Friday, 27 November 2015

Military History Photo Friday: Frontier Forts of the Emperor Hadrian

Photo courtesy Jean-Pierre Neri via Wikimedia Commons.

This is an aerial photo of Lambaesis, a Roman fort in what is now Algeria. It was built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117–138 AD). This was a permanent camp for the III Augusta legion complete with fortification walls, baths, an amphitheater, and temples.

Meanwhile, at the empire's northern frontier at the edge of Scotland, Hadrian was building the wall that would bear his name. The below photo is an aerial view of Housesteads fort, situated on the wall and the base for the II Augusta legion. While it's smaller than the contemporary fort in Algeria, you can see that its based on a very similar plan. The Romans standardized many of their buildings, only varying them because of special needs or terrain. Thus if a legionnaire decided to switch from the III to the II legion, and moved from the heat of Algeria to the damp of Scotland, he'd be able to make his way around the fort without any problem.

A few years ago I did a series about hiking Hadrian's Wall on the now-defunct travel blog Gadling. The photo galleries are gone but all my text is still up.

The photo of Housesteads is courtesy the Tynedale U3A. Hadrian's Wall Group, which is doing great work educating the public about Hadrian's Wall.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Travel Tuesday: A Classic Egyptian Movie Poster

I spotted this great old movie poster inside my favorite movie theater in Tangier, Cinema Rif. They play lots of Moroccan films, contemporary international films, and old classics. The night I snapped this on my phone I went to see Easy Rider. It's one of my favorite movies of all time and I had never seen it on big screen!

This poster is for Antar bin chaddad, a 1961 feature by Egyptian director Niazi Mostafa that was released in English as Antar the Black Prince. I guess that's Antar there about to throw his scimitar in order to win the heart of that lovely lady, who is already admiring his blade.

I haven't seen this movie, but it looks like a grand historical epic, something the Egyptians did a lot of back in the day. Mostafa was a productive director from the Thirties through the Seventies. His IMDB page lists him as having done 82 movies. There's a good short bio of him here that reveals he learned his craft at the famous UFA studios in Germany and was mysteriously murdered.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Free post-apocalyptic fiction!

My post-apocalyptic novelette The Scavenger is a free ebook on Amazon through Friday, November 27. This standalone novelette is part of my Toxic World post-apocalyptic series. So go ahead and grab yourself a copy, and feel free to share!

A blurb is below:

In a world shattered by war, pollution, and disease, a lone scavenger discovers a priceless relic from the Old Times.
The problem is, it's stuck in the middle of the worst wasteland he knows--a contaminated city inhabited by insane chem addicts and vengeful villagers. Only his wits, his gun, and an unlikely ally can get him out alive.
Set in the Toxic World series introduced in the novel Radio Hope, this 10,000-word story explores more of the dangers and personalities that make up a post-apocalyptic world that's all too possible.

Pick it up on Amazon, Amazon UK, and any other branch of the store.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Military History Photo Friday: Fighting the Barbary Pirates

This lovely naval painting was made c. 1615 by the Dutch painter Aert Anthonisz. It shows a French ship battling two galleys of the infamous Barbary pirates. These pirates harassed shipping along the coast of North Africa starting as far back as the 9th century. Their heyday was in the 15th-19th centuries, and various European powers such as France, Spain, and Portugal used these attacks as an excuse to colonize North Africa.

The Barbary Pirates earned a bad reputation for attacking ships and selling the crews and passengers into slavery. Of course, European pirates were doing the same thing, but since the African pirates were enslaving Europeans, they were considered beyond the pale. At least by the Europeans.

There were numerous battles against the pirates, but their activity didn't die down until a general decline of piracy in the Atlantic and Mediterranean in the late 19th century. By then, the great powers had sizable navies and the seas were better patrolled.

On the Atlantic coast of Morocco, however, one pirate continued until well into the 20th century. I've written more about that in my post for Black Gate this week.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Horror Book Review: The Last Christmas Gift

The Last Christmas Gift: A Heartwarming Holiday Tale of the Living DeadThe Last Christmas Gift: A Heartwarming Holiday Tale of the Living Dead by Nathan Shumate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't generally read zombie stories, and I NEVER read Christmas stories, but this novella comes from the host of one of my favorite websites, Lousy Book Covers. When he offered a free copy in exchange for an honest review, I went for it.

I'm glad I did. The book is well written, with a middle-aged narrator talking about his childhood memories in a convincing and evocative manner. When our hero was eight, he received a strange doll from his father, who was recently killed in action in Vietnam. Then, shortly before Christmas, his beloved grandfather dies. The boy has been living at his grandfather's house, which just so happens to be situated across the street from a graveyard. Since this is a zombie story, you don't get bonus points for figuring out what that doll ends up doing!

Shumate is especially strong when dealing with the relationship between the boy and his grandfather, as well as how the zombie attack changes the boy's perceptions, it being his first step to manhood. The attack itself is adequately handled but offers nothing new. We've had enough of these attacks already! I must say that I found the attack a bit overlong and wanted more about the boy's relationship with his grandfather and absent father. Also, the character of the depressed mother, who sleeps through the entire novel thanks to her pills, deserved to be filled out a bit more.

But these are minor criticisms from someone who is not in this book's target audience. If you are at all a fan of zombies or Christmas horror tales, pick this one up. It's a different take on the genre and worth your while.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Travel Tuesday: A Rare Sunny Autumn Day in Oxford

Last week my wife and I were up in Oxford. She had to give a colloquium at the university and I did some research at the Bodleian Library. It being November, of course it was cloudy and rainy almost every day. For the first few hours of our first day, however, the sun shone and the city was beautiful. We took the opportunity to walk through Christchurch Meadows, a stretch of land owned by one of the historic colleges on the river. Along this part of the river the various colleges keep their boat houses and rowing teams practice in the water. The photos are all hers. Enjoy!

Photos copyright Almudena Alonso-Herrero.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Military History Photo Friday: A Most Unfortunate Roman

If you take a close look at this skull, you'll notice a metal point had punched right through it. This poor fellow currently resides in the archaeological museum in Tetouan, Morocco. Two thousand years ago it was the Roman province of Mauritania, and this man was a soldier protecting the empire against hostile tribes to the south. Sadly he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
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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