Ad Astra VI

AdAstra-v06-covMalgré les réserves d’Aemilus, Varron reste fidèle à son plan. Il lance son immense armée contre les troupes carthaginoises, persuadé d’avoir identifié la stratégie de l’ennemi : profiter du terrain pour prendre l’adversaire au piège.

Mais rien ne se passe comme prévu et, dès le début des combats, la cavalerie romaine se fait décimer ! Tandis qu’Aemilius, blessé, cherche à préserver Scipion du carnage, le second consul prend lâchement la fuite. Si l’infanterie de Rome domine encore, la bataille ne fait que commencer…

Bravoure, complots et stratégie… Plongez au cœur des batailles qui opposèrent les légendaires Hannibal et Scipion !” (Texte de la couverture arrière)

Ad Astra: Scipion l’Africain & Hannibal Barca (アド・アストラ -スキピオとハンニバル- / Ad Astra – Scipio to Hannibal) est un manga seinen historique par Mihachi KAGANO (dont c’est le premier titre) qui raconte les faits saillants de la deuxième guerre punique qui opposa Rome et Carthage. Il a été prépublié dans le magazine Ultra Jump (entre mars 2011 et février 2018), puis compilé en treize volumes chez Shūeisha. La version française paraît chez Ki-oon.

AdAstra-v06-p21Le sixième volume est entièrement consacré à la bataille de Cannae et à ses suites immédiates. Encore une fois, les romains sont victimes de la brillante stratégie d’Hannibal. Toutes les batailles précédentes n’ont servi qu’à convaincre les romains qu’ils commençaient à comprendre sa stratégie afin qu’il puisse à nouveau les surprendre. Il commence par rassurer ses alliés gaulois en affirmant qu’ils vaincront malgré leur infériorité numérique (80,000 romains contre 50,000 alliés Carthaginois) et de lourdes pertes mais que cela en vaut la peine pour se venger du joug romains et pour l’honneur de la Gaule! Après avoir feint la retraite, les Carthaginois encerclent les romains et les massacrent. Minucius et Aemilius sont tué par Giscon. Scipion, qui avait reçu l’ordre de rester en retrait avec la cavalerie, décide de mobiliser les 10,000 hommes restés au camp en renfort mais ceux-ci refusent. Leur dernier ordre était de garder leur position et, Aemilius étant mort et Varron ayant “retraité” (fuit), il n’y a plus de généraux pour donner de nouveaux ordres.

Les pertes romaines sont lourdes: 60,000 morts (dix fois plus que les Carthaginois!) et 10,000 prisonniers (dont Rome refusera de racheter la liberté)! Maharbal est d’avis que les Carthaginois devraient profiter de la victoire et marcher sur Rome mais Hannibal refuse, ne voulant pas prendre de front un ville défendu par une muraille. Maharbal réponds “Tu sais vaincre, Hannibal, mais tu ne sais pas profiter de la victoire!” Par dépit, il massacre les villages environnants (Caius qui a survécu à la bataille mais a perdu un oeil, en est témoin). Hannibal envoi son frère Magon à Carthage pour réclamer des renforts. À Rome, Fabius reprends le pouvoir et envoi les soldats survivants en Sicile, sous le commandement de Marcellus. Scipion décide de suivre le cursus honorum et de briguer office pour éventuellement devenir consul même si la tâche se révèle ardue (“Per aspera ad astra” d’où le titre du manga). Il défit Marcellus pour obtenir son soutien à l’édilité mais celui-ci le punis. Lorsque Marcellus est rappelé en Italie pour défendre la Campanie contre Hannibal, Scipion demande à l’accompagner…

Ad Astra est un manga très bien dessiné — le style en est clair et précis. Le récit est fluide, intéressant et très instructif pour ceux qui s’intéresse à l’histoire et à la civilisation romaine. Cependant, malgré que le récit laisse de côté de nombreux détails historiques (si l’on compare à Tite-Live), ce manga s’étire sur treize volumes. Nous n’en sommes donc qu’à la moitié de l’histoire! Cela reste quand même, avec Pline, le manga historique idéal pour les amateurs d’histoire romaine.

Ad Astra: Scipion L’Africain & Hannibal Barca Vol. VI, par Mihachi KAGANO. Paris: Ki-oon, juin 2015. 210 pages, 13 x 18 cm, 7,90 € / $16.98 Can. ISBN 978-2-35592-829-1. Pour un lectorat adolescent (14 ans et plus). stars-3-5

Pour en savoir plus vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat ]

Ad Astra Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major & Hannibal Barca © 2011 by Mihachi Kagano / SHUEISHA Inc.

Voir mes commentaires sur les volumes précédents:

ad_astra-v01 ad_astra-v02 ad_astra-v03 AdAstra-v04-cov AdAstra-v05-cov

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Il Nome della Rosa

MV5BYTdhYzc0MmMtZDQwNS00ZTdlLTgzZmYtZWIxYzE4Zjk0YzQ4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTY2MzkxMjc@._V1_I stumbled by chance upon this TV series adaptation of the Umberto Eco famous novel (I thought I had read it, but, since I cannot remember anything about it, now I have doubt). I had seen, a long time ago, the movie adaptation with Sean Connery (and I have re-watched it just after seeing the series just for the fun of it!) and I was quite curious to see what it would look like as an eight-episode series (over six hours!)… 

The story is set in 1327. Brother William of Baskerville (an English Franciscan, whose name alludes both to Sherlock Holmes and William of Ockham), followed by the young novice Adso of Melk (the son of a German Lord), reaches an isolated Benedictine abbey in the Alps to participate in a debate between the Franciscan Order and the Avignon papacy about whether the Church should be poor as Christ was—a debate that would determine the very survival of the Franciscan Order. Upon arrival at the abbey the two find themselves caught up in a chain of mysterious deaths. William, a medieval sleuth, must untangle this knot of suspects (any of the multiple factions in the abbey, including a group of Heretics hiding amongst the Benedictines)—before the Dominican papal Inquisitor Bernardo Gui burn anyone at the stake—in order to solve the mystery that seems linked to the fabulous Abbey’s library and a coveted rare book!

The TV series is an Italo-German co-production, created, co-written and directed by Giacomo Battiato, starring John Turturro (William), Rupert Everett (Bernardo), Damian Hardung (Adso), Fabrizio Bentivoglio (Remigio), Greta Scarano (Margherita / Anna), Richard Sammel (Malachia), Tchéky Karyo (Pope John XXII), James Cosmo (Jorge) and Michael Emerson (the Abbot). It doesn’t have the star power of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s movie (Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Christian Slater, Michael Lonsdale, Ron Perlman) but still offers many known actors. Strangely, despite being shot in Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, the movie was filmed in English. It aired on RAI in Italy, on BBC in the U.K. and on Sundance TV in the U.S. 

While the movie focuses on the heart of the mystery (the murders and the book), the TV series has ample time to develop around the multiple elements that the movie left out: how William and Adso met, who are the Dulcinian heretics, the Inquisition’s past of William, the particular and what’s at stake in the debate between the papacy and the Franciscan, who is the peasant girl that Adso meets and falls in love with.

Although I liked the movie a lot because of its multiple charms and its great photography, the TV series is a very good production that seems more faithful to the book — and it offers more plot and action. It is a beautiful, very interesting historical drama (I can only dream of all those old books!) which will hopefully soon stream online (possibly on Amazon Prime) so it will be more readily available. I enjoy it and recommend it to all aficionados of medieval history, rare books and mystery novels. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ GoogleIMDbRAIWikipediaYoutube ]

 

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Capsules

“Natural History” – final research

NHa-000_IMG_4392

My mystery book

Recently, the interest for one of my old books was rekindled when I found some new information about it on the internet. Since the prefatory pages of the book are missing the author and date of publication are unknown. I had only the title, Natural History, and the publisher:  William Milner of Halifax. Further investigation on WorldCat revealed more details allowing me to identify two possible authors for the book. Finally, I was able to compare my book with a microfiche copy at the University of Montreal, definitively identifying it as Richard COPE’s Natural History, which lead me to order a monograph about the work of William Milner in order to (hopefully) learn even more on this particular edition.

IMG_4437A little less than three weeks after filing the Inter-Library Loan (PEB) request, the Bernard BARR’s document about William Milner arrived at the National Library (BAnQ). Unfortunately, the whole process was utterly disappointing. The NYPL refused to lend its copy, so the book came from the University of St-Andrews’ library in Fife, Scotland, therefore the loan incurred a fee of $C 42.00 ! Not only the book was just a self-published monograph of sixty single-side pages with a simple plastic spiral binding, but the lending library requested that it had to be consulted on site, at the BAnQ. The book was on hold at the National Collection, a secure place where you have to check your coat and bag in a locker room before entering and you have to put all the material you need (notebook, pen, laptop, wallet, etc) in a basket that you carry with you. It was the first time I was visiting that place and it was all quite unexpected. Luckily, the staff was very nice and helpful. Instead of spending hours reading the book, I was allowed to digitize a copy on the photocopier (its control menu was not user-friendly at all and source of many frustrations). 

IMG_4441The book title is: “William Milner of Halifax: printer and publisher. Checklist of a collection of books printed by William Milner and his successors and imitators.” The only publishing information is “York: Ken Spelman”. No author is listed on the cover, but the notice from the University of St-Andrews’ library is helpful on that subject: the author is NOT Bernard BARR (who simply wrote the foreword) nor Ken Spelman (the “publisher”, but who was given as author by Amazon) but Peter MILLER and T. FOTHERGILL (who compiled the information).

Disappointingly, the book is of little use to me. It is far from exhaustive; its main source of information seems to be the Spelman’s bookshop collection as well as a few articles in Yorkshire’s newspapers and historical magazines (the bibliography also list a few references that briefly mention Milner, like Victor E. NEUBURG, The Popular Press Companion to Popular Literature, pp. 132-33 or Leslie SHEPARD, The History of Street literature, pp. 104-106). I was expecting a complete list of all titles published by Milner but it seems that such reference doesn’t exist. A search on Google doesn’t yield much either. In fact, the most useful tool in this research was probably WorldCat

IMG_4440William Milner of Halifax: printer and publisher mentions Richard COPE’s Natural History only ONCE (“Cope (Richard) Natural History … New Edition, Improved and Enlarged. Roy 8vo. 730 pp. 425 ills. Maroon cloth”) in what the book calls the “Imprint 7”—which falls into the third incarnation of the publishing company, Milner & Co, located in London between 1883 and maybe 1900. “Maroon cloth” seems to describe well the cheap cover of my edition (and “Roy 8vo” means that it is a Royal octavo format, i.e. 10″ by 6¼” or 253 mm x 158 mm, therefore about the same size than my copy) but my book was clearly printed during the “Imprint 1” period (Halifax: William Milner, 1834-1851). Also the copy that I have seen at the University of Montreal unmistakably falls into the same imprint as it is dated from 1846 (while mine unfortunately has no printing date left—or never had one as it happened often with this publisher). This fact confirms that the Miller/Fothergill monograph is obviously incomplete.

I was not able to acquire more precise information on my book. However, it was not a complete waste of time since it has allowed me to learn more about the printing industry in nineteen century England. It seems that William Milner was a pioneer of cheap literature and remains an unsung hero of the poor Englishmen as he provided them with affordable literary classics (selling for as little as a shilling or even a sixpence) that would have without any doubts further their education and culture. Several other publishers, like William Nicholson, followed his example. 

IMG_4444

The Spelman’s collection ?

They printed books not only in great quantity (printing titles by the ten of thousands with total circulation often amounting over a hundred thousand!) but also in variety as they covered a large array of subject matter (from BurnsPoems, to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Arabian Nights, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Richard Johnson’s The Seven Champion of Christendom, etc.) and offered a “range of plain and variously ornamented styles to suit differing tastes and pockets” [cf. Bernard Barr’s introduction to William Milner of Halifax and Shepard’s History of Street Literature]. The life of those publishers (and particularly of William Milner) and their cultural missionary work would certainly make quite an interesting subject for a historical TV series. 

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Isabella Bird 4

IsabellaBird_4-cov“Des choses se trament à Tokyo… Le botaniste Charles Maries souhaite récupérer son interprète, et malheureusement le contrat qu’il a établi avec Ito est toujours valable. Les Parkes ont beau lui mettre des bâtons dans les roues, le chasseur de plantes est prêt à tout pour parvenir à ses fins ! 

Inconsciente de la menace qui plane sur son expédition, Isabella Bird a quant à elle atteint Niigata, première grande étape de son voyage. L’aventurière se prépare maintenant à partir vers le nord, pour ce qui devrait être la partie la plus éprouvante du périple…

Lancez-vous à la découverte d’un Japon traditionnel désormais disparu à travers les yeux de l’intrépide Isabella Bird! Basé sur les écrits réels de l’aventurière, Isabella Bird, Femme Exploratrice est un récit passionnant sur les rencontre de deux mondes, dessiné avec un rare souci du détail par Taiga Sassa, nouveau talent prometteur !”

(Texte de la couverture arrière)

Isabella Bird, femme exploratrice (ふしぎの国のバード / Fushigi no Kuni no bādo [Bird] / littéralement: “Bird au pays des merveilles”) nous offre le récit de voyage de la célèbre exploratrice britannique au Japon du début de l’ère Meiji en se basant sur sa correspondance avec sa soeur Henrietta qui fut publiée en 1880 sous le titre Unbeaten Tracks in Japan.

IsabellaBird_4-p040

Page 40

5 juillet 1878, Ito—l’interprète et guide de Isabella—se remémore sa rencontre avec le botaniste Charles Maries et les abus qu’il a subit sous son service. Le 12 juillet, ils quittent Niigata et, après avoir traversé le fleuve Shinano, prennent la longue route d’Echigo qui les mène vers Yamagata, puis Akita et, ultimememnt, à Aomori. Faute de chevaux, ils continuent la route à dos de vaches… Ils rencontrent un groupe de “bokka” (des femmes portant des marchandises sur leur dos). L’une d’elles, O-yu, est intéressée à apprendre l’écriture. Le 15 juillet, ils arrivent à Yamagata. Ils visitent l’hôpital local et Isabella est surprise (et un peu choquée) de voir les locaux habillés à l’occidental. La ville interdit même les habits traditionnels dans un effort d’entrer dans la modernité et d’obtenir la reconnaissance de l’Occident. Le dos d’Isabella la fait souffrir. 

IsabellaBird_4-p183

Page 183

À l’étape de Tateoka, ils rencontrent un vieux couple d’aveugles, lui est anma (masseur) et elle est azusa-miko (nécromancienne qui utilise une sorte d’arc pour appeler les esprits). Isabella est surprise que Ito, qui normalement  abhorre les superstitions, croit au chamanisme. Ito reçoit une lettre de sa mère, auprès de laquelle Maries s’est plaint de son ingratitude. Il joint une note à la lettre enjoignant Ito de revenir à son service sous peine d’être poursuivi en justice. Il lui offre une augmentation et l’averti qu’Isabella souffre d’une maladie qui ronge ses vertèbres et que le voyage pourrait lui être fatal! Et cette mise en garde est confirmée par les prédictions de la voyante… Il ne sait que faire et se sent dans une impasse. Le dernier chapitre raconte une anecdote de la vie de Fanny Parkes, l’exubérante épouse du ministre plénipotentiaire britannique Harry Parkes.

Au fur et à mesure que le récit avance, ce manga s’épanoui sous nos yeux. L’histoire est non seulement captivante mais elle est riche en détails tant géographiques, botaniques que ethniques sur la culture Japonaise de l’ère Meiji. On y discute entre autre l’épineuse question du développement d’un pays: est-ce que modernisation devrait nécessairement vouloir dire occidentalisation? La tentation est grande de chercher à imiter pour plaire et ainsi évider la condescendance et le mépris des impérialistes du genre de Charles Maries. Le style graphique est encore un peu inégal mais demeure généralement très riche, détaillé et précis. C’est même superbe par moment. C’est donc un excellent manga historique que je recommande chaudement.

Isabella Bird, femme exploratrice T04 par Taiga SASSA. Paris: Ki-oon (Coll. Kizuna), août 2018. 208 pg, , 13 x 18 cm, 7,90 € / $14.95 Can., ISBN 979-10-327-0305-2. Pour lectorat jeune (7+). stars-4-0

Vous trouverez plus d’information sur les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsWikipediaWorldCat — Youtube ]

© 2017 Taiga Sassa. All Rights reserved.

Voir mes commentaires sur les volumes précédents (cliquez sur l’image pour activer le lien):

IsabellaBird-v1-cov IsabellaBird-v2-cov IsabellaBird-v3-cov

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A new beautiful era of harmony

ReiwaThe Japanese government has announced last night that the name of the new Japanese era will be Reiwa (令和).

Each time that there is a new emperor, Japan’s calendar start a new era (時代 / jidai) or period (元年 / gannen). The era name (年号 / nengō or 元号 / gengō) is always selected carefully and has a great cultural significance. However, today it is mainly used only on government official paperwork (driving licenses, official calendar, etc.). Everyday use generally follows the Gregorian calendar. The previous era of modern Japan are Meiji (Prince Mutsuhito, 1868-1912), Taishō (Prince Yoshihito, 1912-1926), Shōwa (Hirohito, 1926-1989) and Heisei (Akihito, 1989-2019). Reiwa will be the 248th era name of Japanese history.

This change usually happens upon the death of the emperor, as his son ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. However, this time, the emperor Akihito chose to abdicate for health reason on April 30th and he will be succeeded by his elder son, Naruhito, on May 1st. Another departure from tradition is the fact that, in the past, the name was inspired by Chinese literature. This time, the panel of experts selected to choose the name took the idea from Japanese classical literature, as it is derived from the ancient poem anthology Man’yōshū. 

The first character of the name, Rei [], means good fortune (the “auspicious wave of energy of the plum blossoms carried by the wind”) and the second character, Wa [], means   gentle, harmonious or peace and tranquility.  It could therefore be translated as “fortunate harmony” or “auspicious harmony” (although some seems to translate it as “redolent harmony”).

The announcement was well received by the Japanese as they expect the name to embody their hope for a better future

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“Natural History” quest – a sequel

NHa-000_IMG_4392

My mystery book

My quest to identify a mystery book simply titled “Natural History” continues…

Today I went to the National Library (BAnQ) to renew my membership and request an Inter-Library Loan (PEB)  for Bernard BARR’s book about William Milner. Hopefully this time it will work and the fee won’t be too expensive. While I was there I had a look at their impressive manga collection and borrowed a volume of The Walking Dead comics (I am a book geek in various spectrum!)…

I have decided not to request an Inter-Library Loan (PEB) for Richard COPE’s book (the most likely candidate for the identity of the mystery book) but to directly go the University of Montreal library to check the copy they have and compare it to my book. After all, I am already downtown, so why not take the time now to resolve this question. It can be found at the media division (médiathèque) of the Library of Letters and Humanities (Bibliothèque des Lettres et sciences humaines – BLSH). Actually, they don’t have a copy of the book itself but a copy on microfiches.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the online catalog indicated an “on shelf” status, the entire Landmark Microfiche collection had been boxed as the media section is about to be moved. I was a little pissed but convinced the clerk to at least open a few boxes to see if he couldn’t find the microform set that I needed. He was clearly unwilling to help and said “You know, we’re closing in an hour and half!”. But I just needed ten minutes… It would be easy if they had been boxed alphabetically: since the author is “COPE” it would be in the first boxes. He reluctantly opened the first five boxes and indeed it was there (in box four)! I sat at one of the microform reader and had a look. Unfortunately, this machine was not equipped to make copies, so I simply took pictures with my iPhone (which I had to put together later at home, converting them from negative to positive). I took my time, but after fifteen minutes I was done. However, I could finally confirm the identity of my book!

First, I’ve been able to see the pages that were missing from my book (although nothing in the binding let us suspect that something is missing—or maybe the binding was changed at some point in the past?), mostly the title page, the introductory remarks (indicating that the original publishing date is 1840) and the index of subjects:

For me the most important aspect was to be able to see the title page:

NATURAL HISTORY;

OR,
A DESCRIPTION OF THE EARTH AND OF ANIMATED NATURE,
COMPILED FROM THE WORKS OF
BUFFON, GOLDSMITH, CUVIER, SHAW, VAILLANT, HUMBOLT, AUDUBON. &c., &c.

A NEW EDITION, IMPROVED AND ENLARGED

BY RICHARD COPE, LL.D., F.A.S.,
Author of the Pulpit Synopsis, Religious Anecdotes, Domestic Altar, &c., &c., &c.

“Creation teems with life,
From the gay flies that people the sunbeam,
To the huge whale whose home is in the deep,
And the wise elephant that shades him in the forest.”
MONTGOMERY

WITH FOUR HUNDRED & TWENTY-FIVE ENGRAVINGS
OF BIRDS, BEASTS, FISHES, REPTILES, &c.

HALIFAX:
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM MILNER,
CHEAPSIDE.
MDCCCXLVI. [1846]

If we compare a few pages, we can see that it is the same book (my copy (a) on the left and the Université de Montréal microfiche copy (b) on the right):

After comparison it is evident that the layout and the type are exactly the same. Beside the missing pages, the only differences are (possibly) the cover (my cover is a simple cloth on board, with raised bands and the title hot-stamped in gold on the spine while the microfiche copy is illustrated—although it is not clear if this is really a cover illustration or an inside cover page) and (definitely) the line of text at the very bottom of the last page of my book (“WILLIAM MILNER, PRINTER, CHEAPSIDE, HALIFAX.”) is completely missing for the microfiche copy. My conclusion is that it is indeed the same book, although a different edition (either a cheaper one or a different year of publication — but, save for the last page, it is clearly the same printing plates). 

Now that I have identified for sure the book as Natural History by Richard COPE, I only have to wait for the Bernard BARR’s book to see if I can learn more details about the publisher,  William Milner, and maybe also about the various editions of COPE’s Natural History. So, it is still to be continued…

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A Gentleman’s Murder

522362267When the newest member of Eric Peterkin’s London club is found stabbed to death, Eric throws himself into a quest for the truth: missing nurses, morphine addiction, shell shock. The Great War is over, but the memories remain…” (From the publisher’s website)

The year is 1924. The cobblestoned streets of St. James ring with jazz as Britain races forward into an age of peace and prosperity. London’s back alleys, however, are filled with broken soldiers and still enshadowed by the lingering horrors of the Great War. 

Only a few years removed from the trenches of Flanders himself, Lieutenant Eric Peterkin has just been granted membership in the most prestigious soldiers-only club in London: The Britannia. But when a gentleman’s wager ends with a member stabbed to death, the victim’s last words echo in the Lieutenant’s head: that he would “soon right a great wrong from the past.” 

Eric is certain that one of his fellow members is the murderer: but who? Captain Mortimer Wolfe, the soldier’s soldier thrice escaped from German custody? Second Lieutenant Oliver Saxon, the brilliant codebreaker? Or Captain Edward Aldershott, the steely club president whose Savile Row suits hide a frightening collision of mustard gas scars? 

Eric’s investigation will draw him far from the marbled halls of the Britannia, to the shadowy remains of a dilapidated war hospital and the heroin dens of Limehouse. And as the facade of gentlemenhood cracks, Eric faces a Matryoshka doll of murder, vice, and secrets pointing not only to the officers of his own club but the very investigator assigned by Scotland Yard.” (From the book flap)

In the roaring twenties, in the heart of the British Empire, a member of the Britannia Club is murdered. Eric Peterkin, a young half-Chinese man who usually spend his time reading submissions for a London publisher, cannot resist the urge to solve this mystery (with the occasional help of his sister Penny and his friend Avery). However, in order to discover who killed Benson—a man he barely knew—he will have to solve a cold case as well as a third murder. Amongst the prominent members of the club, who has done it? Aldershott, the club president? Bradshaw, the club secretary? Norris? Parker? Saxon? Wolfe? They all had possible motive and opportunity. Everything seems rooted in Flanders and in the manor turned into a makeshift hospital where some of them recovered or worked during the war…

A Gentleman’s Murder is  murder mystery novel inspired by the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. It follows all the rules of the genre (the Knox’s “Decalogue”) save for rule no. 5 (“no Chinaman must figure in the story”). It is set in the world of the military and retired officers’ club. The story particularly address the question of PTSD (or, as it was called then, “shell shock”) and, to a lesser extend, “the soldier’s disease” (aka morphine addiction).  As the author says in the book (p. 322) “Some scars weren’t visible. And some deaths weren’t physical.” The novel also talks about racial bias, as the character, who is half-English and half-Chinese, often struggle to be taken seriously because he doesn’t look like a gentleman. The author has probably drawn from his personal experience as he made his military service in Singapore (a city-state with the dual British and Chinese heritage) and is himself of Chinese origin.

The author seems to favour the post-WWI era because it is a beautiful era and doesn’t involved the complex methodology that investigators have to deal with in modern times (like DNA)—the mystery must remains in the reach of the amateur sleuth. As the author write in his postface, the 20s was a delicious time to write about because it was an exciting age of transition: you still have in place all the Victorian manners and mores but also all the innovation brought by the modern world (like telephone, radio, cars, electricity, etc.).

The story, which includes several unforeseeable twists, is very well written. The characters are detailed and quite believable. It seems that lots of efforts were put in describing all the setting with rigour (although most of the locations are fictional). Crime novel (particularly if set in the 20s) is a prolific genre and it’s hard to have such story not feel a little cliché. The only other caveat I can see is that the story offers so many characters and the protagonist takes so much time to imagine each possible permutation of culpability and action for EACH of those numerous suspects that, after a while, it gets a little tiring and confusing. It is almost impossible for the reader to guess who the murderer is — but, in this case, it is probably better that the dénouement come with a surprise.

A Gentleman’s Murder is a good novel. It is agreeable to read and, like all good murder mystery, you go through each new chapter with anticipation, reading faster and faster as the climax approaches. I recommend it warmly particularly because it is written by a local author. Christopher Huang, although born in Singapore, now lives in Montreal.

The publisher, Inkshares, is also of interest. It is a reader-driven publisher, which means that their books and authors are selected not by editors but by readers—through contests, pre-orders (as a form of crowdfunding you need 750 pre-orders to get published) and how much interest an online draft of the story is getting (i.e. follows, shares, and reads). Authors will receive 35% of net receipts (gross revenue minus the cost of production and distribution) in exchange of a full publishing service (editing, design, printing, marketing, as well as both direct and wholesale distribution). That seems a fair deal. It is an improvement on the self-publishing type publisher, where a publisher will “assist” an author in publishing his/her book. A good example of this type of publisher is the indie ebooks distributor Smashwords (one of my friends is using this service). Would-be writers have more and more options to publish their work.

A Gentleman’s Murder, by Christopher Huang. Oakland: Inkshares, July 2018. 348 pages. US$ 15.99 / C$ 19.99. ISBN 978-1-94264-595-5. For young adult readership (16+). stars-3-0

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© 2018 Christopher Huang

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