Another of the late Robert Conroy’s alternate history novels. This one is set in 1945. WWII in Europe is winding down, Berlin is about to fall. Harry Truman is now the US President. The change is scarily probable viewed from a modern perspective. Stalin decides that he want’s a bigger buffer zone than he was promised by Roosevelt and Churchill, so after taking Berlin, he turns the massive Red Army westward to attack American and British troops. Remember that the Russian army was really, really big at the time. Partially because of the US supplying them with food, clothing, weapons, planes, and oil for years. There are few factors that work in the Allies favor, including Stalin’s management style, and the Manhattan project. An enjoyable and engaging read. Check it out.
Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout
We’re setting the Way Back Machine to 1938 for this Nero Wolfe novel. If you like murder mysteries, any of Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels is worth the read. What makes this interesting is that none of the story takes place in the familiar brownstone which Wolfe so rarely leaves. He and Archie have ventured into the wilds of upstate New York so Wolfe can display some of his Orchids at a county fair. Wolfe and Goodwin become involved the local scandal of a champion Guernsey bull named Hickory Caesar Grindon being sold to a owner of a chain of restaurants. The scandal is that the new owner plans of cooking Caesar and feeding him at a large barbecue as an advertising event. Hot tempers, long standing family feuds, and shady characters lead to multiple murders. One of the nice twists is the local cop who tosses Archie in jail. Archie passes the time by forming a prisoners union, complete with presenting a list of demands to his jailers. This novel also introduces the reoccurring character of Lily Rowan.
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia
I’ve always been much more of a hard SciFi fan than fantasy, but I like Larry Correia’s fast paced pulp style. I started listening to little bits of this book at the end the weekly Baen Books podcast. When I got a dead tree version, I chewed through it pretty quite. Good adventure with a reluctant hero who has, like some of the characters in his Monster Hunter International books, been given the ‘short straw’ by the gods. Larry Correia is a pen and paper RPG geek from way back, and this book show some serious world building. If you want some fast paced fantasy adventure, where the author was clearly chuckling when writing parts of it, give this book a read.
Murder by the Book by Rex Stout
Stout at the top of his game in this Nero Wolfe mystery. A pair seemingly unrelated murders are presented to Wolfe, who makes the connection and sets on the trail of the killer. He and Archie Goodwin are presented with two more murders while tracking the murder who almost got away with it.
Part of the classic Lensman series, from which all Space Opera springs. It’s the story of Kim Kinnison, the result of thousands of years of selective breeding by an ancient race, to save civilization from the forces of tyranny. It has massive space battles, planet destroying weapons, intrigue, aliens, battles of the mind, and true love.
Let’s not forget the space axe. Space Armor is proof against bullets and death rays, so the heroes use a specialized 30 pound axe to kill their foes.
A ripping good yarn from the Golden Age of Pulp. SciFi Grandmaster Robert Heinlein considered Smith a mentor, and echos of the Lensman series can be found in Heinlein’s work as well as Ringo, Weber, Halderman, and many others.
The Hunter Killers by Dan Hampton
A well researched look at the creation of the “Wild Weasel” program by the US Air Force during the Vietnam war. The effective SAM (Surface to Air Missile) was a new thing, and the Russians were providing them to the communists in North Vietnam. So the Air Force put radar tracking equipment in planes, along with an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO), to track down the SAM sites and take them out before they could take out the attacking aircraft.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
Once again going to the classic by the late Grandmaster Roger Zelazny. It is set in the month of October, which each day being a chapter. The story is told by Snuff, a watchdog, who like his companion Jack, is the owner of several Curses. One of Jack’s involves a large knife. Whenever there is a full moon on October 31, a group of people and their animal companions gather together and work toward a ritual on the night of the 31st. They are trying to either open or keep closed, a gateway for the Elder Gods (think Lovecraft). So far, the Closers have always won. Up until the end, it’s hard to tell who is an Opener and who is a closer, or even who is in the game. Others who are in the area with Snuff and Jack include: a vampire called “The Count” and his bat; a mad Russian monk and his snake, a broom flying witch named Crazy Jill and her black cat, the Great Detective and his sidekick; Larry Talbot and his furry alter ego. Zelazny had a lot of fun with this book. If you can pick up a copy with the Gahan Wilson illustrations, you are in for a bonus treat.
Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling
In this book, he is starting yet another alternate history series. The change in history is that President Taft dies of a heart attack, right before the Republican convention in 1912. This allows Theodore Roosevelt to win the nomination, and then go on to beat Woodrow Wilson like a rented mule in the general election. This puts a progressive the the White House with a history of getting things done! Things like nationalizing the railroads, and then extending that federalized transportation to airships. Creating a Federal Bureau of Security that weeds out those who don’t agree with the course of America as defined by the “Progressive Republican” party. Charges of anti-American activities get you 30 years of hard labor building roads and working on national parks. The problem of Mexican bandits crossing the border and raiding Americans was solved by invading Mexico and turning it into an American protectorate. Any Mexicans who objected to that were tracked down by the Army, the Federal Bureau of Security, and the members of the Black Chamber, Roosevelt’s personal black ops group run as part of the Secret Service. But this story really isn’t about all of that. It’s an adventure story. World War I, or as it was known at the time, “The Great War”, was in full swing, and Roosevelt didn’t’ declare War when the US wasn’t ready to fight it like Wilson did. America is going to fight, but when it is well prepared with trained troops with good equipment. The Germans know this too, and have a plan to stop it. Enter Black Chamber operative Luz O’Malley Arostequi. Daughter of a former Rough Rider and a Cuban aristocrat. She boards a airship bound for Europe under cover as a Mexican resistance fighter. She is to link up with a German agent code named “Imperial Sword”, and find out what the German’s plans are, and how to stop them. A dashing good adventure story, as defined by someone else being in a lot of trouble very far away. A good read both as an adventure story, and for S.M. Stirling’s observations into history. This includes the observation that Theodore Roosevelt was a compassionate moderate compared to his daughter Alice.
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff and the Annex Security Team
Since today is 9/11, six years after the terrorist attacks against Americans in Benghazi (killing four American, including the US Ambassador to Libya), I’m repeating my pick from May 2, 2016
Mitchell is a journalism professor at Boston University. This is not a political book. It is a detailed account of what happened on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi. It details what the security arrangement were, including the use of local militia groups, who was where during each of the multiple attacks, who died, who was wounded, and what the responses by the State Department, and the rest of the US government, were at the time.
The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789 by Edward J. Larson
A well researched book on the period of George Washington’s life between the end of the Revolutionary War and when he became President. What he did during his ‘retirement’ from government service, and how we was drawn in to leading the effort to come up with a replacement for the failing Articles of Confederation. Good insight into the process of compromise that went into coming up with a working constition that both the large and small states could agree on.