"Guy Crouchback goes to Northern Ireland". This book could have been written by Evelyn Waugh. Cynical, darkly humorous and tragic. The author, Alan Ju"Guy Crouchback goes to Northern Ireland". This book could have been written by Evelyn Waugh. Cynical, darkly humorous and tragic. The author, Alan Judd is a former British Army officer, and veteran of Northern Ireland which accounts for the tone of the book. The story details one officer's tour (presumably inspired by his own) with a fictional parachute regiment during the early heat of The Troubles. Complex and well done....more
Not much to crow about here. I couldn't put down the first book in the "Sword of Honour" trilogy, but this one was kind of "blah". The center-piece ofNot much to crow about here. I couldn't put down the first book in the "Sword of Honour" trilogy, but this one was kind of "blah". The center-piece of this book is the Evacuation of Crete (or what Waugh's alter ego saw of it). It's no Hemingway-esque "Retreat from Caporetto", but it was relatively engaging in that it conveyed the utter confusion and chaos that must've characterized the event. There was one conversation in the novel about the changing meaning of honor that was very interesting. I suppose it was what Waugh's generation and social class felt about the changes wrought by modern industrial warfare -and the new requirements for personal conduct in combat. Fine book to read from time to time, but not one I'd recommend with burning ardor. I haven't given up on the trilogy though. Looking forward (somewhat) to the last part of the series. Could've used more "Ben Ritchie-Hook"....more
This memoir is Lt-Col Colin Mitchell's defense of his leadership during the final days of Britain's rule over the colony of Aden.
To those that don'tThis memoir is Lt-Col Colin Mitchell's defense of his leadership during the final days of Britain's rule over the colony of Aden.
To those that don't know the story, Mitchell was in command of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment in the late 1960's. In 1967 the Argylls were tasked with pacifying and stabilizing the city of Crater in the Aden colony. At the time, the cities of Aden were experiencing a spasm of nationalist violence prompted by Israel's victory in the Six Day War. Several Argylls were murdered in Crater at the outset of Mitchell's deployment. Being a British soldier of the colonial old school, Mitchell saw the murders and the deterioration of security in the city as an affront to Britain and his regiment. According to his memoirs, this became the impetus behind the employment of a very domineering and punitive counterinsurgency strategy. Mitchell succeeded in bringing about an end to the violence in his sector of Aden, securing a tactical victory, but earned the ire of his superiors due to his methods and ultimately doomed his own career, almost getting his beloved regiment disbanded in the process. His penchant for self-promotion did not aid his case.
The situation that faced Mitchell in Crater is roughly analogous to what American troops have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan- mainly in that the police force Mitchell was supposed to support was complicit, or actually committed most of the violence he was ordered to stop. Much of the Aden portion of this memoir discusses Mitchell's frustrations to having a partner in security, who wasn't much of a partner at all, and practical solutions to being saddled with very restrictive rules of engagement. Additionally, he describes the difficulties presented by the existence of culturally sensitive no-go zones in his area of operations (mosques) that acted as sanctuaries for the terrorists.
Taking a bigger picture view of the event, the book also demonstrates the tension between conducting effective military operations, the political sensitivities of the civilian leadership and public perception. Though Mitchell made a concerted effort to involve the press at every opportunity, in the end it backfired. In the abstract the worldwide press coverage must've simply shown British soldiers conducting very aggressive patrolling in a colony that the British were giving up in a brief time anyways. In a period where Britain was divesting itself of its image as Imperialists, this must've come across as very indelicate. Not to mention that Mitchell's amount of face time on TV probably created animosity among the military leadership in Whitehall and other officers involved in stabilizing the colony outside of Crater.
The memoir also has chapters detailing Mitchell's service in WWII, Palestine, Korea, Africa, Borneo and Malaysia. Each of these could easily have been expanded. I found myself wanting to know more about his experiences and the problems presented to him in each of these conflict zones.
Most disappointingly, Mitchell doesn't offer deep penetrating ruminations on his tactical decision-making. He mentions a technique and moves on quickly. Even less useful, is that Mitchell's thoughts on the efficacy of his methods among the civil population and the terrorists are full of suppositions. He constantly makes statements assuming a state of mind in his opponents that he couldn't possibly know.
All in all, this was an interesting book that left me with more questions than answers.
As a lifelong civilian and non-veteran I’m not the best person to write a review for this novel. Given my background, I really can’t evaluate whetherAs a lifelong civilian and non-veteran I’m not the best person to write a review for this novel. Given my background, I really can’t evaluate whether or not the events described in this book have the ring of truth or not (which is why I read war fiction- to gain insight into the experience) so I can only make distant speculations.
Most of the criticism against this book is that Larson’s facility with prose isn’t very good. In my opinion that’s a non-issue. Certainly, the dialogue and writing didn’t always have a mellifluous flow - which made for occasionally choppy reading- but I don’t think Larson’s intention was to write “Catch-22” or “From Here to Eternity”. However, if you’re looking for a warry-action novel, there are well executed, compelling moments of gripping suspense.
But. This is not really a war novel, this is a pro-counterinsurgency (COIN) polemic, and a very valuable document about the Iraq War and the state of American military intellectualism in the first decade of the 21st century. Simply, “Senator’s Son” is a passionate appeal, with the flavor of a case study meant for junior officers, about the necessity for utilizing the best practices of counterinsurgency in the combat zones that America now finds itself.
In this “novel” Larson details the learning curve of a USMC rifle company deployed to Ramadi, Iraq. At first, the Marines are conducting operations according to the way they were trained- to “shoot, move and communicate” in the context of high-intensity conventional warfare. However, after some devastating setbacks, they do a little soul searching and adopt the theories expounded in the usual suspects of COIN literature (FM 3-24, David Kilcullen, etc.). Larson’s Marines begin to understand their operational environment and make gains despite the bureaucratic inertia leveled against them.
The only criticism I can legitimately make is about Larson’s treatment of civilians. They’re very one-dimensional and not very nuanced. (I never thought I would read a Marine- fictional or not- make any positive comment about the protestors of the Vietnam-era. Luke, sure, they had the courage of their convictions, but they didn’t just want America out of Vietnam, many of them actively HATED the men who went and the men who came back- at least that’s what I gather from the Vietnam Vets I’ve spoken to. And this is important to remember. Maybe slapping a Yellow Ribbon on a car was an empty gesture- but it was done to show that while people may have disagreed with the war, they didn't hold it against the men and women who went. The experience of the Vietnam War was buried with a sense of shame for about a decade after it was over- and then there was a very painful reconciliation between America and those vets. Maybe things weren't perfect this time around, but it was a far cry from the scorn heaped on the veterans of Vietnam.) I do understand where Larson is coming from. War is an experience non-vets will never understand, and again- the book is valuable because it illustrates the perspective of Iraq vets on the seeming indifference and obliviousness of civilians they encountered on their return. (The funniest moment in “Senator’s Son”, is when a civilian gives a returned vet a copy of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History…”. What’s Larson saying here?)
Despite its minor flaws, this is an important book because it gives insight into the difficulties and successes that Marines on the ground encountered in trying to employ COIN tactics and strategies. Larson gives a great glimpse into an institution that obviously did away with the counterinsurgency lessons they learned during the Vietnam War (i.e., the CAP Program) which they are desperately trying to reintegrate into the way they fight the "wars of today".
This book is about the 1977 murder of Captain Robert Nairac, which now seems to stand out as one of the most sensational events of The Troubles. WhatThis book is about the 1977 murder of Captain Robert Nairac, which now seems to stand out as one of the most sensational events of The Troubles. What gives Nairac’s murder a lurid character was the murky nature of his role as a Military Intelligence officer, the extreme brutality of his murder, and the “eccentric” aspects of his personality. I first read about Nairac in Peter Taylor's excellent, "Brits" (or it could have been "Bandit Country" by Toby Harnden). Though I don’t have wither book at hand for a quick referral, I seem to remember that Taylor (or Harnden) had painted Nairac in nearly mythical tones- a genius on the verge of a breakthrough in unraveling the mysteries of Counterinsurgency. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued, and this seemed to be the only biography about him.
To be sure Nariac is a fascinating character. Roughly paraphrasing Parker's book, in another era he would probably have been a "Thruster", a young gentleman officer, skin dyed “native” brown, prowling the North-West Frontier Province in British India for vital intelligence about tribal foeman. In actuality he was an enthusiastic young officer (Grenadier Guards) roughly in that cast. However, he was also possessed of a deep, dark drive pushing him to take unnecessary and unprofessional risks (ostensibly) in an effort to cultivate human intelligence in an area that was generally impenetrable to the British. In the act of emulating his hero T.E. Lawrence, he paid for glory with his life.
This book took me two tries to finish. The first time I picked it up I made it halfway through. The first half contains a brief chapter on his youth, a lengthy description of the intricate and divisive landscape of the intelligence battlefield in South Armagh, and a couple of chapters on atrocities that he was allegedly connected to. That would’ve been ok, but even the author admitted what he was writing was mostly speculation, and that he derived his assessment from a review of other works of popular journalism on the “Dirty War”. Given that amount of guesswork, I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading.
I was motivated to make a second foray when I started Eoin McNamee’s “factional” novel about Nairac, “The Ultras”. I realized I didn’t understand the context of the “Dirty War” well enough to really click with McNamee’s book, so I put it down and went back to “Death of a Hero”. After the halfway point, the reader is finally rewarded with personal observations on Nairac’s character by people who actually knew him. Those bits are fascinating, and I wish there’d been more of it.
The problem with this book, like many books of this nature, is that the real story will probably never be told. I’m guessing that a full disclosure of who Nairac was (if that’s even possible- he seems to have been a very private person) and what he was doing in South Armagh would be embarrassing and have repercussions for his family and the British government. Not to mention it would open old wounds in the Province. Depending on how you look at the situation in Northern Ireland, it’s still a conflict on “simmer”.
I was left with more questions than answers at the end of this book, but if you’re interested in Nairac or the “Dirty War”, it’s worth a read just to get a basic framework of the situation. Keep your expectations low and take it with a grain of salt.
The bond between a man and his dog is perhaps unlike any other. Profound minds across the centuries from Martin Luther to Mark Twain to Edward Abbey The bond between a man and his dog is perhaps unlike any other. Profound minds across the centuries from Martin Luther to Mark Twain to Edward Abbey have often cited mutual dependence as the foundation of this phenomenon, and perhaps it's true. However, adjacent to the simple relationship between a man and his pet, is the "working" relationship. In a military context, dogs perform a variety of functions- guarding prisoners, detecting weapons and explosives or tracking. (In the parlance of the British military, dog teams with those skill-sets are respectively known as "Snappers", "Wagtails" and "Groundhogs".)
The bond between a soldier and his soldier-dog is more intense than that between a man and his pet. While virtually every pet owner I personally know respects their animals and cares for them deeply, military dog-handler teams- especially those deployed to conflict zones- endure significant danger, stress, hardship and violence, which creates a different kind of connection.
"Stumpy and the Auld Sapper" is a memoir about two soldiers, one of whom happens to be canine.
Despite the serious build-up in this review, this is a funny book. Uncontrollably laughing out loud, nearly pissing yourself, coffee coming out of your nose, funny. Rab Orr is a natural. Reading his book makes you feel like you're sitting in a bar, with a Veteran who keeps you riveted with his war stories. The punchlines either make you shake your head in disbelief at the ridiculousness of it all, or laugh 'til you cry (which I did at least a couple of times). It is a profane book however- and if you have delicate sensibilities, I recommend avoiding it.
Officially a work of "fiction" (I assume to protect the guilty), the narrator, The Auld Sapper (a Royal Engineer by cap badge) tells of his time in the Bandit Country of County Armagh, NI as one half of a Wagtail team seeking out weapons and explosives with the aid of his half-pit bull, half Yellow Labrador, Stumpy. The pair endures all types of folly, and not a little bit of danger, with humor, stoicism and humility.
I think the genius of this book is Stumpy's voice. Admit it. If you've ever had a close relationship with an animal, you've often imagined what they were saying at any given moment. Rab Orr brilliantly demonstrates his comedic chops by articulating Stumpy's voice and personality. You will come to know and love The Stump.
The rest of the comedy is provided by the British Army and the nature of conflict in general. This book is not a madcap," M*A*S*H-style" send-up or satire. It's funny because you can really imagine these things happening. And it's not all shits and giggles either. If you enjoy military memoirs that lack bombastic Rambo-style action (even though the SAS does make an appearance), I highly recommend this to you. ...more
The Vietnam War-era must've been a horrible time to be young. You either went to war, jail, college or Canada and hoped you could make it home again.The Vietnam War-era must've been a horrible time to be young. You either went to war, jail, college or Canada and hoped you could make it home again. That time must've been especially tough for the idealistic and passionate, and even tougher for people with those qualities who had the opportunity to act.
This is the true story of two angry young men who were in the unique position to make a very grand statement. Both were seafarers in the Merchant Marine, and both had decided that shipping out on munitions runs to Vietnam was equivocal to the inaction of the "passive" Germans who stood by while their country committed genocide.
They meet by chance in an SIU hall, sniff out each others politics, and put into action a half-baked plan to hijack a ship full of napalm headed for the war.
Without revealing too much of what happens, the mutineers (or hijackers, really) end up in Cambodia and are predictably sucked into the swirl of tumultuous Southeast Asian politics and warfare. After being stuck in bureaucratic limbo, one of them, along with a US Army deserter, tries his luck on the lam. An interesting convergent story here, is the disappearance of war junkies/photographers Sean Flynn and Dana Stone into the Cambodian countryside around the same time.
This is a pretty sad tale, and very engrossing real-life sea story. Recommended for students of the Vietnam War and people interested in maritime history.
Woo. The mysterious B. Traven uses the lives of post-WWI merchant mariners as a vehicle to convey his feelings about statelessness, heartless bureaucrWoo. The mysterious B. Traven uses the lives of post-WWI merchant mariners as a vehicle to convey his feelings about statelessness, heartless bureaucracy and the downward spiral human beings can find themselves in at the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum. Well done...great story about a sailor without identity papers who keeps finding himself in one bad deal after another. Very interesting book, if you keep in mind it's the viewpoint of a Communist who fled Germany in the 20'a or 30's on Americans and his European neighbors. A couple hints of the nastiness to come. Great book. Traven knows his ships. Some of it was a bit of a slog, but the story itself was compelling, the tone was an extremely dark shade of sarcastic (very funny at points) and the ending...did not disappoint......more
Myths about the myths about the men and women who made the Golden Age of Comics. This book had been recommended to me by good friends for about 10 yeaMyths about the myths about the men and women who made the Golden Age of Comics. This book had been recommended to me by good friends for about 10 years straight, and pretty much lived up to the hype. To say any more about it, I'd have to reveal a lot of spoilers. If you want a page-turner with a little more intellectual content than simple brain-candy, this is a good one.
I've been reading a lot of 1 star reviews for this book so I want to add a couple of things to my original review...First off, the main characters are (mostly) amalgamations of real life people who were major players in the heady days of comics, who pushed the medium in a new direction. So, my recommendation would be, if you aren't a serious comic geek- and the names Siegel, Shuster, Kirby, Lee, Steranko, Severin (Marie) and Eisner aren't familiar to you (or Gaines, Caniff, or the "EC" guys in general), forget it. You probably won't get into it.
Second, being Jewish might help. If you aren't interested or curious about the history or culture of Eastern European Jewry, you also might not be able to get into it.
Also, if you're a homophobe, take a pass.
But, if you've got an open mind and are a curious person in general, you might like it. Plenty of my non-artist, non-Jewish, non-gay friends did.
Despite the high praise and awards lavished on this book, it isn't the greatest thing ever written, BUT, it's not "half bad". It's a decent, solid book. It's the best attempt by a "civilian" to understand and communicate what the life and artistic trials and tribulations of a comic artist are like.