All posts by Keith Brownlow

Lincoln In The Bardo

Title: Lincoln In The Bardo

Author: George Saunders

In his long-awaited first novel, American Literary master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln In The Bardo is an experience unlike any other–for no one by Saunders could conceive it.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold hiss boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state–called, in the Tibetan traditions, the bardo–a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln In The Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a treatment to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices–living and dead, historical and invented–to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

The Big Break

Title: The Big Break

Author: Stephen Dando – Collins

The story opens in 1943 in the stinking latrines of a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp at Sshubin, Poland, as an American and a Canadian lead the digging of an ingenious escape tunnel, enabling a break by thirty-six POWs. The Germans then converted the camp to Oflag 64, to exclusively hold US army officers, with more than 1,500 ultimately imprisoned there. Plucky Americans attempt[ted a variety of escapes until January 1945, only to be thwarted every time.

As the Red Army advanced closer to Schubin, Camp commandant Colonel Fritz Schneider received orders from Berlin to march his prisoners west. This was the opening the Americans needed to break free once and for all; before long, 250 US Army officers would succeed in escaping east to link up with the Russians. Within months, General Patton would launch a bloody bid to rescue the rescue the remaining Schubin Americans.

In The Big Break, this astonishing, previously untold story follows POWs, including General Eisenhower’s personal aide. General Paton’s son-in-law, and Ernest Hemingway’s eldest son, as they struggle to gain their freedom. Military historian and Paul Brickhill biographer Stephen Dando-Collins expertly chronicles this gripping tale of Americans determined to be free, brave Poles risking their lives to help them, and dogmatic Nazis determined to stop them.

How America Lost Its Secrets

Title: How America Lost Its Secrets

Author: Edward Jay Epstein

A ground breaking, compelling investigation that convincingly challenges the popular image of Edward Snowden as hacker-turned-avenging angel, while revealing how vulnerable our national security systems have become.

in the wake of the scandal that emerged after details of American government surveillance were made public by WikiLeaks in 2013, Edward Snowden, formerly an employee of an outside contractor at the NSA facility in Hawaii, became the controversial center of an international conversation about the limits of power and privacy. Had the U,S Government overstepped important boundaries in its anti-terrorism efforts? Was Snowden’s theft of information legitimized buy the nature of the secrets being kept from the American people? We learn in How America Lost Its Secrets that Snowden stole a great deal more that documents relating to domestic surveillance. He also stole secret documents from the NSA, the CIA, the Department of Defense, and the British Cipher service revealing the sources and method they employed in their monitoring of adversaries. He then transported these state secrets to an adversary country, Russia, without authorization. Which raises the question: Who is Edward Snowden–hero, traitor, whistle-blower, spy?

Edward Jay Epstein brings a lifetime of journalistic and investigative acumen to hear on this question and more. Retracing Snowden’s steps from disgruntled tech worker to international notoriety, he seeks to understand both how we lost our secrets and the man who took them. Along the way, we discovered Snowden’s sometimes troubling pseudonymous writing on the Internet, as well as aspects of his private and public life previously elided. We see that by outsourcing parts of our own security apparatus to private companies in order to save money, the government has made classified information far more vulnerable to theft and misuse. Snowden, working for one of these private companies, ultimately sought employment precisely where he could most easily gain access to the most sensitive classified information,. He claims to have acted to serve his country, but in his new home, Moscow, he is treated as a prized intelligence asset in the new Cold War.

With unerring insight, meticulous reporting, and the pacing of a thriller writer, Epstein follows the Snowden trail across the globe, unearthing revelations that shed a whole new light on one of the most controversial and fascinating events of the new Millennium.

Ruller Of The Night

Title: Ruler Of The Night

Author: David Morrell

1855. The railway has irrevocably altered English society effectively changing geography and fueling the industrial revolution by shortening distances between cities: a whole day’s journey can now be covered in a matter of hours. People marvel at their new freedom.

But train travel beings dangers as well, with England’s first death by train recorded on the very day railway operations began in 1830. Twenty-five years later, England’s first train murder paralyzes London when a gentleman is stabbed to death in a safely locked first-class passenger compartment.

In the next compartment, the brilliant Opium-Eater Thomas De Quincey and his quick-witted daughter, Emily, discover the homicide in a most gruesome manner. Key witness and also resourceful sleuths, they join forces with their allies in Scotland Yard, Detective Inspector Ryan and his partner-in-training, Becker, to pursue the killer back into the fogbound streets of London, where other baffling murders occur. Ultimately, De Quincey must confront two ruthless adversaries: This terrifying enemy, and his own opium addiction, which endangers his life and his tormented soul.

Ruler Of The Night is a riveting blend of fact and fiction that, like master storyteller David Morrell’s previous De Quincey novels, “evokes Victorian London with such finesse that you’ll hear the hooves clattering on cobblestones, he racket of dustmen, and the shrill calls of vendors”.

Target: JFK

Title: Target: JFK

Author: Robert K. Wilcox

For years conspiracy theories have swirled around the Kennedy assassination. While most are easily dismissed, and some have been debunked thanks to diligent research, serious questions have remained.

And those serious questions just got a whole lot more serious.

In this stunning new book, Target: JFK, acclaimed investigative reporter Robert Wilcox presents shocking new information that cast the Kennedy assassination in an entirely new light.

The key figure, as revealed by Wilcox, is Rene A. Dussaq–a mysterious, dashing, stuntmen-turned-spy who might have been behind Kohn F. Kennedy’s assassination. Indeed, a trained assassin, he might even have been the triggerman.

Born in Buenos Aires and educated in Geneva and Cuba, Dussaq became an American citizen, worked for the OSS (the precursor of the CIA), and parachuted behind enemy lines before D-Day. He was a handsome, charming man who briefly worked in Hollywood as a stuntman before settling down to work for an insurance company. But also, it appears, he worked for the FBI, the CIA, and was engaged in other shadowy activities.

In page after page of never-before-reported evidence, Wilcox reveals how this mysterious Argentine with a stranger-than-fiction life story is the missing link in the assassination mystery. In Target: JFK you’ll learn:
1 How a fellow veteran of the OSSS implicated Dussaq in the assassination
2 How Dussaq brings the most important suspects in the Kennedy assassination–domestic communists like Lee Harvey Oswald, Fidel Castro, and the Mafia–all together
3 Why the United States government destroyed evidence on the most likely suspect in the assassination

Thoroughly documented and researched, responsible in its conclusions, and su0perbly told, Target: JFK is a must read for anyone interested in the Kennedy assassination, modern American history, and great unsolved mysteries.

The Spanish American War, 1898

Title: The Spanish American War, 1898

Author: Albert A. Nofi

The Spanish-American War has often been viewed as a disjointed series of colorful episodes; young Americans who would later become famous, fighting a Spanish colonial army putting up a token resistance. Military commentator and historian Albert A. Nofi presents the war as a coherent military narrative, showing how the conflict developed, the strategy and tactics of both sides, and the influence of the American co0mmanders’ Civil War experience as modified by recent improvements in technology. Serious attention is also given to the Spanish forces, the army of an empire in decline, but well-equipped and tactically sophisticated.

The Spanish-American War, 1898 also features a detailed treatment of the war in Puerto Rico. This theater was under the command of Indian fighter Nelson A. Miles and included some of the best tactical maneuvering of the war, an aspect not covered in detail in modern works.

All The Gallant Men

Title: All The Gallant Men

Author: Donald Stratton

At 8:06 A.M. on December 7, 1941, Seaman First Class Donald Stratton was consumed by an inferno. A million pounds of explosives had detonated beneath his battle station aboard the USS Arizona, barely fifteen minutes into Japan’s surprise attack on American forces at Pearl Harbor. Near death and burned across tow thirds of his body, Don, a nineteen-year-old Nebraskan who had been steeled by the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, summoned the will to haul himself hand over hand across a rope tethered to a neighboring vessel. Forty-five feet below, the harbor’s flaming, oil-slick water boiled with enemy bullets; all around him the world tore itself apart.

In the extraordinary, never-before-told eyewitness account of the Pearl Harbor attack–the only memoir ever written by a survivor of the USS Arizona–ninety-four year-old Donald Stratton finally shares his unforgettable personal tale of bravery and survival on December 7, 1941, his harrowing recovery, and his inspiring determination to return to the fight.

Don and four other sailors made it safely across the same line that morning, a small miracle on a day that claimed the lives of 1,177 of their Arizona shipmates–approximately half the American fatalities at Pear Harbor. Sent to military hospitals for a year, Don refused doctors’ advice to amputate his limbs and battled to relearn how to walk. the U.S. Navy gave him a medical discharge, believing he would never again be fit for service, but Don had unfinished business. In June 1944, he sailed back into the teeth of the Pacific War on a destroyer, destined for combat in the crucial battles of Leyte Gulf, Luzon, and Okinawa, thus earning the distinction of having been present for the opening shots and the final major battle of
America’s Second World War.

As the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks approaches, Dom, a great-grandfather of five and one of six living survivors of the Arizona, offers an unprecedentedly intimate reflection on the tragedy that drew America into the greatest armed conflict in history. All The Gallant Men is a book for the ages, one of the most remarkable–and remarkably inspiring–memoirs of any kind to appear in recent years.

Victoria

Title: Victoria

Author: Daisy Goodwin

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandria Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world. Surely she must rely on her mother and her venal advisor, Sir John Conroy, or her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who are all too eager to relieve her of he burden of power.

The young queen is no puppet, however. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

Everyone keeps saying she is destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

Drawing on Victoria’s own diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin brings us the brilliantly imagined life of a young woman about to make her mark on her nation–and the world.

A Mater Of Honor

Title: A Matter Of Honor

Author: Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan

We thought we knew the story well: On December 7, 1941, 2403 Americans died when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, devastating the nation and precipitating entry into World War II. In the after math, Admiral Husband Kimmel, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, was relieved of command, accused of dereliction of duty, and publicly disgraced.

The fact was, however — that–through sheer inefficiency — the top brass in Washington had failed to provide Kimmel with vital intelligence. Then, in the name of protecting the biggest U.S. intelligence secret of the day, they and top officials allowed the Admiral and the Army commander in Hawaii to be made scapegoats for the catastrophe.

The Admiral fought to clear his name for the rest of his long life. After Kimmel’s death his sons–both Navy veterans–continued the fight. Both houses of Congress approved the posthumous restoration of the Admiral’s four-star rank, only to be blocked by the Navy bureaucracy. Today Kimmel’s grandchildren maintain the struggle–for them, it is a matter of honor.

In this conversation-changing book, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan go far beyond the fall and fight-back of one man. They unravel the many apparent mysteries of Pearl Harbor, clear President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the charge that he knew the attack was coming, and uncover duplicity and betrayal in high places in Washington.

The authors, Pulitzer Prize finalists for their revelatory book on 9/11, The Eleventh Day, have conducted extraordinary research, with unrivaled access to documents, diaries, and letters.

Battle of Wills

Title: Battle of Wills

Author: David Allen Johnson

Historians have long analyzed the battles and the military strategies that brought the American Civil War to an end. Going beyond tactics and troop maneuvers, this book concentrates on the characters of the two opposing generals–Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant–showing how their different temperaments ultimately determined the course of the war. As author David Alan Johnson explains, Grant’s dogged and fearless determination eventually gained the upper hand over Lee’s arguably superior military brilliance.

Delving into their separate upbringings, the book depicts Grant as a working-class man from Ohio and Lee as a Virginia aristocrat. Both men were strongly influenced by their fathers. Grant learned a lesson in determination as he watched his father overcome economic hardships to make a successful living as a tanner and leather goods dealer. By contrast, Lee did his best to become he polar opposite of his father, a man whose bankruptcy and imprisonment for unpaid debts brought disgrace upon the family. Lee cultivated a manner of unimpeachable respectability and patrician courtesy, which in the field of battle did not always translate into decisive orders. Underscoring the tragedy of this fratricidal conflict, the author recounts episodes from the earlier Mexican War (1846-1848), when Grant and Lee and many other officers who would later oppose each other were comrades in arms.
This vivid narrative brings to life a crucial turning point in American history, showing how character and circumstances combined to have a decisive influence on the course of events.