Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Epic Bookshelf: Bartle Bull

As an avid reader, I find it very rare that the cover art of a novel has anything significantly to do with the book's content. I find it even more rare when the cover art perfectly evokes both the period and the style put forth by the author. Such is the case with the marvelous works of fiction written by New York attorney, former Village Voice publisher and Explorers Club member Bartle Bull. I really don't have to write about these books. The covers tell you all you need to know.

Bull's work is in the form of five historical novels, with slightly overlapping characters. The first set of books is a trilogy beginning with The White Rhino Hotel, a story about British expatriate Anton Rider who, as a young man, leaves an orphaned childhood to make a life for himself in Africa as a big game hunter and guide. In Africa, Ryder collects an exotic group of friends, falls in love, faces exotic dangers, and learns that there is perhaps more to the remainder of his life than stalking the wild places. The characterization and settings of The White Rhino Hotel are lush and striking. The plotting is sophisticated and captivating. Even Bull's description of the meals his characters eat is perfect. Not to mention his "I want to go there" bars. And the sparingly utilized but vivid sex scenes. When the Great War breaks out at the end of White Rhino, the reader cannot wait to see what will become of Ryder and his friends.

Luckily, the reader does not have long to wait. Bull followed up his strong debut in White Rhino Hotel with A Cafe On The Nile and The Devil's Oasis which complete the Ryder saga in a fast paced, engrossing and fulfilling manner. Reading the Ryder trilogy is akin to having a fine meal late at night in a far away place with a gorgeous and exotic stranger you will never see again. A unique experience that you never forget.

Except that with Bartle Bull, you get another chance to experience his richly crafted adventures, this time in China after the fall of Imperial Russia. His fourth book, Shanghai Station, introduces us to White Russian Count Alex Karlov. Karlov escapes the fall of the Czar as a young man with only the clothes on his back, a strong sense of family and national history, and his little sister in tow. While trying to keep himself and his sister alive, Karlov, like Ryder, manages to learn and captivate a foreign land. The difference is that Karlov has this little problem with Communist assassins that complicate his efforts a bit. The equally fine volume China Star completes the Karlov story.

These are escapist adventures for grown-ups. With grown-up characters, issues and themes. Set in worlds where violence, evil and sadness are not only present, but lurking just outside the fire light. Worlds where honor, loyalty and character provide an edge by which the just eventually prevail. Just the antidote for the pablum which is foisted upon us as adult fiction by most of the media world today. Just the antidote also for the news broadcasts one sees every day.

I cannot say enough about the quality of these five books or about how much enjoyment they brought me when I read them. The first time. I have read them more than once. Imagine my delight when I learned that Bull had also written a grand history of Safari hunting which is recognized as the modern classic on the subject. Merely titled Safari, A Chronicle Of Adventure, this book teaches the reader about the glory and tragedy of the Safari era. The marvelous illustrations are worth the price of the book alone.

Summer vacations to exotic places may be difficult to come by this year. Ditto for dangerous adventures. But all is not lost. Put on a bit of khaki or faded linen. Pour yourself a stiff gin and tonic. Very cold, in a tall glass. As it should be. Then sit down, preferably in a deep, worn leather chair with a copy of The White Rhino Hotel. Drift off into the world that Bartle Bull has created for you. You will find yourself becoming a fan of his. That, at least, I can promise you.


James said...

Well you got my interest up, so I ordered a copy" of The White Rhino Hotel" just now. I'll let you know what I think of it.

Unknown said...

Here's to you, Mr. Epic--
Your love of reading comes through in your writing "then sit, preferably in a deep...."--
The series sounds great. There's nothing like reading a good book.



Main Line Sportsman said...

Thanks for the suggestion...always looking for new books and it helps to get one that is reviewed favirably. These stories sound like something I would like...and I am on it...next trip to Borders.

Keith said...

Hello. I hope this finds you doing well. I've been on a blogging hiatus since the beginning of the year, so it's been quite some time since I've been around to visit some blogs. I'm back from my break now. I wanted to make sure to visit your blog. I enjoyed checking out the latest posts on your blog. Great job. I'm back blogging now myself. I hope you'll take a look at what I'm doing. Thanks. Take care. Have a great week.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Always meant to look these up. Thanks for the push.

Ben said...

You've got my interest piqued. Again. I'm going to look for these soon.

M.Lane said...

Thanks everyone! I know you will enjoy these great novels.

Easy, the photos of BB's parents on honeymoon remind me of my vision of your parents!

Keith, great to see you back pally! I really enjoy your blog.