Biggles and the Black Peril

This is a fine read, a really good story, set in 1934 in which we’re introduced to the character called Ginger, who’s a really imaginative thinker and notices things that Biggles, Smyth, and Algy don’t.

Biggles is forced down off the Norfolk coast by bad weather and as always, stumbles across something strange going on. He finds some equipment intended for military use by a foreign power (no not that one) and gets involved when he’s trapped inside a large bomber and taken on a journey to the Northumberland coast.

He escapes and meets up with pals before they fly off to continetal Europe where they encounter the mysterious Blackbeard who chases them back towards England.

On the negative side, I should say there are no female characters in this book, which dates the story and makes it less interesting. Biggles leads a charmed life and has plenty of luck, in a similar vein to James Bond. Some of the words used to describe people not from the UK are of the time and sound dated now.

On the positive side, although guns are in the story, there’s no glorification of violence and indeed one of the characters feels guilty about shooting at someone in self defence.

The Nativity by Geza Vermes

Scholarship.

I’m seriously thinking about putting all my other books that I want to read in a massive pile somewhere and just reading this author’s work one after another until I’ve completed them all.

Geza Vermes places the story of The Nativity in its historical context and examines the Infancy Gospels to separate tidbits of fact from vast amounts of legendary additions.

Firstly, the nativity of Jesus is only mentioned in Luke and Matthew. Their accounts don’t derive from each other. Basic elements of the nativity in these gospels are the same: extraordinary pregnancy, Bethlehem as birthplace, and Nazareth as permanent residence after the nativity.

Other details are different. In Luke, Mary and Joseph had been living in Nazareth prior to the nativity but headed to Bethlehem to comply with Augustus’s order of a universal census. In Matthew, the residence prior to the nativity is not stated, though the assumption is it would have been Bethlehem.

In Luke, the newborn Jesus was welcomed in a stable by angels, shepherds, and local people whereas in Matthew he was worshipped in a house by the Magi. The flight to Egypt to avoid Herod’s soldiers only occurs in Matthew.

Vermes postulates that the nativity stories are later additions to the main Gospel account, added as a prologue to provide the newborn Jesus with an aura of marvel and enigma that provides a counterpart to the epilogue of the Gospels, the resurrection of Jesus. Vermes’s justifications for his ideas are fascinating.

The nativity story is not a natural introductory section to the life of Jesus as there’s no continuity between it and the rest of his life as there’s a gap of 30 years or so (apart from one incident in Luke when the 12-year-old Jesus is found by his parents in the Temple talking with teachers).

Vermes also writes about when Jesus was actually born and the actual date of The Nativity. He shows what the Infancy Gospels reveal about their prehistory and how valuable they are as historical references and their theological significance.

Recommended.

The Hobbit – Book Review

First published in Great Britain in 1937, The Hobbit must be one of the most influential books of the first half of the 20th Century and should be read by anyone who enjoys a good story.

Bilbo Baggins is the only son of Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins and lives in a hobbit hole in Bag-End, Under-Hill. One day he’s visited in his hole by the wizard Gandalf and invites him for tea the following day.

On the following day, not only does Gandalf arrive, but so do 13 dwarves led by Thorin. Bilbo is persuaded to go on an adventure where he will act as a burglar and repossess treasure that has been stolen by Smaug.

Smaug is a dragon who lives alone in the Lonely Mountain and whose only purpose is to guard the treasure he stole from the dwarves during the reign of Thorin’s grandfather. Smaug sleeps on the treasure and has exceptional eyesight and hearing.

And so begins an epic tale of overcoming the odds and dealing with exceptional circumstances. Bilbo and his new friends encounter goblins but escape. Bilbo meets Gollum but answers enough riddles correctly to leave without being harmed. The goblins surround Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves in a forest but are rescued in the nick of time by eagles. Next they meet a giant called Beorn. The dwarves are imprisoned by massive spiders but are rescued by Bilbo. They escape from elves and reach the Lonely Mountain where Bilbo meets Smaug for the first time.

As for what happens next, who survives, and who doesn’t survive I can only say you should read the book and find out.

The Night of Wenceslas by Lionel Davidson

Nicolas Whistler is a young man who lives in digs in London and spends most of his spare cash on his car. He has a girlfriend that he rather likes and a job he doesn’t like. He regularly goes down to Bournemouth to see his mum and her friend who both live in the same hotel.

His father had an interest in a Bohemian glassworks in Czechoslovakia. Nicolas receives some disturbing news from a solicitor that his uncle has died and left him an inheritance. Before he can acquire this money, he receives an offer from the solicitor to go to Prague and bring back a formula for some glass that will make the maker of it a fortune as it will be almost unbreakable. All Nicolas has to do is leave a guidebook on a desk in a glassworks he will visit near Prague and the formula will be placed in the flyleaf of the book. Nicolas meets a statuesque girl and this complicates things slightly but he returns to London clutching his guidebook and hands it over thinking his mission is over.

It isn’t.

The news about his uncle was a lie and unfortunately the formula he brought back is incomplete. He must go back to Prague and obtain the rest of the formula. This time his suspicions are aroused when he inspects the guidebook he’s been given before he visits the glassworks. It turns out Nicolas is being used by the authorities and he’s a spy, an unintentional spy. The Czechoslovak secret police interrogate and beat him, but he escapes and is on the run. He realises he can’t trust anyone, no one is actually who they seem, not even the girl he fell for in his previous visit.

What happens…well that would be telling. It’s a lovely book and I will read more by this author.

On Natural Selection by Charles Darwin

Who would have thought that the number of cats in a particular area would impact Red Clover density?

He who believes in the struggle for existence and in the principle of natural selection , will acknowledge that every organic being is constantly endeavouring to increase in numbers, and that if any one being vary ever so little, either in habits or structure, and thus gain an advantage over some other inhabitant of the country, it will seize on the place of that inhabitant, however different it may be from its own place.

There are geese and frigate-birds with webbed feet either living on the dry land or most rarely alighting on the water, there are long-toed corncrakes living in meadows instead of in swamps; there are woodpeckers where not a tree grows, there are diving thrushes and petrels with the habits of auks.

The bee can’t withdraw its sting owing to the backward serratures and causes the death of the insect by tearing out its viscera. If we looking at the sting of the bee as having originally existed in a remote progenitor as a boring and serrated instrument, like that in so many members of the same great order and which has been modified but not perfected for its present purpose, with the poison originally adapted to cause galls subsequently intensified, we can perhaps understand how it is that the use of the sting should so often cause the insect’s own death.

The Kraken Wakes

This story is not what I was expecting.

In general usage, Kraken refers to a sea monster such as a large octopus or squid. In this story, there is something in the oceans of the world but it’s not an octopus or a squid. It’s something far worse from outer space that arrive on the earth in fireballs and head into the deep seas. Soon ships start disappearing along with their crews. Humanity drops atomic bombs into the oceans but these appear to have little effect.

The main characters in the story, Mike and Phyllis Watson, work for the English Broadcasting Company and are investigating what could possibly be down there and how it can be stopped.

Soon though what is down there comes to the surface and starts invading the land in ‘sea tanks’ and capturing people using sticky tentacles that spring out of the tanks. Eventually, humanity is able to explode these tanks with mines and weapons so the invaders in the deep oceans turn to plan B.

They change the world’s ocean currents so that warm water heads to the poles melting the ice and raising sea levels by over 100 feet. The devastation is described vividly in the book with central London along with low-lying areas around the world completely flooded.

Mike and Phyllis head to their cottage in Cornwall on a motor boat where they have stored away some food just for such an eventuality. The book ends with them being summoned back to London as there’s a promising new technology using ultrasonics which may destroy the invaders in their deep sea locations.

This is how the book ends – with a glimmer of hope for mankind’s future.

Written in 1953, this book gives a picture of what the future could look like if the polar ice-caps ever start to melt.

The Goat Parva Murders

This excerpt is from the book entitled The Goat Parva Murders an English Murder Mystery book set in the countryside. 

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The stalker trained his binoculars on the ground floor lounge window where Danica Baker-Clements could be seen in her underwear watching TV. Danica’s blonde hair tumbled over artificially brown shoulders and the rhododendron branches twitched as the binoculars moved slowly over her complete loveliness. An owl screeched in the trees behind the stalker – the bird was catching mice in Doggett’s Field near the Baker-Clements’ house and had been disturbed. The warm night air was filled with the scent of honeysuckle.

The stalker was anticipating Mrs Baker-Clements removing her clothes during the evening as was the custom on Tuesdays and so intent was he on sharing every moment with her that he failed to hear the slight footfalls behind him. Danica Baker-Clements began to unhook her bra and the stalker’s breathing increased in intensity.

As the bra fell aside the stone hit the stalker’s skull rendering him unconscious instantly. He fell forward into the bush and then slumped to the ground, his glassy eyes surveying the lounge window but this time without binoculars. The assailant picked a bloom, placed it in the stalker’s mouth, and clamped the mouth shut.

For Rosemary, thought the assailant, the fight back begins.

Two minutes later Tim Armstrong cycled down the Baker-Clements’ drive and parked his bike out of sight behind the greenhouse. He was on time. He kept to the shadows created by the strong moonlight and soon knocked on the dining room window. Mrs Baker-Clements smiled, removed her last item of clothing, and headed to the window. They were seen only by a pair of lifeless eyes.

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The Goat Parva Murders stars two policemen Detective Inspector Colin Knowles and Detective Sergeant Rod Barnes who have been working together for a few years and get along really well. There’s lots of dialogue and banter with some humour thrown in amongst the murders and suspects.

For a flavour of this book and other books of mine please see the Tik Tok page: https://www.tiktok.com/@julianworkerbooks

Diary of a Buddhist Cat

Freddie the Buddhist Cat is now on TikTok. Here is a link to the page  https://www.tiktok.com/@julianworkerbooks

Freddie treats everything with respect. People, animals, birds, plants, even his breakfast.

Freddie finds Buddhism.

Saved from the shelter by John and Mary, a new life begins. Then he meets Gemma. 

She regards humans as oppressors as they took her kittens.

Gemma thinks Freddie is soft in the head but sees his approach brings rewards as Freddie wins friends, gains knowledge, stops thieves, and even helps a squirrel fly further from a children’s slide.

From daring rescues to saving souls – this cat has the heart of a lion and the wisdom of The Buddha.

To read further, please visit this link – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GPQJTB2

The Shortest History of War by Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer is a superb writer and I feel tremendously informed after reading his work. It’s no different with this superb book on the history of warfare in terms of tactics, technology, and manpower.

If you’re expecting to read about famous battles through the ages such as Issus, Manzikert, Blenheim, and The Somme then this is not the book for you.

This book discusses how weapons influence the tactics of commanders, how the roles of soldiers have changed, and how technology has lead us to the brink of a war that would end civilisation. The book discusses the role of war in the evolution of humanity and how conflict has been created by anthropology and psychology in the past and will be created in the future by climate change and resource shortages.

Interspersed with the text are quotes from various figures throughout history and simple diagrams that explain some of the concepts that cause conflict.

The effects of warfare on civilians are discussed with some horrific statistics about how many people were killed by firestorms in Hamburg in July 1943 and the number of casualties inflicted by US drone strikes since 2001. Drones are now the aerial threat of choice with the USA training more people to fly drones than are being trained to fly fighters and bombers. Drones destroyed almost half of Armenia’s armed forces in its 2020 war with Azerbaijan. Drones are relatively cheap to fly and allow smaller contries to inflict damage on larger invading forces.

Finally, the book finishes with comments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The biggest danger is that if Russia succeeds in taking some parts of Ukraine then the largely successful post-1945 ban on changing a country’s borders by military force disappears. This ban was a founding principle of the United Nations and any successful overthrow of the ban weakens the United Nations and the fragile peace that has existed globally for most of the period since 1945.

Yes, we are in trouble and perhaps the answer is for us to all get along better for more of the time. If the Forest Troop of baboons in Kenya can change their ways, so can we.

Office Life – 67% Savings

A book on life in an English office called Office Life is available at a discount from 8th December to 14th December.

5 Days in the life of an English office

There’s lots of banter and insults flying around in this story.

One person goes to the wrong place for the weekend, another has horrible personal habits, and a couple have sex over a desk when no one is watching, but someone is listening.

The main character undergoes a transformation after losing a race and feels better for it.