Daughter of Time

richard Even more eviler then Lord Farquar? Mystery writer Josephine Tey tackles the case against England’s monster, Richard the Third, by means of her fictional Scotland Yard detective Alan Grant. Grant has the time for this cold cased because he is laid up in hospital with a broken leg. (English people are “in hospital” or “at university” they do not use a “the” in those circumstances. Absolutely no reason for this, but that’s how they roll.) An actress lady friend brings Grant photos of interesting historical celebrities who have been involved in mischief. Grant is intrigued by Richard’s portrait. Can an enlightened looking fellow like this be guilty of murdering his brother’s pre-teen sons? He and his partner, Sargeant somebody, know a killer when they see one, and Richard ain’t one.

If you are unfamiliar with the case for and against Richard III, you will find this book fascinating. The theory that the Tudor Public Relations Department, pinned the murders on their Plantagenet subsidiary (there was a hostile takeover in 1485) seems plausible and Shakespeare’s nothing but a useful idiot spewing his Tonypandy against Richard. (We leave to you to look that reference up…1910, riots.)

It is also a bit confusing. There are a lot of people in England named Edward, George, Henry and Richard. There also a lot of “of” people, e.g., of Buckingham, of Norfolk, of York, of Ely, of Warwick, etc… You may need to make an org chart.

Very stuffy English writing…even some pot shots at the Welsh, Scots and Irish, but in truth, if you know the story, the book isn’t that compelling. You’d be better off Wikipediaing the players, then watching the documentary Richard III: The King in the Car Park. That show gives you the pro-Richard account via a driven Richard advocate named Philippa, a goofball narrator and a fine-looking CSI girl in a lab coat. Their accomplishment of finding Richard’s actual body 500+ years after he was tossed in a grave is one for the ages.


Things Fall Apart

yam Chinua Achebe gives the reader a look at primitive culture in rural Nigeria. The culture does make a lot of sense…polygamy for example, but with the arrival of whitey, the times…they are a changing. That does not sit well with the story’s leading man, Okonkwo. Kind of the Archie Bunker of the Umuofia clan. He is old-school and has some anger management issues.

The most compelling piece of the story is after receiving the spoils of a settlement with a neighboring tribe, Arch grows a heart. That’s right Meathead. Part of the spoils is supervision of a young lad from the other tribe. He is a smidge older that Okonkwo oldest son, so of course the younger boy adores him.

In time, the captive boy becomes well-regarded by his alpha step-Dad. The kid is tough, bright and a great example for the younger boys. However, after many years, the village elders get around to deciding the case of the captive boy and the verdict is why are we wasting yams on him? Just kill him. Okonkwo’s buddy, sensing the damage that will be done pleads with Okonkwo to sit this one out.

Okonkwo, always sensitive about his humble beginnings, can never let an opportunity to enhance his street cred go by. He affirms his commitment to the old ways in one reluctant machete stroke and after that, it’s all downhill for him. His favorite daughter falls ill, then is gun explodes and kills a bystander. For the latter, the elders banish him from the village for 7-years.

When he returns there is a Christian Church in the village, which initially only attracts the dregs of society, but continues to gain a higher level of convert. Eventually Okonkwo’s own estranged eldest son is down with JC. The inevitable face-off with the new European authorities occurs, and you can’t fight City Hall, so the Igbo ways fall into decline.

Yams, seed yams, yam barns, yam foo-foo, kola nuts, snuff bottles, cowries and pots of palm-wine, whether you enjoy the story or not, the book is a trip.