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Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
The Way Some People Die
Ross Macdonald
Envy of Angels
Matt Wallace
The Fellowship of the Frog
Edgar Wallace
Code of Conduct (The Jani Kilian Chronicles Book 1)
Kristine Smith
A Good Death
Christopher R. Cox
The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
A Highland Christmas
M.C. Beaton
Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
Moominland Midwinter
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton

The Argus Pheasant (1918)

The Argus Pheasant (1918) - John Charles Beecham Jonkheer Adriaan Adriaanszoon van Schouten, Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies is unhappy. One of the more remote parts of his colony is in a constant state of turmoil, and worse, isn't returning the taxes it owes the Dutch Crown. The resident of this remote place, Bulungen in northeast Borneo has died, perhaps by encountering a local fever (or perhaps cunningly murdered?). Van Schouten determines to send a new resident to straighten things out. His loyal assistant, Sachsen, suggests an American sailor, Peter Gross.

It seems that Gross is well acquainted with the Dutch East Indies, having sailed on traders since his youth. Gross is also a massively impressive, manly man, who is also impervious to the wiles of women.

This last feature is important because one Koyala, aka the Argus Pheasant, is a much revered priestess of the "hill Dyak". They will pretty much follow her bidding. Koyala is the mongrel daughter of a French trader and a Dyak mother, and the granddaughter of the greatest priest of all time. Something like that. She was sent to missionary schools and was educated as a white woman, but then was sent back to her people because her tainted blood meant that she couldn't be trusted in the "white world". So, she has vowed revenge on the white race. Oh yeah, she is also more beautiful and alluring than Helen of Troy.

So, anyway, Gross knows about Koyala and figures that if he can work out some kind of alliance with her, the two of them can bring peace to the region, allow the crops to flourish again, and drive the Chinese and Malay pirates from their shores. It takes Gross some time to gain Koyala's trust, he is after all one of those white people who turned against her and who have been ravaging her people.

It's a pretty good yarn, despite all the racism, which was a feature of the times. The ending is such as to lay the foundation for a sequel, which indeed came along a couple of years later, entitled The Yellow Spider.