Hampton Sides is aiming dead on for the classic, “The Endurance,” mano-a-mano! And he almost gets us there. This true story is awesome …and wildly griHampton Sides is aiming dead on for the classic, “The Endurance,” mano-a-mano! And he almost gets us there. This true story is awesome …and wildly grisly! I keep a folder on GoodReads called “ICE” and I have 8 great titles tucked in there, Kingdom is among the most graphic. (Side-note: the best title name in the group is still “We Die Alone.” …you just can’t beat that bold face title!)
The twin tragedies of the Endurance and Jeannette include a similar series of eerie events; a hobbled and abandoned polar ship, swamped life boats and a final desperate death march. The unique twist resides in the desperate consequences of their captain and crew.
Sides early build up is way… way too long. We don’t care that much about the back story -- The New York Herald challenge, the 100 little details behind the investment and rigging. My Man! Please!!!... Get these fearless men … up on some ICE! Those who are familiar with Sides previous work may be surprised by the slow early turn – he is capable of thrusting his readers headlong into white-knuckle action (i.e. Ghost Story and Hell Hound).
On a very small note, I would have also dropped the random insert of the love letters. Screw Emma and her stiff, little Victorian dribble. I came for a brutal survival story -- sans the widow’s watch. I smell an attempt at a screen play. This is a great effort and it deserves 4-stars, so please ignore my minor jabs. The second half of Side's story will drop your jaw in frozen terror.
The Death of the President is a rich, deep full body emersion into a very specific two week window surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. Manchester wasThe Death of the President is a rich, deep full body emersion into a very specific two week window surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. Manchester was the authorized biographer and as such he was granted incredible early access to the full cast of family, politico and personal friends. He also had the doggedness to track down, time stamp, cross check and personally attempt to experience every living detail.
The amount of reference material (pre-google) that Manchester must have digested is just staggering. I read that he conducted over 1,000 in depth interviews. I can just imagine his rapid fire and relentless questions... And then what happened?...And immediately after that?... Who was on your far left?... Do you remember the song that was playing?...What shoes were you wearing that day? One famous selection suspends time and space and thin slices the exact moment of the President's Death. We are treated to a snap shot in time across the entire globe answering the bonding question of the decade, "Where were you when the President was shot?"
What makes this book a classic and a national treasure is not the long yarn but the tight weave. When Manchester consumed all he could, he became as close to omniscient as any man might be. With that amazing perception and awareness as background material, he then crafted his story. Manchester is of course famous (or infamous) for his outrageous detail, but he is equally gifted at editing and scripting riveting dialog. Additionally, his emotional insight and analogies are as fresh today as they were when he first wrote them in 1963. He brings his characters into vivid focus, reporting not just their actions, but their emotional intent (or heart felt reservation). An interesting side note - the Kennedy's who first authorized the unvarnished story, recanted Manchester's effort and stone walled the final draft in court. Manchester was clearly a fan of the family, but it did not stop him from reporting the painful and revealing truth. Perhaps he did too good a job?
If you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the early 60’s, running among the Kennedys, this book will take you there. At the time of JFK’s death, I was a chubby little one year old and my Dad was thirty. Somehow I feel like I know my Pop a little better after consuming this 50 year old epic. A gift from Mr. Manchester....more
I fast tracked this book to the top of my reading list as soon as I added it. And I read it with boyhood lust. Magic and super star fame, danger, theI fast tracked this book to the top of my reading list as soon as I added it. And I read it with boyhood lust. Magic and super star fame, danger, the globe trotting circuit, physical and mental feats, deceit of all kinds, international spying, paranormal communication... What is not to love about this book to a boy at heart?! My passion for the subject aside, it was a rather typical biography with a fair amount of hero worship puffing up each chapter. Still, a fun read for me. It clips along just fine. Three stars, no less, no more and poof it's gone. 11/19/07...more
Cherry’s 1912 classic adventure memoir combines and edits several other surviving diaries and does a wonderful job detailing Scott’s ill fated South PCherry’s 1912 classic adventure memoir combines and edits several other surviving diaries and does a wonderful job detailing Scott’s ill fated South Pole Terra Nova Expedition. A long line of excellent reviews have already detailed this epic adventure and tragedy... So, I’ll skip a formal review and just outline a few of my own observations.
Cherry spent months attempting to traverse Antarctica in a perpetual sunless winter. Striking out in pitch black, often in snow storms, he tells of the countless times he and or members of his party (and dog teams) fell blindly into invisible crevasses. The potential disaster is mentioned so often, that the reader becomes numb to the incredible terror that this must have triggered, not to mention the physical exhaustion of pulling, dragging and picking one’s way back to apparent safety. Cherry must have recognized the redundancy, so in the middle of his book he goes into detail about the wild free fall, the back-breaking lurch at the end of the tethered harness and the exhausting recovery. Back at camp the danger would be dismissed with typical 1912 British bravado -- after each near tragedy, their comradeship would skyrocket.
My only real criticism (beyond the book’s heft) is Cherry's whitewashing and glory-writing while describing his teammates. No group of men, thrown into desperate circumstances are THAT good together! I blame three circumstances on Cherry’s hero worship; first, their close dependency on each other; second, Cherry’s impressionable age (he was in his 20’s); and finally, he knew his diary was likely his public legacy. He gets away with this near fatal flaw because his story does not need a antagonist. The natural villain is not a person, it’s Mother Nature and she’s a real killer!
He also personally survives a crazy sperm whale attack, as they worked in unison to crack and then explode through the ice field in an effort to snatch their running dog team from the solid ice shelf. Sounds like a scene from an old B-Sci-Fi called “Tremors!”
Other wild subplots include a month long death march to capture Emperor Penguin eggs (really!?... 4 guys, for weeks, in a -70º hurricane, for eggs!?... really!). Within that side story, Cherry chillingly describes his own temporary resolve to die.
A long story has some stretch room for nuance. As a fine example, Cherry takes his time describing the beauty and oddity of such a sparse landscape. He details the dramatic tricks in perspective caused by the absence of landmarks on such a grand scale. In his telling, one day he marched toward a strange shadowed mound on a distant horizon only to arrive at a discarded wrapper some 100 yards away. He didn’t discover and adjust his error in perspective until he was within a couple feet. That has to freak you out a bit! I first discovered this book because it’s title showed up on a National Geographic list of Top 100 Adventure Stories. Since then, I’ve made it a practice to read one or two a year. How does this South Pole survival story fair against the other classics? I would rank it well above the line, but just below a couple awesome stories. The short list below are all from the same cut and cloth, the British glory days of exploration. Strong competitors include; “The Endurance,” “The Forgotten Men,” “We Die Alone,” maybe even “The Long Walk” (note: The Long Walk has long been rumored to be heavily fictionalized).
Overall, very well done! However, modern readers beware; Cherry's turn of the century British verse is both charming and stiff....more