Connelly, Michael. Angels Flight.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1999.

Howard Elias is a highly successful civil rights lawyer whose specialty is suing the Los Angeles Police Department on behalf of those the cops have mistreated, which (naturally) has earned him the hatred of every blue uniform in the city, as well as the regard of LA’s black population. When Elias’s body is found with several 9mm slugs in it — the caliber of the favorite police sidearm — the city is poised is erupt again in riots. It’s only been a few years since Rodney King and no one trusts the cops to tell the truth any longer, or not to tamper with evidence. Detective Harry Bosch can be a lose cannon but he’s also probably the best homicide investigator the department has, so he draws the case — with instructions to get it wrapped up as fast as possible. But it’s not going to be an ordinary case; it never is when Harry’s team is involved. Not to mention that his year-old marriage shows signs of crumbling.

(more…)

Published in: on 28 April 2010 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Flagel, Thomas R. The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War.

Nashville: Cumberland House, 2003.

There have been more books written about the Civil War — or the War Between the States, or the Rebellion, or the War for Southern Independence, whichever you prefer — than about any other event in U.S. history. It’s both a key subject for academic historians and a point of fascination for amateur readers of history. That being the case, it’s difficult to come up with an entirely new approach, but Flagel comes close.

(more…)

Published in: on 26 April 2010 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Madden, David. Beyond the Battlefield: The Ordinary Life and Extraordinary Times of the Civil War Soldier.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

There are loads of books out there on the social history of the Civil War — camp life, the home front, women in the War, whatever — and some of them are excellent. This one, however, is right in the middle of the bell curve. Madden, an English professor and very minor novelist, is the founder of the U.S. Civil War Center located in the LSU library here in Baton Rouge. The Center “promotes the use of research materials” and publishes an online book review, but their main purpose really is to facilitate the raising of money for whatever project is popular at the moment.

(more…)

Published in: on 25 April 2010 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

White, David. The Frigate Diana.

(Anatomy of the Ship series) Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1987.

Any committed reader of sea novels set in the Napoleonic wars knows that command of a frigate was the dreamed-of assignment of every young and ambitious captain. Large enough to hold its own in one-on-one combat, small and agile enough to be sent on independent cruises instead of remaining locked into a battle line under the admiral’s eye, a frigate was where adventure and fortunes were to be had, given personal abilities and luck.

(more…)

Published in: on 22 April 2010 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Connelly, Michael. Void Moon.

Boston: Little, Brown, 2000.

The author made his bones with his Harry Bosch series of police procedurals, but he has occasionally taken time off from those generally very good novels to invent other characters and situations. These are obviously meant to be stand-alones, but Connelly’s protagonists have a way of turning up as supporting characters in each other’s stories. In this case, the focus is on Cassie Black, a very talented professional thief who specializes in the “hot prowl” — slipping at night into the target’s hotel room (prepped by her in advance, if possible) and robbing him while he sleeps.

(more…)

Published in: on 21 April 2010 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Girouard, Mark. Life in the English Country House.

New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978.

Anyone who has read Jane Austen or Thackeray, or followed the adventures of Hercule Poirot, or has watched Gosford Park, has had some exposure to the cliché of the English country house and its denizens. There were large estates in medieval times, of course, but the country estate to which the wealthy (which usually meant the titled) could escape from the city, is largely an outgrowth of Henry VIII stripping the Church of its rural properties and turning them over to those families who had supported him and to whom he owed a favor.

(more…)

Published in: on 18 April 2010 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Billingham, Mark. Death Message.

NY: HarperCollins, 2009.

According to Billingham, a “death message” is the news the cops deliver to the family when one of their number has died suddenly and (usually) violently. In the case of Marcus Brooks, who is only a couple of weeks from being released after six years in prison, the message is to inform him of the deaths of his girlfriend and young son at the hands of a hit-and-run driver. And it was no accident. Looking forward to seeing his loved ones again was pretty much the only thing that was keeping Marcus sane, and now that he has no life to look forward to, the obvious alternative is revenge.

(more…)

Published in: on 16 April 2010 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

War: From Ancient Egypt to Iraq.

London: Dorling Kindersley, 2009.

DK has become noted for its graphics-heavy reference works and this one is a prime example. It runs nearly 500 pages of text and covers all aspects of warfare from the Bronze Age to the current decade. The emphasis, naturally, is on the more modern period (the mid-point of the book is roughly the Seven Years War), where there are more details known and more images available. Geographical coverage is heavily Western, but at least there’s rather more than the usual light coverage of internal wars in India, the Middle East, China, and Japan. I’ve read most of the text and it seems quite accurate (within the bounds of reasonable interpretation), but you could similar coverage and similar detail at Wikipedia. It’s the imagery that holds the attention — paintings, sculpture, monuments, maps, artifacts, reconstructions, modern weapons, and combat photography.

(more…)

Published in: on 15 April 2010 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Coffman, Edward M. The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

I’m now in my 60s, and I grew up an Army brat in the 1950s, so much of the social history and attitudes depicted so clearly and engagingly in this engrossing book are familiar to me — even though the author is speaking about a period a couple of generations earlier. Even though it changed dramatically during the forty years between the end of the War with Spain and the beginning of World War II, the Regular Army still is and always has been a deeply conservative institution. In times of national emergency, millions of civilians may volunteer and be drafted, but when the emergency is over they — the survivors, anyway — will take off their uniforms and go back to the civilian world. But the Regulars will still be there, like the rocks that reappear, unmoved, when the tide has flowed out again. During the late 19th century, the Army acted primarily as a frontier constabulary, fighting skirmishes against the Indians and maintaining order in Western communities (and suppressing labor strikes, unfortunately). The coming of war in 1898 brought a flurry of enlistments and applications for commissions, but the war itself didn’t last very long. The result, however, was an empire in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and especially in the Philippines, and the Regulars found themselves in the role of an imperial military force, not unlike the British Army in India.

(more…)

Published in: on 14 April 2010 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Coffman, Edward M. The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784-1898.

NY: Oxford University Press, 1986.

By definition, “the Old Army” is the Regular Army establishment that existed before the last war. The Regulars were always a small body, a result of American distrust of a standing army since the very beginning of our national history. The Regulars became the backbone of the greatly expanded military as civilians volunteered or were conscripted during an emergency, and they were those who were left after the emergency was over and the militia or the draftees went home again. This volume is the first of two in which Coffman, a highly regarded professor of military history, responded to a suggestion by Paul Prucha that he expand his previous study of the social history of the American military.

(more…)

Published in: on 12 April 2010 at 7:09 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: