Current Events

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Air We Breathe; Red Gold; The Longest Winter; and The Gambler Butler’s Wager

Andrea Barrett.  The Air We Breathe.   I was in a hurry and thought I was picking up a book about the environment.  Instead I got a wonderful story set in a tuberculosis sanitarium for the indigent In Tamarack Lake, NY starting just before the US enters WW I.  There’s a love story involving a Russian immigrant patient and a nurse’s aide and a tale of unrequited love between a cement factory owner in Tamarack Lake for the cure and a young maid who works at the rest house where he is staying.  For me the real interest was in the description of how tubercular patients were treated at that time, the state of X-ray technology, the labor unrest and desperate poverty among immigrants in the cities and the anti-German and anti-immigrant hysteria that broke out when we entered the war.  May 2012
Alan Furst.  Red Gold.  Red gold means the money smuggled from Moscow to the Communist Party in France.   Jean Casson is an apolitical French film producer on the skids because of the outbreak of WW II.  When he gets arrested in a roundup of street people, a police inspector gives him the choice of working for the Resistance or going to jail and perhaps falling into the hands of the Gestapo.  He is asked to make contact with the Communist Party’s resistance network.  He helps arrange a transfer to the CP of 600 automatic weapons.  When he loses his Vichy contact, he manages through his wealthy ex-wife to connect with Gaullist forces in London and becomes the liaison between them and the CP.  It’s a good story, particularly the smuggling of the guns from Lebanon to Vichy to Paris.  What’s even more interesting is Furst’s account of daily efforts to survive in wartime Paris and the cynical interplay among bitter political rivals to defeat the common enemy, Hitler’s Germany.  May 2012
Alex Kershaw.  The Longest Winter.   This is an account of the heroic action of an IR unit of the 99th Division in the Battle of the Bulge and afterwards when the survivors were POW's.  Eighteen men, whose usual function was reconnaissance patrols, were ordered to dig in and hold their positions against the van of the German advance.  They delayed the German timetable by at least a half a day, which turned out to be critical to the organization of resistance to and counter attack against this totally unexpected German advance into the Ardennes.  Their contribution was not recognized until the 1970s because of a cover up of Gen. Patton’s botched effort to liberate his son-in-law from the POW camp where the 99th’s IR unit survivors were also interned.  This is not an account of the whole Battle of the Bulge, but instead an in depth and personal record of one small unit’s experiences from induction into the army to long overdue recognition of their bravery and suffering decades later. June 2012 
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.  The 9th Judgment.   What was I thinking!  Patterson has written some pretty good mysteries like the Alex Cross novels, but when he gets together with Paetro, what starts out with a couple of  interesting crimes devolves into a vehicle for explicit sex which contributes nothing but titillation.  I had forgotten that I had tried one of these before and had concluded my note on it with the words “stay away.”  This time I only made it halfway through the second disk  I’ll never know the fate of the lady cat burglar junior high teacher or of the psychopath who shoots a year old baby point blank after killing his mother and plans to murder his own wife and their two children.  Usually when I give up on something, I just cross it off my list and move on, but I have to say again: Stay Away.  May 2012
Robert J. Randisi.  The Gambler Butler’s Wager.   Ty Butler fled Philadelphia after his father and the rest of his family were murdered.  His father’s lawyer told him that he didn’t know who was responsible for the killings but that Ty was likely to be next.  He headed west, and by the time he gets to Dodge City in 1881 he has killed at least ten men who have attempted to kill him.  He’s become a professional poker player and master of the quick draw.  His first day in Dodge he saves ex-marshal Jim Masterson from being shot in the back in the saloon, where Masterson is half owner.  Soon others come who would eliminate both Butler and Masterson.  The best parts of this are the card by card descriptions of Butler’s poker games.  This looks like the beginning of a series.  June 2012

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