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My favorite reading for fun consists of mysteries and historical novels. I like Alan Furst's historical novels, and have read a wide selection of mystery writers. I'm looking for something new. Who are your favorite authors, either mystery or historical fiction? Here is my list by author so you can see if I've already been introduced to your favorite.

I’m only a monthly contributor here but between being a SBM reader and having my own blogs, I often grow weary of the blind criticism that researchers and drug companies couldn’t care less about traditional folk medicines as drug products. My laboratory spends every single day working on natural product extracts in the search for compounds that may have selective effectiveness against cancer. So, this is a bit of a sore spot for me.

Two papers this week from Cancer Prevention Research on the potential anticancer effects of a diabetes drug (Nathan Seppa story here) remind me to tell the story of a Middle Ages European herbal medicine used to treat polyuria that gave rise to one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, metformin (Glucophage in the US). Metformin, known chemically as a biguanide, dimethylguanide to be precise, traces its roots to the plant Galega officinalis. Known as goat’s rue, French lilac, or professor weed, this plant was shown to be a rich source of guanidine and a less toxic compound later called galegin or galegine (isoamyline guanidine).

Everyone likes to imagine they are rational, fair, and free from prejudice. But how easily are we misled by appearances? Noola Griffiths is an academic who studies the psychology of music, and she’s published a cracking paper on what women wear, and how that effects your judgement of their performance. The results are predictable; but the context is interesting.Four female musicians were filmed playing in three different outfits: a concert dress, jeans, and a nightclubbing dress. They were also all filmed as points of light, wearing a black tracksuit in the dark, so that the only thing to be seen – once the images had been treated – was the movement of some bright white tape attached to their major joints.

An interesting controversy that has simmered in the medical literature for years is the effect on health and survival of moderate alcohol consumption. Epidemiological studies consistently show that moderate drinkers live longer than abstainers, while heavy drinkers fair the worst. Before we discuss possible mechanisms for this effect, we have to consider whether or not the effect is real – and here controversy remains.

ScienceDaily (Sep. 2, 2010) — Side-by-side comparisons of organic and conventional strawberry farms and their fruit found the organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil healthier and more genetically diverse.



Blind prejudice

There was a resident at our hospital that loved to relate an anecdote about rounding on patients. On more than one occasion, upon entering the room, family/visitors of the patients have remarked they are glad to see him because the trash needed emptying. He is black. I find it interesting how tolerant people can be when faced with such situations.

Tony Hillerman writes good mysteries with interesting characters. It's best to read them in the order they were written so as to follow the characters' lives.

Indeed, I've read most of what Hillerman wrote.

I like John LeCarre and Frederick Forsyth, but you've probably already plumbed those depths.

I haven't read any yet, but I'd like to check out some of Robert Harris' work. That might also be up your alley.

I haven't read any Frederick Forsyth in decades maybe I'll give that a try. Thanks for the tip. I have read quite a bit of LeCarre's work and did enjoy it, though I didn't think his later work measured up to his earlier efforts.

Wow, great list!

I'd add 2 of my favorites I don't see there:

John Harvey wrote a brilliant and beautiful series of 10 books about Detective Charlie Resnick that take place in Nottingham.

Magdalen Nabb wrote a series set in Florence about Marshal Guarnaccia.

Did I see Robert Wilson on your list? A Small Death is Lisbon is first rate historical crime fiction, up there with Furst, and his series set in Seville is wonderful, too.

Just what I was looking for, I think I'll give A Small Death in Lisbon a try. The detective series also looks promising, thanks.

If you don't mind LONG books, try

Neil Stephenson's

The Baroque Trilogy and Cryptonomichron.

Katherine Neville's The Eight (especially given your fondness for chess) and Calculated Risk - I haven't read The Fire yet but it has receive mixed (mostly negative) reviews.

The Jesus Factor by Edwin Corley was also a good read - set during the cold war ... was everyone bluffing with regard to their nuclear capabilities?

I've read The Eight does Calculated Risk also have chess as an important part of the story.I I've read a lot of fiction where chess plays a central role.

The Corley book sounds interesting.

No, Calculated Risk does not involve chess - as I recall it has to do with a bet between two individuals to be the first to successfully steal a million dollars (so has to do with math, computers and finance).

Reading recommendation: ARCH OF TRIUMPH, Erich Maria Remarque

Halting State by Charles Stross is mystery genre (and a few other genres besides).

As I think I've mentioned before, Charles Stross, Ken Macleod and Iain M Banks are among my favorite contemporary authors. Coincidentally, I believe all three authors are atheists; they're also all Scottish, oddly enough.

I also read Charlie Stross' blog. He discusses some very fascinating topics that I can maybe see some other OGM readers being interested in...

I see you like Tony Hillerman, so I can suggest that you look up James D. DOSS. Since you like Harry Potter, look up Jonathan STROUD; the first in a trilogy is "The Amulet of Samarkand".

A good mystery writer is Kathy REICH whose books have been used for the tv series "Bones". The books are better.

Also, for Simenon, try Leo MALET. I don't know how much has been translated from French.

For Mark Twain I would add "Following the Equator".

Caleb CARR-The Alienist(about a 19th century serial killer).

Robert LITTELL-The Company(historical fiction based on the history of the CIA).

Henning MANKELL-mysteries from Sweden.

Matti Yrjänä JOENSUU-mysteries from Finland.

Manuel Vasquez MONTALBAN-mysteries from Spain with his hero, Pepe Carvalho.

Next time I will write about classics.

Oh, Oh, I forgot a couple.

Paco Ignacio TAIBO II-mysteries in Mexico.

Erik LARSON-A true story of a 19th century serial killer-The Devil in the White City.

Boris AKUNINE-mysteries in Tzarist Russia.

Albert SIMONIN-I don't know if he has been translated from French.

Jean-François PAROT-mysteries at the time of Louis XV.

I will probably think of others later.

As a fellow fan of historical fiction, I can recommend Colleen McCullough's "First Man in Rome" series up until about "Fortune's Favourites", where they more or less just become worship of Julius Caesar who can do no wrong according to McCullough.

While her writing isn't always stellar, she does manage to paint an interesting and relatively faithful portrait of the Roman Republic during a tumultous period, which would lead to its downfall. The conflicts between the Patricians and the Plebeians and the emergence of the demagogues make for compelling stuff.

The books I would recommend:

Part one: The Grass Crown

Part Two: First Man in Rome

Part Three: Fortune's Favourites

Chester HIMES wrote several mysteries taking place in Harlem in the 1950's with his heros two black policemen Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. The intrigues are good and written with a good deal of humor. "Pink Toes" is an example.

The film "Cotton Comes to Harlem" is based on one of his books.

He also wrote other books about race relations(he was black)like "If He Hollers Let Him Go".

One of my favorites of all time is by French writer CELINE, "Voyage to the End of the Night".


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