Diane’s friend Sandie (who taught with Diane for years and is a member of Diane’s Book Club) is a master at sewing who offered to make us a pair of coronavirus masks. I chose the Super Hero theme and Diane chose a Blue theme (her favorite color). Do you have a coronavirus mask?


Humor can be the best medicine. That’s why my viewing lately has been featuring funny movies that have delighted me over the decades.  Leslie Nielsen cracks me up every time I watch this film. In fact, Airplane (1980)  was listed at #10 on the American Film Institute’s best comedies of all time. 

With cameos by Rod Steiger, Lloyd Bridges, Kareem Abdul Jabar as well as the unforgettable Barbara Billingsley (aka, June Cleaver)–whose role as as a passenger who could “speak jive” makes me laugh every time I see it–Airplane produces more hilarity than most comedies.

Are you a fan of Airplane?


Way back in the early 1960s, I started reading Carter Brown’s Al Wheeler series. I enjoyed the wacky plots and Wheeler’s skirt-chasing tendencies.

Stark House is reprinting the novels in Al Wheeler series. The latest omnibus volume includes The Unorthodox Corpse, Death on the Downbeat, and The Blonde, the 10th, 11th,  and 12th Al Wheeler mysteries.  The Unorthodox Corpse was first published in Australia by Horwitz Publications of Australia in 1957 and then revised for the U.S. market and published by Signet Books in 1961. Death on the Downbeat was published by Horwitz in 1958, then revised for the U.S. as The Corpse. Signet published The Corpse in 1958.  The Blonde was published by both Horwitz and Signet in 1958. Stark House reprints the original Australian versions in this omnibus edition.

The Unorthodox Corpse was one of the first Al Wheelers I read as a teenager back in the early 1960s. Wheeler gives a speech at an exclusive finishing school with a student body of 50 gorgeous girls. After Wheeler delivers his speech, a magician, The Great Mephisto, steps up to entertain the audience. The lights go out..and when the lights come on, one of the young girls is found with a knife in her back. I liken The Unorthodox Corpse to a screw-ball comedy. Wheeler play fast and loose to nail the killer.

Death on the Downbeat opens with Wheeler on a date at a jazz club with Annabelle Jackson, the constant object of his desire. But, a member of the audience takes the stage…and catches a bullet. The date turns into a murder investigation.

The Blonde features the most convoluted of these three mysteries. Wheeler is sent to protect two women who are getting death threats. And, of course, one of them is blown up with a bomb! Wheeler deals with TV people, mobsters, and constant deception before he finally reveal the cunning plot.

If you’re looking for humor, action, and wackiness you’ll find it in abundance in this wonderful Stark House omnibus! GRADE: A

You can read my reviews of the other Al Wheeler volumes here, here, and here.


Sometimes, I get in the mood for a Medieval mystery. And, of course, with the coronavirus raging, S. D. Sykes’s Plague Land checked all the boxes. This is the first book in the Somershill Manor series. Oswald de Lacy, the youngest son of Lord Somershill, is called back home from the monastery where he was placed after his father and two older brothers die of the Black Death.

The 14th Century was a grim time and Sykes shows the lack of medical knowledge and the grip of superstition on the villagers of Somershill Manor. Oswald has to deal with his conniving Mother and scheming sister. Fortunately, Oswald has his Benedictine Brother, Peter, as an older and wiser companion. Oswald has no idea how to run an estate or how to deal with disgruntled villagers. But Peter does.

In addition to the post-plague problems, the politics of rural life, a murder committed has been committed. As Lord Sumershill, Oswald feels that he must solve the crime and prevent the murderer from striking again. All in all, Plague Land is an entertaining Medieval mystery. GRADE: B+


During dismal times, a funny movie can lift your spirits. One of my go-to funny movies is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I first saw it in 1975 when it first came out. Loved it! I used my University of Wisconsin Student ID to get a reduced rate at the local movie theater. I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail twelve times.

Then I bought the VHS version (remember them?). Later, I bought the DVD version. And finally, I bought the 40th Anniversary Blu-ray version. The constant among all these versions: silliness. I enjoy the silly jokes, the surreal storyline, and the wacky characters.

And, this Blu-ray Disc is full of funny features:

Terry Jones Introduces the Outtakes
Enlightening Commentaries by Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, Plus General Complaints and Back-Biting by John Cleese, Eric Idle & Michael Palin
Join Michael Palin and Terry Jones in their Special Documentary: The Quest For The Holy Grail Locations
Monty Python And The Holy Grail In Lego!
Japanese Version
How To Use Your Coconuts (An Educational Film)
BBC Film Night
Terry Gilliam Introduces His Lost Animation Reel
Meanwhile, King Arthur & Sir Bedevere…
Elephant & Castle
Run Away!
The Tale of Sir Robin
The Tale of Sir Lancelot
Three Mindless Sing-Alongs
Henry 4th
Cast Directory Photo Gallery
Holy Grail Blu-ray Credits

Are you a Monty Python fan? GRADE: A


At 1070 pages, Jonathan I. Israel’s The Enlightenment That Failed certainly qualifies as a Big Fat Book. Israel traces the history of the Enlightenment from the middle 1700s to the middle 1800s.

Along with the changes in philosophy, political changes followed. Monarchies began to evolve into democracies. Wars still happened but they were motivated by power grabs instead of religious differences. I was interested in the chapter on emancipating Women as marriage, equality and female citizenship movements produced change.

I’m a fan of history and this book goes deep into the weeds to explain how laws, governments, social institutions, and financial systems changed. It doesn’t get much better than this! Do you enjoy reading history books? GRADE: A


1. Introduction: Radical Enlightenment and ‘Modernity’
Part I: The Origins of Democratic Modernity
2. The Rise of Democratic Republicanism
3. From Radical Renaissance to Radical Enlightenment
4. From Radical Reformation to the Cercle Spinoziste
5. English ‘Deism’ and its pre-1700 Roots
6. Great ‘Moderates’ and the Temptations of the Radical: Montesquieu and the Forbidden
7. D’Holbach against Voltaire and Rousseau: a triangular battle of Political Thought Systems
8. Revolution without Violence: The Nordic Model
Part II: Human Rights and Revolution (1770-1830)
9. Parallel Revolutions: America and France (1774-1793)
10. General Will’ and The Invention of Universal and Equal Human Rights (1750-1789)
11. Emancipating Women: Marriage, Equality, and Female Citizenship (1775-1815)
12. From Classical Economics to post-Classical redistributive Economics (1775-1820)
13. Reforming Europe’s Law Codes
14. Unity of Humanity: Race Theory and the Equality of Peoples
15. Unity of Humanity: Property, Class, and the Emancipation of Man
Part III: Revolution and Competing Revolutionary Ideologies (1789-1830)
16. Robespierre anti-philosophe, Or, the Battle of Ideologies during the French Revolution
17. The Swiss Revolution and the Hard Climb to Democratic Republicanism (1782-1848)
18. The Belgian Revolution (1787-1794)
19. Enlightening against Robespierre (and Napoleon): the Ecoles centrales (1792-1804)
20. Revolution and the Universities: Germany’s ‘Philosophy Wars’ (1780-1820)
21. Radicalism and Repression in the Anglo-American World (1775-1815)
22. The American Connection
23. The Spanish Revolution (1808-1823)
24. Black Emancipation, Universal Emancipation and the Haitian Revolution (1775-1825)
Part IV: The Enlightenment that Failed
25. Reaction and Radicalism: Germany and the Low Countries (1814-1830)
26. British Philosophical Radicalism (1814-1830)
27. Failed Restoration in France (1814-1830)
28. Bolivar and Spinoza
29. Karl Marx and the Left’s Turn from Radical Enlightenment to Socialism (1838-1848)
30. Conclusion: The ‘Radical Enlightenment Thesis’ and Its Critics





This kind THANK YOU note arrived in yesterday’s mail. You might remember that I donated a box of N95 Respirators to my Primary Care Physician, Dr. Galucci last week (you can refresh your memory here). I’m very moved by that fact that Dr. G took the time out of his frantic day to send me a THANK YOU note. Things are worsening and the doctors and nurses on the Front Line deserve all our help and assistance. It’s scandalous that they don’t have enough protective gear!



Diane wanted to renovate our kitchen for years. So, while Patrick was home for Christmas, he and Diane went to the International Stone Gallery and looked at about 100 countertops. Patrick liked a Quartz countertop with copper flecks in it and Diane liked it, too. They put in an order.

Next, Diane contacted a contractor to put up a white tile backsplash and to paint the kitchen, living room, dining room, and the hallway up the stairs to our second floor (Diane was tired of the orange walls, preferring some more sedate). Finally, Diane ordered a new light for over our dinner table.

What do you think of the result? Are you contemplating any home renovations?


Brian Murphy’s excellent study of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction touches all the bases. He correctly identifies Robert E. Howard as the key figure in the genre. Murphy discusses other Sword-and -Sorcery writers from Weird Tales and other magazines. He spends some pages on C. L. Moore whose Jirel of Joiry is one of the few female characters in the genre with gravitas. The genre declined after the death of Howard and went dormant.

Then Murphy transitions to “Revival” with writers like Michael Moorcock who introduced Elric, Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon to the Sword-and-Sorcery audience. Fritz Leiber created Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser which energized the genre. I wish Murphy had spent a few more pages on TOR’s Conan pastiches (over 40 volumes) published from 1982 to 2004 (there are rumors this Conan series might be revived).

If you’re a fan of Sword-and-Sorcery stories, Brian Murphy’s book provides a history of the genre’s development, its ups and downs and an idea where Sword-and-Sorcery is headed. Do you have a favorite Sword-and-Sorcery writer? GRADE: A

Intorduction v
CHAPTER ONE: What is Sword-and-Sorcery? 1
CHAPTER TWO: Origins 31
CHAPTER THREE: Robert E. Howard and the Birth fo Sword-and-Sorcery 57
CHAPTER FOUR: Weird Tales: Howard’s Sword-and-Sorcery Contemporaries 83
CHAPTER FIVE: Revival 107
CHAPTER SIX: Renaissance 133
CHAPTER SEVEN: Decline and Fall 163
CHAPTER EIGHT: Underground, Resurgence, and New Directions 195
CHAPTER NINE: The Cultural Impact of Sword-and-Sorcery 219
CHAPTER TEN: Why Sword-and-Sorcery? 241
A Probable Timeline of Sword-and-Sorcery 249
Works Cited 255
Acknowledgements 279
About the Author and Artist 281