Thursday, August 13, 2015

Whilst I Recover...

On the "To Read" list
Went on a "field trip" Wednesday, to Barnes & Noble, the only store remaining where I can spend hours browsing and marveling upon all the wonderful things to read*. I have spent a lot of hard earned cash in this establishment and regret not one farthing. (I know, I know, the U.S. doesn't use "farthings," but it's more poetic. Or something...)

I have just finished reading Almost A Miracle by John Ferling, the second time I've read this masterful work. It's an excellent book on the American Revolution from beginning to end.

I had a couple of minor quibbles with the narrative, especially some of the characterizations of General Washington but that was a personal opinion sort of thing. Mr. Ferling's research is top notch and his writing brings history to life. As I have said before, the people who write history in a text book style are responsible for turning off thousands of students from the wonders of the past.

Mr. Ferling is not guilty of that. No way, no how. It's one of those books that when you read the final word on the last page, you kind of sigh and wish there was more. I gave it five out of five Phantoms. I highly recommend this book.
So of course, I needed more fuel for my passion for history. Off to paradise, er, Barnes & Noble, we went.

Now a fellow Lexican tipped me off to Dan Hampton's book a few days ago. As I had read another of his books, Lords of the Sky, I was familiar with his abilities as a writer. Very good. And as Juvat blogged about one particular Wild Weasel (Colonel Leo Thorsness) I just had to pick it up. (BTW, Colonel Thorsness is in this book. Saw his picture while I perused things.)

Now I need to get a copy of Viper Pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Hampton's stories of flying the nimble F-16.

But that center title is a book I've been waiting for since it was announced back in May of this year. Believe me, I am fascinated by the Battle of Waterloo and Mr Cornwell is, hands down, one of the best authors of historical fiction on the planet. From the Sharpe series to the Saxon Tales, not to mention a three part series on the Arthurian legend, the battle of Agincourt and a tale of the quest for the Holy Grail, the man can spin a yarn. His detailed descriptions of battle ring true and his characters are really believable.

This book on Waterloo is his first foray into actual history. All fact, no fiction. I'm sure there will be one or two dried up academics who will poo-poo this work. No one reads those smug bastards anyways. Least I don't. Believe me, back in school I tried. But over the years I've had any number of outstanding history teachers and professors. Most of them agreed that most academics can't tell a good story. (Sorry I despise those who are not commercially successful disparaging those who are. A rather LARGE pet peeve of mine.)

Now I actually went looking for those first two books, the third, Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick was truly a bonus find. I saw the book and, seeing as how I'm on a Revolutionary War kick at the moment, picked it up. What I saw enthralled me from the first page. You might say, "it's good stuff!" And I would concur.

The name rang a bell, then it hit me (actually I just Googled it), Nathaniel Philbrick also wrote In the Heart of the Sea, the story of the whaler Essex. I really enjoyed that tale, the man can make history sing. (Not to mention which that book is mentioned on the cover of the one I just purchased. I ain't the most observant fellow in the world, am I?)

So that's what I'm going to be doing while I recover from the gastrointestinal events of the past couple of months.

I wonder why the Revolution is much on my mind lately.

Then I read the news and say, "Oh yeah, that's why."

Anyhoo, later today I have a date with a Doc.
I hope this is not the tool of choice...

Thirteen staples must be removed. Before the rainy season hits.

Wouldn't want to rust away now would I?

(Actually they're titanium staples. I like to think they were made from an old Alfa-class Soviet attack boat. Probably not though. Sigh...)

* In the "old days" I could spend hours in hobby shops. Where they sold board games, military figures, model tanks/aircraft/ships and (ahem) action figures. Those types of stores seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur. Hobby shops are different now. It ain't the same!


  1. I think that you will find WATERLOO to be an excellent read. Cornwell takes a rather complex engagement and makes it very understandable. He manages to explain a difficult command structure and, in the process conveys his disdane for William, Prince of Orange, and Marshall Ney. If you have visited the battleground, and I suspect that you have, he makes the ebb and flow of the battle clear. The Lions Mound that exists today was constructed by significantly changing the topography of the ride that was at the center of the British position. When you read Cornwell's description of the battle you can visualize how important the Duke of Wellington's strategy of using the reverse slope was to his success.

    1. Oh yes, I've walked that field a number of times. The Lion Mound really screwed up the topography of the most critical part of the field. Oh well, folks need their monuments I suppose. We're lucky in that some years ago a bunch of real estate "developers" wanted to build there. The Belgian government came close to letting that happen. Her Majesty's Government in London was sufficiently aroused (who can blame them) to put pressure on les Belgiques to cease and desist. Which they did. Otherwise Waterloo would probably be in the same state as Bunker Hill. That is, unrecognizable.

    2. Bunker Hill was not preserved? Never visited Boston, only wanted to for one reason. Never WILL visit BAHston!

    3. Both Bunker and Breed's (The real site of the battle) Hills are covered in substandard housing, and have been for years. There is a monument--on the wrong hill, of course.

    4. Boston itself looks nothing like it did back then. What used to be water has been filled in and is now land in many instances.

      Progress, the mortal enemy of the historian.

    5. Juvat, FWIW, Fort Ticonderoga has been restored to it's old glory and the surrounding countryside isn't that much different from when Ethan Allen (and Benedict Arnold) seized the place in the name of Jehovah and the Continental Congress.

      A place I loved visiting as a boy!

  2. Re: staple removal
    It is really scary when they hint at removing them via MRI

    1. Gee thanks Skip.

      (Actually no one hinted at that. I think...)

  3. The soviet alloys are vastly inferior. You want good old P&W fan blade titanium anchoring your insides. Otherwise you might find yourself craving a certain sports drink...

    Hampton's work is very good. You'll enjoy. Thanks for the tips.

    1. I am, at this moment sans titanium, Soviet or P&W.

      Had my staples pulled I did, lovely Indian lass did it. I barely felt a thing!

  4. The Philbrick book is quite good. The first 100 pages or so greatly reinforced My understanding of April 19,(Lexington and Concord).
    I always enjoyed Cornwell. Sharpe and his adventures have given me many hours of pleasure whether in print or video.

    1. Just finished the Philbrick book. It was excellent, too bad the coverage of this pivotal era in our history wasn't taught all that well when I was a kid.

      I wonder if they even touch upon it these days...


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