Month: February 2017

Cutting Shakespeare Short


Far more erudite and scholarly examinations of Shakespeare’s play Midsummer’s Night Dream have been executed, I am sure–but here are a couple of writerly observations I made in my listening to a dramatized audio of this play which was probably written just prior to the turn of the seventeenth century.

  1. The light and comedic Midsummer’s Night Dream is quite a change in tone from the bloody and horrible Titus Andronicus written by Shakespeare a couple of years earlier.
  2. Shakespeare runs out of plot 3/4 of the way through the play and the rest becomes a meta play within a play, where actors watch actors, pretending to be incompetent actors, pretend to put on a play, and make wry and cutting remarks about their ineptitude.

Shakespeare could have cut MidSummer’s Night Dream short just prior to this play within a play and had a very concise and witty play of about ninety minutes–and one of no less brilliance.

P.S. Yes, I realize Shakespeare is a recognized genius whose plays have lived for 400 years, while my novels are likely destined to languish forever in obscurity. My observations are in no way meant to diminish his masterful vocabulary, use of language or literary immortality.

-Joel Jenkins
Author of Weird Action & Adventure


Kiln Row


This southern suburb of Denbrook consists mostly of gentrified brick homes built over a century ago. Originally, this area was mined for clay and covered in kilns, which were used to bake the bricks that still cover the faces of many buildings in the historic districts of Denbrook. Eventually, the clay deposits were exhausted and more plentiful supplies discovered along the banks of the Hopkins, where bricks are still produced to this day.

Though the residents of Kiln generally enjoy a low crime rate in this area, there have been recent reports of gangs out of the Barrens who have staged home invasions. As disturbing as this is, these appear to have been isolated incidents.


Dire Planet Compendium: Arshen


The arshen is a large slug-like creature which dwells in subterranean pits.  They exude a thick pitch-like substance which the Martian Tribes use to waterproof clothing, boats, and wings.  The skin of a slain arshen is difficult to remove, but is semi-translucent and naturally waterproof.  It is used for tent, tarpaulin, clothing and for covering the gejassoas frames that form the wings that so many tribes use for travel. The arshen seem ponderous and placid, but they have an unpredictable temperament that makes them dangerous.  They can move more quickly than most imagine and they are capable of swallowing large animals or humans whole, and their corrosive gastric juices quickly break down their meals.


The Moral to the Story?


This is perhaps the fourth Sam and Remi Fargo adventure I’ve read and probably the best of the lot thus far–though I admit, that I somehow seem to have skipped over a book or two, so I perused them out of order. Cussler or perhaps I should say Russell Blake seems to be hitting his stride. Not that his half-stride doesn’t exceed most authors leaps and bounds.


The independently wealthy treasure hunters, Sam (husband) and Remi Fargo (wife), continue to gallivant around the globe, visiting exotic locations and unearthing ancient treasures. This one involves uncovering the secret connection between Vikings, Toltecs, and the god Quetzl Coatl.

In their efforts to discover this secret, they require the help of a disgraced Professor Laslo (the spelling may be incorrect on the name, since I listened to this rather than read the book) who they find in a drugged and alcoholic stupor somewhere in Cambodia–having abandoned his pursuit of a lost treasure horde in favor of a pursuit of strong spirits.

Most generously, the Fargos pay for rehab and get him back on his feet. However, the book fails to point out the irony that the Fargos are themselves functional alcoholics (as opposed to Professor Laslo who is a decidedly non-functional alcoholic when we first meet him).

Every meal described by the author goes into loving detail about the bottle of wine the Fargos consume, or includes mentions of multiple drinks and jokes about hangovers.They even, somewhat callously, plan to discuss the days events over a “few” margaritas, directly in front of Laslo. Later the Fargos go out and sample a multitude of whiskeys.

The unintentional moral of the story seems to be that Non-Functional Alcoholism is bad, but Functional Alcoholism is good. But this is just me making a wry observation…

On another, character-related note, the Fargos have a pair of Californian researchers working for them named Pete and Wendy. In the books I’ve read, neither of them seems to have developed much of a personality. In this book  Pete is given a romantic sub-plot, where he demonstrates an interest in another researcher’s niece. However, we still never really get to know Pete.

Farona’s Girth


Farona is a legendary Muvari warrior of both incredible battle prowess and incredible girth and over the centuries the term “Farona’s Girth” has fallen into common Muvari usage as a mild epithet or exclamation.  There are historical incidents of serious oaths that have been sworn “By Farona’s Girth”, most notably Elri Shancumar who swore by “Farona’s Girth” that she would not lie again with her husband until a looting band of exiles was driven from the land.  Elri’s husband took this oath so seriously that, in violation of Muvari custom, he strapped on a sword blade and single-handedly routed the exile bandits.

Farona is one of the trio of warriors–that included Thavunye of the Spear from the Rathuri Tribe and Ardahla of the Munothi Tribe–who fought valiantly against overwhelming odds beneath the shadow of Golem Rock and drove back the Brecknarite armies who had formed a league with the spiderous sinthral.

Some legends say that three warriors swore a pact that united their tribes for all time but the symbol of this pact has been lost and the oath largely forgotten–each of the tribes becoming independent and isolated from each other.

Other expressions have evolved as well using Farona’s name. “Farona’s lip”, and “Farona’s thigh” are also commonly used–for Farona was said to have been blessed with generous quantities of both.


Mace Glen Canyon and Caverns



Mace Glen Canyon is a sixty yard cleft which was once a river bed and now converted into a road. However, original planners failed to comprehend that taking advantage of this geographical feature might also lead to some complications. When heavy rains descended upon Denbrook the road quickly became a river again.

In order to solve this problem, engineers raised the road twenty feet off the earth and created some aqueducts to siphon off storm water. Some spelunkers like to explore these aqueducts, which are said to cut through some natural underground caverns, however at least seven spelunkers have died when they were caught in the floodwaters of unanticipated storms.


How the Ghost of George Washington Saved Andrew Jackson’s Life


A handful of takeaways from the book American Lion by John Meacham, which is a biography of Andrew Jackson who was the seventh president of the United States.

He had a Bad Temper as a Youth

His contemporaries say that he would become so angry that he would froth at the mouth. Later, it appears, Jackson was able to control this temper and use it for effect, flying into a rage to chastise a political enemy, and then being calm the moment he was out of their presence.

He was No Friend to the American Indian or the Slaves

He was a champion of the relocation program where Indians were moved north to reservations. These relocations were often done in the dead of winter without sufficient food or shelter. Jackson presided over the infamous Trail of Tears–the forced migration of the Cherokee people to Oklahoma, during which 4,000 out of 16,000 Cherokee died on the trail.

Jackson was also strongly against the anti-slavery campaign which was backed by many religious groups. He correctly assessed that these were a danger to the unity of the nation, but failed to grasp the moral implications of enslaving another human being. Or if he did grasp the moral implications, he chose to ignore them in favor of keeping the Union together (something which was certainly done by a number of the founding fathers) .

On the other hand, a different side of Andrew Jackson was shown when he adopted an orphaned Native American baby (orphaned during the Battle of Tallushatchee) who he named Lyncoya.

Also, on his deathbed, he indicated to his slaves and family who were gathered about him, that God did not look upon the color of one’s skin and that he looked forward to seeing them all in Heaven.

He was Tough as Nails

He carried a couple of bullets around in his body. One of these was a bullet in his chest, the result of a duel with with attorney Charles Dickinson. The bullet was too close to Jackson’s heart to ever be removed and caused health complications for the rest of his life.

He Could be Forgiving

Andrew Jackson got in a shootout with the Benton Brothers which resulted in no deaths, but Andrew Jackson took a bullet in his left shoulder and nearly bled to death. Later, Thomas Benton became a prominent senator and he and Jackson would work together and became rather unlikely friends.

The Ghost of George Washington Saved Andrew Jackson’s Life (sort of)

An unemployed and probably somewhat deranged painter named Richard Lawrence approached President Andrew Jackson, who was attending a funeral in the House Chamber of the Capitol building, and fired twice with two separate pistols from about six feet away. Both times, the cap in the pistols went off with a startling bang, but the powder did not ignite to push the bullet out of the pistols. Jackson (now in his late 60’s) chased the assassin, beating him with his cane, while Jackson’s friends wrestled the would-be assassin to the ground.

The chances of both pistols failing were estimated at 125,000 to 1. At the time of the assassination there was an open grave/tomb intended for George Washington’s body, which had not been placed because Washington’s heirs were not anxious to exhume his body from the current resting place in Mt. Vernon. This tomb was located in the basement and created an extraordinary dampness in the  already humid air. Theorists suggest that this might have been the reason that Richard Lawrence’s pistols (which were later tested and fired perfectly) failed to work at that critical moment.

The Battle of New Orleans was Inconsequential

I say this tongue-in-cheek, but in fact a peace treaty had already been signed between England and the United States, before this battle took place. The word just hadn’t reached America yet, so no one was aware of it.

Maybe this is the reason that Richard Meacham glosses over the battle with only a paragraph or two, stating the results of the battle and neglecting to tell hardly anything else about it.

It seems like a very odd omission, considering that Meacham spends chapters chronicling the soap-opera intrigues of the White House, revolving around the wife of Secretary of Defense John Eaton, whose reputation as a loose woman led her to be shunned by the wives of the other cabinet members.

Granted, these social sleights did lead a duel challenge and an attempted ambush on the streets of Washington DC, but it seems strange to me that Meacham would gloss over the Battle of New Orleans.

-Joel Jenkins
Author of Weird Action & Adventure