Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What I'm Reading


The other day I mentioned that I had raided Barnes & Noble after the Sarge - Tuna 2016 Summit Meeting. Okay "raid" hints that perhaps I didn't pay for the books, I did actually, that's just me, being dramatic. (Of course, it wasn't much of a "summit meeting" either, it's pretensions of grandeur I have. Not to mention writing occasionally in the same manner in which Yoda speaks. It's an affectation, artistic license if you will.)

Anyhoo, my buddy Wayward Sailor (the fellow whom I had dinner with and wrote about here) asked me just what those books I had purchased were. Or was I saving that for a blog post at some time down the road? I was indeed saving the identity of those books for later. Which has come to pass. (Later has come to pass, that was then, this is now. Or something.)

Pictured above, on the left, is the first of the five recent acquisitions which I have already read. I know what you're thinking, "Sarge, just how many books on Waterloo do you need?" The answer is, of course, is that I need all of them. Well, the really good ones anyway, and this one is superb.

Major Gordon Corrigan is a retired British officer with a somewhat mixed reputation amongst some historians (Google him, you'll see). As you know there are many historians I find absolutely pedantic, boring, and awfully dull, they don't sell many books, students fall asleep in their classes and they tend to be terribly judgmental of "popular history," you know the books real people actually spend money on and actually read.

Major Corrigan is not one of your boring, academic historians. Not at all, in fact he is very entertaining. His book Waterloo: Wellington, Napoleon, and the Battle that Saved Europe, is a worthwhile addition to any Napoleonic library (you can get it here). I have one quibble with it, but it's a minor thing and didn't detract from my sheer enjoyment of the book.

I highly recommend this book for it's overview of the campaign, the commanders who took part in it, the soldiers who fought it, and for his description of the battle itself. It's a small volume, easy to read, and Major Corrigan has a superb sense of humor.

Now, my quibble. Why do so many authors talk of the "vast clouds of black smoke shrouding the field"? Or words to that effect. In my experience, black powder produces whitish smoke, sometimes tending to light beige but by no means "black." Major Corrigan is not the only author to mention the smoke color as being something other than whitish. I'm sure the burning chateau of Hougoumont may have contributed darker smoke, but for the most part, all the black powder explosions I've ever seen have produced whitish smoke. Perhaps one of the readers can enlighten me on that score. (At the Waterloo re-enactment of 1995 you couldn't hardly see a bloody thing after about 30 minutes due to all of the white smoke produced by all the black powder being fired off from the various muskets and cannon. Is it just me?)

But all in all, Waterloo: Wellington, Napoleon, and the Battle that Saved Europe is an entertaining read. If you have a casual interest in the Battle of Waterloo and don't wish to wade through a 500 page work, this is the book for you.

Stephen Coonts' latest offering, Liberty's Last Stand, scares the living crap out of me. I've just started reading it and so far every word he's written presents a plausible scenario of how we could lose our freedom overnight. Some of the action might seem a little far-fetched, but if you have any knowledge of history and the events which transpired in Germany in the early 1930s, you might find it scary believable. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Mr. Coonts is one of my favorite authors and has been since Flight of the Intruder (the book mind you, not the film). If you're a fan of Jake Grafton and Tommy Carmellini, don't miss this book. (I discovered over the weekend that I did miss one of his books with Jake Grafton. Back to the bookstore as I scratch my head wondering, "How did I miss that one?" The one in question being Pirate Alley. In guess you were wondering.)

Now the three remaining books in the stack ran the gamut from another favorite author, Nelson DeMille (I swear if he wrote a phone book, I'd buy it), to a book which while it didn't spawn the TV series Turn (that book would be Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, 2007) is in the same area. George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution is a later entry (Brian Kilmeade, 2014) which also tells the tale of the Culper Ring. six brave people who risked their necks (literally) to provide the Father of Our Country with vital intel. (Yes, I am going to buy the first one, when I find it. Don't point me online, I know that, it's just that I like visiting book stores and browsing. It's the aroma I crave...)


A Higher Call is one of those books that when I saw it on the shelf at B&N I wondered, "Now why is this book not in my library?" I'm familiar with the story, a number of my friends have already read it and recommended it to me.

Sarge's Lament (if it's ever written) might have the subtitle So Many Books, So Little Time. While I am a voracious reader, there are only so many hours in the day. It may take time, but I remember books recommended to me, and eventually read them.

What's a lament you ask?
A lament or lamentation is a passionate expression of grief, often in music, poetry, or song form. The grief is most often born of regret, or mourning. Laments can also be expressed in a verbal manner, where the participant would lament about something they regret or someone they've lost, usually accompanied by wailing, moaning and/or crying. Laments constitute some of the oldest forms of writing and examples are present across human cultures.

Scottish laments - The purely instrumental lament is a common form in Pìobaireachd music for the Scottish bagpipes. "MacCrimmon's Lament" dates to the Jacobite uprising of 1745. The tune is held to have been written by Donald Ban MacCrimmon, piper to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, who supported the Hanoverians. It is said that Donald Ban, who was killed at Moy in 1746, had an intimation that he would not return.

A well-known Gaelic lullaby is "Griogal Crìdhe" ("Beloved Gregor"). It was composed in 1570 after the execution of Gregor MacGregor by the Campbells. The grief-stricken widow describes what happened as she sings to her child.

"Cumha na Cloine" (Lament for the Children) was composed by Padruig Mòr MacCrimmon in the early 1650s. It is generally held to be based on the loss of seven of MacCrimmon's eight sons to an unknown illness, possibly brought to Skye by a trading vessel. Author Bridget MacKenzie, in Piping Traditions of Argyll, suggests that it refers to the slaughter of the MacLeod's fighting Cromwell's forces at the Battle of Worcester. It may have been inspired by both.

Other Scottish laments include "Lowlands Away", "MacPherson's Rant", and "Hector the Hero". Source
Now close your ears dear Buck, it's some of that Highland music you dinna care for.



I have yet to hear a lament on the pipes which didn't bring a tear to my eyes. This one, which I hadn't heard before, was particularly moving as I lost a good friend back in 2014, a fine brawny lad by the name of John McPherson. I miss him still, I wrote of his passing here. I miss ya buddy.

Anyhoo, carry on, I must dash, those books aren't going to read themselves!



32 comments:

  1. We have very similar tastes in books, my friend. I think you'll like Higher Call when you get to it. Honor is an important virtue to me, I like reading about others that feel that way, and as Shaun said yesterday "Opera non verba".

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    1. I was going to read that one first, then decided to save it for last. I'm somewhat familiar with the story, am looking forward to reading the whole thing.

      Honor is all. It's also very hard, that's why when folks start talking revolt, I look to my oath and wonder what it would take to make me violate that oath. Then it hits me, support and defend the Constitution. It comes first and really does trump the remainder of the oath. (No pun intended there.)

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    2. "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."
      ~ John Ruskin

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  2. So many more books than I shall ever get to read.
    But that wont stop me.

    McPherson's Lament disturbed the cat's breakfast.
    It's okay, thouh, he was eating it wrong.

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    1. When I play pipe music at home, Anya runs and hides, Sasha comes into the room, paws at my arm and meows. I know what she's saying, "Turn that off. NOW!"

      Cats and bagpipes, not a good match.

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  3. I love Stephen Coonts. He's my favorite author, next to Tom Clancy. In 1991 I was at the University of Colorado at Boulder and I took a Navy ROTC class (Not in ROTC, just took the class as an elective). Coonts also lived in Boulder, so there was the tease that our instructor was going to get him in to speak with us. Alas, it never happened.

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    1. Stephen Coonts is not only a great author, he's a decent guy as well. We're Facebook buddies.

      Would love to meet him in person some day.

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  4. Stephen Coonts is a great writer and I'm one of his biggest fans. He definitely keeps you engaged from start
    to finish. It's also nice to see that I'm not the only one who likes to hold a real book while I'm reading. I
    do have a few e-books on my Samsung for when we're out at Kendy's hospital sessions but it's just not the same!

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    1. The kids got me a Nook a few years back when I was in exile. It was very handy to have in the hotel, finish a book? Download a new one right there. Problem is, I read a lot of military history and maps and illustration didn't translate well to the Nook. Oh, you could see them but...

      There's something about holding a real book in your hand. Especially when it has that "new book" smell.

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    2. I'm in agreement there. I've got a couple hundred books on my iPad and read them whenever I get a few moments, even if it's just a page or two. When I get home, though, I like the real thing. Especially for non-fiction, I've got my fingers stuck in various parts and flipping back and forth as I try to figure out something, usually involving a map or a diagram.

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  5. Radiant Angel did not read like fiction . . .which after I finished it scared the crap out of me. John Corey is my favorite cop - I wish more were like him. He reminds me of the NYC Sergeants I knew back in the day - smart, practical, didn't care what they were told - they just did their job.

    Liberty will be the template for what happens - will be interesting to see the armed members of the Dept of Agriculture and Indian Affairs and FAA trying to round up the evil right wing conspiracy. Our friend Stephen Arnold is correct -we need a plan in advance and places to go. Because the liberal fortress cannot take dissent - its already shown its brittleness on college campuses. . .

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    1. Love Corey, great character.

      A plan in advance is not a bad idea. As for "places to go", impractical unless you live somewhere between the Sierra Nevada and the Mississippi and you're not independently wealthy. Just my opinion, I have thoughts on that topic, which I would never share.

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    2. well, I can also jump to my airplane and east of the Sierra nevada or a certain ranch on the Colorado river in about 90 minutes

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    3. Yes, a luxury I don't have. I still have hope, yeah, yeah, I know, I'm an optimist though I don't always sound like it.

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  6. Bargain price? No wonder you were able to get away with five in one visit! One of these days I'll get to Kilmeade's book. One of these days (perhaps when my long-awaited dream job of teaching history materializes with a salary on which one can subsist) I'll get around to reading more about the landward parts of the Napoleonic Wars, my tastes for that period heretofore being strictly nautical. Liberty's Last Stand? Next on the acquisition list, right behind Philbrick's latest.

    And laments? For my money, it's Hector the Hero, especially when played by the Pipes of the Black Watch and the Band of the Prince of Wales Division, which I had the privilege of hearing live and in person when they visited Boston circa 2000. Brought tears to my eyes then, and still does every time I play the CD!

    Happy to see you're finally out and about. I hope they called away sideboys and bos'n's mates to pipe you aboard when you returned to the Salt Mines yesterday. ding ding, ding ding. Sarge, returning. ding!

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    1. Oh indeed, brought me aboard in style they did. (Heh, not.)

      Ever read any of Alexander Kent's books of the nautical exploits of Richard Bolitho, RN? One of my favorite series of books. Some day I plan on reading the O'Brien books, oh yeah, Hornblower as well. (The number of books I want to read no doubt surpasses the time I have to read them. But a fellow can dream.)

      Wooden ships, iron men.

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    2. "Black Dick" Bolitho? Read them all about 40 years ago. Read the Hornblower series about 5 years ago, after I had introduced my son to them. O'Brian is my favorite, though. First read the series from '95-'00, then reread it all about seven years ago, plus the unfinished manuscript. Felt like a piece of me died when I came to the last page. Been thinking about starting them all over again, if only to escape election season. And its results.

      Have you read any of Kenneth Roberts' books? He's another author I introduced my son to. Great, well-written historical fiction, set in New England during the Revolution and the War of 1812.

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    3. One and the same.

      Just checked out Mr Roberts. Sigh, so many (more) books, so little time.

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    4. I'd move Roberts up near the top of the list. His books are densely packed with historical information, but highly readable and entertaining. Start with "Northwest Passage". Much of it is set in and around places you would know.

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    5. Awesome!

      "Bosun! Up the priority on those Roberts books!"

      "Upping priority, Aye!"

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  7. I suspect there's something seriously wrong with me, but this is what jumped out of that second image and into my brain: "George Washington's Secret Sex!"

    I'm wading my way through "Of Living Valour." It's a slow process because in reading about those individual men and women I have to pause from time to time to process the grief.

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    1. Of Living Valour is superb.

      (Heh, Secret Sex. Naughty sailor!)

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  8. One of the best new[ish] authors in the erstwhile Cold War tradition is Jason Matthews. His debut novel, Red Sparrow, is outstanding. (Nor does his second in the series, Palace of Treason, disappoint.)

    https://amzn.com/1476706131

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    1. Dang it. Where's your edit button?????

      "...erstwhile Cold War *spy thriller* tradition..."

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    2. Sounds most interesting. Especially when one of my favorite authors (the late, lamented Vince Flynn) praises him. I will have to check that out.

      Thanks! Though it adds yet another book to the ever growing list.

      :)

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    3. As to the "Edit" button...

      Sigh, Blogger doesn't feel the need to provide such a thing. Yet. When it becomes available, I will certainly add that capability (there have been many times I wanted such a thing myself, indifferent typist that I am.)

      WordPress has it, why not Blogger? Unknown.

      Sorry.

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  9. Looks likes some good read there! And I see a couple I don't have. Thanks!

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    1. Was up past midnight reading Liberty's Last Stand, it was hard to put down. Not finished yet (I had to sleep sometime). Most excellent.

      Oh, you're welcome. (Where are my manners?)

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  10. Our reading tastes are remarkably similar. We are in the midst of downsizing and I recently donated over thirty file boxes of books to the Old Soldiers Home in Washington and the VA Hospital. That put a dent in the library but the good news is that my bride found a house that has a whole room of built in bookshelves!

    I totally agree with you on the issue of black powder smoke. In fact, I think almost all modern authors completely ignore the fact that WHITE smoke was a major command and control issue in the past. Within a relatively short period of combat smoke would completely cover the battlefield effectively blinding commanders. They were faced with having to make decisions based largely on sounds and the infrequent messages carried by runners from their subordinates (who were also blinded and could only report on the situation in their own small sector of the battle.) When I hear someone talk about von Clausewitz and the "fog of war" I think that Clausewitz was talking about that fog of black powder smoke hanging low across the field.

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    1. Concur on Clausewitz.

      I have quite a lot of experience with black powder weapons and the smoke was always pale. And plentiful.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)