Witch hunts and suicide missions: books read

A TRIAL OF WITCHES: A Seventeenth Century Witchcraft Prosecution by Gilbert Geis and Ivan Bunn works much better than Malcolm Gaskill’s tedious Witchfinders, wisely focusing on one single 1662 trial, of accused (and found guilty) witches Amy Denny and Rose Cullender in Lowescroft. The authors detail the accusations at trial (Denny supposedly hexed merchant Samuel Pacy’s daughter after Pacy refused to sell Denny some surplus herring); the learned personages testifying or sitting in judgment (most notably the once-legendary judge Sir Matthew Hale, now best known for his warnings about the dangers of women crying rape); the accusers; and the village itself. The authors agree with the theory witch trials were less about the Inquisition sweeping down and more about local, personal interactions: the two women were quarrelsome and strongminded, and Pacy refusing Denny’s request (by local standards a very reasonable one) may have given him an incentive to believe she was evil and therefore not entitled to charity. Other factors in play include religious outlooks, recent political turmoil and the sexism of the era. A very good book on the subject.

SUICIDE SQUAD: Trial By Fire by John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell launched the long-running 1980s series about a team of supervillains working for the government as disposable agents (if they’re caught, they can be written off as crooks doing criminal stuff). This was a little too grim-and-gritty for my taste when it came out, and even now I’m not rushing to get V2. That said, it is well done as the team tackles an Arab terrorist super-team (the Bad Arab stereotypes have not improved with age), rescue a dissident from the Soviet Union and stop a white supremacist from using a fake superhero to launch a race war (black crooks get dragged to the cops, white criminals get to go free if they join the militia). And of course, with a bunch of sociopaths, possession victims and broken people, there are no end of potential problems that can break the team apart. If this is your sort of thing, definitely worth buying,

#SFWApro. Cover by Luke McDonnell, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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