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Category: Book Reviews

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Tolkien And WelshBuy Tolkien And Welsh here

I like this book. It is challenging but accessible, clear and intellectually good fun.  At the outset, the author tells us that this is a “book by a linguist … making the topic accessible to a larger audience.” The truth of this is immediately found in his definition of the traditional Welsh poetic form the cywydd, which consists of a series of seven-syllable lines in rhyming couplets, with all lines written in cynghanedd, a concept of sound-arrangement within one line, using stress, alliteration and rhyme.”

A list of relevant technical definitions that maybe be unfamiliar to the general reader are found upfront, where they are needed and chapter-end notes provide convenient references, additional material and relevant web links. Tolkien aficionados and linguists will be in their natural habitat although, being neither, I was thoroughly at home between the covers. Though not essential, as everything is translated, a familiarity with Welsh is useful, but the native Welsh, novice and monoglot American/English speaker will all find plenty to entertain/inform them, the chapters calling to mind short detective stories with often similarly surprising developments; the whole thing suitable for browsing or immersion.

As to J.R.R. and the Welsh Language, our author lets the Hobbit’s author speak:

 “I find the Welsh Language especially attractive.” At another time Tolkien adds that the Welsh components (of The Lord of the Rings) are what have “given perhaps more pleasure to more readers than anything else in it.” And the quote Welsh people will find most endearing “… even though I first only saw it (Welsh) on coal trucks, I always wanted to know what it was about.”  Wales seems to appear and re-appear like Gandalf the magician, often when you least expect it. For example, even The Hobbit was written while Tolkien was professor of Anglo Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford where his close friend was C.S. Lewis! In his undergraduate days, again at Oxford, Sir John Rhys was his Professor of Celtic Languages. Rhys held some interesting views on his native Welsh, noting that Welsh literature abounds “in allusions to heroes who are usually described with the aid of the mother’s name” such as Gwydion son of Don and Arianrhod daughter of Don.   Apparently, in Wales ’into the nineteenth century, some wives did not change their names when they married, and sons could choose to use their father’s or mother’s name…’ I’ve always thought of Welsh women as founder members of the strong, silent type! Taking this a stage further, the mother of the hero of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, “was the fabulous Belladonna Took…” and there were rumors of a fairy wife in the family; the whole episode reminiscent of the old Welsh Tale Meddygon Myddfai/ The Physicians of Myddfai. The undergrowth thickens as we are reminded that Welsh myth and literature were “part of the ‘leaf mould’ of Tolkien’s mind…”

One of Tolkien’s place-name creations/borrowings Gwynfa is interesting. We learn that it is associated with a dragon as is a real Gwynfa in Wales, this idea being reinforced by reference to the story about Merlin, Vortigern and the white and red dragons fighting; another tale from Cymru. Gwynfa means a holy or white place and by extension paradise. Over the years and by foreign language invasion we are told that Gwynfa became Wenvoe became Whitland. Dinbych (Welsh for Small Fort/Din Bach) became Tenby; Tyndyrn (Welsh for King’s Fort) became Tintern - as in the Abbey - with the original meanings becoming all but lost. What is truly amazing is that Tolkien’s invented languages show the same type of detailed, linguistically logical progression. There are even those amongst us, in the real world of 2012, writing and speaking Elvish!

A little further along, Isaac Taylor is referenced as having said that “the names of important rivers, posse an almost indestructible vitality.” They are a ‘type of linguistic fossil …’ Most of the rivers in the UK carry often modified Celtic names. Take the River Avon for example which is a bilingual tautology: Avon (afon) is Welsh for river. The English apparently didn’t know this, thereby creating the name River River! The River Usk (Latin Isca, Welsh/Irish Wysg [as in whiskey/Water of life]) is again River River. Bree Hill in Tolkien is Hill Hill and even more hilarious to our linguistic brethren we are informed that a local landmark in Tolkien’s youth, Bredon Hill (Celtic/Old English/English), is indeed Hill Hill Hill! It starts you mentally scanning local, real place names to see if you can find Lake Lake or Town Town.  (I found Table Mesa in my area.)

Tolkien’s created personal and family names are no less invested. The likes of Maggot, Boffin of Yale and Took are explained along with real and created family histories going back to pre-Norman days. Castles, prominences and land marks, as in The Carrock, find real-life exemplars in Castell Carreg Cennen and the like; many replete with similar attendant legends. One is left startled by the shear detail and linguistic consistency of Tolkien’s literary creations. Whether tugged on the sleeve by place or personal names, or a compelling story set in a vivid and believable geography, we are more than willing - in fact eager - to fully enter the illusion of Middle Earth.

The Welsh have always been intensely interested in the history and origins of names, both personal and place. This book will have you looking under your verbal beds and up in dusty attics, hoping to find unexpected yet friendly ghosts of meaning in your own lettered heritage and Shire. I can only hope that one of these days the author writes a sequel: A comprehensive account of actual Welsh place and personal names.

Hwyl am y tro/Bye for now, John Good/Sioni Dda.

El Mirage, Arizona.

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Dale and Lucy are two students with an interest in the supernatural. One weekend, they travel to Sker House, South Wales, a private residence with a macabre history which has recently been converted into a seaside inn. They plan to write an article for the university magazine about a supposed haunting, but when they arrive, they meet a landlord who seems to have a lot to hide. Soon, it becomes apparent that all is not well at Sker House. An air of opression hangs over it, the true depth of the mystery going far beyond a mere historical haunting. This is a place where bad things happen, and evil lurks. Little by little Dale and Lucy fall under Sker's dark spell, and as they begin to unravel the secrets of the past, they realize they also have to do battle with the ghosts of the present.

Welcome to Sker House, a place where fact and fiction collide.

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REVIEW



On a recent work trip away in L.A. I took a day off and realised that I was confined to my motel room all day with nothing to read. Or so I thought. Checking my inbox I found a review copy of C.M. Saunders excellent 'Sker House'. I began reading and finished the same day!

It's addictive.... a real page turner. It will not scare the pants off you, although there are some eerie passages earlier on, but, it will keep you massively entertained throughout. Think 'ripping yarn' or 'H.P. Lovecraft meets Indiana Jones'.

The Indiana Jones connection is alluded to at one point in the narrative when the guests and staff of Sker House make their final stand against the other worldly horrors which infest the place:-

“This is beginning to turn into an Indiana Jones movie,” said Lucy, who seemed increasingly unimpressed with all the problem-solving.

“In that case, I hope it doesn't turn into the Last Crusade,” said Dale.

“Why? Does the hero die in that one? I haven't seen it,” said Lucy, feigning interest.

“No. It was just s**t.”

No fear of that! The final scenes, set in the catacombs beneath Sker House, combine comedy and drama with perfect pace to provide a satisfying and thrilling denoument to the creepy capers that precede it.

If you like your ghost stories with a generous side of humor then this book is definitely for you. Sker House landlord James Machen (an allusion, no doubt, to Welsh master of horror fiction, Arthur Machen) entertains us frequently with his wry observations. The alcoholic Welsh landlord, down on his luck and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, reveals the sad story of his associaton with Sker in a series of drunken soliloquies. At one point he asks himself:-

"What was it Richard Burton said? Show a Welshman a million exits and he'll always choose the path to self-destruction. Or was it Anthony Hopkins? Maybe they both said it. Whatever. It sounded about right."

All in all I have no hesitation in recommending Sker House to anyone who has a sense of humor and a taste for the supernatural. With summer vacation time looming this book is a perfect accompaniment for long plane or train journeys and ideal for a lazy day at the beach.



INTERVIEW


C.M. Saunders

AmeriCymru: How would you describe your latest novel, 'Sker House'?

In a nutshell, it's a traditional haunted house story with a contemporary twist and a distinctly Welsh flavour. Sker House is an actual location, near Kenfig on the south Wales coast. When I was a kid I used to go on family holidays to Porthcawl and Sker was a regular haunt, excuse the pun. It was in ruins then – the house been refurbished since – and there was just something about the place. There are loads of local legends and ghost stories connected to it. I thought about it a lot over the years, and always toyed with the idea of writing a book about it. When I was living in China a few years ago I had some time on my hands and decided to tackle the project head-on. During the research phase, I found that the truth is even stranger than the fiction. Of all the historical sites in Wales, Sker House is probably the most deserving of having a fictionalized book written about it. It's also one of the lesser-known sites. One of my aims was to share the story of Sker with a wider audience.

AmeriCymru: You have written many horror shorts for magazines, anthologies etc. What attracts you as a writer you to the horror genre?

I don't really know. It probably comes from being a huge Stephen King fan and being addicted to TV shows like Tales From the Crypt and Outer Limits when I was a kid. If I sit down to write, what comes out is naturally dark. Most of it has a little injection of humour, which unfortunately goes over a lot of people's heads. Writing dark fiction is also a bit of a release. My day job is writing about sport and lifestyle for magazines. I love my job, and consider myself lucky to be able to do what I love for a living, but as with most day jobs, it gets a bit monotonous at times. There's a lot of ticking boxes, writing stuffy corporate stuff, and trying to make uninteresting things sound interesting. My style, and what I write about, is largely dictated by the client or the readers. When I write fiction, I don't write for an audience, I write for myself. That's one reason why I turned to indie publishing a couple of years ago. I like the creative freedom. I control everything from the content and the cover design to the pricing, which has been a big sticking point with publishers in the past who always insisted on pricing my books way too high.

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your 2003 title:- Into the Dragon's Lair: A Supernatural History of Wales?

That was the first book I ever had published. Having left school with no qualifications, I was working in a packing factory in Rhymney. After my shifts I'd go home, research and write about local myths and legends. Partly because I wanted to identify more with Wales, and partly because I was just interested in the subject matter. When people asked what I did in my spare time I'd tell them, but nobody ever thought it would lead to anything, least of all me. I dreamed about being able to leave that factory. After six or seven years work, I polished the manuscript up and sent it out to about a dozen publishers. Most never replied, and the ones that did turned it down. The very last name on the list was a small Welsh publisher called Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, who liked it and agreed to take it on. It caused quite a stir when it came out, there were newspaper and radio interviews for which I was wholly unprepared, but it won the attention of the Welsh Arts Council who got behind it and I ended up getting a grant to go to university as a mature student. Since then, I've had to pinch myself every day. I am living proof that if you put your heart and soul into something, you can achieve anything.

AmeriCymru: You are also a Cardiff City fan and you have written a history of the club. Care to tell us a little more about this?

That was something I started when I was in university, again as a kind of pet project just because I wanted to know more about the club. Their history is fascinating. They are the only club to ever take the FA Cup out of England, and remain the only football club in the world to ever hold the national cups of two different countries at the same time by winning the Welsh cup the same year (1927). There's a great old photo of the then-captain, Fred Keenor, with the FA Cup in one hand a fag in the other. How the game has changed!

It's not always enjoyable, but supporting Cardiff is never boring. The first game I ever saw was a 1-1 draw with Barnet in the old Fourth Division in 1992 (I think), and I went down to Ninian Park quite regularly until I moved away in 2003. I finished the book in 2007, but couldn't find a publisher for it at the time. Then, when the club won promotion to the Premier League in 2012/13, I had another go and lo and behld, there was more interest this time around.

AmeriCymru: What's next for C.M. Saunders. Any new titles in the works?

I took a huge leap recently and scaled down my day job to pursue fiction. Not 100% of the time, but now I do about half and half. I thought if I don't do it now, I never will. I have a new novella coming out in the summer called No Man's Land, a horror story set in the trenches of World War I. It's the centeniery of the Battle of the Somme, so I'm planning on giving the proceeds to a veteran's charity. My main project at the moment is an adventure series for young adults about a character called Joshua Wyrdd, who finds a magic amulet in a rock pool in Anglesey which transports him through time. I've always been a history buff. The books are written in such a way that they aren't just adventure stories, but are also at least partially historically accurate, so they can be used as educational tools for kids. The first book is about the Roman invasion of Angelsey and the Final Battle they had there with the Celts and the druids, while the second is about pirates and sea monsters and the third will be about the witch trials.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

The bond Welsh people have, wherever in the world they travel, is something that never ceases to amaze me. If I ever see a Welsh jersey in a random bar in Hong Kong, or anywhere else, I know I'm looking at a friend. We just seem to have an affinity with each other, and that is something to be cherished. I'd also like to thank Americymru, and it's members, for all their support. It truly means everything. Diolch!

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This is a great read! It has every variety of chase sequence that 19th century technology will allow, black magic, voodoo and even zombies! I have often thought that Shakespeare suffers from a lack of zombies but Owen Parry knows that good literature cannot be without them.

This is the sixth book in a series that features Major Abel Jones, Welshman, British army and American Civil War veteran and investigator extraordinaire. As ever, Major Jones is directly commissioned by Abraham Lincoln and in this instance his mission is to investigate the murder of Susan Peabody, a Northern abolitionist, in New Orleans in 1863.

Owen Parry`s works have been described elsewhere as "well-researched entertainments" and it is difficult to resist his vivid depiction of war-torn New Orleans. The city is imbued with an atmosphere of decadence, mystery and intrigue which acts as a perfect foil for Major Jones' swashbuckling adventures.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of these books is the character of Jones himself. Jones is in many ways a stereotypical 19th century Welsh Methodist, albeit with an almost superhuman gift for self-preservation. He is aloof, self-righteous, judgemental and pompous almost to the point of arrogance. He never misses a chance to air his prejudices, particularly where the Irish are concerned. But for all that he is a likeable character who frequently fails to live up to his own very high standards and is entirely capable of self-criticism.

This book is a first class entertainment for the lover of historical fiction and an ideal companion for a long journey.

Owen Parry is a nom-de-plume of Ralph Peters who writes about political and military matters under his own name. Whatever one may think of the political opinions expressed in his more serious works, it is undeniable that he is a fine writer of historical adventures. It is also difficult not to sympathise with the sentiments expressed in the dedication to "Faded Coat of Blue" ( 2002 ),one of the earlier Abel jones mysteries:-

"To the Welsh, Scots, and Irish who built America while the English weren`t looking"

Faded Coat of Blue 2002

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surfing-through-minefields

From our interview with Bel Roberts:- "Surfing Through Minefields belongs to the hybrid genre ‘reality fiction’. I have set the story in a fictional contemporary comprehensive school in Monmouth and have researched the facts surrounding the Senghenydd Pit disaster of 1913 in such a way that the history of the event is seen from the prospective of a modern teenager and by the residents of an old people’s home who have actual mementos of the tragic event. The heroine, Lauren, is an English teenager sent to stay with her grandmother in Wales while her parents sort out their various problems." ...read more here

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This is the story of a teenage girl coming to terms with her parents divorce. To complicate matters she is sent away to live in Monmouth, a small town on the Welsh border so she must also adapt to a new school and learn to make new friends a long way from her former home.

The book touches on many themes that you might expect in a teenage ''coming of age'' novel. Lauren''s early experiences with the opposite sex, school bullying and racism all form part of this well paced and lively story. In the course of a meeting with her Welsh grandmother at a convalescent home she learns that a distant relative ( her grandmothers half brother ) was a victim of the Senghenydd mining disaster on October 14th 1913. The following day at school she learns that she must pick a GCSE coursework assignment and decides that she will write on the Universal Colliery disaster and consult with her grandmother for personal recollections and details of this catastrophic event.

The rest of the book interweaves her historical research with her day to day efforts to cope with her life and circumstances in a rich and compelling narrative which will appeal to many adult readers as powerfully as it will to its intended teenage audience.

In the course of her researches Lauren unearths many interesting snippets of information from the newspapers of the time:-

"Today His Majesty King George V sent his condolences to the bereaved families of Senghenydd in The Rhymney Valley, South Wales and expressed his genuine shock at the scale of the disaster. He regretted that he could not visit the scene of the disaster immediately, as he was currently involved in the marriage celebrations of Prince Arthur of Connaught and the Duchess of Fife."

"Many of the bodies show horrific burns and other forms of mutilation but most of those awaiting identification are decomposing fast and should be laid to rest with dignity. One young boy hardly in his teens was identified by his new boots, worn for the first time on that fateful morning, another by a champagne cork, a treasured souvenir rescued from the pit owner’s garden and carried as a lucky omen."

It is clear throughout that Bel Roberts has thoroughly researched her historical subject matter and this is to be commended when you remember that the few books on the tragedy are either difficult or nearly impossible to obtain ( both W. H. Davies Ups And Downs and John H. Brown''s Valley Of The Shadow are referenced in the text )

In conclusion this is a book with the potential to delight readers of all ages. Whether you are interested in the problems confronting teenagers growing to maturity in modern society or with the details of Wales and Britains'' worst colliery disaster this book has something for you. An unreserved thumbs up and 5 star recommendation.


Bird,Blood, Snow by Cynan Jones from the Seren New Stories From The Mabinogion series Bird,Blood,Snow was published in paperback on 1st November 2012, priced 8.99 ( GBP )

Award winning Welsh writer Cynan Jones pens the latest addition to Seren''s critically acclaimed series:- New Stories From The Mabinogion

Read our interview with Cynan Jones

Other Titles by Cynan Jones

The Long Dry Everything I Found At The Beach

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As befits any retelling of the Mabinogion ''Peredur'' story this is a grim and sanguinary tale. The original revolves around the hero''s attempts to win favour and esteem at the medieval court of King Arthur.

In re-imagining this myth for a contemporary audience Cynan Jones has adopted for his hero the juvenile terror and scourge of a modern council estate. No mere ASBO, we follow with horror as Peredur graduates from juvenile delinquency to the status of full blown adult psychopath. In the Afterword Cynan speculates that ''Peredur'' is an early, fragmentary and unfinished example of the medieval questing tale. Consequently the story is related by means of a series of testimonies, police and psychiatric reports and occasional press clippings. There is also a sprinkling of handwritten notes left by the protagonist and excerpts from an unnamed ''biographer'' who has ".....hijacked Peredur, tried to mythologise him".

These different perspectives are woven together skilfully to ensure a seemless narrative flow which is never jarring or disconsonant.

At age eight Peredur is the topic du jour at a local police planning conference:-

"All growed up. Oh well. At least he''s livened things up a bit. We were in need of some entertainment....what do you do with a f****** eight year old who sticks a f****** stick in someone''s eye?"

Later in his career of infamy he is interviewed by his biographer and reveals that:-

"...You can get a person all slopey with a collar bone, easy with something heavy. Not highly technical. Good, satisfying crunch when they go. Ribs are tricky. Sometimes they go, sometimes they dont. You kind of know when you''ve popped a lung though; easily confused mind with a cracked sternum: either way f****** cant breath."

The attempt to mythologize and romanticize Peredur referred to in the opening letter to the editor consists of a series of psuedo Nietzschean ramblings which, whilst they may throw some light on the internal workings of a diseased mind, do very little to make the character any more sympathetic:-

"Usually people make peace with the world and work out compromises so that the two will not hurt each other badly.

Well, some few do not make peace. And some of these are locked away as hopelessly insane and full of fantasy.

I know full well I choose now, one way or another, whether to climb aboard, let myself be spun up in my delusion: in the speed and whirl of it. Let the world of my merry go round turn into a blur. It''s all choice. That''s what the sane sometimes don''t recognize....."

All in all this is a ghastly tale superbly well told. Not for the squeamish it is a must read for anyone with a taste for Welsh noir.It might also serve as a reminder to some that the tales of the Mabinogion have little to do with unicorns, fairy tale castles and damsels in distress.They are often accounts of ghastly and murderous events justified by a barbaric pre Roman, dark age and medieval warrior ideology. And of course.....none the worse for that.

Review by Ceri Shaw


Book Details


Bird, Blood, Snow


The eighth installment in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series transforms a classic tale into a modern Quixotian romp.


Written by: Cynan Jones

Published by: Seren

Date published: 2013-01-01

ISBN: 1854115898


Available in Paperback





A Christmas Carol Revisited - Phil Rowlands

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"Ebenezer Clinton Scrooge III presides over a vast media empire from his base in New York City but this Christmas Eve his world is about to descend into chaos. At the centre of the nightmare is a girl with auburn hair." A 21st century re-imagining of the Dickens classic by Welsh writer Phil Rowlands.

Buy A Christmas Carol Revisited here'

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Charles Dickens ''A Christmas Carol'' was an enormously popular and influential book. Indeed there are those who claim that many of our current Christmas traditions and observances are directly attributable to its influence. However that may be ( and you can read more on that subject here and here ) Welsh author Phil Rowlands has gifted us with a mdern re-imagining of this classic tale and a superb seasonal read.

''A Christmas Tale Revisited'' does not concern itself to follow the structure of the Dickens original. Instead of five 'staves' it is written in four parts and there are many departures from the original story line. It does, however, perfectly preserve the spirit of the original. An attempt has also been made to imitate the style of Dickensian prose which, in this reviewers opinion, adds to the books charm.

We first encounter our modern day Scrooge being driven to his luxury NY penthouse apartment in his chauffer driven limousine :-

"Through tinted windows Ebenezer Clinton Scrooge III watched the bustling side-walk crowds slip silently into the waiting night like shadowy grey wraiths spirited away on a bitter December wind. The gaudy festive lights served only to emphasize their desperate anonymity. Scrooge leaned back into the plush leather upholstery of the limousine, comforted by the fact that he no longer needed to mingle with the madding crowd."

Upon arriving home to discover a ''common beggar'' on his doorstep Scrooge reveals his take on the Christmas spirit:-

"He smiled, this was no hired assassin sent on a mission to destroy, only a common beggar chancing his arm, or what remained of it. A diseased symptom of the times. New York was infested with such hopeless individuals seeking solace or oblivion in alcohol or drugs, authors of their own destruction, and as such deserving of no sympathy or special favors. Still, they never usually surfaced in this district preferring instead to haunt the more stagnant cess-pits of the city. Perhaps the fact it was Christmas Eve had emboldened this particular specimen into venturing further afield in the false hope that honest citizens would be more inclined to lunatic displays of charity many being so imbued with festive spirits they would carelessly part with their hard earned dollars."

In the course of the many visitations and revelations which follow, Scrooge''s miserly worldview is shaken to the core and his ultimate transformation and redemption are assured. It is a major strength of this book that we learn much of the forces and circumstances which moulded Scrooge''s character and made him what he became. In many ways he was a victim of the same uncaring and callous attitudes which he espouses at the beginning of the story. But, to reveal any more detail would be to spoil the plot.

Phil Rowlands has created a Mr Bah Humbug for the 21st century in Ebenezer Clinton Scrooge III and his story is as pitiful and ultimately heart warming as that of his nineteenth century predecessor. In short, whether it be for your own reading pleasure or as a Christmas gift we cannot recommend "A Christmas Carol Revisited" too highly.

Ceri Shaw

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Demons Walk Amongst Us

The second Thomas Oscendale novel, following the success of ''The Dead of Mametz''.

Fresh from the horrors of the Great War on the Western front, military policeman Thomas Oscendale is enjoying leave in his South Wales hometown when he is drawn into the investigation of the savage murder of a war widow.

Buy Demons Walk Amongst Us here

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"Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it''s a letdown, they won''t buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book."   MICKEY SPILLANE

On the basis of the above analysis Jonathan Hicks successfully sold me on both. Beginning as it does in the hell that was Gallipoli we are thrown straight into the horror and drama of WWI. But as if that were not enough to contend with Thomas Oscendale''s leave is taken up with the investigation of a series of grisly murders in his home town of Barry, south Wales. Why are war widows being burned alive and what is the connection with the sinister Major Lucas?

The plot takes many surprising twists and turns before reaching it''s entirely unexpected denouement and the battlefield descriptions  are powerful and harrowing.

At one point Oscendale is picked up by a tank crew in no man''s land. He accompanies them as they assault the German lines:-


''The tank jolted along, lifting and falling with the rise and fall of the ground. After hitting his head on a piece of metal again he curled up into a foetal-like ball with his hands over his head and waited for it all to stop. He knew he was safer in here than he had been lying out in the open but he was aware he was still in mortal danger.

There was a loud bang on the right hand side of the tank and he felt it slew to the left, but to his relief they kept going. Seconds later another anti-tank round hit the right-hand side again and a piece of metal as big as a fist flew across to the other side, catching one of the crew in the head. He saw the man fall screaming to the floor, his hands covering the bloody pulp of what had been his face.''


Amidst the carnage Oscendale struggles to solve the series of interconnected murders that link his hometown to the battlefront.

This book will appeal to lovers of both crime and historical fiction. It combines a first rate murder mystery with a realistic and gruesome account of the effects of mechanised warfare. Not to be missed!

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From the authors blog:- "My publishers at Taylor Street were looking for someone to write about a haunted house. The series "American Horror Story" and the film "The Woman in Black" had hit American audiences in a big way. American Horror Story, with its creepy characters, perverse subplots and psychotic undertones, and The Woman in Black with its eerie atmosphere and dark isolation, had turned the haunted house genre around in the public mind, putting it firmly back on the map. I knew I simply couldn''t copy those two films; it had to be set somewhere different, remote and unrelated. So, ingeniously, (well not really, as we''d just returned from a family holiday in my home town), I decided to set in North Wales during World War Two."

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The House In Wales is Richard Rhys Jones second book; his first The Division of the Damned was a novel about Nazi Vampires in World War Two. Recently released in paperback we learn that the book was written partly in response to the box office success of recent blockbuster ''haunted house'' movies , ''American Horror Story'' and ''The Woman In Black''.

The plot revolves around an evacuee who has been relocated to a lonely vicarage in the hills above Colwyn Bay after his mother is killed in a wartime bombing raid on Liverpool. Daniel Kelly soon realises that all is not well at his new home and that the ''Vicar'', his sinister housekeeper Miss Trimble and the even more sinister Irish Wolfhound Astaroth have plans for him. In the course of avoiding a grisly fate at their hands Daniel is visited by a succession of ghosts, including his dead mother as he feverishly strives to piece together the true nature of the house''s dark secret.

The writing is taut and well paced and the atmosphere is sinister and threatening throughout. The depraved and manipulative relationship between the ''Reverend'' and Miss Trimble is particularly well described. Neither is a sympathetic character and it becomes apparent that they deserve both each other and their ultimate common fate.

This is a book that will recommend itself to all dedicated horror fans. With lashings of delicious depravity and gratuitous gore it is not for the squeamish but if you are looking for a new take on the haunted house/satanic rituals meme then this book is definitely for you. Personally I hope there is a sequel and I am looking forward to whatever comes next from the pen of Richard Rhys Jones. If this was Amazon I''d give it 5 stars.

I should add that we are delighted to announce that Richard Rhys Jones has contributed an original short story to our bi-annual anthology of Welsh fiction - eto. The story, The Left Eye will appear in eto issue two later this month.

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After an initial blaze of glory, during which they became (and still remain) the only non-English club ever to win the coveted FA Cup and came within a whisker of winning the old First Division title, Cardiff City began a slow, painful descent down the footballing hierarchy, into relative obscurity.. Sometimes, however, miracles do happen.

Buy From The Ashes here

Following Cardiff City's historic promotion to the Premier league it is only to be expected that the team will attract more international attention and publicity. Indeed. this season both Cardiff City and their local arch rivals, Swansea City ( promoted in 2011), will be enjoying a bonanza of promotion courtesy of NBC who are broadcasting 380 live matches after securing Premier League broadcasting rights from ESPN and Fox Sports. Premier league sides have been allocated areas in New York and NY Taxis are sporting the teams colors and logos in a bid to increase viewing figures. Cardiff City got Brooklyn and The Swans got the Upper West Side.

Against this background Christian Saunders new book could not be more timely. 'From The Ashes' is an easily readable and enjoyable account of City's more than one hundred year history which charts the rise, fall and rebirth of the side from its humble beginnings in 1899. It doubles as a superb reference work with full accounts of fixtures, results and team personnel for every season from the earliest days to the present.

City's early glory days ended soon after 1927 when they won the F.A. Cup and the team spent a long time in the doldrums till a succession of inspired owners and managers led them back to the top of the English football league system. This is the story which is recounted in painstaking detail in Christian Saunders book.

Wikipedia has this to say about Cardiff's historic 1927 F.A. Cup final win:-

"On St George's Day, 23 April 1927, at Wembley Stadium in London, the FA Cup was taken out of England for the first time when Cardiff City beat Arsenal 1–0 in the Final, cult hero Hughie Ferguson scoring the only goal of the game.

In the 74th minute, collecting a throw from the right by George MacLachlan, Ferguson hurried a tame shot toward the Arsenal goal. Dan Lewis, the Arsenal goalkeeper, appeared to collect the ball but, under pressure from the advancing Len Davies, clumsily allowed the ball to roll through his grasp. In a desperate attempt to retrieve the ball Lewis only succeeded in knocking the ball with his elbow into his own net."

Ernie Curtis, the 19 year old centre-wing said of the goal:

"I was in line with the edge of the penalty area on the right when Hughie Ferguson hit the shot which Arsenal's goalie had crouched down for a little early. The ball spun as it travelled towards him, having taken a slight deflection so he was now slightly out of line with it. Len Davies was following the shot in and I think Dan must have had one eye on him. The result was that he didn't take it cleanly and it squirmed under him and over the line. Len jumped over him and into the net, but never actually touched it."

It is believed that this cup final attracted one of the highest audiences ever, as it was the first to be broadcast by BBC Radio. Captain Fred Keenor received the FA Cup trophy from King George V only 7 years after Cardiff City had entered the Football League and six seasons since they had been promoted to the top division.

The South Wales News reported the historic win in the following terms:-

"To the people (of Wales) it was more than a struggle between two teams: it was a struggle between two nations. This may not be exactly logical but sentiment transcends logic. So this years Cup Final will remain in consideration a Welsh victory."

Today Wales is represented in the Premier League by two excellent sides ( Cardiff and Swansea ) and any true Welshman will wish them both well. Christian Saunders entertaining and informative book is the history of one of them, Cardiff City; arguably the biggest football club in Wales and the only Welsh side to bring the F.A. Cup home to from England. A 'must read' for all Cardiff City and Welsh football fans.

Try our Cardiff City FC quiz below. Download Cardiff City Football Club Quiz Answers here

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QUESTIONS



1. Cardiff City Football Club began life in 1899 as ......?

A. Riverside AFC

B. Splott AFC

C. Grangetown AFC

D. Llandaff AFC

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2. What was the name of the City captain who accepted the F.A. Cup from King George V?

A. Willie Davis

B. Fred Keenor

C. Jack Nicholls

D. Edgar Thomas

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3. City were drawn against which team in the semi-final of the 2010 playoffs. Was it....?

A. Blackpool

B. Nottingham Forest

C. Newcastle

D. Leicester

...

4. The first competitive game in Cardiff City's new stadium was played on 8th August 2009. Which team did they play?

A. Plymouth

B. Scunthorpe

C. Watford

D. Middlesborough

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5. City won their first competitive match in the new stadium BUT what was the scoreline?

A. 4-0

B. 3-2

C. 3-0

D. 3-1

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6. What is the capacity of the new Cardiff City stadium?

A. 26,000

B. 27,000

C. 28,000

D. 30,000

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7. 'I'll Be There' ( video below ) is a song unique to Cardiff City fans. It was first sung in 1926 at the time of the General Strike.

A. True

B. False

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8. How much did Sam Hammam pay to secure the transfer of Leo Fortune-West from Rotherham United in 2000? Was it......?

A. 400,000

B. 250,000

C. 300,000

D. 500,000

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9. In the 2012-2013 season City only conceded 45 goals beating their previous record of 51. True or False?

A. True

B. False

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10. In the 2012-2013 season City won 25 League games beating their previous best of 22. True or False?

A. True

B. False



the-llawnt-williams

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Examines the life and work of the Rev. Robert Williams (1810-1881), a Celtic scholar and antiquary who was born in Conwy, Wales, and spent most of his working life as a rural clergyman and private tutor at Rhydycroesau (formerly Llawnt Ucha), near Oswestry. The book uses his diary and his correspondence with other Celtic scholars to reveal the extent of his Welsh and Cornish studies, and to bring to life the man behind the scholar and cleric.

Buy ''The Llawnt Williams'' here

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The Rev. Robert Williams lived the quiet and uneventful life of a mid nineteenth century cleric and this book which relies heavily on his diaries does much to illustrate the lifestyle. What is significant about Robert Williams however, is that he wrote three books in his time, two of them important contributions to 19th century and contemporary Celtic studies.

Such was his devotion to his scholarly pursuits that he may occasionally have neglected his pastoral duties. We learn that during his time at Rhydycroesau ( where he preached for forty years ):-


"It was said by some that his stock of sermons was limited, and seldom increased; that he went through the series about once a year, and then turning over the batch would begin again. Some of the old folks used to say, on coming out of the church, "Oh, we''ve heard that sermon afore, many a time."


This is not to suggest that he was a poor parish priest and his diaries afford numerous examples of his dedication to his parishioners. Nonetheless it is difficult to avoid the impression that he was overwhelmingly preoccupied with his scholarly pursuits.

His magnum opus was undoubtedly the Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum. Although Roberts has been criticised for allowing himself to be ''misled by Welsh analogy'' in the compilation of this 400 page reference work. It has also been said that his dictionary was ''a great advance toward the preservation of the ancient tongue'' and that it was the most ''painstaking and thorough presentation of Cornish as then known''.

Derek Williams has gifted us with a masterful account of the life of an important and much neglected Celtic scholar. This short book also sheds significant light on the composition of Williams major works and in particular on the Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum. Essential reading for all serious students of Celtic Studies.

Free digital versions of the Rev. Robert Williams works can be found below:-

Enwogion Cymru: A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Welshmen

Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum

The History and Antiquities of the Town of Aberconwy

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Christ Church at Rhydycroesau. The Rev. Robert Williams Preached Here For Forty Years

Christ Church at Rhydycroesau - geograph.org.uk - 325803

Peter Craine [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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