Monthly Archives: October 2016

Scott Oden: A Gathering of Ravens 2017

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Scott Oden USA (1967 – )

Scott Oden was born in Columbus, Indiana, in 1967. The youngest of five, he was raised in rural North Alabama, near Huntsville, where he still resides. Scott’s fascination with Egypt and the ancient world began in 1976, when his third-grade teacher showed the class slides from the traveling Tutankhamen exhibit. He studied history and English at Calhoun College and the University of Alabama before pursuing the usual variety of odd jobs–from delivering pizza to working in the bindery of a printing company to clerking at a video store. Men of Bronze is his first novel.

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Author Web site

He is called by many names. To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcnéas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind – the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.

Drawn from his lair by a thirst for vengeance against the ambitious Dane who slew his brother, Grimnir emerges into a world that has changed. A new faith has arisen, a Nailed God from the East, and against it the Elder World cannot abide. The Old Ways are dying, and their followers retreating into the shadows; even still, Grimnir’s vengeance cannot be denied.

Taking as hostage a young Christian to be his guide, Grimnir embarks on a journey that takes him from the hinterlands of Denmark, where the wisdom of the ancient dwarves has given way to madness, to the war-torn heart of southern England, where the spirits of the land make violence on one another. And thence to the green shores of Ireland and the Viking stronghold of Dubhlinn, where his enemy awaits . . .

But, unless Grimnir can set aside his hatreds, his dream of retribution will come to nothing. For Dubhlinn is set to be the site of a reckoning – the Old Ways versus the New – and Grimnir, the last of his kind left to plague mankind, must choose: stand with the Christian King of Ireland and see his vengeance done, or stand against him and see it slip away?

Review

For quite some time i have espoused the huge (and growing) cross over in the Fantasy and Historical Fiction genres, the two genres i have most read and reviewed in the last 25 years.

Scott Odens A Gathering of Ravens takes it a step further, he pulls in the deep myths of the Norse and Anglo Saxon world, just as Christianity is blooming across Europe, Britain and then later wraps in the ancient tales of Ireland. The old world is fading but the pagan world is still a huge part of many lives and for those converted to the nailed god, some have a tenuous hold on their new faith. For me this book brought back memories of 2000ad and Slaine…. in one of the most famous stories Slaine is sent back to Ireland to fight Balor the one Eye and the Formorians ( aka skraelingr) . This book follows The profoundly dark Grimnir a hard spoken loner, a Skraelingr and Etain a follower of the Nailed god, a young christian certain in her faith. Both are set for new revelations towards each others beliefs and understanding and the reader is treated to two totally opposing views of the world.

Scott Oden has done a marvelous job of weaving his tale of myths, legends and history into a tale that feels like an ancient chronicle a fable for warriors, remembering their history, recounting the glory of the old gods in the face of the new one. There are many times in this book that you lose track of what may have been taken from facts and fables and what is from the mind of the author, which for me is a true triumph. I remember while reading the book, ooh I know X & Y author who will love this book, which to me also screams the authenticity of the book, the skill, effort and research that’s gone into it, and also the passion behind the subject, the voices of the characters and how they change with the locale, blending the myth and poetry of the story into a fire side fable.

I know this is some time away, but this really is a book not to miss in 2017

Buy The Book

(Parm)

Novels
Men of Bronze (2005)
Memnon (2006)
The Lion Of Cairo (2010)
Serpent of Hellas (2012)
A Gathering of Ravens (2017)

 

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Julian Stockwin: Inferno (Author Interview)

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Julian Stockwin UK (1944 – )

Julian Stockwin was sent at the age of fourteen to Indefatigable, a tough sea-training school. He joined the Royal Navy at fifteen before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy, where he served for eight years in the Far East, Antarctic waters and the South Seas. In Vietnam he saw active service in a carrier task force.

After leaving the Navy (rated Petty Officer), Julian practiced as an educational psychologist. He lived for some time in Hong Kong, where he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve. He was awarded the MBE and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He now lives in Devon with his wife Kathy.

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book cover of Inferno

Inferno  (2016) (Book 17 in the Thomas Kydd series)

Inferno by Julian Stockwin, published by Hodder & Stoughton, out now

It’s 1807. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd’s famous sea action aboard Tyger has snatched his reputation from ignominy. He is the hero of the hour. But though Britain’s navy remains imperious, a succession of battles has seen Napoleon victorious on mainland Europe.

In an attempt to prevent the French from taking control of Denmark’s navy, Kydd’s great friend, Nicholas Renzi – now Lord Farndon – is sent on a desperate diplomatic mission to persuade the Danes to give up their fleet to Britain. But the Danes are caught between two implacable forces and will not yield, opting instead for the inferno of battle….

Interview:

1)  for those who are new to the series, what are the roots/ origins for you and the Kydd story, how did you come up with the concept?

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I was a software designer. I’d just signed off on my biggest and most fraught project. As I sank into an armchair, my wife Kathy thrust a large tumbler of whisky into my hand and looked me straight in the eyes. ‘Sweetheart,’ she said, ‘get a life!’ Her suggestion: that I write. And about the sea…

Once I’d overcome the initial shock and decided to give it a go, I realised there was a lot of sense in what she said. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been bewitched by the sea. Going to a decent grammar school was wasted on me; on the school bus I’d gaze out across the Channel at the low, grey shapes slipping away over the horizon on voyages to who knows where, taking my imagination with them.

My father thought he’d knock all this nonsense out of me, and sent me to a tough sea-training school at the tender age of 14. It didn’t work; there was no contest – Latin and algebra or splicing and boat handling.

But to achieve that more prominent role for the sea, it seemed logical to take the perspective of the men who actually did the job out there on the yardarm, serving the great cannon or crowding aboard an enemy deck, rather than of those shouting orders from behind. So the lower deck it was – and then I came across some surprising statistics. Unlike the army, where commissions were bought, all naval officers had to qualify professionally, and scattered among these were no more than a couple of hundred common seamen who made the awesome journey from the fo’c’sle to the quarterdeck, thereby turning themselves into gentlemen. Some became captains of their own ships; remarkably, some victims of the press-gang even became admirals. How could it be so? Just what kind of men were they?

2) The first few books have an almost sea shanty lyrical nature, how hard was this to write, and was it always due to vanish as Kydd matured?

Writing is never easy but as I’ve already mentioned I wanted the early books to have the voice of the lower deck. Once Kydd became an officer his speech patterns of necessity changed but I do enjoy having him lapse into the colourful lingo of Jack Tar on the odd occasion.

3) Who is your favorite character from the series (I’ve always liked Renzi)

A hard question! There are many minor characters to whom I’m particularly attached. I think of Joe Bowyer, Kydd’s ‘sea-daddy’; Toby Stirk, gunner’s mate; Tysoe, Kydd’s devoted valet. I also have a soft spot for Kitty, the gritty Portsmouth seamstress and young Bowden, who conquers his shyness to become a fine officer. Kydd, of course, is the central character of the series and I feel I know him so well by now. He’s come up the hard way and is ‘true north’; personal traits that I deeply admire. And Renzi – such an enigmatic character initially, but he’s grown with the series.  I’d love to meet him and debate his philosophy. As an aside, Kathy always says I’m half Kydd, half Renzi!

4) Kydd has managed to be involved in most of the epic naval situations of his generation, to what age can he continue?

Well, some naval officers served for many decades. Collingwood chalked up 50 years’ service; Black Dick Howe spent 60 years as a professional sea officer. Once an officer makes admiral he is in post until he dies.

5) Details of book 18 Persephone already exist, are you already that far ahead of the reader?

PERSEPHONE will soon be finished in first draft and the final version will be delivered to my publisher at the crack of the New Year for publication mid-May.  Outlines for several following books are done and I am looking forward to the publication of two Kydd titles a year from next year.

6) You have started to intersperse your work with some stand alone books, do you have another stand alone planned?

I have a couple of ideas for further such novels but they are on a backburner at the moment so that I can concentrate on the new publication schedule for the Kydd titles. I certainly do plan to write more standalones in the future, however, as I find this a challenging and interesting diversion from my sea tales.

7) Who do you read for fun and why?

Not much spare time at the moment! However I do enjoy salty reminisences and have recently dipped into several of these. And any cat books are a treat and something completely different from my daily fare. I’m a big fan of Street Cat Bob!

8) Who are the writers that you grew up with and made you want to write?

I grew up enthralled with C S Forester, the only writer in the genre at that time, but was also captivated by the atmosphere in R M Ballantyne (‘Coral Island’) and found Marryat hard going for a small boy, but rewarding. The most evocative sea books to me were Conrad, which I now realise were written by someone who was a professional seaman who deeply related to the sea’s mystery. At sea I read all I could lay hands on that could amplify my experience. And while I was at sea C S Forester died, and I recall the deep sense of finality that I felt that there would be no more great sea stories of the kind he pioneered so masterfully. I have a deep admiration for Patrick O’Brian, and thoroughly enjoy his work, but of course we necessarily write from different perspectives. But it wasn’t one of these who was responsible for my becoming an author – it was my wife Kathy, as I’ve mentioned, who suggested I try my hand at writing.

9) After 18 books do you still have to do lots of research?

Perhaps not as much as when I first started writing but each new book brings with it a requirement for pretty intensive research – primary and secondary sources – and of course location research.

10) So fun questions time: you can invite any 4 people from the whole of history to dinner… whim and why?

Ah, only four! Well, my guests would be two men and two women: Horatio Nelson (my all-time naval hero);  Shakespeare (for his sheer mastery of the English language); Hester Stanhope (one of those fascinating Georgian ladies who relished their independence) and Helen of Troy (to see just how beautiful she really was…)

11) If you could take part in any one single naval escapade, what would it be and why?

Ah, a hard question. I’d quite like to take part in a daring boat cutting-out expedition, with courageous hand-to-hand fighting and the element of stealth in coming up to the enemy. However after a little thought I’ve chosen the Battle of the Nile, which to my mind was Nelson’s finest hour. And what a sight it must have been – the huge French flagship L’Orient bursting into a violent conflagration that actually stopped the battle for some moments.

12) Your publisher has a slightly mean streak and send you out to do your own PR: you have to stand on a soap box at Kings cross and sell your book to passers buy… whats your pitch?

Live the adventure with the dashing sea captain Thomas Kydd at the controversial Second Battle of Copenhagen in 1807. Did the British commit a ‘war crime’ there? – I’ll let you decide.

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Series
Thomas Kydd
1. Kydd (2001)
2. Artemis (2002)
3. Seaflower (2003)
4. Mutiny (2003)
5. Quarterdeck (2004)
6. Tenacious (2005)
7. Command (2006)
8. The Admiral’s Daughter (2007)
9. Treachery (2008)
aka The Privateer’s Revenge
10. Invasion (2009)
11. Victory (2010)
12. Conquest (2011)
13. Betrayal (2012)
14. Caribbee (2013)
15. Pasha (2014)
16. Tyger (2015)
17. Inferno (2016)
18. Persephone (2017)




Kydd Omnibus
1. The Kydd Collection Books 1-3 (2014)
2. The Kydd Collection Books 4-6 (2014)
3. The Kydd Collection Books 7-9 (2014)
4. The Kydd Collection Books 10-12 (2014)
5. The Kydd Collection Books 13-15 (2016)

Novels
The Silk Tree (2014)
The Powder of Death (2016)
Non fiction
Stockwin’s Maritime Miscellany (2009)

 

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THE LAST VIKING by Giles Kristian & Phil Stevens

THE LAST VIKING 

Dear Reader, In case you missed it, here’s Giles Kristian & Phil Steven’s new short film about Harald Haradrada, one of the greatest Vikings of all.
Watch the full film here: http://www.worldserpentproductions.com/the-last-viking

Hope you enjoy the film, if you do please share. 

Best regards,
Giles Kristian

THE LAST VIKING

25th September, 1066. The Viking King Harald Hardrada’s invaders are being slaughtered at Stamford Bridge outside York. Caught unawares by the English King Harold and his army, the Norsemen fight to their last breath, as all worthy warriors must.

Battle-torn, bloody and exhausted, the ageing warrior king bursts into a simple thatched dwelling, the clamour of battle and cries of the fallen fading behind him. He stumbles, throws himself onto a bed, is taken by sleep. Wakes to find food bubbling in a pot over the fire. Eats ravenously. The door opens and a spear-armed, one-eyed stranger in a wide-brimmed hat walks in. Sits down. Stares at the great king with his single, soul-searching eye. Under this scrutiny Hardrada feels suddenly compelled to tell this stranger the saga story of his own illustrious, war-filled life.

For though the great Harald Hardrada might not know it, his mortal body even now lies hacked and bloodless on the field by the river. And yet such was the warrior’s ambition in life, such was his thirst for sword-fame and glory, that he has one more tale to tell. One final epic to share, of his journey along the warrior’s way, before his soul can move on to what lies beyond.

And Odin the spear god, lord of war and poetry, would hear it.

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Ruth Downie Vita Brevis (Blog Tour) + Book Give-Away!!

Keep reading…. find out how you can win a few copy of this excellent book

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Ruth (RS) Downie graduated from university with an English degree and a plan to get married and live happily ever after. She is still working on it. In the meantime she is also the New York Times bestselling author of a mystery series featuring Roman doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso.

Vita Brevis (2016) (The seventh book in the Medicus Investigation series)

9781620409589

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Ruso and Tilla’s excitement at arriving in Rome with their new baby daughter is soon dulled by their discovery that the grand facades of polished marble mask an underworld of corrupt landlords and vermin-infested tenements. There are also far too many doctors – some skilled – but others positively dangerous.

Ruso thinks that he has been offered a reputable medical practice only to find that his predecessor, Doctor Kleitos, has fled, leaving a dead man in a barrel on the doorstep and the warning “be careful who you trust.” Distracted by the body and his efforts to help a friend win the hand of a rich young heiress, Ruso makes a grave mistake, causing him to question both his competence and his integrity.

With Ruso’s reputation under threat, he and Tilla must protect their small family from Doctor Kleitos’ debt collectors and find allies in their new home while they track down the vanished doctor and find out the truth about the heiress’ dead father – Ruso’s patient – and the unfortunate man in the barrel.

Guest Post: Bizarre things from research…….

Not a lot of people know this…

The Roman soldier and the British girl were only ever supposed to fill three chapters for a ‘start a novel’ competition. If someone had told me I was going to end up writing a whole series about them, I’d never have dared to make him a medic.  What did I know about Roman doctors?

There were lots of things I didn’t know back then. It’s probably just as well, because if I’d had the sense to run away I’d never have discovered the fantastic world that Ruso and Tilla live in.

It turned out that there was no shortage of medical textbooks from the ancient world. The challenge was to find the balance between making Ruso an authentic doctor of his time, and making him sound dangerously insane.

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There are plenty of useful things he could do: setting broken bones, stitching up wounds and putting dislocated joints back where they ought to be. He could offer a form of cataract surgery, and some of the surgical techniques he would know were still being used in the field hospitals of the First World War. But what if a patient arrived with toothache, and he consulted one of the respected textbooks of his day? He might prescribe the sting of a stingray—because according to Dioscorides, “it shatters the tooth and ejects it.” Which would be very authentic, but I suspect anyone reading the story would spend the next few chapters fingering their jaw, and long after closing the book they’d remember it as “that one with the thing about teeth.”

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Luckily there’s plenty of evidence that the doctors of the classical world were a quarrelsome bunch, so Ruso doesn’t have to follow all the advice he’s given. That’s just as well, because otherwise he might be prescribing jellyfish as a cure for gout, plastering on ground-up earthworms to mend severed tendons, and recommending the ash of burned seahorses (mixed with pitch or lard) as a hair-restorer.

Anyone could call themselves a doctor in the second century, so if you needed medical help it was definitely a case of ‘buyer beware’. A wise course, especially if you planned to travel, might be to find someone reliable and ask for a “theriac” to take every day – a general antidote against everything. The problem was—as Ruso discovers in VITA BREVIS—that some of the ingredients were addictive and others were poisonous, so if you changed doctors the next one would need to know exactly what the last one had given you.

As someone who writes about a medic who investigates murders, I find myself delving into all sorts of things like this – things that a normal person might find slightly worrying.  Not all of them end up being useful, though. Even though there is cyanide in apple pips, and it might be theoretically possible to bump somebody off by sneaking lots of pips into their dinner (please don’t try), it probably wouldn’t work in a book. The readers who already knew about apple pips would guess the plot and the ones who didn’t would never believe it.

Incidentally—it’s not a good idea to feed onions to sheep, no matter how keen they are to eat them. Or to any other livestock. Animals have been poisoned by onions.  I know this because there’s a copy of “Poisonous Plants and Fungi: An Illustrated Guide” on the shelf in the writing room. It sits next to “Dreisbach’s Handbook of Poisoning” and the “Human Bone Manual”. Being a writer of historical crime is a strange job.

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It could be stranger, though: I could be an author of ancient-world werewolf stories. Writing in the first century, Pliny insisted that the idea of men turning into wolves and then back into men again simply wasn’t true. “The extent of Greek gullibility,” he went on to say, “is amazing.” However… this is the same Pliny who quotes sources saying that some men in India are entirely enveloped by their ears, that the Astomi tribe have no mouths and live entirely on air and smells, and that birthmarks, scars and markings can be inherited. Amongst the Dacians, apparently, tattoos have been known to reappear up to the fourth generation. And it seems that almost everyone believed in ghosts, which is why it was important to make sure the dead were properly buried.

I can’t help thinking the Roman world would have loved the Internet.

I try to ration the amount of this sort of thing that goes into the books, otherwise people will think my characters are slightly crackers. But although some of what our ancestors believed is wildly wide of the mark, how well would most of us survive in a world where we couldn’t phone for help or Google the answers? I’m constantly in awe of their energy, their curiosity and their independence.

Finally, a few thoughts from Artemidorus, interpreter of dreams. May you never dream of boxing, which signifies bad luck, but may you dream of having eyebrows that are thick and luxuriant, because this is a dream that is “auspicious for all”.

 

So… if you would like to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment on the blog and i will pick a name at random to win a copy of this excellent title…

 

Series

Medicus Investigation
1. Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls (2006)
aka Medicus
2. Ruso and the Demented Doctor (2008)
aka Terra Incognita
3. Ruso and the Root of All Evils (2009)
aka Persona Non Grata
4. Ruso and the River of Darkness (2010)
aka Caveat Emptor
5. Semper Fidelis (2013)
6. Tabula Rasa (2014)
7. Vita Brevis (2016)


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Ben Aaronovitch: The Hanging Tree (Review)

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Ben Aaronovitch
UK (1964 – )

Ben Denis Aaronovitch is a London-born British writer who has worked on television series including Doctor Who, Casualty, Jupiter Moon and Dark Knight. He is the younger brother of actor Owen Aaronovitch and British journalist David Aaronovitch.

Author Web site

book cover of The Hanging Tree

The Hanging Tree  (2016)
(The sixth book in the PC Peter Grant series)

Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.

He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week….

Review

The Rivers / PC Grant series is in my opinion one of the best, most original and funny series i have read in the last 5 years, starting with Rivers of London it erupted into my reading world as a breath of fresh air and proceeded to wow until what i felt was a dip in book 4 Broken Homes. Fox Glove summer in 2014 was almost a return to form, but  with its escape from London it both lost some of its sparkle, but also gained some new expansiveness, but for all that i have still been an avid reader eager for each and every book.

The gap from then to the eagerly anticipated Hanging Tree, a book that seemed to not to want to come out has been longer than hoped for, but, it has finally ended and the book has arrived. The story/plot was everything i could have hoped for. Peter Grant is back to his funny sarcastic self, plodding through life shrugging off the spectacular events and turns his life takes with a casual nonchalance as if they were boring trips to the super market. The magical events/ escapades of spirits, gods and magic users of no more peculiarity than the average office job. Its this casual flippancy that gives the book its casual humour and still manages to build an exciting fast paced plot line often with dire consequences for property, life and limb.

As always when i read a Ben Aaronovitch i’m left with a feeling that the writer is just that bit smarter than the rest of us, he is Nightingale, the one who knows and see’s more than the rest of us, but can only impart what we are ready to see and learn.  Giving us a brilliantly complex and yet startling simple story of Good v Evil, Copper v Criminal…. but if you scratch away the veneer of civilization and look behind the scenes at the world of magic the author has created the complexities grow, the shades of grey expand and the series leaves you stunned at the hugely complex world that Ben Aaronovitch has devised….. I for one would like to see some of the side stories hinted at: EG the war tales of Nightingale and how he ends up at etterberg and what actually happened during Operation Spatchcock.

So The Hanging Tree… a return to form? For me a truly excellent book…. right up to the end…. because, there wasn’t an end… the book stopped, but for me the story hadn’t. It was like an advert break where the next part didn’t record, or a “To be continued” flashes up. To be honest made me think that what ever delayed the book may have been resolved, but i’m not sure the ending to this book had been, i wondered if it had been taken as … a good enough point to stop. This in a series/ book can sometimes be a personal thing, when the bad guy spans multiple books. But in this case, the bad guy is still free, the objective from the start of the book isn’t resolved and many of the little side tales/ elements that an author ties up with a nice bow.,.. well they are all left hanging… now it could be said that this is more real… but for a book it left me say flicking back and forth wondering where the next/ last chapter was…

a big shame what would have been a 5 star book becomes a 4 because there was no climax…. 😉 … however i will still be front and center for the next book… even more so with the unresolved ending…. maybe that’s the reason?? Leave them wanting more…

(Parm)

Series
PC Peter Grant
1. Rivers of London (2011)
aka Midnight Riot
2. Moon Over Soho (2011)
3. Whispers Under Ground (2012)
4. Broken Homes (2013)
5. Foxglove Summer (2014)
6. The Hanging Tree (2016)
P C Grant Novels (omnibus) (2013)
Ben Aaronovitch The PC Grant Novels 4 Books Collection Set, (omnibus) (2015)
The PC Grant Collection (2017)

Doctor Who Leather Bind-Up (with Trevor Baxendale)
Remembrance of the Daleks / Prisoner of the Daleks(2016)
Series contributed to
Doctor Who : Seventh Doctor
Remembrance of the Daleks (1990)
Doctor Who : New Adventures
10. Transit (1992)
44. The Also People (1995)
56. So Vile a Sin (1997) (with Kate Orman)
Professor Bernice Summerfield
Genius Loci (2007)

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