Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review of "George the Drummer Boy," by Nathaniel Benchley


Review of
George the Drummer Boy, by Nathaniel Benchley ISBN 0064441067

Five out of five stars
 This story takes an unusual perspective for a book published in the United States, it presents the opening battles of the American Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord from the British perspective. The main character is George, a drummer boy in the British military units stationed in Boston. On the fateful night of the famous ride of Paul Revere, his unit is one that departs from Boston on small boats and then marches to Lexington. Their goal is to find ammunition supposedly hidden in Concord and Lexington is on the way.
 Most modern readers will not know that back then the phrase “drummer boy” should be taken literally. The youngest known drummer in the British Army was nine and the youngest in the American Army during the Revolutionary War was seven.
 While George’s age is not given, there is the clear impression that he was at most in his early teens. Therefore, the battles are described from his perspective, he more than the older soldiers, had no real idea why the two sides were fighting. There is no mention of glory or achievement in this narrative, just the rendition of a military defeat and returning to base cold, wet, hungry and tired. It is an excellent story, presenting the history of a very famous battle from the side of the defeated. They are not evil redcoats, just men that managed to survive a long day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review of "Hush Money," by Robert B. Parker


Review of
Hush Money, by Robert B. Parker ISBN 0399144587

Five out of five stars
 The environment within which Spenser is operating in this case has two components. The first is the denial of the academic tenure of a black man with a history with Hawk. The man’s father was a boxing trainer and a mentor to Hawk in his younger years, so we learn some background material on the enigmatic partner of Spenser. Hawk asks Spenser to investigate the matter and things get seedy very fast. For reasons that are explained, the normally unflappable Hawk goes somewhat berserk in beating up an academic.
 What seemingly is an instance of puzzling academic politics turns into a dangerous situation involving an extremely militant black man and a white supremacist organization. They are connected in a very intimate and physical way.
 The second component develops as a consequence of a request from Susan. Her old friend K. C. Roth is being stalked and there are two logical suspects but no evidence. Roth is a walking example of the emotionally needy, so she decides that her problems will be solved by having a sexual romp with Spenser. When he rejects her, Roth begins stalking him until Susan rather emphatically intervenes.
 This is another excellent story involving the wise-cracking yet extremely efficient detective. Like the other stories, the dialog between Spenser and Hawk is crisp, effective and amusing.

Review of "The Industrious Amanas"


Review of
The Industrious Amanas

Five out of five stars
 The Amana Colonies in Eastern Iowa were formed as a communal organization, where the means of production were owned by the community and the members ate in communal kitchens. The only personal possessions were household items and clothing. The land was farmed, but the people that worked the soil lived in houses in the villages. Over the years, the members found it necessary to adapt and so in the early 1930s, a corporation was formed, and shares of stock issued.
 Several small factories were constructed, woolen mills, a furniture shop and a factory where refrigerators were made. There was an open-hearth bakery and a large warehouse where hams, bacon and sausages were smoked and cured. The phrase “Amana quality” was understood by all and people traveled from all around the globe to tour and buy products.
 This pamphlet was designed to be sold to tourists and was published in the early sixties. It contains brief descriptions of the history of the Amana Society, how the residents lived their lives and explanations of the local industries. There are many images of the villages, people working at their tasks and the surrounding area.
 Most of this has changed, corporate powers have taken over much of the industry. If you go to one of the shops, pick up an item that has the Amana label and read it carefully you will see that it was manufactured well outside the colonies. Therefore, this pamphlet is a nostalgic look back at the way things were.