Latest News:
April 29, 2017: Website updated and revised.
\

Novel News – “City Of Witches” Finished

After three years, to my amazement, I finished the damn thing.

After three years, to my amazement, I finished the damn thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Bell Of The Clan” Now Out In The Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly

Middle America's Pagan Magazine

Middle America’s Pagan Magazine

The Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly is a magazine dedicated to folk religion, spirituality, and paganism of all paths and stripes. My story, Bell Of the Clan, appears in their second Summer issue (Litha and Lugnhasadh).

I’m especially pleased for two reasons. This story is a reprint and I know that magazines rarely accept previously published material. Secondly, the plot is based very loosely on my own family history, pertaining to the O’Mullan Clan of what’s now County Tyrone and their important role as the keepers (maers) of the Bell of St. Patrick’s Will.

This story was a labor of love, like many others, but particularly dear to me as a romantic love letter to Ireland, a land I’ve never seen.  I appreciate all my publishing credits, but this one is a real accolade. A big Southwestern thanks to the Chief Editor, Belwoeth Harbright, and all the other folks, contributors and staff alike, that help publish the OPQ.

https://www.amazon.com/Oklahoma-Pagan-Quarterly-Summer-2018/dp/1720524297/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1530147016&sr=8-2&keywords=oklahoma+pagan+quarterly

https://oklahomapaganquarterly.com/

 

 

Book Review – “Greeks Bearing Gifts”

Kerr NovelI’ve been a big fan of Bernie Gunther ever since I read the March Violets trilogy in the early ’90’s. Kerr’s insight, to transfer the techniques and plots tropes of ’40’s film noir to the context of Nazi Germany, worked well to generate dramatic tension and an overwhelming atmosphere of danger, corruption, and doom. Bernie Gunther, Kerr’s protagonist, the ex-Kripo homicide inspector, is a solid, believable character, basically decent but compelled by fate to work with the worst, a survivor who still can’t quench his cop’s instinct to find the guilty man, regardless of the cost.

Kerr has also performed the remarkable feat of sustaining interest as the series continues. Many fictional detectives peter out as series go on and authors run out of steam and invention. There’s also the fact that the reader always knows that Gunther will survive since he’s the narrator. Yet Kerr still provides taut, suspenseful stories. This is quite an achievement. The Lady From Zagreb is a good, recent example of this.

Unfortunately, Greeks Bearing Gifts doesn’t quite meet this admittedly high standard. This is unfortunate since I’d looked forward to reading the novel for some months beforehand. It had the plus of being located mostly in Greece, one of my favorite places in the world. So you can say I read the book predisposed to be pleased.

While it was a pretty typical entry in the series, I didn’t experience the suspense the other novels succeeded in generating. Without trying to give away any spoilers, the plot followed the standard arc for a Bernie Gunther novel. Living undercover as an insurance adjuster in Munich, he’s sent to Athens where he’s quickly embroiled in intrigue involving Nazi profiteers, Israeli vengeance squads, and gold stolen from the Jews of Thessalonika. Add in, of course, the standard Gunther love interest, this time a righteously stacked Greek babe who conveniently speaks fluent German.  (A notable point of the Gunther novels is the fact that this this middle-aged, beat to hell guy who’s always on the lam and short of funds still manages to bag more sex than James Bond.)

Despite these colorful plot elements, it never seemed Gunther was in any serious danger during the novel’s course. There was violence and vivid depictions of bad characters doing horrible things, but I never got the sense of Bernie with his back against the wall I got from the other novels, locked in some sort of horrible dilemma, moral or otherwise, with no choices left but bad ones. Part of this stemmed from the fact that the principal villain in the piece, a particularly odious, vicious, real life Nazi named Alois Brunner, only appears in passing without posing any real threat to Gunther. I’ll also note that Kerr does a good job illustrating how eager supposed anti-Nazis like Konrad Adenauer were to rehabilitate Nazis and welcome them back into German society. Hopefully, this novel is just an off effort rather than the beginning of a decline.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes the Bernie Gunther series or interested in European WWII and post WWII history or just looking for a good summer read.

https://www.amazon.com/Greeks-Bearing-Gifts-Bernie-Gunther/dp/039917706X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529544131&sr=8-1&keywords=greeks+bearing+gifts

The “Do You Like My Hat?” Dance

Alternative Title:  "Mr. Show Mangles"

Alternative Title: “Mr. Show Mangles”

The Pillars Of Twerkules

This doesn't even really deserve a caption, does it?

This doesn’t even really deserve a caption, does it?

A Rich, Full Portrait Of Italy’s Most Fascinating Asshole

Outwardly so exquisite, the picture of composed contemplation, inwardly lusting for war, power, and slaughter.

Outwardly so exquisite, the picture of composed contemplation, inwardly lusting for war, power, and slaughter.

Gabriele D’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, And Preacher Of War. Lucy Hughes-Hallett. 543 pp., Anchor Books.

I reluctantly confess that during my late teens I underwent a decadent period. Please don’t think I lolled on a chaise lounge in a cork lined room, smoking opium while dressed in red satin. Those resources weren’t available to me at sixteen. No, I just read books by and about people like Beardsley, Wilde, and Max Beerbohm. One of the most intriguing figures I learned about was the Italian poet, playwright, and novelist D’Annunzio. Cursory accounts made him out as an extravagant, strutting peacock of a literary figure, even by 19th Century standards. Sadly, like a literary weakling, I never read his stuff, one, because his works weren’t readily available in that distant, pre-Internet age, and two, it sounded daunting.

The Internet and renewed interest led me to this thoroughly entertaining, but still comprehensive biography of the Vate, Italy’s self styled Bard. Many literary bios can be slow going, since authors must spend long hours alone at work. That certainly can’t be said for D’Annunzio. An Italian Everready Bunny, Gabe had energy to burn all through his life (although considerably aided toward the end by heavy doses of cocaine). While most writers would be content to generate a decent body of work while somehow keeping body and soul together, D’Annunzio churned out poetry and prose at an astonishing rate while living in sybaritic luxury that would have put the Borgias to shame, and always on somebody else’s dime too.

A half baked runt, bald by age 23, D’Annunzio nonetheless cruised through life with the secure self-assurance of a pampered, favorite son. His first book of poetry was a vanity affair, published at his father’s expense, but cunningly advanced by D’Annunzio’s contacts and, most prominently, a rumor deliberately spread by the author of his death while out riding, a young poet’s life tragically cut short. This demonstrated D’Annunzio’s flair for public relations, a gift he never lost throughout his long career. He was one of the first writers to be just as notorious for his antics (in and out of bed) as for his work.

On the positive side, D’Annunzio has to be given credit for work ethic. He wrote like his ass was on fire, an almost continuous stream of prose and poetry with rare, intermittent interruptions. D’Annunzio was also a true devotee of the poet’s creed, someone who studied and worked continuously to learn his craft. He showed physical courage, a fearless horseman to the point of recklessness, and most notably, in his hair brained, near suicidal military stunts during WWI.

On the negative side, D’Annunzio was an absurd spendthrift, determined to live at the height of opulence even though up to his bald scalp in debt. At one point, little D had to flee his creditors in Italy and live in France where he racked up even more debt. His works made money, but he always lived far beyond his means. One mansion after another was acquired and then rebuilt and furnished to suit the poet’s ornate fancies, a voluptuary’s paradise often interrupted by bailiffs come to repossess the furniture or angry scenes by the latest of D’Annunzio’s paramours.

This raises his other notorious character flaw, his incessant womanizing. Even for a stereotypical hot-blooded Latin lover, D’Annunzio sure didn’t bother to keep it in his pants. One woman after another was taken for a ride by the heel, loved and lavished with attention and then kicked to the curb at some point (often after years of his abuse) without a word of explanation (the sensitive poet hated having to say goodbye). The most famous of these quite unpleasant sounding relationships was with the Italian actress Eleonara Duse, as famous in her day as Sarah Bernhardt, now largely forgotten. BDSM fans will enjoy the author’s account of their tortured relationship with La Duse in tears, begging D’Annunzio for forgiveness through a locked door while he savored her misery and wrote down his impressions.

D’Annunzio’s worst trait was his love of war and violence. He wasn’t alone. Late 19th-Century Western European culture was rife with aggressive tendencies as reflected in Nietzsche’s thought and the general glorification of war as a cleansing, renewing phenomenon. D’Annunzio got his chance to put his principles into practice with WWI, a conflict D’Annunzio helped drag Italy into (with many others, including Mussolini), leading to a disastrous war with half a million Italian dead and literally almost nothing gained at the end. Heedless of consequences to others as always, D’Annunzio threw himself into the war. He endlessly orated at the front, glorifying death in battle. He put himself at risk too, participating in daring air and sea raids. In one bombing mission, he was hit by a machine gun so badly, D’Annunzio was blinded in one eye.

War ended for Italy in a Pyrrhic victory. Discontented, angry veterans raged against the politicians who had betrayed them. Still lusting for adventure, D’Annunzio embarked on his greatest exploit. At the head of a ragtag group of fanatics, he seized control of the port of Fiume, now Rijeka in Croatia. What followed was a bizarre, sinister episode in political history, the strange pseudo-state that D’Annunzio briefly ruled over. The book is worth reading alone for Hughes-Hallett’s account of this unmitigated nut festival. While D’Annunzio’s quixotic venture ended in predictable fiasco, as Hughes-Hallett notes, the experience provided a template for Mussolini’s subsequent seizure of power and creation of a Fascist state. This leads to my chief score against D’Annunzio, his role in devising a noxious, antidemocratic doctrine.

Once Mussolini came to power, D’Annunzio retreated to his last sanctuary, the Vittoriale, a still existing estate that sounds like the Italian equivalent of the Winchester Mansion. Kept by the suspicious Mussolini in a state of undeclared house arrest, D’Annunzio continued to write and indulge his senses through sex, music, drugs, and whatever else struck his fancy. Pictures of him in old age show a tiny figure with a completely shaven head in a comic opera uniform, complete to ridiculous dagger. A tough old bird, D’Annunzio even lived through a serious fall where he landed on his head, and died at 73, pen in hand, at his desk.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in European history, European literature, Italian history, WWI, fascism, and anyone who wants to read about a really entertaining jerk.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/84061/gabriele-dannunzio-by-lucy-hughes-hallett/

This is a link to the Vittoriale’s foundation, in English:

https://www.vittoriale.it/en/

 

Dachshund With Illegible Signature

I'm just a little girl!

I’m just a little girl!

 

 

Wuxia Landscape

Wuxia088

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought it would be a nice change of pace to break away from the Greco-Roman mold and be a little more culturally diverse. For those of you who find this rather static and boring, don’t worry, it won’t last. This being wuxia, at any second, kung fu asskicking and deadly swordplay will erupt.

One of my earliest film memories is the time my family was stationed in Hawaii and my mother took me to see a Japanese feature length cartoon. I was about six years old. The film was about a boy from a fishing village whose parents were murdered along with the rest of the village by a witch who rose from the sea. The boy goes inland, apprentices himself to a magician who teaches him magic by making him carry water up a mountain, and then takes his revenge on the witch.  The movie filled me with fear and awe and left a lifelong impression. I find the same sense of mystery and entertainment in a lot of wuxia and kung fu movies, which explains why I’m such a fan.

 

 

Namesake Portrait

Iskanderos086

The original that’s been defaced this time is a copy of a mosaic discovered at a villa in Pompeii. The subject is the Battle of the Issus, one of several where Alexander destroyed Persian forces in detail. The Scourge of the Persians advances from the left, lance raised to strike the enemy down, while the Shahinshah, Darius, cowers in his chariot. Among other traits, Alexander had the distinctly autistic feature of being unable to look people straight in the eye. This is why he’s traditionally (although not always) depicted gazing to one side.        Alexander the Great copy

 

I’ve drawn him looking straight ahead because I’m still a really cruddy artist and can’t do a three-quarter profile.

Alexander is my middle name, for those of you who are curious. It means “defender of men,” which is pretty ironic, considering the body count he racked up.

Oh No! Not Another Beer Ad (Abbreviated)!

I guess I'll just have to get a bigger scanner.

I guess I’ll just have to get a bigger scanner.

Antiquity and beer. The kind of combo that delighted Henry Fielding’s heart.  Too bad you can’t see the whole thing. In some ways, I hate the modern age even though I’m aware that to do the same gag 2,000 years ago, I’d have to cut it into a piece of stone and then carry it around from city to city so you could all see it (Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!). The painting that I defaced was done by a Victorian artist named Lawrence Alma-Tadema who was also a successful novelist. His highly idealized paintings are my favorite depictions of the Hellenistic Age. I’ll see about getting the whole image scanned soon and online. Salve et vos benedico, amici!