Friday, 27 March 2015

Old West Photo Friday: Chief Satanta of the Kiowa-Apache

This is Satanta, a chief of the Kiowa-Apache who spent many years fighting the U.S. Cavalry, most notably at the First Battle of Adobe Walls where he fought a cavalry detachment under the command of Kit Carson. During the battle, Satanta used a bugle to imitate a cavalry bugler, giving false commands to the enemy.

Satanta was the last Kiowa war chief and was eventually imprisoned in 1874 after countless fights with the encroaching American settlers and the cavalry that protected them. Given a life sentence without hope of parole, he killed himself in 1878.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Travel Tuesday: Ruined Old Farm in Backwoods Missouri

When I still lived in the U.S., I loved taking road trips on little county roads to find tiny towns and old, abandoned buildings. Missouri was especially good for that. Many farms got abandoned in bad years, and the forest and prairie are slowly reclaiming the land. These shots are from a trip I took while writing my Jesse James book. This barn is from after Jesse's time, though.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Wild West Photo Friday: Real Outlaws in Western Movies

This dusty gunman is Al Jennings, a lawyer from Oklahoma who became a bandit in the 1890s. He had a brief career of robbing banks and stores before getting injured in a shootout with the law and sent to prison. When he got out, he went back to being a lawyer and even ran for governor of Oklahoma!

When his political career didn't pan out, he decided to make movies where he played himself. Westerns had become a popular genre in the early silent films and he wasn't the only real-life bandit to sully the silver screen. You can read more in my post for Black Gate about Wild West Outlaws in Silent Film.

This image is a still from the film The Lady of the Dugout (1918) and is in the public domain.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Book Review: Far North by Marcel Theroux

Far NorthFar North by Marcel Theroux
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished this book with mixed feelings.
Marcel Theroux is the son of famous writer Paul Theroux and he obviously inherited some of his talent. He did not, however, inherit his father's keen eye for observation and human diversity.
This is a post-apocalyptic story dealing with the daughter of American immigrants who moved to Siberia just before the fall of civilization. She lived through the fall and became a local sheriff in an ultimately futile attempt to stop the chaos. The land and cultures of this post-apocalyptic world are interesting and well drawn and kept me flipping pages.
Yet I found myself increasingly frustrated. The book needed a good edit, there being numerous typos and occasional references to events that were never covered in the text. More frustrating was the protagonist's voice. Much of British literary fiction comes from its chattering classes (Theroux went to an elite boarding school and then Cambridge) and they have trouble getting out of their register. The protagonist swings between spouting home truths like some latter-day movie cowboy to sounding like a columnist for the Guardian. Such writers can't resist showing off their knowledge, even when their characters are unlikely to share that knowledge. This made the protagonist feel contrived. Supporting characters often suffered from the same problem or were just cardboardy stereotypes.
I wish I could give this book a better rating. The writing was at a high level and the setting was compelling, but my enjoyment of a novel centers on its characters, and it is because of them that Far North left me cold.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Travel Tuesday: Exploring Ancient Hatra

This charming sculpture of a nursing baby camel probably doesn't exist anymore. It's from Hatra, an ancient city in Iraq that's probably the oldest city founded by Arabs, dating to the 3rd century BC. Unfortunately, it's in the area controlled by ISIS and they recently trashed this ancient site. I write more about it over at Black Gate in the article, Ancient Hatra: Another Victim of ISIS. Like with the Assyrian sites of Nimrud and Nineveh, these are archaeological wonders I was lucky enough to see when I was in Iraq back in 2012, before the nightmare of ISIS was unleashed on the world.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Civil War Photo Friday: Goofing Around for the Camera

War isn't all serious. These two Union soldiers took the time out to fool around for posterity. The guy on the left is holding a Springfield Model 1861 rifled musket and facing off against his friend, who's getting serious with a Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver. As was common with these pictures, the subjects had a choice of painted backdrops. They should have picked a bigger one.

I wonder how these guys reacted to real fighting. . .

Image courtesy Library of Congress.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Travel Tuesday: Visiting Nimrud before it was Destroyed

As regular readers of this blog know, I visited Iraq in 2012. One of the places I got to see was Nimrud, an ancient Assyrian capital. I wrote about it recently for Black Gate in the article Memories of Mosul before ISIS.

Actually, I was writing an obituary. ISIS has recently trashed Nimrud and another important Assyrian site called Nineveh. They destroyed all the statues, including this winged bull at the Nimrud palace gate. They also continued their practice of digging up artifact to sell on the international black market. They only destroy the big showy stuff for the cameras, the rest they sell so they can buy weapons. I'll be writing a post for Black Gate about Hatra tomorrow, another ancient site they destroyed.
Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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