Book Review: Capital Navy

Posted October 13th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, And Operations Of The James River SquadronCapital Navy: The Men, Ships, And Operations Of The James River Squadron by John Coski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To say the Naval history of the American Civil War gets short shrift in most accounts is a massive understatement. Indeed, most people with a casual knowledge of the conflict have little idea how big of a role the Navy played in the ultimate Union victory. Some can name the Battle of Mobile Bay, know there was a battle between two ironclads named Monitor and Merrimack, and are aware that there was a blockade. That is usually considered the bulk of it, whereas the truth is that the naval units of the conflict shaped it profoundly. In Capital Navy, John Coski takes a look at a little known aspect of this in his study of the Confederate’s James River Squadron, stationed just outside of Richmond on the James River.

Coski gives a good overview of Richmond as a shipbuilding city before the war, and how it laid the foundation for what was to come. While the city built four ironclads and had a Continue Reading »

Book Review: Descent into Darkness

Posted September 24th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Descent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941-A Navy Diver's MemoirDescent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941-A Navy Diver’s Memoir by Edward C. Raymer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A memoir of the first year of the war, written by a veteran after the fact. Does a great job of filling in some of the “day in the life” of being a sailor at that time. This is the second book I’ve read by someone stationed in Pearl Harbor, and it’s odd to hear how the place was universally hated by military personnel. It wasn’t yet the paradise it is today. Continue Reading »

Book Review: Into the Storm

Posted August 20th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Into the Storm (Destroyermen, #1)Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

INTO THE STORM is in some way pretty much exactly what I expected, and in other ways not at all what I expected. It’s a quick read that doesn’t go too far in to the explanation as to how a WWII US Navy destroyer ended up in a parallel and prehistoric universe — which I like — but deals with the actions of the characters and how they deal with their new reality.

The things I expected and did find in the book are the stock characters that make up the crew. All from varying backgrounds, they all have the typical hard-assed or meek or jokester personalities, that you expect in a book about the crew of a warship. While these generalizations are typical of military books and seem cliche at times, much of is actually on-track with what my own experience in the Navy.

In the “I expected more of this” area, I did expect more action in this book. Of course as this is the first of the series, the world building needs to be done, and here it takes up a Continue Reading »

Book Review: “Pirate Hunters” by Robert Kurson

Posted July 8th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate ShipPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Kurson’s “Pirate Hunters” relates the story of two shipwreck hunters, John Chatterton and John Mattera, and their quest to find a verifiable Golden Age pirate ship. While a true story, the nature of the search and the backgrounds of those involved make for fact that’s more enthralling than most fiction.

The quest in “Pirate Hunters” is for the Golden Fleece, the 17th century pirate ship of Joseph Bannister, a well respected British merchant ship captain that suddenly turned pirate later in life (broke bad, if you will) and raised hell all over the Caribbean, even fighting off two British men-of-war while his ship Continue Reading »

Book Review: Battleship Sailor by Theodore C. Mason

Posted July 1st, 2015 by Devin and filed in History, Review

Just finished reading this title. A fantastic look at enlisted life in the Pre-WWII U.S. Navy:
Battleship SailorBattleship Sailor by Theodore C. Mason

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mason has done a fantastic job of describing the life of an enlisted man on a battleship on the eve of WWII. His description of arriving at the training command in San Diego in 1940 was almost exactly the same as mine in 1988: the same late night arrival, not knowing what’s going on, finding an open bunk in a strange barracks in the dark, and the following days of figuring out where one belongs in a totally foreign new world.

His descriptions of time in the fleet also show how little the Navy changed in a half-century, with the Continue Reading »

Giving it the sidelong glance

Posted January 11th, 2013 by Devin and filed in Modeling, Review, Writing

I recently acquired a copy of Ken Rand’s “The 10% Solution” and ran a couple of pieces of writing through the process.  The premise is simple: nearly everyone can run through a piece of work and cut it by 10%,  in the process making it sharper, more concise, and easier to understand.

The first revelation is that I had no idea how often I use “of” in my writing.  I mean a lot.  A whole bunch of “ofs”.  That and the always prevelant “and”, “was”, and “were” jumped out at me as I ran through the process in the book.  The interesting bit came when the process didn’t simply result in deleting words, but recasting entire sentences and paragraphs when those issues are called to attention, and how the resulting product is so much the better.

I’ve always taken the “walk away” approach to writing and other projects — Continue Reading »

“Falling Angel” by William Hjortsberg

Posted April 12th, 2010 by Devin and filed in Review

“Falling Angel” was first published in 1978.  I received it in a World Fantasy gift bag at the San Jose conference last fall.  It has a forward and afterward by Ridley Scott and Stephen King.  I thought that I’d never heard of it before.  I was almost right.  More on that later.

“Falling Angel” is a straight forward gumshoe detective piece set in 1959 Manhattan.  The mystery involves finding a man who went missing after being wounded during WWII.  The further the detective, Harry Angel, digs into the evidence the more he realizes that the missing man was involved in some dark stuff, specifically black magic and devil worship.  Dead chickens and jazz musicians ensue.

The story is easy to follow; I don’t read a lot of “who-dun-its” to say that Harry’s path of picking out exactly the right clues, not taking any wrong turns in the investigations, turning up right where and when he needs to be, is standard or not.  That aside, I was willing to forgive the ease of Mr. Angel’s work to see familiar Manhattan neighborhoods through the eyes of 1959.  The first-person narrative is also well done and a fun read; the only dialogue that jumped out at me as being cringe-worthy was that of a jazz musician who seemed to have had his dialogue formed from rejected verses for “Minnie the Moocher”.

Overall a very satifying book.  I have trouble wrapping my mind around why the man that hired Harry Angel did so when he evidently knew the outcome from a mile away (or years in the past).  Maybe I missed something.  But I did enjoy it and I recommend it to fans of old school New York City and detective novels.

**SPOILER ALERT!**

I said I thought I’d never heard of this book before.  An afterward in the book states that it was optioned as a movie decades ago, but never got off the ground.  Someone decided to continue on with the project seperate of the book, though, changed locations, times and names, and ended up with the Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet vehicle “Angel Heart”.  If you’ve seen that movie, then you will see the end of this book coming from a mile away.