Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Life Embattled

Finding Billy BattlesFinding Billy Battles by Ronald Yates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

William Battles grew up fatherless in Lawrence, Kansas. At an early age he embarked on a career in journalism, which took him to Dodge City where he fell in with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. A chance encounter with a family of desperados earned him the enmity of one Nate Bledsoe for the accidental killing of his mother. Bledsoe and his gang haunt Billy Battles with murderous intent. After marrying and having a daughter, Battles’ familial bliss is unsettled by the blood feud with Bledsoe, culminating in a shootout at the homestead at Battles Gap, Kansas. The aftermath and subsequent adversity drive the tortured Battles to escape his past by fleeing to the Orient.

This first installment of the life and times of Billy Battles, supposedly based on his own journals, is a first class tale of the late nineteenth century. The setting is convincing and clearly well researched. The historical characters speak in true to life voices and well-known events, such as the shootout at the OK Corral, are related with the verisimilitude of a firsthand account. The prose is also excellent as one would expect since the author tells us he is a professor of journalism. Therefore, this reader finds it baffling—nay, inconceivable—that the editorial style is so unorthodox. Having multiple speakers within the same paragraph caused much confusion. Mr. Yates must also hold a PhD in colloquialisms. Nowhere will you find more old-fashioned words and sayings as in Finding Billy Battles. Despite these peculiarities, it is quite a good story, although occasionally slowed by a slight excess of detail.

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126,430 Words

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Complicit Or Inept

When the American President testily asks what difference using the term “radical Islam” would make, he is either showing ignorance or inability to address the problem This lends credence to Donald Trump’s assertion that he is either inept or complicit, and Hillary Clinton has no place to be incensed about it. Failure to define the enemy is expressing an unwillingness to conduct the war, and Obama is certainly unwilling to conduct war, which is tantamount to saying he is willing to accept the continued loss of American civilians on domestic soil. That is treason and dereliction of duty. He is clearly not defending America from threats foreign and domestic.

Instead of declaring with presidential vigor that radical Islam must be eradicated at home and abroad, he preaches his tired sermon on gun control ignoring the imbalance of deaths caused by weapons other than guns. In the same breath, he and others assert that an immigration ban would not have prevented the massacre at Orlando because Mateen was born in the United States. Only a supremely myopic creature could fail to see that if the ban included Omar Mateen’s parents, the crisis would have been handily averted. I hear sceptics saying that the elder Mateens arrived before the issue of radical Islam became critical. Au contraire, the first World Trade Center attack was in 1993. I am unable to find the date of Saddique Mateen’s arrival in the U.S., however, since he has said that he supports the Taliban, it was never too late to deport him. If by chance Omar Mateen was born after his father’s ideology became known, let me remind that the theory of the anchor baby is custom, not law, and as usual, our dithering Congress is unable to address it.

“The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer, they were all U.S. citizens,” Obama said. “Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating [against] them because of their faith?” This is the ultimate “well, duh,” question. When we last fought a war with the determination to win, we interned American citizens of Japanese descent and we surveilled citizens of German decent. Not only did we win the war, but also we suffered few acts of sabotage, and as far as I can determine, no loss of civilian life within the territory of the continental United States.

Columnist, Charles Krauthammer said in response to the proposed ban on Muslims, “We don’t have an immigration problem.” I usually support the learned Mr. Krauthammer, but I insist that we definitely have an immigration problem, and have for a very long time. Aside from the boldfaced fact that we have too many people in the first place, the FBI maintains that they failed to prevent the Orlando attack because they don’t have enough resources—this despite the fact that Mateen caught their attention twice. To my unsophisticated thinking, being acquainted with a suicide bomber is grounds to make the ‘no-fly list’ and get blacklisted by the Department of Justice from buying firearms. We don’t need more laws, we need to enforce them.

In the face of that admitted, or is it feigned lack of resources, only a politician could find the wisdom in opposing the immigration ban. Note that I did not qualify the type of immigration ban. At this time in our country’s history, we no longer need immigration. Whether the lack of resources is real or disingenuous, decrying a ban on Muslims is irresponsible, because clearly, we aren’t willing to deal with the Islamic problem. Paul Ryan claims the idea un-American. The man doesn’t see that every ill-advised remark of this sort is a vote for Hillary Clinton who, Bernie Sanders aside, may be the only person on earth less qualified to be president than Barack Obama.

Image credit: Google Street View

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Stellar Depravity

UnpronounceableUnpronounceable by Susan diRende
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rose Delancy is a loser from New Jersey. She tells us this herself. When the human race made contact with an alien species, but can’t find a suitable candidate to be our ambassador, Rose puts her name into a lottery in the hope of getting a thousand lightyears away from her older sister, Alice. After the blob-like aliens reject a dozen or so diplomates, they take a liking to Rose. To her credit she decides to spare the planet with the unpronounceable name from the all defiling human race who want to stash nuclear weapons on Unpronounceable to avoid compliance with an arms ban treaty. Her plan is to turn Unpronounceable into a spa for the ultra-rich so the power brokers on Earth will protect it from being overrun.

Unpronounceable is irreverent, quirky, twisted and depraved. Susan diRende tells Rose’s tale in raw Jersey dialect, which is occasionally difficult for a non-Jersey speaker to follow. This is a story that is not only about contact with bizarre alien beings, but dysfunctional human families and corrupt earthly politicians. If you take a pinch of Scott Adams, add a touch of Tom Robbins and get the late Gilda Radner to play Rose, you might have an idea what Unpronounceable is all about.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The dawn of a failed ideology in a teacup.

Russian Revolution: A History From Beginning to End (October Revolution, Russian Civil War, Nicholas II, Bolshevik, 1917. Lenin) (One Hour History Revolution Book 3)Russian Revolution: A History From Beginning to End (October Revolution, Russian Civil War, Nicholas II, Bolshevik, 1917. Lenin) by Henry Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This concise examination of the roots of the Soviet Union to its demise is a sixty minute lesson in how not to organize society. From the brutality of czarist rule, through the cancer of Marx and Engels, Rasputin, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, Russian Revolution recounts the most egregiously misguided social experiment in modern times. The story of how the Soviet Union was born in the murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family is told here in simple, and intentionally brief terms. This is history in highlights. We are spared ponderous detail and given the facts in clear digestible bites. For the reader who cringes at history, Henry Freeman’s insight is a painless way to learn how the world came to look like it does today. Read it and consider your politics.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Valuable Lessons

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American HistoryThomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the turn of the nineteenth century across North Africa Islamic caliphates based their economies on piracy. Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and Tripoli (now Libya) employed pirates to capture the cargoes of merchantmen from Christian countries, and to enslave their crews. Please note that there is one more Islamic country in North Africa. Why wasn’t Egypt employed in piracy? Because it was occupied by France. Therein lies a valuable lesson about the Islamic world. Washington and Adams dithered on the issue, preferring to pay tribute and ransom rather than sending the debt ridden fledgling nation to war. Jefferson, however, wanted a permanent and honorable solution. He established the Navy and sent the Marines to quell the disturbance in the Mediterranean. A protracted struggle ensued that culminated in an epic march out of Egypt by a slapped-together mercenary army led by ten Americans including an audacious General named Eaton, whose bold plan was to overthrow the dey of Tripoli. After the stunning capture of the city of Derne, an American diplomat, searching for self-serving glory, negotiated a treaty—including more tribute—that brought the war to a premature end. Naturally the duplicitous Arab reneged on the treaty, and the Second Barbary War had to be fought in 1815. Herein lies a second valuable lesson regarding the Islamic world.

Brian Kilmeade peppers Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates with poignant quotations, such as: “Money is their God and Mahomet their prophet.” Another is, “All nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave.” “We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever.” Before Jefferson took action the federal government paid the Barbary States an amount equal to one eighth of the government’s annual expenditures. It seems to this reader that in two hundred years the United States, indeed all of Christendom, could see Islamists for what they are, and recognize the solution to the problem.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Many Curious Voices

The Wheelman: How the Slave Robert Smalls Stole a Warship and Became KingThe Wheelman: How the Slave Robert Smalls Stole a Warship and Became King by Marshall Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Smalls worked as a wheelman on coastal vessels with his pay going to his master. One day in the midst of the Civil War he and a crew of conspiratorial slaves, including their families, stole the Planter from under the noses of the Confederate sentries and took it out of Charleston Harbor, past Fort Sumter. Smalls tricked the gunners in Sumter by sounding the coded signals that convinced them he was the rightful pilot of the vessel. He steamed straight to the Union blockade and surrendered the Planter. For this he was made a captain and later a general in the Union Army. He participated in numerous battles, and after the war, became the de facto king of Beaufort County. His accolades include convincing Lincoln to allow black soldiers into the Union Army, serving in the South Carolina legislature, the federal House and Senate and organizing a Negro band in the quaint town of Beaufort.

The Wheelman is told in vignettes by a long series of storytellers, including a modern day narrator with a huge load of excess baggage. This is a fascinating historical novel that delves into the evils of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, twentieth century racism and close, personal racial attitudes. It also confronts internecine crises—suicides and mental illness. Mr. Evans has written a novel that relates an historical event with intimate knowledge of the setting and the attitudes of the players. He interweaves modern places and events with murky connections to the past. This is brilliantly done. I applaud this book, and in my mind’s eye, I saw every scene. It is a masterful work. In addition, for the first time in many months, I have read a book, whether self-published or traditionally published, in which I saw not one error.

Price $4.99
69410 words

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Life Transformed

Buried AppearancesBuried Appearances by D.E. Haggerty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Growing up in a Dutch enclave in Michigan, Skylar endures the stigma of her grandfather’s Nazi collaboration. The pressure coming from the community drives her mother to abandon her as an infant, which pushes her father to drunkenness and eventually suicide. Ten years after the death of the grandmother who raised her, a letter arrives from Holland. Unable to read Dutch, she takes it to a friend of her late grandmother who not only translates it, but tells Skylar a remarkable piece of information that cast a new light on the wartime deeds of her infamous grandfather. Not only is it possible that her ancestor was innocent of the calumny heaped upon him, but orphaned Skylar may have cousins living in Holland. Since she was out of work anyway, she decides to use some of her inheritance to finance her quest for the truth and her family. What she uncovers in Holland changes her life.

D.E. Haggerty tells this story through the voice of Skylar Dewitt, foul-mouthed misfit and deeply troubled young woman with abandonment issues, and that voice is irresistible. Her candor and insight endears her to the reader from the opening sentence. Ms. Haggerty’s knowledge of wartime Holland lends truth and realism to Skylar’s search for an answer to her family’s burden. History fans as well as genealogy researchers especially will hang of every word, even those words that are somewhat obscene. With a lightning pace and plenty of twists, Buried Appearances is a fantastic read.

Plus it's a bargain at $.99
73,420 words

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