Friday, June 18, 2021

Head of Zeus Special Editions

We don't often write about our fiction being as interested parties will find a bibliography and reviews on our website, but given Rodgers and Hammerstein tell us June is busting out all over, this must surely to be the appropriate month to burst out with a shout-out to British publisher Head of Zeus' editions of John's adventures with their really striking covers. We like how the covers emphasis the fact that what some refer to as the Byzantine Empire was simply the continuation of the Roman Empire which survived in the east, untouched by the fall of Rome.

We'd also like to point out some special bargain priced editions published by Head of Zeus. Three Great Historical Mysteries is a collection featuring fellow Poisoned Pen Press authors Bruce Macbain with Roman Games and Priscilla Royal with Wine of Violence. John's debut One For Sorrow makes up the set. Together these span classical Rome, later Rome and the Middle Ages.

In addition to individual single titles Head of Zeus also offers a boxed set of the first four John novels in the Murder In Byzantium collection.

Finally there is a 48 page mini-book featuring one of John's early adventures, The Body in the Mithraeum.

Head of Zeus: Amazon:

In Praise of Tubbies

by Mary

When I mentioned my intent was to talk about "tubbies" this time round, Mr Maywrite asked me if the word was a Britishism or a Maryism. I cannot say either way, but will confirm right off the bat that the following is not about the colourful Teletubbies inhabiting the world of the popular British TV show for young children.

No, this essay is devoted to coffee containers and came about because only a couple of types of plastic bottles and jars are accepted locally for recycling. This means items without the appropriate magic numbers on their bases branding them as unwanted types of plastic must perforce be disposed of in the weekly bag of rubbish. However, not all of our numerical undesirables disappear that way, because we have amassed a collection of various sizes of coffee tubbies. Not surprising really, since being devotees of Satan's brew we generally get through even the largest sized container in about six weeks.

A quick survey of Casa Maywrite reveals several tubbies currently in use. A medium sized example in this very room holds spare light bulbs, an excellent way to store fragile items of that kind. Why light bulbs are sold in flimsy cardboard packaging when it takes a hacksaw to get into certain plastic-wrapped items is a mystery for the ages.

More of these lagniappe storage units lurk in three rooms and a porch. The tubby in the latter location houses sundry small garden tools as well as drop cloths and paintbrushes. Another office example holds small odds and ends of the type that tend to be found lurking in desk drawers. Unfortunately neither of our desks include that most useful feature, so items such as envelopes, stamps, spare pens, and scissors are kept in their own tubby. There is the disadvantage that tubbies do not seem to spontaneously generate rubber bands and paper clips as desk drawers do.

There's another tubby in the bathroom housing the loo brush, and assorted hoover attachments lurk in the pantry tubby. Last summer one of the bigger containers proved really handy when carrying out a controlled pouring forth of wood stain, rather than attempting to wrassle with large tins reminiscent of British petroleum containment units, as Mr Maywrite put it. Which, he observed, in this country are still known as gas cans despite being made of plastic.

One of a procession of plumbers whose retirement accounts we have enlarged significantly the last couple of years asked if he could have one of our smaller tubbies, and we were glad to oblige. My guess is it will serve as a mini bucket in tighter plumbing spots. We have used one as a temporary bucket when the kitchen sink sprang a leak and of course they are also useful when dealing with other tasks involving water.

Leading subscribers further around a grand tour of the premises, observe the fine example of the largest type of tubby residing on the kitchen counter. We pressed it into service some time since to store wet rubbish such as coffee grounds, fruit peelings, and eggshells. Its capacity is large and keeping it tightly lidded until it the time came to dispose of its contents has proved particularly useful during east coast heat waves.

Another attraction of these handy items: stores expect you to pay for specialised containers for various sorts of clutter, but tubbies are free. Which reminds me there's one containing loose change in the kitchen but their use extends further: they serve as the subject for an essay when the idea fairy goes missing.

Things the Library Taught Me

by Eric

Last month I visited the library for the first time in a year to make copies of our tax forms. Years ago a week wouldn't have passed without my going to the library, let alone a year, but recently I've turned to e-books and never need to leave the house for reading material.

My grade school was a short walk from the local library and every week our teachers would have the class troop single file to the white wood frame building to exchange our borrowed books for new ones. That was my introduction to libraries and over the years they taught me a lot, quite apart from a love for reading.

Even during my picture book phase those weekly school excursions weren't sufficient. Saturday mornings it wasn't uncommon for me to trek from home to the library to stock up on Dr Seuss and the like, exhaust my selections by afternoon and return for more. Unfortunately the walk to the library was close to a mile with steep hills at both ends. I greedily piled up books until I had far too many to carry under one skinny arm, and nearly too many to see over cradled in both arms. I staggered outside, nose more or less resting on a Lorax or Horton the elephant. My thick lensed glasses kept slipping down as I stumbled along, more and more slowly, arms beginning to ache from the weight of all those delightful flights of imagination. Thus I learned about one's reach exceeding one's grasp.

When I was on fourth grade I learned about censorship. I had read all the Tom Swift Junior books my parents had bought for me and desperately craved more science fiction. (Instead of a monkey on my back I had an alien). Unfortunately the science fiction section of the library was upstairs in what must once have been a small bedroom. It was adults only. Apparently certain science fiction, including juveniles by Andre Norton and Lester del Rey, were unsuitable for young minds. Maybe an irate parent had shown them Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, or else someone didn't think kids should be reading about futures that held out the possibility of things being different than they are. Luckily, before long my parents were able to straighten out the strait-laced librarian and I was no longer barred from reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 which condemned book burning, and plenty of other science fiction which railed against the suppression of knowledge and freedom.

Speaking of freedom, libraries also gave me a foretaste of the surveillance state and not just via science fiction. Are you old enough to remember when library books had borrowing cards in a pocket on the inside back cover? You'd sign and date them when you took a book out. It was interesting to see how many times the book had been borrowed, when, and by whom. But at the library I went to this system also allowed the librarians to keep track of how many books each patron had borrowed. Which one time led to the librarian checking my books out to admonish me that I ought to read more. My classmate Nancy C----- had read twice as many books as I had! Despite the great loads of books I'd lugged home. What can I say? As a girl Nancy was not obligated to spend hours of potential reading time with friends reenacting the Gunfight at the OK Corral with cap guns.

The library also taught me not to lose my head in financial dealings. No, I didn't read books of investment advice while growing up (nor since). Rather I went to the annual library auction with a buddy. Usually what attracted me to the fund raiser were the food vendors and used book tables but one year the big speakers by the auction platform in front of the barn blared out that the next item up for bid was a trio of hamsters. My friend and I excitedly counted our pocket change and immediately began bidding furiously. Against each other. Solely against each other. Who other than a ten year old wants three hamsters? I guess we were naive but the whole point of an auction is bidding. What's the fun if you don't bid? Not surprisingly we eventually exhausted our funds and took our furry little prizes to my friend's house. We'd agreed to share custody and trade them back and forth. But I never got to keep them at my place.They turned out to be a bad investment because they got along worse than the Three Stooges. The next morning one was eviscerated and one decapitated. The survivor of the fight (I suppose he would have been Moe) we set loose in the woods. God help the chipmunks.

So I learned a lot from libraries but today I sit here typing electronic words which you'll read off a screen. I can't help remembering lurching homeward, gasping for breath, legs trembling, under the burden of those picture books and thinking that maybe books that weigh nothing are not a bad idea.