So, I've known for a while that this coming year's Tolkien calendar would be one of the good ones, featuring Tolkien's own art. Now that it's arrived, it lives up to all expectations -- beautiful reproductions of all nine of his full-page black and white drawings for THE HOBBIT, plus the half-page Mirkwood halftone. I was surprised to see a piece I was pretty sure I'd never seen before (and I've seen a lot of Hobbit art): a black-and-white drawing version of the November image, "Conversation with Smaug".
Turns out I was only surprised because I skipped right to the art and jumped over the v. nice introduction by Alan Lee,* who explains that two of the illustrations are 'new pen-and-ink renditions' of two of Tolkien's watercolors, redrawn by one Nicolette Caven esp. for this calendar. I don't know Caven's work otherwise, but she did a fine job here.**
All in all, an excellent calendar, and one I'm looking forward to hanging up up in my office come the new year.
Also newly arrived is the latest of the C. S. Lewis-as-detective books from Kel Richards. The fourth so far, THE SINISTER STUDENT, which I find I've taken to calling in my head 'Murder at the Inklings'. It repeats the pattern of the first three: from what little I've read of it so far it's notable mainly for including a fictional meeting of the Inklings early on: Lewis, Warnie, Tolkien, Coghill, Fox, and latecomer Dyson, as well as series character Tom Morris and the student of the title, one Auberon Willesden (a modernist who's come so he can feel superior). Tolkien reads them the last chapter of THE HOBBIT. It's rather surprising that Havard isn't there, but then the real-life Inklings and Inklings-as-chacters in Richard's books has always been a casual fit (for example, he calls Warnie 'The Major' throughout, though he was still Captain Lewis before his WW II service).
More on this one when I've had a chance to read it, if more seems merited.
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF CABAL by Jonathan Howard (having now reached about the mid-point)
*Lee traces influence on Tolkien as an artist from Jennie Harbour, Kay Nielsen, Arthur Rackham, Wm Morris, other Pre-Raphaelites, and, rather surprisingly, Rudyard Kipling (one of those many English writers deft with little drawings, like GKG and CSL).
** the other redrawn piece is "Rivendell" (for March).
All five of Tolkien's watercolors for THE HOBBIT are included, but four of them are shrunk down to quarter-page size, leaving only one (Conversation w. Smaug) for full-page full-color glory.