A Post from A Member of the U. L. S. — Robbie Cheadle

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I want to welcome Robbie Cheadle to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This group is an unofficial collection of people who deeply value books. It is based on the idea of The Book People from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  Robbie is the newest member of this group of book lovers!

Robbie has excellent blogs: Robbie Cheadle books/poems/reviews and   Robbie’s inspiration. Both are wonderful; please be sure to visit them.

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Background

I decided to read King Solomon’s Mines as it is set in South Africa in the late 19th century. I am currently finalizing my first adult novel, A Ghost and His Gold, which is set during the Second Anglo Boer War. I hoped that King Solomon’s Mines would give me insight into life in southern Africa during this period.

Rider Haggard spent time in South Africa after he took a position as the assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal in 1875. In 1876, he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. It was in this role that Sir Haggard was present in Pretoria, capital of the then Boer Republic of the Transvaal, in April 1877 when it was officially annexed by Britain. Sir Haggard was tasked with the duty of raising the Union flag and reading out much of the proclamation at the annexation event after the official originally entrusted with this duty lost his voice.

I had an interest in Sir Rider Haggard and his books because he lived in Ditchingham, a town close to my mother’s hometown of Bungay in Suffolk, England. When her brother was a young man he was employed by Sir Haggard and Sir Haggard daughter, Lilias Haggard, edited a book entitled The Rabbit Skin Cap which told the story of an old man who was well known to my mother. My mother’s memories of Sir Rider Haggard’s house and his daughter, Lilias, are included in the fictionalized memoir of her life, While the Bombs Fell, which we wrote together.

King Solomon’s Mines literary importance

King Solomon’s Mines is a book that is worth preserving because it is a rollicking good story with lots of action, written along similar lines to the famous Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson. The author has a wonderful gift of descriptive writing and shares the beauty and mystery of Africa in a most appealing and interesting way. The author demonstrates a thorough knowledge of southern Africa and the way of life among the hunters of the time. An example of this glorious language is as follows:

“But just before you come to Durban there is a peculiar richness about the landscape. There are the sheer kloofs cut in the hills by the rushing rains of centuries, down which the rivers sparkle; there is the deepest green of the bush, growing as God planted it, and the other greens of the mealie gardens and the sugar patches, while now and again a white house, smiling out at the placid sea, puts a finish and gives an air of homeliness to the scene.” Although this sentence is long by modern book writing standards, it describes the scene vividly. The language used by the writer is not complex and overwhelmingly ornate like many other books from this same period, but rather is written in a simple and conversational style.

Another wonderful description is of the Kalahari Desert: “On, on we went, till at last the east began to blush like the cheek of the girl. Then there came faint rays of primrose light, that changed presently to golden bars, through which the dawn glided out across the desert. The stars grew pale and paler still, till at last they vanished; the golden moon waxed wan, and her mountain ridges stood out against her sickly face like the bones on the cheek of a dying man.”

I must state that this book is set in Southern Africa in the late 19th century and contains some language that is offensive to modern readers. This book also expresses some of the colonialist thinking of the time, particularly in its descriptions of certain relationships between the Europeans and the Africans. These views and relationship depictions are dated and reprehensible by modern standards, but it is of literary interest that the author was progressive for the time and this was reflected in his work.

Haggard demonstrates respect of the African culture and describes many of the African warriors, including Ignosi, one of the main characters in the book, as brave and heroic. Twala, the existing king of the Kukuana people, when the three European travelers and Ignosi arrive in Kukuanaland, and Gagool, the witch doctor, are described as being cruel and barbaric but this is in line with their roles as the villains of this story. The story also includes a romance between Englishman, Captain Good, and a Kukuana maiden called Foulata, which would have been socially unacceptable at the time.

My review of King Solomon’s Mines

King Solomon’s Mine is a thrilling tale of Allan Quatermaine, a European hunter living in Durban, South Africa, who partners with Sir Henry Curtis, a huge Adonis of a man from a wealthy English family, and his colleague Captain Good, to cross the Kalahari Desert in search of Sir Curtis’ younger brother, Neville and the legendary mines of King Solomon. Being on the wrong side of 50 years old and with his career as an elephant hunter drawing to an end, Mr Quatermaine agrees to accompany the pair on their ambitious journey.

Allan Quatermaine is rather pessimistic by nature and does not believe he will live to return to his home in Durban. His terms of engagement include making provision for his son in the likely event of his death. He does not see himself as a brave man, but his actions demonstrate this he is brave, and clever and levelheaded too.

Sir Henry Curtis is beset with guilt as he believes himself responsible for his brother’s rash action in crossing the desert, a journey very few have survived. He is determined to look for his brother and redeem himself, even if it results in his own death. Sir Curtis is brave and strong, the kind of man admired by many for his physical attributes. He fights alongside Ignosi’s best warriors when a tribal war erupts later in the story. Sir Curtis is kind and compassionate and is not corrupted by greed like many men are, even when he learns of the treasure hidden in King Solomon’s mines.

Captain Good is an ex-navel man and quite precise in his behaviour and beliefs. He is prim and proper and takes great care of his personal appearance, a characteristic that nearly results in his death early in the story but proves to be of great assistance to the adventurers later on.

Ignosi enters the story as an African servant named Umbopa. He is a huge man, strong and clever, who does not fit well into the role of a servant. Despite this, Sir Henry and Quatermaine decide he is perfectly suited to accompany them on their journey. Good has some reservations but these are swept aside by his traveling companions.

The book tells the story of the four men’s journey from Durban to a small African village on the outskirts of the desert. It provides a lot of insight into life at the time and describes travelling by ox wagon, an exciting elephant hunt that ends in tragedy and the life-threatening trek across the desert.

Once the men manage to traverse the desert and the mountain and enter Kukuanaland, the story becomes even more exciting when they encounter the evil Twala, a Shaka Zulu styled tyrant with no respect for human life, and Gagool, a powerful witch doctor with a taste for murdering beautiful young girls.

Readers are treated to a ferocious tribal war, an exciting trip to the mines of King Solomon and an evil trap. This is an exciting and fast paced story which demonstrates the author’s knowledge of southern Africa and the lifestyles and cultures of the time from both the European and African perspective.

Potential readers should be warned that this book was written during the colonialist era and contains some language and ideas that are offensive to modern readers. If you can set this aside as a function of the politics and ideology of the era, it is a fantastic adventure story along the lines of Indiana Jones.

A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Cover reveal

A Ghost And His Gold

About Robbie Cheadle and Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with seven published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Thank you to Robbie Cheadle! Please visit her sites.

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Another Member Of The U.L.S. — Robbie Cheadle Writes On The Red Badge of Courage

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I want to welcome Robbie Cheadle to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This group is an unofficial collection of people who deeply value books. It is based on the idea of The Book People from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  Robbie is the newest member of this group of book lovers!

Robbie has excellent blogs: Robbie Cheadle books/poems/reviews and   Robbie’s inspiration. Both are wonderful; please be sure to visit them.

The Red Badge of Courage

Background

The Red Badge of Courage is a novel about the American Civil War, written by American author, Stephen Crane. Although the author was born after the war and had not ever participated in a battle when he wrote the book, The Red Badge of Courage is cited for its realism and naturalism.

The book depicts several very vivid and intense battle scenes which are graphically depicted from the perspective of the young protagonist, Henry Fleming, a private in the Union Army. The book explores the themes of maturism, heroism and cowardice with regards to Fleming’s regiment which comprises mainly of inexperienced first-time soldiers who have conscripted for various reasons and the indifference of nature to the follies of man.

The red badge of courage referred to in the title of the book is a wound incurred during battle.

My review of this book

The Red Badge of Courage was a fascinating insight into the psychology of warfare for young recruits who have never experienced battle before. I read the author’s biography and was astonished that he had never experienced war before he wrote this startling descriptive and vivid account of the fictional 304th New York Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.

The main character is 18-year old man from a farming background called Henry Fleming. Henry is tired of the monotony of his life helping his mother on the farm and enlists because he has romanticized battle as a result of reading several accounts of war. He is attracted by his perceived glamour of battle and enlists against the advice of his mother. When she attempts to give him some practical advice before he leaves to join his new regiment, he resents her words which belie and detract from his romantic notions.

Henry’s main ambition is to prove that he is man enough to be a soldier, and he suffers endless anxiety about how he will react when his regiment eventually sees some action on the front. He becomes friendly with a number of his compatriots, including a young man named Jim Conklin, who confesses that he would run from battle if all his peers did so.

Henry’s regiment finally faces the enemy and is successful during their first session of combat. After a short reprieve, the regiment faces the enemy again and this time Henry is convinced that his regiment will lose and he runs away from the battle. He retreats into a nearby wood and comes across a dead body. In his fear and fright at coming across this grim sight, he joins up with a group of injured soldiers, one of whom is is friend, Jim Conklin. Henry is deeply ashamed of his cowardly behavior and does his best to hide the fact that he is not injured but has fled the battle. He manages to get away with it, but his disgust at his own behavior and fear of discovery results in later behaviour that is almost reckless and lacking in reasonable self-care in his attempt to redeem himself in his own mind.

I loved the characterisation of Henry as a thinker and a person who is sensitive to his own potential failings and fears. I am sure that many young men must feel like this when faced with the real possibility of their own imminent death. The effect of peer pressure and the comradery or brotherhood of soldiers when in a group is also intriguing and believable.

Once again, thank you to Robbie Cheadle, and welcome to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society!

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A New U.L.S. member, and a post on 1984 by George Orwell

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Underground Library Society

Thank you to Robbie Cheadle for her post on 1984 by George Orwell. With this entry, Robbie has joined the U. L. s., the Underground Library Society, dedicated to opposing book censorship and book banning. Please visit her blog Robbie’s inspiration .

If a society similar to that depicted in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury were to somehow come into existence and all books were banned, I would want to be part of any group involved in preserving books. If that meant learning a book off by heart, I would be prepared to do that. The big question for me would be what book to choose.

Out of all the wonderful and amazing books out there, my choice is 1984 by George Orwell. My over view of this book and my reasons as to why I believe it is still relevant to us are as follows:

1984 is a dystopian novel that was written years ago to portray a possible future for mankind as envisaged by the author in 1949. Why would anyone want to read this book now? 1984 passed more than thirty years ago so why would this book still be a worthwhile read today? The answer is that the content and ideas presented in this book are still relevant and it portrays a future that is still a possible outcome for humanity if the threats to our existing lifestyles and our planet are not resolved and harsh totalitarian measures need to be introduced as a last desperate measure to save our world. The threat of world destruction using nuclear weapons is much less likely now than in 1949, but modern people merely face new threats and obstacles which are also of our own   creation.

1984 is set in a world where the inhabited landmasses are divided into three significant superpowers, all of which are ruled by political parties where the systems of government are centralized and dictatorial and require complete subservience to the state by their citizens. The three superpowers are continuously at war and their populations live in a state of perpetual deprivation and fear of being bombed. The reason for this state of affairs becomes clear to the reader at a later stage in the book.

Winston Smith, the hero of the story, is a member of the Party and this requires him to believe in their political mandate completely and entirely. No questioning of Party doctrine is tolerated in any form and the party has methods of policing every aspect of their members’ lives including their thoughts and dreams. Every party member has an invasive screen, in the manner of a modern television, which the party can access to spy on the activities of its members. Party members are encouraged to suppress any sexual feelings other than the need to reproduce and children belong to clubs and groups where they are effectively turned against their parents and encouraged to spy on them for the state. In this way, the Party has broken down all the natural human bonds and relationships and turned people into lonely individuals with no way of forming into dissenting groups.

Winston is a thoughtful man with a high intellect whose job involves changing previously printed news articles and books to recreate the past in the manner dictated by the current wants of the Party. Nothing is safe from intervention by the Party, which is represented by a giant picture of “Big Brother”. Even the dictionary is continuously being re-written to delete unnecessary words and party members are encourage to use a reduced version of language know as New Speak.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
― George Orwell, 1984

He questions the society he lives in with its continuous deprivation and lack of emotions and relationships. He thinks that things must have been better in the past. Winston believes that there is a brotherhood of dissenters who are working to overthrow the party. He believes one of its member’s is an inner party member whom he has interacted with by the name of O’Brien.

Winston decides to start recording his thoughts and ideas in a blank book, an action that is against Party rules, in case he ever gets the opportunity to share them with O’Brien and join the brotherhood.

Winston meets a young woman called, Julia, who is also a dissenter in her own young and uncomplicated way. Julia does not share Winston’s belief that the Party could be overthrown and a better life for people re-created. Julia’s approach is to breach Party rules and take the freedoms she desires in a non-confrontational way. Despite their significant differences in age and attitudes, Julia and Winston become physically involved and fall in love. This is against Party doctrine where the marriage of couples has to be approved and would not be if the couple were strongly attracted to each other.

Winston and Julia both know that they are risking their lives with their affair and other behaviours and, despite knowing the harsh consequences, are prepared to take the chance.

 

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

― George Orwell, 1984

The reason I believe this book is still so relevant is because we are living in a world on the brink of massive climate crisis and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Drastic action by the governments of the world will be required in the foreseeable future to remedy these massive issues. How will governments do this without taking decisive steps to control population growth and consumerism? If you think about these problems, the world of Winston Smith doesn’t seem so impossible.

To take this thought process one step further, we may already been on the slippery slope towards a totalitarian government. Our current environment of increasing nationalism, nativism and opposition to immigration, indicate that many people of moving away from the inclusive new world order that world leaderships worked towards in the aftermath of World War II. Have we forgotten the horrors of this war and the devastation and inhuman activities that took place? I think this book may be more valid now than ever before.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

George Orwell, 1984

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Once again, thank you to Robbie Cheadle!

A Wonderful Review of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1

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Maledicus
I want to thank Robbie Cheadle for this wonderful review of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1 by Charles F. French. Please take a visit to her site: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/
“Maledicus is the right hand man to Caligula, Emperor of the Roman Empire, and they are equally despicable, inhumane and outright evil. Maledicus has plans, great plans, whereby he will ascend to the top position of Emperor but he underestimates the incumbent, Caligula, and his many eyes and ears. Maledicus never achieves his aspirations and is dispatched to the afterlife in an unpleasant and painful way.

In the non world between Heaven and Hell, Maledicus lurks. He is not reconciled to his unnatural death and believes his chance to aspire to greatness will come. He sets about manipulating events and circumstances to achieve his ultimate goals of greatness.

Meanwhile, time has moved on and in the 21st century, three elderly and retired men, Roosevelt, Sam and Jeremy, have formed a ghost-investigating group, with the occasional help and support from Roosevelt’s nephew, ex-US Marine, Patrick. They have all suffered personal losses and this is a great way for them to keep themselves mental and physically active and to indulge in an interest in ghosts and the supernatural. When their Investigative Paranormal Society (“IPS”) gets its first really legitimate case, they find themselves up against an on-going evil that refuses to die. Can the IPS go up against an ancient and expanding evil and expect anything other than untimely deaths?

I enjoyed the characters of Roosevelt, Sam, Jeremy and Patrick and learning about their individual losses and life experiences, all of which weave together into the fabric of this well planned story.

The idea behind this book is fresh and clever and the ending was superb. I was really impressed by the author’s unique and thrilling ending.”