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My Last Book?

auto-blogMy 65th birthday is next March and I’ve run out of book ideas. I plan to retire soon and may not be able to afford my book publishing software subscription or maybe even high speed internet.  So, I decided to write my literary autobiography now. In addition to reflections on most of my published works, Auto-BOOKS-ography includes some background about my life and influences.

Many of the chapters in this book are expanded versions of my blog entries here, but there is a lot of new material and I thought it would be nice to have everything in one place – for me to reminisce and for anyone who is interested to review my body of work. Available as a Kindle book and full-color paperback..


Irish Pennies – Fourth Edition!

irish-4Once again, I have published a new edition of my guide to the hammered pennies minted under the English kings of 15th century Ireland sooner than expected. As with the third edition, this was prompted by the tentative discovery of a new coinage. This time, it is an unrecorded early portrait coinage of Henry VII minted soon after the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 using crown and portrait punches that had been used for both Edward V and Richard himself. This proposed coinage seems to have been extremely short-lived as only two examples bearing Henry’s name are known to me.

Seems like a good opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed ideas, new discoveries, and words of encouragement, as well as those dealers and others who have chosen to cite my work in their coin attributions. I have noticed a great increase in interest in these coins since the first edition was published ten years ago, as well as a significant increase in prices. Few medieval coinages offer as much variety of types and opportunities for new discoveries as the Anglo-Irish pennies of Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, and Henry VII.

Animal Lives Matter

OBITS-cover3Are human lives more “important”, valuable, or fulfilling than animal lives?  Are animals less conscious or aware than humans? I don’t think so. I don’t see how anyone who has really gotten close to an animal and seen things from his or her perspective can believe that.

But how do we measure the worth and value of an animal life? It occurred to me that a crude method might be the same one we apply (inadequately) to human lives – the obituary.  Rather than generalize about animal behavior and experience, why not consider the life stories of individual animals?

So here it is: a collection of fact-based obituaries for thirty animals of various kinds, with portrait drawings for most.

The Necessary Nerd

e-types-COVER2Way back in 1974, when I wasn’t all that far removed from high school (class of ’70), I picked up a copy of the brilliant publication “National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody”, by P. J. O’Rourke, Doug Kenney, and David Kaestle. This hilarious spoof inspired the movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and serves as a tongue-in-cheek time capsule for baby boomers, filled with cultural references and satire that still bring back memories, cringe-worthy and otherwise.

The parody, in typical 1960s’ yearbook format, begins with photographs of actors representing stereotypical teachers and students. The familiar teenage icons are all there – the nerd, the quarterback, the cheerleader, the dreamy artist, the bully, the criminal, and so on. I laughed at the exaggerated biographical details and portrait poses, but what struck me most indelibly was that I knew these people! I recognized personality types that were very familiar from my own high school experiences

During the past forty years, I have witnessed a succession of younger generations come along. Though each has its distinctive style and forms of expression, I see the same general types that I knew in my youth. Indeed, most of the stereotypes in the National Lampoon yearbook are still instantly recognizable, demonstrating their continuing relevance. It occurred to me that, transcending cultural change, there are basic human stereotypes that exist in every human society – and which must have adaptive value for the species or they would not be so persistent and widespread.

This realization inspired me to consider what the basic human stereotypes and their adaptive value might be to the basic human group, which is postulated to consist of approximately 150 individuals. My musings have now been published in the form of a book, entitled “The Necessary Nerd: Essential Stereotypes in the Basic Human Group”.

The Necessary Nerd is not a scientific treatise. Rather, it is essay by an amateur who argues for a greater acceptance and understanding of personality diversity as an adaptive feature of the human species.

Trice Blessed: New Book

tricepicIt’s been a while – have been busy with a new book based on the writings of some of my ancestors, mostly from Virginia in the 19th Century. The title is Trice Blessed: Lives and Letters of a Virginia Family: 1816-1968. These were very interesting, well-spoken people, and their letters and journals are full of erudition, passion, and down-to-earth every day life. And they had a lot to say – this book ballooned to 380 pages, illustrated with almost 100 pictures and dripping with the very best of old Virginia culture from the period. The terminal date – 1968 – is a bit misleading as that was the year in which the last of the Trices covered in this book passed away at the age of 94.

Though Trice Blessed is geared toward descendants and close relatives of the Trices, especially members of the Minor, Caskie, Davis, and Cocke families – it will appeal to anyone interested in the 19th and early 20th Century period. I love these people; they have had a profound influence on my life though I only met one of them. I believe that anyone would be uplifted and entertained by coming to know them. Besides family details, there are ample doses of humor, history, piety, and romance, with echoes of the worlds of Jane Austen, Scarlett O’Hara, Queen Victoria – even Sigmund Freud and Mary Poppins, Virginia style.

Irish Hammered Pennies No. 3

irish3It’s been not quite a year since the second edition of Irish Hammered Pennies of Edward IV and Richard III was published and I didn’t anticipate writing another installment for a couple of years at least. However, some very exciting new discoveries about this fascinating series of silver coins forced my hand.

To review some history: Ireland was more or less ruled by England during the 15th Century and Irish coins usually bore the titles and portraits of the English kings. A tremendous variety of pennies struck by Edward IV (reigned 1461-1483) is described in my book, as well as the few coins struck by his successor, Richard III (reigned 1483-1485).

When Edward IV died, he was at first succeeded by his 12 year-old son, Edward V (reigned April 9 – June 26, 1483), but the young king was soon declared illegitimate by Parliament and his uncle Richard took the throne instead.

Despite the brevity of his reign, Edward V had coins struck in his name in London, which are quite rare and difficult to identify as they bear the same legends as his father’s coins. There is no record of coins being struck for Edward in Ireland before he was removed from the throne, but I have discovered evidence that they were.

The rest of the story is in my book, now available on Amazon. The book also features seven new mint varieties and five new types that have been discovered since the second edition was published.

Contemporary Portrait of Richard III

york-portraitsThis entry may not seem to fit the blog as it isn’t specifically about one of my books. However, as I have written about the coins of Richard III (Irish Hammered Pennies of Edward IV and Richard III), I ask for your indulgence.

There has been much about this English king (lived 1452-1485) in the news since the discovery of his skeleton in Leicester in September 2012 and subsequent positive identification . Scientists are currently working to decipher his complete genome as part of an effort to discover what he looked like and more about his health.

Several articles that I have read make the flat statement that there are no contemporary portraits of Richard. This, of course, is not true – there are numerous contemporary coin portraits. The experts are referring to known painted portraits, the first of which was created at least 30 years after his death. The oversight is understandable as most coin portraits of the period are fairly simple and generic, especially on higher denominations such as silver groats and gold coins. Different kings from this period look pretty much the same on these coins.

However, some of the silver pennies and half groats minted by Edward IV and pennies of his brother and successor Richard III bear portraits with recognizable features that are surprisingly consistent with the surviving painted portraits. For example, the coin portraits above (left to right: penny of Edward IV from York; penny of Richard III from Durham) share several characteristics with the painted portraits shown. Among these features, I note the following:

Edward IV – features on both portraits: narrow nose; deep chin; small mouth; long face; protruding eyes

Richard III – features on both portraits (relative to Edward IV portraits): wider nose with bulbous end; shorter chin; wider mouth; shorter face; larger, deeper-set eyes; stronger brow

Though the coin portraits are small, they seem to have been created with care and considerable realism.