The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

 

Description: Veteran Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) shows once again he’s a master of the political thriller by taking a simple but completely original idea and turning it into a compelling story. The unnamed Obama-like U.S. president, disgusted by the horrors wrought by illegal drug trafficking, decides to bring the entire weight and resources of the federal government against the international cocaine trade. He first declares drug traders and their cartels to be terrorists, subjecting them to new and extensive legal procedures, then he brings in ex-CIA director Paul Devereaux to head the team that will implement the effort. Devereaux, known as the Cobra from his operations days, is old school–smart, ruthless, unrelenting, and bestowed by the president with free rein to call in any arm of the government. Forsyth lays out how it would all work, and readers will follow eagerly along, always thinking, yes, why don’t they do this in real life? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this forceful, suspenseful, intelligent novel.

Didn’t capture my undivided attention; it was on in the background and that was where the bland content let it stay.

5* The Day of the Jackal
4* The Odessa File
3* The Fourth Protocol
3* The Dogs of War
4* The Devil’s Alternative
2* The Afghan
2* The Cobra
3* The Kill List
5* The Shepherd

The Brigade by Howard Blum

bookshelves: summer-2014, wwii, nonfiction, history, published-2001, jewish, military-maneuvers, nazi-related

Read from March 13 to August 18, 2014

 

Description: Although the official history of the Jewish Brigade Group (a unit of some 5,000 Jews who fought with the British Eighth Army in Italy in the waning months of the conflict) has been written, Blum (Wanted! The Search for Nazis in America) breaks new ground by looking into the clandestine operations that occurred after the shooting had stopped. Once they learned the true extent of the holocaust, soldiers of the brigade began using intelligence reports to pinpoint the location of former SS officers and camp guards. The enraged Jewish troops took vengeance into their own hands, eventually slaying hundreds of Nazi death dealers. Blum follows the story of three men Israel Carmi, Johanan Peltz and Arie Pinchuk in detail, interviewed dozens of others, read unpublished personal memoirs and had Hebrew-language documents translated for him. During the war, the more daring Jewish soldiers formed a secret unit that appropriated British supplies trucks, weapons and food and diverted them to ships heading illegally for Palestine The plan included the “repatriation” of thousands of war orphans, who were clandestinely taken from displaced person camps and smuggled to Palestine. The underground Jewish Haganah figured prominently in these operations, which contributed directly to the creation of Israel. Blum, twice nominated for a Pulitzer as a New York Times investigative reporter, and now a Vanity Fair contributing editor, presents the material masterfully, building suspense and carefully documenting all the action.

Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is loosely based on this – from the US pov only, of course.

So this is the start of the group that were to dedicate their future lives to the hunting down of Nazi criminals. And this brings me smack bang back into an interesting discussion at the end of The Railway Man – would forgiveness given straight away have been a better way forward: the unforgivers turning bitter and twisted over time. Is that how we view Israel today? HAH – big questions and only little old me; perhaps there are no answers.

Further reading is Leon Uris ‘Exodus’

The Brigade is a fascinating, action-packed non-fiction that reads like a full-on adventure thriller, which proves yet again, fact is waay more bizarre than fiction. Fully recommended, and four gleaming menorahs.

The Sebastopol Sketches

bookshelves: published-1855, spring-2014, e-book, ipad, classic, lit-richer, historical-fiction, war, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, slavic, ukraine, under-1000-ratings, medical-eew, military-maneuvers, translation

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Wanda
Read on April 17, 2014

 

This is made up of ‘December’, ‘May’, ‘August’, 1854-1855

Description: In the winter of 1854 Tolstoy, then an officer in the Russian army, arranged to be transferred to the besieged town of Sebastopol. Wishing to see at first hand the action of what would become known as the Crimean War, he was spurred on by a fierce patriotism, but also by an equally fierce desire to alert the authorities to appalling conditions in the army. The three “Sebastopol Sketches” – December’, May’ and August’ – re-create what happened during different phases of the siege and its effect on the ordinary men around him. Writing with the truth as his utmost aim, he brought home to Russia’s entire literate public the atrocities of war. In doing so, he realized his own vocation as a writer and established his literary reputation.

Opening to the introduction: On 29th April 1851, at the age of twenty-two, the young Leo Tolstoy set out from Yasnaya Polyana for the Caucasus, together with his older brother Nikaolai, whose battery was stationed there.

**points up** that introduction is lengthy: 38 out of 171 pages, and then there is the huge map that follows. The first sketch starts 40/171 with:

The light of daybreak is just beginning to tint the sky above the Sapun-gora.[*] The dark surface of the sea has already thrown off night’s gloom and is waiting for the first ray of sunlight to begin, its cheerful sparkling. From the bay comes a steady drift of cold and mist. There is no snow—everything is black—but the sharp morning frost catches at your face and cracks beneath your feet, and only the incessant, far-off rumble of the sea, punctuated every now and again by the booming of the artillery in Sebastopol, breaks into the morning quiet. From nearby ships sounds the hollow chiming of eight bells.

SAME PLACE, DIFFERENT ERA:

[*] Sapun-gora is a ridge (240 m height) to the southeast of Sevastopol, in Crimea, Ukraine.

It became the arena of fierce battle during the siege of Sevastopol (1941-1942), and also during its recapturing in 1944.

When defending Sevastopol the Soviet troops held the Sapun Ridge and could observe German movements to the city from the south. It took Wehrmacht nearly 2 weeks of desperate fighting to take control over these positions in late June 1942. As a consequence, Soviet troops had to evacuate from Crimea.

In 2 years, on the final stage of the Crimean Offensive the assault of Sapun-gora on the 7th of May, 1944 was successful for Red Army. On 9 May 1944, just over one month after the start of the battle, Sevastopol fell. German forces were evacuated from Sevastopol to Constanța.

Later in 1944 the first monuments to the Soviet warriors on this place were erected, in 1959 the diorama showing the assault of the German fortifications was opened. (wiki sourced)

SAME PLACE, DIFFERENT ERA:Putin annexes Crimea, March 2014, then pokes a hornets nest by sending covert anarchists into mainland Ukraine to trigger a civil war. The heat from his rubbing, gleeful hands, is curdling the milk of human kindness.

HOW history repeats itself – and yet through the ages man is forever surprised at events. How can that be, mon chere, just how…

view toward Sapun Gor ridge. The Causeway height is on the left. The Light Brigade charged from the far end of this valley straight toward us. source

To get a clearer context here is a bit from wiki which sums it up well: The Siege of Sevastopol was the subject of Crimean soldier Leo Tolstoy’s Sebastopol Sketches and the subject of the first Russian feature film, Defence of Sevastopol. The Battle of Balaklava was made famous by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and Robert Gibb’s painting The Thin Red Line, as well as by a panorama of the siege painted by Franz Roubaud. Treating the wounded from these battles were celebrated English nurses Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale.

4* The Death of Ivan Ilych
4* Anna Karenina
5* War and Peace
3* The Kreutzer Sonata
CR Resurrection
2* The Cossacks
TR What Men Live By
3* A Letter to Hindu
3* The Sebastopol Sketches

TRIVIA: For 20 odd years, close to a Sebastopol in an entirely different location, was a five stone soaking wet, pink mountainbike cyclist. Helen or Petra will know where I mean: 3/4 up from Casnewydd to Pont-y-pŵl is Sebastopol, with its Panteg and on to Goytre Wharf; and just what was the name of that pub there on the dog-leg where many a lad threw his dart on a Tuesday night and was pinned, by convention, to a bobbing line full of terry toweling, boiler-engrained buntings.

Open Hearth

 

 

 

Young Henry of Navarre

bookshelves: published-1935, spring-2014, lifestyles-deathstyles, historical-fiction, biography, france, under-500-ratings, film-only, ipad, casual-violence, earlymodern16c-18c, epic-proportions, classic, families, gorefest, gulp, love, mental-health, military-maneuvers, newtome-author, ouch, poison, protestant, recreational-homicide, religion, revenge, roman-catholic, swashbuckler, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, tragedy, true-grime, war

Read from April 08 to 09, 2014


Description: Young Henry of Navarre traces the life of Henry IV from the King’s idyllic childhood in the mountain villages of the Pyrenees to his ascendance to the throne of France. Heinrich Mann’s most acclaimed work is a spectacular epic that recounts the wars, political machinations, rival religious sects, and backstage plots that marked the birth of the French Republic.

French Language, English sub-titles
Stars: Julien Boisselier, Joachim Król, Andreas Schmidt

[

Michel de Nostredame (depending on the source, 14 or 21 December 1503 – 2 July 1566), usually Latinised as Nostradamus.

Henry I, Prince of Joinville, Duke of Guise, Count of Eu (31 December 1550 – 23 December 1588), sometimes called Le Balafré (Scarface). In 1576 he founded the Catholic League to prevent the heir, King Henry of Navarre, head of the Huguenot movement, from succeeding to the French throne. A powerful opponent of the Queen Mother, Catherine de’ Medici, he was assassinated by the bodyguards of her son, King Henry III. (wiki sourced)

St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre began the night of 23-24 August 1572. Painting by François Dubois

Gabrielle d’Estrées et une de ses sœurs by an unknown artist (c.1594). Gabrielle sits up nude in a bath, holding (presumably) Henry’s coronation ring, whilst her sister sits nude beside her and pinches her right nipple. Henry gave Gabrielle the ring as a token of his love shortly before she died.

Assassination of Henry IV by Gaspar Bouttats


Reign 2 August 1589 – 14 May 1610
Coronation 27 February 1594
Predecessor Henry III
Successor Louis XIII
(wiki source) (hide spoiler)]

Terrific film based on H Mann’s biography of Navarre. Epically disturbing, fearsome and ghastly were those fanatical, religious times – so much blood spilt.

Highly recommended but there are some truly gruesome moments.

A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940

bookshelves: e-book, nonfiction, wwii, war, under-500-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, published-1991, military-maneuvers, finland, gr-library

Read from February 27 to March 10, 2014

 

Description: In 1939, tiny Finland waged war-the kind of war that spawns legends-against the mighty Soviet Union, and yet their epic struggle has been largely ignored. Guerrillas on skis, heroic single-handed attacks on tanks, unfathomable endurance, and the charismatic leadership of one of this century’s true military geniuses-these are the elements of both the Finnish victory and a gripping tale of war.

Dedication:To the memory of Colonel J. N. Pease,
whose faith never wavered

When Stalin says “dance,” a wise man dances.
—Nikita S. Khrushchev, in ‘Khrushcheo Remembers’

Opening: At the easternmost end of the Baltic Sea, between the Gulf of Finland and the vastness of Lake Ladoga, lies the rugged, narrow Karelian Isthmus. Although the land is sternly beautiful—cut laterally by numerous clear blue lakes, tapestried with evergreen forest, and textured by outcroppings of reddish gray granite—it has little intrinsic worth. The soil grows few crops, and those grudgingly, and the scant mineral resources are hardly worth the labor of extraction. Yet there are few comparably small areas of land in all Europe that have been fought over so often and so stubbornly.

Karelian Isthmus

Just how I like my history, concise, to the point, filled with maps and photographs, and without a glimmer of authorial vanity. Excellent.

Finland alone, in danger of death—superb,
sublime Finland—shows what free men can do.
—Winston Churchill, January 1940

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Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

bookshelves: fraudio, lifestyles-deathstyles, nonfiction, spring-2014, published-2012, cold-war, slavic, tbr-busting-2014, totalitarian, military-maneuvers, newtome-author, history, bullies, casual-violence, gangsters, recreational-homicide, rid-the-world-of-tyrants

Read from March 02 to 04, 2014

 

rosado mp3

Description: At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. She draws on newly opened East European archives, interviews, and personal accounts translated for the first time to portray in devastating detail the dilemmas faced by millions of individuals trying to adjust to a way of life that challenged their every belief and took away everything they had accumulated. Today the Soviet Bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality, and strange aesthetics Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of Iron Curtain.

Cassandra Campbell reads

I encounter this as a salute to Ukraine.

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”― Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays

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Fire in the East

bookshelves: published-2008, ancient-history, historical-fiction, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, hardback, roman-civilisation, war, syria, military-maneuvers, testost-tosh, washyourmouthout-language, mythology, adventure, conflagration, spies, gr-library, iran-persia, iraq

Read from February 01 to 02, 2014

 

Description: The year is AD 255 – the Roman Imperium is stretched to breaking point, its authority and might challenged along every border. The greatest threat lies in Persia to the east, where the massing forces of the Sassanid Empire loom with fiery menace. There the isolated Roman citadel of Arete awaits inevitable invasion.

One man is sent to marshal the defences and shore up crumbling walls. A man whose name itself means war: a man called Ballista. Alone, Ballista is called to muster the forces, and the courage to stand first and to stand hard, against the greatest enemy ever to confront the Imperium.

This is part one of WARRIOR OF ROME: an epic of empire, of heroes, of treachery, of courage, and most of all, a story of brutal, bloody warfare.

There be a map spread over two sides: The Voyage of the Concordia and the itinerary of the Dux Ripae

Followed by another two sided map of the city of Arete, on the Euphrates, and a fragment from the Sassanid Book of Ayin

Prologue (Summer AD238) War is hell. Civil war is worse.

The first line of Chapter I: By the time the warship had cleared the harbour breakwater of Brundisium, the spies had found each other.

Book is discarded from Bristol Public Libraries.

Ahura Mazda

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It is all ‘Nasty Work In The Dark With A Short Sword’.