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Category: World War 2 book reivew Page 1 of 3


“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer. Unabridged audiobook, read by Grover Gardner.

46 cds and more than 50 hours of listening time and the best I can say for this history is that for 1959 it was probably pretty good. It is rare that the reader of an audiobook actually makes the book better, but such is the case here. The reader is brilliant. The book…not so much.

A little of this, a dash of that

Good morning bookies! It’s bright and cool here in West Tennessee, most unusual for late August. We should be baking and we’re not.

So, Friday I was at the local Memphis Public Library book sale. I spent all morning there. I bought two books. It was dreadful. The library is now skimming off what they consider their best books and selling them on ebay. So, who is determining what books are what? ‘Why, we are!’ one befuddled woman told me. ‘We even sold a first edition the other day!”

God only knows what that book was they sold, whether it was first edition or a 20th. I can assure you this woman would not have known. But obviously whatever they had, if was not at the sale. Nothing but crap, beat up ex-library copies that have been around that sale for years now. A complete waste of time. If you’re thinking about going to a Memphis sale in the future, I wouldn’t bother. Unless, of course, you’re just looking for something to read and don’t mind the copy being a bit beat up, in which case you’ll probably find something.

*** Technically speaking, ancient tablets were the books of their time and so are germane to this blog about books. Right? Right. And it’s right in the wheelhouse of my imagination’s strike zone that the linked article describes archaeologists finding Turkish tablets more than 2700 years old, tablets that don’t just list the day to day activities of a temple, but also might verify facts concerning the Persian Empire’s expansionist tendencies in those days. Amazing people, amazing stuff. To put this in a time context, these tablets were contemporary to the founding of Rome.

Ancient Persian tablets found

*** A signed copy of Mein Kampf was recently sold at auction and, I must say, it went for less than I would have thought, 21,000 pounds, or roughly $38,000. Not only that, this copy was inscribed by Hitler to a fellow inmate at Landsberg Prison. Inscriptions from Hitler are quite rare. On the other hand, the book is more or less unreadable, the passages are so tangled and dense and rambling that one can look quite a while for coherence, without finding it. Not that anyone buying such a book would actually read it, mind you.

Signed Mein Kampf under the gavel

*** During World War II Germany created, or came close to creating, or at least thought about creating, a whole series of extraordinary, far-ahead-of-their-time weapons. The first stealth aircraft, the first operational jet fighter, the first operational rocket fighter, the first jet bomber, smart bombs with TV sets built into their nose, (and those were actually used in the war, too)…and, of course, the famed V2 rocket, the first ballistic missile, still the basis for most so-called SCUD missiles in use throughout the world. And for that particular little bit of worrisome hardware we can thank one Werner Von Braun.

Of course, after the war von Braun came to America and helped put us on the moon, so before we go getting all indignant let’s remember that while Braun might have been a Nazi scientist, he was our Nazi scientist.

That, at least, seems to be the general thought behind Dark side of the Moon: Wehrner von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race by Wayne Biddle. Von Braun was a rocket scientist, he designed and built the much feared V2 for Hitler, a weapon that killed thousands in London and Antwerp. But he was also a German and his country was at war. Like fellow scientists in the USSR, saying ‘no’ to research that could be used for weapons was not an option. If you weren’t useful, then you were taking up valuable resources.

Von Braun was a fascinating man and this might be one book I seek out to read.

A needed biography of Werner von Braun

*** The subject of the Italian resistance during World War II, the roving bands of guerillas who made life so miserable for the Germans and Fascist Italians after Italy’s surrender in 1943, is a subject almost begging for a good book to detail all of its many aspects. And, based on this review below, it still needs one. Or maybe the book that has been written just needs a better reviewer.

The headline of this book review mentions the book being biased; it’s hard to imagine the book is more biased than the reviewer. I mean, come on! How am I supposed to take you seriously when you’re using the subject of a review to launch your own political spin about modern Italian politics? This guy is obviously a leftist outraged that Italy was not allowed to become a communist country. Give me a break.

However, given the paucity of information available on this particular topic, the book does fill an important need. Now it just needs a better reader.

World War II behind the lines in Italy

Just one of those Sundays

Good day bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

Okay, first, I know that I said this blog would be more frequent now that personal stuff was out of the way, but that was premature. More personal stuff came up. Sorry about that. I’ll do my best, but ailing relatives need attention and I’m the only one who can give it.

*** The list of authors for The Southern Festival of Books is finally out, and the first name on the list is the most exciting. Buzz Aldrin will be there. That’s right, the original Moonwalker will be on hand to sign autographs and hold a seminar. Not sure what the agenda will be yet but I’m sure it will be special. Your friendly neighborhood bookseller might be there this year.

Authors scheduled for the Southern Festival of Books

*** A round-up of book reviews, starting with three Texas mysteries including the new one from David Morrell.

Texas Times Three

*** Sometimes, the causes of the politically correct are so convoluted that it’s hard to disentangle where one perceived insult stops and another one starts. Such is the case with a new book on the diaspora of the Jewish intelligentsia from Germany during the time of the Third Reich. Flight From the Reich: Refugee Jews, 1933-1946 by Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt does not sound like the sort of books that Jewish scholars would get all mad about, does it? Except that those involved in the Holocaust, either as survivors or their families, or as scholars, want that piece of history all to themselves. The authors of Flight recall that at a presentation they were once asked “what does the history of Jewish refugees have to do with the Holocaust?”

Since when is victimization by the Nazis a zero sum game? Are those who were able to flee before becoming caught up in the Nazi death machinery somehow unworthy of being included in its victims? It’s very strange.

This book does, however, appear to be a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on one major cause of Germany’s failure in World War II, namely, its brain drain. It has long been one of my beliefs that aside from the Holocaust’s insanity, in and of itself, on sheer practical terms the loss of all of that technical expertise in fields the Nazis found themselves critically short of once war came, everything from nuclear science to factory management, was deadly stupidity.

The Jewish diaspora from Nazi Germany

*** And so Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, has died from cancer. I never had the chance to meet Mr. McCourt, but by all accounts he was a fine man and I’m sorry that he’s gone.

*** As something of a companion volume to the above comes another new book about why Hitler lost the war, contained in a one volume history. One of the recurring themes is that Hitler lost the war because he put Nazi rhetoric into practice, something I have believed for a long while now, so I may read this one myself. The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. By Andrew Roberts. Allen Lane: 712 pages. 25 pounds. (Yikes!) To be published in the US by HarperCollins in 2011.

This seems to be a trend among historians, focusing on the economic causes of the war and their impact on the battlefield. This is all to the good, if the historian is good enough to make it interesting.

Hitler lost because he was Hitler

*** In addition to the above link, another reviewer weighs in with what they felt was new about the book, the rather old discovery that the German Wehrmacht was ill-prepared for winter war in Russia in 1941. Apparently Roberts’ one-volume history is interesting enough to excite the reviewers, which is good. But come on, writing a whole article about the Germans shivering in the snows of Russia?



Who knew? Or, rather, who didn’t know? Frankly, I expect better than this from the Telegraph.

Another look at Roberts’ new book.

*** And now, because the fascination with Nazism and Hitler seems matched only by the revulsion for same, there is yet another book another yet another lower level Nazi functionary that uses the premise to bash both the UK and the USA for their post-war use of former enemies to stave off future enemies.

Hunting Evil by Guy Walters is about Nazis used by MI6 and the CIA just after World War II at the beginning of the Cold War. The author is outraged that this happened. Which is understandable. But he wrote this article in English, not in Russian, so it isn’t all bad. And it’s not like the Russians didn’t also use former Nazis that fell into their hands against the West.

If there’s one thing I hate, really despise, it’s second-guessing decades after the event has occurred. Unless, of course, it’s me that’s doing it.

More Nazis used by the West

Hot Monday

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

If you’re looking for Part Two of the World Famous Trip Blog, especially those of you working for the foreign press, those blogs will be separate from the normal blog. I know you want to read what I thought about your country, and I know you Swiss are waiting for my comments on your police force, but I have regular readers also who expect book news.

I’m also still feeling gloppy, though not quite as gloppy as yesterday, which raised gloppiness to new heights. Yuckishness is about the same.

*** Giles MacDonogh’s last book was the massively unpopular and exceedingly well researched After the Reich: The Brutal History of Allied Occupation, a long overdue examination of the wholesale slaughter of German civilians after World War Two, mostly in the East but tolerated by indifference in the West, as well as the diaspora of German families who had lived abroad for generations. It was shameful and betrayed the ideals of what we had been fighting for, even if it was somewhat understandable in the context of the times.

Now MacDonogh is back with a new book that looks at pre-war Germany in 1938, the year of decision, the year when the Allies could have stopped Hitler, maybe with war and maybe without, but stop him they could. The Wehrmacht of 1938 was not ready for war. This is one that your friendly neighborhood bookseller would like to read, given that he has actually seen the table on which the Munich agreement was signed, as well as his general interest in the period. The author is usually entertaining in style and authoritative in scope, so there is little to indicate this won’t be an important and illuminating work.

1938: When real leadership could have stopped war

Okay, another WW2 review. Lest ye think otherwise, no, this is not an exclusively World War Two oriented blog. It’s just working out that way right now.

*** Evans Carlson is one of the most influential military leaders the US has ever produced. Which is saying something, considering that he only commanded small numbers of troops and only fought in twice in combat. Yet his innovations are a fundamental part of today’s military.

Carlson was a marine and both raised and commanded the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. aka Carlson’s Raiders. A new book gives depth to the life of this important man and his two battles, American Commando: Evans Carlson, His WWII Marine Raiders and America’s First Special Forces Mission by John Wukovits. What Carlson did was form an entire battalion of guerrillas, based on the model of the Chinese Communists. Within that battalion he became one of the men, sharing their hardships, leading from the front.

At Makin Island in 1942 his leadership was, to say the least, uneven. He sort of accomplished his mission of harrying the Japanese but also left men behind to the horrors of Japanese captivity. Carlson, however, learned from his mistakes, and during the Battle of Guadalcanal his launched his battalion behind Japanese lines and devastated their efforts to retake Henderson Field. Known as The Long Patrol, that mission is the one that made him famous and is still studied today.

Carlson’s Raiders

Thanks to all of our veterans!

Good day bookies! It’s wet here in West Tennessee, but with Memorial Day being tomorrow it seems a good time to blog a bit about some forthcoming WW2 books, as well as some loose clutter form my recent unplanned sabbatical.

*** Anthony Beevor is one of the more respected World War II historians working now, otherwise, the news that there is yet another book on D-Day and the liberation of France would pass by without comment. I mean, at some point we get it, right? The Allies invaded France, fought hard to get ashore and eventually overwhelmed the bad guys. How many more details can there be to flesh out yet another book on the subject.

However, I’m not calling foul on this one for two reasons: First, the book I am currently reading is Shattered Sword: The Untold Battle of Midway which I resisted reading for several years because, let’s face it, how much more of Midway’s story could possibly be untold, right? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot of it. So if it’s true for Midway who knows, it might also be true for D-Day.

Second, Beevor is a really fine historian who is not usually content to simply regurgitate what others have written. If he thinks there is a fresh story here to tell then maybe there is. I’ll sure give him a chance to show me.

Beevor does D-Day

— Monday, May 25. Update. Beevor is quoted in British newspapers as saying that Allied bombing of French cities post-D-Day is almost a war crime. What utter rubbish. After reading this nonsense, Beevor comes across as a revisionist clown who is re-writing history because of his own political agenda. Some say he is only doing this to draw attention to the new book, but I can tell you that after reading his comments I have to assume the book is slanted by this crap. Count me out.

*** With tomorrow being Memorial Day, it seems appropriate to mention another new book on World War II, this time the memoir of a US fighter pilot who was shot down and fell into the hands of the SS and found himself at Buchenwald. Unlike places like Auschwitz, Buchenwald not not a death camp per se. It was a work camp, supplying slave labor for German industry, but the difference is only one of degree. Surviving Buchenwald was highly unlikely.

It was not a place captured military personnel were usually sent and Joe Moser found himself there along with other American fliers and barely escaped death. His story is told in the book A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald, a book aviation buffs would probably enjoy.

Surviving the worst

*** Booksellers have always known that one of the biggest problems in the industry are forged signatures. By and large this doesn’t apply to the lesser valued titles, books that sell for less than a couple of hundred dollars, because forging a book to sell it for $50 or so just isn’t worth it. That’s not to say it can’t happen, just that it’s rare. Used booksellers in West Tennessee that I know, and who shall remain nameless, are aware that a probable forger has been operating in a southern state for many years now. (Is that vague enough for you? Good. I love writing this blog but lawsuits aren’t part of the plan.) I’ve talked to people who claim they know people who claim they know employees who did the actual forging.

Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, legitimate dealers are always happy to see forgers charged and convicted, thus the following happy link, wherein a bad guy pays the piper for his crimes.

Bad guy takes the fall for forgeries

*** A sequel to Catcher in the Rye? Yep, it’s true. Bet you didn’t know that. Of course, it wasn’t written by J.D. Salinger but you take what you can get, right? Except John David California’s 60 Years Later Coming Through the Rye has caught Salinger’s attention and, more importantly, the attention of his lawyers. Can you say lawsuit? This could be interesting, though, because it appears that Mr. California (I get this mental image of a big guy in Speedos, which is not an image I wanted to have) has done his homework in avoiding infringement. This one might be worth following.

Salinger isn’t happy, or so we hear

*** I would put this next blogbit under the category of ‘There is so much data flow happening that my brain can’t pay attention to things I really would like to pay attention to.’

I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan. Not a buff, I don’t read every scrap out there written by just anybody, I haven’t joined my local chapter of the Giant Rats of Sumatra, but I do really enjoy the character. So, how is it that I didn’t know Robert Downey, Jr., was making a new Sherlock Holmes film, one that appears from the trailer to be right up my alley? Just too much to keep up with in a world that is far too joined-at-the-hip. Information overload, indeed.

Sherlock Holmes to the Rescue

Treasures, revisions and outrages

Good day bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

*** Who doesn’t love stories of treasures lost and found? I do, for sure, and when I read about charities that have been given rare and valuable books it makes me wonder if the donators knew what they were donating. Anyway, the attached story is one such, and gives me yet another reason to want to make a book pilgrimage to England and Scotland.

Rare books left on doorstep in Edinburgh

*** Franklin Roosevelt is often held up by liberals as their vision of the nearly perfect president, just as Ronald Reagan is cited by conservatives as their template for greatness. In FDR’s case one of the biggest stains on his presidency was the charge that he was indifferent to the plight of Europe’s Jews as the Holocaust swept millions of them away. It has been very hard for his defenders to make a case otherwise, but a new book attempts to do just that.

The new book Refugees and Rescue makes the claim that FDR tried, starting in 1938, to allow tens of thousands of German and Austrian refugees to come to the US or Palestine, but that he was thwarted by those who didn’t approve. Your friendly neighborhood bookseller hasn’t read this book so he can’t say how compelling the evidence might be. He can, however, say that, to contradict the rather mountainous evidence against FDR on this issue, the book will have to be pretty convincing.

Did FDR really try to save the Jews?

*** When I first logged onto the internet, when was that? 1993? 1994? It’s been a long, long while. But whenever that long ago universe-changing event occurred, the first message boards that I encountered were on AOL. You paid per minute back then for internet access, AOL charged a monthly fee, but boy, what you got in return! You had instant access to people all over the world who had the same interests as you did. It was all quite grand! And AOL was leading the way. I know that I was posting there in 1997 and am pretty sure the beginning was before that.

In those days everybody was on AOL, including authors and other famous people. The Hardboiled board, a board devoted to Hardboiled PI fiction, featured as one of its posters Anthony Bourdain, whose novel Gone Bamboo, was current. He was just as funny then as now, maybe not quite as confident. But that’s not the point of this entry, which is, in fact, a rambling bash of the idiots running AOL.

See, that board and all of the others I posted on were recently wiped out by the cretins whose task is apparently to destroy AOL once and for all. And, for the record, John Donahoe has nothing to do with it. This is a completely separate group of numbskulls.

Boards that were 12-14 years old, boards that were, in internet terms, historical classics, are now gone forever. And with them went a large chunk of whatever audience AOL had left. Now it’s just another sterile site with nothing in particular to offer. Might as well be Yahoo. Without the traffic, that is. Who makes these decisions? Who sits in an isolated office somewhere and decides that whatever audience your site still has needs to be alienated? I don’t know. Nor do I care. Whoever it is should be fired immediately, but the reality is they will probably get a huge bonus.

There is no requiem for what was lost, no mourning for the glory that was AOL. What a shame. What a damned shame.

This and the other, no that

Good day, bookies! It’s the weekend! Stand by for book news and comment.

*** Torpedo 8. If you’re a WW2 buff, I need say no more, you know exactly what this was and what happened. However, if you’re not a WW2 buff, a short explanation is in order. Torpedo 8 was the carrier torpedo plane squadron that was wiped out to the last plane, and almost to the last man, during the Battle of Midway in June, 1942. Ensign George Gay was the sole survivor. This would be a tragic story if their sacrifice had not lead directly to the staggering US victory at Midway.

Torpdeo planes needed to be close to the water to drop their torpedoes, otherwise they would malfunction. The TBD Devastators of Torpedo 98 were very slow and very underarmed. Sitting ducks for the Japanese Combat Air Patrol that swooped down like hungry raptors and slaughtered them. However, by doing that the Japanese abandoned defending the higher altitudes where, just as the last of Torpedo 8 was crashing into the sea, US dive bombers appeared. Unhindered by fighters they went on to sink 3 out of the 4 Japanese aircraft carriers, effectively ending the spread of the Japanese across the Pacific and handing the initiative over to the US.

A new book, A Dawn Like Thunder by Robert J Mrazek finally does justice to the sacrifice these men made. When the Japanese CAP was swarming around them, not one plane veered off from its attack run. They all stayed on course, died, and in so doing set up victory.

The Story of Torpedo 8

*** Smith College is hosting an exhibit that I would love to see, “From Weimar to War: Popular Propaganda in Germany 1928-1941”. Mostly featuring ‘cigarette albums’, this shows the evolution of modern propaganda under watchful eye of the man who more or less invented it, Joseph Goebbels.

German Propganda

*** This one goes under the category of ‘How stupid can you possibly be?’ J.K. Rowling will no longer be the patron for the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland. Think about that a second. You are a charity, your highest profile patron is perhaps the world’s most well known author, and you lose her patronage because of a management dispute? Seriously? Who are you going to get to replace her? These people are so dense, so stupid, that frankly I have to wonder if they don’t serve in the US Congress, having written the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Indeed, they may be even more doltish than the brainless fools who wiped out the used children’s books business, because we expect members of Congress to be idiots, but you would hope that managers of charities might exhibit at least the slightest bit of good sense.

JK Rowling and MS Society Scotland part ways

*** Finally, an emailer asked me if there was a new book coming out titled “John Calipari will burn in Hell.” I have researched this extensively and, as of this writing, I can say that I have found no evidence that such a book is being published. Lots of evidence for the premise, but none for the book. Sorry to my correspondent, but look at it as your opportunity to write the book yourself.

Long time gone

Good day bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

First of all, I know it’s been a while since the last entry. Apologies, but all of those pesky realities of life are still leeching away at my time. I’m dancing as fast as I can!

*** Government, again. We seem to be entering an era where governments of all kinds feel it their inherent duty to throw as many obstacles as possible into the life of those who make a living through ecommerce. First the lunacy of the ink-in-lead issue, which appears to have gone sadly un-protested by the sheeple, and now the state government of Kentucky. That’s right, a new law in Kentucky may force those trying to sell a used microwave on Craigslist to buy some groceries to have an auctioneers’ license.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before, by the way. Usually the bots in the legislature in question have the good sense not to knuckle under to the auctioneer lobby and vote for something that would likely get them booted out of office. But not always. The requisites for holding public office these days seems to be that you A) always vote to expand government power to encroach on people’s lives, and B) be too stupid to know or care about how your actions affect your constituents. Of course, those in favor of this bill say it would have no effect on online activities. And, if you choose to believe them, that’s your business. But given the track record of government actions on small business people, I wouldn’t bet my livelihood on them being right, and that’s exactly what you would be doing.

So, all you Kentucky Bonanzlers and Ebayers, got a spare thou for that auctioneer’s license laying around?

Kentucky wants blood

*** Had I been around during WW2 and destined to fight, I think the most frightening job would have been as a merchant mariner. Swabbing the deck on a tramp freighter might not seem like something dangerous, boring, maybe, but not dangerous, but it was. Lurking out there were submarines waiting to sink you. Ships in the Pacific weren’t in so much danger. Japanese official policy was for submarines to seek out US warships, not attack the US supply lines. Few allied ships were sunk by Japanese submarines.

German U-Boats, however, were a different story. If your ship went down in the Atlantic you might have a long wait until rescue. Even as part of a convoy, torpedoed ships could not be guarded, they had to be left behind at the mercy of the submarines. Sometimes, the U-Boat captain would give them food and coordinates, sometimes the sub would machine gun the survivors, but mostly they would just sail off and leave them to the mercy of the Atlantic.

A new book Merchant Mariners at War: An Oral History of World War II by George Billy, gives the men who manned these most vital ships a chance to tell their story.

All hail the Merchant Marine

*** Ebay. Seriously, I don’t think I could make this up if I tried. After a year of John Donohoe’s inane ‘disuptive innovation’, of screwing up anything and everything that was ever good about the site, of alienating and insulting every honest seller the site ever had, ebay has decided that it’s future market is to be…the ebay of old. That’s right, abandoning their quest to become an Amazon clone, ebay has decided that it needs to be ebay.

I’m not kidding.

A year ago their stock was around $34. Today, it’s around $12, and flirted with $10 for a few days. It might do so again. And for this the moron heading the company is being paid millions and millions. Which just goes to show that it’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s not even whether you are competent or not. No. It goes to show that PT Barnum was right, there’s a sucker born every minute, and some of them comprise the ebay board of directors who hired this clown.

ebay: everything bad is good again

*** There was a time when books were special. You just didn’t see them every day, they were expensive objects of art, cherished and handed down as heirlooms. And some few of the most special eventually wind up in museums, where they may be enjoyed by any and all.

A grand home for a rare treasure

*** In the never ending pantheon of books concerning the Nazis and World War II comes yet another in the newest sub-genre, which I have dubbed ‘German Angst.’ Nuremberg was and is not one of Germany’s biggest cities, but where the Nazis are concerned it may be the most recognizable. So how, after the war, did those Nurembergers deal with the sudden juxtaposition of their status, from favored city of the Nazis to outcast by the Allies? A new books seeks to explain that very question. Haunted City: Nuremberg and the Nazi Past by Neil Gregory Yale does a seemingly fine job of looking at how a people and a city dealt with a history that befriended and gave succor to evil.

Nuremberg and the Nazis

So long, Mr. Harvey

Good morning bookies. Stand by for news.

By now you have no doubt learned that we lost Paul Harvey yesterday at age 90. It’s hard to describe the vacuum that your friendly neighborhood bookseller feels because of this. Growing up in the days before talk radio was prevalent, Paul Harvey was the one radio newsman I can remember from my youth. He was a calming influence and I knew that as long as he was around, everything would turn out alright. Even to this day I have his web site bookmarked and listen to his daily newscasts whenever I have the time. ‘The Rest of the Story’ was and is one of my favorite programs. Damn, I’m going to miss him.

The photo above is looking out my office window. About midnight last night you would have thought we were in Alaska, the snow was pouring down, wind blowing, about as close to a blizzard as West Tennessee is ever likely to come. But, in typical West Tennessee fashion, it will all be gone quickly. This weekend it’s supposed to hit the 70’s. Let’s hope it stays there.

*** One of the more forgotten chapters in World War II is the contribution made by women, specifically, nurses. World War II Front Line Nurse by Mildred Radawiec MacGregor seeks to rectify that a bit, giving the experience of one such lady from Michigan.

World War II Front Line Nurse
*** Boy, talk about a book that’s right up my alley. The Lost City of Z by David Grann seems like something I would love to read, even without a visit to the author’s website. However, given that the site is ultra-nifty, this might just be one that BBG has to go out and find for himself. Dark, foreboding jungle, a lost expedition for a city of gold, mysterious diaries…Indiana Jones at his best and truest.


*** Finally, your friendly neighborhood bookseller attended a book signing last week given by David Kidd Books and featuring t.Jefferson Parker. I had never seen Parker before and he seemed like quite a nice guy. He spoke for about 30 minutes about how and why he writes, his day begins at 6:30 am and ends at 5 pm, Monday-Friday, no holidays. Like many authors he chose not to read from the book he was touring to support, The Renegades, and personally I prefer it this way. I mean, if you’re going to read the book anyway, then why do you need the author to read it to you? But that leaves the author needing material for the obligatory talk, so I understand also why they do sometimes choose to read. Anyway, Parker didn’t have anything particularly revealing to say, but I liked his explanation of why he chose to write The Renegades. The plot centers around the shipping of money from the north, aka The United States, south to Mexico. He liked this idea because normally books about the drug trade are about smuggling drugs into the US, not smuggling the money they are sold for out of the country. Nice idea. I don’t usually read his stuff but I might make an exception.

Baseball is near

Good Sunday morning, bookies! It’s bright skies and warmish weather here in West Tennessee and my least favorite month of the year has given way to my second-least favorite month of the year. February is a month of hope, no matter how cold it might be. Because in less than two weeks I’m going to read those magic words that mean Spring is just around the corner: ‘Pitchers and catchers reported to training camp today.” That’s right, baseball season is getting close, and they don’t call them the Boys of Winter, now do they? Heck, college baseball season starts in less than two weeks. Let’s get this show on the road.

*** Sometimes I tell you things and you don’t listen. Like last August when I told you about the new start-up ebay alternative I had found and made a home, Bonanzle. You didn’t believe me, or you blew it off and thought ‘yeah, yeah, where have I heard that before?’ But here we are, six months later, with Bonanzle past the million listing mark and being heaped with praise from media everywhere. Of course, it’s still early in the company’s history, so you, too, can jump on the bandwagon.

Bonanzle keeps growing

*** The list of Best and Worst places to work in 2008 seems a bit harsh to me. The Best Place to work would be anywhere that gives you a paycheck that doesn’t bounce. The worst would be the place that lays you off. But, using different criteria, Glassdoor has compiled its own list, presumably one of companies that actually still pay their employees. And guess who at Number 47 in the bottom 50? Yep, you guessed it, ebay. The site-that-aims-to-have-zero-traffic has never been a highly rated place to work, but bottom 50 is pretty bad. I guess John Donohoe hates his employees as much as he hates his sellers. and no, that doesn’t make sense, but neither does anything else the company has done for the past year.

ebay rated as one of the worst places to work by its employees

*** Since we’re on the subject of auctions sites and ebay, here’s a quick little round up of what some of them plan for the immediate future:

Coming soon to a site near you

*** And, since there’s more ebay stuff, we’ll just pile it all on here. This actually involves more than just ebay, it’s about how our beloved Congress wants to make life even harder for those trying desperately to make a little extra cash on the internet. Why people want these buffoons to have even more control of their lives is beyond me.

Of course, the irony in the attached story is that while Congress is out to destroy the small internet seller once and for all, ebay, who has spent the last year trying to do this very thing, wants help from the small seller in fighting against Congress. In other words, the Devil wants our help fighting Satan.

Two vampires fighting over the same blood

*** Ah, finally, you say. An actual blog entry about a book. Isn’t that what this blog is supposed to be about?

There is an obvious new trend in World War II histories, one that is quite refreshing to someone like me, but might be easily misunderstood. Namely, historians are examining the role of the Allies in what some might call atrocities. Certainly the Americans, French and British did not set out to commit atrocities, and those that were committed were done so against the rules. But not so with the Red Army, whose behavior in Germany was at least as bad, if not worse, than the German behavior in the USSR. But the Germans had in coming, you say? Not so fast there, bucko.

Let us not forget that until June, 1941, the USSR was no friend of either England or the USA. Stalin had, by that point, invaded and conquered half of Poland (we always forget that the Red Army also attacked Poland in September of 1939), the three Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, had attacked Finland (without provocation or warning) and taken the Karelian Isthmus for herself, had taken Bessarabia from Rumania…in other words, Stalin was every bit the aggressor that Hitler was, except that his conquests did not have ties of allegiance to the west. Nor was he any less bloody in his treatment of the populace. How many Ukranians were killed during the collectivization of the 20’s? Millions, surely, but how many millions? 10-20 million is the figure I see most often.

So the Russo-German War was, in reality, a clash between one murderous dictator and another, nothing more, nothing less. Does the fact that Stalin was an ally of the West during the war years excuse the Red Army’s barbarous behavior? It’s a question that probably could not have been asked until recently.

Here’s a seven year review of Anthony Beevor’s Berlin: The Downfall, who was the first of the big named authors to start down this path.

The Red Army’s bloody road of rape

*** Hallelujah, hallelujah, we are saved from ourselves by the US Congress! But not for another year.

Bookies have read my rants about the idiotic new anti-lead law passed by the US Congress that was so poorly written that it banned almost anything that could even be seen by a kid under 12, including used books. I commented at the time that, like almost everything Congress does, it was so out of touch with reality that it would need to be seriously amended, delayed or cancelled. Well, the government has picked delay. The silliness won’t go into effect until next year, presumably so they can issue guidelines to try and make sense of the senseless.

I say again, just ban imports from China and be done with it.

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