Determined to turn over a new leaf, I sprang out of bed this morning at 5 a.m., brewed a fresh pot of coffee and powered up my laptop. I will be the first to admit that sometimes my mind wanders. It’s not an unusual affliction. Many of you readers out there in Internet-land probably suffer from the same malady. As a matter of fact, I think the internet may be contributing to the condition. I mean, come on, the world at present is like one giant train wreck, with news of calamity, war, uprisings, natural disasters and failing world economies springing forth from one headline after another. It’s the virtual equivalent of rubber necking. You know what I speak of. How easy is it to surf from site to site until something snares your eye and manages to keep your attention for a minute or two, before clicking off and onto another site? It’s the same way with the television.
Kicked back in the lazy boy, bowl of popcorn on the lap and a stack of books piled on the end table, I sometimes find myself flipping through the 400 plus channels made available by my cable carrier. Personally, I really don’t think I need four hundred plus channels. I could probably survive with one or two of the cable news networks, National Geographic, the History Channel and Espn. But neither the internet or the television is truly indicative of my attention disorder. It still comes down to the books.
I literally have seven new (to me) books I picked up and received from various sources residing on my workstation table as of this past Monday. I finished the first of them by noon on Tuesday with the intention of immediately scurrying off to my laptop to churn out a review for JoeUnleashed. Alas, the best of intentions fall prey to the promising allure of another good read. So as of last night, I realized that I was reading three different books at once and still had not penned the review of the “Outlaw”, the book I started Monday evening and finished at lunch on Tuesday. It is now Saturday morning and I’m three-quarters of the way through the other three novels and still the review of “Outlaw” remains untouched. Ugh.
So, with new leaf freshly turned and the smell of strong coffee wafting in the air, I present Angus Donald’s “Outlaw”, a novel of Robin Hood. I will not waste time or print rehashing the saga and tale of Robin Hood. It’s one of the world’s best-known stories or mythologies and there are plenty of books and movies depicting the character. However, none of the previous renditions have presented the noble villain in quite the same light as Donald has in “Outlaw”.
All the stock characters remain; Robin of Sherwood, Little John, Will Scarlet, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Friar Tuck and the fair maiden, Marie-Anne, Countess of Locksley. But as mentioned previously, this is not your parents’ Robin Hood, nor that of Kevin Costner or Russell Crowe. This is Robin Hood as seen through the eyes of fugitive peasant youngster, Alan Dale. Desperate, destitute and larcenous-minded, Alan runs afoul of the Sheriff of Nottingham when caught thieving a meat pie to feed he and his mother (his father had been dragged out in the middle of the night by the Sheriff and unceremoniously hung from an oak as a warning to others who may challenge the primacy of the local lord).
Faced with losing his hand for the thievery, Alan seeks the intervention and protection of none other than the Lord of Sherwood, Robin Hood. Hence begins an apprenticeship at the knee of Robin and an immersion into a world of violence, treachery, romance, drunken debauchery and religiosity, both Christian and pagan.
Fast-paced and descriptively presented, “Outlaw” had a familiar feel to it, but with a jolting liveliness that infused a new flavor into one of history’s most favored villains. In sum, Donald’s rousing yarn is well worth the time.