By James L. Nelson

Fore Topsail Press, 2016

334 pages, $12.99

Fans of rousing historical fiction in the style of Bernard Cornwell will surely have heard of Harpswell’s James Nelson.

Award-winning author Nelson has already written several action-packed historical fiction series about colonial naval warfare, 18th century pirates and the Civil War. With “Glendalough Fair” he resumes his bloody story of ruthless Norsemen raiding Ireland in the Dark Ages year of 853 A.D. Move over, Bernie — Nelson is here.

This is the fourth volume in the Norsemen’s Saga, following last year’s “The Lord Of Vik-Lo,” as it continues the violent adventures of Thorgrim Ulfsson, the Nightwolf, a Norwegian Viking chieftain who commands a band of ferocious warriors, including a fabled and much-feared berserker.

Nelson is masterful with historical accuracy, complex plots and vivid characters, blended convincingly with gruesome battles, Irish court intrigues and the ever-present threats of treachery and betrayal.

Thorgrim is the lord of Vik-Lo, a Viking trading post on the Irish coast. Surrounded by squabbling Irish minor lords and always watchful for plundering opportunities, he joins with two other Viking bands in a dangerous plan to raid and loot the monastic Irish town of Glendalough during the town’s annual spring fair. This should be easy pickings.

However, Viking greed and pride, clever Irish tricks and surprisingly fierce resistance threaten the plan, resulting in ambush, slaughter and traitorous double-cross. Thorgrim, his son Harald and his warriors are suddenly outnumbered and outsmarted, and even brutal, gory and merciless battles with sword, spear and battleax may not save them from destruction.

A Frankish knight disguised in monk’s robes, a deceitful and lethal Irish noblewoman, and a very sharp monastic spymaster may be Thorgrim’s most bitter and implacable foes.

A sequel is sure to follow.


By Dave O’Connor

Islandport Press, 2015

353 pages, $16.95

Dave O’Connor’s stories are pure fiction, but they are packed with folksy wisdom, especially when told by the Ole Man — “There are only two kinds of firewood: rock maple or none.”

“Huntin’ and Fishin’ with the Ole Man” is a collection of 42 short stories told by an unnamed narrator about his outdoor adventures (or misadventures, depending on which side of the prank you are on) with the Ole Man, a salty, Maine curmudgeon who lives to hunt and fish and annoy his wife.

O’Connor has written stories and articles for numerous outdoor and sporting magazines. Some of these stories were originally published in 2009, but all are light-hearted, wry humor — no knee slappers — but loaded with plenty of chuckles and smiling head-nodding.

The stories and the Ole Man are liberally lubricated with Old Stump Blower (whiskey) as he describes how his wife (called Herself) cleans out the home freezer every year of such frost-encrusted delicacies as beaver rump, how she just can’t understand why a hunter can’t have too many guns, and why she thinks hunters, fishermen and trappers are just money-wasting vagrants.

In “He Handles Thieves,” O’Connor tells why the Ole Man hates woodland thieves and vandals, catches five fish poachers and offers his swift, efficient solution to prevent repeat offenders.

Other stories explain why the Ole Man’s poached moose burgers are “nearly legal,” how he gets lost in the woods guiding two tenderfeet but won’t admit it, and about meeting a pretty female game warden who smelled nice.

Learn why a good pair of snowshoes is like a good woman, why the IRS didn’t like his tax deduction for “togue farming” and why it is dangerous to have too many hunting and fishing catalogs laying around the house.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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