Last Update 5/9/22

Waterloo New Perpectives by David Hamilton-Williams, Wiley, 1993 

Iíve never read much about the Napoleonic Wars for some reason, so Iím trying to fill in some gaps. I hadnít known that for more than a century the battle was perceived through the eyes of a military historian who selected his evidence to fit the enormous model he had built of the battle and never consulted any but British officers, ignoring those who contradicted his findings. It wasnít until the 1980s that the family finally turned over the hundreds of letters he had received and modern historians were able to put together a substantially different interpretation. Nicely detailed, better than average maps, and quite readable prose. 5/9/22

The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond Harper, 1992 

A couple of this author's books have impressed me so I have been looking for his lesser known work. This was Diamondís discussion of human evolution, explaining how we are related to other apes, probable lines of divergence, and the accumulation of skills and behavioral patterns that gradually allowed us to become the dominant species on the planet. There is also a brief speculation about the future and some lamenting that we may be backsliding. Intermittently interesting. Diamond tends to repeat himself a lot and sometimes allows his opinions to color his observations. 4/28/22

Albuera 1811 by Guy Dempsey, Frontline, 2008 

I havenít read much about the Napoleonic wars. This is a detailed look at one battle in Spain, although Napoleon and his opponent, Wellington, were neither present. The French wanted to drive the British out of Portugal and destroy the Spanish army. Lisbon proved to be almost unassailable based on Napoleonís original plan of attack and the village of Albuera was the scene of an unusually bloody battle to open up a southern route. As is the case in most wars, the shortcomings of officers on both sides led to costly mistakes. The narrative is well told although in a bit more detail than I really needed. 4/22/22

Bloody Murder by Julian Symons, Penguin, 1972 

Aka Mortal Consequences. This was Symonsí book about the crime novel, a combination of literary criticism, history of the genre, and wandering speculation. He rightly points out that defining the field is a fruitless pursuit. He does include spy novels and psychological suspense, and points out that some novels considered part of the field do not even involve a crime. Some chapters I found very interesting, others less so. Symons was a champion of the evolution from detective story/whodunnits to modern police procedurals, suspense, and other less traditional plots, although he worked both sides of the tracks. 4/10/22

War Without Mercy by John W. Dower, Pantheon, 1986

This is a depressing account of racism in the Pacific theater of World War II, demonstrably true - we interned Japanese Americans but not German Americans. The racism was present on both sides as illustrated by the nature of government propaganda used by both sides. Not all Germans were bad, just the Nazis, but all Japanese were brutal, mindless slaves. Even in the relatively amicable post war years, the Japanese were treated as children. It is actually rather surprising how well the breach was healed in a relatively short time. Very well written, but not something to improve your view of humankind. 3/15/22

Chancellorsville by Stephen W. Sears, Mariner, 1996

This is a long, detailed account of what was probably Robert E. Lee's most brilliant battle during the Civil War. Outnumbered two to one, having accepted planted intelligence that was completely misleading, his troops split into smaller groups and half starved, and so surprised that Hooker had moved most of his army across the river between them before Lee even knew there was an attack. Despite all of this, Lee managed to outwit and outfight the opposition and prevent the collapse of his defense of Richmond. Filled with a lot of detail which was new to me. Hooker did everything he should have done to win, except win. 2/8/22

Dead Reckonings 30 edited by Alex Houston & Michael J. Abolafia, Hippocampus, 2021, $7.50, ISBN 978-1-61498-355-2

A periodic collection of articles, reviews, and commentary on weird and horror fiction, mostly from a somewhat academic point of view. Authors this time include Michael Shea, Lisa Tuttle, Ramsey Campbell, and several more obscure names. Some of the articles are about peripheral activities rather than literary criticism or discussion. The contributors include Ramsey Campbell, Darrell Schweitzer, Leigh Blackmore, and others whose names were not familiar to me. As usual, I found the contents varied quite widely in interest to me. Some are quite well written, and all are at least competently readable. A handy way to get a peek at this subset of horror fandom.1/23/22

The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead, Harper, 1962

Companion volume to The White Nile. Most of this volume deals with Napoleon's short-lived conquest of Egypt and the subsequent British period of dominance. The mamelukes were driven to near extinction when faced with modern military equipment and tactics. Napoleon actually probably had good intentions but the Egyptians never believed him and his reform efforts were doomed from the start. The alliance of England, Russia, and Turkey against him did not help, and the bedouins owed no allegiance to anyone and raided wherever they could. The English lasted longer but fared no better. Very enjoyable account of the various events involved. 1/12/22