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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Lord Of The Rings Male Characters - Who would I Date?

 Today, I read this article.

Basically, it’s about the romantic potential of each of the main characters in the Lord Of The Rings films. The author added Faramir, who wasn’t one of the Fellowship, but since Gandalf has no romantic possibilities, so will I. And I will write about the novel more than the films, which were faithful to the spirit of the book, but were still different. 

Anyway, here is my choice, a bit different from the article. See what you think. I rate them 10 to 1.

10. Gandalf doesn’t count, really, as he is basically an Angel, and whatever YA novels tell you, angels don’t tend to have romances. Also, even as a friend, while I’d be happy to go to the pub with him, it might be uncomfortable to hang out with someone who knows better than you and is always right

9. Legolas - very good looking and he has the virtue of being the only non smoker in the Fellowship, and thinking that smoking is dumb. I admit I would be pleased to trust him to protect me on a dangerous journey, but romance? Nah. He’s a couple of thousand years old at least. It would be like going out with your many times great grandfather, plus, like Gandalf, he would probably always be right. I’m not even sure he would be much fun to go to the pub with. 

8. Frodo - a kind, decent and terribly brave person. He has a good sense of humour, too, when with the other hobbits, and knows some great songs. However, he has a lot of troubles and a bad case of PTSD after his dreadful adventure. I’m not surprised he ends up going to the Undying Lands. I’d go with him to the pub, but not to the marriage celebrant! Like Bilbo, he is pretty much a confirmed bachelor, even before the Quest.

7. Boromir - a pity he gets tempted by the Ring, because really, he is a decent person and wants to save his homeland. He makes up for what he did by defending Merry and Pippin from the Orcs. Now, the dying book-Boromir doesn’t waffle about Captains and Kings. He just says, “I tried to take the Ring from Frodo. I am sorry. I have paid.” He is a good person, yes! And his younger brother loves him. But - no sense of humour. He is downright grim - and according to the Appendices in the book, the young Boromir was fanatical about the military history of Gondor. Would you want to date him? I wouldn’t. I’d be happy to have him for a bodyguard, even a friend, but probably not a boyfriend.

6, 5. Merry and Pippin: about even for me. The book versions are not the same as the film characters, who are mostly comic relief, with their “second breakfast” and “Where are we going?” Pippin is the curious one, who drops a stone down a hole in the Mines of Moria, where it could draw the attention of scary things, and, as if that isn’t enough, sneaks the Palantir, the seeing-stone, from Gandalf’s bag, to have a look. That does cause trouble, and Gandalf has to take him to Minas Tirith, the capital city of Gondor for safety. 

Merry goes to Rohan and pledges himself to its king. He ends up helping to kill the Witch King of Angmar, when he and warrior maiden Eowyn, neither of whom are supposed to be there, encounter him on the battlefield and save the day for the good guys.

I love both these boys and their cheerful good humour and songs. They are not dumb, despite the way they are presented in the film, and I would cheerfully date either of them. But there are others whom I’d rather have as boyfriends.

4. Gimli the Dwarf - a romantic at heart, and an artist. He managed to get three hairs out of Galadriel, that beautiful Elf queen, when she refused even one to a fellow elf whom she thought was creepy, way back in her earlier years. He wants to make something beautiful with those hairs, to encourage reconciliation between Elves and Dwarves, lost centuries ago. He worships her from afar, which clearly touches her. But he goes off with Legolas in the end - and I can’t help thinking that any woman in his life would have to put up with those two having fun challenging each other. Their friendship, touching in a novel or film, would get in the way of a relationship. And then they go off to the Undying Lands and that would be that for Gimli’s family! 

3. Aragorn is worth considering. He is smart and strong. He has a sense of humour. He is loyal to his friends and brave enough to risk everything to give Frodo his chance to reach the Cracks of Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed. Above all, he is kind! Poor Aragorn feels really bad about Eowyn, who falls in love with him, when he can’t return it. He heaves a sigh of relief when she and Faramir become an item! If you could win his love, he’d be well worth taking. However... he is rather older than he looks - and he has been faithful to the same woman for most of his life. That is a virtue, but it means that the rest of us would have no chance to win him. Too bad.

2. If it was a question of which Fellowship member would make the best husband and father, it would definitely be Sam Gamgee. He is fanatically loyal, if you can win his love. He can cook. He can garden. He is a family man, and the last scene of the novel shows him returning home after seeing his Mr Frodo off to the Undying Lands, back to his wife and little daughter. Merry and Pippin are both members of the Hobbit aristocracy, but Sam is an ordinary person - mind you, in the Appendices we learn that he becomes Mayor of the Shire several times. His pretty daughter Elanor becomes a lady in waiting to Queen Arwen, and marries upwards. And he, too, travels to the Undying Lands at the end of his life in Middle-Earth, as a Ringbearer, which he was briefly when Frodo was out of the picture. But his temptation to turn all of Middle-Earth into one big garden is overcome by his common sense. Yes, definitely the best of the Fellowship for a relationship.

1. But as a human, I wouldn’t mind dating Boromir’s brother, Faramir, and not only because he resisted the Ring(in the book. In the film, he was briefly tempted). Faramir is a scholar. He does what he has to, fighting for his country, but really, he is a nerd who would rather be in a library than on the battlefield. He is deeply kind - and in the end, he marries a young woman who did want to be on the battlefield, because she has been raised to think that fighters were more important than others. She does change her mind, but he is willing to help her do whatever makes her happy, and respects her choices. I have always thought of him as the sort of guy who would remember your birthday, and who wouldn’t be offended, if you were out at dinner, if you got out your laptop to work. In fact, he’d bring his own, and you could have a pleasant evening together, working and chatting. 

So, that’s my order, from 10 to 1. What order would you choose? 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Just Finished Reading... House Of The Patriarch by Barbara Hambly, Severn House 2020. Benjamin January Series, # 18

This novel is part of a series which began some years ago with A Free Man Of Color. It is, in fact, the eighteenth of a series of historical crime fiction novels by an author who has also done fantasy and horror fiction. 

Benjamin January is an African American surgeon and musician living in New Orleans in the 1830s and 1840s. He was born into slavery, but given an education courtesy of his mother’s protector. Due to his colour, he is mostly a musician, playing the piano and giving music lessons to make a living. But he is also a very good private detective, who is hired to solve mysteries. In New Orleans his two best friends, Abishag Shaw and Hannibal Sefton, are both white, which comes in handy when he needs to travel without being kidnapped by slavers. Shaw is a policeman, Hannibal an Irish violinist who often plays with Benjamin in orchestras. In this novel, Hannibal is sick and Abishag Shaw doesn’t appear at all. 

This novel is set soon after the events of Lady Of Perdition, in which he travelled to Texas to help a former piano student in big trouble. This time, Benjamin January travels to New York with his sister’s protector, Henri Viellard, and his wife Chloe, who had introduced him to an English couple, the Russells, whose daughter has disappeared, possibly joined a cult somewhere outside New York City.

The Patriarch of the title, the Reverend Broadax, runs a farming community which also gathers to speak to beloved dead, through a woman called the Shining Herald. Is it the real thing or is Broadax just another con artist who has persuaded people to sign over their farms to him? And where is young Eve Russell? 

Fortunately he has some help from a self-confessed humbug, one P.T Barnum, who is at the start of his con artist career, well before his circus was a thing...

In an earlier novel, Good Man Friday, January had help from another historical person, Edgar Allan Poe, who was in Washington D.C to look for work. (It was implied that January inspired him to create his detective C.Auguste Dupin!) The author does usually set her novels at a time when a real historical event was happening and slide in some real people.

 I have to admit, I enjoyed this particular character, who is shown as a likeable rogue. 

It’s remarkable how, after eighteen books, Barbara Hambly’s series is still going strong. Benjamin January is still shown as a decent human being, with compassion and kindness, who is able to solve mysteries despite the problems that having a black skin in this time and place brings, knowing that if he isn’t very, very careful, he could easily end up sold back into slavery. 

I bought this book in Kindle, spending some of an Amazon gift card given to me at Christmas. It was well worth spending half of my gift card!  

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Just finished reading... Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth


In the 1970s, an African American police officer in  Colorado Springs, Ron Stallworth, impulsively applied to join the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan. He found an ad in the local newspapers - imagine that even being possible in our own time! - and answered it. Soon after, he received a phone call from the branch leader, and invited to meet. 

That was the start of a large police sting. The aim was less to arrest anyone than to learn as much as possible about the Klan’s local activities and prevent the worst of them from happening. Ron requested a white partner to play as him and attend Klan meetings. In the book, which is a memoir, not a novel, the man who did this job was an officer called Chuck(no surname given). In the film, which I saw first, the white partner was Jewish, putting him in great danger. The role was played by Adam Driver, whom most people know better as Kylo Ren in Star Wars

Chuck was wired for sound so that Ron and his colleagues could listen in. As a result of this, and phone calls direct to Ron himself, they managed to avoid a number of cross burnings, as police cars cruised the area. Asked about it later, Ron said that it was well worth doing, because there were a lot of children who never had to go through seeing those cross burnings. 

The sting became bigger than Ben-Hur, as other police departments heard about it and joined in. When Chuck was asked to take over leadership of the group, it came to an end and Ron was ordered to destroy all the files he had kept. He disobeyed, taking most of them home, and eventually used them to write his book.

In the meantime, there was a lot of bizarre stuff going on, such as Ron being sent  by the police to act as Klan Leader David Duke’s bodyguard during his visit to Colorado Springs. Ron had a bit of fun with this; the scene even appears in the film. 

The whole business was bizarre, in fact, and the police managed to  fool the Klan completely, though I assume they know now! 

The film changed a fair amount, and having read this, I do understand why. Nothing went wrong, or came close to going wrong, in real life. The police were very careful, and nobody went out without backup.

A film must have excitement and drama, and there must be at least a possibility of things going horribly wrong. So extra stuff was added, from a love interest(in real life Ron was already dating his future wife, who played no role in the story)  to a bomb being planted. It had a final scene in which footage from the 2017 Charlottesville riot was shown. 

I found the book easy and interesting reading, but do see the film as well. Both are well worth a read. 

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Look What I got Secondhand!


Look what I got! It arrived from ABEBooks a couple of weeks earlier than it was due. ABEBooks is a web site that sells secondhand books from bookshops around the world. I have only bought two books through them before, one called Schmoozing With Terrorists, which I heard about on the radio, but wasn’t available in Australia. The other was the autobiography of Murray Beresford Roberts, one of the crooks I was researching for my book, Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly. 

The good thing about this web site is that each book they offer is described in detail so you can decide if it’s worth spending the money. And they keep sending you information about books you have asked for till you buy the copy that suits you. 

This one came from the US, is a former library book, nicely covered and is in better condition than I was expecting from the description. 

I really wanted this author’s Encyclopedia Of Fairies, which is out of print and doesn’t seem to be available in ebook. But this is a sort of abridged version which, however, according to the introduction, has some extra stuff in it. And I had got to the point where I really wanted something, after years of emails offering books that were either not in good condition or cost more than I was prepared to pay. So, when this one was reasonably priced and in fairly decent condition I bought it. 

I used books like this, on folklore, when researching for my novel, Wolfborn, but this is regarded as a classic, written by a top British folklorist. It’s easy reading and, I suspect, has a young audience in mind. I have been curling up with it when I had some peaceful time to myself, and am enjoying so far. 

I’ll let you know how it goes! 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Of “Celebrity Authors”

 Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on social media on the subject of celebrity authors. You know the kind - famous actor or Duchess or whatever publishes a book and it sells because of the name on the cover. I’m not even talking here about the ghost written autobiographies, which are, of course, published for the same reason. I have a few of those. Some have the name of the actual author as co-writer, some just have the name of the actor or whoever. We expect those to be ghost written, although they aren’t always. 

I’m talking here about fiction written with the name of someone you wouldn’t normally associate with writing. It has been going on for a very long time. 

Here are some of those I remember from a long time ago. Some are ghost written; they tend to be the better ones; being an actor doesn’t mean you can write, but the books will sell.

Star Wars, with the name of George Lucas on the cover, was actually written by SF author Alan Dean Foster.

The Tek War series: name on the cover, William Shatner(known to his fans as Captain Kirk). Author: SF writer Ron Goulart.

 Avon: A Terrible Aspect was written by Paul Darrow, one of the stars of British science fiction show Blake’s 7. He played the brooding anti-hero Kerr Avon, very popular with female fans, who bought his novel and raved over it. You could never mistake it for a ghost written book, it was so awful. And he did say that he had worked on it in his dressing room while doing stage shows. I bought the hardcover when it came out, and quickly dubbed it Avon: A Terrible Novel. It really was. I asked my library technician to cover it, to keep it in good shape so I could lend it to curious friends so they wouldn’t have to pay for it. 

I had Year 7 students who were much better writers. Apart from the poor  quality of the writing, the science was non existent. He thought the Magellanic Clouds were giant clouds in space, and had his hero travel between two planets in the solar system via the Magellanic Clouds. He had telegrams being sent between planets. Oh dear... not even the TV series had that! 

Poor Paul was a fine actor, but he couldn’t write to save his life. That didn’t matter in the case of this celebrity writer. Fans bought it and loved it, because hey, it was by Paul! It even went into paperback. I very much doubt it had any editing at all, or the editor was told to let Paul have his way. 

You can sort of see why publishers would publish this stuff. It makes money. 

But not all celebrity authors are awful. Some discovered that they could write after another career. 

Thomas Tryon was an American actor. He was very good at that and did a lot of films and TV roles. Then he discovered he could make a living from writing, and quit the acting. I have read one of his books, Harvest Home, an impressive horror novel in the style of Stephen King, before anyone had even heard of Stephen King. (I think King’s first novel came out soon after) That one became a TV miniseries. 

Charlie Higson is a British YA novelist who is also known as an actor and comedian. I’ve never seen him act, but I did have many of his books in my library. They are very good. Two series are The Enemy and Young James Bond, which he was commissioned to write, and which compares nicely to Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, but set in the 1920s, when Young James was a student at Eton. Elsewhere on this site, you will find an interview he kindly agreed to give to a member of my book club. Selena adored his books. The Enemy is a series of novels, set in London, in which anyone over about fifteen is likely to become a flesh eating zombie. So children have to hide and learn to hunt for food and deal with family members who are willing to kill and eat them. Scary and very well written! 

David Walliams, best known as a comedian, is a children’s writer. For reasons I haven’t yet been able to find out, he is being abused on social media for being a celebrity writer, but guess what? Kids love his books! I have heard primary school teachers reading his books to their classes. Some of my literacy students brought in their own copies. They loved them! 

In Australia, there is Felice Arena, a top children’s writer and qualified primary teacher. Here is my interview with him. Probably most people here have forgotten by now that he used to be an actor. He was one of the cast of our popular soap Neighbours, then did stage work in England. A very prolific writer, he started off with football novels, the Specky Magee series. This series was hugely popular but has been followed up with many others. Most recently he has been writing historical fiction for children - three so far, set in Sicily during WWII, Paris early in the 20th century and Berlin just after the wall went up. He is working on another, though keeping the details secret. Children these days don’t usually care for historical fiction, but these three have all been short listed for YABBA Awards, which are the ones which children nominate and vote for.  

He is one of the few authors in this country who is able to make a living out of writing.

A celebrity author? Not now, though his co-author on the Specky Magee novels was Garry Lyon, a football star. However, they were friends from their school days, so nothing cynical there, just two friends writing a book together, and one of them an expert in the theme. 

Any celebrity authors you can think of? 

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Happy Birthday, Isaac Asimov!

 This was going to be a post about January 2, because it’s 2/1/21 (or, to Americans, 1/2/21, also interesting), but really, there was nothing much that interested me which happened on that day in history - in fact, only one book related event, which was Lord Byron completing Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1818. 

Public Domain

But someone special was born on this day in 1920: Isaac Asimov, one of the top SF authors of all time. He was born in Russia, though he came to the US when he was three years old. It’s interesting to note that when he was only a year old, he was one of a bunch of children in his area who contracted pneumonia - and the only survivor. So, we nearly lost him before he ever started writing! 

He started reading SF when he was nine years old and made his first sale at 18, “Marooned Off Vesta”, published in Amazing Stories. 

He wrote or edited about 500 books, both fiction and non fiction. At one stage, he said his first love was non fiction, but he is best known for his fiction.

I discovered his work when I was babysitting for my sister, a passionate Asimov fan. I used to look after my toddler nephew regularly and my sister would leave me a chocolate mousse in the fridge; I’d eat it while raiding her bookshelves. To be honest, I liked his short stories best, and in later years he published some stories that had been rejected when first written. The collection was called Buy Jupiter! The title story was a humorous short piece about a visit from aliens who want to rent Jupiter as an advertising billboard for passing spaceships. In return, they offer power generators that will keep Earth going for a very long time. The offer is accepted, and the people concerned consider offering Saturn to the competition...

Of course, there were classics that are far better known. “Nightfall” was about a world where it only gets dark once in thousands of years. And when it gets dark, the stars appear. And people go crazy.

If you haven’t heard of his robot stories, you will pretty certainly know about his Laws of Robotics, which have become so well known that other science fiction works have used them without necessarily knowing who created them. 

They are: 

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

His short story “The Bicentennial Man”(which I read and loved) was developed into a novel, which then became a movie, with Robin Williams as a robot who wants to be human, even though it will cost him his immortality. It was a lovely film; if you haven’t seen it, I do recommend it. 

Probably his most famous work was the Foundation series. I have the first one in ebook and am rereading it before the TV miniseries comes out, later this year, I believe. The trailers look fantastic, though I see that some characters who were originally male have been changed to female. 

I also own a recording of the Foundation story “The Psychohistorians”. It was a gift from a friend, and the story is read by William Shatner. 

Asimov was a Star Trek fan. He said that where it erred, it did so intelligently. I also have a recording of him talking with Gene Roddenberry, saying that.

One Asimov quirk was that this author of all those stories set in a far time with spaceflight  was afraid of flying! He did travel by ship, something he couldn’t do today, except on a cruise.

Anyway, happy birthday, Isaac Asimov!