Saturday, February 27, 2010

Murder on K Street - Margaret Truman NBC

A long time ago I thought quite a lot of Harry Truman. (Still do.) I suppose that influenced my first purchase of a book by his daughter Margaret. Time has gone by. I've read about a dozen of her mystery books set in the Washington, D.C. area. I have never been disappointed.

Murder on K Street is excellent as a convoluted story of detection . . . and as a primer on national politics. The characters, complications, mystery and scope of the novel are just right. The operating details of how our federal government works behind the scenes is fascinating.

On a grade scale of A to F . . . Murder on K Street gets an A

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Castle In The Forest - Mailer NBC

If, for some reason,  you want to read a truly raunchy book . . . may I recommend this one. How in the world did Norman Mailer make his vastly over rated reputation?  In my estimation  he was a ONE BOOK author and his talent ended with THE NAKED AND THE DEAD.  It was his first and should have been his last.

Back to the subject. The first 1/3 of The Castle In The Forest is devoted to the specualtion that incest was common among Hitler's ancestors. Perhaps it was. The author also claims that incest was the primary motivator of the infamous murderer Heinrich Himmler. Okay, so what. The author, Norman Mailer, uses this trembling stage to examine, in great detail, the genitals of every possible relative on Adolf Hitler's family tree. Mailer seems to delight in describing every penis and asshole, every vagina and orgasim.

By the time a reader gets through the first 1/3 of the book it has clearly proven to be a useless tale of speculation and disgusting hypothesis.

The root idea seems to be that Adolf Hitler was somehow the evil result of the evil parentage mystically driven into evil people by the Maestro (Devil) himself.

The thesis is faulty, the writing is exceptionally bad, and after reading about 1/3 . . . the book is now in the trash to be burned.  

On a grade scale of A to F, this one doesn't even rate an F-.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Leisure Seeker - Zadoorian

Wow! The sleeper of the year. This wonderful little book (unfortunately) hits very close to home, and is without a doubt the most enjoyable sad story I have EVER read. That's right, SAD story. From the very first of the book the reader knows, or at least suspects, where the story is going. It begins as a quiet travelog written by an old lady who goes off on a trip with her husband in a motorhome named Leisure Seeker. It is at once funny, hilarious, and tragic. All at the same time. The masterfully underwritten story of two people trying to follow Route 66 to it's conclusion at the Pacific Coast in Santa Monica will hold your interest from the first page to the last . . . and you will chuckle and cry as you go. I would recommend this book to anyone who is retired, any kid with retired parents, any medical person who treats people with terminal illnesses . .  and needs a laugh!

On a grade scale of A to F I definitely would give The Leisure Seeker an A++++

Monday, February 15, 2010

World War IV - Norman Podhoretz

The Presidential campaign leading up to the election in 2008 was brutal. It was so loaded with partisan lies, mis-direction, and personal attacks it may even have been the worst in American history. Candidate Obama ran against the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Administration instead of his opponent John McCain. In his campaigning Obama never missed an opportunity to criticize Bush . . . on every front. He demeaned the office of President by the shear audacity of his tremendous volley of lies and inuendo.

The then unpopular former President Bush stayed out of the contest and did not reply. The Republican ticket, John McCain and Sarah Palin, was unable to defend the Bush Administration and at the same time advance a dynamic Republican platform. 

Ultimately, Obama won by a whisker. But he won.

Bush Jr. still elected not to defend his record. Instead, he seems quite confident to let history make it's own judgement.

The problem is that Bush Jr. did some terrific things while in office. His accomplishments were many and his failures were few. Until this book came out no one spoke up and tabulated all of the positive accomplishments of the Bush Administration. The Author (Norman Podhoretz) deserves our thanks. He has written a fascinating, balanced, non-partisan, and finely fair accounting of the Bush Administration.

I wish it was possible to force all of the Bush-Haters to read this book.

On a grade scale of A to F. . .  I would give World War IV an A+.


Hell To Pay - Giangreco

This book is an eminently readable collection of military knowledge and deserves a prominent place amid World War II History texts. A bit dry as most detailed histories are, but highly recommended to the serious student of this subject:

        (1) Every thing you ever wanted to know
           about the run up to the planned invasion of Japan.

      (2) The exceptional size, complexity, and possible
            human cost of Operation Downfall

       (3) The convincing and logical reasons that caused
             President Truman to unleash the Atomic Bombs on Japan.

       (4) An extensively detailed accounting of military
            activities that led to Japan's unconditional surrender.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Man of the People - Alonzo L. Hamby

The sub title is [A Life of Harry S. Truman], and the book is the finest and most complete biography available. It is really excellent, and imparts both the facts and the personal essense of Harry Truman better than any of the other Truman biographies.

Our O.C. Geezer Book Club is fortunate to have as a member, George Elsey, who was an active young advisor to F.D.R. and remained in office when Harry took over. Harry was unprepared, overwhelmed, but possessed of a clear idea of right and wrong. He was a common man, intelligent and decisive. He became a good President.

George originally worked for Roosevelt running the [map room] during W.W. II. When the war ended George became an assistant to Clark Clifford, and in that capacity, remained close to the President as an advisor. He traveled to Potsdam with the President, and to several other of the conferences of the time. George wrote speeches and position papers for President Truman, and many of George Elsey's duties and assignments are detailed in the book.

George was also kind enough to present a verbal disertation further describing the events mentioned in Hamby's book. It made the book even more interesting to the club members. 

The book is long, detailed, and reads like a very good textbook. On a grade scale of A to F it should earn an A.  It is an excellent read that would appeal most to a person interested in history. 

With Wings Like Eagles - Michael Korda

This book is a terrific read. It is yet another rendition of the Battle of Britain and perhaps the best of them all. It is composed by a skilled writer who leads the reader form page to page. Much of the story is about Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding's ultimately successful strategy for using Britain's fighter aircraft to defend the homeland. It is a rousing story, very detailed, and a most satisfactory history. On a grade scale of A to F it deserves an A+.

Murder Be Hanged - Jonathan Ross

Another excellent police procedural from Great Britain. Inspector George Rogers has an odd crime to solve. First, a son complains that his step father plans to harm his mother. Then, in no particular order, the mother is hanged, the step father is thrown off a cliff, a male friend of the mother drives his car off the same cliff. All of these deaths focus back on one person, but Inspector Rogers follows a dozen trails before figuring it out. The little book does hold the readers interest. On a grade scale of A to F it should receive a C+.

Death of a Mystery Writer - Robert Barnard NBC

This turned our to be a great British [police procedural] mystery. On a grade scale of  A to F  it should earn a B. The writer who is the subject of the book is a most destestable person, and his death turns out to be a quite believeable puzzle for Inspector Merideth. Death by NICOTINE was new to me. Good story,  short, and  easy to read.