Book Review: Psalms of Sherlock By Gail Ann Swales

Let’s get this out front: I am not a Sherlock nerd. I’ve watched the old movies, I’ve read some of the original books, and I’ve enjoyed the modern BBC series via Netflix.

However, I’d be hard pressed to come up with his address if you asked me after lunch. Mrs. Hudson might just be the woman who runs the hot dog cart in Rice Park, and John Watson is vaguely familiar. 7% solution? Uh, is that for weeds?

I must, however, heartily endorse Psalms of Sherlock by Gail Ann Swales. I was recently given a copy as a gift, and read it over the course of a very busy week. It was an even busier week than I’d planned, because that book kept drawing me back and inviting me to ignore my assigned tasks.

The book pays homage to the original in tone. There is a great fluidity to the dialogue, and the scenes are well set down to the smells and lighting. It fits within the modern canon of Holmes, and does not go far astray from what you would expect if you turned on the television and watched any other Sherlock Holmes work.

I’m just ignorant enough to admit that I’m not sure if all the characters were in the originals, or if some where created just for this work. What I am sure of is that they fit in this universe.

Swales tells a great tale. She focuses on the relationship between Holmes and Watson, and does so in a very charming, engaging manner. I wanted to turn the page and see what they would get up to next as each scene ended.

The work also delves into the spiritual side of the characters. Holmes, in the original works, is a spiritualist with questions. In this work his search for answers is dealt with in a unique manner. I approve of her light hand in the long tale, and only toward the end of the book does it become strong enough to be noticeable: but that is to be expected, as it’s the point of the book!

I had only one major objection to the book: the author spells John Watson’s name differently every time it comes from Sherlock Holmes’ lips. Meant to be a “pet” pronunciation, it is jarring when you first encounter the affectation. If you know it’s coming, I suspect it wouldn’t be “a thing” but I kept wondering how such an otherwise marvelously clean work could contain such an egregious typographical error. The answer is that it’s meant to be that way. Be forewarned.

I would give the book a 4.75 star review just based on that one spelling issue – it bugged me that much. Then I started to think about it, and if you can ignore that one little thing it’s a great read, good plot, and delightful message. Let’s just round it up and call it five stars and be done with it. After all, the game’s afoot!

Old Dogs And Spicy Sandwiches

This is a rather short post, and a bit of a change from what you usually find here. But I think it’s worth saying, and hopefully it will prompt you to reflect a bit on priorities in your own life.

Thursday I walked to the dentist, and then on to work. I had a pack loaded with 45 pounds of assorted stuff, and it was a beautiful day to stroll 6.5 miles. Along the way I stopped at the Trung Nam Bakery to get some croissants, Palmiers, and a Banh Mi sandwich – or two.

I worked up a great sweat, strained my back and leg muscles by hauling all that weight around town, and got some sunshine on my face. It was the first really long walk of the season carrying a heavy load. (I’m in training for an event this fall where you do a 1/2 marathon carrying a 35 pound pack – yeah, it’s extreme sports at it’s best.)

Once I had showered at the health club downtown, I trod to work, shucked the pack, and devoured the food, saving but one sandwich for lunch.

Hot coffee, spicy sandwiches, and good cookies.

This evening, I got home and sprang Stormy from her confinement in the house. She had returned to her normal self after a week of not eating and being depressed. My wife and I had taken off a few days apart on individual road trips, and she evidently thought she was being abandoned for the third time in her life. It made me feel terrible when I realized what was going on. I was gone for 10 days, and brought her back to happiness with french fries and cheese.

So, tonight, I’m tired – the good kind of tired. My dog is doing great, the lawn is mowed, and I had a great road trip with my mom and a couple of other authors.

Life is pretty darned good when you take time to appreciate the little things that make life good. Like spicy sandwiches and old dogs that love you.

Be blessed.

********************* *********************** ************************ ************************ *************************

My second novel, Nicholas of Haiti, is now available. Go fetch your credit card for the Kindle, print, and audio book versions. This is not a sequel to Assault on Saint Agnes, but a unique book in the speculative Christian fiction world.

Audio book cover on the left, Kindle cover on the right.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page.

Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Things You See On Social Media

I know I’ve milked this cow before, but the past few days have been rife with moron – er, people not paying attention on several social media platforms I utilize. Given what a clever fellow I tell people I am, I feel obliged to share my insight – since it is deeply regarded by my front porch, where I do most of my heavy thinking. The chairs love my wit.

When someone posts that they’re having a bad day, it isn’t okay to inquire as to how their old dog with cancer is doing. While that may be the source of the bad day, it may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

If you ask for a referral for a dentist, it is almost a given that within four posts someone will tell you why only members of the Nazi party vaccinate their children. This seems to be inevitable when medical issues come up for some reason.

If you tweet out your support of anything in the universe, someone will link it to your political viewpoint, and your post that “I sure love cotton candy” with the picture of your treat, quickly devolves into, “I hope you choke on that horrid GMO swill that Trump is forcing down our throats.” God forbid you develop a cavity from the cotton candy and need help in locating a dentist.

Only seriously hot women follow me on Instagram. I’m not making it up. I have more women showing me bikini clad bodies than you can even count. Same on Facebook. I become suspicious when “Candy” from Ohio is linked to an account in Ghana. But that might just be the Puritan in me that hates cotton candy…

If you belong to a closed page that has a “pinned” post saying that anything goes except racism and accusations of bestiality, why do you complain when someone says something off color, or posts a political thought you disagree with in some way? Best of all, when you announce (in your most petulant and whiny voice) that you’re offended and leaving the group, you’d best just go. Why? Because if you stick around hoping someone will beg you to stay, you’ll not only be sadly disappointed, but you’ll be deeply hurt by the mean things they say. I kind of live for those things – I find all sorts of cruel dialogue to use in my writing.

No picture posted is safe from mockery. If you put up a picture of your dog and ask what people think of the new hairdo, and someone compliments you on how beautiful your grandchild is, you asked for it in my opinion. Just post the picture and let it be. Asking for feedback is a bad idea for most.

Learn what a private message is and use it. Posting your phone number and email, and asking for Skippy to call you right away, opens you up to all the weirdos. I have a long list of phone numbers from being observant!

Regarding the one above, I belong to several different groups (audio book, Santa, actors) where they will put up a post and ask for a private message if you’re interested. It doesn’t even take 4 posts for that to go south in a couple of the groups, especially the ones for Santa. Here is the typical post/exchange:

WANTED: Santa for Edina, Minnesota, December 8th at 3 p.m. Must have traditional red suit for photos with a group of professional gandy dancers. Pay is negotiable, but event is only 1 hour long so probably under $250.
Comment 1: “I don’t have a red suit, but I could be there at 7 p.m. if it’s okay.”
Comment 2: “I live in Miami, Florida. Why don’t you ever post jobs in my area?”
Comment 3: “Those people in Edina are all rotten. I won’t work with vermin like that, and you need to remove me from this group for even offering that kind of work.”
Comment 4: The job has been filled. Thank you all.
Comment 5: (six weeks later, the day of the event at about 1 p.m.) “Is that job still open? I live in Iowa but I’ll drive if they’ll pay for my room and gas.”

Bologna cake. I’m not sure where that abomination came from, but people post it regularly and treat it as new. I’m kind of a human garbage disposal, and I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot-pole. I know it’s not a dessert. I know it’s supposed to be an appetizer. Ain’t never seen it until a few years ago. If you Google the thing, you’ll see it’s the same cake in all but one of the pictures. I’m calling shenanigans.

Satan’s snack

Last, and certainly least, is the posting of clearly fake news. Some things are bordering on the credible, but being in several different groupings of people, I see stuff from all over the spectrum. Most of it just makes me sad that people are that deluded. But the ones that really drop my opinion of a person include “All those (blank) people are commies/nazis/baby-killers” etc. It reveals something sick in the soul. It’s especially surprising when I’m one of the nazi/babykiller/communists that they’re talking about. I guess they forgot I was their friend when they posted it.

Having said that, I have to get back to Facebook. It appears we may be close to solving the issue of transgender illegal aliens this afternoon.

*********************** *********************** ************************ ************************ **************************

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Mohammad Noor Verdict

Last week there was a conviction in a Hennepin County court room. Former Minneapolis police officer Mohammed Noor was convicted of murder and manslaughter after shooting an unarmed citizen two years ago.

I have been following this case fairly closely through the good offices of the Powerline blog. For those who don’t read the blog, you are missing out on some of the best work in the blogosphere.

Leading up to the verdict, I heard a lot of rumbling in social media about the case. After the verdict I was contacted by someone who wanted my opinion as a former officer about what had happened.

Let me set the stage for you before I get to the meat of this post. I hate to see anyone killed in error by an officer of the law. It’s a tragedy for everyone involved. It lessens the public’s faith in their servants, it causes trauma for the officers involved, and it destroys the life of an innocent.

I would also point out that someone dying at the hands of law enforcement is very rare. Far more people are killed by family, gangs in their midst, and auto crashes than die at the hands of police. Further, most police killings are justified. Not all of the people who die have a weapon in their hand at the moment, but speaking as a big lug, I don’t particularly need a weapon to be a deadly threat – same goes for cops.

Finally, there are just straight up accidents where police kill someone when attempting to employ a less-than-lethal level of force. These are very rare, and include people who die in police custody in transport accidents, or a medical emergency that is not discovered until too late.

Having set the stage, let me tell you what I think. After talking to more than one law-enforcement officer who knew Noor’s background in training, I am not surprised that he was unprepared for the streets. I was informed by these sources that he was a “special project” who was ushered through training so that he would be the first Somali officer in Minneapolis. It was a political decision, and according to sources a bad one.

Secondly, the “Blue wall of silence” we always hear about was extremely quiet. More than anything, they just didn’t say a word about anything, versus mounting a defense of Noor in the time since the death of Justine Damond. I took that as the silence of people waiting to see if justice was served, and afraid of the implications if he either got railroaded, or got a pass.

Lastly, I was afraid of the possibility of Noor not getting a fair shake given the anti-police mentality in Minneapolis’ higher government echelons.

Now, for a detour before how I think it went. Here are the list of acceptable/predicted outcomes according to the legal scholars I’ve observed on social media:

Noor will get a pass because he’s a member of a fascist force that keeps the people down.

No cop will ever be convicted, the whole system is designed to suppress the people.

He’s black, and the man will railroad him.

Only on trial because he shot a white woman. It’s Emmet Till all over again.

Noor can’t be convicted, he was on duty and all cops make mistakes – you cannot imprison a man who was trying to do the correct thing.

She deserved to be shot, she snuck up on the squad car and frightened the cops.

I’ll spare you the more racially ridiculous ones, on both sides. Let’s just say his skin color trumped his uniform color for an awful lot of people with strong opinions. Some more than willing to leave their usual position on law enforcement based on ancestry.

My conclusion: it sounded like the best outcome Noor could hope for in the case. I don’t believe that there was criminal intent to go out and kill someone that summer night. I do believe that he probably recklessly fired that weapon and killed an innocent woman, which is the very definition of manslaughter.

The news reports I read (multiple sources) made it clear that the prosecution presented an excellent (but not perfect) case against Noor. His defense, and testimony, was weak at best, and rang false. Jurors interviewed after the verdict made it clear that the expert witness testimony held a lot of sway. The biggest part of that last point is that you need to bring your best guns to the courtroom, not an “expert” who will testify to anything based on the needs of the client. You can’t take the facts that say “X” and make them say “Y” because that’s what your team needs in this circumstance.

Noor will likely be placed in a facility where he is isolated from the general population. He will be a convicted felon, with all the baggage that brings with it, for the rest of his life. He is doomed to have a miserable life unless he lifts himself above the mess he’s in, and aspires to improve his life after his release.

Was it the right verdict? I think so. But I’d much rather have a chance to meet Justine Damond, and hope that Noor get the experience and training he needed to become a good cop. Neither will ever happen, and that’s unfortunate for all involved.


My second novel, Nicholas of Haiti, is now available. Go fetch your credit card for the Kindle, print, and audio book versions. This is not a sequel to Assault on Saint Agnes, but a unique book in the speculative Christian fiction world.

Audio book cover on the left, Kindle cover on the right.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page.

Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Free Stuff For The Homeless.

Good husbands are hard to find. Just ask my wife. She’s on the fence today. I think our marriage is strong enough to survive this one, but you never know.

The story is epic – in the best sense of that word.

My beautiful wife has been a very conscientious observer of her health for the last two years. As a result, she’s lost a lot of weight, and looks fantastic. This has resulted in the need to buy new clothing, and discard the old clothing. Find me a husband that doesn’t inwardly scream at spending money on clothing and I’ll show you a robot, or someone who needs to turn in his man card. Seriously. My annual expenditure on clothing (excluding Santa Garb) might run into the three figures if you count running shoes I wear out. The very low three figures.

About a month ago, she did a spring cleaning in her room, and stacked a huge pile of stuff in the hallway upstairs, on the dead-end portion that goes out to our deck. It’s Minnesota in April, so nobody is using the deck.

We have traditionally stuck things there that are going to be donated. If they are to go to the attic, she marks them after they’ve been stuffed in a trashbag to keep insects out.

This pile sat for 3 weeks. In the fourth week, I figured it wasn’t going to vanish, it wasn’t bagged, and I’d best make it go away.

Very early on Saturday morning, I bagged it up, hauled it out to my vehicle, and set it out at the Good Neighbor Meal so when the guests showed up they could pick through it. Never have I seen anything left on the stage when the day is over – they need the clothing.

As I laid it out, I grumbled about how much money was up here, but was also glad she’d done so well in getting into better shape. I finished my work, turned out the lights, and went on to my next three stops of the day. I resolved not to complain about all that money wasted on clothes she hardly wore.

Late that afternoon, my wife came home from her rounds for the day and we sat outside in the thin sunshine and compared notes. She asked me if I’d taken all the stuff in the hallway to the church to give it away.

As a good boy, who did what he was supposed to do without any prompting (Yes, it took 3 weeks, but that’s pretty good by my book), I immediately took credit.

The look on her face was sadness. “All of my winter pants were in the pile. They were supposed to go to the attic.”

I couldn’t even muster an apology. The rules very clearly state… well, usually that means…

I guess I’ll be helping her replace the wardrobe come fall.

On the bright side, the hallway looks pretty empty now, and I did score a pair of used blue-tooth headphones when we kept the cleaning binge up this weekend. You can now see the top of the filing cabinet, the desktop, and the hall carpet again. Last known sighting of any was during the Clinton presidency.

Gentlemen, I beseech you: ask before you donate. It’ll will save you a lot of cash down the road.

*********************** *********************** ************************ ************************ **************************

My second novel, Nicholas of Haiti, is now available. Go fetch your credit card for the Kindle, print, and audio book versions. This is not a sequel to Assault on Saint Agnes, but a unique book in the speculative Christian fiction world.

Audio book cover on the left, Kindle cover on the right.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page.

Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.