own. As a whole, though, it’s like a modern action movie with some great scenes but a lack of character and dramatic pacing.