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Tag Archive: Elizabeth C. Bunce


Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

In the small-but-crowded field of Victorian true crime, Paul Thomas Murphy′s 2016 release Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder presents a notable installment in the genre.  Covering a lesser-known crime that was the sensation of its day, Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane details the brutal murder of Jane Clouson, a sixteen-year-old London maid-of-all-work, and the legal fiasco that followed, including—but hardly limited to—the murder trial of suspect Edmund Pook.  Murphy begins his account like a thriller, a police procedural of a bygone era of evolving law enforcement and burgeoning forensics.  His heroes are the detectives, witnesses, and doctors who come forward to uncover the truth of Clouson’s attack—and the identity of her attacker.  Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane is available now in a paperback edition.

In his riveting step-by-step analysis of the investigation, Murphy paints a vivid picture of 1870s London—its law enforcement, its residents, and the neighborhoods torn apart by the culture clash of young Clouson’s murder.  This section of the book really shines, offering both an excellent overview of period forensic science and police procedure, as well as enticing tidbits like the cost of a photograph or the unexpectedly fascinating workings of a ironmonger’s shop from the era.

The second part of Murphy’s tale, leading readers through the labyrinth of the 19th century English justice system, loses a bit of momentum, although that’s as much the challenge of presenting the welter of material about the case (four separate steps to the murder trial and all the attendant solicitors, barristers, judges, and witnesses) as the challenge of making the mystifying Victorian trial process understandable.  That said, it’s unclear who the audience for the book is meant to be—American readers wholly unfamiliar with the byzantine and confusing steps of a Victorian murder trial; or English readers who will find the basics—if not the details (which have changed substantially in the intervening 145 years)—relatable.  Readers brand-new to the subject will likely find themselves lost and confused by references to the Treasury Department (which handled many public prosecutions until the 1980s) and similar trappings, and may struggle to stick with the book through the legal morass.  It is not a spoiler to note that Pook was acquitted of the murder, but the legal battles surrounding him were far from over.  Murphy offers up a cast of characters who, beyond mere professional adversaries, become almost mortal enemies as the many facets of the case churn on.

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Happy April!

Planet Comicon Kansas City wrapped its 2019 convention yesterday, another great show this time highlighting the event’s 20th anniversary.  We snapped several photographs of sights we’re sharing today as we wind down our coverage of this year’s show.


I snapped some photographs of a family in front of this great fire-breathing dragon.  Whenever I see a person taking photos of their family I offer to step in so everyone can be included.  How many people have photos of everyone in them except their mom?  This was another success.

We also caught up with several authors at the show, including…

… our pal Jason Arnett, writing and signing his books Evolver and A Map of the Problem.

And we met up with Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee, enjoying their second year at the event, highlighting their books Wrath of the Fury Blade and Unremarkable.

As usual, there were lots of cosplayers at the show, especially compared to the first years of the show back in the 1990s when cosplay was a rarity.


Hard to beat this great Darkwing Duck.


This was a fantastic, fully lit-up Ghost Rider.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

We were dazzled by 2017’s debut fantasy by Curtis Craddock, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (reviewed here at borg), and have eagerly awaited the sequel, A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery.  It was worth the wait!  No sophomore slump here—Craddock plunges us right back into the action, magic, and intrigue of the Risen Kingdoms, introducing new characters, sorceries, and subplots in a standalone adventure that is every bit as engrossing as the first book.

Returning father-daughter heroes Jean-Claude and Princess Isabelle find themselves once more adrift in scandal and conspiracy, this time hunting down (and fending off) shadowy murderers.  While the Saintsborn nobles are losing their divine sorcery to a mysterious illness, the “Unhallowed” are suddenly turning up with magic of their own—often gone awry in grisly ways.  The balance of power tips precariously, as Gran Leon, Emperor for decades, suffers the ravages of the plague.

As Jean-Claude hunts the pair behind the murders, known only as the Harvest King and the Bone Queen, Isabelle is courted by a handful of new figures, all with motives of their own.  What does her long-lost sister really want?  What about Gran Leon’s exiled, unmagical son?  And what about her beguiling new bodyguard?

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The 80th anniversary of what has been called by film critics the greatest year of movies is here.  In 1939 audiences were first introduced to the landmark Western, John Ford’s Stagecoach, John Ford also released Young Mr. Lincoln, Frank Capra released his most patriotic film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Charles Laughton starred in The Hunchback of Notre DameDrums Along the Mohawk, The Little Princess, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Only Angels Have Wings, Gunga Din, Dark Victory, Son of Frankenstein, Golden Boy, Destry Rides Again–all premiered in 1939.  And then there was director Victor Fleming, who released not only the definitive historical romance, Gone With the Wind, but the celebrated greatest fantasy movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz.  To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Turner Classic Movies/TCM Big Screen Classics and Fathom Events have teamed up to show special screenings of The Wizard of Oz beginning Sunday, to appear at more than 700 theaters nationwide.

Starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, and Terry as Toto, The Wizard of Oz, in a controversial and competitive year of Oscars, would take home the Academy Award for best song (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg‘s “Over the Rainbow“) and Herbert Stothart‘s musical score (it was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Special Effects).

It’s the classic that would be celebrated by generations as one of the rare films re-broadcast on television year after year before the advent of home video, but hundreds of millions of fans have never seen it as it was meant to be seen.  Take the advice of author Elizabeth C. Bunce, who reviewed the movie for its 75th anniversary here at borg, if you have never seen it in the theater, do yourself a favor and grab everyone you care about, and get to the theater to see The Wizard of Oz.  

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A Curse Dark as Gold cover Elizabeth C Bunce

The trees are turning red and orange, and Halloween is only three weeks away.  If you’re looking for a ghost story to get you into the mood of the season, check out borg.com writer Elizabeth C. Bunce‘s novel A Curse Dark as Gold, available in hardcover, paperback, and E-book editions from Amazon and other booksellers, first reviewed here back in 2011.  The audio book as read by British actress Charlotte Parry, known for her roles in Tony Award winning Broadway plays, is a great way to immerse yourself in this ghost story.

A Curse Dark as Gold is set in the Gold Valley in that far away land where fairy tales reside.  Charlotte Miller is a girl in her late teens whose father dies and leaves her the town of Shearings’ woolen mill, which serves as workplace for most of her community, along with the care of Charlotte’s younger sister Rosie.  Unwanted responsibilities fall into the lap of this young woman from page one.  From a framework standpoint A Curse Dark as Gold is a spin on Rumpelstiltskin-type helper tales of the past, but this story takes on its own life.  Shearing is at once lovely and pastoral, yet dark and creepy doings begin to permeate the corners of the town.  A mysterious uncle arrives and begins to interject himself into the girls’ lives, pecking away at their sanity.  As if sick itself, the mill begins to respond to the death of Charlotte’s father, with boards crashing down, textile machines failing, and the fabric of Shearing seeming to unravel.

A Curse Dark as Gold audio Elizabeth C Bunce told by Charlotte Parry

The story is set at the dawn of an Industrial Revolution.  Water wheels are about to be replaced with steam power and the smoke-filled cities that come along with that new technology.  Charlotte has inherited her father’s acumen as a savvy businessperson, yet real life pressures including competition from big city wool firms and unfair attempts to squeeze Shearing’s mill out of the marketplace cause the mill to lose its workers.  The economic issues are only the beginning of Charlotte’s problems.  A strange neighbor lady is a follower of old world ways, superstitions and magic.  Charlotte is steadfast and stubborn, relying only upon her own intuition as she turns away from everyone near her, including sister Rosie and her new husband.

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Our San Diego Comic-Con coverage continues with Fox’s television series The Orville, which had both a panel and signing this year, along with featuring The Orville shuttle-themed PediCabs to cart visitors around the Gaslamp District and waterfront.  We have the panel video below, as well as the preview shown at the panel for Season 2.  Series star and executive producer Seth MacFarlane said fans can look forward to a Season 2 where “Every episode feels like a movie.”

Thanks to The Orville concept artist Lex Cassar, we (I and my wife, author and borg.com TV reviewer Elizabeth C. Bunce) had one of our best experiences at meeting the crew of a show.  Seeing that the standby line for The Orville signing had no hope of making it to the Fox booth (events often can run long and subsequent events get behind at SDCC), Cassar came out to hand out some of the SDCC-exclusive Planetary Union pins to those at the back of the line–a very kind and classy gesture to those standing for an hour and half.  Seeing me and Elizabeth in the Orville uniforms she created for the Con, he came back with a screen-used resin phaser for us to pose with.  He went back to the booth and brought back Jason Roberts, unit production manager, who brought Bortus’s egg from the series, plus another hero resin light-up phaser and light-up scanners, and we were able to get more photos with the crew and these great props (gorgeously detailed, realistic, and heavy!).

The Orville production crew and borg.com staff with screen-used props at San Diego Comic-Con.

Despite not getting the lottery for the signing, we got up close and Seth MacFarlane (Capt. Ed Mercer) said we looked great, Scott Grimes (Lt. Gordon Malloy) gave me a fist bump and had a quick chat with Elizabeth regarding the comfort of the uniform, J. Lee (Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr) gave us a thumbs-up, and Penny Johnson Jerald (Dr. Claire Finn) blew kisses from the balcony.  Peter Macon (Lt. Cmdr. Bortus) chatted it up with everyone at the Fox booth.

Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki signing at the Fox Booth at Comic-Con.

Emmy-winning producer and The Orville executive producer and director Jon Cassar (and 24 series executive producer and director of Continuum and The Dead Zone among other things) and producer and film editor Tom Costantino were especially gracious and gave us some of the Union logo pins and a Union hat after The Orville interview show.

C.J. Bunce and Elizabeth C. Bunce at San Diego Comic-Con (photo by SDCC official staff photographer).

All a great payoff for Elizabeth’s time in interpreting and deconstructing the costumes with only photographs in The World of the Orville book as a guide, sourcing fabrics, creating patterns and sewing the final uniforms!  Comic-Con cosplay is in part about feedback to the studios. It’s also about showing your support for what you like–the driving theme of borg.com, too.  We loved Season 1 and want to see more of it, and want these creators to know.

The real McCoy–an Orville screen-used resin phaser.

So check out the new trailer for Season 2, plus footage from The Orville panel, followed by the interview at the Fox booth at the show:

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

A contender for this year’s best fantasy novel is Curtis Craddock’s debut fantasy An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors.  Don’t let the cumbersome title fool you—this is a smoothly written, elegantly crafted, and highly entertaining read!  Poised as the first in a series, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is a political fantasy–and historical fantasy–reminiscent of classic Guy Gavriel Kay novels like A Song for Arbonne or Tigana.  Set in the fantasy world of The Risen Kingdoms, with superficial similarities to Europe’s 17th century Baroque era, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors presents a world constantly on the brink of war, twisted with layer upon layer of intrigue, with only one firm villain and two clear heroes—and a whole cast of in-betweens, whose shifting loyalties form the uncertain foundation of the tale.

Onto this stage steps Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs of l’Empire Celeste.  Born with a physical disfigurement, Isabelle has grown up in her father’s court, suffering his abuse and brutal magic, almost entirely friendless and alone, and nearly ignored.  In this atmosphere, she’s able to pursue her true passions of science and mathematics, becoming (secretly) one of the foremost mathematicians of her day.  Her only loyal companions are the man charged with guarding her since birth, King’s Own Musketeer Jean-Claude; and a curious handmaiden, Marie.

Thanks to her disfigurement and low esteem at her father’s court, Isabelle believes life will hold no more than this—until foreign machinations thrust her into international politics.  Talked into accepting Principe Julio de Aragoth’s marriage proposal, and believing this is her chance for peace and love, Isabelle and Jean-Claude set sail into a more treacherous journey than they bargained for.

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A Curse Dark as Gold cover Elizabeth C Bunce

The trees are turning red and orange and it couldn’t be setting up for a more perfect autumn, and Halloween is only two weeks away.  If you’re looking for a ghost story to get you into the mood of the season, check out borg.com writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s novel A Curse Dark as Gold, available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and E-book editions from Amazon.com and other booksellers, first reviewed here back in 2011.

A Curse Dark as Gold is set in the Gold Valley in that far away land where fairy tales reside.  Charlotte Miller is a girl in her late teens whose father dies and leaves her the town of Shearings’ woolen mill, which serves as workplace for most of her community, along with the care of Charlotte’s younger sister Rosie.  Unwanted responsibilities fall into the lap of this young woman from page one.  From a framework standpoint A Curse Dark as Gold is a spin on Rumpelstiltskin-type helper tales of the past, but this story takes on its own life. Shearing is at once lovely and pastoral, yet dark and creepy doings begin to permeate the corners of the town.  A mysterious uncle arrives and begins to interject himself into the girls’ lives, pecking away at their sanity.  As if sick itself, the mill begins to respond to the death of Charlotte’s father, with boards crashing down, textile machines failing, and the fabric of Shearing seeming to unravel.

A Curse Dark as Gold audio Elizabeth C Bunce told by Charlotte Parry

The story is set at the dawn of an Industrial Revolution.  Water wheels are about to be replaced with steam power and the smoke-filled cities that come along with that new technology.  Charlotte has inherited her father’s acumen as a savvy businessperson, yet real life pressures including competition from big city wool firms and unfair attempts to squeeze Shearing’s mill out of the marketplace cause the mill to lose its workers.  The economic issues are only the beginning of Charlotte’s problems.  A strange neighbor lady is a follower of old world ways, superstitions and magic.  Charlotte is steadfast and stubborn, relying only upon her own intuition as she turns away from everyone near her, including sister Rosie and her new husband.

The rustle of the wind, the creaks of the mill building, the thump of the belts on the mill wheel, all come alive.  Thoroughly creepy images of the mysterious stranger manipulating Charlotte’s uncle will stick with you long after you’re done reading.  And at the heart of the novel is a dark ghost story.  Elizabeth’s exquisite prose, and the determined and believable voice of narrator Charlotte, will leave you believing you didn’t pull a work from 2008 off the bookshelf, but a classic work written in the 1800s.  You will be hard-pressed to find another book that will better get you in the mood for the coming holiday and its hauntings.  The audio book as read by British actress Charlotte Parry, known for her roles in Tony Award winning Broadway plays, is a great way to immerse yourself in this ghost story.

A Curse Dark as Gold has won several national awards, including being listed on the Smithsonian Institution list of notable books, Oprah Winfrey’s recommendation list for YA, the American Library Association recommended reading lists including best fiction, listed on the Amelia Bloomer Booklist (honoring strong female roles), and winner of the first William Morris Award (honoring first time authors).  It was also included along with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and In Cold Blood on the Kansas sesquicentennial 150 Books/150 Years list.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Amnesia.  A terrifying loss of self, or a chance to start anew?  This is the theme explored in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1946 film noir Somewhere in the Night, starring John Hodiak (Lifeboat, Battleground, The Harvey Girls) and Nancy Guild (Give My Regards to Broadway, Black Magic, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man).  Hodiak plays a WWII vet who awakens in a South Pacific hospital with a broken jaw and amnesia.  The only clues to his identity?  Doctors who keep calling him “George Taylor,” and a wallet empty but for a devastating, angry Dear John letter accusing him of destroying someone’s life.  Unable to stand the idea of being that person, yet without any other identity, Taylor returns stateside, where he discovers that an old friend, Larry Cravat, has opened a bank account in his name, ready to support him upon his return to civilian life.

But his efforts to claim the money open up a can of worms and set a gang of thugs, conmen, mobsters, and even an evil fortune-teller on Taylor’s trail played by Fritz Kortner (The Razor’s Edge), all convinced he can lead them to the mysterious–and still missing–Larry Cravat.

Hodiak’s Taylor is likeable, earnest, and sympathetic, as he tries to navigate the increasingly confusing and seedy world of his pal, Larry Cravat.  Mugged, beaten, chased by cops, thrown out of a sanatorium, and nearly run down by a truck (as it turns out, a villain’s weapon of choice), Hodiak can’t help but wonder: What kind of a guy is this Larry Cravat?

Along the way, Taylor hooks up with a few friendly faces–savvy nightclub singer Chris (Nancy Guild) has a soft spot for the guy, even when she finds out he’s on the trail of the man who broke her best friend’s heart and contributed to her death.  A sympathetic police detective, played with delightful aplomb by Lloyd Nolan (The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, Airport, Earthquake) provides some backstory into the criminal dealings Cravat may have been involved in.  Chris introduces the local nightclub owner, played by Richard Conte (Call Northside 777, Ocean’s 11, The Godfather), who is in love with Chris and tries to help Taylor.  Keep an eye out for producer/director/actor Sheldon Leonard (It’s a Wonderful Life) and Henry Morgan (M*A*S*H, Dragnet) in bit parts.

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