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Beyond the Black River

Beyond the Black River by Robert E. Howard

Beyond the Black River by Robert E. Howard

Conan the Barbarian is employed by one of the civilized countries to help in it’s push to claim lands from the primitive Picts. The Picts are not excited about the idea however. Old gods and mythical creatures are called up by the Pict witches to contest the invading army and Conan finds himself battling for his life amid the blood thirsty hordes that include saber-toothed tigers, 40 foot long venomous snakes and a demon from another dimension who is intent on crushing him. The huge dog Slasher makes an appearance here and distinguishes himself so well in a doomed battle to delay their forces that Conan openly praises his courage and pledges that 7 Pict heads will roll in his honor.

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Moby Dick, or, the whale

Moby Dick, or, the whale by Herman Melville

Moby Dick, or, the whale by Herman Melville

Few things, even in literature, can really be said to be unique — but Moby Dick is truly unlike anything written before or since. The novel is nominally about the obsessive hunt by the crazed Captain Ahab of the book’s eponymous white whale. But interspersed in that story are digressions, paradoxes, philosophical riffs on whaling and life, and a display of techniques so advanced for its time that some have referred to the 1851 Moby Dick as the first “modern” novel.

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Adrift on an Ice-Pan

Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Sir Wilfred Grenfell

Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Sir Wilfred Grenfell

This autobiographical work describes the author’s harrowing experience caught on a small drifting piece of ice, while crossing a frozen bay by dog team on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland.

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A Dog of Flanders

A Dog of Flanders by Ouida

A Dog of Flanders by Ouida

“Nello and Patrasche were left all alone in the world.” So begins the poignant story of the two orphans who were to become inseparable companions. They were Nello, an orphaned youth, and Patrasche, the dog which he and his grandfather saved from near death one day. The tale takes place outside of Antwerp, and so popular has this story become that there is a commemorative statue of Nello and Patrasche standing in the village yet today. The story is powerful, and masterfully written by Marie Louise de la Ramée under the pseudonym Ouida.

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The Blockade Runners

The Blockade Runners by Jules Verne

The Blockade Runners by Jules Verne

Writing at the end of the American Civil War, Verne weaves this story of a Scottish merchant who, in desperation at the interruption of the flow of Southern cotton due to the Union blockade, determines to build his own fast ship and run guns to the Confederates in exchange for the cotton piling up unsold on their wharves. His simple plan becomes complicated by two passengers who board his new ship under false pretenses in order to carry out a rescue mission, one which Capt. Playfair adopts as his own cause. This is going make the Rebels in Charleston rather unhappy with him.

Sure, his new ship is fast – but can it escape the cannonballs of both North and South?

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Little Wars

Little Wars by H. G. Wells

Little Wars by H. G. Wells

Miniature wargaming got its start with this thoroughly entertaining little account of how H.G. Wells, with certain of his friends, took their childhood toys and turned play into acceptable middle-aged sport by subjecting the exercise to the civilizing influence of actual rules.

While wargaming progressed far past these beginnings, Wells observes how “little wars” with even his elementary rules can suggest the wholesale crudity of the real thing.

“You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realize just what a blundering thing Great War must be. Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but–the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realization conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do.”

Wells leaves almost hanging the tantalizing concept that we might someday simulate war, as an instrument of international decision-making, rather than practice actual combat.

But most of this book is just the fun of evicting the boys from the playroom and spending happy days there, away from the “skirt-swishers”, developing the framework under which two gentlemen might meet and accumulate boastable victories!

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Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard

Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard by Joseph Conrad

Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard by Joseph Conrad

Señor Gould is a native Costaguanan of English descent who owns the silver-mining concession in Sulaco. He is tired of the political instability in Costaguana and its concomitant corruption, and puts his weight behind the Ribierist project, which he believes will finally bring stability to the country after years of misrule and tyranny by self-serving dictators. Instead, the silver mine and the wealth it has generated become a magnet for local warlords to fight over, plunging Costaguana into a new round of chaos. Among others, the revolutionary Montero invades Sulaco; Señor Gould, adamant that his silver should not become spoil for his enemies, entrusts it to Nostromo, the trusted “capataz de los cargadores” (head longshoreman).

Nostromo is an Italian expatriate who has risen to that position through his daring exploits. (“Nostromo” is Italian for “mate” or “boatswain”.) He is so named by his employer, Captain Mitchell. “Nostromo’s” real name is Giovanni Battista Fidanza — Fidanza meaning “trust” in archaic Italian.

Nostromo is a shameless self-publicist. He is believed by Señor Gould to be incorruptible, and for this reason is entrusted with hiding the silver from the revolutionaries. He accepts the mission not out of loyalty to Señor Gould, but rather because he sees an opportunity to increase his own fame.

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Riders of the Purple Sage

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

The year is 1871, and wealthy ranch owner Jane Withersteen is in trouble. She has incurred the displeasure of her Mormon church leaders by refusing to marry a church elder and by befriending Gentiles (non-Mormons). In rides Lassiter, the quintessential Western hero: mysterious, purposeful, a deadly gunslinger, but with an unexpected streak of gentleness. While Lassiter is assisting Jane at the ranch, her friend and rider Bern Venters is having an adventure of his own in the Utah canyon lands. Riders of the Purple Sage is a story of heroism, love, brave men and strong women, good dogs and fast horses. And who is that Masked Rider?

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Way of the Lawless

Way of the Lawless by Max Brand

Way of the Lawless by Max Brand

Young Andrew Lanning made one mistake in the beginning, and now the most feared lawman in the mountain desert, Hal Dozier, is on his trail and will stop at nothing to bring the outlaw Lanning to justice. But is Andrew guilty of all the things he is being accused of? There is one, a pretty young girl, who doesn’t believe all she hears about him. Again, Max Brand shows us why he is the master of the pulp western.

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Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Follows the fortunes of the son of a noble Saxon family in Norman England as he woos his lady, disobeys his father, and is loved by another. Set in late 12C England and in Palestine with Richard Lionheart at the Crusades, it’s another ripping historical yarn by Scott