Saturday, August 29, 2020

Pandemic: "Smonk" by Tom Franklin

 Pandemic: Smonk by Tom Franklin, 2006, 9780060846817.

Interesting fact: I've read three Franklin novels. Huh.

A crime novel with some vampire kind of thing. I don't know, man, I read this back in April. Or May. Or March.

Smonk is a bad, bad man. Old, short, hunchbacked, syphilitic, tuberculosis, and all around revolting and murderous. It's 1920, or so, and Smonk has been living outside of a town where everyone hates him. He's headed to town to face trial for something-or-other at the saloon where circuit court has been arranged. But, Smonk, being a sneaky and cruel bastard has arranged a machine gun ambush with the gun set-up on a wagon outside the saloon.

Smonk walks away and most of the town is dead. Things move along as Smonk is pursued by the surviving town Deputy. A 14-yeard-old wandering prostitute crosses paths. A Philadelphia (Pittsburg?) fop leads paid group of cavalry who crusade for God. 

It's all kind weird. I liked the book but I think it went a bit long.


1. Rifles.

2. Horses.

Pandemic: "The Fort" by Bernard Cornwell

 Pandemic: The Fort by Bernard Cornwell, 2010, 9780061969638.

A stand alone novel about a fairly minor battle in the Revolutionary War. On the coast of what will be Maine some Scottish infantry have moved onto a peninsula. The locals are mostly Loyalists. The Continental Army dispatches Colonial Army and Colonial Navy forces to take back the peninsula and the new fort under construction.

An interesting book but kinda slow. Cornwell cannot just add another battle for excitement so he's stuck - I assume - with a timeline that does not fit a dramatic pace.

Some neat details about the relationships among the Colonial armies and navies and Continental Army. How they did not get along. How they were organized. How training and leadership varied greatly. The different loyalties of locals and how loyalties change. The terror of battle and the difference between professionals and recently enlisted volunteers.

Not much else to say I think I read this in March.

Pandemic: "Rowdy in Paris" by Tim Sandlin

 Pandemic: Rowdy in Paris by Tim Sandline, 2008, 9781594489747.

A withdrawn book I finally go to. 

Rowdy is a professional bull rider at the bottom end of the circuit finally wins a tournament, earns some cash, and earns a buckle. A buckle. He's been rodeoing around The West for years and finally won something of substance (literal and figurative). Now he wants to give that buckle to his young son in WY who he barely knows. 

But, Rowdy's drunken celebration includes a night of threesome sex with two visitors from Paris. When he wakes up he finds his buckle missing. One of the Frenchies took the buckle and are on their way to the airport. Rowdy has no choice but to spend some of that bull championship prize money to follow the women to Paris and track them down at their university.

So, Rowdy heads out to Paris. Meets a cute French student. Meets a weird hippy with a prostitute wife. Meets revolutionaries who hate McDonald's.Spends lots of time figuring out what the hell is going on. Gets into plenty of fistfights. Plays bull in a China shop. Is mostly incapable of adjusting to another culture.

A decent book with a good amount of fun.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "The British Are Coming" by Rick Atkinson

 Pandemic Audio: The British Are Coming: the War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777: the Revolution Trilogy, Book 1 by Rick Atkinson, 2019, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

Typed notes I put in my phone as I listened.

Ben Franklin lived in London 15 years before the War.

Relations to modern life. In many ways so much is always the same. Cost of war for the gov. Hurrying to purchase, store, and ship war supplies. Sourcing raw materials. A 6 week transport across ocean and many vessels lost or the stock animals dying en route.

British were rebuilding and equipping an army after a mostly peaceful period. Something important to remember when reading about how the Colonies took on the world's greatest empire.

Prime Minister North had less then 2 voters in his parliamentary district. He also bought votes for supporters with parties on election day

General Gage served 20 years in America. An American wife and owned lots of land in America, Canada, and West Indies.

1775 had English soldiers bored. Lots of cheap booze and desertions.

Refugees from Boston during siege of. Passes to exit city w no place to go. British would refuse exit to deter bombardment by Continentals. Business shuts down.

Bunker hill attack by British was a chance to gain high ground outside Boston for some relief. And then use the high ground to attack out from the Boston area. The Brit plan soon leaked out.

Bunker Hill at 110 feet overlooking land and water

War as a financial boon. Even payoff is for support, newspapers notably.
More money. Split from Britain seen as a cash opportunity in South for land expansion into Crown lands to the west. Tobacco and slaves brought wealth and big debt. A winning war would nix debt to English banks.
Lord Dunmore in the southern campaign interfered in slave owners hierarchy by getting blacks to join up. His actions threatened a society built on slavery and caused a shitfit. "Join the crown for freedom".

Small Pox. Typhus. Scurvy. Illness issues plagued both sides. Small Pox was a major threat and even though innoculations had been practiced for years they would be forbidden in the army. Soldiers would drag needles through open sores of sick men and then stab themselves. 

Salted food and resupply trouble to renew Boston.
Resupply from England to Boston was sketchy. Live animals died during voyages. Ships were lost to weather and pirates. Food would rot and spoil en route from heat and moisture.
Many ships beaten by the weather and ended up in Antigua

British abandoned Boston after surrounded. Not enough shops to carry every one and thing and abandoned much equip. Some British ships scuttled.
A 330 day siege. Loyalists shipped to Halifax.

After the English retreat Washington saw Boston defenses and knew any attack would have failed.

Ben Franklin visited the Canada campaign?! Dude was 70-years-old and traveled overland.
Continental Army in Canada was worn out. Ultimately retreated with a long trip down Lake Champlain into New York. A lot of time spent discussing the Canadian campaign and it's failures. 

Losses of thousands of Colonials from disease, wounds and misadventure before any large battle with English.

Colonial Generals averaged 2 years experience and English Generals had 30 years

Supply and manufacturing issues including gunpowder. Supplies started to build up in 1776 but Continental Army was very, very short on powder and could not have sustained any fighting. Colonies sent ships to Europe and many powder mills built in colonies.

Odd how political and civil repression of loyalists would be addressed by 1st and 2 and amendments and due process.

Loyalties to colonies of England were across all economic classes.

So much of SC campaign was driven by slavery. Property. Insurrection. Militia originally formed to stop slave rebellion.

Disastrous UK navy artillery attack on Charleston defenses. Dead and wounded (later dying or w amputations) and ships lost.

Side war in South Carolina against the Cherokee who lost another 5 million acres of land.

Southern campaign a failure. Local loyalists stopped being a factor. Ships sent south were not available for up North for breaking problems like the Delaware blockade. Colonial gunrunners sailed unimpeded.

Winter 1777 after Trenton. Re-enlistments rare. Money needed for paying soldiers

2nd battle of Trenton also a success. One I recall reading about. Brits were attacking w Russians. January. Attack failed. Colonial troops sneaked out all 6,000 soldiers under night. No talking allowed and the 150 wagons had wheels wrapped in cloth and rope for silence.
Brit troops exhausted from battle and marching through winter mud. Temps dropped 20 degrees and the mud froze. Frozen mud allowed easier passage for colonial wagons.

FYI: A gil is 4 ounces. 

Pandemic Audio: "Chat" by Archer Mayor

Pandemic: Chat by Archer Mayor, 2007 (2007-ish, I had a paperback).

Mayor kinda tries out a computer angle but not really. This is still a police procedural with crime scene evidence and lots of interviews. Mayor is good at writing police interviews with witnesses and suspects. All the strategy and thinking and experience that is used with people. Mayor's characters recognize their tactical screw-ups during interviews and change tack as needed.

Willie Kunkle as comic relief. Kunkle the long-term grouch who Gunther acknowledges is an asshole and unemployable anywhere else because of it. I wonder if more recent novels reflect societal changes and push for police reform. Kunkle goes beyond the legally allowed lying of police and beats a witness. Kunkle is worse than a flawed character with a heart of gold. 

Anyhoo. Two dead bodies show up in the winter. Middle aged guys with no ID. Police have no idea who they are or why they were in VT. Investigations follows with links to chat rooms and men looking for sex with teen girls.

Pre-Pandemic: "Battle for the Rhine" by Robin Neillands

Pre-Pandemic: Battle for the Rhine: the Battle of the Bugle, and the Ardennes Campaign, 1944 by Robin Neillands, 2005, Wisconsin Digital Library.

I never cleaned up my notes before the Pandemic. Here they are.

Montgomery was a good general. Experienced. Well liked by troops. Skilled at planning. Knew importance of supply. Planned his operations in mind that he had a smaller force and had to probe for weaknesses and then collect his troops in number to attack.

Monty has  a bad rep in the US that exists to today. Narrator started about Monty and I thought "oh, that guy" because his reputation as pompous and ineffective has worked down to dilettantes like myself. Monty's reputation in US based off the memoirs of US Generals who did not like the guy.

Monty knew his shortcomings and could accept criticism.

Complex operations of 7 Allied Armies over 600 miles of front. Supplies only coming in from limited port facilities and rail lines destroyed pre-Overlord.

Market Garden a complex operation filled with minor and major trouble that flubbed things up. Many myths about the operation that author works to dispel. Airborne operation were meant to secure the roads and bridges through Holland so armor and infantry could drive on through. Narrow roads surrounded by marsh or flooded country and not enough roads. Thousands of vehicles were queued up on one road. So, when the dirty rotten stinking nazis set up a good defense on the road everything had to stop until the krauts were removed.

If a bridge was not taken the same delays would happen. Primarily in Nijmegen.

Nijmegen priority was 'immediately capture the bridges' in a thunderclap (predecessor of shock and awe?). US Airborne General Gavin instead focused on first capturing the high ground surrounded by thick woods. Gavin's record seems to be of a General tooting his own horn (author mentions how US Generals would often put down Brit efforts and accomplishments). Gavin cited evidence that 1,000 tanks were in the forest. I'm still a dilettante but think of hiding 1,00 tanks which have, what, 4-5 crew per tank? Then add in all the support trucks for fuel, food, ammunition, spare parts, and transport for all the repair guys and supporting infantry. How would you hide that many people in the woods? Besides, when the first groups of the 82nd got there they said the woods were too thick for tanks to operate in anyway.

Drop zones determined by the air force not the paratrooper or glider people. English 1st Airborne had to walk up to 8 miles to the Arnhem bridge.

About 39 planes taken from troop landings to land a headquarters outfit.

So much of war is dealing with allies. Monty was a great planner and soldier but most US people disliked him. The Americans wanted to run things and get credit. Soldiers and politicians were already angling for post-war life and advancement.

Much is made of Antwerp and what could have been a vital supply port. That the competing Generals each had competing plans. Those plans said that the best place to attack from just happened to be where their army was. Monty's plan of attack through the Northwest made plenty of sense. Monty still gets a bad rap from American Generals who use him as a scapegoat for their own foul-ups. But, hey, the winners write the history.

A description of the different top American generals goes into their strengths and weaknesses. Author praises Eisenhower as being the perfect man for the time and place. But, Eisenhower still had weaknesses: he would not issue clear and direct orders, he would not reign in Generals like Patton and Monty who'd forge ahead and ignore some orders.

Bulge: Omar to blame. But, US generals constantly aware of US press and the interests of Congress. Ardennes was a screw-up and they didn't want anyone looking too closely. Talk about the Bastogne bravery.

Monty again requested to be in charge of more troops after his help in getting rid of Germans. There was still not a coherent structure of command.

Huge losses in campaigns. Huertgen forest with 90% and more as replacements were pushed in and carried out

Patton good but not the god he said. Big successes post Normandy because everyone was chasing a fleeing enemy. Patton was chasing through unwanted or unneeded ground. To have him continue would be to go into Germany against heavy defenses.

Bulge as victory. At the best a draw. Especially if arguing krauts lost irreplaceable men and equipment.

Monty couldn't be blamed for the Bulge. It was all Omar Bradley's blame. Monty took the north flank and Patton the south.

Aka Monty got the shaft. Aka let's clear Monty. A lot of time spent clearing Monty's reputation.

Congress and Marshall pushing US presence. Afraid of fuckups being known. Blame the english and monty.

Huertgen meat grinder. Thick forests and everything marked by kraut artillery. Interlocking defenses.
Replacements come in, die or wounded, more replacements. The goal becomes the battle instead of tactics or strategy. This and the Bulge kill a lot of soldiers. 

EDIT: A lot of information about the campaign heading northwest to free Antwerp's port. Lots of heavy resistance and some amazing stories. Much the estuary and the islands are the same as '44 and you can check the battle locations out on Google satellite view..