Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The private patient


The private patient by British crime fiction author PD James. I began reading her mysteries when I was in high school along with other British and French writers that genre. Many of whom were then more famous. She reached much higher in the English social caste’s becoming a baroness and kept on going till she died at age 94. She is best known for her fictional detective Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard. Okay I’ll admit it from the first time I met this Renaissance man he was the man I wanted to be like. Cool and collected and a poet at that..... 

The private patient is the authors final book Dalgliesh series. It begins with a snobby woman named Rhoda Gradwyn  a muckraking London journalist. But she   is about to enter an   clinic for the well to do.  There a top-flight plastic surgeon, Mr. George H. Chandler-Powell, will at long last remove a scar from her face.


“Why now, Miss Gradwyn?” the doctor inquires. “Because I no longer have need of it,” she answers, offering no further explanation. Hm.


Several weeks later the surgery is performed at the doctor’s picturesque clinic, which is located in the grand old Cheverell Manor in Dorset. The operation is a success. And then Miss Gradwyn is strangled in the middle of the night by a mysterious person who wears latex gloves to do the deed. This is dreadful news, not only for the victim but for her renowned doctor, too.  Having your large home combined with surgical facilities and bedrooms and a murder is bad for business.  Lots of potential murderers are introduced into the fray with the manor, and a spooky English countryside.

Here’s the deal, what I liked about this authors writing was clever plots and and fabulous vocabulary. I do like to learn new words. The authors writing style was clearly unique and over the  the decades became much more of the same.. Then what happened was for some readers it grew and grew and for others it went in the opposite direction to redundancy and disdain dislike. Let me count the ways :-) PD James could describe any seen in detail even endless detail to the point you could actually see it feel it and even smell it indoors or outdoors it made no difference and her descriptions of people in every aspect brought them alive. She combined that with references to literature, culture and history to an American it was often fascinating. I took my high school students and spent almost a week there seeing Shakespeare in the Barbarbacon theater and the British Museumn an as far north as Stratford-on-Avon. it took the author about one third of the book before she got to commander Dalgliesh and his special unit of crime solvers. That part I was worn down   lost and bored

The interesting part to me was PD bringing the detectives who I knew from previous books, to a conclusion of their story in this her final book. I loved detective Kate whose rise from the bottom to near the top  she broke last glass ceilings I revered Dalgliesh as a special talent and the most interesting man who seemed likely to be about to retire and marry

These detective stories used to be called who dun-its.  I think this one had too many whos to figure out who dun it  with all the clues I’d have to go back and reread the first seven chapters, maybe twice. Would there be justice and accountability? Well it was from a British author although they don’t hang people for treason or murder like they used to. In America I think it would be unlikely to do that. So I’ll have to watch more TV in the upcoming weeks to show the senate votes'    to book review club 




Thursday, January 21, 2021

Alaskan Diary - Part III

"Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as 'Nevermore.'
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore! Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as 'Nevermore',"
Edgar Allen Poe

Having just had a picnic lunch along a crystal clear Yukon lake, I was discoursing to my companions on the ugliness of a large raven, who had loudly joined the conversation, while perched upon a dead pine, next to the pathway. "Not at all," noted a stranger headed in the opposite direction, picnic basket in hand. "We here in the Yukon think them quite handsome as they are our territorial bird." A little nonplussed at my own apparent discourtesy, I managed to reply by pointing out that we were from Minnesota, where our state bird was the loon. "Ah" he said nodding sagely. "We have one of those buggers on our bills. Loonies we call them," and continued on down the path. You can't make these things up.....

The road from Ft. Nelson to Muncho lake sees the landscape turn from something akin to looking like a vast gravel pit to the wild and expansive vistas that make this a mightly wilderness. The Yukon Territory: Land of the Raven
Our companions Gary and Rosie enjoying the vast vistas. The road began to rise to the heights of Stone Mountain, where naturally we saw stone sheep grazing near and on the highway.

Several grizzly bears were spotten in nearby in the ditchs, as well as a black bear trailed by her cubs. Fortunately photographer Mrs. T. kept the window rolled up.....

It was early June and wildflowers could be seen everywhere. When you see bears though caution rules against heading to far away from the roadway.
It was a rare occurence when I saw more than one car or truck at a time ahead or behind. I love this kind of driving.
Next: The Laird River and Hot Springs

Friday, January 8, 2021

Troutbirders Heroes From The Past

More than a year ago now I attended a book talk at our local library presented by New York Times best-selling author William Kent Krueger. It was wonderful and I even got to talk to him personally. His theme was how  our very early childhood experiences with books often touched and changed our lives. Particularly so when our parents read books from authors like Dr. Seuss to us.  Perhaps the following post about some of my early heroes relates to Krueger's theme.
From birth to five years of age during World War II my parents and I lived in an apartment on the east side of St. Paul. I have few memories of those years except for Connie Hansen who was my age and we played in the sandbox together on Earl Street. And on 4 July that year during the fireworks at Lake Phalen I wandered off in the night among the crowds and frightened both myself and my mother. The highlight though was several times a week when my grandpa Potthoff stopped at Basta’s bakery around the corner and brought me a Bismarck. At the University and in graduate school I chose Prince Otto von Bismarck to write one of my three plan B thesis for European history. 


Prince Otto von Bismarck was a wealthy landowner from Germany’s most militaristic State. As a young officer he rose through the ranks of the Prussian military, eventually to a leadership position in the government. He served two  Kings of Prussia who were more interested in parties and womanizing rather than the stern business of governing. Bismarck rose in Parliament to become chancellor and lead Prussia to win a series of wars, which led to the unification of more than 30 German states into a new nation called Germany. With that accomplishment Bismarck became the peacemaker of Europe by promoting cooperation and friendship among the various nations of Europe. To his credit he created the first system of social security within the German Empire and anywhere in Europe. His desire was to forestall the working people of Germany from turning to Marxist communism. It worked. It was 40 some years before FDR and the New deal brought a similar plan to America. Unfortunately, our social safety net is now at risk with the Republicans determined to trash it. And the Bismarck pastry which I still love, unfortunately, with the closing of our small town bakery will no longer be available. How sad.Bissmarck first a war hero and unifier and later the leaedeer who kept Europ at peace for decades, I like that.....

My second hero’s name is Teddy. His face along with that of Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson can be seen on Mount Rushmore. My grandparents put Theodore’s name in the middle of my father’s names. My dad was born in 1909 and I have the same middle name and named our first son Theodore. His legendary story can be found in many good biographies and history books. Both he and Lincoln were Republicans and two of our greatest presidents. I parted ways with the an acquaintance  after he called my hero a R. H. I. N. O. (Republican In Name Only). Insult my heroes at your own peril.Oh and beside leading the charge up St Juan Hill, winning the Pulitzer Peace prize , seeing the Panama canal built, being a coyboy in NORTH DAKOTA HEAD OF POLICE  IN NEW YORK CITY, BROKE UP MONOPOLIES,     AND WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO FLY IN AN AIRPLANE. HE ALSO WA A GREAT WRITER OF BOOKS AND MAGAZINE ARTICLES


Sir Lancelot of the lake. It is no accident that our son Ted’s middle name was Lance and so is my eldest grandson Ethan’s. As you may recall Barb’s mission was to raise our two sons in the Catholic faith. My mission was to do my best to mold them with strength of character, bravery and good morals. Sir Lancelot was King Arthur’s number one knight of the roundtable. He rescued fair damsels in distress from dragons and all danger. He was the bravest knight of them all. So when our friend Stacy told me of the elderly lady staying in her home at night because of  a marauding pack of a rat-like opossums taking over her trailer home in Spring Valley’s slum district, what could I do but try solve the problem? Actually I did with the help of my large raccoon trap. Our eldest son Ted climbed out on a four story ledge to bring to safety a student  inside while a drunken crowd of college students below taunted the young man to jump into his death below.  Ted also, also pulled a   high school friend to safety from in the middle of the St. Croix River. And then her youngest son Tony and his wife brought 2 children to America from Africa and later from Haiti shortly after the earthquake where she was found after three days still alive but buried under the rubble of a collapsed orphanage. And B. T. W.   I still like to open and close car doors for ladies even though it doesn’t seem to be very fashionable anymore.
Last but not least is Julius Caesar. I read his book, though not in Latin, titled the Gallic wars. Veni, Vidi, Vici.  I came. I saw. I conquered. He was indeed the greatest Roman of them all. Future empires named their rulers after him. The German Kaiser. The Russians Czar. And others. My son named after Marc Anthony (Tony) , Whose eulogy of Julius Caesar Shakespeare began with the words “friends Romans, countrymen lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them;. The good is oft interred with ...” He was loved by his men, set goals and achieved them and changed a failing Republic into an empire that lasted for over 500 years. And of course my favorite summer month July is named after my hero.
Again I’m reminded of what William Kent Krueger said in his recent appearance at the Spring Valley library, that the stories and legends of our youth often sets for us as young children the goals and ideals that help to make us who we are. I believe that can be true for all children if they have good role models and heroes to worship. It is unfortunate that today many of our children’s role models are  celebrities including singers and some athletes who are worthy only of our disgust………My mom led  me to read books as a young boy and there I found my heroes including Lou Gehrig Boy of the sandlots and all American football player Doak Walker of SMU a Methodist like me.💪  

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Geography Quiz

It's been quite a few years now since Barb MrsT and I  went over to our friends, Steve and Jewels, farmhouse to pick them up . Fact is both Steve and Barb have since gone to a better place. Back then we had headed off to Pikes Peak. It’s a fairly long drive from Bluff Country (southeastern Minnesota) but we left early in the morning. We stopped for lunch at a Red Robin before arriving at our destination about 1:30 in the afternoon. From the top we looked out over a vast and beautiful landscape. Take a look.
Later, after dinner at Brietbach’s, the oldest restaurant in the State, we headed home arriving there about 9:00 P.M. the same day.
The test question is "how did we do it in one day?" I’ll give one hint: Yes, it’s true, I did get a speeding ticket ( 73 mph in a 55 mph zone). It’s not a regular practice on my part as this was the first ticket in several decades. There are no prizes for answering the question correctly except for the knowledge that you are in the top tier of American geographers. Did you know that Iowa has its own Pikes Peak? It was Named after the same explorer, and that theirs was there first? That’s right, as Zebulon Pike was moving westward, he stopped in Iowa, and the place where he viewed the area from a bluff high above the Mississippi River is now named after him. He identified the bluff, about 400 feet above the Father of Waters as a good site for a potential fort. Perhaps then it looked like the following painting when he was there. That's the Wisconsin River entering across the valley.