Let's see. We need someone to explore a new region with zero possibility of returning. You will die through contraction of awful tropical disease, staLet's see. We need someone to explore a new region with zero possibility of returning. You will die through contraction of awful tropical disease, starvation in a vast desert or murder at the hands of xenophobic desert nomads. Volunteers? Well, yes, there are, if you want to count 18th century Brits. I don't know what compelled them to go, but I do not think you would get any moderns to do so unless they had been told they only had six months to live. However, for the pre-Victorian Brits, the desire to explore new regions and the attendant fame compelled them to try to be the first to visit the fabled city of Timbuktu in what is now Mali. Timbuktu was believed to be filled with treasures and no white man had seen it since the Roman era. That an American had actually been there and reported what he'd found in the 1790s did not count-He was a freedman and not white. Also, he said there was nothing much there-and that couldn't right. The "Race" mentioned in the title was the competition to reach Timbuktu to win a prize offered by the French Geograhical Society in 1824. Earlier than that, however, two members of the Royal Society in London formed "The African Association," and that is what started the attempts to find Timbuktu. An explorer, Mungo Park, beginning from the West coast of Africa and attempting to find the origin of the Niger River (The other goal besides that of reaching Timbuktu) was the most successful of the early explorers. He seems to have been killed in an ambush, which he seems to have brought on himself by fighting with natives along the route. The two who were featured in the race presented here were Clapperton and Laing. Clapperton was favored as he had already been part of an expedition which had penetrated pretty far into the continent. Laing had the support of the British ambassador to Tripoli, Warrington. Laing married Warrington's daughter the night before he left and
never saw her again. They did write to each other and although no European had made the journey between Timbuktu and Tripoli there were plenty of Arabs who had done so routinely. They delivered communications between the explorers and their benefactors. Laing made it to Tripoli, wrote all about it and then was murdered when he left for home. There was some fear of the explorers since the leaders of the various cities, tribes and nations had heard what had happened in India and considered the Europeans point men for future expansion. They were prescient on that of course.
Besides exploration, the British had one more reason to penetrate the heart of Africa. It was their desire to stop the slave trade pursued by most of the tribes of the reason. Of course, the Brits had been all for the trade a few decades before, but had banned it and like an ex-smoker trying to get his friends to give up, must have seemed insufferable and hypocritical to the slavers.
Did I like the book? I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kryza switched back and forth between other explorers and Laing to give the race drama. This was a little difficult at first because the figures mentioned here are not remembered, so it was a little hard to keep straight who was who. But, once you got that out of the way it was a smooth and enjoyable read.
I don't know if Frank Kryza made much money from this. I suspect a lot of the historical writers I have been reading have not made a ton off of their books, but I certainly respect and enjoy their efforts even if they are not making the bucks of a John Grissom. It is this kind of effort that now and then brings fascinating people like Laing, Clapperton and Warrington to us 21st century readers and keep their names from being forgotten. Herodotus said history is written so great men and their deeds are not forgotten-or something like that. Thanks Frank, I appreciated the book and the effort....more
Crowley is one of my favorite historical writers. In City of Fortune he gives a history of Venice's rise and fall. The early part of the book focusesCrowley is one of my favorite historical writers. In City of Fortune he gives a history of Venice's rise and fall. The early part of the book focuses on Venice's huge financial gamble of taking the crusaders to Egypt in the fourth crusade. Only they never got near Egypt, but rather took care of business by sacking one of their Christian recalcitrant partners. Next they attacked Constantinople and broke a chain blocking the harbor that had protected the city from naval attack for centuries. The Pope withdrew support for the crusaders, but Venice and the French's sacking of Constantinople set up Venitian trade for centuries. The big pick ups here were Crete and Negroponte. Crete was over a month's sail from Crete, but could be used as a springboard to all over the Mediterannean. Next we find out about the rivalry between Genoa and Venice. Venice was more of a corporate enterprise while Genoa were a more individualistic group. Both made enemies all over the med. but they became bitter rivals. Genoa almost destroyed Venice as a power when it destroyed a large part of Venice's shipping and attempted to choke off the city. The Genoan's overconfidence was their undoing as the Venitians spiked all of the escape routes for the Genoan fleet. A fleet that had been long out of port returned and that was the turning point in the battle and Genoa's grip was broken. Surviving Genoans were discovered because they could not say carppa but rather crappa and were executed. Last the book tells of the Ottoman empires reduction of Venice's holdings in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Ottoman's progress had been greatly aided by the earlier sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders in the 13th century. Brilliant book it is right up there with Enpire of the Seas and the Battle of Lepanto. I can't wait to read his next book....more
This was an interesting history of the first years of the Jamestown settlement which and probably most people know little about other than the PocahonThis was an interesting history of the first years of the Jamestown settlement which and probably most people know little about other than the Pocahontas and John Smith story. The Shipwreck mentioned in the title was an attempt by the Virginia company to save the initial settlement. Four of the five ships made it, but came in such condition that they were actually a burden to the colony. The food had been destroyed in a storm. Also, since the ship with instructions on who was to run the Virginia colony were lost so there was a dispute as to who was to run the colony. Relations with the Powhatans were horrible and the Powhatans were doing all they could to ruin Jamestown. (At the time this story took place it seems like it would have been an easy task.) Desperate settlers who left their compound to look for food or barter with the natives would often be murdered and subjected to horrible punishments. Times got so desperate that the colonists had to resort to cannibalism. They dug up relatively fresh graves and consumed the contents.
The fifth ship, holding the leader of the rescue mission appeared to be lost. It did survive a horrific storm by everyone bailing out water constantly for four days and lucking upon Bermuda, then know as the Isle of Devils. Nobody had actually landed on it before, because it was surrounded by coral reefs and it got its name for the ships that had been wrecked upon the reefs. The sailors thought they had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, but they were able to thread thru the reefs and land on the island. The island turned out to be their little bit of heaven. It had been untouched by humans, so the animals were not afraid of them and the settlers could walk right up to them and clobber them. There was bounteous fish, birds, and turtles on the island along with some feral pigs. For many of the men stranded on Bermuda this would be the best place they had ever lived. Stuck in grinding poverty back in England where they just had a bit of bread, meat and beer each day, on Bermuda they were able to pound away at all the exotic wildlife as well as a number of native fruit to the island. Most did not want to leave Bermuda and go to Virgina where death came knocking quite frequently and after a very short stay. But the Virginia company had some good company men their and they persuaded everyone to work on rebuilding the ship and after nine months or so set off for Virginia. A few men were left behind and Bermuda would become a colony of the UK. It could be the only country with a shipwreck on the flag.
So, out of the blue came the Sea Venture-the long lost lead ship. But, this was not enough for the starving colony. It did provide some sorely needed leadership , but the same problems remained. The colonists were on their way out of Virginia when another boat arrived from England and persuaded them to stick it out. In Britain the events that led to the saving of the colony were seen as the hand of God and although the Virgina company would eventually go belly up and colony would start making nice profits in the second quarter of the century.
For those of you interested in the early settlement of the colonies and aren't satisfied with the Disney version, I recommend this book. If you are satisfied with the Disney version, I still recommend this book and hope that it might help you appreciate the incredible hardships faced by these people. Also, if you liked "Mayflower" which was published a few years back, you will be well into this one....more
This was a really great read-I had no idea so many men had goat testicles inserted into their scrotums in the 1930s. Brinkley became rich working outThis was a really great read-I had no idea so many men had goat testicles inserted into their scrotums in the 1930s. Brinkley became rich working out of a little town in Kansas as men from all over the country visited to get their vigor back. Brinkley claimed that if he grafted goat testicles onto human testicles that the old love muscle would start working again. It was a great time for quacks, but the AMA gave chase and I won't spoil it for you.
Also, readers learn about early commercial radio and how Brinkley started a sort of radio variety show to get listeners to hear his quack surgerys and potions. He was eventually shut down in the U.S., but he went to Mexico and set up the most powerful radio station in the world at the time.
The goat testicle grafter ran for govenor of Kansas twice and nearly won the first time. He was the first politician to fly around on the campaign trail. I had thought it was Johnson in his senatorial campaign in Texas, but he may have picked up the idea from Brinkley.
There is a lot in this book and was written with sort of a dark humor-I liked this line about when Brinkley was hitting bottom-"Meanwhile the IRS with its infallible eye for carrion, was coming after him for back taxes."
The British got involved in a small way in the fight between the Whites and Reds at the end of WWII and this story tells of an operation to sink battlThe British got involved in a small way in the fight between the Whites and Reds at the end of WWII and this story tells of an operation to sink battleships using souped up speed boats called CMBs and Paul Duke who created spy
Operation Kronstadt is the little known story of the British attempts to setup spy networks in Bolshevik Russia. It details the efforts made by Paul Dukes to set up a spy network in Soviet Russia and Gus Agars efforts to extricate him using souped up speed boats called CMBS and also to use these boats to attack the Soviet navy in the Baltic Sea.
100 years ago MI6 was a small and pretty unsuccessful operation run by a chick hound named Cummings, code name-C (Henceforth all MI6 heads have been called C.) He was pretty much ignored by everyone, but got the job to try and infiltrate the USSR. No decent intel was coming out of the USSR. MI6 recruited Paul Dukes, a pianist who had been studying in Petrograd for about a decade and spoke Russian well and later Gus Agar to get him out.
Paul Dukes survived an intense man hunt by the Cheka (People who searched for counter-revolutionaries and whose contribution to Russia was to make everyone suspicious of each other for the next 70 years.) He was an extraordinarily brave and resourceful man and eventually made it out of the USSR through Lithuania. He must have froze to death 100 times, but kept up his network.
Agar was to try to get Dukes out of Russia using his speed boats and ultimately failed when his boats were torn to shreds from fire from the Kronstadt fortresses.
Before that, however, attached torpedoes to the bottoms of these speedboats and knocked out three battleships! Ultimately, the Whites lost of course, but knocking out Soviet naval power in the Baltic, bought life for the three Baltic Republics.
This was a fascinating and true spy story of a little-known piece of history. I read it in a matter of days and I hope Harry Ferguson gets a lot more readers to his story about these intrepid men.
Again, If you have actually made it through my review, congratulations-A crap writer and reviewer like myself has no real right to be read and I don't expect to be, but these writings are mostly for me to remember what I have read. I have read so much over the years but 90% has been long forgotten by someone with such a poor memory as mine....more
It took me a while to read this one, but it was well worth it. The battle for Italy has got to be one of the most frustrating victories in American anIt took me a while to read this one, but it was well worth it. The battle for Italy has got to be one of the most frustrating victories in American and British history. In a way it felt like countless Battles of Gallipoli as the allies tried to cross the Rapido River and bust through the Gustav Line.
The campaign demonstrated that while you can bomb a place from the air and lob tons of ordinance
on a spot, nasty humans on the ground will live on.
You wonder how the Germans could live through all that bombing to still make a ground assault by the allies a living hell.
It is hard to say it was worth all the lives as the Invasion of France a day after Rome fell was the thing that one the war, but I could see why the allies did not want to sit still preparing Overlord while the Soviets were facing 155 divisions.
If you are interested in WW2 you probably have already read this and an Army at Dawn. I look forward to his invasion of Europe work....more
Mithradates was a thorn in Rome's side for three decades, but I don't think he was Rome's deadliest enemy as it says it the title, especially becauseMithradates was a thorn in Rome's side for three decades, but I don't think he was Rome's deadliest enemy as it says it the title, especially because Rome beat his forces time and time again, but like a jack in the box he kept bouncing back. He started the whole thing by an ethnic cleansing of all Romans in Asia Minor. He had some initial success with an old strategy of chariots with long blades jutting out from the wheels, and since that was a strategy not used for 300 years, people were not ready for it.. He invaded Greece intending to restore a balance of power in the east, but Sulla (A raspberry nose patrician) led a much smaller force and one with a lot of dissension and pretty much banged Mithradates out of Greece and Western Anatolia. Mithradates eventually started two more wars and lost his territory as well as his brother in law's in Armenia-Tigranes , King of Kings! The net result of "Rome's Greatest Enemy" was acquisition of much of Asia minor as well as Syria! Greatest enemy-That must have been Hannibal, or heck, why isn't it Attila or Genseric!
Mithradates was a poisoner and knew much about that and the antidotes. Throughout his life he took small amounts to make himself immune.
The book was excellent and quite good historical writing. I recommend it to everyone! Mithradates is a fairly famous historical king, but I do not think he is well known today. Come on readers, create a little Mithradates buzz!...more
The debate over inoculation as a cure for smallpox raged in Boston in 1721-2 with vicious personal attacks on each side's proponents in the early coloThe debate over inoculation as a cure for smallpox raged in Boston in 1721-2 with vicious personal attacks on each side's proponents in the early colonial newspapers. On one side were James and in a small way a young Ben Franklin and the other Cotton Mather. Of course, the heroes of the Enlightenment the Franklins supported the innovation and that fundamentalist hidebound Puritan Cotton Mather rejected it. Wait, was Cotton Mather on the right side of history in this one? It was Cotton who discovered that Africans living in Boston seemed to be immune to small pox due to inoculations in their home country and that the Turks had been using them to not die from the "common way" of getting small pox and if you don't die, immunity.
When a smallpox epidemic began in Boston in 1721, Cotton supported Dr. Boylston's inoculations of over 100 people, with all but two surviving the epidemic. In contrast, a quarter of the people who fell ill in "the common way" died. However the detractors, like the Franklins refused to look at the evidence and mounted the attacks on Mather and other supporters of inoculations.
On the book jacket it said that this was the "Epidemic that Changed America's Destiny." It is true that within a decade or so the majority of those who opposed inoculations came around to believe in them, but that is not the change in destiny the author was talking about. It fact that when Boylston and Mather inoculated people they violated the Board of Selectmen's banning of the procedure. The author sees this as a further eroding of the covenant between the Puritan ministers and the people. Already the ministers were coming under attack and losing their moral authority and this defiance and insistence on proceeding against the law and the general consensus of the community was their undoing.
I have probably told you too much, however these reviews are mostly a way for me to remember the books and stories I've read. Tony Williams chose an interesting subject that I knew little about and I very much enjoyed reading it. I hope to read his other history, Hurricane of Independence.
What an interesting choice for a topic. Herman Perry was a homesick, drug-using soldier in the CBI theater (China-Burma-India) in World War II who fraWhat an interesting choice for a topic. Herman Perry was a homesick, drug-using soldier in the CBI theater (China-Burma-India) in World War II who fragged an officer coming to arrest him and ran off into the jungles of Assam.
Perry was only 20 when he was drafted and had been living in Washington DC with his mothers and his brothers. One of his brothers, Aaron, became a fairly successful boxer although possibly due to what happend to Herman unraveled and eventually wound up in prison. Perry had been working as a butcher, courting a woman named Alma Talbot and was generally doing pretty well. He had problems with the draft board and was put in prison for a little bit and then sent off to CBI.
Perry of course had seen racism and experienced Jim Crow laws, but never the in-your-face stuff he was to encounter in the army. Most black soldiers were not seen as courageous enough to be put into combat units at that time, so the majority were given menial support tasks. Perry was put on a road building crew-a road through Burma that was to reach China and help to supply Chiang Kai-Shek with materials in his fight with the Japanese. The road was to go through jungle and was a monumental and ultimatley futile undertaking. Although Perry and the men in his unit were all black, they were commanded by white officers (Of course, another canard of the day is that blacks needed white officers.)
The region that the road was going through was in the Naga homeland. The Nagas were headhunters and the greatest thing a Naga man could do was deliver heads for the villages. The victims were anyone they could get there , but usually cam from raiding other Naga tribes. The British had tried to use shock and awe tactics to pacify the Nagas by burning villages and killing their occupants, but this generally made other Nagas happy as they lost a competitor and could waltz down and behead the Brits' victims. After skinning the heads, the Nagas stuck water buffalo horns in the sides and propped the mouths open so they could not chomp down in the afterlife. The Nagas did not them to enjoy it.
Anyhow, things went bad for Herman and he was constantly in trouble until he shot a hard-ass lieutenant in the chest and killed him. Perry was on drugs at the time and ran off into the jungle and wondered around for a few days. When he returned he seemed to have not realized what he had done and some of his buddies told him he'd better make tracks because he was sure to be court-martialed and executed.
This is the point where the legend of "The Jungle King" begins. Perry ends of living with a Naga tribe and marrying the 14-year old daughter of the chieftan. Eventually, he is caught, escapes egain and is hung in the end.
"Now the Hell with Start" is what Perry said just before he was executed. The book was interesting from start to finish. Koerner informs us of the grinding racism experienced by WW II black-units, the problems building the road through the Assam province, the culture, history and modern life of the Naga people, the man who caught Perry-Callum and what happened to the legend of "The Jungle King."
He is an entertaining writer and his prose is not stuffy at all.
I read this in a couple of days which shows you how into the book I was.
The author wanted to see if alternative medical treatments are any better than placebos. In any test of medicine, the placebo effect has to be taken iThe author wanted to see if alternative medical treatments are any better than placebos. In any test of medicine, the placebo effect has to be taken into account, but in most research done on things like accupuncture, herbal medicines, chiropracty and others, they fail to do this.
The author leads us through the history of the placebo effect, how to test for it, the difficuties of testing for it so that we are well prepared to think about what might be a properly controlled test. Few actually seem to be, but the author is able to find some 22 that were properly controlled and were accepted by the JAMA or the New England AJournal of medicine. You can guess from the title what his results were.
I haven't gone in for alternative medicines too much and I am glad I haven't because it probably saved me some cash. I tried glocosamine for my aching knees a few years back and it seemed to work for awhile (The placebo effect?), and I paid 60,000 won for two bottles in Seoul. Peter Ryan recommended it and it seemed to have worked for him (The placebo effect?). I read some negative stuff on the Internet about it and stopped. The best thing for my knees turns out to be not playing basketball.
My wife blows a lot of money on this stuff and has no desire to read this book. I guess I have a hard time convincing her that black goats are not that beneficial for osteoporosis. She also likes "bo-yak" which is a traditional Chinese medicine. Sometimes new knowledge doesn't have the impact on OTHERS you would like it to have.
Great book. I wish he could have pulled off the experiment of 6-10 families with one year old children thrown together on an island, all speaking diffGreat book. I wish he could have pulled off the experiment of 6-10 families with one year old children thrown together on an island, all speaking different languages. The children would have probably come up with a full-fledged grammar using words input by the experimenters. It got nixed by some chicken shit academics. Too bad for science and lingusitics. Anybody in ESL should read this....more
One of my favorite Theroux travel books. He is returning to Africa 30 years later after having spent several years teaching in Malawi and Uganda whenOne of my favorite Theroux travel books. He is returning to Africa 30 years later after having spent several years teaching in Malawi and Uganda when he was in the Peace Corp. He finds things have not changed for the better and much worse is many cases. He finds the cities are really dismal and has a lot of questions about whether all of the aid and aid workers that have poured into Africa have been any benefit. He meets Africans from all walks of life and meets some really wonderful people as well as people you definately would not want to run into in your travels. He eschews the normal tourist jaunts and rides broken down buses and trains. His best trips, though, were the ones in the dugout canoes and the ferry.
Ethiopia sounds like the place to visit from his description and that is backed up by one of my friends who has traveled to 100 plus countries who said that Ethiopia and a red lake in Chili were the two most amazing places he had seen.