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Friday, November 30th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Things I’m Looking Forward to Reading in Coming Months

E. E. Knight’s third Age of Fire book, Dragon Outcast. I loved the first two; I can hardly wait to see number 3 on my bookshelf beside them. You want great dragon protagonists and world building and surprising plot twists? Here ya’ go.

Detroit Noir, edited by E. J. Olsen and the mighty John C. Hocking. For those not in the know, the rise of noir is closely aligned with the rise of sword-and-sorcery. Robert E. Howard’s style is not too far removed from Dashiell Hammett.

Leigh Brackett’s Lorelei of the Red Mist. If you’re a regular blog reader here you already know how much I love Brackett’s sword and planet and space opera work. Finally someone’s putting her complete short works into gorgeous hardcovers. 

Martha Wells’ trilogy of novels starting with The Wizard Hunters. I first read Wells’ work in the pages of Black Gate, and especially liked her second offering. I just obtained copies of all three through the mail this week.

Scott Oden’s Memnon, a historical swashbuckler set in ancient Persia. I was raving about his first historical earlier this week.

The Best of Robert E. Howard, volume 2. Sure, I’ve already read most of the stories in this book, multiple times. I’ll probably read them all again. I’ve just devoured the intro by Rusty Burke and closer from Steven Tompkins and was immensely impressed.

What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been a LONG time since I threw myself at so many novels in so short a time. Since Thanksgiving I’ve read four, starting with Northwest Passage. I’ve also read three naval adventures, hoping to find inspiration and information about ship handling. My conclusion?

C. S. Forester still comes out on top. I re-read a few chapters of Beat to Quarters yesterday after having tried the other folks for a few weeks, and even in his first book Forester is smooth and surely in command. That’s not to say that I disliked the other writers. As  said, I read three, although I tried four. My local library has an amazing collection of naval fiction, and appears to have most of each of these series, so it won’t be hard to continue any of them.

Julian Stockwell’s Kydd: This is the fictionalized account of one of the handful of men who started out as a pressed seaman (meaning he was forced to sea against his will) in the age of sail and worked his way up into the officer’s ranks and then up the ladder to admiral. It was a first class acount of life at sea and I will probably read more from this series.

Dewey Lambdin’s Gun Ketch: This was the fifth novel in his Alan Lewrie naval adventure series. I found myself reading compulsively, yet by the end I’m not sure I’ll be seeking out more, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ve read so many I’m suffering genre fatigue, but it may be because the pacing didn’t quite agree with me.

Alexander Kent’s Passage to Mutiny: This is the seventh novel in Kent’s (real name of Douglas Reeman) immense Bolitho saga, but I was some 60 pages in and nothing much had happened yet except characters thinking and characters being described, and it didn’t hold my interest. Maybe I’ll try one of his other books later, but it was my least favorite of all four.

Dudley Pope’s Ramage: This is the first of eighteen books about the young Lord Ramage and his rise to naval prominence. In some ways I liked it better than all the others. Pope occassionally reminds me so much of Forester that they sound the same, and I’m reminded of what one Shakespeare critic said of John Fletcher being the one playwrite who can, for short stretches, sound like Shakespeare. (Remember that Shakespeare and Fletcher worked together at the end of Shakespeare’s career.) But Fletcher worked with types rather than rounded characters, and Pope seems to do that as well. The main villain is kind of cartoony. Then there’s the annoying way Pope will break out of really excitinq sequences to give us long background in Ramage’s thoughts, or not QUITE unobtrusively enough provide us information through dialogue. When he does that it’s not as bad as “as you know, Smith, we are on this secret mission because…” but it’s not as smooth as it should be. On the other hand, Pope will turn around and create gripping action scenes, difficult situations for his characters to resolve, and he also knows his seamanship. He may actually be better than Forester at bringing tangible elements to life — the world building as he effectively describes some aspects of the Italian shore line or life at sea felt true and fully realized. According to some sources, which I haven’t been able to verify, he was Forrester’s appointed successor. Hornblower gets mentioned as a character in this first Ramage book and I’ve found other sources that say Hornblower makes appearances later in the series.

…and that’s it for my reading binge. I’ll read some more Kenneth Roberts soon, but not at this breakneck pace. I have been, as Robert E. Howard called it, “filling the well,” eagerly drinking in information and author style and background prior to a plunge into more writing.

Now back to regularly scheduled Black Gate matters, a few submissions, and heroic fiction.

Howard
 

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