In his youth, Abe Lincoln made two flatboat trips down the Mississippi River (from Indiana and Illinois respectively) to New Orleans.  They were  formative experiences in many ways, Lincoln’s only visit to the Deep South, where he got a glimpse of slave markets in New Orleans — by far the biggest city he’d ever seen up to that time.

You might not think that a book devoted exclusively to those trips would be exciting, but this one is, surveying all that’s known of the trips from the documentary record and filling in what’s not known with a wealth of detail about river commerce and river navigation on the frontiers of America in that time, the landscapes and the settlements Lincoln would have seen.


Some of the information offered is extremely detailed, indeed — such as step-by-step instructions for building a flatboat — but the book vividly evokes a strange and exhilarating time in America, and the dreamlike journeys on rivers that helped build the nation.



Captivating novella takes you from the the south seas to NYC and back again

So I was on a plane somewhere above the flat states. I’d done a little work. My peanuts were long gone, and I still had a couple hours to kill.

I turned on my Kindle . . .

. . . and found my perfect afternoon diversion: Black Pearl.

What an enjoyable read it was. The pacing and plot twists kept my attention, and I also love that this novella absolutely defies neat categorization: there’s a big crime/noir/thriller angle, but also paranormal elements and even a heart-tugging love story thrown in for us romantics. Highly recommend to anyone looking for fun, readable entertainment that is long enough to give you that mental getaway you crave, yet short enough that you can go start-to-finish in a single sitting.

For all the reviews and book details, go here:

Black Pearl



This is an extremely interesting combined biography of David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis.  It follows their lives up to the moment they all found themselves with two hundred or so others inside the Alamo compound early in 1836, prepared to defend it against a Mexican army ten times as large.

Dying there, when they could easily have chosen not to make the stand, they became martyrs to liberty, in some sense transcending their troubled pasts, living on as myths.


That they were all flawed men, impelled out to the Texas frontier by humiliating failures, for motives both idealistic and self-serving, doesn’t really lessen their stature as American icons — in a way it enlarges it, showing how imperfect men can rise to great occasions.

The book is invaluable as a survey of the American frontier in the 1820s and 1830s, a rambunctious time when the common man, under the inspiration of Andrew Jackson, took hold of the reins of America and illuminated some of the fundamental contradictions of the American character.


Personal honesty and honor counted for much, except when big schemes were afoot, in which case skulduggery was tolerated, even admired.  Notions of liberty were inextricable from notions of gain, a capacity for sacrifice inextricable from a capacity to bully and bamboozle.

The moral landscape of the frontier was as wild as the physical landscape — anything was possible, reinvention of the self and a renewal of one’s dreams lay just beyond the next river, the next mountain range.


Dying at the Alamo seemed to confirm that the journey for Crockett, for Bowie, for Travis, had always had a noble destination somewhere up the trail — a reassurance that America needed back then, and still needs.



Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it. But no doubt I shall think differently next year.



Five Stars

A Mysterious, Dreamlike Thriller

Lloyd Fonvielle has crafted another excellent story with his latest novella, “Black Pearl”. It’s an expertly-told adventure tale and mysterious, dreamlike thriller, with colorful characters, exotic settings, and surprising twists with a supernatural element that will keep you hooked.

For all the reviews and book details go here:

Black Pearl


Emperor Julian, Constantine’s nephew, rejects Christianity, which in posterity will earn him the epithet The Apostate, but turns out to be a pretty good guy, at least as Roman emperors go, which is not saying much.

Although he despises Christianity and wants to re-institute Paganism throughout the empire, he issues an edict that all Roman citizens can practice the religion of their choice, while keeping most Christians out of positions of official authority.  His harshest measure against Christians is forbidding them to kill each other for heresy, which by the time of Julian has become one of the most enthusiastic enterprises of the various Christian sects and which they will cheerfully resume after a Christian emperor is restored to the throne.


Source — Edward Gibbon.



Constantine embraces Christianity — no good comes of it.

Constantine delayed his actual baptism until he was on his deathbed — a practice followed by many in his time, who wanted to continue sinning as long as possible before taking advantage of the one-time-only guaranteed means of forgiveness for past sins.

The bishops railed against this practice but couldn’t find a theological rationale or a workable process for prohibiting it.


Source — Edward Gibbon.