OK… upon further review… I upped my rating. I added an extra star to Erik Larson’s account of the sinking of the Lusitania. I know, who gives a damn?OK… upon further review… I upped my rating. I added an extra star to Erik Larson’s account of the sinking of the Lusitania. I know, who gives a damn? Well, apparently I do! We all have our own personal little rating system. Truth is, this was an excellent read. I originally gave it 3 stars, ranking it in behind my favorite books by Larson; “Devil in the White City” and “Isaac’s Storm.” And if you have not read Isaac’s Storm please pick it up. Larson is a wonderful classic plot constructionist and a crystal clear storyteller.
Dead Wake toggles chapter-by-chapter, back-and-forth reconstructing a critical game of cat and mouse. The German U-boat Schwieger and US Captain Turner are bound for a shared destiny and infamy. Larson does an admirable job describing the macro and micro context of submarine warfare and documenting the social highlife of the Lusitania. In juxtaposition, the sub's living conditions were wretched and the experience on the cruise ship were sublime and indulgent (pre torpedo!). And as fate would bare, the former was also victorious and the latter was bloody tragic. Larson tacks-on a conspiracy theory at the end of his book that purports Lusitania as a war pawn of Churchill. He clips off a run-list of evidence that indicates that Churchill knowing pulled a naval escort from the Lusitania. We all know Churchill was trying to goat America into his war, but I’m not at all convinced Churchill knowingly killed off 1,000’s of American and British civilians. If Larson fully believed that this was a vertical conspiracy of epic proportion, why did he not commit his entire story to uncovering this sensational plot? I'm sure Oliver Stone's screenwriters will play this card ;-). It was just a strange way to end an excellent book (hence the stutter-step on my rating). Read it and tell me what you think. You really can’t go wrong with Larson and Dead Wake. D...more
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