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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


The 1970s was one of my happiest decades. I started my teaching career, I left that for Madison, Wisconsin to work on a PhD. I loved the music of the Seventies as well as many of the books and movies of that decade. And I married Diane.

Just because a song is a Number One hit on BILLBOARD, that doesn’t guarantee the quality of the work. I found a few clunkers among the Billboard #1s: The ’70s 30 songs. While I love “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey, I’m much less fond of “You Made Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer. Do you remember these songs? Do you see any favorites here? GRADE: B+

Disc: 1
1. What A Fool Believes — The Doobie Brothers
2. December 1963 (Oh, What A Night) — The Four Seasons
3. Crocodile Rock — Elton John
4. You’re So Vain — Carly Simon
5. Midnight Train To Georgia — Gladys Knight & The Pips
6. Lean On Me — Bill Withers
7. Then Came You — Dionne Warwick and Spinners
8. Pick Up The Pieces — Average White Band
9. Let’s Get It On — Marvin Gaye
10. Reunited — Peaches & Herb
11. Make It With You — Bread
12. Oh Girl — Chi-Lites
13. I Can See Clearly Now — Johnny Nash
14. Welcome Back — John Sebastian
15. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head — B.J. Thomas
Disc: 2
1. Good Times — Chic
2. Bad Girls — Donna Summer
3. Boogie Oogie Oogie — A Taste Of Honey
4. Shining Star — Earth, Wind & Fire
5. Me And Mrs. Jones — Billy Paul
6. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough — Diana Ross
7. Let’s Stay Together — Al Green
8. Rich Girl — Hall & Oates
9. If You Leave Me Now — Chicago
10. Babe — Styx
11. Love Train — The O’Jays
12. Three Times A Lady — Commodores
13. Without You — Nilsson
14. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing — Leo Sayer
15. Heart Of Glass — Blondie


Once upon a time, I used to mow our lawn. We have a large lawn so it would take me 90 minutes or so to cut the grass. I have allergies to grasses and pollens so I used an N95 respirator to protect myself. After my knee surgeries, I gave up cutting the lawn. By that time Diane had her Fitbit and decided cutting the lawn would add to her “steps.” So I passed the lawnmower over to Diane ( but I still gas it and start it up for her).

Meanwhile, I completely forgot about the box of N95 respirator masks sitting up in pantry…until today. I had an appointment with my General Practitioner, Dr. Galucci, today. During the appointment (where he wore a N95 mask), he mentioned the shortage of medical supplies and the lack of coronavirus test kits. I couldn’t do anything about the test kits, but when I got home and told Diane what Dr. Galucci said, she went to the pantry and produced an almost full box of N95 respirator masks. I immediately called Dr. Galucci and offered to bring in the N95 respirators. He was thrilled!

When I entered the Waiting Room of the medical center, the nurses cheered as I gave the N95 respirators to the Receptionist. Glad I could help!


Agatha Christie’s The Pale Rider (1963) is one of Christie’s conspiracy mysteries in the mode of The Big Four. There are significant differences between Christie’s novel, the new AMAZON Prime Video version, and a DVD version from the 1990s.

A priest is murdered after visiting a dying woman. The woman gave the priest a list of names which he wrote down and hid in his shoe (because he had a hole in his pocket). The killer didn’t find the list, but the police did. On the list is the name of Mark Easterbrook, an art historian, who becomes the narrator of this tale. Easterbrook meets a young woman called Tommy Tuckerton whose name is also on the priest’s list. She dies soon afterward.

Christie introduces the Three Witches in a small town who appear to be behind the deaths of the people on the priest’s list. In Christie’s novel and the DVD version, Christie underlines the Three Witches by including a scene with Easterbrook and his girl friend, Hermia, attending Macbeth.

While the AMAZON Prime Video version has better production values than the The Pale Horse DVD version, the DVD version stays closer to Christie’s novel. And the star of the AMAZON Prime Video version, Rufus Sewell as Mark Easterbrook, looks bewildered most of the time in this 2-episode series. COLIN BUCHANAN, who plays Easterbrook in the 1997 DVD version (53% on ROTTEN TOMATOES), is young, cocky, and gets beaten up.

All in all, a weak Christie mystery and two mediocre video adaptions. GRADE: B- (for all three versions of The Pale Horse


Stephen Hough (rhymes with “rough”) is a world-famous pianists who likes to write. Rough Ideas collects many of Hough’s thoughts and opinions. When Hough is sitting in his hotel room before a performance, he likes to write about whatever is on his mind. As you can seen from the Table of Contents below, Hough thinks a lot about a variety of subjects.

My favorite essay in Rough Ideas is “My terrible audition tape” (p. 69) where Hough, a young student, enters a piano competition with a crappy audition performance on a cassette tape (remember them?). What happened next is priceless!

If you’re a fan of music, travel, performance, studio recording, or a dozen other topics including religion, you’ll find Hough’s thoughts provocative and involving. GRADE: A

Introduction — xv
The Soul of Music
“Our concert halls are like museums” — Yes, isn’t that great! — 3
Music in churches: magical ghosts or profane distractions –11
Our wonderful, aging audiences — 13
Dumping the interval — 14
Classical music — for everyone? –16
Poking bows and spitting mouthpieces — 18
Can yo be a musician and not write music? — 20
Can you be a musician and not play or read music? — 21
Hidden musicians, hidden talents — 23
Don’t listen to recordings — 24
Joyce Hatto and listening blind — 25
Meaning what you sing — 27
Old pianists — 28
Gay pianists: can you tell? — 30
Leaving politics out of concerts — 31
Telling tails: do special clothes make a difference? — 32
Stephen, that was really dreadful! — 34
Stuck in a hole or building a tunnel? — 35
Caruso’s garlic breath — 36
Punctured rolls — 38
Is there too much music? — 41
Relics — 42
Bechstein’s fall and rise — 43
What kind of piano do you have at home? 47
Lonely on the road — 48
When I don’t play the piano — 49
Never mind the metronome, learn to use an alarm clock — 51
Disgrace at a concert — 52
Most of the strokes winners, none of them good enough –54
Staying power — 55
The Russian crescendo — 56
Fickleness of feelings — 57
This one’s happy, this one’s sad — 59
What music makes you cry? — 60
Can atonal music make you cry? — 61
Symphonies under ice — 62
Clothing the naked melody — 63
Two women, two songs: in and out of harmony — 64
Is New Age thinking bad for musicians? — 65
Memory clinic and Mozart — 68
My terrible audition tape — 69
Quaver or not: should orchestras use vibrato? — 71
Parlour songs — 73
Breaking the law: a short speech for the Middle Temple — 75
The Proms — 77
Once more onto the stage, dear friend, once more — 83
Bored on stage — 84
Neurotic on stage — 85
Nervous on stage — 87
Take a deep breath — 90
Routine on a concert day — 91
Flying glasses — 92
Page-turning part of the performance — 93
As the page turns…or not — 94
The musical page-turner — 97
A crucial tip when playing with the score — 97
Out of the cockpit — 99
Humiliation and vomiting at the keyboard — 100
Stage fright and playing form memory — 101
Bad self-consciousness as the death of good self-confidence — 105
Beautiful bloopers: the joy of making mistakes — 106
Can wrong notes be right? — 108
Clap between movements? Please! — 110
Don’t feel you have to clap between movements — 112
Ample amplification — 113
PPProjection — 115
Charismatic — 115
Stanley Kubrick and recording — 116
Red-light district I: the background — 118
Red-light district II: frenzy — 119
Red-light district III: solo lows and highs — 120
Red-light district IV: live or alive — 122
Red-light district V: play it again (and again), Sergei — 124
Red-light district VI: did I really play it like that? — 125
A promiscuous weekend in Amsterdam — 126
Ringtone in Padua — 127
Hysterical laughter on stage — 128
The practice of practicing: for professionals — 133
The practice of practicing: for amateurs — 135
Random practice tips — 137
There’s no such thing as a difficult piece — 144
Unfinished — 145
Fingering — 146
Remembering what watered our roots — 148
A good edition — 149
Where do you sit to play the piano? — 150
Romantic in should not body: sitting still at the piano — 153
Depressed: the amazing world of the pedal — 153
Depressed again: the (not so) soft pedal — 155
Seldom depressed: the middle petal — 156
A different depression: finger pedal — 157
Trills I: easy does it — 158
Trills II: a good fingering but not with the fingers — 159
Trills III: six random tricks — 161
Up to speed — 161
Agile wings not muscular legs — 162
Beats and bleats — 163
Those who do can’t necessarily teach — 165
Masterclasses — 167
Why don’t (music) students attend concerts? — 168
What does the most talented young pianist need most? — 169
Trying to practice away from the piano and trying to try to pray — 171
People and Pieces
How much do we need to know about the composer? — 177
Elgar the Roman Catholic — 178
Tchaikovsky didn’t commit suicide — 184
Tchaikovsky” First Piano Concerto 185
Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concert: why I changed the second movement — 187
Tchaikovsky’s Concert Fantasia — 189
Artificial gushing tunes — 190
Authenticity playing Rachmaninov — 194
Recording Rachmaninov — 196
The other Rach Three — 199
How Beethoven redesigned the cadenza — 200
Brahms First or Second? — 202
Dvorak’s Concerto for Ten Thumbs — 204
Schubert’s hurdy-gurdy man — 207
Schubert and Simone Weil: a note for a CD — 208
The shifting sandals of York Bowen: a note for a CD — 212
Mompou and the music of evaporation: a note for a CD — 218
I don’t love Bach — 227
I don’t hate Bach — 228
Liszt I: the man who invent concert life as we know it — 229
Liszt II: the man who invented modern music — 231
Liszt III: the man who broke pianos — 232
Liszt’s abstract sonata — 233
Both Liszt concertos in the same concert? — 234
Why Chopin’s B minor Sonata is harder to play than Liszt’s — 235
Why Liszt’s B minor Sonata is harder to record than Chapin’s — 237
Chopin and the development of piano technique –238
Chopin, Rothko and the bowler hat — 240
Debussy: piano music without hammers — 235
Debussy and Revel: chalk and cheese — 248
The three faces of Francis Poulenc — 249
My Mass and my tears of joy — 251
My First Piano Sonata: fragments of fragility — 255
My Second Piano Sonata: insomnia in a seedy bedsit — 255
My Third Piano Sonata: totality, dogma, modernism — 256
Alfred Cortot: the poet speaks — 260
Two formidable ladies — 261
Josef Hofmann and Steinway: two greats for an era of greats — 263
Glenn Gould and modern recording — 264
Happy (un)together — 266
Die Meistersinger: Terfel is Sachs –268
When Ernest twiddled the knobs — 269
Douglas Steel’s repetition — 271
RIP Joseph Villa — 272
RIP Vlado Perlemuter — 273
RIP Shura Cherkassy — 276
RIP Lou Reed — 277
Great Greens I: by way of an introduction — 278
Great Greens II: Gordon and the smokescreen — 279
Great Greens III: Mauras and the smile — 281
Great Greens IV: Julien in the kitchen — 284
…and More
What is your motto? — 293
Rilke, and poetry as the root of everything — 294
Beauty, beauty, beauty — 295
No poetry after Auschwitz…but music — 297
Beethoven is my religion — 298
The expectation of change: dis-ease in the twentieth-century art — 300
Teju Cole and neutering poets — 301
Architecture as eureka in Sydney — 303
Mastromatteo’s obsession — 304
The ring of silence: the pots of Anna Paik — 307
Paul Klee at Tate Modern — 308
Almost the same: van Doesburg and Mondrian –309
Gerhard Richter not naked — 310
Old Masters: either we kill them or let them die naturally — 311
Maths and music: joined at the hip or walking down different paths? — 313
Sport and music: on the same team? –316
The curse of the perfect number — 317
The essence of underpants and the lap of luxury — 319
Do musicians tend to be socialists — 321
The Final Retreat: my novel of desire and despair — 323
If I ruled the world — 327
Pleasure — 330
Holy smoke — 333
Beef Stroganoff and a bag of bones — 336
Electronic books: the end of one kind of intellectual snobbery — 337
Good Americans — 338
Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving –340
Willa Cather, Thanksgiving, and the soul of America — 341
Working hard by letting go — 343
Pascal: the brilliant sun or a warm fire? — 345
Monks do it best — 346
Myself or my brain — 348
Daring to hope in Alzheimer’s despairing inner world — 348
Going gentle into that good night: the blessing of hospices — 350
Suicide Let me assist your — 351
Dignity — 354
But on the other hand…some different thoughts on end-of-life issues — 355
Encouragement, falsehood, and Auschwitz –356
…and Religion
Rock or tree? — 361
Empty hands — 362
I am not a Catholic pianist — 362
Could God exist? — 364
What if God doesn’t exist — 366
Region’s moth-eaten tapestry — 368
Do not touch me: the wisdom of Anglican thresholds — 371
Heaven’s above — 372
Becoming Jewish and staying Catholic — 373
Is it Christian to single out the Christians? — 375
Putting the “Mass” back into Christmas — 376
Christmas carols — 378
Sacraments and the sugar-plum fairy — 378
Reformation: the individual or the community? — 381
Crack! — 382
The ghastly tory of Lazarus — 388
Assumptions about the Assumption — 390
The free greats fears — 391
Is he musical? — 393
In earlier times — 399
Sodom and Gormorrah: straight, upside down, inside out — 400
Abortion: can I go there? — 403
A light that is so lovely — 406
A final reflection — 409
Stephen Hough: Discography 1985-2018 — 413
Acknowledgements — 425
Index –427


I liked Kenny Rogers when I first heard his hit “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” when Rogers sang with the First Edition (which I liked for the book reference) in 1967. It wasn’t long before Kenny Rogers left the group for a solo career. I must have used the expression, “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em” a thousand times in conversations. Those famous lines are from Roger’s classic, “The Gambler.” I enjoyed Kenny Rogers’ music. I’m sad that he’s no longer with us. Do you have a favorite Kenny Rogers song? GRADE: A
1. The Gambler
2. Through The Years
3. Lady
4. Lucille
5. Coward of The County
6. I Don’t Need You
7. We’ve Got Tonight (with Sheena Easton)
8. Crazy
9. Islands In The Stream (with Dolly Parton)
10. She Believes In Me
11. Every Time Two Fools Collide (with Dottie West)
12. You Decorated My Life
13. Make No Mistake, She’s Mine (with Ronnie Milsap)
14. Share Your Love With Me
15. All I Ever Need Is You
16. Buy Me A Rose (with Alison Krauss)
17. Daytime Friends
18. Love Or Something Like It
19. Love Will Turn You Around
20. Morning Desire
21. What Are We Doing In Love (with Dottie West)
22. Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer (with Kim Carnes)- Bonus Track


Tom Brady, with his six Super Bowl rings, is moving to Tampa, Florida. Buffalo Bills fans are celebrating Brady’s departure from the AFC East. For the past 20 years, Brady tormented the Bills by winning 32 games against them (the Bills only beat Brady and the Patriots 3 times in 20 years). Against the Bills, Brady completed 738 of 1154 passes (64%) for 8669 yards and 70 touchdowns with a QB rating of 98%.

Will the New England Patriots be as good a team without Tom Brady? Doubtful. Even though Brady is at the end of his career, obviously Tampa thinks Brady can still win games in the National Football League. What do you think of Tom Brady? What is your favorite NFL team doing during this Free Agency period? Are you going into Sports Withdrawal because of the coronavirus?


I’ve had a copy of Swords & Dark Magic on my shelf since it was published in 2010. Finally, I got around to reading it. Most of these themed collections tend to be uneven. I enjoyed Michael Shea’s “Hew the Tint Master.” It’s another Cugel the Clever pastiche based on Jack Vance’s character from The Dying Earth series. I enjoyed Tanith Lee’s snarky story, “Two Lions, a Witch, and the War-Robe.” Two heroes are sent on a quest with unsettling results. But my favorite story in this anthology is “In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch. Four students of magic face a test in returning books to a living Library of grimoires. Exciting and fun! If you’re in the mood for some sword and sorcery stories, Swords & Dark Magic delivers solid entertainment. GRADE: B
“Introduction: Check Your Dark Lord at the Door” – Lou Anders & Jonathan Strahan xi
“Goats of Glory” – Steven Erikson 1
“Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company” – Glen Cook 41
“Bloodsport” – Gene Wolfe 79
“The Singing Spear” – James Enge 97
“A Wizard of Wiscezan” – C.J. Cherryh 111
“A Rich Full Week” – K. J. Parker 147
“A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet” – Garth Nix 179
“Red Pearls: An Elric Story” – Michael Moorcock 197
“The Deification of Dal Bamore” – Tim Lebbon 253
“Dark Times at the Midnight Market” – Robert Silverberg 279
“The Undefiled” – Greg Keyes 307
“Hew the Tint Master” – Michael Shea 323
“In the Stacks” – Scott Lynch 363
“Two Lions, A Witch, and the War-Robe” – Tanith Lee 413
“The Sea Troll’s Daughter” – Caitlin R Kiernan 449
“Thieves of Daring” – Bill Willingham 481
“The Fool Jobs” – Joe Abercrombie 491
About the Editors 519

THE ILIAD OF HOMER Translated by Richmond Lattimore and A COMPANION TO THE ILIAD By Malcolm M. Willcock

As I shelter-in-place, I figured I’d read some of the books I’ve been putting off for some time. Richmond Lattimore’s translation of Homer’s The Iliad (1951) weighs in at 517 pages. I had the Lattimore translation on my shelves for decades and I finally decided 2020 was the year to read it and the Willcock Companion volume keyed to the Lattimore translation. What better way to spend time while the coronavirus spreads across the world? I’m also including Malcolm M. Wllcock’s useful A Companion to the Iliad (1976) with its 293 pages. Many critics consider Lattimore’s translation of The Iliad to be the best. I have read several other translations of The Iliad: Robert Fagles’s 1990 translation, Stephen Mitchell’s 2011 translation, and Alexander Pope’s Iliad (it was announced in 1713 and the final volume was published in 1720).

The point that Lattimore makes in his brilliant Introduction to The Iliad of Homer is that this is a story about Achilles (the Greeks’s best fighter), not Troy. Achilles is the star although Odysseus plays a key role in the war. Most of the action revolves around Achilles and–to a lesser extent–Hector (the Trojan’s best fighter). And, of course the Greek gods play pivotal parts in the action with their choosing sides and using their powers to manipulate the proceedings. I enjoyed Lattimore’s translation. I learned a lot about Greek and Trojan weaponry from Willcock’s companion volume. And–surprise!–the Trojan Horse is never mentioned (although it is mentioned in The Odyssey). All in all, I’m glad I finally read this classic in what might be its best translation. Have you read The Iliad? What do you think of the story? GRADE: A (FOR BOTH BOOKS)

THE DOOR By Magda Szabo (Translated by Len Rix)

Magda Szabo was a Hungarian writer with a unique sensibility. This is on full display in The Door (1987) where a couple hire an eccentric woman to clean for them. The narrator is a writer and her husband is a professor. The cleaning woman, Emerence, is a “peasant.” Her housekeeping skills are wondrous. But friction between the writer and Emerence increases over time. Part of this story concerns class structures and individuality. Another part deals with secrets and truths…and fictions. If you’re in the mood for a challenging novel, just open The Door. GRADE: B+