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My Book Reading

Red War - Kyle Mills

Dark Sacred Night - Michael Connelly

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Mycroft and Sherlock by Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse

Holy Ghost - John Sandford

Past Tense - Lee Child

In A House of Lies by Ian Rankin

The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler

Daughter of War by Brad Taylor

Sherlock Holmes Is Like edited by Christopher Redmond

Beside the Syrian Sea by James Wolff

The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk

The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke

Podcast Favorites

   In this episode of the entertraining Books of the Year podcast, Simon Mayo and Matt Williams ask Lee Child about his legendary coffee consumption, at my request. 

@booksoftheyear, @simonmayo

I'll listen to Layne Norton discuss and argue passionately about nutrition any day. Mark Bell does a great job moderating an engaging conversation between Norton and Shawn Baker about health, fitness, food and nutrition. Science wins! @marksmellybell, @BioLane

Shane Whaley and David Craggs talk spy and espionage fiction, writing, politics and books with the outspoken, brilliant writer, Charles Cumming.

@Spybrary, @CharlesCumming

Malcolm Gladwell digs deep into the one song Elvis Presley couldn't consistently sing, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" This episode is a gripping, utterly fascinating discussion of how Elvis recorded, sang live, and interpreted his life through music. @Gladwell

« Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Roselli - Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin by Lee Server | Main | Man of War by Sean Parnell »

Recently Published Military History Roundup

Here’s some recently published titles I’ve my hands on that have caught my eye. Certainly I’ve not read them all. Some I’m digging into, but consider this more of an announcement.

If there is a contemporary WWII historian on the same level as Antony Beevor, it’s Ben Macintyre. Based on his comments on the back cover of Beevor’s The Battle of Arnhem, Macintyre is a Beevor fan as well. The Battle of Arnhem is another of Beevor’s tight looks at a critical, and in this case, often misunderstood, battle of World War II. He supplies his trademark exemplary detail, and throughout the course of telling an extraordinary story, brings alive the military commanders, fighting men and Dutch civilians alike.

The Battle of Arnhem had the biggest and most complex airborne attack of the war. Muddled by logistical issues and political wrangling on the Allied side, and surprised by the German military’s response, the massive, complex operation aimed at ending the war with a resounding victory went south in dramatic fashion.  Beevor digs into the flawed planning and infighting, brings to awful life the intensity of the fighting, and highlights the toll Dutch civilians paid. 

Antony Beevor tells World War II history in an unsurpassed manner. My introduction to his writing was a dozen years ago, when a friend lent me his paperback copy of Stalingrad. Wow, I’d not read a military history as engaging as that splendid book is. To say he brings a story to life is an understatement. I’ve been a reader and fan of Antony Beevor ever since. Battle of Arnhem is among his best.

@VikingBooks, #antonybeevor, #battleofarnhem


The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy is an oversize hardcover presenting full-length examples of the comic strip of the 1930s and ‘40s. In it’s day, Don Winslow was immensely popular. Today, it’s historical, relevant, and absolutely worth a look. The reproductions in this book are beautiful; it’s nice to hold them in such a nice volume between hard covers. From layout to design, The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy is well done.

In it’s heyday, this creation of Frank Martinek was among the most popular comic strips in the U.S., written and drawn over the years by different artists. At times Don Winslow was used as propaganda on behalf of the war effort, a task the character was suited for, and one common in the entertainment industry during World War II. I find the wartime pieces to be quite entertaining, and don’t mind the pro-war effort. This is pulpy adventure fiction with memorable villains, fist fights, and even a sexy heroine here and there.

Editor Craig Yoe put together a nice selection of Winslow episodes (full stories) for The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy. He opens the book with a strong introduction, serving as background and context of Don Winslow and his creators. This book is a fitting testament to a comic strip almost forgotten today, enjoying unsurpassed popularity in it’s time.

@DeadReckoningGN, #donwinslowofthenavy

The Bravest Man in the British Army by Philip Bujak

I could’t resist digging into a book with such a dramatic title. Who could pass up The Bravest Man in the British Army?

Lieutenant Colonel John Sherwood Kelly VC lived and died in an extraordinary manner. This English soldier had a long and impressive career, throughout the (then) vast British Empire. Along the way he was awarded the Victoria Cross, distinguished himself repeatedly in combat, but somehow found himself at odds with a young Winston Churchill in 1919. It’s a complicated story, well told in the book, but Kelly lost that battle, resulting in his court martial.

John Kelly’s life and military career were deeply intertwined, pretty much one and the same. This history book pulls back the curtain on the lives of English soldiers just after the dawn of the 20th century. I cannot let the outstanding photography and graphic design of the front and rear covers go unacknowledged, either. 

@penswordbooks, #philipbujak


Operation Columba - The Secret Pigeon Service: The Untold Story of World War II Resistance in Europe by Gordon Corera

What a long, rambling title for this book. I suppose it’s of value in this case, as I imagine most people have no clue homing pigeons were used in WWII in such numbers (British Intelligence dropped 16,000 homing pigeons in Nazi-occupied Europe between 1941 - 1944)

Operation Columba involved intelligence carried by birds. Homing pigeons. They were kept and utilized by the Resistance in Europe, and thousands of other rather ordinary citizens (actually, working to support the Allied war effort from an occupied country went above and beyond, always with potential great threat). Everyone involved was eager to help the Allies learn as much as possible about the German forces, disposition, movements, and life under occupation. Tiny folded slips of rice paper attached to the feet of pigeons did the job. Imagine, for a moment, critical troop movement information entrusted to a flying bird!

In case you feel the story of the Secret Pigeon Service doesn’t sound exciting, let me assure you author Corera pulls off a superb job building an interesting and at time humorous narrative.  This was all new to me, and Corera’s imaginative abilities as a writer kept the pages turning and my head in the game.

@WmMorrowBooks, @gordoncorera, #operationcolumba


The Pendulum: A Granddaughter’s Search for her Family’s Forbidden Nazi Past by Julie Lindahl

This powerful book and Lindahl’s story touched me, as it has many others through the author’s speaking engagements and writings. Born after World War II to expatriate (hiding) Germans in Brazil, in the early 2010’s American Julie Lindahl embarked on a long, traumatic journey to discover the facts about her grandfather’s long life as a Nazi in the SS. His career as a Nazi began in 1934 and lasted throughout World War II, after which he fled to South America to evade war crimes trials. She knew this and that, enough to know there were secrets, many secrets, but set off mostly on gut instinct

Lindahl learns the gritty truths about her grandfather, and wrestles with the horrors and guilt and social relevance of her family history. As stories and myths unwrapped, she came to learn her family’s deep, dark secrets, and find her own life entirely changed along the way.

I’m not doing justice to The Pendulum. Lindahl’s message is timeless, all the more so in this age of rising right-wing, extremist dark areas society. Living with the author as she learns and grapples with the knowledge of her family’s past is a deep experience. Her bravery facing the past teaches a lesson for all of us. 

The Pendulum is good reading; don’t be scared off by the grim topic. Lindahl is a fine writer, digging deeply into this important part of her past, uncovering along the way lessons for all of us. I’m impressed with her honesty and narrative skills.

@RLPGBooks, @JulieLindahl, #thependulum

Island Of Fire: The Battle for the Barrikady Gun Factory in Stalingrad by Jason D. Mark


The horrific toll of the fighting in 1942 between the German and Russian armies for control of the once magnificent city of Stalingrad, in Russia, is an often-told story. The massive Island of Fire breaks down a specific, lengthy action from the campaign. 

The Barricady Gun Factory came to symbolize the stubborn courage exhibited by both sides throughout this terrible, costly battle, and how an objective could appear to be so important at the time yet make little sense from the perspective of history.

Mark’s book is extensively researched and footnoted. In more than 620 oversize pages, the author damn near lays out a day-by-day, step-by-step diagram of every aspect of this lengthy battle, from each side’s perspective. An abundance of small maps appropriately peppered throughout the text are helpful. Some of the photographs, notably the peeks into the personal lives of German soldiers on the ground, are fascinating. 

Island Of Fire reflects today’s never-ending appetite for detail, understanding and knowledge about World War II.

@StackpoleBooks,, #islandoffire


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