Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is very early this year.   Like, tomorrow.   Unfortunately, I have things to do, so 24 hours of reading will not occur, but I will try to read AMAP (as much as possible.)   I have decided to make this whole weekend a readathon and in that will hopefully read closer to what I might have if I could focus on it for the proper 24 hours.    Please join in!   You’ll be reading with people from all over the world!   This has been going on for years and every year draws in a few more chumps, I mean, readers.   You might even win a prize if you sign up and do the mini-contests.    Oh, and snacks are important.   Stop at the store and pick up your favorite snack or two.   (Or six.)  Post pics on your favorite social media.   (Or six.)   And we’ll all read together wherever we are (sort of, because as I mentioned, I have some commitments, but as they say, any reading is better than none!)  Everyone starts at the equivalent of 5 AM Pacific time so we’re all reading (or hoping to) for the same 24 hour period.



And heck, start early.   Read today.   Go late.   Read Sunday.   It’ll be fun,




The Etruscan Net

Having enjoyed Close Quarters, I ordered a few more Michael Gilbert novels.   It seems for the most part you’re stuck finding old second-hand copies.  British Library Crime Classics has apparently put a couple out, but not in the States yet.  They always seem to take longer here.  At any rate, this one drew me because the main character is running an art book store in Florence and the story involves possible Etruscan forgeries and/or archaeological theft.   That seemed pretty much up my alley so I turned to it next, even though it’s his 14th novel or so.   Gilbert still writes well, but that description of the story is a bit misleading.   Our bookseller is swiftly tossed in prison for a hit-and-run he presumably didn’t commit.   Owing to the Italian political situation at the time (shortly after the bad flooding in 1966) it’s much easier just to find the man guilty.   But his friends rally ’round and find a good lawyer and do some investigating themselves trying to get the bookseller off.   It’s a well-written story, but it just didn’t grab me.   A couple of thugs come to town.  We follow mainly an English Etruscan Art expert as he looks into the archaeological digging of a wealthy art dealer who likes to host Etruscan themed dinner parties.   Where’s Etrusc, I wondered?   Of course I know it wasn’t called Etrusc (or presumed it wasn’t, but realized I don’t know bupkis about the Etruscans.)  Etruria, for those who don’t know either.  They flourished in central Italy from the 8th to the 3rd centuries BCE and they made some beautiful stuff.


So, it’s hard to talk about the book too much because I really didn’t get into it, although I did finish it.   It’s just not my kind of story.   Although there’s a plucky young woman, the erudite Etruscan expert, a divine young man who believes he has super powers and as far as math goes, actually does, and his guardian the art dealer who would rather have been an ancient Etruscan…  it should all add up to an interesting story and yet somehow it was a bit of a chore to read it.   I’ll probably read the others that I bought, but it’s put a damper on my enthusiasm for Michael Gilbert.

The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall

Originally published in 1974, The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall is a study of the whole Medici family from when they first rose to prominence in the 14th century to the end of the line in the 18th.   Obviously, that covers a lot of territory so this is very much an overview, discussing each prominent member for a short while and moving on.   If you already know about the Medici or Florentine history, this is not the book for you.  However, if you’re curious about this famous Italian family and their extraordinary influence on the art world and their history, it’s great.   Interesting, telling the most prominent stories, but never getting bogged down, I doubt there’s a better quick survey out there.   It also lists all the pictures, statues, and buildings that still existed in 1974 (and presumably most of them still do) and where they’re located.  Handy if you’re going to Florence and want to see as many Medici associated pieces of art and architecture as you can.

I’ve not much to say beyond this.   It’s a quick read and some people may find that it is too quick.   I don’t feel like I learned anything about Leonardo da Vinci, for example, but there’s considerably more on Michelangelo.  There are plenty of books out there to fill in the details if you find yourself fascinated by one or more of them.   I found it interesting how different their personalities and characters were.


housemedici Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.   My computer and I were separated and I haven’t learnt how to do this on an ipad.  But we are reunited, so I should be able to catch up on my embarrassingly short backlog of read books.   And knuckle down and read some more.   I’ve been doing more than their fair share of other things.

The Odyssey

Falling behind in my work.  A couple weeks ago I knuckled down and finished The Odyssey which I’d begun last September.   I last read it in college (mumble, mumble) years ago and it was chosen for a homecoming event, but then quickly unchosen as hardly anyone has time to read a book that long.   But I’d already bought it and started it when I found out the change of plan and so, at intervals, I kept reading it.  In college I read the Fitzgerald translation which was good, but I thought I’d like to try a different one.   I had the Lattimore, but a page of that was enough to make me look further.   It’s technically correct I believe, but it’s not really English.   I realize translation is difficult and, naturally, different people prefer different styles.  The Lattimore seems to me more like a guide to the Greek rather than a translation into English.

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.

You see what I mean?   Driven far journeys?   Okay, I know what it means, but we don’t say that in English.  So, I went for the newest (I think) by Emily Wilson.   I can’t judge the Greek, but the flow of English is excellent.   Very readable.

Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
they ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god
kept them from home. . . .

Personally I’m not crazy about the first line, but it’s a difficult line.  πολύτροπον – politropos means many ways and includes both the physical sense of much traveled and the mental sense of wily,   Then again, this definition probably comes from our knowledge of Odysseus’ character.   They thought he was wily, clever, which he could be, but they also thought he was smart, which he frequently isn’t.   I am not terribly keen on Odysseus as a hero.   It’s not his fault, of course, the gods are constantly fighting through their favorites, making people do things they might not do on their own.   But my advice to you  is never to go into a cave if you don’t know who or what is living there.

Wilson’s translation flows very nicely, as I said.   I think it’s easier to read than the Fitzgerald, although that might also be because I’m older and had way more time to finish it.   It does not have as many of those constantly repeated phrases which I believe are part of Homer’s style, but a part that can get on your nerves.   Rosy-fingered dawn, the wine-dark sea, epithets are better to a modern eye when used less often, but perhaps this might be viewed as taking us too far from the original style.   Saying cow-eyed Hera fifty times in a work was how it was done and I probably wouldn’t be aware of that if I’d only read Wilson’s Odyssey.  On the other hand, if fewer repetitious epithets make it more likely you’ll read the Odyssey, then it’s probably a good thing and I recommend Wilson’s translation for the smoothness and readability.   I can’t compare them too well as decades have passed and I did not reread Fitzgerald, but I think I can honestly recommend either if you’re looking for a good translation of the Odyssey.   Not that you need my help.   There’s a whole lot of webpages dedicated to helping you choose.   Google away.

wilsonodyssey It’s quite interesting to see how people apparently lived back then, or perhaps how Homer thought they did.  I’d forgotten a lot of the book.  I was always struck by how powerless Telemachus and Penelope are against the suitors.  They want to stay in the house and eat all their goats, then there’s nothing you can do about it.  And it doesn’t matter whether you’re royal – you still have to do laundry.  What I was struck with though that I don’t remember from before was how much crying there is.   If you went through what Odysseus and his men went through you might cry that much as well, but I don’t think anyone writing it today would have that many tears.   Everyone cries.   A lot.

One odd thing about last year was that the four classics I started, including the Odyssey, were all more or less related to it.   I also didn’t finish Ulysses, the Aeneid nor the Count of Monte Cristo.   I wouldn’t have even connected the last with the Odyssey except I read that somewhere and it makes sense as he apparently roamed around for a long time before…  well, I haven’t read it and don’t want to spoil it for anyone else.  But there was a lot of roaming, I’ve heard.

Still hoping to get through the Aeneid and Ulysses, but time will tell.

Dancers in Mourning

I hope this lack of blogging is temporary.   I finished Dancers in Mourning on the 27th during the Bout of Books.  Published in 1937 it’s the 8th Albert Campion book and I’m surprised by that because I thought I’d been reading them in order and that I hadn’t read that many.  Have I or haven’t I?   My memory is somewhat tricky because I watched them on Mystery! years ago with Peter Davison.   I can’t tell for sure because I’ve got some in print and some on the Kindle.   Anyway, I know I read this one.   Campion is called in to help a dancer, star of musicals, who’s being harassed by an unknown party.  Annoying things like someone sending him a bouquet of garlic.  The hit show he’s starring in has a cast of annoying characters including a very annoying woman who was suddenly added to the show despite no longer being a bright young thing and who has invited herself to the star’s house for the weekend.   Campion joins this weekend and is thus very nearby when the host apparently runs the woman over.   Campion notices immediately there’s not enough blood for car to have caused the death although the country doctor whom you might think would notice a thing like that doesn’t.   But Campion keeps this and other things to himself because he has fallen in love with his hostess and it’s just not the done thing to investigate a murder which might get your host put in jail if you have a thing for his wife, don’tchaknow?   Campion proceeds to act like a total knucklehead, running away and barely investigating.    Fortunately, there’s Lugg.

Magersfontein Lugg, Campion’s gentleman’s valet and ex-con, is always entertaining, but more so in this when he is drafted to become a replacement butler for the said hostess, but forbidden from investigating.   He and the lonely young daughter of the house take to each other and Lugg has a pretty good time pretending to be a butler.   This is good because where is Campion?   Half the time we don’t even know.  Sometimes a gentleman’s code is a good thing, but in this case it just seems daft.   You can’t have murderer’s walking about loose even if you are in love with their wives, which you don’t know for sure because you won’t investigate.   Ridiculous.   Eventually enough investigating does get done and the murderer apprehended, but I have little patience with this sort of artificial postponement.  Plus the whole set-up as to how the body gets under the wheels of the car is in my view, ludicrous.  If I were in the murderer’s situation there’s at least one thing they could have done which would have been infinitely simpler and smarter and seems to me to be glaringly obvious, but I didn’t write the book.   I’m also unconvinced that the final clue which Campion discovers before the police arrive was actually a clue at all.   But I’m trying to be very careful and not spoil it for you because 1) these things might not bother you as they do me and 2) in addition to Lugg there’s a well-drawn landlady and you might enjoy Campion falling in love and acting like a prat.

The first cover was the best. Mine makes it look like it’s about ballet and/or ballroom dancing.

24in48 – January 26-27, 2019

Just a quick post to sign up for the latest 24in48 Readathon which you may deduce, if you’re not familiar, consists of reading 24 hours out of 48 starting at 12:01 AM the 26th in your timezone.   This means, of course, it’s already started in Europe and Asia and everywhere else three hours east of here.  Odds are I won’t get much reading done, if any, tonight, but will try to fill up as much of the next two days as I can.


Should be fun, I hope you’ll join us!


1/26/19 11:42 – Kind of a late start.  Read for about an hour last night.  Will try to focus on this for a bit.

16:16 – Read about 3 hours.   Reading Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham.  Got evening plans so, not a lot more will happen.  Which makes it almost certain that I will not acheive 24 in 48.   Anyone for 24 in 72?


12:56 –  So, I think I managed 5 hours yesterday.   Not great.  Might do the same again.  But still that’ll probably be 7 or 8 more hours than usual and so worth doing.

Close Quarters

Close Quarters by Michael Gilbert was written, or at least started in the Golden Age, but then the war came and the book wasn’t published until 1947.  The title is a play on words as the setting of the crimes is a cathedral close in Melchester.  Not sure if this is the same as Hardy’s Melchester.  Certainly the author’s erudite enough to be making that reference, so let’s assume he did.  The book starts off with the Dean of the Cathedral calling in his nephew, a Scotland Yard man named Pollock, to unofficially investigate some poison pen letters all aimed at an elderly verger called Appledown.  Soon the pen is traded in for a blunt instrument and Chief Inspector Hazlerigg joins Pollock in an official capacity to investigate.

Gilbert is quite an enjoyable writer.  I turned to this book by a slightly roundabout route.  I was reading JJ’s post defending Elephants Can Remember, which I happen to agree with.  Not great work by any stretch, but not so bad either.  Much better than the abysmal television version in which they tried to improve it only to make a complete hash of it.  Anyway, reading this post revealed to me that Noah Stewart had died and I had somehow missed this news in December.  I didn’t know Noah, but I had ‘met’ him virtually last fall when I read his Birlstone Gambit post and proceeded to read the books he spoiled in that post, before reading the post.   I don’t know how it took me five years to find his blog, but it’s a great pity that it did.   So, I started looking at some older posts and found one on Michael Gilbert which sounded good.   In looking up Michael Gilbert on Amazon, I realized I already had the first one.   I must’ve read someone else on it and maybe I’ll find them later.  So, I probably have two people to thank for nudging me to Michael Gilbert.  He wrote a variety of books, but Noah liked even the types he didn’t usually like, so I’m hoping to have a similar experience.  The first one is a good start.  There’s a bit at the end which is coyly never revealed which makes me think he just couldn’t think of a good answer, but it’s a minor quibble.


All in all an enjoyable book and I plan to read more Michael Gilbert.  More police procedural than many, it’s still a closed circle of suspects.  (Close-d circle!  Ha!)  For the Calendar of Crime challenge, this book takes place in September.  Apparently a very hot September.  Gilbert’s a good, solid writer and I look forward to reading more of him and my sympathy to all Noah’s friends and family.   He seemed like a fun and interesting guy.

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.