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Michael OConnor "Wordsmith" RSS Feed (Wausau, WI USA)
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The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock
The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock
by Lucy Worsley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.29
49 used & new from $13.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Murder and English Life and Society!, October 24, 2014
Lucy Worsley's HE ART OF THE ENGLISH MURDER traces the development of the English murder FROM JACK THE RIPPER AND SHERLOCK HOLMES TO AGATHA CHRiSTIE AND ALFRED HITHCOCK. Weaving from famous crimes to the creation of police/detectives to the creation of murder-based literature, Worsley traces the development of 'murder most foul' in England and how it came to become an ingrained part of the English psyche.

Worsley's book, a 2014 Pegasus Books release, is a 200-year travelogue that introduces the reader to notable - and obscure - English murders that impacted English society, the English police system that evolved over the centuries as a result of those murders, famous murder trials, the evolving public fascination with murder and the creation of and incredible growth in books, 'Penny Dreadfuls,' plays, poems and other murder literature that became such a part of English life. Along the way, readers are introduced to a smorgasbord of real-life and fictional characters such as John Williams, Henry Fielding, Jack the Ripper, Maria & George Manning, Sweeney Todd, Charles Dickens, 'Peelers,' Madam Tussaud, 'Broadsides,' Holmes & Watson, Hercule Poirot, The 'Sensation Novel,' Dorothy Sayers, Hitchcock's 'The Lodger,' Agatha Christie, 'The Detection Club' and on and on.

Though I approached THE ART OF THE ENGLISH MURDER with a bit of trepidation - it sounded like an Advanced College Lit class to be avoided - I found Worsley's book a fascinating, insightful and altogether charming exploration of the subject. If you're interested in the general topic of murder or the development of English literature or English jurisprudence, you should find something of interest in her book. Recommended.


F-105 Thunderchief MiG Killers of the Vietnam War (Combat Aircraft)
F-105 Thunderchief MiG Killers of the Vietnam War (Combat Aircraft)
by Peter Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.34
44 used & new from $12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mighty Thud's MiG-Killing Record!, October 24, 2014
During the Rolling Thunder phase of the Vietnam air war, Republic's needle-nosed F-105 Thunderchief flew the majority of USAF bombing missions against the North. Along with delivering untold tons of bombs on North Vietnam, Thud pilots also, surprisingly, chopped down 27.5 NVAF MiGs that opposed their strikes. Peter Davies summarized the MiG-killing record of the Thud in F-105 THUNDERCHIEF MIG KILLERS OF THE VIETNAM WAR. Part of Osprey's COMBAT AIRCRAFT series, Davies' book is #107 in that series.

The F-105's record against NVAF MiGs is one of individual pilots/aircrews rising above a lack of ACM training, equipment not designed for air combat, tactics that worked in the MiGs' favor and the steep learning curve F-105 units experienced in the 1965-68 time-frame over North Vietnam. The Thud was definitely not designed for the hard-turning, yank-and-bank MiG engagements it found itself in yet talented pilots were able to triumph, time and again, against the MiG-17s and -21s encountered over North Vietnam.

Davies, who has done other MiG-Killer books for Osprey, turns in an informative, entertaining and insightful history that interweaves descriptions of MiG battles with behind-the-scenes information on weaponry, tactics, etc. His narrative is illustrated with many b&w and color photographs of aircraft, aircrew and air combat scenes along with Jim Laurier's always-excellent color side profiles.

Vietnam air war buffs will want to add F-105 THUNDERCHIEF MIG KILLERS OF THE VIETNAM WAR to their collection. It tells the little-known story of how Thud pilots thrived and survived against NVAF MiGs over North Vietnam. Recommended.


Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ: All Thats Left to Know About Time Travel, Alien, Robot, and Out-of-This-World Movies Since 1970 (Faq Series)
Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ: All Thats Left to Know About Time Travel, Alien, Robot, and Out-of-This-World Movies Since 1970 (Faq Series)
by Tom DeMichael
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.07
26 used & new from $12.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Sci-Fi Flicks of the Past 40 Years!, October 24, 2014
Tom DeMichael's MODERN SCI-FI FILMS FAQ is a wide-ranging, entertaining guide to ALL THAT'S LEFT TO KNOW ABOUT TIME TRAVEL, ALIEN, ROBOT, AND OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD MOVIES SINCE 1970. In the past 40 years, movie-goers have been treated to a number of flicks created by various talented directors, producers and special-effects people that have blown movie viewers' minds at the same time they enriched their studios' coffers. DeMichael's book, a 2014 Applause Theatre & Cinema Books release, provides a guided tour to those flicks and their creators.

After exploring the Literary Roots of Modern Sci-Fi Films, DeMichael's book examines different post-1970 sci-fi films arranged by topic: time travel, alternate worlds, friendly and not-so-friendly aliens, robots,aliens and so on. All of the 'usual suspects' are covered including BACK TO THE FUTURE, ELYSIUM, THE MATRIX,TOTAL RECALL, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, 12 MONKEYS, WESTWORLD, BLADE RUNNER, BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, AVATAR, MAD MAX, MINORITY REPORT, etc. The classic spaceships that graced such flicks as INDEPENDENCE DAY, STAR WARS, STAR TREK, MARS ATTACKS, CLOSER ENCOUNTERS and E.T. are also described along with sci-fi film honchos such as James Cameron, Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, etc.

The book is illustrated throughout with b&w photographs of actors, directors, special effects gurus, etc.

Sci-fi fans should enjoy DeMichael's smorgasbord offering to classic - and not-so-classic - sci-fi films of the past 40 years. It's an informative, opinionated and entertaining read. Recommended.


Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15
Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15
by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.13
13 used & new from $20.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive History of the Navy's Top World War II Air Group!, October 24, 2014
Thomas Cleaver's FABLED FIFTEEN tells the story of the Navy's top-scoring Carrier Air Group of World War II. Led by Navy ace-of-aces David McCampbell, AG 15 left an unparalleled trail of destruction in its wake, sinking some 37 Japanese ships and destroying over 670 aircraft in the air or on the ground. Their epic story is recounted in this enormously entertaining 2014 Casemate Publishers release.

Based on board USS Essex, AG 15 saw combat from May to November 1944, participating in two of the greatest naval battles of all time - the Marianas Turkey Shoot and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In addition to rolling in on IJN warships, Fabled Fifteen fighters, dive- and torpedo-bombers worked over a number of strategic bases and ravished Japanese convoys as well during their one and only combat cruise.

Cleaver does an excellent job of presenting a comprehensive history of the whole Air Group. Though McCampbell's aerial exploits were page one news, the other fighter pilots and bomber crews made the Group a force to be reckoned with and Cleaver seamlessly interweaves their story into a compelling, easy-to-follow narrative.

Given their record, Air Group 15 was long overdue in having its story told. FABLED FIFTEEN is overflowing with exciting descriptions of Pacific air combat and evocative insights into the shipboard life and times of Navy aircrews. A fine addition to the literature, it belongs on the shelves of all World War II enthusiasts. Highly recommended.


The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II: The Comprehensive Guide to over 1500 Weapons Systems, including Tanks, Small Arms, Warplanes, Artillery, Ships and Submarines
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II: The Comprehensive Guide to over 1500 Weapons Systems, including Tanks, Small Arms, Warplanes, Artillery, Ships and Submarines
by Chris Bishop
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $39.42
49 used & new from $30.42

4.0 out of 5 stars Spoiler Alert: Repackaged Goods!, October 24, 2014
Back in the early 1980s, Orbis Publishing put out a monthly serial entitled WAR MACHINE, which was billed as THE WORLD'S MOST COMPREHENSIVE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE MILITARY WEAPONS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. Now in 2014, Amber Books, the kings of aviation history recycling, are repackaging all that material in volumes covering WW I, WWII, etc. This review covers THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WEAPONS OF WORLD WAR II, A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO WEAPONS SYSTEMS, INCLUDING TANKS, SMALL ARMS, WARPLANES, ARTILLERY, SHIPS AND SUBMARINES.

Edited by Chris Bishop, this book is a hefty, 608-page guide to 1500+ weapons, giving each weapon's development history, service history, technical specs, variants, etc. Write-ups range from 1/3 of a page to two pages and includes one or more color side-profiles, many done by John Weal, and/or one-two B&W or color photographs.

Among the weapons covered are the P-51, USS Yorktown, M8 Light Armored Car, Marder II, 'Tromp' class destroyer, Fiesler Fi 103, M1 Garand, PZL P.24, Gotha G0 242/244, 94 Shiki Kenju, MAC Ships, 203-mm Howitzer Model 1931, Daimler Scout Car, LCI(L), Fairey Albacore, 2-cm. Flak 30, T-38, Poetz 631, Type 93/100 Portable Flamethrower, Puppchen, Dornier 217, IJN Yamato, etc.

While not exhaustive, Bishop's book is a handy, well-illustrated, one-stop-shopping-guide reference to Second World War weaponry that should appeal to WW II buffs. Recommended.


Bad Blood: The Families Who Made the West Wild
Bad Blood: The Families Who Made the West Wild
by Robert Barr Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.56
34 used & new from $10.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Tales of Western Criminals!, October 21, 2014
Well-known Western author Robert Barr Smith presents a touching tribute to crime families of the (mostly) Old West in BAD BLOOD. A 2014 Rowman & Littlefield release, Smith's book offers up two dozen short pieces on THE FAMILIES THAT MADE THE WILD WEST.

Many of the "usual suspects" can be found in Smith's book: the 'Bloody Benders,' the Clantons, Daltons. Selmans, James boys, etc. However, others were new to me and of interest. They include such heartless - and often inept - creeps like the Fleagle brothers, railroad robbers George and John Sontag and the Christian Brothers not to mention the feuding Sutton and Taylor families.
I'm not sure how more contemporary criminals like Ma Barker and her brood, the DeAutremont Brothers or the cop-killing Young brothers qualify as "Wild West" criminals but it's Smith's book so what the heck.

The book is illustrated with vintage photographs of many of the miscreants.

Crime buffs will enjoy these short-but-not-so-sweet tales of Western crime and criminals. Most of the people described in the book ended up well ventilated with lead or hung; crime definitely didn't pay way back then! Recommended..


Lincoln's Political Generals: The Battlefield Performance of Seven Controversial Appointees
Lincoln's Political Generals: The Battlefield Performance of Seven Controversial Appointees
by Benton Rain Patterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $33.25
16 used & new from $29.95

4.0 out of 5 stars 'Bottom-of-the-Barrel' Union Generals in the Civil War!, October 21, 2014
During the Civil War, President Lincoln, for various reasons, was compelled to award army commands to various politicians, Republican and Democrat alike. The subsequent performance of those "poltical generals," on and off the battlefirld, was mixed at best. Benton Patterson's fascinating LINCOLN'S POLITICAL GENERALS provides an insightful look at THE BATTLEFIELD PERFORMANCE OF SEVEN CONTROVERSIAL APPOINTEES.

Many of the appointments were made for purely political reasons, ensuring support from influential pols in exchange for a general's stars. On the other hand, the Union Army only had five generals in 1861 and leaders were need to command the huge Army commands being formed. America had a long tradition of the citizen-soldier and Lincoln, mistakenly in many cases, perhaps believed good pliticians would make good generals. Sadly, this usually wasn't the case, leaving lincoln with a 'political hot potato' of removing such men from command.

Patterson covers Ben Butler, Nathanel Banks, Franz Sigel, John Fremont, John McClernand, Stephen Hurlbut and Lew Wallace. So, we aren't exactly talking about Napoleon clones here, folks. Fremont flamed out quickly. Butler, one of the most reviled generals in the Civil War, lasted longer but were battlefield failures. Because of the backing of German-Americans, Franz Sigel was kept on and shuffled to various, lesser commands. McClernand blundered time and again until Grant relieved him but McClernand would not" go gentle into that good night" and so on.

In his introduction, Patterson specifically states that his purpose "is not to analyze the actions of the seven generals presented on these pages and then to pass judgement on their worthiness as commanders. It is instead to show them - to let readers see them - in action and allow readers to judge for themselves..." Frankly, I think that approach was a mistake. I'm fairly well-versed in military matters but I would have loved for Patterson to weigh on those men and the effect they had on Union Army ops from 1861 to 1865.

In any case, Civil War buffs should enjoy LINCOLN'S POLITICAL GENERALS. It's a revealing and refreshing look at some of the men who led - or misled! - Union troops during the Civil War.change fo pace


Hidden Stories of the First World War
Hidden Stories of the First World War
by Jackie Storer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.01
29 used & new from $17.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing the Human Side of World War I!, October 21, 2014
To my mind, it's absolutely fascinating how present-day authors can bring to life the people and events of World War I. There have been a number of books lately that have presented the very human side of that titanic conflict, reminding readers that it was every- day men and women who made history so very long ago. Jackie Storer's HIDDEN STORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR is the latest such book and it's a marvel.

Storer brings WW I to life by relating 32 tales of various men and women, stories that were previously known only to immediate family or recorded in letters or momentos hidden away in cabinet drawers. They tell of love, life and death on all sides of the conflict. One records early German minelaying efforts and the loss of HMS Audacious. Another recounts and reprints a Canadian soldier's poetry. Yet another tells of how a helmet saved a soldier's ife and includes a photograph of the shrapnel-damaged helmet. Many of the stories, like the aformentioned tale, are momento-based. One tells the story of a pistol carried by a Scottish officer killed at Passchendale and how it ended up in the hands of a modern-day gun collector. The colored drawings a French lieutenant sent to his young daughter form the basis of another story. Lastly, a postcard Adolf Hitler - yes, THAT Adolf Hitler - sent to a comrade is described and features the original card.

As indicated, the stories in Storer's book are illustrated with various b&w and color photographs of people and objects that really make the book a compelling, evocative experience.

Anyone interested in the experiences of common people struggling to survive war will enjoy HIDDEN STORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR. It's a rare treat and a great read. Highly recommended.


Jubal Early: Robert E. Lee's Bad Old Man
Jubal Early: Robert E. Lee's Bad Old Man
by Benjamin Franklin Cooling III
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $37.29
15 used & new from $28.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the South's Lesser Lights!, October 16, 2014
After reading Benjamin Cooling's insightful JUBAL EARLY, you certainly understand why Early was branded "Robert E. Lee's Bad Old Man." Early would never qualify as a 'Southern Chavalier,' being a bitter, dyspeptic, foul-mouthed individual. One of Lee's lesser generals, his greatest chance at glory - the seizure of Washington - was thrown away by his own character flaws. Never accepting the South's defeat, he achieved even greater prominence postwar by espousing the "Lost Cause." Civil War buffs, in particular, should find Cooling's book, a 2014 Rowman & Littlefield release, of interest.

Cooling summarizes the life and times of this controversial figure in 200 erudite, well-researched pages that help illuminate this problematic character. Early's childhood, especially the loss of his mother, definitely played a role in his development but, though Cooling does an excellent job of illuminating Early's character, many of the factors that produced that irritable, unloved man can only be suggested or surmised. His military record is more easily described, Early's strengths often being outweighed by his flaws. The Washington gambit remains one of the most tantalizing "what-ifs" of the Civil War.

Having had little knowledge of the general, JUBAL EARLY was an eye-opener for me. After reading tomes on Lee, Jackson, Stuart, Longstreet, et al, Cooling's book was a splash of water in the face. I can't say the book was entertaining - given the nature of the beast - but it was informative and enlightening. Bad Old Man, indeed! Recommended.


Disaster!: A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes
Disaster!: A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes
by John Withington
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.77
70 used & new from $1.71

4.0 out of 5 stars Earthquakes and Epidemics and Floods, Oh My!, October 16, 2014
John Withington's DISASTER is a fascinating litany of earthquakes, epidemics, floods, storms, volcanic eruptions, famines, riots, air crashes, terrorist attacks, genocides, ethnic cleansings and other dastardly events that have plagued mankind throughout the years. Light reading it ain't! But it is an informative and eminently readable account of the darker side of history.

A 2012 Skyhorse release, DISASTER groups all those events in chapters on Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Extreme Weather, Plagues, War and Invasion, Murder by the State, Fires, Shipwrecks, Explosions and Mass Poisonings, etc. Within each section he summarizes noteworthy events in write-ups ranging from two to seven pages. The Tsunami chapter, for instance has scetions on the Great Tsunami of 365, the 1755 Lisbon tsunami, the 1896 Sanriku Province tsunami and the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. The Other Diseases chapter touches on measles, typhus, cholera, sleeping sickness, flu, malaria and AIDS.

There have been a number of books published over the years on the disaster topic. Withington's book benefits from its newness and comprehensive coverage. I'd go along with the back cover's claim that it's "a book of serious history that is as much fun as any horror film." Recommended.


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