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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Sir Guy of Gisbourne. A Medieval Assassin.


Sir Guy of Gisbourne. A Medieval Assassin.


In early legends of Robin Hood, Guy of Gisbourne is an assassin who tries to kill Robin, only for Robin to kill him. In these accounts, Guy is depicted wearing a robe made of horse hide, “topp and tayll and mayne.”  So very distinctive! As horse leather is also tough and hard-wearing, an assassin out in all weathers would find it useful.


In later stories, Guy is shown as keen to woo and win Maid Marian, but it is the assassin aspect of his character that intrigues me. In the west, the most famous assassins were those of the order of assassins, the Hashishiyun. Founded in the late eleventh century by the Persian Hasan as-Sabah, the order of the assassins soon became notorious for their obedience to their master and their deterination to kill their opponents, whatever the personal cost. It was believed that to aid their goals, the assassins would use drugs such as hashish (cannabis) to make them utterly fearless and ruthless.


Site of Alamut Castle in Iran

The Assassins were Shia Muslims and many of their killings took place within the Islamic kingdom to remove political and religious enemies. From his stronghold in Alamut Castle in Persia (Iran) the Grand Master of the Order, who became known as The Old Man of the Mountain, sent out his deadly emissaries. They killed by dagger, poison or arrows and murdered many men, including three caliphs and the King of Jerusalem, Conrad of Montferrat. Saladin, the Kurdish Sunni who fought against the crusaders, was twice targeted by the Assassins, who failed each time. After the second attempt, the Old Man of the Mountain and Saladin appear to have come to terms.


Nevertheless, the Assassins were feared. As an unknown poet of the middle ages said, “By a single warrior on foot, a king may be struck with terror, though he may own more than 100,000 horsemen.”


I have an assassination attempt in my romance, “The Snow Bride,” and have included an excerpt.




He heard a faint click and creak behind him and knew at once it was a bow and arrow being readied and aimed. There was no game in the wastes and thickets of hazel ahead, so he must be the target.

Before he completed his conscious thought, he had reacted, dragging his left foot out of its stirrup and head-butting down into the snow, not considering the speed of his cantering horse or where he might land. Snow-crusted brambles snagged and broke his fall, and as he urged his flailing limbs to roll away, he felt the vane of the arrow score the top of his shoulder, where the middle of his back would have been.

“Magnus’s! Areee yeee weeeeelllll?”  

Gregory Denzil’s question crawled from his mouth as the world about Magnus slowed into thick honey. As his jaw crunched against a branch and threatened to loosen more teeth, he felt a trickle of blood run into his eye.

He compelled his sluggish body to sit up, a devil caught in a thicket. He knew he would make that picture, and he grinned, raising an arm to his men and yelling, “Hola! What a ride!”

Denzil and his mob nudged their horses closer. Mark had already leapt from his own with his hunting spear aimed at Denzil's throat. Magnus stood up, cursing with all the oaths of Outremer he could remember, and looked around him. His own men were honestly puzzled, while Denzil's wore expressions of studied innocence.

“Not a good time for archery practice,” he said. All good fun, all men together.

Denzil smiled thinly. “A fool, too eager for sport.”

“Indeed.” As an assassination attempt, Magnus rated it as poor to moderate, but Gregory Denzil had always been lazy. And in the clustered mass of hunters, he saw no skinny stranger with distinctive rings.

“Time to go on?” he asked, knowing if he suggested it, Denzil would say the opposite, which he did.

“We go back.”




The Snow Bride: To buy on Amazon



Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Movie Kisses Series 3/13/2024 African Queen #prairierosepubs #moviekisses


Here we are at the third installment of my year-long look at The Kiss in historically-set movies.

January Kiss –The Phantom of the Opera 
February Kiss – The Princess Bride 

This month, let’s look at three kisses from the Humphrey Bogart | Katharine Hepburn classic movie, The African Queen.

What I really like about the first kiss between the scruffy, grouchy, curmudgeon Charlie Allnut and the prim and proper, yet desperate to be free of her brother’s and society’s hold over her independence in order for her true self to blossom Rose Sayer is that their first kiss:

1) is awkward
2) is spontaneous
3) and blindsides both Charles and Rosie for how it opens up feelings they had no idea they had for each other. It’s adorable, and we love it.

First Kiss Set-up: They have just survived going by the German stronghold on the river. Watch from the beginning of the clip through 1:06.

This first awkward kiss sets emotions in motion for the real kiss that happens after they’d had time to share laughs and become comfortable with each other.

Second Kiss Set-up: This is The Kiss. They are sharing a few moments of admiring the beauty of where they are, and Charlie casually puts his hand on Rosie’s shoulder. Rosie can’t look at him as she puts her hand over his. She’s a conflicted mess of a puritanical upbringing that is telling her feelings for Charlie are inappropriate, but her woman’s heart is in love with him. The Kiss is at 1:28 and fades to black in the movie (and in the clip). If you’ve read the book, there is more intimacy in this scene. After the fade to black in the movie, we are left to surmise what that intimacy was, but we figure it out from the subtle hints.


I just love this kiss. They are an older couple who have gone through life not only alone, but lonely, and love has found them as equals in their desperate flight down a river during which they have to depend upon each other for survival.

Third Kiss Set-up: Rosie and Charlie are facing execution by hanging, and Charlie asks the ship’s captain to marry them,  “Because it would mean so much to the lady”, and then Rosie’s shy, but absolutely delighted and touched, gaze-lowered expression is too wonderful. The kiss is at 1:08 in this clip. If you've read the book, you know there is an amusing twist about this marriage that is left out of the movie due to what was deemed acceptable at the time in history this movie was made (1951).


I simply love this movie and the romance between Rosie and Charlie.

See you next month for more kisses from the big screen.

Kaye Spencer

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Spring Forward, Fall Back

Spring Forward, Fall Back

C. A. Asbrey

C.A. Asbrey

March is the month when those participating in Daylight Saving Time change their clocks, and do so to the old maxim, spring forward, fall back. Many countries simply don't bother as there's no benefit to those countries closer to the equator, but even in countries where they do change the clocks, some regions rebel and refuse to play. Hawaii and most of Arizona don't participate and neither do most of the US overseas territories like Guam, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. In Canada, Saskatchewan and the Yukon refuse to play. In Eupope, only Russia, Iceland, Belarus and Turkey stay on the same time all year round. 

A common misconception is that Benjamin Franklin invented the idea, but the piece he wrote about saving times was actually satirical. After being wakened at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. by the summer sun, he wrote an essay stating that Parisians, simply by waking up at dawn, could save the modern-day equivalent of $200 million through “the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.” By the time he was a 78-year-old American envoy in Paris in 1784, the Founding Father who espoused the virtues of “early to bed and early to rise” absolutely did not practice what he preached. He did not like being wakened by the sun. History notes, Franklin wasn't even suggesting the idea of Daylight Saving Time. He was doing was making fun of the French, and suggesting they get out of bed earlier.

William Willett - It's all his fault!

So whose idea was it? Lots of people think it was the farmers, but they were, and are, dead against the idea. Animals work to a body clock, and cows expected to be milked at roughly the same time every day. It was said by some to conserve energy, but studies have shown that it has minimal, or no, affect. Other studies showed that energy usage increases when the change takes place in the autumn. George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist, published that he changed his clock in New Zealand in 1895, and that it gave him an extra hour to collect bugs in the summer. He suggested that other do the same, but it was dismissed as too complicated. Englishman William Willett was actually the first proper exponent of the idea, publishing a pamphlet 'The Waste of Daylight' in 1907. He actually proposed advancing eighty minutes in monthly increments of twenty each time, reversing it in the Autumn. He was a wealthy builder and suggested that it made it more productive for those working outside. He lobbied parliament, but didn't live to see it enacted. It was brought in during WW1 in 1916, first in Germany, then in the UK. The Defence of the Realm Act introduced it as a wartime production-boosting device to save on lighting and increase productivity. Many countries then followed suit. 

The idea that it was good for productivity has been thoroughly debunked. In fact, it decreases it, mainly because of the impact on people whose sleep patterns are disturbed. Costs save in lighting in the morning are simply transferred to the evening, and a 2013 study found the lost hour cost the U.S. economy around $434 million. The losses are temporary, but happen every year. There are even studies that show that sentences are harsher for those facing court in the days after the clocks go forward.   

That loss of sleep in the spring has real effects on people's health. It has a similar impact to jet lag, and for many people, it throws out their circadian rhythms. Most people recover within a week, but for some people it can take far longer. The result is a measurable increase in heart attacks, ischemic stroke, 5.7% increase workplace injuries, and traffic accidents as people's. 68% more work days are lost due to injury around the time of the March clock change. Time changes can impact appetite, hormone levels, mood, and attention span, so it's not surprising that there's an increasing move to stop adjusting the clock in many states and countries. On a positive note, crime falls at the change of the clocks in March, and many systems change the time automatically nowadays. Every little helps. 

The time changes at 2am to minimize the impact on bars and places of entertainment, and not all countries change on the same dates. Most people are asleep when the time actually switches, but it does mean either shorter or longer shifts for those working overnight. That has implications on how those people are paid, with some places simply ignoring the extra hour as something balanced out in the long term. Others treat it as overtime, or make individual arrangements.  

It's fair to say that changing the clocks isn't universally popular, but it sparked it once sparked an actual riot. In 1997, students in Athens, Ohio were not pleased at their bar being closed an hour earlier. When I say, 'not pleased', I mean over a thousand people had to be dispersed by police in full riot gear using rubber bullets and nightsticks. It made headlines all over the United States, and some protestors were quoted as marking the time change as a factor in triggering the violence. 

Salvatore “Sam” Cardinella.

It did throw up a few interesting legal cases too. One man managed to evade being drafted to Vietnam. He had a relatively low draft number due to his birthdate, and at that point a complex lottery was being used to draw tickets. The unnamed draftee was able to successfully appeal based on the fact that he was born just after midnight. However, his state did not change the clocks, and he was born the previous day in his state, but the next day using Daylight Saving Time, as used where the lottery was drawn. That meant that where he lived, his birthdate should not have been entered in the lottery. He won his case. 

Another legal case centred around the execution of Salvatore “Sam” Cardinella. He was sentenced to death for the murder of a saloon keeper, but was suspected to have been involved in 20 murders, 100 armed robberies and 150 other burglaries. He successfully argued that the changing the clocks was costing him an hour of the life he was sentenced to lose, and while that didn't seem like much to anyone else, it could be an hour in which a reprieve could come through. The case was successful and Cardinella won his extra hour of life. No reprieve came through. The governor did not change his mind. He was hanged sitting in a chair as he was apparently unable to stand.  

Chris Martin

The debate will rage on between those who like the clocks changing, and those who don't want it, and those who do. You may be able to tell I'm not a fan. The one take away I can offer you is that Coldplay's Chris Martin is the great-great-grandson of William Willett, the man who lobbied Winston Churchill to change the clocks. Don't hold it against him. It's not his fault.


Sunday, March 3, 2024

Helen Rood Dillon - The 2nd Wife

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Evergreen Chapel, Evergreen Cemetery,
Colorado Springs, CO.
Photo(C) Doris McCraw

This month's post on Civil War Wives is Helen Rood Dillon. Links to last month's post and the Civil War Veterans on another blog will be posted at the end.

Helen was born Helen Rood on May 27, 1827, in  Broome, New York. She was the second wife of Chester H. Dillon of Pennsylvania. Little is known of Helen's family and even less is known about Chester's first wife Delilah S. Hicks. I still hold out hope more records about each woman will eventually appear online but until then I work with the information available.

When Helen's husband, Chester, registered for the draft in 1863 he was a class II, which meant he was married with children and would only be called to duty if all other eligible men had been called up. By 1864, Chester was required to report for duty.

This left Helen to care for their two children John and Elma. It also left her to deal with any business matters that her husband would normally have dealt with. Chester was only on active duty for about one year. Upon his return, the couple remained in Pennsylvania until about 1875.

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

By 1880 the couple moved to Colorado Springs, CO. where they lived until Helen's death. (Chester preceded her by four years.)

Their son John married Florence Crawford in Jefferson, Iowa in 1885. He also resided in Colorado Springs.

Their daughter Elma married Andrew Green a man twenty-three years her senior in 1896 at age thirty-eight. 

Helen died December 25, 1897, of pneumonia and heart disease. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado next to her husband.

Virginia Strickler - Prairie Rose Publications Blog

Henry C. Davis - Western Fictioneers Blog

Chester H. Dillon - Western Fictioneers Blog

For anyone interested, I have a monthly substack newsletter: Thoughts and Tips on History

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy.