THE LAST KINGDOM
April 13, 2005
THE LAST KINGDOM by Bernard Cornwell (HarperCollins, 2004). THE LAST KINGDOM is the first book in another series by the prolific Bernard Cornwell, best known for creating Richard Sharpe. This one is set much earlier in English history, during the time of Alfred the Great, when the Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria were engulfed one after the other by the Danes. The hero isn Uhtred, the son of a Saxon earl orphaned by the war and raised among the Danes. A terrific read. Cornwell really makes history come alive, and no one writes better battle scenes. He has another winner on his hands.
PIZZA: A SLICE OF HEAVEN by Ed Levine (Universe, February 2005). Now, this is my kind of Bible. Food writer Ed Levine’s PIZZA: A SLICE OF HEAVEN is a wonderfully crusty, cheesy, saucy book about my favorite food. Why, it’s pizza, of course (barbeque is a close second). Not the horrible stuff they sell at Domino’s, Pizza Hut, or (shudder) Sbarro’s, or the deep-dish casserole they call pizza in Chicago, and definitely not the abomination that is California pizza, whole wheat crusts, sprouts, and all. No, real pizza, thin-crust New York City pizza, pizza in the Neapolitan tradition, pizza the way god meant it to be, with just enough sauce and just enough good cheese, charred a little in a really hot coal-burning oven, pizza you can fold, pizza you can love, pizza to transport you to other realms. Levine knows his pizza, I am pleased to say. A Slice of Heaven will entertain you, enlighten you, and make you hungry. And if you are unfortunate enough to live outside the “Pizza Belt,” as I do, it will help get you through the dark days between pies. And now pardon me, I need to finish my novel so I can reward myself with a pie from that place he wrote about in Phoenix, Arizona…
ONE WHO WALKED ALONE by Novalyne Price Ellis (Donald M Grant, 1986). Not many people went to see the film THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD when it was released a few years back, which is a shame. The movie is a gem; the sweet, sad, tragic tale of the last two years in the life of Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan and Solomon Kane, and one of the ‘Three Musketeers’ of WEIRD TALES), as told through the eyes of the young schoolteacher who briefly became his “best girl.” It featured a wonderful performance by a then-unknown Renee Zellweger as Novalyne Price, and a magnificent portrayal of Howard by Vincent D’Onfrio. You don’t have to know REH and his writing to appreciate the poignant love story at the heart of THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, but those who do will get even more from the movie. Check it out on DVD… and after you do, read the book it’s based on. ONE WHO WALKED ALONE is Novalyne Price Ellis’s memoir of her time with Howard, based on the journals she kept in the 1930s, when she and Bob were dating. Originally published in 1986, it has just been restored to print in a beautiful new hardcover edition. As a young woman, Miss Price dreamed of being a writer. She might have been a good one; her memoir brings REH to life as no biographer ever has, and also paints a vivid and unforgettable picture of life in a small Texas town in the 1930s. The film was great; the book is even better.