Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Thought for the Day

from David Warren:
I had always assumed that mock chicken was an industrial by-product, containing traces of poultry for flavouring, in a crumbly rind probably coloured with orange textile dye. I supposed that live chickens had been harmed somewhere in the manufacturing process, which had included the mocking operation. I guessed the managers at the industrial abattoir hired underemployed professional comedians to mock the chickens, prior to slaughter — doing satirical imitations of the way they walk, try to fly, express enmity towards those who steal their eggs — while taunting them with demeaning imprecations such as, “You’re not a real chicken,” &c — ideally in dactylic hexameters.
It turns out I was wrong. Unless the ingredient list on the package is fake news (I have just retrieved it), our contemporary mock chicken contains miscellaneous “and/or” meats, possibly but not necessarily including winged animals; plus potassium lactate and soy protein; sodium phosphates, erythorbates, diacetates, and nitrates; glucose solids; maltodextrin; “spices”; and of course my favourite, monosodium glutamate. 
-- Mock Chicken

Saturday, July 22, 2017

22 July 1964

Once upon a time, TOF was all alone, and reigned in solitary splendor, king of all he surveyed.
Able seaman TOF

Then, one day, while minding his own business, reading a book....
Scholar TOF
...he was suddenly beset by Another.
This pint-sized intrusion was named Dennis Harry Flynn; and all that can be said of our respective personalities can be summarized in the expressions on the two faces above.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Today we went to the funeral mass at Our Lady of Lebanon church for our neighbor's girl, Elizabeth, who was only 12. It was a sad affair. The grandmother broke down when they came to close the lid on the casket and began to wail. Not a few others came close to it, as well.

There were five priests concelebrating, including a couple of Latin-rite priests from up the hill. The deacon was a guy I went to high school with -- Tony Koury. 
 
 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thought for the Day

One learns something of a society through its statutes, and by old scholars like Rashdall, and Haskins, I [David Warren] was introduced to the punctilios in mediaeval university towns.

Much attention is given to student behaviour, and from Leipzig, for example, I recall the carefully stepped fines that begin for threatening your professor with a missile. The fine increases if you throw and miss; doubles if you hit him; and further costs may be assessed, depending on the nature of his injuries. For this and for other infractions, it is useful to have things spelt out, so the student on a tight budget may know what he can afford.

-- David Warren, "Some Attitudinizing"
Today, of course, it is all or nothing. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

James Hammontree

Monument to the 153rd Pennsylvania at Gettysburg

Memorial Day

Alright, so I missed the deadline again this year. Stuff Happens, so we're posting this for the Fourth of July, which this year falls on the Fourth.

A couple years ago, TOF posted an account of the Incomparable Marge's grandfather's grandfather; viz., John H. Hammontree, who served in Co. H 5th Tenn. Vol. Infantry, US Army of the Ohio. This year, we turn our attention to his grandfather, James Hammontree, who served in Duncan's Company, Bunch's Regiment, during the War of 1812.

The Backstory

 1. Jonathan Hammontree appears to have been born in England, ca 1693 and emigrated to Virginia sometime before 1719, settling in Richmond Co., which had been erected from the northern half of old Rappahannock Co. in 1698. Specifically, he appears like magic in North Farnham Parish. Like magic, because the surname Hammontree has never been found anywhere earlier than 1719, in North Farnham VA, in any reasonably variant spelling. 
Hertfordshire
Note: A William Hammontree, age 64, appears in an English Census of 1871, living in Westmill, Hertfordshire, where William claimed to have been born. Thus the Hammontree surname finds European roots in England at least as early as 1807, although this is nearly one hundred years after the name is first attested in Virginia. It has appeared as spelled Heamondre, Hamontre, Hamondry, and just about any other variant imaginable. These were likely the results of non-standardized spelling back in the day than of actual name changes. But the spellings ending in -dre look suspiciously French and raise the possibility that the family was among the 50,000 French Huguenots that took refuge in England after Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in October 1685. If so, Jonathan would have been a first-generation Englishman, born shortly after his parents (illegally!) sneaked out of France.
Jonathan Hammontree and his wife Mary had four known children, christened in North Farnham, to wit:
  • Rubin Hammontree (1719-1802), 
  • Anne Hammontree (1721-??), 
  • John Hammontree (1723-1786), 
  • David Hammontree (1726-1770)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dinner, Conversation, and an Unexpected Appearance

We took Pere to Beck's Land and Sea House north of Nazareth for a long planned Father's Day dinner, delayed by this and that. Beck's is the best seafood restaurant around for all that it is well inland. Margie and I had the broiled cod, each of a size worthy of being called Cod the Father. Pere had a most excellent Surf and Turf.
This is the actual table at which we sat
Google Maps has gone mad and took us what it deemed the easy way, by way of Jacobsburg state forest, and we found ourselves on two lane blacktops wending through dense forest cover with signs bearing hikers and warning of trail crossings ahead. The more direct route, which we had taken once before, wound through downtown Nazareth, and Google Maps for its own dark reasons shuns stop lights.

During dinner we discussed this and that and wound up somehow on the subject of how old Flynns are when they die. Not too morbid, right. Pere is 92 and quite lively. His father smoked from the time he was 10 years old and only lasted to age 77. He wasn't too sure about his grandfather, Daniel; but did recall that we was supposed to die several times when they shortened his legs. Each time they cut a bit off his legs to try to get the cancer, they told him he would not likely survive the operation. "But Flynns are stubborn," my Dad said calling the kettle black, and Margie almost choked on her cod at the Understatement of the Millennium. By the end, Daniel had no legs left up to nearly his hips and sat in wheelchair.
Daniel on right looking stubborn well before the amputations
By then, he was living with his daughter, my dad's Aunt Kathryn, who ran Flynn's Hofbrau out by Budd Lake in NJ. He remembered how he and his cousin John Schaible would visit there and when his grandfather had to go to the bathroom, Aunt Kathryn would lean over and he would wrap his arm around her neck, and she would rise up holding him and carry him into the rest room and set him down to do his business; then carry him back out. He remembered how matter-of-fact they were about it. So far as I know, no Flynn has ever been put into a Home.
Pere enjoying the air at Rath O'Flynn a few years ago
Pere recalled that he had been a pretty good pool player in his younger days, but his Aunt Kathryn always beat him. One of my cousins told me once that he had gone up there to play her table. "What size cue do you use?" the by-then old lady asked him. On receiving an uncertain answer she replied that she preferred a 32 (or whatever it was). Then she pulled out a carrying case and screwed together her personal stick. "I knew right then," my cousin said, "that I was dead. That old lady ran the table on me." Ah, there were giants on the earth in those days.

She wore out three husbands, Pere told us at dinner. Her first husband was named Mill, the second Poole, and the third Giroux. My grandfather used to joke that she had married successively the mill, the pond, and the frog.

A week ago, Pere had an unusual experience. He was dozing in the chair at his house when the phone rang. The phone has an unusually loud ringer for the obvious reason. So he sat up and... there, across the living room stood my mother, sort of semi-transparent, like a hologram. Now, she had never lived in that house -- it had belonged to Pere's second wife -- so he was startled to see her appear there. Or indeed, to appear anywhere, she having been dead for many years. Her lips parted, as if she were about to speak and then, just as suddenly, she disappeared.

Pere did NOT wake up at that point. He was already awake. The phone had awoken him. What do you think she was about to say? we asked him.

Knowing your mother, he answered, it was probably "Answer the damned phone!"
Answer the damned phone!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A first draft

Here is a first draft of an opening for the Book Barn story I'm playing with, after a drive up to the former site thereof. (The building is still there.) Everything, title included, is subject to revision.

Moonrise at the Tatamy Book Barn

by Michael F. Flynn

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested.
-- Francis Bacon, Studies.

THE LATE AFTERNOON had spread across the Valley, creating from the waving branches and leaves moiré patterns, all black shadow and orange sunlight across the hiking trail beside the creek. The upper sky was still pale blue, studded with high popcorn clouds, but shifting toward the more cobalt sort as the westerlies chivvied glowering cumulus ahead of them. The fishermen had abandoned the creek in a splashing of waders. It was a matter of luck, the locals said, whether storms would roll down the slot between Kittatinny Ridge and South Mountain.

But Cindy did not believe in luck, or at least not in the sort of luck that you didn’t make for yourself. Besides, the dark clouds seemed intent on rolling directly toward her and if the last couple of miles since leaving the diner were any indication, she really ought to give some thought to finding shelter for the night. She had a meal in her belly and some money in her purse, thanks in large measure to that same diner and its manager’s willingness to exchange clean dishes and clean rest rooms in lieu of payment. But there had not been anything resembling a motel along the miles since.

Not that she hadn’t slept rough before. She carried a bedroll and camping gear atop be backpack – they called it a rucksack around here – and she always enjoyed sleeping under the stars. When she had been younger, she had dreamed of being an astronaut and the night sky possessed a wistful allure. But the stars tonight seemed inclined to hide behind lint and she was less inclined to sleep under driving rain.

Nor was she inclined to beg shelter from the isolated houses she passed. Folks hereabout were generally hospitable, but that might not extend to guesting a stranger for the night, and Cindy had not survived the long road by being overly trustful on her part, either. You never knew when a nice-looking domicile might house a meth lab in its basement, or a young woman alone might prove too tempting for a middle-aged professional in his lonely country home.

Cindy did not know where she was going. Her long trek was more of a whence than a whither. A vast dissatisfaction had driven her from her mother’s house and her nowhere job and whatever it was she was looking for, she had demonstrably not yet found it.

Thunder rumbled in the west like God clearing his throat.

Cindy emerged from the shroud of trees that enfolded the hiking trail and found herself facing a paved road. Directly ahead was a ramshackle stone-and-wood barn with a gravel parking lot. To the right, the road crossed a short bridge over the creek and met the state highway. To the left, it curved north and out of sight. It didn’t look like there would be much in the way of accommodations either way. The fleshpots of Xanadu might be just around that bend, but she doubted it. A darkened residence stood on the left side of the curve and she gave it some thought.

A lot of homes had been foreclosed lately, so the place might be empty. Growing up in Wessex County, back in New Jersey, she had learned all the arts of B&E. But there were no sheriff’s notices plastered in the windows and it would be just her luck that the householder would return just as she was settling in for the night, and in this neck of the woods they were as likely to be the Three Bears as not. And armed. Didn’t they believe in the right to arm bears here?

That left the big stone-and-wood building across the road. A large board sign above the entrance named it the Tatamy Book Barn, Old and Used Books, and three equally old and used cars in the parking lot promised that the building was open. More importantly, unless the owner took a devil-may-care attitude toward his wares, the roof likely did not leak.

God dumped a truckload of scrap metal on the sky, which turned bright brass for an instant, and that made up her mind. Cindy hitched her backpack and strode confidently toward the entrance just as the heavens let loose.

Her strides broke into as fast a run as the weight on her back allowed, but she was drenched before she reached the door. She ducked through, slammed it behind her, and leaned her back against it, almost as if she feared the tempest would try to follow her inside.

The woman behind the counter looked up at this sudden eruption into her domain, took in Cindy and her bedraggled appearance, and cocked a rueful smile. “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
#

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