Last Update 2/3/23

Delivered from Evil by Robert Leckie, Harper, 1987

This is a one volume, thousand page history of World War II. It begins with the Treaty of Versailles, provides biographies of the major figures, then discusses and describes the various political and military developments through the surrender of Japan. William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is still the best account of the European war but this also covers the conflict in the Pacific. The prose is smooth and entertaining. The organization of the material is excellent. The depth of detail in a single book is surprising. My only complaint is that it really needed more maps to understand some of the battles. Considering how much I had already read about World War II, it is surprising how fresh and revelatory it felt to read it - and I did so over the course of more than two weeks. 2/3/23

The Life of Crime by Martin Edwards, Collins, 2022

This is a very large, ambitious attempt to chart the history of the crime story, everything from Edgar Allan Poe to Sara Paretsky, Eric Ambler to Agatha Christie to Raymond Chandler. There is also coverage of mysteries from France, Scandinavia, Japan, and other countries and some mention of radio mysteries and movies. The breadth of the topic is so large that the entries are necessarily somewhat superficial. Some prolific and well known writers are not even mentioned - J. Jefferson Farjeon, Josephine Bell, Christopher Bush, etc. - and most others receive only a paragraph or a footnote. The individual chapters are arranged only vaguely chronologically. They focus on individual subsets like women in jeopardy, locked rooms, tough detectives, psychological thrillers, etc. Scattered through the text are some anecdotes - I did not know that Mary Roberts Rinehart survived a murder attempt by her chef, for example. If nothing else, the book demonstrates that crime fiction is just as diverse as other genres, mores so than some. This is a reference book that will join a dozen others as permanent resident of the shelf beside my desk. 1/7/23

A Literary Octavia E. Butler Companion by Mary Ellen Snodgrass, McFarland, 2022, $49.95, ISBN 978-1476688756c

Octavia Butler's reputation has grown steadily despite the relatively small body of work she produced during her lifetime. This is meant to be a supplement designed either to help a reader understand the possibly hidden complexity of the author's work, but also as a guide for group discussions, formal classes, and other similar situations. There is a fairly substantial biography and chronicle of Butler's writing career, followed by the main section which discusses both her fiction and her non-fiction. The prose is rather academic at times, but the observations seem to be accurate and informative. I'm not sure that I agree that Butler was as prophetic as is sometimes suggested, but science fiction writers have never been particularly great at prophesy and that's really not what they are about anyway. The price is a bit stiff so you might want to talk your library into ordering a copy. 1/3/23

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