I have done a lot of reading and listening this year. I just can’t stick to one book at a time.
Here are a few things I am reading or listening to right now!
The Lost King: The Search For Richard III by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones. This is the story of the archaeological dig in Leicester which found the remains of Richard III under a car park. Richard was buried in the church of St Francis, part of one of the many monasteries that Henry VIII destroyed during the Dissolution. For quite some time it was believed that Richard’s remains were thrown into the river Soar at that time, but no. The church was buried and Richard with it. And eventually it was buried under that car park. He was examined and found to have scoliosis, which made one of his shoulders higher than the other, but not a hunchback. Then he was given a proper funeral, with a poem read by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is related to Richard through Richard’s mother, and buried again in a coffin built by a many times great grandnephew, Michael Ibsen.
I’m going to see the film on Monday. It’s not a documentary, and looks like fun.
I have just downloaded The Lady With The Gun Asks The Questions by Kerry Greenwood. It’s a collection of Phryne Fisher short stories, originally published as A Question Of Death. I do have that book, but this one has four new stories in it, so I sighed and bought it. As they are all together at the end, I’m rereading the lot before I read the new material.
I first read The Art Of Coarse Acting by Michael Green many years ago. It’s a hilarious book about the bizarre things that go on in amateur drama. You can’t get it in paperback any more, or even in ebook, but you can get the audiobook read by the author, and I bought it a few months ago. He read it when he was an old man, but that is fine; the humour shines through. I have listened to it a few times while doing housework and I’m still laughing, no matter how many times I listen. Interestingly, he seems to have updated it, mentioning things that happened later than the 1960s when the book was first published. It’s very much comfort listening for me.
Another book you can’t buy in ebook and which seems to be out of print but which is available in audiobook is Barbara Hambly’s Bride Of The Rat God, narrated by Marguerite Gavin. I like the reader’s style. She does a good job of playing the different characters, whether it’s the English heroine Norah or the studio owner Frank. Norah Blackstone is a widow whose American soldier husband was killed in France during the Great War. His beautiful sister, Christine, a silent movie star, has brought Norah to live with her in Hollywood. There is this cursed necklace which Christine wears everywhere, which has a scary Manchu rat god trying to kill her. Fortunately she has three adorable Pekingese dogs protecting her.
Incidentally, if you would enjoy this story more as a murder mystery, Barbara Hambly has rewritten it as Scandal In Babylon. I bought that earlier this year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I see there will be a sequel early next year.
I’ve been downloading from Project Gutenberg recently. There are some Robert E.Howard swords and sorcery stories, including Queen Of The Black Coast, about Conan’s love for a pirate queen, Belit. I like Conan. He may be a raging, roaring mercenary, but he doesn’t do rape. Women may be drawn, panting, to his armoured breast, but they are there because they want to be - if they don’t want to be, he protects them from those nasty men who do have rape in mind. And he respects strong women; the love of his life is a fellow warrior. I have posted on this site about Conan as a next door neighbour.
There are about seven Agatha Christie titles up on Gutenberg, increasing as they go out of copyright. I have recently downloaded The Secret Adversary, her first Tommy And Tuppence book.
Apple Books has a free comic book by Laurie Halse Anderson, better known for her very serious YA fiction, a Wonder Woman origin story. Who would have thought it? I downloaded it, of course!
The Children Of Ash And Elm by Neil Price is about the Vikings, written by the archaeologist who advised the production of film The Northman, which is inspired by Hamlet. I haven’t read very far yet, but I’m finding it fascinating so far.
When I heard that SF author Greg Bear had died recently, I thought it might be time to finally read his work, so I bought The Complete Short Fiction Of Greg Bear. I like to discover new authors via their short fiction. If I like this, I will invest time in their novels. If not, at least I didn’t invest more time than I wanted.
My sister and I were talking about Neville Shute’s On The Beach, which I read years ago, and on impulse I bought the ebook. That is about the world gradually coming to an end after a nuclear explosion, and the last days of Australians; the poison is spreading from north to south, so Australia is the last place in the world where people are still alive. You may have seen the film, made in the 1950s, with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. Like other films of the time, of course, the cast was not Australian, but it was made here in Melbourne. One of my teachers was an extra in it.
I bought the hardcover Marvel’s Loki: Art Of The Series, which is filled with concept art and goes through each episode telling us what the artist had in mind and why. Originally, the plan was to end the show with Loki going off on adventures, so various possible costumes were painted, including one taken from the comic book Agent Of Asgard. Then they gave it a second season, so those costumes were no longer relevant.
It is a stunningly beautiful book. I paid a lot for it, but don’t regret a cent of it.
And, finally, I’ve been reading quite a lot of fan fiction, downloaded from the Archive Of Our Own website. Recently I have discovered masses of Blake’s 7 fan fiction. Some was written recently, but there are some classics I first read in fanzines, such as those by Lillian Shepherd, who is a very good writer and should be having a go at writing stuff she can sell. I don’t think she is interested. A pity - another former fan writer and editor, Janet Reedman, who used to do Robin Of Sherwood fanzines, is now writing and self publishing Richard III novels. She is doing well. I bought one of her novellas and it was excellent.
There are also quite a few that were stored on Hermit. org, which was closed down and they have been moved to this site instead.
I have mostly been reading Loki-themed fiction, but it’s been nice to find Blake’s 7 stories as well. My favourite character, Kerr Avon, is an anti-hero. He did end up killing Blake, the titular character and leader of the group, though personally I thought Blake had it coming under the circumstances. But for most of the series he was talked into doing good deeds, much against his will.
So there are quite a few Avon stories on this site, and I have had fun looking them up.
I have recently been considering hunting up some of my old fan fiction and popping it up on Archive Of Our Own. Only a few stories, but hey, why not?
What do you think?