Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I review almost exclusively history books (with rare exceptions). I will eagerly review any book having to do with antiaircraft or air defense. I am also interested in books on Africa, but again, mostly the history of the continent, especially in the 20th Century. Get in touch with me for more information. Most of my book reviews are also on Goodreads and Amazon.

Zeppelin vs British Home Defence (Five Stars)

This impressive little book looks at the use of Zeppelins by Germany to bomb England into submission during the Great War and the lone fighters sent up to challenge them. I'll admit that when I purchased this book I hoped that it would also include the role of antiaircraft artillery and searchlights (as small as those roles were at the time). Nevertheless, this book is an impressive study of the fight between the primitive airships and the heavier-than-air craft sent up to intercept them. While on the face of it zeppelins suffered from a distinct disadvantage due to the use of hydrogen to generate lift the biplane sent after them were difficult enough to operate in daylight and dangerous in the dark. The planes also had to find the weapon that could bring down the giants without taking the attackers with it.

A good visual reference for dealing with the topic or a good starting point for learning about the Zeppelin War... in any case a great read!

The Alamo and the War of Texan Independence (Five Stars)

This Osprey book looks at the Mexican and Texan armies which fought until the capture of Santa Anna. While the Mexican army organized under Santa Anna's dictatorship appeared to be well-equipped and well-organized, in practice the troops were ill-served, thanks to corruption and poor management. On the other hand, the Texan army was not simply a rabble... the Texans were already working hard to equip a standing army and they had help from U.S. volunteers, including deserters from the U.S. Army. Some volunteer companies arrived in Texas in uniforms which were at least comparable to those the Mexicans were supposed to have, while others were dressed in more practical outfits. Still, Santa Ana's army had a wealth of experience and the Texans had little. It was truly a "David and Goliath" war.

The artwork and interpretation are first-rate. This book provides an excellent insight into a war that is little known to the public, with exception of the Alamo, a hard-fought and doomed battle that inspired TWO nations.

Russian Roulette (Four Stars)

This awesome book looks at the fallout from the Russian Revolution and the British secret agents sent in to stop world revolution. The efforts to stop the Bolsheviks included a raid against the Baltic Fleet, operations in Soviet Turkestan to stop Islamic Holy War propaganda, intelligence asessments in Petrograd and Moscow and even a coup aimed at toppling Lenin and replacing him with a candidate of Sidney Reilly's liking. An awesome book, it reads like fiction and is well illustrated with photographs.

If there is a flaw it is in the supposition that Britain's Secret Service had a hand in assassinating Rasputin. While the autopsy of the Mad Monk is at varience with what the conspirators reported there is only one agent's account that seems to put an agent in the building when it was happening. Also, Churchill's use of incapacitating gas near Archangel is played up more than it needs to be. Still, a great book!

A Frozen Hell (Four Stars)

Excellent study of the Winter War, which saw the USSR hurl entire divisions against tiny Finland's regiments and battalions. In a war that should have been a pushover for Stalin the Finns managed to do surprisingly well. An inspiration for many of the democracies still untouched by the new world war, it nevertheless saw Finland fighting a desperate war with no concrete help from outside. The hard fighting done by these free men still resonates today. A little redundant in places, but the book is well-illustrated with maps and photographs.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spy Camera- The Minox Story (four stars)

Great book! I didn't realize that I got an older edition, but that's OK... I'm more interested in the "classic" minoxes, like the Minox-B. This book talks about the original vision of the Minox camera by Zapp, the rather confusing situation relating to the manufacture and sale of the Minox due to WWII and the occupation of Latvia by the Soviets, then the Germans, then the Soviets again. The manufacturing passed over to Germany (primarily) after the war and there were some changes to the board, so the speak. All very confusing but Moses addresses this. The book talks about the differences between individual camera models, the special lens that makes the Minox practical and several manufacturing facts. There is a chapter that very briefly discusses the use of the Minox in espionage (which is probably what it's best known for) and a lot of good information on special accessories. The book doesn't really look much at the Minox in popular culture (which I think is a mistake... you could almost do a whole book on that topic alone!) and it doesn't include information on how to operate the original Minox, but it does include serial numbers for identifying when your Minox C was made and other practical info so it balances out. Lavishly illustrated with photos.

Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History (Five Stars)

The pogrom that took place in Kishinev in what was in 1903 the Russian province of Besserabia was not the first nor the last nor even the worst of the pogroms which periodically rocked the Jewish population living in the Pale of Settlement but it was one which, for the first time, touched the imagination of people around the world to the plight of Jews living in the shadow of the Russian eagle, assuring the entry of the word "pogrom" into the English language. Zipperstein gives the reader an account of the attacks launched against the Jewish population of Kishinev, the acts of rape, murder and physical assault, the arbitrariness of the violence by the local Moldovan population and the seeming inability or unwillingness of the local police and military to get involved. Zipperstein also looks at the way the incident was captured by journalists and how it has effected the way we look at pre-revolutionary Russia to this day. Includes black and white photos and helpful maps.