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Wolf
Wolf
by Peter Hohnen
Edition: Paperback
12 used & new from CDN$ 6.44

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten events in an almost forgotten war, June 4 2011
This review is from: Wolf (Paperback)
While I was doing research in the University of Washington's main library, I found one section the stacks very depressing. In it were thousands of books written about a war that is now, for all practical purposes, forgotten. The nearby section on the Second World War was well used by faculty and students, while that on the First gathered dust.

That experience eventually led me to write a book describing why the Second World War was, in many ways a sequel to the First. The issues left unresolved at the end of the First became the causes of the Second. And for my source, I chose the writings of G. K. Chesterton, one of the few to see the connection at the time and warn that, if those issues were not resolved, "Wars more and more horrible" would follow. In 1932, just before Hitler took power in Germany, Chesterton went one step further, warning that the next war would begin over a border dispute between Germany and Poland, precisely what happened in 1939.

At that time, the First World War was called the Great War. By great, they didn't mean wonderful. Great referred to its enormous size, scope and the sheer number of those who died in its trenches. This book isn't about the trenches. It's about an almost forgotten portion of a war that's itself rapidly being forgotten.

Knowing that a British blockade would block German access to the open seas, Kaiser's Germany adopted a bold tactic. In addition to submarines, which in that day had a limited range, they prepared a few merchant raiders that could range at will over the Seven Seas, hopefully sowing confusion in the minds of their foes and diverting warships to hunting down the raiders. This raiders were well-adapted to their times. They'd supply themselves with coal and food from stocks aboard the ships they captured and later sank. That's why the raider in this tale, the Wolf, is able to stay at sea for fifteen months and 64,000 miles, and even return, battered and dilapidated, back to Germany. In a era when ship radios were just coming into use and one without long-range search aircraft, they were able to prevent word about what they were doing from getting out.

Interestingly, in the end the Wolf sowed very little confusion in Allied shipping circles. As the authors note, the raider was so stealthy in its attacks and so consistent at keeping all those it captured on board as prisoners, that Allied leaders, while suspecting that a German raider was in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, were never forced to divert shipping and bring in warships to deal with the threat. The damage the Wolf did lay solely in the few ships it captured or that were sank by the mines it sowed in the dark of night near major ports and shipping channels. If the Wolf had drawn attention to itself, it would have been quickly hunted down and sank. The stealthiness of the Wolf spared its life but limited its influence on the war.

If you like understanding obscure bits of forgotten history, this book is for you. It's well written and covers both sides of a story that took place inside the hulls of one ship. It tells of the crew who wanted Germany to win the war and of a increasingly crowded group of prisoners who greatest hope was to get home to friends and family who'd come to believe that they'd died at sea.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

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The Boy In the Striped Pajamas (Movie Tie-in Edition)
The Boy In the Striped Pajamas (Movie Tie-in Edition)
by John Boyne
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Teaching children about a great evil, Dec 29 2010
It's difficult to know how to explain to a child some of the most disturbing events of the twentieth century. How do you explain an evil as overwhelming as that of the Nazi death camps, Stalin's systematic starvation of millions of Ukrainians, Mao's cultural revolution, or the horrors of Pol Pot?

This film illustrates how it can be done and done well. It's the story of a friendship that develops between a concentration camp commandant's young son and a Jewish boy in the camp. Yes, during the real events such a friendship would have been almost impossible. There'd have been a guard who'd have seen the two talking through the camp's fence and quickly put a stop to it. And yes, the horrors of camp life are heavily sanitized. When they need to move camp inmates, the guards wave their arms about like they were shooing chickens on a farm. In the real camps, they'd have beaten anyone who moved too slowly with the butts of their rifles.

But all those inaccuracies are necessary. Yell too loudly at a child, and he becomes paralyzed, unable to hear what you are saying. Show a child evil that is too raw and uncensored, and their minds will freeze up. While not denying the actual events, this film lowers the volume at which they are presented, so a child's mind can grasp them. All the Nazi measures to marginalize Jews, driving them out of jobs and professions, is reduced to one gentle, elderly man, a former physician who now peals potatoes. All the Nazi propaganda that the Jews are vermin, typified by a school textbook read aloud, is contrasted to a shy Jewish boy in striped pajamas with his head shaved. Small, personalized snapshots are used to explain something that in its totality would be too overwhelming.

By all means show this film to children seven and older. Discuss it with them before, during and afterward. But before you show it, watch it yourself, view the deleted scenes (which fill in missing parts of the plot), and listen to the excellent voice over commentary by the book's author and the film's director. You'll understand the story better yourself and thus be better able to explain it to your children.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

NEW Boy In The Striped Pajamas (DVD)
NEW Boy In The Striped Pajamas (DVD)
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 54.93
9 used & new from CDN$ 1.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining a great evil to children, Dec 29 2010
It's difficult to know how to explain to a child some of the most disturbing events of the twentieth century. How do you explain an evil as overwhelming as that of the Nazi death camps, Stalin's systematic starvation of millions of Ukrainians, Mao's cultural revolution, or the horrors of Pol Pot?

This film illustrates how it can be done and done well. It's the story of a friendship that develops between a concentration camp commandant's young son and a Jewish boy in the camp. Yes, during the real events such a friendship would have been almost impossible. There'd have been a guard who'd have seen the two talking through the camp's fence and quickly put a stop to it. And yes, the horrors of camp life are heavily sanitized. When they need to move camp inmates, the guards wave their arms about like they were shooing chickens on a farm. In the real camps, they'd have beaten anyone who moved too slowly with the butts of their rifles.

But all those inaccuracies are necessary. Yell too loudly at a child, and he becomes paralyzed, unable to hear what you are saying. Show a child evil that is too raw and uncensored, and their minds will freeze up. While not denying the actual events, this film lowers the volume at which they are presented, so a child's mind can grasp them. All the Nazi measures to marginalize Jews, driving them out of jobs and professions, is reduced to one gentle, elderly man, a former physician who now peals potatoes. All the Nazi propaganda that the Jews are vermin, typified by a school textbook read aloud, is contrasted to a shy Jewish boy in striped pajamas with his head shaved. Small, personalized snapshots are used to explain something that in its totality would be too overwhelming.

By all means show this film to children seven and older. Discuss it with them before, during and afterward. But before you show it, watch it yourself, view the deleted scenes (which fill in missing parts of the plot), and listen to the excellent voice over commentary by the book's author and the film's director. You'll understand the story better yourself and thus be better able to explain it to your children.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
DVD ~ Asa Butterfield
Price: CDN$ 7.99
12 used & new from CDN$ 2.91

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining a great evil to children, Dec 29 2010
It's difficult to know how to explain to a child some of the most disturbing events of the twentieth century. How do you explain an evil as overwhelming as that of the Nazi death camps, Stalin's systematic starvation of millions of Ukrainians, Mao's cultural revolution, or the horrors of Pol Pot?

This film illustrates how it can be done and done well. It's the story of a friendship that develops between a concentration camp commandant's young son and a Jewish boy in the camp. Yes, during the real events such a friendship would have been almost impossible. There'd have been a guard who'd have seen the two talking through the camp's fence and quickly put a stop to it. And yes, the horrors of camp life are heavily sanitized. When they need to move camp inmates, the guards wave their arms about like they were shooing chickens on a farm. In the real camps, they'd have beaten anyone who moved too slowly with the butts of their rifles.

But all those inaccuracies are necessary. Yell too loudly at a child, and he becomes paralyzed, unable to hear what you are saying. Show a child evil that is too raw and uncensored, and their minds will freeze up. While not denying the actual events, this film lowers the volume at which they are presented, so a child's mind can grasp them. All the Nazi measures to marginalize Jews, driving them out of jobs and professions, is reduced to one gentle, elderly man, a former physician who now peals potatoes. All the Nazi propaganda that the Jews are vermin, typified by a school textbook read aloud, is contrasted to a shy Jewish boy in striped pajamas with his head shaved. Small, personalized snapshots are used to explain something that in its totality would be too overwhelming.

By all means show this film to children seven and older. Discuss it with them before, during and afterward. But before you show it, watch it yourself, view the deleted scenes (which fill in missing parts of the plot), and listen to the excellent voice over commentary by the book's author and the film's director. You'll understand the story better yourself and thus be better able to explain it to your children.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

Daring Young Men: The Heroism and Triumph of The Berlin Airlift-June 1948-May 1949
Daring Young Men: The Heroism and Triumph of The Berlin Airlift-June 1948-May 1949
by Richard Reeves
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.68
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book, Dec 13 2010
Some books see history from the top down, describing what was done by the supposed 'Greats' who receive most of the attention in the press. Others look from the bottom up at how those same events involved ordinary people. This well-research and well-written book does an excellent job at describing the Berlin Airlift from the perspective of all who participated, from President Truman and General Clay at the top, to the USAF pilots and mechanics, many of them recalled WWII veterans, who flew and maintained the planes. The success of the airlift rests on both Truman's 'We stay in Berlin. Period' and the courage of those pilots flying in all sorts of weather. As you might expect from the title, Daring Young Men, the book touches on but does not explore in depth what the airlift meant to the people of Berlin. For that, you'll need to read other books.

There are also several broader themes in the book:

* The airlift anticipated both today's almost all-weather air travel and an 'all air all the way' freight business. What the USAF was doing in the 1940s, is what corporate American began doing in the 1980s. Sometimes the military does something first and others follow.

* We should never forget that the heroism of Great Britain did not end with the fall of Berlin. It continued on with the major assistance that an impoverished post-war UK made to an airlift to rescue their former foe's capital city from a communist dictatorship. Reeves doesn't say so outright, but it is easy to suspect that in the long run Britain benefited from their generosity. The effort they devoted to saving Berlin rather than keeping their empire intact in India and the Middle East spared them the disasters that befell the French, whose zeal to save their empire in Indo-China kept them from offering much assistance to the airlift.

* Today, the 'politically correct' claim that the U.S. has been behaving badly since it became the world's only policeman (clearly assumed to be a bad thing) after the fall of the Soviet Union (almost assumed to be bad). That's not even remotely true, as the Berlin airlift demonstrates. As the author notes, after World War II, democratic Europe was simply too devastated to have the resources to stand up to the threat the USSR and a communist ideology posed in Europe and abroad. It was under Truman that the US first shouldered that burden of policing the world and containing the thugs. The real objection to that Truman policy has different roots. With its foreign policy no longer dominated by the need to contain Soviet communism, the US can now devote at least some attention to less pressing but still important matters. One example is Saddam''s Iraq, which was brutally repressive at home and intent on conquering its neighbors (Iran, Kuiwait and eventually Saudi Arabia). When Bush removed Saddam from power, he was continuing the policy of aggressive containment that began under Truman. Obama's failure to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran suggests that he's part of a different American tradition, that of President Carter.

History strongly suggests that Truman''s policies of aggressive containment is far more successful at containing evil-doers than the pandering and excuse-making that took place under Carter and that now passes for foreign policy under the Obama administration. Truman not only saved Berlin, he may have saved much of Western Europe from becoming like Finland, a country that was only able to stay democratic in the Soviet shadow by adopting a castrated foreign policy that was pleasing to the USSR. Truman not only talked tough, he was tough.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War
Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War
by Thomas Weber
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.91
35 used & new from CDN$ 6.04

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitler the Ambitious Slacker, Dec 2 2010
If this well-researched book accomplishes little else, it will have a major impact on the study of Nazism and of Hitler for two closely intertwined reasons.

First, it completely demolishes the belief, so beloved by Nazi propagandists and all too often echoed by historians, that Hitler was a front-line soldier brave enough to have earned the Iron Cross First Class.

It is true that Hitler did volunteer for the List Regiment, of which this book is a Hitler-focused history. But that was in the first flush of excitement, when hundreds of thousands of men on both sides rushed to enlist in a war almost all thought would be brief, exhilarating and not too unpleasant. At that point, Hitler was displaying no more courage than millions of fellow Germans, English and French.

The separation of the truly brave from the slackers came in the next few months when the reality of unending trench warfare set in. Most of the soldiers on both sides gritted their teeth and endured a misery in which millions of them would die. Hitler did not. He quickly found for himself a spot in one of the most comfortable and least risky positions available to someone with his limited education. He became a regimental dispatch runner.

The key word to understand is "regimental." Regimental runners were assigned to regimental headquarters, typically at comfortable quarters in some French village several miles from the front. No fire from machine guns every reached them and the French artillery rarely fired on French villages. There, the quarters were warm and the food was good. (I would add that the women were pretty, but there's no evidence that Hitler ever cared about that.) Regimental runners carried messages from regimental headquarters to battalion headquarters that were closer to the front lines, but still places where the only risk was an occasional artillery round. Neither location was remotely like the hell-on-earth to be found in the front-line trenches.

That is the position Hitler quickly moved into and that is the position in which he remained for the entire war. The comfort and safety of the assignment answers a question that has long troubled Hitler's biographers. In wartime promotion is easy, because those above you are constantly getting killed. And yet Hitler remained a regimental runner for the entire four-year war, apparently because he stubbornly refused offers of promotion. Why? We can suspect it was because almost any promotion would have moved him closer to the front lines.

The great strength of Thomas Weber's book lies in his meticulous research. He doesn't just wave his arms about, talking in generalities like I've just done. He gives us facts and figures. Was Hitler's position a dangerous one as Nazis propaganda claimed, or was it one of the safest positions to be in the German army? Here's what Weber discovered:

"However, the experience of Private Hitler as a dispatch runner for regimental HQ had been much safer than that of the front-line soldiers of both his regiment and the German forces-at-large. In 1915, Hitler was photographed together with '. Of the eight people in the picture, only Bachmann did not survive the war. Bachmann, however, was not killed while serving with the List Regiment but only after he was transferred to a unit deployed in Romania. It is not even clear that Bachmann was then still a dispatch runner and, if he was one, whether he served at regimental HQ or with a company or battalion. In other words, in their post of dispatch runner for regimental HQ of RIR 16, the survival rate of men with whom Hitler was depicted in 1915 was 100 per cent. This provides the final proof that Hitler's task has been considerably less dangerous than he, as well as Nazi propaganda, were to claim time and time again." (p. 223)

Weber also explains Hitler's Iron Cross, which we're told, was rarely awarded to rank-and-file solders. That's more truth than you might suspect in that statistic. Winning it was far less a matter of what you did, brave or not, than of where you were. "Iron Crosses 1st Class," he writes, "for ordinary troops were most often awarded to support staff behind the lines who had sweet-talked their way up in regimental HQs rather than to combat soldiers.' (p. 214) This isn't to say that Hitler didn't do something to win the medal, simply that what he did would have meant nothing to those living in the trenches.

This facts about Hitler's wartime service also explain why, after the war, Hitler only made one hurried and apparently unwelcome visit to the veterans meetings of the List Regiment. He knew what they knew, that in the war he'd been a slacker living far from the the misery and death of the front lines. (p. 262) During the Nazi rise to power, the party would viciously sue any List soldier who dared to speak the truth.

The other point this book stresses is closely linked to the first. It's been almost an axiom of history that World War I wasn't merely the catalyst for World War II, which is certainly true, but that the experience of men in the trenches of that war made them into the violent-prone, hypernationalists who provided the rank and file of the Nazi party of the thirties. (You still see that same argument advanced today about almost every war.) Hitler is considered a prime example of that. I don't have space to go into all the evidence that Weber presents to counter that belief, but I will mention one that's an extremely powerful counter-argument.

To understand it, you must understand who Kurt Eisner was. He was a Bavarian journalist, a politician, and a leader in the far-left Independent Social Democratic Party. Even more telling from the Nazi perspective, he was Jewish. He helped organize a 1919 Bavarian revolution like that of the Bolsheviks in the 1917 Soviet Union. He was killed by a German nationalist in February 1919. In Mein Kampf, Hitler claimed that he ended the war opposed to everything that people such as Eisner stood for. If that had actually been true in 1919, we would have expected Hitler to be delighted by Eisner's assassination and to praise his assassin. But the very opposite is true. Not only had Hitler's own experiences in the war not been of the sort that would brutalize anyone, the end of the war found him standing with the radical left. Here's what Weber notes:

"In the spring of 1919, as a soldier based in Munich, Hitler served a government that he was later to deride as treacherous, criminal, and Jewish in Mein Kampf. And he did not keep his head down. Soon, he had been elected to the Soldiers' Council of his military unit, the Eratz Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Regiment, and was based in military barracks in Oberwisenfeld, close to where Munich's Olympic Stadium stands today. More precariously on surviving film footage of Eisner's funeral we see Hitler with a few men from his unit walking behind Eisner's coffin in the funeral procession of the Bavarian leader. We clearly see Hitler wearing two armbands: one black band to mourn the death of Eisner and the other a red band in the colour of the Socialist revolution. Similarly, Hitler appears on one of Heinrich Hoffman's photographs of the funeral procession for Eisner, taken shortly before Eisner was eulogized'." (p. 251)

In short, in Hitler's First War you'll discover a Hitler who was slacker during the war and someone whose political views after the war seemed to blow about with the wind. When the left was in ascendence, Hitler was on the radical left. When that revolution failed and it was clear that radical right had the best chance of gaining power, Hitler shifted sides with remarkable ease. During the war, he had not become a rabid nationalist, he'd simply become a very ambitious politician.

In only one sense was Hitler sincere in his hate-mongering. Someone who repeats a lie long enough and uses it ruthlessness enough to gain power will often come to believe his own lies.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements That Led to Nazism and World War II

Apple Wireless Keyboard Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard
Apple Wireless Keyboard Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard
5 used & new from CDN$ 100.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for writing, Nov. 22 2010
I write for a living and writing well means reading books by others. Reading at a desk with an iMac in front of me is tiring and balancing a MacBook in my lap while reading is little better. I bought this compact keyboard hoping it would allow me to read in comfort with nothing but this tiny, lightweight keyboard competing for space in my lap. I was right.

But I also discovered something else. My twenties-era apartment isn't kind to WiFi or Bluetooth gadgets. The walls are ancient wire-mesh covered with plaster. Microwaves don't like wire mesh. WiFi barely makes it from the middle of my apartment to the ends. No other Bluetooth gadget I've tested made it more than about 15 feet. Amazingly, this Bluetooth keyboard reaches one end of my apartment from the other. I can sit in my den and type on my iMac in my study through two of those microwave-hating walls. That's impressive. Of course, that's not what I want to do. What I want to do is sit someplace comfortable, type with this keyboard in my lap and see the results in an enlarged font across the room. For that this keyboard is perfect.

One suggestion. I had trouble pairing it to my MacBook until I tried a trick I've used with other Bluetooth keyboards. I replaced the rechargeable batteries with higher voltage alkaline ones. When I did that, pairing was easy. My theory is that pairing loads the batteries more than typing, reducing the signal strength. Once paired, those rechargeable batteries work quite well.

--Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings

The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence
The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence
by Gerald Blaine
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.89

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Historically inadequate, Nov. 22 2010
As you may have noticed from Amazon US, the reviews of this book are all over the place. Some liked it, others did not. I'm in the latter category.

This problem isn't, as some have claimed, that this book was written in the third person by a first-person source, Gerald Blaine. That's explained in the Introduction. It's that the book bears little evidence of having been written by someone with Blaine's background in security and technology. It gushes, it emotes, and it burdens readers with overabundance of trivial detail like travel writers. And, judging by her website, that is precisely what the "with author," Lisa McCubbin typically does for a living. It isn't hard to conclude that she was not the person who should have written this book.

That's unfortunate, because it could have been an important resource for historians for generations to come. Numerous interviews were conducted with the agents involved, but what we learn from them is the clothes they wore, the food they ate, and their feelings at particular moments. That's the stuff of travelogues but not of serious history.

Even worse, at critical points in the narrative the author seems unaware of the historical significance of what is taking place. One example is the clash that takes place between the local medical examiner and Secret Service agents over what is to be done with the President's body. Her focus isn't on what matters, the serious blunders that were being made by removing the President's body and limousine from the scene of the crime, it's on what Jacqueline Kennedy may have been feeling at that particular moment. McCubbin, whose adoration of the Kennedy's leaves her less than objective at times, seems unaware that in every other crime the victim's family simply have to cope with what criminal investigations require. Many of the conspiracies theories, which McCubbin clumsily dismisses near the end of the book, were born out of those blunders.

Finally, like others, I feel this book reads all too much like something that might have been written for Woman's Day magazine circa 1965. This book, in which "JFK's Secret Service Agents Break their Silience" contains almost nothing that those agents needed to be silent about. No one cares what they had for breakfast on that fateful day, and the details of the motorcade in which they participated have been known for decades. Others have described how the morale of JFK's Secret Service agents were destroyed by his pathological womanizing, which required unknown women to be smuggled into the White House or his hotel room at strange hours. But you will find not a word about that here. In this bit of romantic fiction, JFK was an ideal father in a storybook marriage. Lisa McCubbin didn't have to dwell on that sordid side of the Kennedy Presidency. But she should have at least shown us she was aware of it and discussed those aspects of it that were relevant to his Secret Service protection.

In short, this book fails to deliver on its promises.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

My Boy Jack
My Boy Jack
DVD ~ David Haig
Offered by Moviezone
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Those Suffering, Nov. 14 2010
This review is from: My Boy Jack (DVD)
Others have described the film's historical and biographical background, I will mention the healing effect this film could have on others who have suffered, like the Kiplings, the loss of someone close to them, particularly in war and particularly when they feel in some way responsible for that death. I'd also strongly recommend that you watch one of the special features, the interviews of those who acted in the film. Doing so certainly deepened my appreciation.

Finally, as someone who has written on the Great War, I will note that the film is true to both the zeal with which the young men of 1914 enlisted and the horrors that greeted them when they reached the trenches. Many only made sense of that horror by regarding it, in the words of H. G. Wells, as "the war to end all war." In that they would be sorely disappointed. More than perhaps any other war, the unfinished business of the First World War lay the foundation for the Second.

Of course, not everyone felt that way. G. K. Chesterton, whose brother would die at the war's end, warned that telling the later waves of soldiers, more reluctant than the first, that they were fighting to end war itself made no more sense that telling a workman reluctantly about to depart for his day's labors, that he was about to engage in the "work to end all work." Wars can only prevented one at a time, he stressed, by displaying the same wisdom, foresight and courage that is necessary to win a war. In 1932 he would go still further and warn that unless something was soon done, Germany would drag Europe into war that would make the first look like nothing. He laid particular blame on the "young men of 1914" who'd criticized their elders for not preventing the Great War. Those young men, he pointed out, were now the "old men" in charge. What, he asked, were they doing to prevent another war? The answer would prove to be "almost nothing."

Chesterton's solution was not a League of Nations tasked with the impossible, preventing all wars everywhere. His solution was the same NATO-like alliance targeting a specific foe that prevented the Third World War. Germany would turn east, he warned, and try to conquer the smaller new nations created in the aftermath of WWI. He even predicted in 1932 that the next war would begin over a border dispute between Poland and Germany, precisely what happened in 1939. Only by protecting countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, could Britain and France protect themselves.

--Michael W. Perry, Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

Los cuadernos secretos y dos novelas inéditas de Poirot
Los cuadernos secretos y dos novelas inéditas de Poirot
by John Curran
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.53
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for aspiring writers, July 27 2010
With over two billion copies of her books in print, writers would do well to study what made Agatha Christie one of the most successful writers in human history. Clues to her success lie in the notebooks she kept, 71 of which have survived, some dating back into the 1920s. Her family graciously gave John Curran permission to study and quote them for this book, along with two short stories that have never been published before: "The Capture of Cereberus" and "The Incident of the Dog's Ball."

In her autobiography, Christie mentioned those notebooks when she described how she used ordinary school exercise books to create and perfect her novels:

"Of course, all the practical details are still to be worked out, and the people have to creep slowly into my consciousness, but I jot down my splendid idea in an exercise book.... I usually have about half a dozen on hand, and I used to make notes in them of ideas that had struck me, or about some poison or drug, or a clever little bit of swindling that I had read about in the paper.

Here's a sampling of the ideas I picked up from the book.

FLOW: "Christie's prose, while no means distinguished, flows easily, the characters are believable and differentiated, and much of each book is told in dialogue" (36)

HARD WORK: "I hope to show, by an examination of her Notebooks, that although this gift for plotting was innate and in profusion, she worked on her ideas, distilling and sharpening and perfecting them." (37)

FAIRNESS: "Throughout her career Christie specialized in giving her readers the clues necessary to the solution of the crime." (38)

THINKING & WORRYING: "In February 1955 on the BBC radio program Close-Up, Agatha Christie admitted, when asked about her process of working, that 'the disappointing truth is that I haven't much method.... The real work is done in thinking out the development of your story and worrying about it until it comes right. That may take quite a while.' And this is where her Notebooks, which are not mentioned in the interview, came in. A glance at them shows that this is where she did her 'thinking and worrying.'" (67)

SKETCHING SCENES: "One system of creation that Christie used during her most prolific period was the listing of a series of scenes, sketching what she wanted each to include and allocating to each individual scene a number or letter." (83) Once those scenes were listed, she'd work out the proper sequence for them.

OFTEN NO BIG IDEA: "One of the most unexpected element in the Notebooks was, to me, the fact that many of Christie's best plots did not necessarily spring from a single devastating idea. She considered all possibilities when she plotted and did not confine herself to one idea, no matter how good it may have seemed. In very few cases is the identity of the murderer a given from the start of the plotting." (99)

A SOUNDING BOARD AND SKETCHPAD: "We now have a clearer idea of Christie's approach to the construction of her stories. Using the Notebooks as a combination of sounding board and literary sketchpad, she devised and developed; she selected and rejected; she sharpened and polished; she revised and recycled. And I hope to show by a more detailed analysis in the follow chapters, out of this seeming chaos she produced a unique and immortal body of work." (101)

And to read that more detailed analysis, you'll need to read this book. Don't depend on my all too brief summary.

I'll close with these words, quoted by John Curran and spoken by a Mrs. Ariadne Oliver in Chapter 17 of Christie's Dead Man's Folly:

"I mean, what you say about how you write your books? What I mean is, first you've got to think of something, and then, when you've thought of it you've got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That's all." (73)

--Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings

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