Book Review: 1177 B.C .

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1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline

I enjoy history and found this book a fascinating and educational read. The work is a quest to identify the forces responsible for the demise of the Bronze Age ‘civilizations’ of Egypt and its immediate neighbors. It is written in an easy to understand style with relevant footnotes, an extensive bibliography, chapter notes with comments, and a reference called “Dramatis Personae” listing the chronology of the major rulers and related personnel of the region beginning with Adad-nirari I (ruled 1307-1275 B.C.) to Zimri-Lim (ruled 1776-1758 B.C.).

Cline’s presentation is scholarly and focused exclusively on the blending of literary and archaeological evidence of eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Middle-Eastern (or Near East) regions of the Late Bronze Age, most notably the interactions and conflicts between Egyptian and Hittite empires, the Mycenaean civilization, and the elusive and hard to define Sea Peoples.

Inscriptions and regional letters from individuals, rulers, and emissaries presented in this work were a fascinating read providing insight into the thinking of the time and, for me, reinforce the common notion that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ It also stretches the definitions of what I would call ‘civilization’ and ‘civilized behavior.’ For instance, take this inscription from the pharaoh Kamose (17th Dynasty of Egypt) writing in 1550 BC about his victory over the Hyksos whom he calls “Asiatics:”

“I sailed north in my might to repel the Asiatics…with my brave army before me like a flame of fire and the…archers atop our fighting-tops to destroy their places…I passed the night in my ship, my heart happy; and when day dawned I was upon him as if it were a hawk. When breakfast time came, I overthrew him having destroyed his walls and slaughtered his people, and made his wife descend to the riverbank. My army acted like lions with their spoil…chattles, cattle, fat, honey…dividing their things, their hearts joyful.”

Cline’s thoughts on what, exactly, brought about the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations in his region of interest are based on facts gathered from the many scientific and literary research disciplines studying the region examining many factors including but not limited to earthquakes, droughts, disease, fire, warfare against invading Sea People, local insurrections, and changing economic considerations. He writes: “In my opinion, none of these individual factors would have been cataclysmic enough on their own to bring down even one of these civilizations, let alone all of them. However, they could have combined to produce a scenario in which the repercussions of each factor were magnified, in what some scholars have called a ‘multiplier effect.’ … The ensuing ‘systems collapse’ could have led to the disintegration of one society after another, in part because of the fragmentation of the global economy and the breakdown of the interconnections upon which each civilization was dependent.”

The presentation of the ‘multiplier effect’ and ‘systems collapse’ is a compelling argument for the eventual end of the Late Bronze Age in this region but one issue stands out for me as wrong. Though the work is a highly detailed, fascinating historical presentation, I find Cline’s assertion that the destruction of the regional civilizations covered in this work was somehow the result of the collapse of a ‘globalized’ society and ‘globalized’ markets that over a period time marked the end of the Late Bronze Age a bit off the mark. I would not normally quibble over such an issue but this incorrect terminology appears to be used solely to manufacture a direct correlation of those Late Bronze Age circumstances with today’s world; and, in doing so, somehow serve as an apocalyptic warning to our current, truly globalized market and intertwined global society. But Cline’s presentation focuses solely on a specific region. Therefore, Cline’s ‘globalization’ is actually ‘regionalization.’

In reality, the only consistent common denominator I could find between the collapse of ‘civilization’ in Cline’s Bronze Age stories and the drama of the world we live in today is they have humans serving as both the protagonist and antagonist in the drama that is human history, Bronze Age or otherwise.

I suppose Cline can be forgiven for attempting to draw parallels between then and now in an optimistic belief that somehow we can save ourselves from the same forces of destruction that ended the Late Bronze Age. Sadly, the most relevant similarity between the collapse of those “civilizations” and our current world is both were/are populated by humans and we do not have a good track record when it comes to learning from history.

Nevertheless, I found this book an intriguing read and a welcome addition to my library.

Book Review: A Fame Not Easily Forgotten

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Eureka Springs, Arkansas is one of my favorite places to visit. It is quirky, beautiful, full of unique artists, craftspeople, writers, entertainment venues, and natural scenery. It is a town built seemingly overnight in July 1879 following the discovery of what was then and is believed to be now curative powers in the waters of the many natural springs in the area.

In “A Fame Not Easily Forgotten”, researchers, historians, and authors June Westphal and Catharine Osterhage spent four years culling newspaper articles, historical records, written accounts, and rare photographs to compile a reasonable and accurate description of what many call the “City That Water Built.”

In mid-December 2015, just prior to my departure on a thirty-day winter holiday, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with June Westphal at her book signing at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. I was impressed by her extensive knowledge of the town, its inhabitants, and the entire region.

Here’s an excerpt from the Preface of A Fame Not Easily Forgotten: An Autobiography of Eureka Springs:

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a remarkable place—and utterly improbable. Why would anyone in the late 1800s, traveling on horseback or in wagons, traverse dirt paths through the steep Ozark Mountains to what must have seemed like the end of the earth? Why would they settle and build elaborate structures on sharp, rocky inclines?

The answer is, water. Pure, abundant spring water reported to have extraordinary curative properties—hope of healing was that powerful and that compelling. So, come they did. Build, they did. And while the water may not have reached expectations, the beauty and magic of the place captured the hearts of so many, they stayed, or kept returning. They still do…

The extensive research is well documented, includes many old pictures of the early days of expansion and growth of the town, and makes for interesting, informative, and entertaining reading. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the area and its history. You can order your own signed copy of this book from the Eureka Springs Historical Museum.

Handling Bad Reviews

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Writers are people (well, most of us are). However, even those with the greatest ability to shrug off negative comments find it difficult not to be hurt by criticism of our work. Naturally, the first reaction is likely anger before depression sets in and we begin to question our writing ability. Happens to all of us. But take heart! As Agatha Christie’s detective Poirot might advise: “Do not despair, mon ami, for there is always hope.”

In the case of a bad review, the hope lies in how it is handled. The first best advice is to ignore it, shrug it off. Do nothing and get back to writing. There’s just no pleasing everyone so don’t even try. Keep in mind a review is just an opinion. Nothing more.

Book Review: Gone to the Grave

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The leaves cross over our graveyards

When the cold wind blows and raves

They whirl and scatter on the frozen ground

Then settle on the sunken graves

They put me to mind of the children of the earth

The mournful condition of us all

We are fresh and green in the spring of the year

And are blown in the grave in the fall.

–Florence Elizabeth Rutherford, 1873-1889

Rutherford Cemetery, Independence County, Arkansas

*

Abby Burnett’s Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks, 1850-1950 is an interesting, intriguing read exploring the traditions surrounding death, local customs and rituals concerning bereavement, and the burial practices in the Arkansas Ozarks. It is excellent in its research, narrative, and visual presentation. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in such subject matter.

I had the pleasure to meet author Abby Burnett, a former freelance newspaper reporter, at the Books In Bloom event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas May 2015 and again this past week during her presentation at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Public Library. Her speaking and presentation abilities are every bit as impressive as her knowledge and expertise on Arkansas burial history and customs.

*

 “This painstakingly researched and thoroughly engaging book is as much an anthropological and sociological study as it is a historical and folklorist account of death, dying, and burial in the Arkansas Ozarks…there is virtually no source of information that Burnett hasn’t explored—epitaphs, business ledgers, funeral home records, obituaries, WPA questionnaires, health department regulations, oral history interviews, ministers’ journals, censuses, mortality schedules, doctors’ notes, undertakers’ record books, historical photographs, museum collections, and newspaper accounts…”

–Allyn Lord, Director, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, Springdale, Arkansas

*

I hear a voice you cannot hear

Which says I must not stay,

I see a hand you cannot see

Which beckons me away.

–S. N. Lyle, 1875-1932

Lowes Creek Cemetery, Franklin County, Arkansas

Book Review: Moriarty

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It is not in my nature to publicly speak ill of another author. As a rule, when I read a book I find less than enjoyable, I tend to move on without comment and find something else to read. That’s been my rule up to this moment. What follows is a notable and necessary exception.

 

The plot of Moriarty by British author Anthony Horowitz takes place after Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes and nemesis Professor Moriarty struggle over Reichenbach Falls and disappear into its depths as described on the book’s cover:

“Days after Holmes and Moriarty disappear into the waterfall’s churning depths, Fredrick Chase, a senior investigator at New York’s infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, arrives in Switzerland. Chase brings with him a dire warning: Moriarty’s death has left a convenient vacancy in London’s criminal underworld. There is no shortage of candidates to take his place—including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.”

No spoilers intended but don’t believe a word of it. Not. One. Word.

This work drags the reader down the proverbial garden path where they are thrown into the deep well of disappointment and left drowning in a dark pool of unforgivable author deceit.

The attempt at constructing a clever plot fell woefully flat and unsatisfying, torturing this reader for some 300+ pages of a 362 page work as I struggled chapter after chapter to find something enjoyable. In the end, the reading experience left me exhausted, day after miserable page-turning day.

The entire work is overloaded with a multitude of pretentious and unnecessary descriptive elements and tedious dialogue both of which slowed the story down so much its equivalent wretched sluggish experience would be attempting to swim the Thames with an iron ball and chain on each leg.

Did I like the book? No. Would I recommend it? No.

I purchased Moriarty because of my familiarity with the televised work of Mr. Horowitz. Most notably, his screenplays on Midsomer Murders, Poirot, and Foyle’s War—three of my favorite television series and all are delights. He also authors the Alex Rider books for young adults. I have not read that series but after slogging through Moriarty, I won’t.

In my opinion Mr. Horowitz may be best suited to screenplays.

Book Review: Pit of Vipers

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Pit of Vipers is the second book in Millie Thom’s wonderfully detailed and enthralling Sons of Kings trilogy set in the 9th Century. Here the epic, heroic adventure continues as we follow historical Alfred, fictional Eadwulf, and hordes of invading Danish Vikings.

Young Alfred, brother of kings, learns to hone his leadership skills and navigate the complexities of the royal court he is destined to rule. Eadwulf is back in Mercia four years now after being held slave of the Danes and is dead set on seeking revenge against his scheming, traitorous, cold-blooded uncle, Burgred.

This story has everything historical fiction fans could hope for: strong, believable characters, meticulously rendered historical settings, love and heartache, scheming intrigue, vicious deceptions, revenge, and epic conflict.

The author’s research into and knowledge of the time period provides an in-depth, fascinating look into the trials, tribulations, and challenges of those who lived in this historic period. We are drawn into their lives, suffering with them through their heartaches, rejoicing with them during moments of joy, and we are provided a front-row seat to witness the battles—both victories and defeats, private and epic—against the Anglo-Saxon’s nemesis, the great heathen armies of the Danes of the 9th Century.

No spoilers here but Pit of Vipers ends on an unexpected cliff-hanger that provides what I hope is a tantalizing transition to the third book of Millie Thom’s Sons of Kings trilogy.

I look forward to reading the final installment of this classic adventure.

Vikings! Run! (To Get Them Free This Week, That Is)

Author Millie Thom is offering her first book in the Sons of Kings trilogy Shadow of the Raven for free this week. I have read this book and really enjoyed it.

Here’s a book review I did of Shadow of the Raven.

Next week, she’ll offer her second in the Sons of Kings series, Pit of Vipers (which I am currently enjoying). Her books are a great read especially for those of us who enjoy historical fiction.

From Millie Thom’s website on the giveaways:

For anyone interested in getting free books on Amazon, today {June 11th, 2015} is the first of my five free days for ‘Shadow of the Raven‘, Book One of my Viking trilogy.

Shadow of the Raven (Medium)

Next week June 18 – 22 (Thursday – Monday) the second book of my trilogy, Pit of Vipers, will also be free. 

Pit of Vipers Final (Medium)