If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the bill

While not scrupulously accurate, it is still quite engrossing

If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the billAn electrician in to do some wiring work a couple of months ago ran his eye over the media shelf, noticed the Vikings DVD set and announced that The Last Kingdom was better. So in the midst of a pandemic winter, we tracked down the extant four seasons and gave it a whirl. The series…

Atwood’s childhood works reveals early glimmers of creativity

Compilation of juvenilia hints at the famed author’s first influences – and a characteristic sense of humour, say U of A experts

Margaret Atwood was only seven when she got her first bitter taste of literary rejection. She wrote a play called The Giant, the Gost (sic) and the Moon and staged it with paper puppets and a cardboard set. It conveyed the weighty themes of lying, crime and punishment, “as befits a future novelist,” recalls the…

Father Brown is G.K. Chesterton’s most durable creation

He was an early and vocal critic of Nazism., an unapologetic opponent of eugenics and derisive towards the concept of racial purity

Father Brown is G.K. Chesterton’s most durable creationG.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton was born in 1874 and died in 1936, just two weeks into his 63rd year. During his lifetime, he was one of England’s most notable writers. His output was truly prodigious, including novels, poems, short stories, newspaper columns and such. Today, it’s probably fair to say that he’s best remembered for…

The perpetual fascination with Robin Hood

The bawdy, brutal outlaw of the original ballads doesn’t fit with the noble figure of popular mid-20th-century presentations

The perpetual fascination with Robin HoodAs historical figures go, Robin Hood is a source of perpetual fascination. Mind you, I use the term “historical figure” very loosely because there’s no convincing evidence that he ever existed. Or at least not in anything resembling the legend we’re familiar with. While the earliest written stories date back to ballads printed in the…

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old film

D-Day the Sixth of June was based on an award-winning novel by Canadian journalist Lionel Shapiro

Finding new value – and a great back story – in an old filmTurner Classic Movies marked the American Memorial Day weekend by showing a string of war films, one of which was D-Day the Sixth of June. Released in 1956 and based on a novel published the previous year, I’d seen it at the local cinema in Dublin, Ireland, more than 60 years ago. Back then, I’d…

In praise of trashy paperbacks

What could be bad about stories that are pacey, and replete with nefarious dealings, treachery, passion and lust? They're great fun and you won't nod off reading them

In praise of trashy paperbacksApart from childhood forays into the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott, most of my fiction reading was done in the 1960s and 1970s. And the ubiquity of reasonably-priced paperback novels was a huge facilitator. A goodly portion of what I consumed can be described as respectable. Somerset Maugham, John O’Hara and…

Celebrating Christmas with Poirot and Marple

If you're looking for some binge-worthy fictional subjects, nothing could be better than Agatha Christie’s signature characters

Celebrating Christmas with Poirot and MarpleAh, Christmas! There are many things I enjoy doing on Christmas, a wonderful holiday. This includes spending time with family, watching Alastair Sim’s version of Scrooge (1951) and animated specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), listening to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. With respect to the latter,…

The enduring romance of the highwayman

Brave, dashing and manly, these social bandits have lofty status. But some, like Dick Turpin, fall far short of the glowing stereotype

The enduring romance of the highwaymanIf memory serves, my first encounter with the concept of a highwayman came circa 1952 thanks to the weekly Sun comic book. One of its regular characters was Dick Turpin, a highwayman who embarked on a series of adventures with his female sidekick Moll Moonlight. In addition to robbing the rich to help the poor,…

Stan Lee, left-wing culture warrior

Under his leadership, Marvel directly challenged societal norms on race, religion, war, gender and sexuality

Stan Lee, left-wing culture warriorStan Lee passed away on Nov. 12. The larger-than-life personality of Marvel Comics for seven decades, he helped create some of the world’s most beloved superheroes, including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Black Panther. The 95-year-old son of Romanian-Jewish immigrants, Lee was a genius and great innovator in the comic book industry –…

The man who shot Billy the Kid

Pat Garrett has been maligned for killing his "friend" in a "cowardly" way. Neither indictment is persuasive

The man who shot Billy the KidTo the extent he’s remembered at all, Pat Garrett (1850-1908) is known as the man who shot Billy the Kid. Reputation-wise, it’s been a mixed blessing. Although the shooting happened in Garrett’s capacity as a sheriff hunting down a convicted murderer, the fictionalizing of the Old West and the power of Hollywood storytelling often cast…