Tag Archives: BOLLI Monthly Features

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERY “OLDIES” – DAVID MCCALLUM

Mining Marilyn Brooks’ popular blog, Marilyn’s Mystery Reads, for some of her past reviews, yielded another gem, this one from a more recent past and featuring none other than Illya Kuryakin!  

A NOTE FROM EDITOR SUE (Who Couldn’t Resist…)

Yes, it’s THAT David McCallum, “Dr. Ducky” on the popular TV show, NCIS.  But I’ve never actually got into NCIS–I was a Man from U.N.C.L.E. fanatic.   For me, it was all about Illya Kuryakin.  So smart.  So smooth. So…totally cool.  

Many years later, as an adult drama teacher in New York, I was traipsing the hallway connecting The Chapin School’s two buildings. A gathering of the parents of students accepted for the following year was in progress in the multi-purpose room, but one father seemed to be significantly more interested in the Lower School art work that covered the hallway.   He was crouched in front of an array of 3D pieces featuring fantastic flowers. As I approached, the man stood up and turned.   And I stopped–one foot frozen, I believe, in the air.  “Oh, my God…Illya Kuryakin…” I burbled.  “I wore black turtlenecks for years because of you…”  Oh, my God–I couldn’t believe it had fallen out of my mouth.  But, luckily,  McCallum laughed, graciously….just as graciously as he gave of his time to drama and speech events for the next many years.   A very gracious man indeed.

I had no idea he had begun writing mysteries and look forward to this treat.  And if you haven’t discovered it either, I suspect you will too. Thank you, Marilyn!

ONCE A CROOKED MAN by David McCallum: Book Review

Once a Crooked Man is a terrific read.  Starting with an overheard conversation outside the Fiery Dragon Chinese restaurant in New York City, traveling to South America and London and back again to Manhattan with corpses everywhere, David McCallum will have you hooked all the way.

It all begins when Carter Allinson II stops by a Starbucks in New York City and shares a table with a beautiful young woman.  Fiona Walker comes from a wealthy family, and shortly after their meeting the couple become engaged and Carter is welcomed into Fiona’s father’s investment firm.  As a college student Carter had supported himself by a little drug dealing, but with his upcoming wedding he wants to leave that behind him.

Not so fast, says gangster Sal Bruschetti, head of the organization that has been supplying Carter.  You don’t need to be doing any more minor-league dealing, but we need you for another reason.  We’ll be investing money with your father-in-law’s firm, and you’ll be handling all the investments in legitimate ways.  Otherwise, we’ll let the Walkers know about your history.  Carter doesn’t see that he has a choice in the matter, and so begins the long-term relationship between Carter and the three Bruschetti brothers.

None of this has anything to do with Harry Murphy, a fairly successful actor who works in television, on Broadway, and does voiceovers for commercials.  He’s on a Manhattan street when he has an immediate need for a bathroom.  Spotting the Fiery Dragon, he walks in on the Bruschettis in the midst of a “business” talk.  They order him out, but his need is so great that he decides to use the alley outside the building to relieve himself.  Thus he can’t help overhearing their conversation concerning a man in London that the trio is going to have killed.

The plot of Once a Crooked Man is a great one.  Ever impetuous, when Harry learns what the brothers have planned he decides to fly to England and warn the victim.  Once there, there’s no controlling the events that follow.  But Harry is a resourceful man with many talents.  Sometimes he’s a step ahead of the Bruschettis, sometimes a step behind, but he’s always in the midst of the action.

All the characters in this novel are terrific.  I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns the book took because of the things the individuals said and the ways they responded to events.  Carter, Harry, the British detective Lizzie Carswell, and Sal, Enzo, and Max Bruschetti are wonderfully drawn.  The plot goes from one cliffhanger to another, keeping the reader totally engaged up to the last page.

You may remember David McCallum from his many roles, starting with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and continuing to the present in NCIS.  Now he is an author as well.  Let’s hope for many more books from this talented man.

You can read about David McCallum at various sites on the web.

Click (on the green) to check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads  where Marilyn posts new reviews every Saturday.  And be sure to leave a comment in the box below so we know you’re out there and reading!

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!

 

 

JULY CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: CREAMY ORANGE CHICKEN

CREAMY ORANGE CHICKEN

I love Mandarin Oranges and had recently had an Orange Chicken dish at a Chinese restaurant that was overcooked and not to my standards.  So I made this.  Like all entrée dishes,  a wide variability in the amounts of any ingredient is possible, and you should doctor things to your taste.  More sauce, less sauce, etc.  Make sure that you use Chinese rice, and not something like Uncle Ben’s, or you can use noodles or potatoes.

Some notes about the chicken: Dark meat is more forgiving and tends not to overcook.  I have used chicken breasts but make sure that they are not cut too thin, or they can dry out.  I prefer boneless/skinless thighs.  (If you choose bone-in, you’ll need 2 lbs.)

A note on the onion: I like them ¼ inch thick, but others like them as thin as possible.  Do what you wish.

A note on thickening: the standard approach is to add flour to cold liquid and then mix it in.  I like my cold liquid to be orange liqueur or, alternatively, orange juice

1  1/2 lb     Chicken, thighs1/4 cup                                                                       1/4 cup      Cornstarch (or flour) to coat                                                                                          Flour for thickening                                                                                                              Peanut Oil plus butter (50/50)                                                        1/2 cup      Whipping cream (or save calories with regular cream)            1                  Onion, large, sliced                                                                                         1 lb             Mushrooms, fresh, sliced                                                                            1-2 cans   Mandarin oranges (save the sugary liquid)                                                            Broccoli or thin-sliced carrots                                                                                      Sticky rice or noodles                                                                                                          Salt and pepper to taste                                                                                   1tbs       Hot cayenne pepper (optional).  I like it spicy.

 

  1. Coat the chicken with cornstarch/salt/pepper (shake in a bag).
  2. Heat the oil/butter very hot in a wok or fry pan, and fry the chicken.  This will take about 5 minutes and chicken should be turned.  If there is a lot of chicken do it by turns.  Don’t overcook the chicken.  Don’t make the pieces too large or too small.
  3. Remove chicken to a side dish.
  4. Remove all but a few tbs. of the oil, and cook the onion. You may need to add some water to keep it from burning.  Optionally, sprinkle the onion with the hot Cayenne pepper (flakes or powder)
  5. Cut the carrots very thin or use a peeler and add in sliced mushrooms.  Mushrooms can add a lot of liquid.  Add at the very end, and it will take maybe 1-2 minutes to cook.  Add in the orange slices (without their syrup).
  6. Add 1 tbs flour to the ¼ cup cold Mandarin-juice (or orange juice or orange liquor) and stir well.
  7. Add the cream and quickly bring to a boil so that you can add the flour to thicken
  8. Return the chicken to the wok or pan briefly.
  9. Serve over sticky rice (about ¾ cup per person) or noodles.

Enjoy!

BOLLI MATTERS food and tech feature writer John Rudy

 

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

JULY’S SENIOR MOMENT WITH LIZ DAVID: OUR 60TH ANNIVERSARY

OUR 60TH ANNIVERSARY:  THE ARC OF OUR LIVES

Liz and Barry – Our 60th Anniversary

 

IN THE BEGINNING

At Cynthia Richmond’s sweet sixteen party, I was wearing a form-fitting aqua top and a cinched-waist taffeta skirt.  Barry was wearing what must have been the teenage boys’ uniform of the day, but what stood out was his Elvis pompadour.  It was not love at first sight, but it was attraction

We never would have met if Barry’s family hadn’t moved to Newton as he entered his junior year in high school.  He says he spotted me in the tunnels we walked through to get from one building to another at Newton High.  After Cynthia’s party, we dated, we broke up, and we dated some more.  We went to the Senior Prom with different partners.  We got together again, and when Barry was attending Northeastern in the 5 year work/study program, we became engaged.  I was 19, and he was 20.  We decided to get married when he finished his 4th year.   His parents, though, had other plans!  As a result, we waited another year.  I graduated from the Chandler School for Women as a secretary, and we were married on June 23rd 1957 after he graduated.

Barry decided to go on to graduate school and enrolled in the MBA program at Cornell.  During those two years, my secretarial skills came in handy–I worked at the Chevrolet dealership in Ithaca.  Dewey, the handyman at the dealership, often had to pick me up at graduate student housing on the hill due to the “mountains” of snow that fell during the winter months.  Those were challenging but good times.  We were a young couple among other young couples who had little money but lots of energy and enthusiasm.

After graduating from Cornell, Barry fulfilled his 6-month obligation to the National Guard at Fort Sam Houston in Texas where he trained as a medic and came out thinking he could cure anything from a scratch to the bubonic plague!   I stayed home, living with my Mother and working, except when he came home on leave when we stayed with his parents.  Not ideal, but it worked.

THE MIDDLE

After completing his military obligation, we moved to Shaker Heights, a tony suburb of Cleveland, Ohio where Barry began his professional career working for U.S. Steel.  We rented a not-so-tony apartment in a two-family house owned by Mrs. Parisi.  We were fortunate that she took us under her wing, and she was thrilled when I became pregnant with our first child, Jonathan.

We decided to settle down and buy a bungalow in Northfield, Ohio. The deal was that we had to finish the house; we—or, I should say, mostly Barry–painted it inside and out, laid floors, and planted the lawn. It was a gray house with black shutters and a yellow door.  I still love that color combination!  The neighborhood was just right for a young couple.

FAST FORWARD

After moving back to Massachusetts to be closer to family, we rented for a while before buying a house in Waban.  We had 2 more kids, Larry and Marc; moved to Wayland; had 2 more kids, Ted and Betsy; moved to Sudbury and invited my ailing Mother to live with us in what I thought was going to be our spare guest room.  She lived with us for 7 years, eventually moving to a nursing home.

Along the way, we bought a 2nd home overlooking the ocean in Manomet, South Plymouth. Barry bought a sundial that he mounted on the deck railing. It was inscribed with the saying, “Grow Old Along With Me The Best Is Yet To Be.”  As the children grew and were no longer able to spend much time there, we sold the house and bought another, all-season home, in the Ellisville section of South Plymouth with the idea that, possibly, we’d retire there. The sundial travelled with us.

Meanwhile, the children grew to adulthood and, over time, along with their spouses, gave us 7 glorious grandchildren.

PRESENT

So, here we are in our large home in Sudbury, having sold the Ellisville home.  We decided that being closer to family trumped moving to the South Shore.  The sundial is now mounted on a wall that borders our driveway.

Barry, the love of my life, and I are in good health.  We are active and engaged in numerous activities. We are having the off and on continuous discussion with ourselves, family, and friends about what our next steps should be when it comes to living situations and care as we age. We made a deposit on a continuous care community in nearby Concord.

When I am not looking in the mirror, sometimes I forget my age, 81. There are other signs—like not running anymore.  I walk. I work out regularly but not as obsessively. Occasionally, it takes me a while longer to remember a name or recall a word. On the other hand, my spiritual dimension has taken a front seat, deeply and joyously.

So, I’ve been thinking about the sundial Barry bought years ago, the one with the saying on it that sustained me for quite some time. GROW OLD ALONG WITH ME–THE BEST IS YET TO BE, it says.

The Sundial (photo by Barry)

And now, I’m wondering.  Is the best still yet to be?  Maybe we should think about another line–

THE BEST OF TIMES IS NOW–IT’S ALL WE HAVE!

“Senior Moments” feature writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

Eleanor and Liz provide monthly items focused on topics of interest shared by all of us–the transitions, issues, celebrations, and more–about this important stage of our lives.

JULY TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: MOOCS

MASSIVE OPEN ON-LINE COURSES (MOOCS)

For centuries, people traveled to school to take courses from professors.  About 30 years ago, though, some companies started taping courses and selling the results as VCRs.  They were relatively expensive (hundreds of dollars for a course), but they required significantly less money than attending a university.  Some had homework, but most did not.  There were no tests, and you could listen to the recordings whenever you wished, or listen to them multiple times.  Some years ago, VCRs were replaced by CDs and then by DVDs.

About 5 years ago, the paradigm changed once again.  Now, courses are recorded and provided through the internet, usually with quizzes and tests.  I have taken a dozen courses on CD or DVD through The Teaching Company and another dozen as MOOCs.  Quality is somewhat variable, but the companies selling these products are quite discriminating, and, as a result, the quality is excellent.  I have obtained The Teaching Company courses through my local library, and because the libraries are linked, nearly all of the courses are available.

  1.  Of course there are also a lot of courses on DVD from The Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series, and the library has (or has access to) all of them–500 at this time. http://www.thegreatcourses.com/

  1. There are also many MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available–more than 3000.  The first course I knew of was on Artificial Intelligence given by Stanford which was made available through Coursera. Over 100,000 people signed up for it. (I have heard that only 5-10% finished the course–but that is still over 5000 people.)  I have taken technical courses like MIT’s course on Genetics (from edX, the Science of Cooking from Harvard, and two courses on the Civil War.  Visit the following sites to see what they have available.

https://www.coursera.org/

https://www.edx.org/

https://www.udacity.com

A longer list can be found at https://beebom.com/sites-like-coursera/

“Tech Talk” feature writer, John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

JUNE CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: SLOW-COOKER STROGANOFF/GOULASH

SLOW-COOKER STROGANOFF/GOULASH

Many years ago, when we were first married, we bought (like all our friends) a crock pot.  The theory was that we would set it up before going to work, and a meal would be ready when we got home.  After a number of abortive attempts and lousy meals, we gave up.  Eventually, we gave away that primitive pot.

Then, last year, we were at my daughter’s, and she made this wonderful meal in her high technology slow-cooker.  It was great, and nothing like our decades-earlier attempts.  So we went out and bought one and have made many dishes.  The key now is adjustable temperature as in our Hamilton Beach Stay or Go.

You can double the recipe for company (or left-overs), and it will still fit in the cooker.

It is also important to understand that not all ingredients go in at the beginning.  Adding, say, string beans, and cooking for 6 hours will result in green paste.

1½ lbs       Beef  (a tougher piece of meat with good marbling.                                        I like chuck)

1 Tbs         Worcestershire Sauce

1                  Onion, chopped

1/4 cup    Water

1 can         Cream of mushroom soup (I only use Campbell’s)

4 oz           Cream cheese

8 oz           Noodles  (or alternative starch)

6 oz           Mushrooms (optional)

  1.   Cut meat a bit (not too small).
  2.   Put all EXCEPT the cream cheese into the slow cooker on low for   5 hours. If using mushrooms, cook them separately as they will       generate a lot of water.  Add at the end.
  3.   Add the cream cheese and mix in. It is not necessary that it be         perfectly mixed.
  4.   Serve over noodles, rice, or potato.  My preference is Angel Hair     noodles.
  5.   I like this with carrots, but it is tricky to know when to put them    in so that they cook the right amount for your taste. So it is best  to cook them separately and add them near the end.  I also like    large chunks of onion and I add them half-way through so that  they are still somewhat crisp.

Try this one out and let me know how you like it!  Leave comments in the box below, or email me at john.rudy@alum.mit.edu

BOLLI Matters chef and tech expert John Rudy

 

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

JUNE’S BOOK NOOK WITH ABBY PINARD: TWO SEARING BOOKS

Two flawed but searing books about two very different wars…

BIRDSONG

by Sebastian Faulks, 1997

You might want to think twice about reading Birdsong if you are claustrophobic. Also, reading it just before going to sleep might not be conducive to a restful night. You might consider yourself reasonably well educated about World War I — about the brutality of trench warfare and the unimaginable loss of life.  But you haven’t been there, at least not the way Faulks puts you there — in the trenches and especially in the tunnels that snaked under the battlefields, built by both sides, sometimes within feet of each other.

Billed as “a novel of love and war,” the novel of love is mediocre at best. The first hundred-plus pages introducing the protagonist and building up to a torrid love affair are mostly tedious and unnecessary. And the intermittent present-day framing device, in which an educated but oblivious young woman suddenly decides to unearth her family’s history isn’t any better. But most of the book — and certainly the parts that will burn into your brain — are about the war.  It’s almost too painful to read but impossible to put down…the years of carnage, of fear, of filth, the conflict between wanting to live and wanting to die, the inability to even envision a normal life…Faulks’s prose is unadorned and unsparing, as if only by stripping the language down to stark essentials can he convey the unspeakable.

 

REDEPLOYMENT

by Phil Klay, 2014

This award-winning collection of stories about the Iraq war, each told in the first person by someone who survived, compellingly depicts how we wage war in our time. We do it with technology, bureaucracy, and segmentation so narrow that the artilleryman who loaded the gun that destroyed everything in its target zone — six miles away — has been assured that yes, he can now claim to have killed bad guys but he isn’t sure whether to believe it since he sees no evidence. Each narrator has had a different job; in addition to the artilleryman, there’s a chaplain, a foreign service officer, an adjutant, a corpse-disposal specialist and more, some of whom were far from the front lines and never in danger but have learned, on returning home, that people want and expect to hear stories about heroism and bravery.

Phil Klay, himself a former Marine and veteran of the Iraq war, is a fine reporter but maybe — at least based on this first effort — a better reporter than novelist. He vividly portrays the horrors of war and the  tragic destruction of young lives and spirits but although each story has a different narrator, there’s little distinction in voice and little character development beyond the particulars of each man’s (and all the protagonists are men) experience. About half way through, I couldn’t help but feel that all the stories were really being told by a single narrator, a brilliant observer and promising writer named Phil Klay.

“Book Nook” feature writer, Abby Pinard

Abby is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

LINES FROM LYDIA: THE BLACK CHAIRS

THE BLACK CHAIRS

Thomas Shields “Seventy-Two Legs”

The black chairs. How many pieces of wood? Do we need to count them or assess the number of joints?

The first time I saw them was in 2007 on my first visit to the Springfield Museums with Brady, my then three-year-old grandson. After a light-hearted morning at the Seuss Sculpture Garden, we focused on the chairs.  Musical chairs.  As I noted the cluster of kids in the room, focused on the plethora of paintings on those five beige walls, the long unemployed teacher in me thought of the chairs as being in a classroom.  That would explain why they were painted black–to hide the fingerprints of children who could have cared less about the art.

Subsequent visits, alone or with the boys, caused me to pause and rethink the blackness of those eighteen chairs. Were they clustered to separate naughty children from those who were quiet and studious? Then, in a throwback to my college years when I had my first friend of color,  Were they merely guilty of being black?   My friend Cookie, a tall and lanky girl from New Jersey, would understand this fleeting rear window view of the 60’s that has brought us to our current political racial divisions.  She is a middle school principal now, keeping peace as retirement and freedom beckon.  God keep her safe in Trenton.

I take a moment to count the chairs again. Still 18. I count the chair legs, some have the standard four while others feature a whimsical three.  Like many of my generation, unable to stand alone, they need conjoined seats.  What are the demographics of conjoined seats?Race – black and non-black ?  Age –  over 30 or under 65?   Gender –   women,  married or single, or men?  Religion – spiritual or agnostic?

Would a carpenter consider these conjoined seats as needing to be dovetailed? I move from chair to chair, testing the stability of each seat and trying on the personality of the person sitting on it.

There is one pair with four conjoined seats and nine legs. Immediately, I think of Bob and Christine, a couple since our freshman year at Worcester State College. The first and maybe the only couple that will celebrate a golden anniversary this year. Their arms and legs alternately stronger, physically or metaphysically, with each dip in the roller coaster of life. Christine lost the use of her left arm following a violent assault by a middle school student some thirty years ago. Her medications are industrial strength. Her surgeries continue on an almost annual basis. Until recently, it had become difficult to visit them because of my discomfort with the compromises that they both make on a daily basis. However, since the deaths of my daughter and mother, I have learned the art–and the value–of compromises in my life.  I will visit them in Florida soon.

I rise again from my seat on the floor and read the signage on the wall. Seventy-Two Legs by Thomas Shields. Meant to seat eight to ten people. How curious to be viewing this work and reading this card when I had mentioned the black chairs to a classmate just two hours ago. Thomas Shields views the world as flat, he says, and that may have been my own opinion eight years ago. Now, I call him a liar.

Having photographed and pondered these chairs, I am now in a different place. Hopefully more mature, and–dare I say–smarter.

I don’t own any black chairs. My six dining chairs have blue denim seat covers. My two desk chairs are Ethan Allen maple, and my Daddy’s antique desk chair is a swivel on casters.

A final glance at the Shields chairs brings a new reality. Non-confirming seats and legs, and yet all of the seat backs are separate. Eighteen seat backs for eighteen souls with separate perspectives, distinct lifestyles, and individual personalities.

Such a minor detail and yet such major truth.

To see more of Thomas Shields “used wood” art installations: go to http://penland.org/programs/resident%20artists/shields.html or click on the image of his “Seventy-Two Legs” above)             

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Lydia, our resident Renaissance woman, shares her unique views and experiences with BOLLI members in this regular BOLLI Matters feature.  Lydia also serves as co-facilitator of the BOLLI Matters crew.

A SENIOR MOMENT WITH ELEANOR: WARNING…

     WARNING:  THOUGHTS OF A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT

Women’s March, Boston

In my opposition to President Trump, I am not “old,” or “elderly,” or even “senior.”  In my opposition, I have joined millions of Americans of all ages–and others around the world–who see Trump’s ideals and policies as anathema to our long held beliefs about democracy, fairness, honesty, and liberalism.

I see this opposition in the print newspapers that I read  (The Boston Globe and The New York Times), on the television news that I watch (CNN, CNBC),  in the marches in which I have participated (the Women’s March, the Science March, and the Climate Change March), and in the conversations I have had with grandchildren and men and women across the age spectrum.  What unites us are sincerely held, foundational democratic beliefs that are now being so aggressively challenged, mocked, and threatened by the actions and speeches of our president.

I recommend marches!   Truth to tell, most do not involve marching, or even walking.  They involve driving or taking the “T” to a site like the Boston Commons and then standing.  Standing and listening and watching and, of course, talking to like-minded other demonstrators who carry vivid signs representing their own unique points of view.  Signing petitions is also part of the demonstration.  At the climate march, a variety of well-attended indoor workshops (with chairs for sitting) encouraged more direct actions.  These workshops took place immediately following speeches. 

People of all ages (babies, college students, families, healthy young men and women, old folks – some with canes) attend.  Music, balloons, petitions, hand=made signs abound!  And like-minded citizens rally for causes in which their strongly held beliefs are shared with a multitude of others.  I thought and felt, “I am not alone;”  “Many others are here who will carry this fight forward.”  “Are there other actions I can take?”  (Like writing letters to the editor — I just had one published in the Globe–so can you!)

I keep thinking about one statement of Ms. Sarsour, one of the four co-chairs of the Women’s March in Washington.  She said, “Being disgruntled on your couch in front of your t.v. is not helping anybody.  This is a moment when we need viable activism, and now is the time to be bold.”  So–Think! Read!  Share ideas with friends, and then, Be Invigorated and TAKE ACTION! to insure that your dearly held principles remain a part of the legacies you leave to all our grandchildren.

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERY “OLDIES” — ONE CORPSE TOO MANY

Mining Marilyn Brooks’ popular blog, Marilyn’s Mystery Reads, for some of her past reviews, yielded this gem.  Ellis Peters’ memorable medieval sleuth, Brother Cadfael.

 Review by Marilyn Brooks – From March 31, 2012

A truly fascinating look into medieval life in England comes through in the series featuring Brother Cadfael of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, at Shrewsbury.

The series begins in the twelfth century at the border between England and Wales.  Brother Cadfael, born in Wales, had traveled the world as a soldier in the first crusade and a sailor in the years following but now has found his calling as a member of the abbey. He is in charge of the abbey’s garden and herbarium, an important position at a time when home-grown medicines were almost the only ones available.

As the novel opens, a civil war between two cousins, Stephen and Maud, has been going on for three years; it eventually lasted nineteen. Henry I, Maud’s father, had named her his heir after the death of his only son, but many nobles rebelled at the thought of a woman leading the kingdom and thus supported the claims of Henry’s nephew, Stephen.  As Stephen comes to Shrewsbury with his forces, aristocrats and soldiers loyal to Maud flee the town to join her in France.

A fellow monk introduces Cadfael to Godric, a “young man” who is willing to help in the garden, but it doesn’t take Cadfael long to realize that Godric is actually a young woman, Godith Adeney by name.  Her father fled to France to support Maud, and if Godith is discovered she will be imprisoned and held for ransom in order to bring her father back to face Stephen.  Cadfael, although not taking sides in the fight for the kingdom, vows to keep Godith’s secret and protect her.

After a battle in which ninety-four of Stephen’s enemies are killed, the abbey’s abbot requests that the men be prepared for a proper Christian burial.  The abbot sends Cadfael to the castle to handle this task, but when the monk counts the dead, he discovers that there is one more body than he had been told. And this man was not killed in battle but strangled by a thin wire from behind.

In One Corpse Too Many, we are introduced to Hugh Beringar, a soldier who, in later novels, becomes a close friend of Cadfael’s, and the woman who becomes Hugh’s wife, Lady Aline.  In addition, a number of Cadfael’s fellow monks whom we meet here, continue to appear in other novels while new members of the monastery join the cast of characters in later books.

The late Ellis Peters (real name Edith Mary Pargeter) created the character of Brother Cadfael when she needed “the high equivalent of a medieval detective, an observer and agent of justice in the center of the action.” She was a writer of some renown as a translator of Czech literature, but today she is best known for her mystery novels.  Unfortunately, Ms. Peters died shortly after the BBC television series got underway and thus did not see all the books made into television programs, but she was a strong supporter of Derek Jacobi, who played Cadfael with great wit and charm.

There is not a dedicated page for Ellis Peters, but there is a brief biography about her and a summary of all Brother Cadfael’s novels at Philip Grosset’s Clerical Detectives  web page located at  http://www.mysteryfile.com/Clerical.html

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

Marilyn’s very popular mystery blog can be reached at marilynsmysteryreads.com   When there, consider becoming a subscriber, receiving each new post in your email.  And Marilyn will also be offering a mystery course for BOLLI members during the Fall 2017 term. 

MAY CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: APPLE PANCAKES

APPLE PANCAKES

My parents found this recipe in the early ‘80s when staying at The Edgecombe-Coles House, a B&B in Camden, Maine.  This recipe serves 3.  I usually double the recipe for guests and put it in a 9” x 13” Pyrex which requires about 10 minutes additional cooking.  It is similar to Bickfords’ Apple Pancake, though that one is cooked in an iron pan in the oven (and therefore is round).  Of course you can use any other fruit.  I like it with maple syrup (only the real, 100% kind), but it is also good with powdered sugar.

4                  Eggs

1 cup         Flour

1 cup         Milk

¼ stick      Butter

½ can         Comstock apple pie filling (or equivalent) in heavy sauce,                          not water

Salt (optional)

  1. Melt butter in 8” x 8” glass pan in the oven at 425 degrees until the butter begins to blacken.  Turn/twist the pan so that the butter goes up the sides.
  2. Blend milk, eggs and flour and pour into the hot pan. As with pancakes, a few lumps are OK.  By the time the cooking is over they are gone.
  3. Spoon in ½ can of apple pie filling, and spread it around the pan. Apples can be replaced with cherries, blueberries, etc. but be careful that it doesn’t introduce a significant amount of water.  If it does, add a bit more flour to the mix.  Comstock has two types of apple filling so I always get the one in the heavy syrup.  Note that the recipe does not call for sugar, as that comes from the proper can of fruit.
  4. Bake at 425ofor about 30 minutes.  It will be done when the sides are crisp, the eggs are cooked, and the batter is rising out of the pan at the edges.  Cook it over a cookie sheet in case it overflows.  The larger pan (doubled recipe) will take a few minutes more.
  5. Can be served alone, with melted butter, powdered sugar, or with maple syrup. I prefer real maple syrup.
  6. Serve immediately after removing from the oven, before it falls.
  7. This is easy to reheat in the microwave on a low setting. (If you reheat it on High, it becomes rubbery.)
CHEF’S CORNER Feature Writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

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