Indie Spotlight: November 2021
This month’s thematic roundup of BookLife titles focuses on history and historical fiction with military themes.
Campaign for the Confederate Coast
About the book: Campaign for the Confederate Coast is a well-documented account of the federal blockade of the Confederate coastline during the American Civil War and the efforts of the Confederates and others to engage in and encourage blockade-running. In the book, the author considers blockading, blockade-running, and related military operations from the points of view of all the major participants and through the various lenses of technology, strategy, tactics, politics, and international law.
Author statement: “I wrote a number of drafts of Campaign for the Confederate Coast before settling on the version that is in print: a series of thematic chapters that discuss selected topics related to the blockade and blockade-running followed by a series of chapters that dealt with blockade-running quantitatively but within the context of the chronology of the Civil War in general and along the Confederate coast in particular.”
Jumping from Helicopters: A Vietnam Memoir
John Stillman and Lori Stillman
About the book: In 1967, at age 19, John Stillman—refusing to wait for the draft—voluntarily enlisted in the army to aid his fellow countrymen in one of the most-opposed involvements in U.S. history: the Vietnam War. Quickly falling in love with the rush of being a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne, he believed that his service would honorably help the South Vietnamese protect their country from the ruthless communist North and their Southern allies. But, once in the volatile jungles of Vietnam, the merciless hunting and killing of the enemy, constant threat of landmines and booby traps, ambushes that could easily backfire, and deaths of his comrades made Stillman question how any man—if he survived—could ever return to his life as he’d known it.
Author statement: “My father never spoke about his time in Vietnam for almost 50 years. Using six years of countless interviews, his journal, letters sent home, and the daily report from the Department of Defense, I put together his memoir. The healing it has provided to my father, and to others who have read it, has been remarkable.”
The Ribbon Untied: A Journey to Finding a Family
About the book: This is a social history about the lives of a military nurse and a fighter pilot who were stationed on Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 6, 1941, attack. The story arose after the author and her husband, Chuck, unearthed a shoebox full of love letters postmarked during World War II and addressed to Chuck’s mother. Could the letters be from Chuck’s missing father?
Author statement: “As I uncovered the story of Chuck’s birth father, we were amazed by his place in history. His career spanned from World War II to Vietnam. During the Cold War, he served as the air attaché to Moscow from 1954 to 1956. Later, he served in Richard Nixon’s cabinet. I think the book has a place in the recounting of history from the perspective of the common people. They were not the heroes that so many of us know from our formal history books, but everyday citizens serving their country.
The Solomons Campaigns, 1942–1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point
William L. McGee
About the book: William L. McGee, an award-winning historian of World War II in the Pacific, provides a definitive account of the Solomons campaigns—the naval, sea, and land operations in the southern, central, and northern Solomon Islands—which became the second major turning point in the Pacific war.
Author statement: “Decades after participating in these campaigns at Guadalcanal, I wanted to delve into the details of the other battles and campaigns.”
Triumph and Tragedy: The Evolution and Legacy of 20th Century War Machines
About the book: This book traces the course of the scientific, industrial, and cultural revolutions that set the stage for humanity’s deadliest century and follows the political movements that enabled it all. The story is told in both words and rare historical photographs. The weapons are shown in brooding, high-resolution detail in a gallery chapter with more than 100 award-winning photographs.
Author statement: “This book is the third and final volume of a photographic odyssey begun 14 years ago to document and interpret my responses to war machines of the 20th century. A recurring preoccupation in all three books has been to understand how these strange objects came into being, rather like an archaeologist approaching a relic of a past civilization.”
About the book: Wings Forever focuses on the experiences of a WWII P-38 Lightning fighter pilot flying over Italy out of Africa—and what a dangerous job it was. Follow Donn on his flight missions, and hear in his own words about his experience of fighting against German and Italian planes over Italy. Donn was shot down, almost drowned, and taken captive by the Italians—just 10 missions before he would have gone home to be with his wife when she had their first baby. Donn escaped and hid in the hills of Italy for nearly three months before being recaptured just 20 kilometers from the Allied lines by German soldiers when he was half-frozen in a blizzard with only one shoe.
Author statement: “Many years after my father's death, I found a box filled with memorabilia. It took me more than 15 years to find the missing pieces of his story and to painstakingly piece together the many pictures, diaries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, and letters that make up this book. There are over 170 photos in the book, along with faithful transcripts of his letters and diary entries. I am extremely proud and thrilled that my father’s incredibly brave and dangerous feats during WWII will not be lost, but are now preserved.”
Between These Walls
About the book: Newman’s novel pulls from first-person accounts of WWII concentration camp survivors. Parallel stories focus on Maj. Bruno Schmidt’s rise in the ranks of the Nazi Party and attorney Arnold Weisz’s attempts to protect his family from the Nazis. Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Singer, a WWII U.S. Army surgeon, adopts a baby in Germany, names him Daniel, and brings him home to New York. In 1973, when Daniel and his father travel to Israel, Daniel is recruited by the Israeli government to identify Nazis who escaped to Egypt following the war. Fifteen years later, Daniel receives a mysterious package from Germany and must unravel its secrets.
Author statement: “The idea for the book came to me while on a visit to Berlin, Germany, with my wife. Walking along a street, I noticed little bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk. On these plaques were engraved the names of persons that had lived in the apartments above the street who had been sent to concentration camps during the Second World War by the Nazis. I wondered what happened to these people and who was living in their apartments now, and how had they come into possession of them. I created fictional characters to occupy these apartments and intertwined their stories into the Second World War.”
About the book: Fence Sickness is a historical novel from three points of view. Lily Howell is a 15-year-old who recently lost her father and whose grieving mother is not fully there for her. Lily is already floundering at school when she meets Gunnar Armstrong, the older brother of a classmate. Lily’s first-person narrative is interwoven with a story about her mother, Emily Amato. Emily was in her mid-30s when she temporarily left her life in New York City to care for her elderly father in New Jersey. There, she reencountered her neighbor, Vincent Howell, a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict. She also discovered a novella written by her father, Angelo Amato. Reading her father’s words, Emily learns that he had guarded German American and Japanese American families in a U.S. internment camp during World War II. As the novel unspools, these three family members see their destinies shaped by histories larger than themselves.
Author statement: “During a conversation, a friend casually mentioned that Germans and Italians, not just Japanese, were placed in American internment camps during World War II. Shocked by this unexpected history—especially since I am half German and half Italian—I decided to learn more and then wrote my graduate thesis about the topic.”
French Letters: Children of a Good War
Jack Woodville London
About the book: Children of a Good War is the story of rival siblings who take their comfortable lives of mutual antagonism for granted until one of them is the victim of a terrorist hijacking, an event that leads to the discovery of their parents’ wartime secret: that one of them is an illegitimate child whom their father brought back from France after World War II.
Author statement: “I wanted to write a novel that in its fiction illustrates a truth: the children of the Greatest Generation, who fought in and lived through World War II, take for granted their parents’ pasts without really knowing the depth of their personal losses, the human suffering, or their individual experiences of their private lives during that extraordinary time.”
About the book: Time travel is invented and subsequently abused, causing the formation of the Time Rangers. A dangerous historical contamination act occurs, and newly promoted Kai Sawyer is selected to lead the mission, but he doubts his abilities. Sawyer decides to accept the mission, but then crashes in 1634 France, causing him to doubt his abilities and loyalties even more.
Author statement: “Drawing on my military background—trooper with Queen’s York Rangers, First American Regiment, RCAC—I created Nexus Point, the first novel in the Time Rangers series. My developmental editor, Randy Surles, whose name I share on the cover page due to his tremendous help in my writing of the book, is a veteran of 28 years of service with U.S. Special Forces, including the Rangers and Green Berets. The novel itself involves several different places and events in history, including the Roswell alien conspiracy, the JFK assassination in Texas, and the crossing of the Titanic.”
Thieves of Paris
About the book: Max St. Denis, released from prison by his boyhood friend Guy de Rothschild to fight the invading Germans, won’t escape at Dunkirk and won’t surrender. Nazi looters steal a well-loved Rothschild portrait that had been entrusted to him to care for, and he vows to get it back. He needs the help of two brave women—Rose Valland, the only French person in the depot for loot, and Hannah Kiesler, a Hungarian Zionist who helps Jews in peril during the Nazi occupation. Himself a convicted thief, Max observes thievery all around him—in Hitler’s orders, Goering’s avarice, Vichy French attempts to get in on the spoils, and neighbors’ casual thefts from their missing Jewish neighbors. He learns to go for high stakes as the best thief in Paris: snatching persecuted Jews from the tender mercies of the SS.
Author statement: “My fascination with Nazi art theft and the unfolding danger to Jews in the German-controlled City of Light began with two Renoir paintings, Irène Cahen d’Anvers (The Girl with a Blue Ribbon) and Pink and Blue, portraits of the three daughters of Count Louis Cahen d’Anvers. One disappeared outside of the formal thefts carried out by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg and wound up in São Paulo; the other entered the Nazi pipeline, but was returned to France after the war. A clear picture formed in my mind of the 73-year-old Irène facing the picture of herself as an eight-year-old girl."