Fletcher Pratt’s The Well of the Unicorn will remind some readers of a Bernard Cornwell novel. There’s plenty of fighting, politics, and chasing women. Young Airar Alvarson evolves from a country bumpkin into a leader of men. Along the way, he practices some magic arts and learns how to be a warrior. Airar falls in love, as young men will, and Pratt creates some very enticing women to tempt him. This is sword and sorcery in the old style of storytelling. Fletcher Pratt is better known as L. Sprague de Camp’s partner in producing classics like The Incompleat Enchanter and Wall of Serpents. But this solo effort is well worth reading. It can be had at a bargain price from Daedalus Books at www.salebooks.com.
If you put SEINFELD and MONTY PYTHON in a blender, you’d come up with something like Flight of the Conchords. A pair of dense, out-of-work, musicians from New Zealand wander around New York City finding mostly absurdity. This is comedy in a completely unique style. If you’re looking for something original, give this a try.
The Closer starts a five-episode run starting tonight on TNT. If you haven’t watched this ensemble series, you’re missing one of the best programs on television. Kyra Sedgwick (Brenda Lee Johnson) and her team investigate crimes–mostly murders–with the episode usually ending with an interrogation, conducted by Brenda Lee, and a confession. Tune in for some soap-opera elements, some humor, and some very good drama.
I’ve been a fan of Mark Bittman since I read his How to Cook Everything years ago. Bittman is a columnist for the New York Times. His column, “The Minimalist,” presents a common-sense approach to preparing food. In his new book, Food Matters, Bittman applies the concepts that Michael Polian presented in last year’s In Defense of Food. Of Bittman’s 77 recipes in this book, I made copies of 12. I’ll let you know how the easy whole grain bread recipe turns out.
Based on Terry Goodkind’s fantasies, this TV series is produced by the same group who gave us Xena, Warrior Princess. It’s low-budget, B-movie entertainment. But a gritty hero, a beautiful Confessor, and a wacky wizard make the quest of the Seeker to overthrow the tyranny of evil Darken Rahl worth consulting your local television listings to find out when your cable company is showing it in your area. My favorite episode so far is #9, “The Puppeteer.” For more information, check out www.legendoftheseeker.com.
With the plethora of women detectives gracing mystery fiction today, many readers might take this trend for granted. For me, Honey West kicked off that trend in G. G. Fickling’s This Girl for Hire (1957). In 1965, Honey West showed up in an episode of Burke’s Law called “Who Killed the Jackpot.” Honey West was played by Anne Francis. The character proved to be so popular, ABC created a half-hour series. The Honey West TV episodes have recently been released in a nice DVD box set of all 30 episodes. Well worth watching.
Night Shade Books is issuing the most complete collection of Clark Ashton Smith’s work yet. A Vintage from Atlantis is the third of a projected five volume set. Clark Ashton Smith wrote wonderful fantasies that influenced a generation of SF and fantasy writers. Probably Jack Vance was most affected by Clark Ashton Smith’s work. You can see Smith’s influence in many of Vance’s stories like “The Last Castle” and Tales of the Dying Earth. If you’re a fan of classic fantasy, investing in this marvelous series is a no-brainer. For more about Clark Ashton Smith, check out www.eldritchdark.com.