This book was enticing, with its neat cover and catchy title, perched on a shelf in the bookstore practically begging me to take it home: it was the lThis book was enticing, with its neat cover and catchy title, perched on a shelf in the bookstore practically begging me to take it home: it was the last of its kind in the store. It was an easy sell for me as I have served with Newfoundlanders for many years - they provide soldiers for the Canadian military in numbers far out of proportion to the population of the province. I have the greatest admiration for them, a hardy race, almost always honest and uncomplicated; you never have to guess where you stand with them, for you'll be told in plain language.
I was aware that the Newfoundland Regiment had taken a hell of a pounding at Beaumont-Hamel in WWI, but I didn't really know a lot about the regiment aside from that. Newfoundland wasn't part of Canada at that time, nor would the province join confederation for another thirty years after the war. This book enlightened me considerably, although stopped just short of providing full satisfaction.
I hadn't been aware that the Newfoundland Regiment had been the only North American unit to serve at Gallipoli, and that they had been the last to evacuate/retreat. They apparently advanced closer to Constantinople than any other unit. (Yes, Constantinople. It didn't become Istanbul until after the war. Now I'll have that Four Lads song floating around in my head). They went on to France, engaged in some battles in which they mostly prevailed, and went on to become noted in history for a defeat that rivalled those of Varus and Custer. Exceeded Custer in numbers, actually, although unlike the 7th Cavalry something less than 10% of the Newfoundland Regiment was able to answer the roll call next day. This is where the book gets its title: a witness described the Newfoundlanders advancing into the hail of fire at Beaumont-Hamel like they would advance into a blizzard on the sea ice back home; sheltering behind one shoulder and hunched toward the gale!
Mr Winter took up the task of writing the book for mercenary reasons. His trip overseas to trace the route of the regiment was made to satisfy a request of his publisher and not to seek out the grave of an ancestor, so he has no personal tie to his story. He weaves the tales of his travels in with the story of the regiment and binds it with anecdotal incidents from past and present with the intention, I believe, of showing that the past affects the present. This really didn't really work for me and, in fact, I ended up not liking Mr Winter very much. When you put too much gratuitous information about yourself in your writing...well, familiarity breeds contempt. Like taking a dump in a battlefield shell hole, or getting blitzed on wine in a military cemetery, both of which he mentions in the book, apparently without any idea how these actions would be regarded by the reader. He reveals a lot when he writes on page 23:
There should, by law,be a division between war and sport like the one between church and state. Soldiers should not appear with the flag at hockey games. Soldiers should not sing the national anthem in baseball parks. No salutes should be made to the flag when a game begins. No applause given to platoons watching in uniform from the gold seats.
I think that Winter, in spite of some rhetoric that seems anti-military, is actually anti-war. There is a difference, and I hope he perceives that difference before he goes spouting off in public about how patriotism and military service should receive no recognition.
Another perceived shortcoming is a lack of photographs. In a non-fiction publication it is a great asset for the reader to be able to see the items and places referred to in the book. Show me the caribou statue at the memorial; don't just tell me about it! Same goes for the soldiers mentioned in the story - let's see their faces!
I wasn't going to rate the book very highly because it jumps back and forth and what I had really wanted was a history of the Newfoundland Regiment, but in all honesty I have to admit that the book was hard to put down. It is an entertaining read, and I envy Winter's expense-account trip to the battlefields. I have this trip on my bucket list and hope to be able to be able to do it without getting loaded in the cemetery or pinching off a loaf on the battlefield....more
I wasn't particularly impressed with this book. I was very keen to get a copy as I had spent a quarter century in the trade, and ordered this one (atI wasn't particularly impressed with this book. I was very keen to get a copy as I had spent a quarter century in the trade, and ordered this one (at an excessive price) as soon as I heard it was in print. I expected a history of the Canadian Military Police; what I got is essentially a book of photographs. Mind you, the photos are very nice, and they are in chronological order, but I wanted some meat, some written history I could sink my teeth into.
To begin with, Canadian Military Police existed as distinct units prior to 1940. I assume the authors (or editors, as they have listed themselves) realized that researching anything prior to 1940 would prove to be time-consuming, and dismissed the existence of the WWI units thus: "Although both the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force maintained rudimentary military police forces between 1917 and the mid 1920s, the real story of Canada's Military Police truly begins in September 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War." (Page 2)
Really? Who made this decision? I suspect some wag in Ottawa decided that he or she wanted to celebrate a 75th Anniversary and acknowledging the existence of prior MP units would be inconvenient. I was also somewhat put off by the title page, which had no details regarding the identity of the publisher or the date published. The narrative ends after page 3, and thereafter one has to rely on the descriptions of the photographs to get a general idea of what is going on.
I guess in the end I would rather have the book than not have it, especially since I recognized a lot of the soldiers in the photos, but I really expected a better effort for an anniversary book. There should be chapters on badges and insignia, details on deployments, Honour Rolls of those KIA. This book has none of that. In short, I wanted a meal; I got dessert....more
It is what it is....a lightly researched glance at an important topic. The western woman was a force to be reckoned with right from the start, way aheIt is what it is....a lightly researched glance at an important topic. The western woman was a force to be reckoned with right from the start, way ahead of her eastern sisters. Women were cow persons (originally called cowboy girls; I prefer cowgirls), ranchers, saloon and brothel owners in an era when some jurisdictions back east didn't allow women to own property. Rodeo was the first sport in which women competed with men on an equal footing and, apparently, the first sport in which women wore trousers. Fun bit of trivia: the derogatory term for lesbian, "bull-dagger", actually derives from the sport of steer wrestling or bulldogging, which some ladies excelled at.
Ms Savage goes on to explore the participation of women in exhibitions both live and on film, with a particularly strong nod to Annie Oakley. Of particular use to me as a collector of western film was a list of westerns with female leading stars, a few of which were unknown to me.
In general, the book is an easy and fun read, resplendent with photographs of lovely and not-so-lovely ladies in their cowgirl gear; there was even a nice shot of my boyhood crush Gail Davis! Recommended for a light read. I hope to read a more serious book on the topic some day.
We Canadians lead quite the placid existence up here in the Great White North, so much so that if we want any excitement we have to go elsewhere to geWe Canadians lead quite the placid existence up here in the Great White North, so much so that if we want any excitement we have to go elsewhere to get it. Seventeen Canadians, some of them Civil War vets, tagged along with Custer on that fateful day in 1876: they got a bit more excitement than they bargained for.
I had eagerly anticipated this book. As a bit of a Custer buff I was already aware that Custer's command contained a number of Canucks and I probably expected too much of Ms Thomas...after all, the battle was so long ago, and records are sketchy where they exist at all. Thomas has done a reasonably competent job with the small amount of information at her disposal. The book did slightly increase my store of Custer-related trivia, particularly in regard to the private lives of the soldiers and the disposition of their remains after the battle.
Unfortunately, Ms Thomas' writing style does little to drum up any interest in the proceedings, but then it could be argued that she is describing an autopsy rather than detailing the events preceding death. She is repetitious: by page 43 she had mentioned that W.W. Cooke was a Canadian at least 7 times, and she gave the same treatment to each and every other Canadian in the group. That gets old really, really fast. Another criticism, one of my pet peeves, is the awkward phraseology used in describing firearms-related incidents. The troops were armed with "side-arm pistols" (p.198) and Bloody Knife was hit by "a round of fire" (p.208). Nitpicking, I know, but the latter could mean that Bloody Knife was hit by a bullet, a volley, a flaming hula-hoop, or perhaps the Ring of Fire immortalized by Johnny Cash.
This isn't a terrible book: those interested in military history or Canadiana will get something out of it. On the other hand, if you want an exciting account of the Custer fight there are better books out there. ...more
I'm not quite sure what I read here;I'll have to file this one under Cutesy or Gimmicky. The author has put some thought into the premise and has realI'm not quite sure what I read here;I'll have to file this one under Cutesy or Gimmicky. The author has put some thought into the premise and has really come up with some promising characters in the protagonists, a pair of killers for hire who happen to be on the payroll of a mysterious entity known only as "The Commodore". The mission the brothers have committed to requires them to kill a prospector who has developed a secret formula that enables him to find gold with a minimum of effort. If that isn't a James Bond story adapted to a western theme, it will do until such a story comes along.
The story is narrated by the fat brother (hey, I didn't write it) whose narration is, I think, intended to be funny. Instead, the story comes out flat, the dialogue is lame, and the characters never fully developed, with the exception of the brothers and the prospector. The action, if such it can be called, is mentioned usually as an aside or afterthought. In my estimation the writer was not focussed on where he wanted his story to go; he had a comedy, a horse opera, and a spy/adventure story on the go and came up short on all three.
I did get all weak in the knees when reading a couple of deWitt's quotes, which I will share with you:
What a life it is for man's animals, what a trial of pain and endurance and senselessness (P. 241)
You are afraid of hell. But that's all religion is, really. Fear of a place we'd rather not be, and where there's no such a thing as suicide to steal us away. (P.258)
We Canadians are a mild lot...so much so that even our Indian massacres are mild affairs with low body counts and a minimum of fuss. This book is centWe Canadians are a mild lot...so much so that even our Indian massacres are mild affairs with low body counts and a minimum of fuss. This book is centred around the Cypress Hills massacre, a pretty tame affair when compared to the massive episodes of bloodletting that occurred with some regularity south of the border. In the USA it would probably be listed as a skirmish, but I'll bet none of that was any consolation to the unfortunate Assiniboine who were being set upon by (mostly) American hunters. Vanderhaeghe details the torment of a fictional youth who was on the side of the aggressors in that conflict.
This is an engrossing read, if a tad predictable; I knew how the story would end about 2/3 of the way through the book. I definitely have to check out more of this fellow's work....more
When I bought this book I expected to be regaled with accounts of the adventurous activities of Canadian aboriginal soldiers during the Great War. InsWhen I bought this book I expected to be regaled with accounts of the adventurous activities of Canadian aboriginal soldiers during the Great War. Instead, I was treated to a serious study detailing the legal and political wranglings involved in the recruitment and deployment of Canadian Indians. It's all good; Mr Winegard has a large vocabulary and isn't afraid to hit you right between the eyes with it, so parts of the book require some migraine-inducing concentration. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, I learned a lot about my country from this particular publication.
Canadians generally regard themselves to be a tolerant society so I was a little taken aback to learn that aboriginal and black soldiers encountered considerable racism even as they volunteered to risk their lives fighting for the country. An example is this quote of LCol George Fowler taken from page 79:
" I have been fortunate to have secured a very fine class of recruits, and I did not think it was fair to these men that they should have to mingle with negroes"
Racial stereotypes abounded during the war and the aboriginal soldiers, although generally well-received by fellow soldiers and treated much the same as any other soldier while serving, were often denied their duly earned pensions and incentives on their return to Canada. In spite of some truly great contributions to the war effort, they were years in getting their due. Read the book; you will undoubtedly be left with contempt for Canadian politics and admiration for these unselfish men and women who stepped forward in their thousands to leave their bones in foreign soil.
This biographical work follows the life of Kim Phuc from the time she was badly burned in a napalm strike during the Vietnam war. If I learned anythinThis biographical work follows the life of Kim Phuc from the time she was badly burned in a napalm strike during the Vietnam war. If I learned anything from reading this, it's that the war in Vietnam was really a pointless struggle; it would have been better to have let the soldiers from the north take over the corrupt Saigon regime from the outset. Once securely in possession of the country, the communist regime could have started to implode through graft, corruption, and incompetence much sooner than it did.
Kim's struggle with her injuries was the easiest part of her ordeal; in subsequent years she would be hounded and oppressed by a corrupt and totalitarian regime that used her fame as "the girl in the picture" as propaganda and a bargaining tool in subsequent normalization negotiations.
I have to read a book like this once in a while. For a little while, at least, I'll be grateful that my children were fortunate enough not to have been raised in a country where fire dropped indiscriminately from the sky, and that my family didn't have to huddle together over a few ounces of rice in a single-room dwelling. ...more
This is a hard book to rate. Some passages were brilliant and rated a 4; others bored me half to death and would merit only a 2. Overall a decent readThis is a hard book to rate. Some passages were brilliant and rated a 4; others bored me half to death and would merit only a 2. Overall a decent read, with good subject matter and adequate research. The author has a tendency to wander off topic; sometimes this enhances the story but there are those other times where you wish he would quit lecturing and get back on topic, already. It's a book with great potential but might have been improved by being briefer and more to the point....more
This is another hastily-written account by a crime reporter who is exploiting the misfortune of others to profit by pandering to our baser voyeuristicThis is another hastily-written account by a crime reporter who is exploiting the misfortune of others to profit by pandering to our baser voyeuristic instincts. That having been said, the book is not a bad read, although the writer was handicapped by the reticence of many people who might have shed some light on the murderer's past and by his own reluctance to include some of the more lurid details of the slayings. Personally, I was put off by his lack of familiarity with military terminology...what the heck is a "dress-kit function" anyway? In any event, he gets the job done. The reader will learn that a creature like Williams can flourish without detection in our society in spite of all the screening systems we have in place to detect him. Scary stuff!...more
A reasonably well-written account of the atrocities committed by this husband and wife team of monsters. This case was notable because of the infamousA reasonably well-written account of the atrocities committed by this husband and wife team of monsters. This case was notable because of the infamous gag order effectively preventing the press from reporting on many details of the murders. The book contains transcripts of the notorious murder video recordings and the reader is warned that much of this is graphic and gruesome. If there were any real justice in Canada, this pair would be dancing at the end of a rope....more