Comments on literature, reading and music from Denny Hartford, Director of Vital Signs Ministries. Whether the talk stems from my personal reading and listening, the Vital Signs' Book It series, or the classic novels that make up the book list of the Notting Hill Napoleons Literary Society, we hope earnest readers will find The Book Den a place of interest and stimulation.
I've been deep in World War II the last couple of weeks with the help of some outstanding historians …and one novelist. I pass along the best of these as hearty recommendations.
* Dan Kurzman's excellent history of the Allies' effort to destroy the
Nazi's supply of heavy-water (especially involving a handful of daring
heroes from the Norwegian underground) is titled Blood and Water: Sabotaging Hitler's Bomb. It was published in 1997.
* Ben Macintyre's Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (2012) is an excellent history of Britain's brilliant and stunningly successful counter-espionage program. Imagine -- capturing every single spy Germany sent into England and then turning most of them into remarkably effective double agents whose misinformation was critical to the Allies' victory.
* Stephen Ambrose's Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944 is a detailed (and stirring) description of the early hours of D-Day starring the British glider commandos and paratroopers who took (intact) the river and canal bridges at Benouville and defended them until relieved. The efforts of this small band of heroes, quite literally, may have saved the invasion. If you doubt it, please read the book, first published in 1985.
* The novel I referred to above was Alistair MacLean's thrilling adventure about the Merchant Marine in WW II, San Andreas (1984). It's superb.
Other reading going on? Well, besides the Bible study material and the necessities of Vital Signs Blog, the late evenings of the deep winter months usually find me curled up with a few favorite mystery authors. Among that group would be Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, Dick Francis, John D. MacDonald, Jonathan Gash, Donald Hamilton, John Dickson Carr, Helen MacDonald, Leslie Charteris, Eric Ambler, and the like.
This year, however, it was 30 some Erle Stanley Gardner novels, most of them featuring Perry Mason, Della Street, Paul Drake and company. For a bit of spice, I did toss in a few of Gardner's books written under the pen name of A.A. Fair. Those star the diminutive but street smart private eye, Donald Lam.
Slipped in there were Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds (which I posted about previously in The American Revolution's Frontier War) and The President’s Lady by Irving Stone, a fine historical novel about Andrew and Rachel Jackson that we read for our book club in February.
Oh yes, there was also the much more substantial book written by one of my favorite historians, Samuel Eliot Morison. That was The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1963, 610 pages.) That book also prompted a Book Den post which you can find here.
But back to the more recent reading. In addition to the World War II books I mentioned at the outset of this post, March titles have included three more Alistair MacLean novels (Fear Is the Key, The Guns of Navarone, and Caravan to Vaccares). I enjoyed them all. For well-written, thrilling adventure novels, MacLean never disappoints. And then there was the The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healey that was the subject of a Book Den post from earlier in the week.
Next up -- I'm about halfway through Studies in Words by C.S. Lewis; two thirds through A Solo in Tom-Toms by Gene Fowler; and I've just begun Unjust Enrichment: How Japan's Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using American POWs by Linda Goetz Holmes. In order to best serve "When Swing Was King" ministry, I'm also reading through a few books dealing with Big Band history. Among them are Star Dust by Richard Grudens and The Big Band Almanac by Leo Walker.
The De Vere Society (of which I'm a longstanding friend and admirer) has launched a nifty poster campaign which is designed "to raise the profile of the Shakespeare Authorship Question in the public's mind by questioning the Stratfordian claims to authorship."
A second aim is to encourage inquiring minds to visit the De Vere Society (U.K) website where they can discover all sorts of intriguing, enlightening information about the authorship question, the remarkably inept historiography used by Stratfordians, Edward de Vere himself, and more.
Along with the link to the website above, I'll also give you a peek at the poster. And, because the print is small in this copy, I provide the content in bigger print below. Then, below the poster's content, I'll provide a couple of other Book Den posts related to the Shakespeare authorship controversy.
“Is this an impostor I see before me?”
• In nearly 200 years of research, no-one has discovered a single piece of corroborative evidence that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was a writer.
• There is no evidence that he received a formal education. Yet the works attributed to him were clearly written by an exceptionally gifted classical scholar.
• There is no evidence that he ever travelled abroad. Yet 16 of the plays attributed to him display first-hand knowledge of Italian cities and require the author to have been fluent in Italian.
• No document has ever been discovered which records any payment to him as the author of a play.
• There are no letters written by him even though, while he was living in London, his wife and daughters were living in Stratford, and the only examples of his handwriting are six poorly written signatures of variable spelling.
• The only evidence we do have records a man interested in modest property deals, suing debtors for small sums and serial tax evasion – nothing whatever to suggest he was the leading light of the Elizabethan age.
Academics refuse even to admit that the Authorship Question is a legitimate subject of debate. Instead, year after year, they publish ever more fanciful fictionalised biographies of William of Stratford – having no qualms about presenting conjecture as fact.
Yet there is now a growing clamour from outside the walls of academia of scholars asking to be let inside so they can point out that the Emperor and all his courtiers are wearing no clothes.
Hill is the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige and her book (a scathing expose' that has Scientologist leaders fuming, flailing and fabricating even more than normal) is an important step in enlightening the public to the dreary and dangerous sides to this wacky religion.
Among the ten bits that Fallon lists are:
1. She signed a billion-year contract with Sea Org at age 7.
At age 6, she was sent to a place called the Ranch, a training academy for the Sea Organization (Sea Org), the highest order within the ranks of Scientology. She writes that she and other children there were expected to dedicate themselves fully to the church’s mission, and only saw their parents for a few hours each weekend. At age 7, she says she was forced to sign a contract pledging to serve Sea Org “for the next billion years.” Miscavige Hill says she was told by the recruiter at the Ranch, “We come back lifetime after lifetime”—Scientologists believe that after you die, you come back and begin a new life in another body—“You are signing a billion-year contract.” Even at 7 years old, Miscavige Hill says, she sensed something wrong. “Before I signed, images from The Little Mermaid flashed in my mind, particularly when Ariel signed the Sea Witch’s magic contract,” she writes. “Whatever my future held for me, one thing was now certain: my life was no longer my own.”...
6. As early as 13, she was required to detail her sexual history.
When she was 13, Miscavige Hill says she required to fill out a life history form. In addition to supplying her Social Security number, all her ID numbers, credit-card number, information about her bank account, and nonexistent criminal record, she was required to fill out a questionnaire asking who all of her relatives were and how they felt about Scientology. She was also told to “detail every single sexual experience, including masturbating, that I ever had.” The questionnaire asked for hospital records, too. “I knew I had to do it, but it was hard to understand why the church needed this information,” she writes. “Even though I had nothing to hide, I felt like the church was asking me for information just for the sake of having it, almost asking for material they might blackmail me with that served no Scientologic purpose.”...
10. Officials tried to break apart her marriage.
While on a mission trip in Australia, the newlyweds discovered anti-Scientology websites that gossiped about her uncle, David Miscavige, and how he was said to have strong-armed his way into power. She called her parents, who all but confirmed it. Fed up with the coercive nature of the organization, she decided to leave—and was heartbroken to hear that her husband was going to stay. Miscavige Hill was about to board a plane to her parents, when she had a change of heart and told her husband she wanted to stay with him. He called church officials, who told him that she would not be allowed back, contradicting what she says they had said previously when she was considering leaving. Being lied to caused him to snap, she writes, and he confessed to Miscavige Hill that he had been blackmailed by the organization to either convince her to stay or to let her go without him, otherwise he would not be allowed to see his family again. Upon learning that she wouldn’t be welcomed back, he ran away with her to his parents’ house. They both left the church.
If you'd like to look at a couple of previous Vital Signs Blog posts dealing with Scientology, imply hit these links:
Clare Cannon, the editor of GoodReadingGuide.com and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney, Australia talks about The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healey (400 pages, published 2012).
Clare's enthusiasm persuaded me and so Claire and I (my Claire) stopped by the library last Friday and picked up a copy. I read it over the weekend and found it amusing and inventive. I'd rate it a B+ overall.
It's surprising how many marriages are beginning to crack under the pressure of suffering, depression, illness and pain. It's why Ken and I just wrote our new book Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story. After more than 30 years of marriage, we're peeling back the curtain to reveal some of the toughest years of our life together. Yes, it is definitely an untold story… but we hope the lessons learned through our depression, pain, and cancer will bolster others to 'stick with their vows, for better or for worse.'
Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story will be out soon, but you can get a sneak preview now by watching this video – then please, share it with your friends!
Among the many pleasures of reading Samuel Eliot Morison (I'm almost through his Two Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War; Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1963, 610 pages.) are the wide breadth (and depth) of his research; his willingness to see the long view of historical developments; and a pronounced willingness to identify with moral principles, high ideals, and heroic personages instead of skulking behind the pose of complete objectivity.
Morison is not only educational, he is at times entertaining, and quite often, downright inspirational. His doesn't try to hide his opinions as most modern historians do. He is honest enough to state them...but wise and responsible enough to back them up with facts and a balanced perspective.
Most modern historians, however, have a bucketful of "progressive" assumptions, poses and presuppositions with which they drench their historiography, all the while insisting that they alone are the indifferent and objective spectators. Poppycock. Give me an honest and candidly involved historian every time. Give me Shelby Foote, Walter Lord, John Toland, David McCullough, Antonia Fraser, Roland Bainton, Paul Johnson, Stephen Ambrose, Bruce Catton, William Prescott, Basil Liddell Hart, Alexander Solzhenitsyn...
And yes, give me Read Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison too.