BOOK REVIEWS

Many books pass through our stacks in the course of time and we do a lot of reading. Some of the more noteworthy volumes are reviewed below. Some were written long ago and others may still be on the best-seller lists.


Our books are obtained from any sources, but primarily from local sales and used book stores around the country. On-line sources include Amazon, Alibris, and Abebooks where the more obscure titles are found. I like to read all kinds of books, but generally prefer non-fiction. We have a large home library which augments our interests in music, science, local history, occult categories, and radio communications.


I'll try to add reviews when time permits and eliminate those that have been on this page too long.


*(Page updated 05/2012)




Lincoln cover

"Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard; Published by Henry Holt and Co., LLC; Copyright 2011, 1st Edition (hardcover)


The shooting of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865 has been written about and pondered by many authors since then. O'Reilly and Dugard provide a fresh look at this sad historic event and the people involved both before and after his killing. They aptly set the stage for the assassination which had been originally planned as a kidnapping plot by John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators.


Many individuals who played a part in the plot are profiled in detail and their motives examined. A few became enmeshed as reluctant participants in the plot after Booth decided to shoot rather than kidnap Lincoln. Booth's bizarre plan involved simultaneously killing Lincoln, Vice-President Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. The powerful Secretary of War, Henry Stanton, didn't have an assassin assigned to him by Booth and only Lincoln and Seward were actually attacked.


Confederate sympathizers who had been involved with Booth and his plots were rounded up after the assassination by Federal prosecutors. Others allegedly abetting Booth and co-conspirator Herold's's escape to Maryland and Virginia were caught in the net. This included Dr. Mudd, who treated Booth's broken leg and Thomas Jones, who arranged for a rowboat for their crossing of the Potomac into Virginia.


Having read a couple of previous works concerning the Lincoln assassination, I can attest that this one is quite accurate in detail and it provides more than just bare fact to present this historic event. It gave me a new perspective on the very real human beings involved and their relationship to the immediate post-war hysteria that existed in and around Washington, D. C. at the end of the war. With some foresight and a little bit of timing and luck, this tragedy could have been prevented. To me it is amazing that Booth was able to pull it off at all. The authors concede that Secretary of War Stanton's involvement in the plot is still open to conjecture, but they note that the truth may never be known.


This book is a best-seller for good reason.




"A Voyage Long and Strange" by Tony Horwitz; Published by Henry Holt and Co. (paperback); copyright 2008. voyage

This book is aptly subtitled, "On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonies, and Other Adventurers in Early America."
During a visit to Plymouth Rock, the author realized that most people are only familiar with the first voyage of Columbus to the New World in 1492 and the arrival of the Pilgrims in New England in 1620. Very little is taught concerning other exploration and settlement in America up to the time of the settlement in what was to become Massachusetts.


Author Horwitz, being a historian and journalist, set out to correct this problem by researching and writing this entertaining, but richly informative book about early visits to the American continent during the centuries before the Pilgrims. He studied available references for valid information concerning these early voyagers and effectively separated fact from fancy by tracing the routes and visiting key sites across the United States and parts of Canada and the Caribbean. His encounters with local entrepeneurs who have attempted to cash in on historic sites, real or imagined, provide the high points in the book.


The book tends to tarnish some historic images but rescues certain other individuals from historic disgrace to positions of appreciation for their efforts. The author's conclusions concerning John smith and Native maiden Pocahantas are excellent examples of the fantasy trumping fact. Smith has been portrayed as a scoundrel by historians, but in reality, he was one of the few of his contemporaries with the gumption to follow through and accomplish his goals. The Jamestown colony would have foundered and disappeared without his leadership according to the author.




Signalling"Signalling Across Space Without Wires" by Sir Oliver Lodge from; Fourth Edition re-published by Forgotten Books; purchased through Amazon Books for $8.26


The title of this classic collection of lectures and essays by the British scientist, Sir Oliver Lodge, predates and elegantly describes what we now call "radio." Lodge was a pioneer experimenter with electricity contemporary with such giants as Hertz, Thomsen, Branly, and many others. He is best known for his experiments with "syntony" which is today known as electrical resonance.


The first chapter is taken from a lecture given before the Royal Institution of Great Britain in June, 1894 where he described the work of Heinrich Hertz and the discovery of the electrical waves predicted by Maxwell. Lodge describes the experiments he, himself, conducted culminating in detection of a transmitted signal over a path of one half mile in 1889. This was accomplished using very crude apparatus.


Subsequent chapters outline further experiments conducted by Lodge and others as the communications aspects of electrical apparatus were explored and developed. Throughout the book there are many tantalizing references to much earlier experiments by such people as Joseph Henry and Professor Hughes who were working on wireless systems as early as the late 1870's.


This book is a classic text that should be read by anyone interested in the origin of wireless communication. The terminology we use today did not exist at the time of original publication, but an astute reader can glean the essential details and appreciate the excitement of what was being accomplished.




Saddam's SecretsSaddam's Secrets" by Georges Sada (with Jim Nelson Black); Published by Integrity Publishers; hardcover copyright 2006


Georges Sada was an Iraqi general under Saddam Hussein prior to the second Iraqi War. He was a U.S.-trained pilot and rose to the rank of general against many odds, including his Christian faith. I think the dictator in some way appreciated the honesty of General Sada when the other military leaders told Hussein only what he wanted to hear. Sada warned Saddam against loading the SCUD missiles with poison gas and using them against the Israelis during the first conflict. The missiles were nonetheless deployed, but without the lethal warheads.


Some insight is provided concerning Saddam Hussein's personality and background which confirms that he was a cold-blooded killer and barely human. Saddam's sons were a chip off the old block and their sadistic practices against their own people have been well-documented. Their evil nature is confirmed by General Sada as well, due to "run-ins" with them at times.


I had hoped there might be some fresh information about Saddam's WMD projects and his nuclear program, but the book did not provide any detail about these. Perhaps Georges Sada wasn't "in the know" about them? I guess we will have to continue to speculate. Otherwise, I found the book interesting and marvel that Georges was able to "keep his head" through all the turmoil.




Cache Lake"Cache Lake Country" by John J. Rowlands; Published by W. W. Norton and Co.; Copyright 1947, 1959

I found this book at a church rummage sale and after briefly paging through it, decided to buy it for fifty cents. It sat around for a while, but I pulled it off the shelf after we moved to Loyalton and started reading it, a chapter a night.


The author describes his many years living in the Canadian sub-arctic wilderness south of Hudson's Bay with Henry "Hank" Kane, an artist friend, and Chief Tibeash, a wizened native of the region. The locale described in the narrative seems to be a derivative of the author's experience built up over years of silver prospecting and mining followed by work as a caretaker and consultant for timber interests. I had the feeling that Cache Lake Country may have been an ideal based upon a number of locations, but it is never really clear and it doesn't really matter, anyway.


Author Rowlands describes the country in the opening chapter and then travels through the seasons from January through the following December in succeeding chapters. Each chapter is full of useful tips concerning woodcraft, food preparation and preservation, natural science, and other topics pertinent to living in the tamarack and pine forests of eastern Canada. All the lore is augmented by excellent line drawings by Hank, the artist. I was surprised to find several pages devoted to building a crystal detector radio among the pack frame plans and wildlife descriptions. The iceboat built by Hank was an amusing subject. Canoe and snowshoe construction was also discussed in considerable detail.


Having been a Boy Scout, I found some of the material familiar, but there were many other practical ideas for this would-be woodsman that made this a fine learning experience even today. The subtle philosophy that transcends the practical campcraft interwoven throughout the chapters is that with patience, experience, and a little ingenuity, a human being can be at peace in the wilderness wherever it may be. John Rowlands was at peace with himself and was able to convey his chosen path to the astute reader.




Unlocking the Sky"Unlocking the Sky" by Seth Shulman; Published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.; Copyright 2002; soft cover edition

Glenn Curtiss was an early American aviation pioneer whose inventive mind coupled with a penchant for hard work resulted in aircraft development that overshadowed that of the Wright brothers. Like the Wrights, Curtiss started out as a bicycle mechanic, eventually progressing to the manufacture of motorcycles and lightweight gasoline engines.


His business grew and his engines came to the attention of a balloonist/showman named Baldwin. While delivering the engine to Baldwin for a show in Ohio, he briefly met the Wright brothers who were in attendance. When Baldwin's balloon suffered a malfunction, Curtiss and the Wrights assisted with saving it from damage. That was his first contact with aviation and his last amicable contact with the Wright brothers.


Curtiss subsequently became a member of an aero club founded and supported by Alexander Graham Bell. The club, known as the "Aerial Experiment Association," had several prominent members including Bell, Casey Baldwin, Lt. Thomas Selfridge, and Douglas McCurdy. Funded by Bell, they set up shop at the Curtiss plant in Hammondsport, New York and set out to try different aircraft designs proposed by the members. Bell's box-kite design was unsuccessful, but the Curtiss "June Bug" biplane design flew successfully.


The Curtiss factory began manufacturing aircraft and almost immediately suffered litigation from the Wrights who claimed their wing-warping design patent for turn and bank control was usurped in the Curtiss designs. Actually, Curtiss had discarded wing warping, inventing fixed wing ailerons which was a major structural improvement. Unfortunately, the vague Wright patent was upheld and construed to cover all aspects of aircraft design in the courts. This setback caused Curtiss other U. S. manufacturers to shut down because the royalty fees demanded by the Wrights were prohibitively high.


Glenn Curtiss perservered and entered his aircraft in competitions, winning awards and setting aviation records. He eventually overcame the patent difficulties and produced the only American aircraft deployed in World War I. The British ordered several of his seaplanes for use against submarines in the English Channel. The JN-4 trainer was another successful design that was used to train future aviators.


Ironically, the Curtiss and Wright factories merged in 1929 to become Curtiss-Wright, although Curtiss and Orville Wright had backed out of leadership positions by then. The Wright brothers were the first to successfully fly a heavier-than-air powered craft, but due to their secrecy and legal stranglehold of their patent, aircraft development in the United States was held back for many years. Nonetheless, Glenn Curtiss and others like him were able to overcome these obstacles and become true aviation pioneers.




grey wolf "Grey Wolf" by Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams; Sterling Publishing, Copyright 2011, Hardcover Edition

The authors set out to put to rest the persistent rumors that Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun did not perish in the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin but survived and were spirited to Argentina as the Russians overran the city in late April, 1945. As they went over old documents released through the "Freedom-of-Information Act" venue, and reviewed eyewitness sources from the wartime and postwar period, they discovered that the 1945 demise of the Fuhrer in Berlin was not as cut-and-dried as we have been led to believe.


Much of the first part of the book is devoted to a restatement of Nazi Germany wartime politics and the efforts of allied intelligence groups to recover looted art treasures, precious metals, and products of the scientific endeavors of the Reich as the war came to a conclusion. The political setting in Argentina and the South American countries is covered thoroughly, as well, which provides the needed background to support the idea that Hitler could easily have been sheltered and survived along with numerous other Nazis after the war.


German nationals fostered a close relationship with the South American countries after World War I culminating in a great deal of wealth being transferred and invested through World War II. The Germans developed a close relationship with Argentina's Juan Peron who repaid the support by providing a safe haven for fleeing Nazi's at the end of the war. The list included many prominent officials and military personnel of the Third Reich who were spirited away via Vatican ties along with the help of fascist Spain. Prominent figures included Mengele, Eichmann, and Borman, most of whom lived out their remaining years in German communities deep in Patagonia near the border with Chile.


I found the evidence for Hitler's survival until 1962 tantalizing, but limited. Even so, the authors presented their case in an interesting manner, providing what documentation and testimony has been available.


Although we have been led to believe that Hitler and Eva committed suicide in the bunker, there is really no solid evidence that this was the case. Instead, they could have been flown from Berlin from a secure airstrip as the Russians fought their way into the city. Reaching the Hamburg area, they changed aircraft and were flown to Spain where the aircraft was disposed of so Franco could plausibly deny any collusion. Several submarines left Europe for South America and it is contended that the Hitlers were transported on one of them to the Patagonian coast from where they travelled overland to a well-guarded estate prepared for them.


There is much more detail than I can go into in this summary, but the fact remains that the FBI never stopped hunting for Hitler in spite of Russian reports of his death. It's a fascinating mystery and after reading this and other books on the subject, I tend to agree that Adolph Hitler may well have lived out his remaining years in Argentina, eventually developing dementia and losing the support of his former Nazi associates as the dream of a Fourth Reich in South America faded into oblivion.




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