Short Reviews – The Golden Fleece: A Romance, by Julian Hawthorne

The Golden Fleece: A Romance, by Julian Hawthorne, was originally published in the May 1892 issue of Lippincott’s Magazine. It can be read here.

When you go into a book with a title like “The Golden Fleece,” you don’t expect a modern adventure in the American Southwest [California, particularly], but here we are!

The titular Golden Fleece, in this case, is a mysterious wool garment with strange symbols woven into it. Is it under an enchantment? Is it a map to lost Mesoamerica treasure? Who knows! It has been passed down matrilineally and ended up in the hands of the mixed-race daughter of a general who fought in the Mexican American war.

The setting and much of the background are revealed through an airy and whimsical dialog between an old professor and his friend, an old general who fought in the war with Mexico. After the war, the general settled down with a beautiful Mesoamerind woman and now has an alluring daughter who is her spitting image. The daughter has an old Indian servant who had been something of a oathman to her mother, but more on that in a minute… The general and the professor discuss the possibility of treasure in the California desert–the greatest treasure would be fresh water that would make the land arable and instantly much much more valuable to investors who had purchased it cheaply. On his way to possibly assist in the endeavor is a young civil engineer who was once a student of the professor.

The old Indian manservant is actually a witch priest in service to the last princess of an Aztec city; he’s been kept immortal by the gods so the treasures of the city could be restored to the rightful owner. He’s able to bring the spirit of the dead princess into the host body of the general’s daughter. Both the princess and the girl she’s possessing fall in love with the young civil engineer, creating an awkward love triangle. The princess is determined to get the treasure back so she can shower the young man with wealth. The old Indian becomes reluctant to assist because he feels bad for the girl and it would be a disaster if the spirit of the princess killed her.

The Golden Fleece turns out to be some sort of protective garb [whether magical or mechanical is never explicitly stated] that allows the wearer to enter the lost pyramid [revealed by seismic activity] and retrieve the chest with the hidden treasure without being harmed by the poison gasses in the treasure room. Removal of the treasure chest also unstops the spring which will flood the valley with fresh water.

There’s a hackneyed sub-plot where the engineer initially meets and falls for a shop-girl who’s coming out west from New York. The engineer instantly falls for the beautiful Mestiza girl, and cultivates a rivalry with a local Mexican aristocrat in an attempt to distract the shop-girl and fix their attentions on one another. The protagonist is kind of a dick, and you feel for the poor Mexican sod who he corners into potentially dueling to the death [as the professor says, it would have been an execution had he gone through with it], but the Mexican guy does end up with the shop-girl and they live happily ever after–even after he finds out she was a lowly shop-girl, his fascination with modern American capitalism leads him to placing her in even higher esteem when he finds out.

Now, I say that it’s hackneyed, and it kind of is, but Hawthorne’s breezy writing style brings enough wit and humor to it that it’s still enjoyable. In fact, that can be said for the whole book in some regards. While it’s not particularly innovative [it’s a very typical lost city/lost treasure story] and the characters are VERY flat, there’s something about the flow of Hawthorne’s prose that still makes it a delight to read. There’s a bit of musicality to it, and some clever humor, though, unlike many authors who write clever, he never seems too enamored with his own cleverness. There is also a stab at making a statement on mixing of ethnicities, royal and common blood, and how America has made such a thing uniquely possible, with the unions of the A & B couples of the story symbolizing the triumph of the time and ideas, but it doesn’t really beat you in the face with it and may be easily overlooked.

It’s worth checking out, to say the least. I managed to read the whole thing in one sitting Saturday night.

Will definitely be looking at more of Julian Hawthorne’s writing in the near future. The man was apparently incredibly prolific, and he even wrote some early science fiction, though virtually none of it is presently available.

Short Reviews – The Boy Who Cried Wolf359, by Kendall Foster Crossen

The Boy Who Cried Wolf359, by Kendall Foster Crossen, appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

I feel like there’s a popular conception of what Amazing Stories is based largely on the showcase television series, and it aligns with some of the more light-hearted Twilight Zones, and I’ve seen it in some of the stories in Thrilling Wonder, as well. A young person is confronted with the alien or supernatural, and with typical childhood bravery, the youth stands against it when even the adults will not or cannot. [See also the classic Invaders From Mars.]

The Boy Who Cried Wolf359 is a typic, and entertaining, example of this genre of science fiction. A young boy is able to pick up the telepathic communications of an alien race of fire beings who plan on settling on earth after planetforming it by setting it on fire. Of course, no one believes the lad, so after failing to convince any of the adults around him of the peril, he matter-of-factly explains his plans and goes off to the forest to face down the aliens himself.

The adults think he is going to play make-believe; his fellow youth complained they played ‘battle the Martians’ last week; the boy sets forth armed with a capgun and a water-pistol and single-handedly drives off the fire aliens landing in the woods.

No classic of science fiction, this, but it wasn’t bad. While not as funny as Joe Carson’s Weapon, I thought it read a bit better [and was certainly less PoMo].

Don’t forget, we’ve got roughly a week left on the Mongoose and Meerkat kickstarter. Be sure to back today!

 

Short Reviews – That a World Might Live, by Burt B. Liston

That a World Might Live by Burt B. Liston appeared in the February 1951 Issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

A mining operation to dig up super radioactives at the cost of the lives of its miners crosses tunnels with an advanced scout from the Atlantis of the Inner Earth.

You’ve got Manfred Drake, the scumbag mine owner who will throw the lives of his workers away to save pennies, Luke Hayward, who Drake roped into being the foreman of his operation before knowing he was stepping into a bloodbath, and Jim Murchison, Hayward’s chief machine operator. Together, this trio get dragged to the inner earth, which is in the midst of civil and religious war, which could spill over top-side with an atomic invasion.

They get the whole rundown from Marna, the legitimate queen of Atlantis who, along with her handmaidens, are going to be used as camp women when the topside invasion occurs, if something doesn’t happen soon.

What ensues is a pretty fun Flash Gordon-meets-Pellucidar adventure. It’s worth a read.

Short Reviews – The Pursuit of the Pankera, by R.A. Heinlein [Guest Post from J. Comer]

We’re really busy this week with the day job and with plugging the Mongoose & Meerkat crowdfund and weren’t able to get the next Amazing Story review in the queue. Also, trying to wrangle advertisements for the Summer Special, which are due today! Fortunately, friend of the magazine and sometimes contributor J. Comer is filling in this week with a short review of Heinlein’s The Pursuit of the Pankera.

Love him? Hate him? What’s impossible is to ignore Robert Heinlein(1907-1988).  Not only did Heinlein pioneer publication of SF/F stories in “the slicks”, such as The Saturday Evening Post, he originated multiple ideas now standard, such as the ‘generation ship lost in space’ (Universe  and Common Sense, collected as Orphans of the Sky). While his work varied from excellent (Citizen of the Galaxy, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress) through badly dated or mediocre (“Gulf”, Podkayne of Mars) to disgusting(To Sail Beyond The Sunset[1]), his narrative authority never waned.

Heinlein’s work is grouped into four or five periods, the last of which began with his illnesses in 1970- peritonitis and a blocked carotid artery, among others.  During this difficult period he wrote two novels: I Will Fear No Evil, a plotless sexual novel[2], and an unpublished work which his wife Virginia dismissed as “yard goods”.  This second work has had more than one name[3] and after Heinlein’s death remained among his papers, archived at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  The present reviewer looked at the fragments of the novel in the 2000s.  They were reminiscent of the later The Number of the Beast, which came out in 1980.[4]  There the matter rested for some time.

In 2019, Phoenix Pick announced that they would publish a ‘new’ Heinlein novel consisting of these fragments. This novel, titled The Pursuit Of The Pankera, as well as a new edition of The Number Of The Beast, came out in March 2020.

The plot of Pankera is that of the published Number of the Beast through about p. 185. Two couples, Zeb and Deety and Hilda and Jake(Deety’s father), meet at a party at Hilda’s home. The two couples marry that night as an unknown foe attacks.  While in hiding, Jake installs his ‘time machine’ (which jumps between alternate universes) in Zeb’s flying car.  The four then flee Earth and visit many universes, some based on famous novels. (At this point the two novels’ plots diverge).  The two longest such visits are to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom and to E.E. Smith’s Lensman series.  In Number of the Beast there is endless bickering among the four crew as to who will lead, and with a visit to a steam-era (“Space: 1889”) British colony on Mars; the plot of Number of the Beast then goes on to include Lazarus Long and his polyamorous family of immortals amidst many allusions to classic SF.

The plot of Pankera is more coherent. The four main characters leave Barsoom, as the two women are pregnant and need an obstetrician, and they visit the Land of Oz, where Glinda installs two bathrooms in the back of their car by magic.  The future space-opera world of the Lensman books has doctors, of course, but is at war with Boskone.  So the characters befriend the Lensman of Prime Base, and make plans to fight the Panki, the Barsoomian name for the dimension-hopping enemies who forced them off Earth.  Then they find a world (“Beulahland”) where there are doctors and there is enough nudism that the unhuman Panki cannot wear human disguises (as they do once on Barsoom and once on Earth). The end of the novel has the four main characters, the Lensmen, and others unite to wipe out the Panki with an ending reminiscent of The Puppet Masters, published in 1951.

So what can we make of these two novels, which ultimately are one novel?  First of all, the publisher’s claim that they’re an experiment by Heinlein has little foundation.  Heinlein would never have been able to publish two novels which were identical for more than two hundred pages[5]; as it stood, he did not get the advance he wanted for Number of the Beast, possibly because of its quality.  So what are these books, one of which has a coherent plot and appealing action, and one of which is rambling and full of sexual references?[6]

Larry Niven, friend and colleague of Robert Heinlein, offers an answer in his Scatterbrain (2003).  Niven remarks:

A writer’s best friend is his editor…many good writers don’t understand [this], and those included Robert Heinlein…the generation of writers ahead of mine came out of an era of censorship…Robert Heinlein was the first science fiction writer to become too powerful to be censored…Heinlein should not have used that power…his earlier novels were lean and dense with ideas… But his later novels sprawl all over the place. They needed an editor!

The fact of the matter is that Number of the Beast fell victim to the no-edit clause, and that I Will Fear No Evil is the same.  Niven’s critique here was written before Pankera was published, but still stands.  Pankera is simply the best fragments of Number of the Beast, worked over by a competent editor.  The fact that the Burroughs and Smith estates acquiesced to their characters appearing also helped Pankera to work as an homage to classic SF.

Is this worth reading? For Heinlein completists, it’s a don’t-miss.  For those who’ve read some of his work, these two books are optional.  If you’ve read no Heinlein, these are not the place to start.  Of the two, Pankera is the more coherent novel by far, thanks to Heinlein’s posthumous “best friend”. For aspiring writers these two works could serve as a sort of example of how much difference a competent editor can make.  All in all, we’re better for the experience.

 

[1] Reviewed here by Jo Walton.  https://www.tor.com/2011/07/06/heinleins-worst-novel/

[2] A review is here: https://inverarity.livejournal.com/175890.html

[3] Names recorded for this manuscript include Six-Six-Six and The Panki-Barsoom Number Of The Beast.

[4] A negative review is here: https://ansible.uk/writing/numbeast.html

[5] The Dictionary of the Khazars is a counterexample but is one book whose two texts differ by one word.

[6] David Potter’s interpretation of Number of the Beast is inconsistent with reading either the Heinlein papers or Pankera but is presented here for completeness.  https://heinleinsociety.org/rah/numberbeast.html

 

 

Short Reviews – Terror Out of Zanadu, by Robert Moore Williams

Terror Out of Zanadu, by Robert Moore Williams, appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org

Terror Out of Zanadu

The February issue continues with another adventure on Mars.

A small band is on a quest to find the strange Martian city of Zanadu. Hidden near an oasis in the harsh Martian deserts, Zanadu is said to have riches beyond imagination. The small band has reason to believe that the rumors of Zanadu’s wealth are true because one of their number has been there!

One of the party had been in the deserts, near death, when he was found by the Martians of Zanadu and nursed back to health. He has returned for his own reasons, but some of the ruffians he’s brought with him are only out for the wealth beyond imagination.

After an arduous trek, the band reaches Zanadu and is brought in by the Martians, but something is wrong. Zanadu is haunted by a force or presence, something that was not there before on the man’s first visit to the city. Why? And will they manage to escape Zanadu with their lives?

While there wasn’t a lot of story meat to this one, it was brilliantly atmospheric. There were a few places where the characters could’ve been fleshed out a bit better, and a longer story, encompassing the man’s original visit, the son’s disappearance, and the dame’s effort to find him, would’ve been great, but as it was, this was another solid hit for this issue.

Be sure to back the Kickstarter for Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 1: Pursuit Without Asking, out soon from Cirsova Publishing!

Short Reviews – The Man Who Forgot, by Charles Creighton

The Man Who Forgot by Charles Creighton appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read hereat Archive.org.

The Man Who Forgot

This issue offers up yet another thriller with Charles Creighton’s The Man Who Forgot.

A man wakes up amnesiac on Mars; all he remembers is that he was from earth. Right away, he gets sucked into intrigue when he meets Clara, a beautiful martian woman and loyalist, and Karn, her shifty brother who is a secessionist and member of the Martian Secret Police.

The woman introduces the man to her family as Rand Beecher, a chess historian, with the hopes that it will buy him some cover and keep her brother from taking too much an interest in him.

Turns out that the opposite is true: Karn takes “Rand” to meet a fellow secessionist, to reveal the plot that’s afoot. In fact, whomever “Rand” is, he bears a striking resemblance to the real Rand Beecher and is familiar with his works. Karn and his ally Aaron have a proposition for Rand–as a brilliant chessmaster, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to dispassionately plan out an actual war. A war of Martian secession.

Trying to unravel the mystery of his identity, Rand concludes a number of possibilities. The most likely is that he is an earth sleeper agent, either the real Rand, or someone who resembled him, programmed by hypnosis to infiltrate the secession movement. He would either give them bad strategy or good strategy, and either harm the Martian rebel effort by misdirection or the sheer fact that whomever had set him up on earth already knew whatever gambits he had to offer the Martians. In all likelihood, he was set up with Clara’s family because of the easy contact with Karn or because the loyalists in the family were in on the operation… Or are they?

This was a pretty exciting little spy-fi adventure with a lot of twists and turns as the mystery of Rand’s real identity unravels. I don’t want to go into it too much, lest I spoil it too badly. This one’s worth reading, for sure.

Enjoy exciting pulpy adventures? Be sure to check out the new issue of Cirsova out now!

Also, don’t forget to click Notify me on Launch for our upcoming Mongoose & Meerkat Kickstarter launching next week!

Short Reviews – Vanguard of the Doomed, by ???? as Gerald Vance

Vanguard of the Doomed is credited as by Gerald Vance, an Amazing Stories house name shared by several authors. The actual author of Vanguard of the Doomed is unknown. It appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories and can be read here at Archive.org.

Vanguard of the Doomed

A short-wave radio enthusiast and electronics engineer meets a girl over the air-waves. While she’s short and coy, the guy ends up absolutely head over heels for her, and she seems to like him. So when she cryptically signs off, telling him she’ll get in contact with him later if she can, then doesn’t show up for over a week, he worries begins to worry and decides to investigate.

What ensues is a tense, fairly action-packed post-war sci-fi thriller. Turns out the dame is the secretary of a mad scientist… who is actually an ex-Nazi posing as the mad scientist he’s done away with and using the mad scientist’s mad science to strike a blow for a resurrected Reich. Anyway, she’s stumbled on his secret plan to draw a planetoid referred to by astronomers and the media as “The Celestial Hammer”.

Remember the Max Fleischer Superman cartoon, where the astronomer has a magnet ray that he uses to get a better look at asteroids and meteors by directing them closer to earth and disaster ensues? Basically that, but the guy is doing it on purpose because he’s a Nazi and he’s gonna hold the world for ransom Cobra Commander style.

One interesting tidbit is that the Nazi villain is named Max Borzeny. Now, Borzney isn’t a real German name, but a thinly disguised spin on Skorzeny. Otto Skorzeny’s exploits in the war brought his profile much higher than his rank and responsibilities–he was larger-than-life boogeyman both feared and admired by Allies. The Borzeny in the story bears little resemblance to Skorzeny, but it is indicative of some of the mystique of SS Commando who, only a few years later, would be turned into ‘a real life pulp hero’ in Charles Foley’s hagiography Commando Extraordinary. Also worth noting, that despite being a relatively minor figure in the Reich, Skorzeny would go on after the war to basically become the real life Red Skull.

 

Short Reviews – Finished, by L. Sprague De Camp

Finished, by L. Sprague De Camp, appeared in the November 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

L. Sprague de Camp offers up something of a planetary romance with Finished, where I can’t quite tell if he just bungled his premise or was poorly spoofing Sword & Planet and Campbell ran it because he thought it would make the folks over at Planet Stories look like rubes.

Finished

Why do I feel like the genre is being mocked?

The truth may be somewhere in between. Finished is a mess of weird names and affectations, such that entire paragraphs barely register as coherent ideas expressed in English. De Camp is a smart guy who enjoys being smart, but he’s also a fairly decent writer who has done some really good humorous SFF that, while funny, didn’t quite dip into twee. So despite being a mess, there’s a damn good story at its core that makes me wonder why he didn’t work to tell it just a little bit better.

A planet in contact with the Galactic FederationTM is being kept at arm’s-length by the advanced space-faring culture; they’re just too primitive and barbaric to be granted access to the technical and philosophical knowledge of Earth (Ertsu). The planet has a perpetual regency: the “one king” of the planet is a revered and sacred mummy relic, and the princes of the planet rule in his name. The mummy is fraudulently taken off the planet, and the Prince demands the right to pursue it to earth to recover their world’s most sacred treasure.

Turns out, the theft was a sham. The prince allowed, nay facilitated, the theft of the mummy which could be stuffed with literature and technical manuals so that they might be smuggled back to his world.

There’s a large naval battle as one of the representatives of the galactic federation pursues the rogue prince, who fakes his death, faked a mummy (lost in the battle), and ultimately returns to his people with the promise of a new golden age.

Again, not a bad story, but it suffered greatly in the telling, and I would’ve much rather it be told by a Brackett or a Kline. It’s not something I can easily explain—not within the limitations of time I have for this column—so I can only suggest that you read it for yourself.

This is the last day of the Cirsova Issue 9 & 10 Kickstarter! Be sure to back today if you haven’t already!

Short Reviews – What Dead Men Tell, by Theodore Sturgeon

Castalia House’s back end is down right now, so I’m going ahead and posting this week’s Short Review here; we’ll get it mirrored up there once Markku gets us situated. What Dead Men Tell, by Theodore Sturgeon, appeared in the November 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

What Dead Men TellFor poisoning the well against the pulps, crusty old Ted the Sturgeon really needed to blow me away. And once we got past the first couple of pages of autistic rambling, Teddy only managed to tell a moderately interesting story.

Hulon, a film projectionist, recently wrote a piece for an obscure literary magazine outlining his eudaemonic philosophy: the future is uncertain and the now is so finitely small as to be inconsequential, so true security can only exist in the ossified events of the past—one’s past actions and accomplishments were all that one could truly hold onto, therefore happiness and security is derived primarily from what you are able to put into your past.

Well, this bit of thinkery draws the attention of a mysterious group who has transcended the laws of life and death! They appear to him as ghosts—movie stars who he’s certain are dead, but there they are in his theatre, plain as day! After approaching the third of these supposedly-dead movie stars, Hulon is informed that they are willing to test him to join their ranks. He will be placed in a chamber where he will meet death.

Hulon finds himself in a seemingly endless corridor, all alone except for strange balls of liquid that supply nutrient nourishment and dead bodies of old men that he happens upon at regular intervals.

I’ll go ahead and spoil the riddle, because that’s really all there is to the story: the endless corridor is some kind of umbilic torus, the body is the same body over and over again (it appears different because of different lighting [it cycles through the spectrum with each circuit Hulon completes] and because it gets banged up when illusion-creating gravity centered on Hulon changes and it drops to the floor/wall), and the ‘death he will meet’ is old age.

How did the gravity in the torus work to make it appear that the corridor was perfectly straight? Hulon admits he can’t answer that when he gives his answer to the riddle, and Ted doesn’t answer it either (‘oh, you’ll learn that and more in good time’ the cabal members tell Hulon).

What Dead Men Tell is a riddle-story; an atmospheric riddle-story with a worthwhile riddle (at least it wasn’t one of Asimov’s Black Widowers yarns), but I needed more. What were the stakes? The weirdo film projectionist is granted immortality and is assigned a girlfriend to instruct him in the ways of the new cabal he has been welcomed into.

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End of the Year Round-up of Short Reviews

I realized it’s been ages since I’ve posted a round-up of my Castalia House reviews. I used to do them seasonally, but kept thinking “surely I must have already done a round-up” and never bothered to actually check. It turns out, the last one I did was back in March.

So, here’s a list of all the reviews I’ve done since then!

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-i-like-you-too-by-joe-gibson/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-yesterdays-doors-by-arthur-j-burks/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-square-pegs-by-ray-bradbury/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-miracle-town-by-william-f-temple/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-cosmic-jackpot-by-george-o-smith/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-date-line-by-noel-loomis-as-benj-miller/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-reverse-english-by-john-s-carroll/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-softie-by-noel-loomis/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-no-winter-no-summer-by-damon-knight-and-james-blish-as-donald-laverty/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-referent-by-ray-bradbury-as-brett-sterling/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-metal-chamber-by-duane-w-rimel/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-swine-of-aeaea-by-clifford-ball/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-house-where-time-stood-still-by-seabury-quinn/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-return-of-hastur-by-august-derleth/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-comrades-of-time-by-edmond-hamilton/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-quest-of-iranon-by-h-p-lovecraft/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-stratosphere-menace-by-ralph-milne-farley/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-smoke-fantasy-by-thomas-r-jordan/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-devils-of-po-sung-by-bassett-morgan/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-haunted-level-by-cassiter-wright/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-bull-dog-smith-by-james-mccormick/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-chasing-a-living-in-california-by-anon/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-old-white-face-by-allen-borders/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-ali-babas-cave-by-i-d-b/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-balu-the-bear-by-blanche-e-ward/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-dutchmans-gold-told-by-arthur-greyslen-and-set-down-by-alan-burgess/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-sandhound-strikes-by-ross-rocklynne/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-vanishing-venusians/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-happy-castaway-by-robert-e-mcdowell/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-silver-plague-by-albert-de-pina/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-double-trouble/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-death-star-by-tom-pace/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-vandals-of-the-void-by-robert-wilson/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-joe-carsons-weapon-by-james-r-adams/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-smoking-land-by-frederick-faust-as-george-challis/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-three-lines-of-old-french-by-a-merritt/