The Greater America


I've always been fascinated (and a bit mystified) by the Ottoman Empire, but every time I set out to learn more about it, my eyes glaze over and I fall asleep. (It doesn't help that I like to read flat on my back, in bed or on the couch.) A Peace To End All Peace was the cure for that, at least until the postwar years, when the Empire was reduced to the core state of Turkey. My Irish father always claimed that, whenever you looked around the world and saw a pile of bloody feathers, an English fox was certain to be at the bottom of it, and this is certainly true of the mess we know as the Middle East. (Middle of what, I ask you? It's now politically incorrect to say "Far East," and to the best of my knowledge the Near East doesn't exist any longer.) Among the other astonishments in this excellent book is the information that Major Thomas Edward Lawrence, aka "Lawrence of Arabia," didn't play much of a role in the downfall of the Ottomans. Postwar, alas, Britain betrayed most of its allies, from the Arabs to the French, and pretty much determined the geography and the hostilities that plague the region today, from Cairo to Kabul.

This is a superlative series. (The link is to the three-DVD set, but I watched it streaming on Amazon Prime.) Speaking of the Ottoman Empire, there's even an episode devoted to that, as well as to the seldom touted eastern and southern fronts. Indeed, some of the most appalling footage was of the Alpine combat between Italian and Austrian soldiers, on what is surely the most difficult and strategically useless real estate in the world. The barbed wire can still be found today, along with the tunnels in which those poor bastards lived and fought for years. Don't miss The First World War and its incredible video and still photography, much of it in color. You'll see, for example, why Polish immigrants in Canada and the United States called themselves "the Blue Army" when they signed up to fight in France. The poilus really did wear blue!

I don't often buy hardcover novels, but I made an exception for the latest in the fabulous Bernie Gunther series, called Prussian Blue. (Like Lee Child, Philip Kerr favors obscure titles that I am apt to forget.) For one thing, it has caused book reviewers to hyperventilate, and for another it cost me only $14.16, or 17 cents more than the e-book. And, unlike the ebook, I can pass it on! For the ignorant (a group that included me until a couple weeks ago), Bernie is a wise-cracking, left-leaning detective in Berlin of the 1930s. Either trait could land him in a concentration camp, of course, and his dance on the precipice is part of the fun. Alas, time passes, and this particular story begins in France, in the 1950s, with the Nazi era handled in a lengthy flashback. Personally, I prefer to start and finish in the 1930s, when we don't know what will become of Bernie and Nazi Germany. So I suggest that strangers begin with the early thrillers that are bundled as Berlin Noir, three for the price of one. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

Poland's Daughter

A Kindle for $79.99, a tablet for $49.99!

For ten years I've been adapting my books and articles for digital reading, most notably for Amazon's Kindle, a kludgy device that cost $399 when it first revolutionized publishing. And now the price has fallen to $79.99 for a much superior product. Even more astonishing is the new Kindle Fire, a basic but full-fledged, 7-inch tablet computer for $49.99.

Daniel Ford's books:

The Greater America: An Epic Journey Through a Vibrant New Country (Ralph Paine)
Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault & His American Volunteers (revised 2016)
Tales of the Flying Tigers (think of it as a lengthy appendix to the history)
Poland's Daughter: How I Learned About Love, War, and Exile
Michael's War: A story of the Irish Republican Army
The Lady and the Tigers (Olga Greenlaw)
The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam
Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers
Incident at Muc Wa: A Story of the Vietnam War
Glen Edwards: Diary of a Bomber Pilot
A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror
The Country Northward: A Hiker's Journal

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Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

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Posted August 2017. Websites © 1997-2017 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.