Deep Winter Reading

| Odd Angry Shot |
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A Sure Rx For Cabin Fever.

Up to your hips in snow and ice? Time to put a log on the fire and relax with a good book? Gotcha covered, friends. Here are three great ones:

A Waterloo Hero—The Reminiscences

Originally dictated by Lindau,
edited by James Bogle and Andrew Uffindell.

This book is a gem, and like most gems you won’t find it lying around in your local bookshop or library. But, it is available online from AbeBooks.com and at Amazon.com, where, if you have a Kindle reader, you can download it for only $5.99.

On the 4th of July, 1809, 21-year old Friedrich Lindau left his home in Hamelin, in the then-autonomous nation-state (a “duchy”) of Hanover in modern northern Germany, and hit the road to adventure. Since the reigning Duke of Hanover was also the King of England, young Friedrich had a sort of dual citizenship, and his aim was to enlist in the King’s German Legion; part of the British Army. That ought to send you scurrying for the history books, huh? While you’re there, find a large-scale map of early-1800’s Europe and keep it handy while reading. Here’s why:
Between August 1809 and October 1816, Lindau humped ruck and rifle over much of Europe, fighting almost continuously in the Napoleonic and Peninsular Wars. I’ve read many scholarly studies of those conflicts, but his story—later dictated to a cleric in Hamelin because Lindau was illiterate—is a unique first-hand account by a private soldier. This is its first translation into English, 150 years after its first publishing in German. It is riveting.

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Muskets and those new “rifles” were certainly important on the battlefields of the day, but the real grunt-work of war was still done with sabers and lances, bayonets, knives and buttstocks, and Lindau proved proficient with them. Like warfare today, much of an infantryman’s time was spent marching and counter-marching under complex and conflicting orders; waiting in the rain, sleeping in the mud and wondering what was really happening where—but with some critical differences: Food often failed to arrive, so if you wanted to eat, you foraged for whatever you could get, one example being scraping up congealed ox blood and frying it for supper—or raiding an enemy camp or picket line just for food! And when ammo ran out, facing a charge by French dragoons knowing only the bayonets, knives, boots and fists of you and your comrades could save your lives.

Lindau was no saint, and he admits as much in his narrative. But his officers duly recognized his bravery and loyalty on several occasions. He was seriously wounded twice and decorated multiple times—the last being for his gallantry in defense of La Haye Sainte at Waterloo.

This is a treasure. Thanks and a tip of the Connor-cap to Big Cheese Editor Jeff John for rooting it out and sharing it.

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The Orphan Master’s Son

by Adam Johnson

North Korea was never one of my “areas of specific professional interest.” But back in the days when I had access to more intelligence data than the average satellite-riding ferret, I read as much as I could—perhaps mostly out of morbid curiosity. It seemed to me the top lunatics of the Kim dictatorship were always in a contest to beat other deranged Marxist/Maoist tyrants in the areas of institutionalized stupidity, senseless cruelty, savage slaughter and sheer insanity. North Korea is so sealed and secretive there was little to read, but it struck me the reports rated “most credible” were also the cruelest and craziest. The fact that 99.9 percent of their abuses were carried out on their own people wasn’t unique at all, but their zeal was—and is—virtually unmatched.
Americans got a little taste of NORK-flavored fruitcake when “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il died in late 2011. All citizens were “encouraged” to mourn en masse. Men could at minimum hang their heads in sad reverence. Women were expected to animatedly wail and weep. A few foreign news crews were allowed entry to record this national event, and of course, NORK authorities copied all recordings. They found something curious: Lots of women screamed, wailed, stamped their feet and appeared to weep brokenheartedly—but actual tears were extremely rare!

On the orders of that fat kid with the funny haircut and nukes in his belt (“Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-Un) countless women were removed in the dead of night for extended “self-criticism” and “re-education” sessions. When the zombies returned, oh, you bet, they could cry rivers of tears at the drop of a hat!

The plotline is forgettable and the characterizations rather strange—though that in itself is indeed “NORK-like”—but they serve as excellent vehicles for the scenarios painted by the author, and they are well worth reading! You’ll be tempted to disbelieve the level of intrusiveness, absolute control, propaganda brainwashing, the robotlike obedience demanded of the people; the stupidity resulting in starvation, the casual brutality practiced by a lunatic regime, but consider this: We know Little Kim has personally ordered the executions of dozens of family members and high officials by such colorful means as feeding them to starving dogs and tying them to posts to be blown apart by anti-aircraft cannon. After that, what’s to disbelieve? Take a peek into NORK-land if you dare.

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Killing Rommel

by Steven Pressfield

I hear a couple of you asking “Pressfield again?” Yup. Why? If you’ve read my past recommendations of his work, you know why: Because he is a master at taking critical past events which history teachers largely ignored and historians managed to mangle into boring mush—and turning them into the exciting and interesting stories they deserve to be. As he did with Gates of Fire, recounting the Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae, and The Tides of War, dealing with the tangled webs of the Peloponnesian War and its mercurial hero/villain Alcibiades, Pressfield creates a character who is a composite of real men of the time and uses him as the first-person narrator of the tale. Whereas Gates and Tides were taken from the long-distant past, Killing Rommel is of course more recent, but for the attention given to the subject, it might as well be ancient history.

In this book, Pressfield speaks through a young armor officer of the British Army temporarily assigned to the LRDG—the Long Range Desert Group. His job is to ride along on the LRDG’s deep reconnaissance and raiding patrols into the North African deserts. His mission is to assess the feasibility of armor and heavy transport crossing those jumbled, mostly unmapped, arid and almost featureless wastelands, to outflank the much more mobile Afrika Korps commanded by the brilliant tactician General Erwin Rommel—the Desert Fox. That “ride-along” role didn’t last long, due to casualties and the fog of war, and another duty was laid on the LRDG: to find and kill General Rommel.

In his foreword, Pressfield clearly separates facts from fiction, detailing the individuals, units and operations, which really occurred and those dramatized for the book. As usual, his descriptions of aircraft, weapons, vehicles and equipment are right on the money, and his scenarios superb.

Little detail has been written about the LRDG, since many of their ops were held secret for decades after World War II. The all-volunteer unit never numbered more than 350 men, but they brought such pain to their German adversaries that chasing them drew large units and resources away from the fight with the battered British Eighth Army. Between December 1940 and April 1943, the scant and raggedy LRDG was operating behind Axis lines all but 15 days of the entire Desert Campaign. This book pays them proper homage.

Happy reading, folks! Connor OUT
By John Connor

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