My Largest Trout (so far)

Saturday the 12th was my first chance to go ice fishing this season. Higher Ground Pond was high on the list of place to go since we had such good luck there during the summer and fall and it was now open for fishing year round.

A rainy Friday night had turned into a warm and foggy Saturday morning. This hills around the pond were shrouded in fog and cloud giving the place a surreal appearance. We discovered about 5 to 6 inches of solid ice with a layer of wet, slushy snow on top. We were not happy about the wet conditions but were happy the ice was thick enough to be safe.

Jack and I had one flag over the course of five hours, but it was a good strike. We arrived at the tip-up to see the reel spinning like crazy. Jack was kind enough to let me try and land the fish. I waited until the fish was on its second run and had turned direction before trying to hook it and haul it in. It turned out to be a 22 inch, 4 1/2 pound Brown Trout. This is the largest trout have ever caught in my life (so far). As luck would have it, I forgot my video camera at home and all I had was a low quality phone camera.

22 inch Brown Trout
22 inch Brown Trout caught January 12th, 2013.

The Eaters of the Dead / The 13th Warrior

The 13th Warrior is one of my favorite movies. I recently discovered that it is based on a book by Michael Crichton named Eaters of the Dead. Upon reading the book I discovered it was unique because of the way it was inspired and written. Crichton tells us in the factual notes section that “it was conceived by a dare.” Crichton’s friend, Kurt Villadsun, claimed that the epic poem Beowulf is a boring tale. Crichton disagrees and feels “it is a dramatic, exciting story – and he could prove it.” (pg. 143)

The way Crichton writes the story is also unique. The first three chapters are based on actual historical account of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who was a “10th century traveler” and ambassador that traveled from Baghdad north to the Volga River to the land of the “Volga Vikings.” It is in the third chapter that ibn Fadlan describes the funeral of a chieftan, which included a human sacrifice. In the fourth chapter Crichton picks up the story after the funeral and takes ibn Fadlan on a fictional journey with 12 other Norseman on a mission to protect a kingdom from “creatures from the mist.” Much like Beowulf defends a mead hall under attack from the monster Grendel, ibn Fadlan and the 12 Norseman defend a king’s mead hall from the “mist monsters.” Ibn Fadlan’s perspective as an outsider to Norseman culture gives him a unique viewpoint to narrate the story.

I would say that Crichton is correct that he can tell a story with the same basic plot concept as Beowulf  and make it very entertaining if written for the modern reader. It is the fact that Beowulf is written in Alliterative verse that makes it “boring” or difficult to read for the modern reader. Eaters of the Dead and The 13th Warrior use a similar plot and drama elements as Beowulf and are very entertaining stories. I noticed the movie Outlander is a variation of the same plot where an outsider (from space) joins a group of warriors to defend a mead hall (and its people) from a monster (also from space) to give the story a nice sci-fi twist.

I really enjoyed Crichton’s introduction to Eaters of the Dead where he explains the history of “ibn Fadlan manuscript” and the various sources that experts have assembled to produce the modern translation of his journey and observations. He tells us the manuscript “is the earliest known eyewitness account of Viking life and society.” (pg. 7) He goes on to explain “the original manuscript has long since disappeared, and to reconstruct it we must rely on partial fragments preserved in later sources.” (pg. 7) Much of the original report is gone forever and I suppose we are lucky to have the fragments we do have.

2012 Reading List

I enjoyed the opportunity to do a lot of reading in 2012. Although I read 52 books it was a short list of authors, with two of them being new discoveries to me.

Plot it YourselfI continued on my quest to read all of the Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout. So far I am up to the book Too Many Clients, which is the 34th in the series and published in 1960. Some of the better stories involve Wolfe doing things totally out of character like leaving the house, disappearing or going on a long trip. Wolfe actually disappeared and went undercover in the book, In the Best Families. He lost lots of weight and changed his appearance while going undercover in his efforts to defeat crime boss Arnold Zeck. Wolfe and Archie actually traveled to Wolfe’s homeland of Montenegro in the book, The Black Mountain. Plot it Yourself was a notable story since the mystery involved the book publishing industry. The plot led to discussion of Wolf’s reading habits. Archie comments that Wolfe reads about 200 books a year. That’s a lot of time reading!

I discovered Bernard Cornwell in 2012 and read 21 of his novels (so far). I have always enjoyed good historical fiction that we well researched and I have no doubt that Cornwell did his research before writing his stories.The Saxon series was so good that I read all of them in addition to several other historical fiction series by Cornwell. Cornwell is best known for his “Richard Sharpe” series, which is about a British soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. To date, there are 24 books in the series. So far I have read through “Sharpe’s Gold” which is the ninth book in the series. I plan to read more of this series in 2013.

The Historical Notes section at the end of each book has given me a theme for several Blog articles this year. I love the fact that he discussed the actual historical events and explains what aspects of the story are fiction and what actually happened. He also discussed various theories about events and directs readers to good non-fiction reading and research resources.

It was not until December when I tried my first William Dietrich novel. I started with Napoleon’s Pyramids, which is the first book in the Ethan Gage series. It did not take many pages before I was hooked. These novels take place in the late seventeen hundreds during Napoleon’s Egyptian military campaign and scientific expedition. Ethan Gage is an American and student of Benjamin Franklin. Gage also has woodsman and and combat experience on the American frontier, which helps him out of many dangerous situations. Much like Cornwell, Dietrich features an historical notes section at the end of each book, which is very educational.

Napoleons PyramidsBetween the Richard Sharpe novels and William Dietrich novels I have learned quite a bit about the Napoleonic era. Sharpe’s adventures at Trafalgar and in Portugal and Spain inspired me to do background research about the actual historical events and even write several Blog posts about the books. The William Dietrich novels inspired me to read more about Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt and “The Levant” (the eastern Mediterranean). Sharpe’s Prey led me to learn more about the Battle of Copenhagen (1807). Sharpe’s Rifles, Sharpe’s Eagle and Sharpe’s Gold inspired me to research the Peninsular War.

  1. Black Orchids – Rex Stout
  2. Tarzan of the Apes – Edgar Rice Burroughs
  3. The Silent Speaker – Rex Stout
  4. Education of a Wandering Man – Louis L’amour
  5. Too Many Women – Rex Stout
  6. And Be a Villain – Rex Stout
  7. The Thief – Clive Cussler
  8. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  9. The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell
  10. A Pale Horseman – Bernard Cornwell
  11. Lords of the North – Bernard Cornwell
  12. Sword Song – Bernard Cornwell
  13. The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell
  14. Death of Kings – Bernard Cornwell
  15. The Storm – Clive Cussler
  16. Trouble in Triplicate – Rex Stout
  17. The Second Confession – Rex Stout
  18. Three Doors to Death– Rex Stout
  19. In the Best Families – Rex Stout
  20. Murder by the Book – Rex Stout
  21. Triple Jeopardy – Rex Stout
  22. The Archer’s Tale – Bernard Cornwell
  23. Vagabond – Bernard Cornwell
  24. Heretic – Bernard Cornwell
  25. Prisoner’s Base (British title Out Goes She) – Rex Stout
  26. Sharpe’s Tiger – Bernard Cornwell
  27. Sharpe’s Triumph – Bernard Cornwell
  28. Sharpe’s Fortress – Bernard Cornwell
  29. Agincourt – Bernard Cornwell
  30. Three Men Out – Rex Stout
  31. The Tombs – Clive Cussler
  32. Sharpe’s Trafalgar – Bernard Cornwell
  33. The Black Mountain – Rex Stout
  34. The Winter King – Bernard Cornwell
  35. Sharpe’s Prey – Bernard Cornwell
  36. Enemy of God – Bernard Cornwell
  37. Sharpe’s Rifles – Bernard Cornwell
  38. Excalibur – Bernard Cornwell
  39. Poseidon’s Arrow – Clive & Dirk Cussler
  40. Might As Well Be Dead – Rex Stout
  41. Three for the Chair – Rex Stout
  42. The Hobbit (In preparation for the movie) – J.R.R. Tolkien
  43. Four to Go – Rex Stout
  44. Champagne for One – Rex Stout
  45. Sharpe’s Havoc – Bernard Cornwell
  46. Plot it Yourself – Rex Stout
  47. Sharpe’s Eagle – Bernard Cornwell
  48. Napoleon’s Pyramids – William Dietrich
  49. The Rosetta Key – William Dietrich
  50. Sharpe’s Gold – Bernard Cornwell
  51. The Dakota Cipher – William Dietrich
  52. Too Many Clients – Rex Stout