Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Richardson Scores Again" by Basil Thomson


Constable Richardson did such an outstanding job with his first case and he was promoted to Sergeant. He had caught the notice of the higher-ups in London’s Metropolitan Police that he was promoted over several others who had been waiting far longer. Beneficially for Richardson (who, apparently, has no first name), none of his colleagues seem to hold a grudge; Richardson is as charming as he is self-effacing.

A murder occurs in Hampstead; a maid is shot and killed one night during a burglary. Richardson and his boss are drawn into the investigation. But there are too many odd things connected to it, including what looks like an attempt to frame or implicate a young naval officer whose uncle owns the home where the maid was employed.

And then it becomes even murkier. What possible connection could there be between a murder case in suburban north London, a chicken farm near Hampstead, a rising young member of Parliament taking ill during a speech, a society to help ex-convicts find work, and even a missing parrot? But Richardson (assisted by his boss and a lawyer for the naval officer) is on the case, and sees connections where his colleagues see nothing.

Basil Thomson
First published in 1934 during the Golden Age of Mystery, Richardson Scores Again by Basil Thomson (1861-1939) is one complex, intricately plotted mystery novel. Thomson had a wide-ranging background in everything from diplomatic service and prison management to police department leadership (you can read the details of Thomson’s life in my review of the first Inspector Richardson novel, Richardson’s First Case.)

Thomson was a prolific writer, and the eight Inspector Richardson novels were written in the last decade of his life. They’re the story of the meteoric rise of an ambitious young policeman, who relies on deduction and scientific evidence (he even carries an attaché case with him that contains fingerprinting inks and cards, plaster for making models of footprints, and other  tools considered standard today).

Richardson Scores Again is a fine (and fun) example of the classic police procedural written during the height of the Golden Age for mystery and detective novels. And you can be assured that Richardson will get his man.

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Top photograph: Charing Cross Road in London in the 1930s. The street plays a role in Richardson Scores Again.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

“Praise: Poems” by Mary Harwell Sayler


Up to a third or more of the Bible is written as poetry, mostly in the Old Testament and certain quoted passages in the New Testament. While the single largest “block” of poetry is the Book of Psalms, one can also find poetry in the prophets, Genesis, Exodus, Judges, the history books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, and several others.

The Song of Solomon, one of the earliest love poems, notwithstanding, the poetry of the Bible generally focuses on praise. The reasons for praise are many and varied, but the poetry is largely poetry of praise. Consider the picture of ancient Hebrews reciting poems and singing songs of praise to their God, often in the midst of terrible trials and upheavals.

So it is with Mary Harwell Sayler’s new poetry collection, Praise. These poems are not all about thanksgiving, but have a broader reach and purpose. As Sayler says in the introduction, “Praise focuses in Who God is, more than what God does. Praise pours out our love to the Lord.”

The collection of 72 is divided into six parts – praise, prayers, Easter, creation, wonder, and Christmas. And they are indeed a pouring out love for who God is. These aren’t poems about deliverance from trials. The focus is more eternal than transient.

Praise Christ Our Body—

Who holds us together
in cell and membrane,
tissue and blood,
tendon and tears.

Praise Christ Whose Body
embraces
each part of us—
an ear, an eye, a knee,
a scalp, a head of hair
with each curl counted.

Praise Christ Who gave
His Body and
welcomes each one of us—

Into the Body of Christ,
the Church—

To work, to play
and pray together,
to love and forgive,
to worship as One Being
the Lord we adore.

Mary Harrell Sayler
As in this example, Sayler consciously incorporates the title into each poem, and that’s part of her purpose here – creating contemporary psalms. “Instead of titling them with sequential numbers, as later editors had done to identify the biblical Psalms, the first line of each poem became its title and an integral part of its reading,” she says.

Sayler has published more than 2,000 poems in a wide array of publications ranging from magazines and e-zines, anthologies, journals, and church publications. She has five poetry collections, including Living in the Nature Poem (2012); Outside Eden (2014); Beach Songs and Wood Chimes (2014); Faces in a Crowd (2016); and Praise. She’s written three books on writing, and maintains several blogs, including The Poetry Editor and Poetry.

Praise achieves what it sets out to do – its poems individually and collectively pour out love for who God is.

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Top photograph by Andrew Small via Unsplash.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Poets and Poems: Bernard O’Donoghue and “The Seasons of Cullen Church”


I hadn’t read the poetry of Bernard O’Donoghue before his most recent collection, The Seasons of Cullen Church. And yet, reading these poems, it seemed that I’d been reading him all of my life.

The poems O’Donoghue includes are poems of reflection and revisiting. No, you can’t go home again, but you can consider home in memory, and a life in memory, and understand what was important then is less so now, and what is important now was barely discernible then.

The Seasons of Cullen Church is a consideration of a life.

What does it mean for a grandfather to die at a young age, before his grandchildren will ever know him except by story and the memories of others? Or why did that copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary smell like cigarette smoke? Or remembering the insemination of dairy cows? Or seeing the nameplate on the school you attended? Or perhaps what it’s like to be traveling and arriving in an unfamiliar town?


To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photograph: Bernard O'Donoghue at Oxford University.