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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on the Power Books Wield

A 12th Century stain glass panel from a Church in France.
Might Satan be tempting Christ to read a novel involving vampires?
Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

In A Flame in Byzantium by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, General Belisarius' enemies in Emperor Justinian's court grow so convinced of his guilt that they contact one of his household servants. After threatening him with torture and a grisly death, he agrees to spy for them. This man, who resents his lowly position in life as a servant, let alone being castrated during childhood, goes through the General's library, and reports back on the books in his collection. A treatise on military tactics used in other lands? A book on all known breeds of horses? Books on World Geography or History? Well, Belisarius has traveled extensively, and met many foreigners. Inevitably, he has read their books, and been influenced by their teaching. If those books weren't written by Byzantine citizens, then they must surely be suspect. Who knows what dangerous philosophies, undetectable to the unwary, might lurk within those pages?

At least that's the position of the Court Censor and his staff, after hearing the report from Belisarius' slave. These advisors slowly exert their influence on the Emperor, who orders Captain Drosos, instead of his general, to command an army contingent in Alexandria. This historic city is one of the foremost of Egypt, and is known the world over for its extensive libraries. Egypt is also home to Coptic Christianity, a proponent of Monophysitism. So one day Drosos receives orders from his Emperor: he must burn the libraries, to prevent the spread of heretical teachings through seemingly innocuous scholarly works on subjects like Mathematics, Science, and History. As he believes his Emperor rules by divine right, he does so. But watching all that accumulated knowledge and art going up in flame infects him like a cancer, slowly eating away at him, until all that remains is the husk of his former self.

But then, all books hold power, nonfiction and fiction alike. Reading and studying them influence people in all sorts of unforeseen ways, hopefully for the better, but sometimes for the worse. Those books might be a textbook on Math or Biology, a graphic novel, an cozy mystery, or a story about vampires.

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Religion Part 2

Instead of despising their former beliefs,
4th Century Roman Christians celebrated them
in artwork like this Symmachi panel
displayed in London's Victoria & Albert Museum.

In Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's novel A Flame in Byzantium, the high officials in Emperor Justinian's court may seek to protect their faith, but they hardly seem to be living up to its ideals. They see the world through a prism in which only their view of the divine--their beliefs--are true, and all others are heresy. A popular brand of Christianity, Monophysitism, is currently gaining converts in Byzantium, and threatening to infiltrate the Emperor's household. This must be protected against at all costs. So any approach that could aid in the defeat of Monophysitism, or any view of life and the world other than those they embrace, is a valid approach. 

As court officials do not trust Belisarius, they cannot rely on him to support their wise counsel to the Emperor. So they use their influence with Justinian to suggest that Belisarius might use his popularity with the army to mount a bid for Justinian's throne. The fact that he is a friend to Olivia, a woman whom they already deplore, gives them something else to work with. As he is his own man, not theirs to control, these defenders of the faith begin manufacturing evidence to incriminate him in Justinian's eyes. Even if it means besmirching the honor of a loyal servant such as Belisarius. 

But then, this is a society that uses religion to justify slavery, the castration of the children of slaves, and prevents people from rising above the caste into which they were born. No wonder Olivia refuses to adopt their ways, or for that matter, their brand of religion. 

Like Olivia, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has chosen her own unique path to religion. Instead of accepting a traditional, ready-made religion such as Christianity, hers involves channeling spirits, astral planes, karma, and philosophical concepts like monads. In order to share her spiritual experience with others, she has written a series of nonfiction books. The first, Messages From Michael, also serves as the name of her group's website. There readers of her stories (or anyone else) can gain a greater understanding of her approach to the divine. 

One of her group's central teachings is that all life is a choice. Or, to quote from the group's website:

You cannot not choose. To say "I will not choose; I will do nothing" is a choice to do nothing. Rather than regard choices as terrible burdens and impositions, you would release much of your fear if you would realize that you are making choices all the time, and the process, rather than overwhelming you, is in fact the means to freeing yourself from the bonds of fear. Of course, you may choose to deny or ignore this as well. That is as much a choice as anything else in life. 

That's a teaching that sounds perfectly valid and useful in living out my life today and planning my future. If only it didn't spring from a belief system so radically different from my own! It sounds good on the surface, but it must be suspicious. Hm...maybe it's safer to choose to reject it, and spend the next few minutes reminding myself why it has to be wrong, and her beliefs must be wrong, and...

Ever wonder why those you seek to influence refuse to accept the validity of your views on life? Some of us will probably wonder about that all our lives. But then, it's always easier to see the hypocrisy in others than inequities in our treasured beliefs, or the inconsistencies in the way we put them into practice. Who knows? They seem so different from us: they might well be vampires!

Dragon Dave

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Religion Part 1

Urns to house Olivia's native soil,
courtesy of the Museum of London

In A Flame in Byzanium by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Olivia flees the chaos and destruction of Rome for the ordered and civilized world of Constantinople. She finds a world there vastly different from her expectations. One difference proves pivotal to how people in her adopted city view the world, and that is their religion.

As a vampire, Olivia has take her own approach to everlasting life. She has brought with her containers of her native soil, which somehow sustains her undead body. She acknowledges the power and validity of others' religion, but refuses to be a hypocrite, and bow to others expectations of conduct, or make untrue declarations of her beliefs. As such, the leaders of Constantinople view her as degenerate, just like the Christian laity and clergy of Rome. 

The Christian Church of the first few centuries after Christ, was far more diverse than what exists today. Yet it changed as religious leaders narrowed down what believers were allowed to read, think, and practice. Many have argued that this effort to focus Christianity on its essentials was necessary to help it survive after the fall of the Roman Empire. Yet, as in Yarbro's novel A Flame in Byzantium (and also in False Dawn), all too often belief's in one's rightness have been used as an excuse to hurt and even kill others. 

Conformity has its place in any human society. But, unlike the days of ancient Rome, civilization is no longer crumbling. Today, people expect religions to find ways to accept, celebrate, and honor the beliefs of all those who seek to love, respect, and serve others. Even if those others talk, dress, and act so differently that, at first, they seem degenerate

Who knows? Those other people might even be loving, respectful, and charitable vampires like Olivia.

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Cozy Horror

Count Dalek-ula says
False Dawn is nothing like A Flame in Byzantium.
Uh, hold on. Is that a werewolf?

One aspect of Agatha Christie's mysteries is how her victims are murdered, sometimes horribly. But from my limited reading experience of her work, she rarely portrays the act of violence itself. Instead, Poirot or another detective discovers the body, and then goes off to talk with his friends or the suspects in a calming, civilized fashion. In the case of Miss Marple, this may be over tea and scones. Some people have labeled her work Cozy Mysteries. Perhaps that's the secret behind her fiction's astounding longevity. I'm sure lots of other authors of her time wrote more gritty, disturbing mysteries. But readers of all ages and sensibilities can enjoy her stories, because the underlying mysteries are so compelling. 

Count Dalek-ula says, "I like Cozy novels,
but Jammie Dodgers are cozier than other sandwich cookies."

So please, Master, buy me some Jammie Dodgers.
(Or you could find your life become decidedly
less cozy!)

If A Flame in Byzantium is in any way representative of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Horror fiction, perhaps this is the secret behind that community's affection for her stories. The novel certainly stands out, with Olivia unlike any other vampire I've ever encountered in fiction. I enjoyed learning what was happening in sixth century Rome and Constantinople, two bustling centers of civilization when barbarian hordes were sweeping the globe. 

But then, I enjoy reading the occasional historical novel. Even if it's a Cozy Horror novel featuring vampires.

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 19, 2015

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Sedate, Cultured Society

A Roman room for entertaining visitors,
courtesy of the Museum of London, England

In Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's novel A Flame in Byzantium, one of the things that surprised me was how ordinary her protagonist Olivia seems. Becoming a vampire has granted her a long life, and she has to be careful when she visits others' homes, or attends parties, that she kindly rebuffs all attempts to offer her food or drink. So she excuses her non-indulgence with protestations as to her "delicate constitution." As a vampire, she seems to exist on blood, but this is a minor point for most of the novel. Drosos makes mention of her biting him when they make love, but as an army officer, he's stationed outside Constantinople for most of the story. She's carted boxes of her "native earth" from her villa in Rome, and she somehow draws strength from this. But really, little attention is paid to her vampirism throughout the five hundred pages of the story. More than anything, she hungers for the affection and love of Drosos, and when she realizes that the tide of public opinion is turning against her, and that she should flee Constantinope, she stays behind in the hopes of being reunited with Drosos. Aside from her affection, she regards the blood she has taken from him as a bond between them, one that she would gladly repay by sharing the rest of her life with him.

In introducing General Belisarius, and focusing on his struggle to hold Rome against the Ostrogoth invaders, I had anticipated battle scenes on the order of JRR Tolkien or Robert E Howard. Given the politics and undercurrents sweeping through Byzantine politics, I expected to find the streets of Constantinople awash in blood, as happened several times in HBO's "Rome" TV series. Yet with a few exceptions, any fighting, deaths, or tortures occurred off-the-page, and were merely remarked on later in the narrative, or by one of the characters. What Yarbro instead focuses on is the customs and protocols the characters must observe, and how people of various strata in society interact with each other. So when something terrible happens, for the most part we don't witness it. Instead of the gritty and graphic struggle-for-life I remember from False Dawn, A Flame in Byzantium gives us a sense of how these people lived out their everyday lives. We see what they eat and drink, the comforts that surround them, and those they interact with. Along the way, we witness how the actions and choices affect others, or eventually rebound against them. But aside from a few scenes, the story unfolds in a cultured and sedate manner, more like the PBS adaptation of "I Claudius" than HBO's "Rome." 

But then, we all like wise, cultured, and loving protagonists. Even if they are vampires.

Dragon Dave

Friday, October 16, 2015

Introducing Justin Ponsor

Today's post is on my newest blog, The Colorful World of Justin Ponsor. It's a blog dedicated to the efforts of my friend Justin, who works as a colorist for Marvel Comics. Colorists don't get a lot of recognition in the comics field, so I thought I might share with you some of the work he's done occasionally, and give all those posts a proper home.

You should be able to find it by clicking the link to your right. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Dragon Dave

P.S. You can also find it by typing in the URL:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Humor & Whimsy in Clovelly

The picturesque English village of Clovelly, along the northwest coast of Devon, is a tourist trap in the best sense of the word. Although they provide a parking lot, and you can park as long as you want for free (Yes, Parking really is totally free!), you then enter a visitor center where you must pay an admission fee. Along with a large gift shop, the visitor center boasts a cafe where you can buy lunch, drinks, or enjoy your afternoon tea. The best part of the visitor's center is a movie room, which is decorated on all sides by human-sized dioramas illustrating all aspects of life in the village. Then the room darkens, and the movie tells you more about Clovelly's past and present.

Upon leaving the visitor center, you walk down the main (Or should I say only?) street of Clovelly. It's a steep descent, and you need to watch your footing on the cobblestones. But at least you don't have to worry about cars, trucks, motorcycles, or even bicycles passing you. Unlike most modern English towns and villages, Clovelly is still ruled by the family that has lived for generations in the nearby manor. They may not be the Cary family, as depicted in Charles Kingsley's novel Westward Ho! But they've decided to preserve the historic appeal of their village by ruling that only humans and animals shall walk the streets (Sorry, the street) of Clovelly.

I wonder how they feel about pogo sticks?

Sleds like this are a common sight. They help shop owners, residents, and donkey's carry items up and down the hill, and help the milk man deliver everyone's daily pint, yogurt, and clotted cream.

Yum, clotted cream...

Of course, that doesn't mean that folks in Clovelly don't get tired of walking up and down that hill. (Especially after having tea and scones with that delicious clotted cream). Visitors likewise revel in making those steep descents and ascents. So local businesses thoughtfully provide visitors with no end of shops offering homemade fudge, ice cream, and all other sorts of goodies. I'm not sure if all that refreshment makes walking easier or more difficult, but it's their attempt to help keep everyone's spirits up. 

In Clovelly, there's no distinction between residents and visitors. It's everyone against the hill. So residents decorate the fronts of their homes with flowers, whimsical displays, and humorous mottos. 

Signs such as these read:
Please: No Singing, No Dancing, No Swearing.
This is a respectable house.

Happiness is being owned by a cat.

I can only please one person per day.
Today's not your day,
and tomorrow doesn't look good either.

After all, complaining just drags every one's spirits down, right? And no one ever wants to get dragged down, especially not in historic, picturesque, clinging-to-the-side-of-the-hill Clovelly.

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 12, 2015

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Defying Others' Expectations

An Italian vase in the British Museum
shows the Greek Hero Theseus
defending his home city of Athens
from an invasion of Amazons.

In Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's novel A Flame in Byzantium, Olivia might have escaped the Ostrogoth invaders by moving from Rome to Constantinople, but as a woman and a widow, she enjoys few rights in Byzantine society. She must name Belisarius as her legal guardian. While he remains in Rome, she must petition for an exception to the rules every time she wishes to procure household staff, or do anything significant involving money or people. Thankfully, she is allowed to hire workers to furnish her new home. But when her bondsman discovers that goods from her plundered Roman villa have ended up in Byzantium, she cannot charge the sellers with theft, or compel the authorities to investigate the piracy.

Nor does she make the friends there that she anticipated. Drosos visits her a few times, but as an army officer, he has no control over where he is stationed. Belisarius returns home eventually, but as he has failed to secure Rome, he now lives in disgrace. For a time, Belisarius' wife Antonina moved in elite circles, and allowed Olivia to accompany her. But after Belisarius was recalled, and the death of her friend, the Empress Theodora, she finds herself alone and lonely, with no desire to leave her house.

Constantinople had seemed her best hope for the future: a redoubt in a world that seems to no longer value culture, stability, or civilization. Yet everyone there views her with suspicion. She refuses to remarry, join the Byzantine Church, or dress and act like a typical Byzantine woman. Her Roman practices and interests cause her to be branded a licentious, unprincipled unbeliever. They invent stories about her, shun her, and implicate her in scandals. The Court Censor orders her servants to spy on her (under threat of torture and death), and plant books proscribed by the Emperor in her library. His soldiers search her villa, carry away precious furniture and heirlooms, and claim their plunder as evidence. He relentlessly pursues a legal case against her. She can not even leave Constantinople, at least not openly. She would be arrested by soldiers along the road, or those guarding the docks. 

Nevertheless, Olivia refuses to relinquish her principles, way of life, and everything she holds dear. In this way, she becomes a person we can respect and emulate. Even if she is a vampire.

Dragon Dave

Friday, October 9, 2015

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Financial Planning

Roman coins used in England,
courtesy of the Museum of London.

What if you could live forever? Would you want everyone else to know that you were immortal? And how would it be to watch society change, and everyone you know die, as the years pass into centuries?

These questions swirl around Olivia Clemens, a noblewoman in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's novel A Flame in Byzantium. When she was young, her Emperor Nero was both beloved and feared. Like those before and after him, he built Rome into an architectural marvel, a city that spread its civilizing influence throughout the territories it had conquered. People of different lands embraced a shared currency, read the same literature, and exchanged goods and ideas through trade. Her relationship with the vampire St. Germaine greatly extended her life, and throughout the centuries, she has clung to the culture, traditions, and standards she values. But now she finds the Roman Empire crumbling around her, and she must flee her beloved homeland or risk slavery or death to the relentless Ostrogoth invaders. For she may be a vampire, but she can still die.

Thankfully, Olivia has somewhere to escape to: Constantinople, that other center of Christianity and culture, in a world where barbarians seem intent on destroying everything of value. Better yet, she has someone to orchestrate her safe passage there: Belisarius, one of Byzantine Emperor Justinian's most valued generals. As an unexpected bonus, she meets Drosos, one of Belisarius' men, who seems kind and attentive to her. Amid so much change, she finds herself inordinately attracted to this young army officer. So as she frees her slaves, packs up her possessions, and sets sail for her new home, she looks forward to enjoying the comforts of another fine city and the new friendships she will forge. It will serve as a refuge until Belisarius and his army can drive away the Ostrogoths, and secure Rome for the Byzantine Empire.

It's just as well that she's learned to save her money, and invest it wisely. But then, it makes sense to prepare for every contingency. Especially if you're a vampire. 

Dragon Dave

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Happy Birthday Frank Herbert

A few notes on Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert wrote Dune, my favorite novel of all time. 

He was born ninety-five years ago, on October 8, 1920.

His master creation, Dune, was published first in book form in 1965, which makes 2015 it's 50th Anniversary.

He wrote a number of novels, including five Dune sequels. Hollywood made two adaptations: a big screen movie, and a TV series based on the first three novels.

Since then, his son Brian and author Kevin J Anderson have cowritten sixteen further Dune novels, and still Dune fans hunger for more.

To me, his life story was at least as fascinating as his greatest novel. To read about his life, check out Dreamer Of Dune by his son Brian Herbert.

Some writers truly cast a long shadow. 

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Catching Up with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Count Dalek-ula says
"Catching Up with Favorite Authors is Fun!"

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's contributions to the Horror genre have been honored in numerous ways. In 2003, she was awarded the status of Grand Master at the World Horror Convention. Two years later, the International Horror Guild named her a living legend. Last year, the World Fantasy Convention gave her a Life Achievement award. 

My previous reading experience with her was minimal, just one novel that I read thirty-five years ago. In False Dawn, two protagonists trek across a post-apocalyptic northern California, in search of a refuge, a sanctuary where they can begin again. Back in those Cold War days, all of us lived with the possibility of a nuclear war. That future seemed imminent, unavoidable. So those of us who loved Science Fiction stories looked past that, and imagined what the future might hold for humanity, once the superpowers had done their best to bomb all of us out of existence. I had fallen in love with the movie "Logan's Run," found stories like Roger Zelazny's "Damnation Alley," and was hungry for more of the same. Her novel made a strong impression on me, and led me to read it again recently.

I found False Dawn every bit as powerful as I remembered.

Yarbro's muse seemed to take her in other directions after that, most notably in Horror. Her most famous creation is the Saint Germaine cycle. These novels fuse two genres, historical and vampire stories, into one. As I've recently grown interested in learning about ancient Rome, I viewed A Flame in Byzantium as an opportunity to catch up with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. This novel, the first in a trilogy devoted to vampire heroine Atta Olivia Clemens, follows Olivia's move from Rome to Constantinople, the center of the other great civilization of her era. I found it an enjoyable novel, rich in historical detail and character development, if a little slow (at times) in pace. The novel gave me a chance to see what Yarbro had been up to during all those years we had walked separate paths (she as author, me as reader), and why the Horror community loved her so much.

But then, it's always nice to catch up with a writer whom you've not read for a long time. Even if she writes (primarily) about vampires.

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pursuing Jesuits with Charles Kingsley at Clovelly

In Charles Kingsley's Elizabethan Era novel Westward Ho!, one person Amyas Leigh distrusts is his cousin Eustace. This has less to do with the fact that Eustace and his father are Catholic, than it does with the fact that Eustace often lies to him. One thing that Amyas, his brother Frank, and his friend Will Cary discover is that Eustace is secretly working with the Jesuits. One evening, the brothers follow him, and discover Eustace meeting two Jesuits who have landed in the dead of night along the shores of Clovelly, a village a short ride from Bideford, along the northwest coast of Devon in England.

While Queen Elizabeth allowed her subjects to practice Catholicism, she forbade missionary activity is forbidden. So the Jesuits lie about their names and identities when they sneak into England. They also hide the tracts they have smuggled in. 

Through Amyas' life and adventures, Charles Kingsley links religion with nationalism. The Pope has blessed Spain's efforts to invade England, depose Queen Elizabeth, and forcibly convert all British citizens back to the true faith. Given that, it's not difficult to understand how most English citizens of this era might have viewed their fellow Catholics as disloyal and unpatriotic. 

Tension and fighting between England and Spain will ultimately culminate in the Spanish Armada. Compared to that massive attack on England, the nighttime landing at Clovelly at first seems an entertaining but insignificant event in Kingsley's novel. But the discovery of the Jesuit landing, and the resultant fight, will alter the course of Eustace's life, and by extension, significantly affect Rose's future. Before, he may have wrestled over his love for Rose (Yes, he loves the Rose of Torridge as well) and his yearning to join the Jesuits. The encounter, and resultant fight, force Eustace down a road leading to heartache, treason, and death.

It's easy to walk along this rugged, forested coast, and imagine Amyas, Frank, and Will Cary defending England against a small incursion of tract-carrying Jesuits.

So thick are the trees, bushes, and flowers outside Clovelly that, at times, all sight of the coast and the ocean disappears. Beware the temptation to venture off the path though, or you might find yourself unexpectedly falling into the sea. If that happens, you'd better hope a few of those evangelical Jesuits are trying to beach their little boat along this rugged Devon shoreline. Sometimes, we all need a helping hand, even if that hand belongs to a tract-wielding Jesuit.

Along the coastal walk, one place to stop and rest is this heaven-sent gazebo.

There, beneath angels' wings, you can rest, eat your lunch, and imagine pursuing Jesuits with Amyas, Frank, and Will. 

Or you can follow my wife's lead, and take a moment to sketch some of the beauty surrounding you, amid a landscape little changed since Charles Kingsley wrote Westward Ho! in 1855.

Dragon Dave

Friday, October 2, 2015

Charles Kingsley on Loving the Rose of Torridge

In Charles Kingsley's epic novel Westward Ho!, young Amyas Leigh is drawn to a local beauty named Rose. But he's only a young teen, with so many plans he wants to accomplish. Chief among those is going out to sea. Eventually he becomes a sailor, and the sea faring life turns out to be everything that he had dreamed. Yet every night he stands on watch, or walks the deck of his ship, he stares out across the ocean waves, and up at the starry sky. Always, his thoughts return to Rose. He meditates on her beauty. His admiration for her virtues increases. When he returns to Bideford after his first tour at sea, he has one plan: to win Rose's heart, and marry her.

Where Amyas is burly, strong, and boisterous, his brother Frank is slim, elegant, and refined. Frank has toured Europe, tutoring the children of aristocrats, and even served in the royal court. You could not imagine more dissimilar brothers. You might think that such different people wouldn't get along. Yet when he learns the celebration the townspeople of Bideford are planning to welcome Amyas back from his first tour out at sea, he begs permission to leave the royal court and return home to the family farm outside Bideford.

There, despite all the wealthy beauties he has known in London, he too falls head-over-heels in love with Rose. 

A house on a hill overlooking Bideford

Mrs. Leigh is a quiet, trusting woman, whom both brothers adore. When Amyas and Frank discover that each wishes to win the same woman, suddenly each views the other as an enemy. They take to fighting. Then they notice the pain they are causing their mother. So they decide to sit down and talk the situation through. 

Neither Amyas and Frank wishes to cause the other pain. Yet there is only one Rose, whom they both love! Despite Amyas' wealth of experience, and Frank's impressive education, neither can decide who has the best claim to Rose's affections. So they travel down to Bideford, to discuss the situation with their friends.

There they discover that their friends adore Rose too. They also desire her! Perhaps this should not surprise Amyas and Frank so. Such is her famed beauty, that she has gained a certain celebrity status. She is known as the Rose of Torridge, named after the gleaming waters of the river that passes through Bideford, and gives the town its link to the sea. 

The Rose of Torridge,
A restaurant along the riverfront in Bideford.

It was one thing to debate who had the better claim to Rose's affections, when Amyas and Frank imagined that they were her only two suitors. But as they learn how strongly each of their friends admire her, they realize they can not cause all their friends the pain of losing her. So instead of each insisting upon claiming his own happiness, they form the Society of the Rose, swearing together that none of them shall possess her, until each should, for whatever reason, relinquish his devotion to her.  

It's hard to imagine people making such a sacrifice for their family and friends. Most writers probably wouldn't even attempt to make the reader believe that their protagonists could be so admirable. But then, Westward Ho! is an unusual novel. And Charles Kingsley, a priest who consistently preached and wrote of the need for better living and working conditions among the English poor, seems a very unusual author. 

Dragon Dave