Quick Book Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Time for a random book review! I’ve read several good books already in 2018, so I’ll start my reviews with the latest from Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell is well known for his Sharpe series as well as Uthred in the Saxon Stories. Though still historical fiction, Fools and Mortals is a bit of a departure from his normal writing. Here, Cornwell gives us a behind the scenes look at Shakespeare and his company as they attempt to make a living putting on plays during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. 

Richard Shakespeare is a struggling actor, overshadowed by his older brother William. Richard is approached about stealing a manuscript from his brother (original plays are quite valuable). Since William refuses to give Richard any manly parts in his plays (Richard is quite good at playing the parts of women), this is tempting for him on several levels.

Having just learned about the page 69 test (https://killzoneblog.com/2018/03/have-you-ever-tried-the-page-69-test.html), let me read to you from page 69 and you can decide if this book is for you.

“I thought he would say more, but he went back to his writing. A red kite sailed past the window and settled on the ridge of a nearby tiled roof. I watched the bird, but it did not move. My brother’s quill scratched. ‘What are you writing?’ I asked.

‘A letter.’

‘So the new play is finished?’ I asked.

‘You heard as much from Lord Hunsdon.’ Scratch scratch.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream?’

‘Your memory works. Good.’

‘In which I’ll play a man?’ I asked suspiciously.

His answer was to sigh again, then look through a heap of paper to find one sheet, which he wordlessly passed to me. Then he started writing again.”

Does this excerpt from page 69 intrigue you? Since this book started a little slow for me, maybe this would have been a better place to start–but, no, I believe the beginning was necessary.

You can listen (or read) an interview from Cornwell done by the Folger Shakespeare Library on the writing of this book.


Cornwell does not seem to have any plans to turn this into a series, but I, for one, would be glad to read more of Richard Shakespeare if he should changest his mind.



Wiley Cash: The Last Ballad

Looking to read more from local (North Carolina or anywhere in southeast) writers, I picked up the latest from Wiley Cash a few weeks ago.

The Last Ballad tells the story of Ella May Wiggins, a woman who worked in the textile mills of North Carolina in the 1920’s. In 1929, she leaves Bessemer City to go to Gastonia to hear about the union and their plans to strike. Ella May works hard every night, having to leave her four children (the father of her children has abandoned them). Joining a union is dangerous and will probably lose her her job, but what choice does she have? Her children are hungry and she can’t afford to clothe them. Something has to change.

Wiley Cash is a writer that any writer would envy. He writes of hard times, desperate situations, evil and selfish people with poetry and grace. He takes a woman who lived in an impossible situation and shows her courage and determination. I highly recommend this book, and will be checking out the backlist for Wiley Cash.

For those of you who read ebooks, this book is available for $1.99 across the different vendors for a limited time.

How about you? Do you enjoy reading from your local authors? Who are your favorites?

My Name is Hadesh Part 5 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part four, here is the link: https://wordpress.com/post/pmgilmer.com/1517

From part 4: Huppim nodded eagerly. “Certainly! We wouldn’t want you ladies wandering through the streets of Jerusalem alone. And, I’ve never been inside the palace! Do you think they would let us in, too?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But we need to go now before the day grows any later. We may have to wait a long time to see the king, so let us make haste.”

We made the men wait outside while we readied ourselves to leave. Jemima seemed inclined to argue some more, but I ignored her and so did the other women. The idea of two of their own going to see the king made the other women forget any qualms they may have over us leaving. Instead, they all became excited at the thought. Jemima had no choice but to agree though she refused to release my baby, saying she would bring him with her.

“The king will be able to tell he’s mine just by looking at him and by the way my baby is holding onto me.”

I snorted and wanted to grab my baby away from her but didn’t want to hurt him. I wrapped up the poor dead babe of Jemima’s and prepared a sling to carry him in. I could only hope and pray that the good King Solomon would rule with the wisdom people claimed he possessed.

Finally ready, we went outside to meet Muppim and Huppim who were waiting anxiously and seemed to have gathered a crowd, in spite of the early hour and the weather. The rainy season had begun and a slight drizzle was falling–not enough to deter me. The other women followed us, walking down our street and telling everyone they saw that we were going to see the king to ask him to settle an issue between us. I would rather not had such fanfare on our way to the palace. Everyone made it seem like a cause for a celebration, but my heart was heavy and full of fear.

Jemima seemed way too confident for a liar and a deceiver. And was she even grieving for her little one who was definitely dead? Had she truly rolled over on the poor babe in her sleep? Did she not feel guilt and sorrow for being the cause of his death? She only looked smug to me as she cuddled my babe and talked softly to him, every now and then glancing at me to make sure I saw her–as if I could see or hear anything else.

Once we reached the end of our street, the other women stopped and waved us on. “Good-bye! Farewell! May the good king grant you the truth and make a sound judgment!”

Jemima and I both waved back at them, and I tried to look certain in my belief the king would truly recognize the truth in me and the lie in Jemima. We walked in between Muppim and Huppim who escorted us proudly through the streets as if they escorted prostitutes to the king’s palace every day of their lives. People just beginning to stir from their homes and shops looked at us curiously, but without much interest. I’m sure they saw people going to and from the palace every day and did not deem it quite the significance we did.

Once we reached the palace, we all stopped and stared. None of us knew what to do next. Jemima and I looked to our escorts who looked as bewildered and at a loss as we did.

“Do we just go on in?” asked Huppim.

“I don’t know,” answered Muppim. “This was your idea, remember. Do you suppose they have a special entrance for those who are wanting judgment from the king?”

“There are some guards there,” I said a bit impatiently. “Why don’t you just ask them?”

Both men looked at me as if I had hurt their feelings. I refrained from rolling my eyes, but noticed Jemima didn’t try to hide her smirk.

I sighed. “I mean, kind sirs, perhaps you could go over there and ask one of the guards?”

They looked like that was the last thing they wanted to do, but finally, Muppim nodded, adjusted his belt and tunic, then strode over to one of the guards. The two guards who had looked bored before, now seemed amused as the broad-shouldered, but slightly overweight, Muppim approached them.

“Excuse me, my lords, but these ladies have a grievance to bring before the king. Could you point us in the right direction?”

“Ladies?” drawled one. “I don’t see any ladies, do you, Tobias?”

Tobias shook his head. “Unless you count this mountain standing before us? This your first time in the city, farm boy? I hate to tell you this, but . . .” He leaned over closer to Muppim and spoke in an overly loud whisper. “But those two women there aren’t ladies. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. Maybe you ought to take them back home and let them show you what they really are.”

The first guard snickered, then straightened both his posture and his face. Noticing this, Tobias looked over the first guard’s shoulder. Then, he, too, straightened up.

“Josiah, Tobias. Is there a problem here?” The man speaking was older and seemed to be a soldier of many years. Yet, his length of years did not make him seem weaker in any way, but rather much more formidable.

“No, Benaiah,” they both said. Benaiah looked at us, then back at his guards.

Josiah cleared his throat. “These, um, people have a complaint they wish to bring before the king.”

“And? Why are you keeping them standing here? Do they seem dangerous to you?”

“Oh, no, my lord,” Tobias said. “We just weren’t too sure of their, uh, credentials.”

Benaiah lifted an eyebrow and looked us over. Muppim was shifting about nervously, while Huppim beamed at the respected soldier in front of him. I’m sure he saw a war hero of some sort, and maybe that was the truth of it. Jemima and I both tried to look respectable, but the two guards had already made it plain that we only looked like what we were. Fortunately, my Seled was sleeping by now, making not a sound.

“Are you all Israelites?” Benaiah asked us.

We all nodded fervently. Oh, yes, we were Israelites.

“And you recognize King Solomon as your king? And what he says is what you obey?”

Again, we nodded mutely. Benaiah looked back at the guards. “I really see no problem here. Unless King Solomon has given you special instructions that I am unaware of?”

The two guards shook their heads; reluctantly, I felt. I’m sure they wished they had a reason to keep us out.

“Then let me lead you all to the king’s throne room,” Benaiah said, motioning for us to follow him. “And we will leave these fine guards to continue with their guarding. As they seem useless for much else.”

Both relieved and happy, we followed Benaiah as he led us up the steps into the palace. I was tempted to turn around and stick my tongue out at the guards, but I had never walked up such steps, so thought it better to pay attention. Huppim practically skipped up these stone steps while the rest of us carefully put one foot in front of the other. But, if we thought our troubles were over, we would soon be disappointed.

Part 6 coming Tuesday (11/21/17)




My Name is Hadesh Part 4 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 3, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/14/my-name-is-hadesh-part-3-by-p-m-gilmer/

From part 3: The other women stood watching us closely, but made no comments. Unusual for these women not to have any opinions. I looked to them for help. “Look at this baby. Can’t you see he is Jemima’s and not mine? Would I not recognize my own child?”

“She has lost her mind,” Jemima interjected before anyone else could speak. “Did she not just wake up with that baby in her bed, and I wake up with this one? Did they get up in the middle of the night and switch places? Or perhaps a demon came in and switched them?”

The women gasped at this possibility, and I noticed a couple of them make a sign as if to ward off evil. If this hadn’t been such a serious affair, I would have rolled my eyes at Jemima’s absurd conjectures. I knew she was only trying to shift the attention from herself and her baby-switching ways. Then the truth of what must have happened occurred to me, and I involuntarily gasped.

“You! You rolled over on your baby and smothered him. Then you switched him with my own who was sleeping in his basket. I remember now I put him in his basket before midnight. You took my baby, then put your own dead babe in my arms.”

The women began to twitter at these allegations, and Jemima’s face became scarlet. I thought she might have an apoplexy right then. I could only wish she would. Instead she said, “You are mad, and making wild accusations will not bring your poor dead child back to life. You need to wrap your baby properly, and let us go and make arrangements for him.”

My Seled began to cry just then or I might have hurled myself at Jemima’s throat. Before I could decide how to respond or what to do to prove I was right, two men entered our house.

“What is going on in here?” the first one asked. “You women are making a lot of racket for so early in the morning. Didn’t know you started your day so early. If you don’t keep it down, someone is going to be calling for the guards. Has someone hurt you? Or left without paying?”

The man questioning us, Muppim, was well known to us all as was his twin brother, Huppim. The two frequented our establishment on an irregular basis. They came into Jerusalem to sell their produce–everything from grapes to honey–and often brought us what they didn’t sell. Considering how many people treated us like dirt or acted like they didn’t even know us (when they knew us quite well), the brothers were kind, if a bit odd.

I pointed my finger at Jemima. “She killed her baby, then stole mine.”

Jemima shrieked. “She’s crazy! You should call the guards and have her taken away. She is trying to take my baby by saying he is hers when her poor babe is lying there dead.” She pointed to where her baby still lay on my bed.

The men looked at Jemima’s baby, then at me, then at everyone else. “Zebidah?” Muppim asked. “What do you know of this?”

Zebidah looked at me, then Jemima, then shrugged. “They both had a baby boy just a few days apart. This morning one of those poor babies is dead. These two,” she jerked her head towards myself and Jemima, “are both hysterical and one of them is lying. Which one? How should I know? Am I as wise as our good King Solomon?”

A bit of nervous laughter came from all the women except Jemima and myself. Then Huppim said, “That’s a good idea.”

Everyone looked at him and waited for him to explain, but he only grinned, looking quite pleased with himself.

“What’s a good idea, Huppim?” Muppim finally asked.

“Asking good King Solomon. That’s what people do when they can’t decide on something, isn’t it? Go and ask the king to judge who is telling the truth.” He beamed as if he had come up with the most original and amazing plan.

I frowned, wondering if the king would see women such as us. Would we even be allowed anywhere near the palace?

“That’s a foolish idea,” Jemima said. “The king wouldn’t have time for the likes of us.”

And even though (or perhaps because) she had just voiced my own thoughts, I disagreed. “He’s the king of all of us, isn’t he? God granted him the wisdom to rule over each and every Israelite, so why wouldn’t he hear us?”

The other women began to murmur, but whether in agreement or disagreement, I wasn’t sure. Huppim continued to look proud of himself, and Muppim scratched his balding head.

“Well,” said Muppim, “if you think that’s the only way to solve this, we would be glad to escort you two ladies.”

Huppim nodded eagerly. “Certainly! We wouldn’t want you ladies wandering through the streets of Jerusalem alone. And, I’ve never been inside the palace! Do you think they would let us in, too?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But we need to go now before the grows any later. We may have to wait a long time to see the king, so let us make haste.”

Part 5 coming Saturday

My Name is Hadesh Part 3 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 2, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/11/my-name-is-hadesh-part-2-by-p-m-gilmer/

From Part 2: I continued to hug my Seled so close that he began to squirm. I made myself relax my grip before he began crying. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the midwife’s offer, but it scared me somehow. I knew people would think we had no business raising children–but this was my baby, and no one could take him from me.


Life went on fine for several weeks. Jemima and I both nursed our boys and began to regain our strength. The other women were accommodating, but we would soon need to be taking customers again. My Seled was sleeping well in his little basket, but Jemima continued to keep her Adar in bed with her as they fell asleep. We tried to tell her that wasn’t good for her or the babe, but she refused to listen. She wanted to cuddle her son as much as she could before going back to work, and I couldn’t really blame her.

The little world we had built soon came crashing in on us, though I probably should have known things couldn’t stay sweet for long. I woke one morning, while it was still dark, startled to find my babe in my arms. I realized I must have fallen asleep while nursing him and had failed to put him back in his basket. I needed to get up and stir up the embers in our fire pit, start some water boiling, and all those things that needed to be done to start one’s day. Feeling a bit cramped, I wanted to just get up and put Seled in his basket, but I felt sure if I did that without feeding him first, he would not sleep long, if at all. So, I nudged him a bit, so I could nurse him again before putting him in his basket.

He didn’t even stir, and my first thought was on how well he was sleeping and what a shame to wake him. Maybe I could carefully put him in his basket after all.

I tried to ease myself quietly up off my pallet, so I didn’t wake either him or Jemima and her baby. I knew both Zebidah and Hoglah had gone out for the night and were unlikely to be back yet. Holding my baby against my chest, I suddenly felt something was wrong. My babe felt cold, and I couldn’t hear his soft breathing as I usually did. My heart pounded as I sat back down, carefully laid him on my bed, and gently put my hand on his face. It was stone cold.

My heart seemed to stop, and I felt dizzy. No! My beautiful, healthy baby could not be gone. Just like that! He had been fine last night. I tried to remember nursing him and wondered again how I could have fallen asleep. But, then I remembered putting him in his basket. I did! I did put him in his basket! Did he awaken again, and had I sleepily gotten up and brought him back to bed with me? Sometimes the nights and the feedings did seem to run together.

I placed my hand on his face again, the tears running down my own. I sat, stroking his face, still in disbelief as light slowly began to illuminate our small room. Zebidah and Hoglah came into the house just as dawn was breaking.

“What is it, Hadesh?” Zebidah asked upon seeing my tears. “Is the babe sick?”

I threw back my head and let out a long, low wail. The sorrow poured out of me as if my grief could be unleashed and set free. Zebidah and Hoglah, as well as a few of our neighbors quickly gathered around me.

“Hadesh! What is it?” Then I heard gasps and more crying (besides my own).

“He was fine last night,” I moaned, finally opening my eyes to look at him, now that daylight was here. I started to stroke his face again, then jerked my hand back as if I had seen a snake.

“This isn’t my baby!” I cried out. I looked over at Jemimah who was huddled on her pallet, holding her baby close to her chest and crooning to him. Except . . . that couldn’t be her baby because her baby was lying here on my bed. Dead. And if this was her baby . . .

“Jemimah!” She finally looked over at me, but her eyes were hard and her mouth was set. “This is your baby! You must have mine. Give me back my son!”

Jemima held the baby to her chest, and he began to cry. “You are crazy! Grief has maddened you. Of course, this is my baby. I’m sorry your babe is gone, but that is no cause to try and claim mine. You must have rolled over in the night and suffocated the poor babe.”

I stared at her in horror. Rolled over on my baby? But, no, this wasn’t my baby, and I always put him in his basket. I never went to sleep with him. Did I?

The other women stood watching us closely, but making no comments. Unusual for these women not to have any opinions. I looked to them for help. “Look at this baby. Can’t you see he is Jemima’s and not mine? Would I not recognize my own child?”

Part 4 coming Thursday.










My Name is Hadesh Part 2 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 1, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/09/my-name-is-hadesh-part-1-by-p-m-gilmer/

From Part 1: At almost fourteen, I found myself pregnant and soon Jemimah was as well. It may sound foolish, but it excited us both to think of having our own child. I promised myself, and the LORD God, that I would take care of this baby, and he would always know his mother’s love. No matter what.

The months went by both quickly and achingly slow. I couldn’t wait to see my baby’s face, to touch him, to hold him. But, there is much to prepare when bringing a baby into the world, especially with no real family to help, so the days flew by with always more to do.

Finally, the day came when my pains began, and I knew my baby was preparing to enter this world. Zebidah ran to get the midwife, and Hoglah helped me to walk around until time to sit on the birthing stool. Jemimah hoovered in the background, her babe almost ready to burst forth as well. As she was as inexperienced as I (and twice as scared), she gladly stood back and let the others tell me what to do.

Well, if you’re a woman, you know what follows, and if you’re a man, you know enough to know you don’t want to hear any more details. My baby entered the world with no complications, his voice as loud and demanding as any man’s. Yes, he was a fine boy, and I loved him at first sight.

Everyone cooed over him–except Jemima. She looked rather ill at all the mess this young one had made. I’m sure she was thinking of her own trial to come, so I tried to smile reassuringly at her, but she looked away, then left our house altogether. To get some air, she said.

“Don’t go too far!” the midwife called after her. “You look to be ready to have your own at any minute.”

This only served to increase her look of distress as she scurried away. The other women laughed knowingly. I paid them no attention, having eyes only for my newborn son who slept exhausted at my breast.

Sure enough, three days later, Jemima cried out in pain and dropped the laundry she had been carrying in. “It’s time! Oh, LORD God of the heavens, help me!”

I had been dozing with my little one who had just finished nursing, but I quickly settled him in his small basket and went to try to comfort and encourage Jemima. She wanted nothing but sympathy, however, and that not from me. Since I could well understand how she felt, I left her alone and went back to my baby who was fussing a bit at all the noise.

Jemima raised such a clamor as the other women tried to get her settled that the midwife soon appeared without anyone going to fetch her. News travels fast in our little neighborhood, and Jemima had been complaining for days, so I’m sure the midwife had been anticipating our call. Though she snubbed us in the streets, we paid her well enough, so she had no problem helping us when we might need her. Truthfully though, we hardly needed her at all.

Jemima’s labor was no easier or worse than normal–though that’s not the story she tells. They say you forget all about the pain once you see your little one’s face, but Jemima swore she would never forget one moment of the pain her little boy put her through. Still, she was just as enamored with her new son as I was with mine. It was just her way to complain and let her voice be heard.

“Another boy,” commented the midwife as she cleaned herself and made ready to leave. “You know, I’m sure I could find a home for either or both of these two lads if you decide they’re too much for you.”

Jemima and I both stared in horror at the old woman, clutching our babes to our chests. Though I wanted to screech at the nosy biddy, I said, (as politely as I could), “Though we appreciate your help with our births, you can go now.”

Jemima felt no reason to be polite. “Just get on out of here with your idea of help! You think just because we’re not rich or respectable women that we can’t raise our sons to be fine men.”

The midwife shrugged, unperturbed by our reactions. “Raising children is not cheap or easy. And there’s plenty who would be eager to raise a healthy son. If you change your minds, you know where to find me.”

I continued to hug my Seled so close that he began to squirm. I made myself relax my grip before he began crying. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the midwife’s offer, but it scared me somehow. I knew people would think we had no business raising children, but this was my baby, and no one could take him from me.

Part 3 coming on Tuesday.

“My Name is Hadesh” part 1 by P.M. Gilmer

This is the story of Hadesh, to be told in eight parts. 

I grew up in the city of Jerusalem during the days of King Solomon. I know some people only think of King Solomon as the man who built the temple and had so many wives, but I will always remember him for the wisdom and kindness he showed to me when others would have thrown me out or ignored me or even laughed at me.

I hope you won’t stop reading when I tell you what I did for a living or think any less of King Solomon for helping me. It might help if I tell you a bit of my own story first.

My father threw me out of our home when I was only six. My mother had just given birth to another daughter, and when my father learned he now had eight daughters, he picked me up and told me it was time I learned to care for myself. He was a very superstitious man, my father, and thought if having daughters could be lucky at all, he could have no more than seven. Why he didn’t just kill my baby sister, I don’t know, except he never seemed to like me. I felt I reminded him of something bad, but I never knew what. Two of my older sisters brought me food for a few days, but soon enough, they got caught, and then I was truly on my own.

I won’t go into the days and years I spent just trying to survive as that is not the point of my story. Suffice it to say, I survived the best way I could, and it wasn’t long before I was selling my body for something to eat. I made friends on the street, and by the time I was twelve, I was living in a house with three other women: Zebidah, Hoglah, and Jemimah. Jemimah and I were of a similar age, but Zebidah and Hoglah were several years older. They mothered us a bit (bossed us more like), but it felt good to have others in my life. Our life was hard, but we worked together, and usually, we could count on each other. But not always.

At almost fourteen, I found myself pregnant. Jemimah, too, discovered she was with child. It may sound foolish, but it excited us both to think of having our own baby. I promised myself, and the LORD God, that I would take care of this little one, and he would always know his mother’s love. No matter what.


Part Two coming Saturday.