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Category: Spanish Civil War book review

For all you Civil War buffs, or those looking for gift ideas for a Civil War buff…

GENERAL LEE’S ARMY FROM VICTORY TO COLLAPSE by Joseph T. Glatthaar, read by Robertson Dean. Unabridged.

A terrific biography of the Army of Northern Virginia and its relationship with its commander, R.E. Lee. The narrative sometimes gets bogged down in minutia of demographics that becomes boring very quickly, although it is necessary for the story and the background to the events that enveloped the army, but for the most part it moves quickly and is pretty interesting. The reader also does a fine job. Virtually required listening for the Civil War buff.

The book has a majesty that transcends the topic; as much as Lee and his legendary army have been romanticized, the truth is that serving in the Army of Northern Virginia was a harsh, often horrid experience fraught with many types of danger. Food was often scarce, clothing threadbare, good shoes worth their weight in gold and disease rampant. This book brings these realities home to the reader (or in this case, the listener) in a fashion that makes them seem quite real.

Even the most astute student of the Civil War will find much new in this book. This reviewer already knew a lot about the subject, having just written a paper on almost this very topic less than a year previously, and yet at least 30% of this book was new to him, and the parts that were not new were explained in a new way.

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news.

*** The Spanish Civil War has often been called the preliminary for World War II. Fascists on one side, Socialist/Communists on the other. What would become the Axis backing one side, what would become the Allies backing the other. It was bloody as only a civil war can be and there have been countless books written about it. That doesn’t mean another one isn’t welcome, although the latest isn’t so much about the war itself, it’s about the journalists who wrote about the war. A writer writing about those who wrote. Verisimilitude, anyone? Franco meets the Matrix?


*** Recently, the Washington Post has revealed details of what information the FBI had gathered on Norman Mailer. There seems to be genuine surprise that the FBI kept a file on Mailer, and that surprises me. Seriously. Name something Mailer was not against at one time or another. That’s sure to draw interest, especially for an agency run by J. Edgar Hoover. It’s interesting in retrospect, history, but not at all surprising.

*** The L.A. Times reports that Joe Byams has died. Byams, who wrote on a number of different topics, was probably known best for his biographies of Humphrey Bogart and James Dean. He was 85.


News, views and reviews

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news.

*** After five years, Richard Evans brings his three volume history of the third Reich to a close with The Third Reich at War 1939-1945. As loyal bookies know, your friendly neighborhood BBG is a World War II kind of guy, currently researching a book and also having been published in ‘World War II’ magazine. So he knows a little bit of which he speaks on the subject. He hasn’t read…wait, what’s with this third person crap? I haven’t read Evans latest book and I include here a link to a review. But from a careful reading it seems that, like almost every historian of the Third Reich, Evans has an axe to grind. The reviewer chides towering figures like Joachim Fest for being romantic revisionists even while admitting that Evans is revising the accepted thinking. In other words, it’s impossible to know who is and who isn’t a revisionist because both sides are claiming and/or denying the label.

This review is quite well written, it’s a great lesson in reviewing if nothing else. I look forward to reading the book and judging for myself.

Richard J. Evans
878pp. Allen Lane. £30.
978 0 713 99742 2
US: Penguin Press. $40. 978 1 594 20206 3 http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article4905212.ece

*** Another new book review, I include the Spanish Civil War with WW2, as I do the war in China. The connection is all too obvious, even if Spain never actually entered the war. This one looks fascintating.

“Gerda Taro was a fearless, pioneering chronicler of the Spanish Civil War. Robin Stummer uncovers evidence to suggest that her unflinching pictures led to her murder…”

*** Dateline: Stockholm. From Reuters ” French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, described by President Nicolas Sarkozy as a “child of all continents” who embodied a globalized world, won the 2008 Nobel prize for literature on Thursday. The Academy, which decides the winner of the prestigious 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) prize, praised the 68-year-old author for his adventurous novels, essays and children’s literature.” There is no surprise here as the anti-American slant from the Nobel committee is well known, as is its preference for globalist literature. And I have no problem with that, it’s their prize and their money.

*** Points of Issue are interesting things. To bookies, a Point of Issue is that little difference that distinguishes a true first edition from a reprint. How does one knows such arcana? One researches, that’s how. That’s what your friendly neighborhood booskeller does for a living and learning points of issue is an endless process.

Just yesterday I learned something new. The first book in George R.R. Martin’s extremely popular fantasy series ‘Song of Fire and Ice’ is A Game of Thrones. Now, once upon a time this was a pricey purchase. Then, for some odd reason, the price went way down as a flood of them came on the market. Very strange. So yesterday someone emailed me a question about a copy of this book that I have for sale and I did what friendly neighborhood booksellers do, I researched. And thus did I discover why the prices for first editions had plummeted: the book had been reprinted!

I know, I know, you’re saying ‘wait, BBG, reprints aren’t first editions.’ True. But many of those passing as booksellers today don’t know the difference, don’t do their research, and sell people overpriced books that are not what they claim to be. It seems that the 2002 reprint of this book kept the ‘1’ in the number line. You would think that since it has an entirely different cover than the 1996 first edition it would be easy to spot the difference, even for Scanner People. And it would, if most of these people bothered enough to investigate. Sadly, they do not. And that’s why their are scores of first editions available, the vast majority of which are no doubt reprints. Caveat emptor.

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