2009 by Viking Publishing, Hard cover 354 pages $27.95.
If you had a head for heights in 1886, you
would not have been without a job. If you were American, you could have helped with
the construction of the Statue of Liberty. An Englishman, Tower Bridge; but in
France only Frenchmen could work on the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Today
we tend to take these iconic landmarks for granted, but 123 years ago, they
were modern marvels. This fact is not lost on Jill Jonnes in her highly
detailed and beautifully written work, Eiffell’s Tower. Click
Tears in the Darkness
Elizabeth & Michael Norman
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux 464 pps @ $30.00
The story of the Bataan Death March and its aftermath.
We all think we know what the Japanese did to our POWs in the South Pacific during WWII. A beating here, an atrocity there … But now, Elizabeth and Michael Norman can take you step by grisly step from the arrival of GI’s on the Filipino shore, to their ultimate repatriation at the end of the war. click
Mrs Astor Regrets The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach By Meryl Gordon Hardcover; 336 pages Published by Houghton Mifflin: 12/03/2008 @ $28.00
Biographical family stories are usually written long after the principals are dead. In this case, Ms Gordon has been blessed with the longevity of her subjects, and a current court case which is the raison dêtre of her book. One can read the book and follow the case in court. An opportunity not to be missed.Click
The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army.
“Jeremy Scahill actually doesn’t know anything about Blackwater.” So says Martin Strong Vice President Blackwater Worldwide. With the greatest respect to Mr Strong, if he is right, it is a pretty facile comment on 550 pages of detailed research and information. Unless, or until Mr Strong or anyone else from Blackwater elaborates on this blanket rejection, we must conclude that what Jeremy Scahill tells us is correct. Click
“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” (George Bernard Shaw)
What causes us to lift a non-fiction volume from the bookstore shelves and part with taxed dollars to own it? Hopefully it will be a volume to challenge, inspire and edify us. It may even anger us. It should, at least, entertain us. click
Five weeks after my second birthday, at around 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon while having tea at my family home in London, Adolf Hitler exploded into my life. He decided to send 348 bombers – Heinkels, Dorniers and Junkers, plus 617 Messerschmitts forming a block 20 miles wide and filling 800 square miles of sky - to kill me. He didn’t succeed, but by the end of the war 60,000 British civilians were not so lucky. Until the middle of 1944 there were more British civilian deaths than military. I do not profess memory of the start of the Blitz, but I do remember the end of it – and the aftermath. click
The Last days of the Romanovs
By Helen Rappaport
Tragedy at Ekaterinburg.
Ye-ka-tyer-in-boorg. That is the only pronunciation I will be giving from a book where the unspeakable are also the unpronounceable. Click
Dali and I by
Thomas Dunne Books (2008), Hardcover, 304 page
A Review by Colin Edwards
Dali and I is a supremely readable book. This is due in no small measure to the dubious character of the author. Lauryssens is at once a playboy, thief and confidence trickster – not to mention a successful author. He is so proud of his ability to deceive, that one wonders how much reality there is in this alleged autobiographical work. His actual writing however is suspect, so listening to an audio book beats wading through his convoluted prose. click
(Translated from the French by Barbara Mellor)
Published by Bloomsbury 2008 - 370 pps $26.00
Agnés Humbert (1894-1963)
Humbert was born in Dieppe, France, the daughter of French army officer Charles Humbert and English author Mabel Wells Annie Rooke. She spent her childhood in Paris, where she studied painting and design. Click.
The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan
Colin J Edwards
It is difficult to place Alan Greenspan’s 500 plus pages. It is at once text-book and political memoir; rather in the mode of his wife Andrea Mitchell’s Talking Back, published two years before. Click
The Terminal Spy
By Alan S. Cowell
Published by Doubleday 2008 $26.95432 pps.
A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder.
The Terminal Spy is an intrigue with a Russian theme where the unspeakable do horrid things to the unpronounceable. I tend to confuse my …skayas, with my …oviches, and by the time I have sorted those out I have lost the plot. Mr Cowell anticipated my, and perhaps others dilemma, and opens his book with Dramatis Personae. This introduces us to 40 principle characters. I respectfully suggest that the reader studies these three and a bit pages as it will greatly enhance comprehension of the remaining 430. click
Sea of Thunder by Evan Thomas
Published by Simon & Shuster 2006 414 pps.
A Review by Colin J. Edwards
Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign.
One might be forgiven for thinking that everything that can be said about World War II, has already been said. That is probably right; but it is not what is said, but how it is said. In Sea of Thunder, Evan Thomas brings a balanced appraisal of the leading personalities involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf at the close of World War II – warts and all. Click here
The Man Who Made Lists
By Joshua Kendall.
. G. P. Putnam’s & Sons. (297 pps) 2008 $25.95
A Review by Colin J. Edwards
“Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.” AESCHYLUS. Prometheus Bound
Joshua Kendall’s ‘The Man Who Made Lists’ is a refreshing break from the plethora of spiteful political exposés that have demanded our attention this election year. With a tutored eye, he introduces the reader to the life and times of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), physician, theologian, lexicographer and compiler of Roget’s Thesaurus. Click here
by David King
A Review by Colin J. Edwards
Published by Harmony Books $27.50 2008 434 pps.
“The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.” Aldous Huxley
Do not be confused by this book about the Congress of Vienna in 1814. It reads like a novel, but it is serious history as the almost 90 pages of “Notes & Sources” can testify. The style is easy: perhaps a little simplistic in places, but none-the-less an excellent read. Click here
The Immortal Game (330 pps)
by David Shenk
Published by Doubleday @ $26.00
“Think of a virus so advanced it infects not the blood, but the thoughts. But of its human host. Liver and spleen are spared; instead this bug infiltrates the frontal lobes of the brain, domination such prime cognitive functions as problem solving, abstract reasoning, time motor skills and, most notably, agenda setting. It directs thoughts, actions, and even dreams. This virus comes to dominate not only the body, but the mind.” click here
The Prosecution of George W Bush for Murder
By Vincent Bugliosi
Published by Perseus Publishing
This latest offering from California’s literary lawyer, certainly stokes the passions of its readers. But then it would, wouldn’t it? A detailed exposé of an unpopular president during an election year coupled with a very unpopular war was bound to fire-up aggrieved Democrats and all those who are anti everything else. It would be churlish to suggest that that might have been its intention. Click here
Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War by P.J.Buchanan. Published by Crown Publishing, Hard cover 544 pages $29.95.
How to lose the largest empire the world has ever seen, in three decades.
I have the highest regard for Pat Buchanan. He is arguably the best president America never had. As a writer, he is a victim of modern technology. His prose in Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, is closer to a blog than a literary work, and his dependence on Lexis-Nexis, is apparent on every page. That said, Buchanan is a journalist, and as a journalist he has written a short history of the world from 1914 to 1945. click here
Stonewall Jackson by Donald A. Davis Published by Palgrave Macmillan (2007), Hardcover, 224 pages
Stonewall or Oddball?
I have to come clean immediately and confess that I have difficulty with the description, ‘tough fighting generals’. What they are describing are heartless individuals who send men to death or mutilation with reckless abandon. Let us remind ourselves that wars are started by politicians, fought by generals and won by soldiers. The American Civil War was the exception: the generals prolonged that one. Click here
Talking Back: ... to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels By Andrea Mitchell
Whenever possible I avoid reading autobiography. I rarely read fiction, and essentially autobiography is fiction. Who can resist fine tuning ones achievements or smoothing the bumps of a relationship; not to mention flat-out lies? If such a paragon of virtue existed, writing an autobiography would be an anathema to them. Click here
Troublesome Young Men by Lynne Olson
Troublesome Young Men is at once an absorbing read, and a window on the machinations of the upper classes in England prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The story details the activities of a group of ambitious politicians to undermine Prime Minister Chamberlain, and elevate Winston Churchill to the Premiership thereby thwarting the unsavoury efforts of Adolf Hitler.Click here
Richard and Adolf
By Christopher Nicholson
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. (Samuel Johnson 1775)
Patriotism seems a rather pedestrian word to use when considering the activities of Richard Wagner and Adolf Hitler in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. It was extreme patriotism, amplified by mental instability that created these monsters. They were not alone of course; Japan demonstrated similar traits in the same period. Click here
The Writer Within You by Charles Jacobs
If you are a writer – by that I mean someone who has aspirations to write but publication has eluded you for the moment; then this book is worth the cost of 4 Venti Caffè Latte that will buy it from Amazon. The 20 page appendix will more than justify your investment. This volume however is targeted at non-writing seniors, to whom I have more to say. Click here This Time This Place by Jack Valenti
Saint Jack? I don't think so.
One must be a very dedicated movie or Jack Valenti watcher to plough all the way through this tome. Apart from the timing which cannot be faulted – he died shortly after the book was published: the book is more a diary than a literary work. Except for the opening chapter on the assignation of JFK, which is good and compelling writing, the remainder stretched incredulity a little too far. If we are to believe what Mr Valenti tells us about himself, we should not be surprised that at the books completion, the Almighty whisked him off to heaven to be at his right hand. A more Saintly man never lived beyond the Vatican. Click here