Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Read: "German Infantry Weapons 1939-45" by Terry Gander

German Infantry Weapons 1939-45 by Terry Gander

Good book. Lots gun information but also information about design, development, and requirements versus wartime realities. German Infantry Weapons perfectly complements Gander's other book Allied Infantry Weapons of World War Two.

The Germans are famed for their advanced weapons development but I'm amazed how many captured enemy weapons were pressed into service, especially in '44 and later. The many uses of enemy rifles, handguns, artillery, etc. highlight how the krauts would never win the war's battle for industrial output. As Gander writes, "Enough [Lee-Enfield rifles] were left behind by the British Expeditionary Force for entire German divisions based in France to employ them as their standard rifle".

Gander mentions in Allied Weapons how all the armies would constantly need their weapons replaced. The U.S. had the output to supply ourselves and assist the Limeys and Canucks at the same time. Never mind the ungrateful Russians (to be fair, it's difficult to be grateful with a few million friends and relatives laying around dead).

Development information - including rejected designs - is neat to read about. Seeing how designs were decided on and the politics behind those decisions.

Did not have time to read all the way through this but it is a great book. Came from Waupun PL.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Did not read: "Field equipment of the infantry 1914-1945" by Robert Fisch

Did not read: Field equipment of the infantry 1914-1945 by Robert Fisch

For fanatics, collectors and re-enactors. Kind of neat to leaf through but nothing I would study.

After reading a couple WWI British memoirs of life in the trenches I thought this may be interesting. The information on the equipment of WWI would have miserable to wear in the rain and mud of the French trenches.

Did not read: "Panzer Aces: German tanks commanders of WWII "by Franz Kurowski

Did not read: Panzer Aces: German tanks commanders of WWII by Franz Kurowski

Panzer Aces covers the WWII careers of six tank commanders. Has some interesting potential but just not for me. I do not have that high of an interest in this topic. Besides, the story is told from the point of view of the soldiers themselves and had this statement, "Fortunately, the general's concerns were unfounded" in reference to a German tank column not getting bombed. Heck, I wanted to hear they were bombed, bombed, and bombed again.

I read several pages of the first profile and man, the French really got clobbered in 1940. I've been reading another book about small arms development and production in WWI and can see the reasons why the Frenchies were so unprepared, but geeze, what a mess that was. Never mind the British running as fast as possible to get back across the Channel and regroup.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Read: "Candy Girl: a year in the life of an unlikely stripper" by Diablo COdy

Candy Girl: a year in the life of an unlikely stripper, by Diablo Cody

When someone changes there name to "Diablo" you know you're in for some weirdness. Especially when the author has a bit of hero worship for strippers. Cody figured strippers were glamorous, cool, self assured, awesome gals. An unusual opinion among women. She talks about how neat she thought strippers were - and are - and tells how that thought evolved from her feminist beliefs while in college.

Growing up in a middle class, Catholic family in suburban Chicago, Cody quit her job in Chicago to move-in with her online boyfriend in Minneapolis. Cody entered an amateur strip contest with an I-never-rebelled- I-better-get-started attitude and eventually worked in several clubs.

After moonlighting as a dancer Cody quit her full time at an advertising agency to strip full time. She works in several strip clubs and does a stint as one of the peep show girls at Sexworld in downtown Minneapolis. Cody has a lot of eye opening and jaw dropping things to say about the work, her bosses and coworkers, and most especially her customers.

Cody is not ashamed of the work and enjoyed the jobs much more often than not. The work does grind her down in the end though. Her banged up knees and too many late nights hustling lap dances from ugly guys wears her down.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Read: "Ordinary Heroes" by Scott Turow

Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

I am pretty sure I never read a Turow book before. This was a good book.

Turow's story is mainly set during WWII after D-Day. The story starts in the present day when Stewart Dubin is rummaging through his recently deceased father's effects. Stewart discovers that his father David was court martialed after the war ended. Stewart, retired and divorced with time on his hands, starts researching the case and eventually discovers his father's written narrative of his service in Europe and his adventures that lead to his being court-martialed.

Most of the story is told by David with intermissions by Stewart providing additional family and legal details notr covered by David. There are a couple turns in the story that I assume are meant to come as surprises or mysteries. They are not, you can see them coming a mile away. But, Ordinary Heroes is still a good story touching on the Judge Advocate General's office, the OSS, the Battle of the Bulge, and resistance fighters during the war. Turow's fits coverage of race relations, anti-semitism and other topics into the story in a way that really enhances the novel.

Well written and the characters really kept my interest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Did not read: "Orchids in the Mud" edited by Robert Muehrcke

Did not read: Orchids in the Mud, edited by Robert Muehrcke

Orchids in the mud: personal accounts by veterans of the 132nd Infantry Regiment edited by Robert C. Muehrcke. This came over from Waterloo P.L. I had ordered Across the Dark Islands and this title came up about the war in the Pacific. It is just a collection of short accounts and anecdotes by veterans. The accounts are organized chronologically by I was looking for more of a narrative or memoir.

I passed on it.

Read: "Company M" by John Sack

Company M by John Sack, from Mayville P.L.

Company M by John Sack. Published in 1966. Sack followed an Army company from advanced infantry training to their first big operation in Vietnam.

Sack introduces a wide variety of enlisted men and officers but focuses on a handful of the PFCs in the company. Since Company M starts out in an advanced training school they all will be assigned wherever the Army needs them. But, this is 1966 and half of them will end up in Vietnam. A good portion of those guys end up in the same Battalion.

This was a good book. Sack gave a lot of detail and information about the Army and the way it runs as both a large organization and in smaller groups like the Vietnam battalion some of M’s members are assigned to. Examples of how things went astray: during a major Divisional operation the Battalion commander repeatedly orders his troops to not burn down villages. As the order winds down the ranks to the sergeants and others at squad level the order has been transformed into, “Burn it.”

The rinky-dink Army nonsense about having everything “just so” is gone into detail during M’s initial training. No dust, everything polished, everything clean, everything in it’s assigned place. Then they get to Vietnam and are living in a dust pit where everything is covered in red dirt including their beds. For all the time M spent during training putting toothpaste tubes in their proper footlocker position they could have been preparing for combat.

A humorous, and scary, moment was at the end of training. Second Lieutenant Chorba is the safety officer during a mock attack with live ammunition. Chorba does not want the job, “Inside Chorba’s breast there sat an apprehension of imminent catastrophe, a sense of M’s ineludible doom had twisted itself around his heart…three thousand pieces of solid lead to be sent shrieking above America at four times the speed of sound…each of them instantaneously activated at the flick of an adolescent’s finger.” Poor muzzle control, stepping into the line of fire, clogged - and burst – barrels, and one ND that zips by “two or three inches from Prochaska’s unprepared neck.” Zoinks!

Sack has published several non-fiction items since including Company C: the real war in Iraq from 1996. I’ve ordered that to look through. There is a possibility Company C is a book I have casually read through before.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Read: "Vixen" by Ken Bruen

Vixen by Ken Bruen

Saw this on the New Book shelf and had totally forgotten about it. A 2003 US copyright.

In a series with the same police characters of the Metropolitan London Police. The book delves right into the story with details of the characters coming to light a bit at a time. You get enough information to know who is bad, good, incompetent, dangerous and stupid.

Three dimwits led by a recently paroled gal are pursuing a bombing campaign in London to extort money from the government; not the brightest trio in town. The "mastermind" of the plan is Angie. Angie knew she "was seriously deranged. She'd learnt that early and just as quickly learnt to hide it. Took her a while to grasp that other people had a sense of right and wrong. Her radar operated on feeling good or feeling cheated. There was littel in between." Angie is assisted by a pair of dimwitted brothers who she controls through sex and persuasion.

Opposing the crooks is Inspector Brant - as bad as he is good - who enjoys kicking people when they are down, literally. Accompanying Brant are a collection of incompetent, stupid and alcoholic cops with a smattering of smart ones to help. A good book. Writing style is simliar to Stark and James Ellroy.

Worth reading other titles in the series. A quick read with 199 pages.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Read: "The Blackbird" by Richard Stark

The Blackbird by Richard Stark

Richard Stark is Donald Westlake. He started writing the Parker novels in '62 with The Hunter. The Parker novels were successfull and had several film adaptations made from them.

Blackbird is a Grofield novel. The Grofield novels are a "spin-off" of the Parker novels. Grofiled is an occasional heist partner with Parker. Where Parker is a sociopathic robber, Grofield is a borderline sociopath with a sense of humour. There was a Parker hiatus from '74 to '98 but the last Grofield novel was in '71.

Blackbird starts with Grofield, Parker, and a driver robbing an armored car and then crashing their own car during the getaway. Grofield awakes in a hospital to receive an offer from some shadowy Feds to let him off the hook if he does some spy work. Grofield ends up in Quebec City to spy on some Third World dictators - meeting in secret - whom he once ran across on a previous heist. Grofield cannot get away from the Feds and their electronic bugs and he doesn't want to get killed as a spy.

This was a good Stark novel. Typically succinct and to the point without a lot of blather by the narrator. The 1969 setting and - more importantly - writing are interesting. The fact that the term "Third World" has to be explained by a character makes me assume the term was pretty new or unknown. The way that comments and assumptions are made about a black chick and white dude together socially are interesting. With Albanians, Chinese, Russians, South Americans, Africans and other unsavory political types fighting it out in the north woods of Canada.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Read: "Black Hole" by Charles Burns

Black Hole by Charles Burns - read in December

A comic book novel. Set in Washington state during the 70s. A sexually transmitted disease that causes bizarre bodily mutations is spreading around the high school population in suburban Seattle. Some of the mutations are benign and easily hidden; the kids with small tails or an extra mouth on their chest can stay at home and in school. Other mutations causing facial deformaties cannot bear it out in everyday society and group of kids live in the forest outside of town.

The storyline follows several characters as they catch and then cope with the disease. There is a small murder mystery aspect to the story but to me the whole thing is just about a bunch of kids who already were dealing with the usual, and demanding, aspects of growing up and then have horns growing out of their heads.

Author Burns spent ten years working on this. Really nice artwork. Good artwork that shows how comic book novels can be great ways to tell a story. A pretty quick read.

Listened to: "The Vagina Monologues" on CD by Eve Ensler

Listened to The Vagina Monologues on CD by Eve Ensler

Eh. Vagina Monologues was interesting but I do not understand the uproar it has caused. I listened to this about a month ago while painting the room of Boy #2. This is a short piece, with just two CDs. Of course, who wants to sit through a six hour stage show anyway? Interesting but not worth listening to again.

The show is composed of monologues resulting from the Ensler's different interviews with women of all ages and backgrounds. Ensler would have a set list of questions she would ask (What would your vagina wear if it could be dressed?) and also just talk with the women. She seems to have spoken to a lot of repressed people.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Read: "Across the Dark Islands: the war in the Pacific" by Floyd W Radike

Across the Dark Islands: the war in the Pacific by Floyd W Radike

Excellently written by infantry veteran Radike. Radike covers his day to day experiences in the Pacific campaign and provides succinct, interesting, and well thought over evaluations and observations on the work and progress of the Army's tactics and leadership during the Guadalcanal, New Caledonia and Phillipines campaigns.

Radike joined the National Guard in the late 30s in Michigan and ended up assigned to a NG unit from Washington. Radike starts his story in 1942 just prior to his Regiment's landing at Guadalcanal. Landing in Guadalcanal after most of the major fighting was finished, the Regiment's first casualty was "death by falling coconut" during a rainstorm.

Radike makes clear that the dangers of the jungle - Malaria, heat, mud, malnutrition - caused as many casualties as enemy contact. After the fighting in New Caledonia his company numbered less than 15 men, from an assigned strength of 200.

Radike makes several comments on the poor leadership that existed in the "old boy network" of his NG unit where promotions were based on seniority and friendship rather than leadership and fighting skill. The peacetime Army of the 30's was well known for it's lack of promotional opportunities. The "Regular Army" officers would buck for promotion by showing aggressiveness of the battlefield. Colonels looking for promotion to General would push and push the troops just to look good to their superiors. The effects of this on the troops - and their mortality - was largely ignored. Reminded me of Nick Nolte's character in Thin Red Line who pushes on an infantry attack to save his own skin.

Another item of interest is how the fighting units were the last ones to get new recruits. The brightest and fittest recruits would continually get assigned to rear areas after getting picked by senior commanders. In the Phillipines, Radike goes to the Corps Commanders headquarters to discover a bunch of new replacements playing basketball; the Corps Commander had picked them to stay in the rear so he could win inter-unit basketball games.

A lot of Radike's observations are echoed in Death Ground by Daniel Bolger which I am currently reading. Bolger, currently a brigadier general in Iraq, mentions several times about how the infantry has historically gotten lousy recruits and been undermanned.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Just Read: "The Eagle's Prey" by Simon Scarrow

Just read The Eagle's Prey by Simon Scarrow

Number four in Scarrow's series on the Roman Legions in Britain. Comparable to Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's novels where the story follows the army's footsoldiers and has two or three gruesomely detailed battles added to the mix.

Good entertainment. I thought it was a little long for what it is. Centurions Macro and Cato are officers in the Roman legion that has recently invaded, and is still subduing, England. After the Legion's botched battle to catch British leader Caratacus the Legion's commanding General is forced by the Emperor's visiting consul to impose harsh punishment. Cato and Macro's Cohort catches the blame after the Senior Centurion's incompetence to defend a river crossing lets Caratacus escape. The punishment? Cohort members are forced to draw lots for a decimation: one man in ten will be beaten to death by his fellow soldiers.

After the decimation lottery includes his friend Cato, Macro enables Cato's night time escape. Cato and his fellow "death row" legionaries escape with only a faint hope of returning to the Legion by helping capture Caratacus.