October 23, 2007
Robin recommends serving "spotted dick" for dessert at your next Patrick O'Brian party - or at the very least, a "floating island"
A couple of months ago I received an email query from a local woman who was looking for someone expert enough to discourse intelligently on early 19th c. naval life. She knew a lot of people who all enjoyed Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, and so had the bright idea of throwing a party at which they'd all drink coffee and eat toasted cheese and generally wax enthusiastic together. I couldn't think of anyone to recommend as a speaker at her party, but I did come up with a few suggestions to make the party more merry (besides supplementing the coffee with grog): first, I was delighted to inform her that one of our local supermarkets sells imported, canned spotted dick.
Aubrey/Maturin aficionados will remember this as one of Jack's favorite desserts. Anybody ever had floating island? Second, I came up with what I thought was a really great idea for an Aubrey/Maturin party game. I was kind of hoping she'd invite me to the party, since I was immodestly certain it was a terrific idea, but she didn't. So I'll share it here -- maybe somebody reading this would like to play.
Here is my favorite quotation from the Aubrey/Maturin novels. Can anyone guess who is the speaker, and identify the context?
"Sir, you have debauched my sloth!"
(Of course, the best part about this game is that it sends one back to the novels....)
Leave a comment if you think you know who the speaker is.
October 8, 2007
“ Time stopped. Quintus was suddenly in some hellish painting from the hand of a demented artist. The image was too brutal to be real. Had he really contributed to this catastrophe? Could he have possibly fought this battle even more savagely than the battle-hardened barbarians in his ranks? Could he possibly have taken so many lives? He had thought he knew the power of Taurus, but he had never considered him capable of killing on such a massive scale.”
The Fight for Rome, the second novel in the Gladiators of the Empire series by James Duffy takes the story of Quintus Honorius Romanus, the gladiator going by the name of Taurus, to a new level and involves both protagonist and antagonist in the politics of civil war.
It's AD 69, the Year of the Four Emperors. Galba has been killed, Otho is facing Vitellius, and gladiators are recruited – or rather their masters are forced to rent them out – as soldiers for Otho. For most of Quintus' fellow gladiators, it's just learning another way of fighting, and familiar to those who are captured barbarians. But for a handful, such as Quintus, who are Roman citizens, the dilemma is glaring: a fight in the arena is one thing, but killing other Romans in battle is another. For Lindani, the African venator, it means killing people rather than animals. What keeps Quintus going is his induction into a secret plan to keep both Otho and Vitellius from victory in favor of Vespasian.'
The story is nicely woven into the real history of AD 69 – outlined in Afterword & Historical Notes, with a number of real life personae and some surprises.
The characters introduced in the first novel, Sand of the Arena have grown and Mr. Duffy is adept at portraying their relationships, and their internal conflicts, not the least Quintus transforming himself chillingly into Taurus when the situation demands it. The emotional plight of Romans fighting Romans in a civil war is imaginatively treated.
October 5, 2007
This is Gerry's final posting of excerpts from the book. For more, you'll have to read From the Depths, due out in November.