‘All That’s Dead,’ by Stuart MacBride

I did it again. I wasn’t going to read any more Stuart MacBride novels, but I keep getting them confused with other Scottish mystery series. So I buy them again, and they’re not so awful that I feel the need to dump them, and once again I’m slogging through the adventures of Inspector Logan McRae and his crew of dysfunctional, profane detectives, all of whom hate each other.

In All That’s Dead, Logan is just back to work after a long medical leave resulting from being stabbed. He’s told his first case will be an easy one. That, of course, turns out to be utterly, hideously wrong.

A well-known professor, a vociferous opponent of Scottish independence, has disappeared. We soon learn (though it takes the police longer) that the man’s been kidnapped by an insane Scottish nationalist, with a plan to promote his cause by kidnapping opponents, snipping off body parts, and sending those parts to the press.

This will get very ugly, and all the way through we do a ride-along with the Scottish police who (judging by these books) are a bunch of functional morons who excel only at hurling authentic Scottish insults at each other. Chief among them is raddled lesbian Detective Steel, whose dirty talk is stomach-turning in itself.

The story itself isn’t bad, though it’s gruesome. A lot of people seem to like the series, so maybe you will too, if this is your cup of tea. Cautions for foul language, disgusting crimes, and exceedingly unpleasant characters.

Somebody remind me, next time a Logan McRae book comes out, not to buy it.

I also hate being wrong

Yesterday I posted, in good faith, an article that described the state-sanctioned assisted suicide of a 17-year-old girl in the Netherlands. Since this precisely echoed the plot of my novel Death’s Doors, I wrote about it.

It appears that the story was false. This from Reason:

Pothoven did indeed apply with a clinic for The Netherlands’ legal euthanasia process, but physicians reportedly denied her request, saying she was too young, her brain was not fully developed yet, and she should try more trauma treatment first.

Her recent death came after a long struggle with anorexia and depression, in which the teen ultimately refused to consume food, water, or anything to keep her alive.

The whole story seems to me to be still kind of muddy. Nevertheless, the central point of my post was the evil of government-enabled suicide, and in this case the government was in fact blameless.

So I apologize.

I have no doubt the Death’s Doors parallel is coming, but it is not yet.

On Mulling over a Library Book Sale

My local library has a few shelves to the left of the doors that hold for-sale books. They’ve dragged out more shelves for a larger sale at times, but I think they’ve settled into a simple pattern of perpetual selling. The Chattanooga library system just had its semi-annual book sale in our shopping-mall-turned-town-center. I have wanted to take my kids to one of these, but I forget year after year.

(BTW, when people talk about malls as a thing of the past, they aren’t in the past here yet. We still have nice, old school shopping malls with food courts and big department stores. We just got a Cheesecake Factory this year, which seems to be riding on the reputation of other restaurants in the franchise because it struck me as high-end fast food.)

Was I talking about books? Oh, yeah. The no-longer-shopping-mall space has a library book sale at least once a year. Luke Holmes went to a similar sale Oklahoma City and noted the not-so-classics available there.

There are piles of books that promise me they will be the next big thing. Learn how to capture the Zim Zum or Chazown, or how to have your best life now. There are enough books about bettering your life to build a house with, not to mention all the books about prayer, leadership, and integrity from those men who were found to be acting in their own power, abusing women, or stealing money.

He draws from this a few good thoughts. Yes, as the wise man once said, of the writing and fussing over books there will be no end until the sun finally boils the ocean. So read something good, friend.

I hate being right

A few years ago I published a novel based on a scenario I saw coming down the road, inevitable as the 1:00 train: The same legal theories that allowed a young girl to get an abortion without her parents’ approval would allow any child to commit suicide without the parents’ consent. The book is called Death’s Doors.

And now it’s come true.

The London Daily Mail reports that a 17-year-old girl, Noa Pothoven, has committed assisted suicide in her own living room. Her parents did not approve, but were legally powerless to prevent it.

According to the Dutch newspaper De Gelderlander, Noa’s parents had no idea she was unwell until her mother discovered a plastic envelope in her room filled with farewell letters to her parents, friends and acquaintances. 

‘I was in shock,’ Lisette told De Gelderlander. ‘We didn’t get it. Noa is sweet, beautiful, smart, social and always cheerful. How is it possible that she wants to die? 

‘We have never received a real answer. We just heard that her life was no longer meaningful. For only a year and a half have we known what secret she has carried with her over the years.’  

I weep for the girl, but I also weep for those parents. It’s a parent’s job to be adult for their child, to stand in their way when they want to make disastrous choices. These parents have been stripped of that God-given duty and right. The girl probably thought that a lot of pain would go out of the world when she left. She was wrong. She left all her pain behind, for her parents to bear.

Write History as You Would Want to Be Written About

If only all history teachers would take a Golden Rule approach as Yale professor Mark A. Peterson does. It would revive history as a viable college major. (via John Wilson)

“If you take seriously the moral reality of historical subjects as equal to your own and write about them with the respect they deserve, I think that is a valuable skill in terms of how you conduct yourself in your daily life,” says Peterson. “In that regard, I see a serious engagement with the humanities as the most essential thing that anyone can pursue in college. Even subjects that we don’t always associate with ‘the humanities’ such as engineering, computer science, and chemistry deserve the kind of scrutiny that humanistic thinking teaches, the capacity to imagine and interrogate how the discoveries we make and the things we invent will shape the lives, for better or worse, of real human beings like ourselves, our fellow inhabitants of humanity’s only planet.”

I need to go through my drawers…

I was going to tell you about all the pulse-pounding excitement of Danish Day in Minneapolis yesterday. But you’ll just have to wait, because once again it’s taking forever to upload photos to 1) Dropbox, and then 2) to Photobucket. Not sure why that is. I didn’t have that trouble in the past.

Anyway, exciting news in the world of Early Medieval Scandinavian Geekdom today. One of the lost Lewis Chessmen has been located… forgotten in a desk drawer.

It’s always the last place you look, isn’t it?

“It was stored away in his home and then when my grandfather died my mother inherited the chess piece.

“My mother was very fond of the Chessman as she admired its intricacy and quirkiness. She believed that it was special and thought perhaps it could even have had some magical significance.

“For many years it resided in a drawer in her home where it had been carefully wrapped in a small bag. From time to time, she would remove the chess piece from the drawer in order to appreciate its uniqueness.”

Read the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

‘The Body in the Mist,’ by Nick Louth

Nick Louth’s Craig Gillard series, about a police detective in a small English city, has been a delight from the start. This third book, The Body in the Mist, is not only the best of the series (in my opinion) but one of the best English/Cozy/Police Procedurals I’ve ever read.

Craig Gillard has rarely talked to his (implausibly longsuffering) wife Samantha about his family and upbringing. But a call from his aunts in Devon, forcing them to travel there to visit them, will bring everything to light. And it’s a horror show.

Gillard has two aunts and an uncle living near his maternal family’s old sheep farm. One aunt, Barbara, is a hulking old troll, not terribly bright, who runs the farm mostly by herself. His aunt Trish is a tiny little chatterbox with a gift for emotional manipulation. And his uncle – once a celebrity liberal clergyman – is now suffering dementia in a nursing home, and has lost all his sexual inhibitions.

Gillard does not want to go. But apparently someone stole Barbara’s SUV and ran a man over one night, killing him and destroying his face so badly that he can’t be identified. The police suspect Barbara. Craig is a policeman! He has to come and help!

As Gillard does his best to look into the problem without stepping on the local police’s toes, Samantha gradually learns some of the family’s secrets. After what she learns she’ll be amazed that her husband managed to lead a semi-normal life. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe it.

Also it’s possible his uncle murdered someone, years back.

The Body in the Mist was fascinating, horrifying, and sometimes darkly funny. I also noted some quite effective prose, particularly in a night scene on the farm when a storm is brewing and some mysterious beast is hunting Barbara’s sheep.

I strongly recommend The Body in the Mist. You’ll probably want to read the series in order (it starts with The Body in the Marsh). The three books (to date) aren’t expensive, and they give great entertainment for your book-buying dollar. No unusual cautions for content, expect for some creepy stuff about child molestation that happens offstage.

“A living, breathing, 20th century desert father”

Pastor and author Andrew Arndt shared this quote from that great Christian musician Rich Mullins out of research he has been working on for a book with NavPress.

Arndt quoted Mullins from an interview:

How do you know when God is calling you? Well, for me, for years I tried to avoid loneliness, because it hurt too much. Now I am beginning to recognize that maybe that’s what it feels like when God calls. Maybe when God is calling it hurts. Maybe when God calls us it feels like a pain. And for years I tried to drown and avoid that pain, and fill the ache with stuff that was destroying me. To listen to the call of God means to accept some of the emptiness we have in our lives and rather than always trying to drown out that feeling of emptiness we allow it instead to be a door we go through in order to meet God. And this is where moral purity begins to play in. Almost everything that corrupts us is something we use to fill an ache and moral purity might be nothing more than a call to accept the ache and the emptiness and to allow ourselves to go through it to where God is calling us to go. And the joy of the Christian life is that those aches are met ultimately in Christ.

When we finally pull the lifeline we’ve created to the things we’ve tried to fill our emptiness with, when we say no, it is very scary and we think will we ever stop hurting. My answer is don’t worry about hurting. Realize that this is how badly God wants you and that the hurt you’re feeling – maybe that’s the way it feels when you’re called by God so don’t try to fill or quiet it but ask God to give you the courage to face it and walk through it to him.

Ascension Day


Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome 1510 – 20

It’s Ascension Day, a very important feast in the Christian calendar, which (like so many important feasts) is little noticed today.

I read something in one of Francis Schaeffer’s books a long time ago that left an impression on me. I’m pretty sure he was citing someone else. The idea was that the importance of the Ascension is (at least in part) that it proclaims the physical existence of Heaven. According to the testimony of witnesses, Jesus had (after the Resurrection) an actual body that could be touched and consumed food. And that body went somewhere. Not to a “philosophical other,” but to some place where bodies can live.

It’s part of our hope of eternity.

Happy Ascension Day.

Viking alert

My renowned Viking tent (seen here a year ago) will be on display once again (God willing) at Danish Day at the Danish-American Center, 3030 W. River Parkway S., Minneapolis, this Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 or so. I’ll be there with the Viking Age Club & Society, selling books and pretending to be a bigshot. The weather looks to be OK.

You have been warned.

‘The NIght Window,’ by Dean Koontz

Shadows had shrunk into the objects that cast them, waiting to emerge when the day finished transitioning from morning to afternoon.

Five dystopian thrillers and it’s done now. The Jane Hawk pentalogy by Dean Koontz has been a rewarding ride, and he ties it all up pretty neatly in The Night Window.

Jane Hawk is a former decorated FBI agent. Now she’s the FBI’s most wanted fugitive, not to mention the CIA, the NSA, and any other federal agency that has a free minute on its computers. Jane found out about the Arcadians, a stealthy group of self-described human elites who have a plan to enslave the whole world through nanotechnology mind control. The Arcadians, who largely control the government, killed Jane’s beloved husband, and now they want her. But it’s not enough for her to just disappear. She has a young son, Travis, and she knows the Arcadians are hunting him, to use him as a weapon against her. She has him hidden, but you can’t hide from these people forever. They have to be unmasked and stopped.

It’s a big order, but Jane is not without resources, particularly her friend Vikram Rangnekar, a computer genius who adores her. He used to feel guilty about what he did for the government. Now he’s with Jane, working hard to redeem himself.

The cast of characters, as with any Koontz novel, is Dickensian in its variety. There’s the unlikely team of an old Jewish man and an autistic black genius who are protecting Travis. A young filmmaker targeted for murder by the leader of the Arcadians, who turns out to be better at survival than even he ever imagined. There’s an appalling team of Arcadian assassins, united by their obsession with men’s fashion.

I thought the wrap-up of the story slightly contrived, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t weep manly tears as I read. I recommend the whole series, and I don’t think the finale will disappoint you.

And the writing’s darn good.

Cautions for rough language and horrific crimes.

These honored dead

As advertised, I was at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Saturday morning, helping to dedicate a memorial to the men of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), a World War II commando unit organized and trained for an invasion of Norway. Most of its members were either Norwegian merchant sailors stranded by the Occupation, or Norwegian-American boys. Requirements were Norwegian heritage, ability to speak the language, and the ability to ski.

Although the invasion never happened as such, they participated in commando actions (some of them became part of the legendary OSS), and participated in the battle for Europe. The man in the grave above died in 1944, probably in Belgium, where the unit saw fierce fighting.

I was asked to read an invocation for the ceremony, and then I helped place battalion flags on the graves of all the 99th members buried in the cemetery. A couple of my Viking friends came too, and I thank them. It was a moving occasion. No 99th veterans were present, but a couple of their widows were there, along with some descendants.

Memorial Day

When it comes to Memorial Day, I always seem to perambulate back to “The Mansions of the Lord,” because it just gets me right here. This version includes a lot of Ronald Reagan, so if you don’t care for that, there are other blogs in the web. Have a good day.

I want to post a photo from Saturday at Fort Snelling, but that will have to wait because the picture file is taking forever to appear in Dropbox.

I just finished a big translation job, and I have another smaller one I need to get at today. And that’s good. Because I’m a hard-working man with a vibrant life, not a fat old bachelor with odd hobbies, as I might appear to some.

To all survivors of fallen heroes, may the Lord be with you, today and every day.

Memorial Weekend

I mentioned earlier that I’ll be participating in the dedication of a war memorial at Fort Snelling Cemetery in Minneapolis this Saturday, May 25. The event will be in honor of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) of which I’ve written several times before. I actually have no personal connection to the unit, except for ethnicity and historical interest. But they’ve invited me to give the invocation, and I will be doing that. In Viking costume.

To see a local TV report on the event and on the unit itself, follow this link.

‘Close Out,’ by Jeff Shelby

Tonight’s review will be even shorter than last night’s. I’ve got a big translation project (at last), and deadlines loom. Posting may be sparse for the rest of the week. We’ll see how it goes.

Fortunately, this is another Noah Braddock book, Jeff Shelby’s series about a lonely surfer/private eye in San Diego. When Close Out begins, Noah and his giant friend Carter have been reduced to doing bouncer work at a local night club. Business has been slack. But one night a woman lawyer, Cynthia Guzman, comes in to talk to Noah. She has clients she’d like him to meet. But they can’t just get together. They need to meet in a secret place.

Cautiously, Noah agrees. He is introduced to two illegal immigrants, a middle-aged man and woman. They’ve been paying a mysterious “benefactor” who promised to clear up their legal problems and get them legalized. But he’s long on promises – and demands for payments – and short on results. They now realize they’ve been cheated. Can Noah help them recover their money?

It doesn’t look like a high-paying job, but Noah is interested. He agrees to look into it on a preliminary basis. The trail will lead to unexpected quarters, and to risk for himself and his clients.

Like the other books in the series, Close Out is a fairly low key, enjoyable read. The author is on his immigration crusade again – again there are no non-admirable “undocumented immigrants” in sight – but the politics aren’t too heavy-handed, and Noah and Carter are fun to hang out with.

Recommended with minor cautions for language.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture