John P. Holland

Title:                      John P. Holland

Author:                  Richard Knowles Morris

Morris, Richard Knowles (1998). John P. Holland, 1841-1914: Inventor of the Modern Submarine. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press

LOC:       97024118

VM140.H6 M57 1998

Date Posted:      January 28, 2013

This book is essential for those interested in the development of the modern submarine. It took a great deal of determination by Holland to develop his concepts into a viable submersible. His Holland VI was the basis for at least three of the world’s naval powers’ submarines who purchased his example for their initial programs as the 20th century opened.

This book is the classic biography of the Clare Man whose technological innovations led to the launch of the first modem submarine in 1897 which made its first dive on St. Patrick’s Day 1898 and was purchased by the US Navy in 1900 as their first underwater torpedo boat. Dr. Morris draws on the diaries and technical papers of his grandfather, Charles Morris was a long-time friend and supporter of Holland and was the superintendent of the Holland Torpedo Boat Coy.

John Holland’s early life is recounted, the Fenians who funded his first two boats, his frustrations in dealing with the US Navy, the robbery of his patents and his final success with Boat No 6 in 1898. Negotiations with Britain, Japan and Russia for the Holland design submarines are told. It is an excellent read and a solid scholarly step towards (Holland’s) belated recognition – as the New York Times Book Review stated. It is the 3rd edition, with an extra new chapter.

Dr. Morris was a professor of Education and Anthropology at Trinity College Harford, Connecticut until his retirement and has written and co-authored several books

The Search for Modern China

Title:                      The Search for Modern China

Author:                   Jonathan D. Spence

Spence, Jonathan D. (1990). The Search for Modern China. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

LOC:       89009241

DS754 .S65 1990

Date Posted:      January 26, 2013

Spence argues that China’s modernization strategies can’t work unless the people are allowed to participate in political decision-making. To a degree he may be right. It is not an either/or situation since the political structure of China continually morphs before a crises that forces change actually occurs. Tiananmen was a crisis, but before the tanks rolled in the morphing was in high gear. Changes were made quietly, and the population generally pacified. I was in China during the crisis, and saw how things modified even in remote places as well as in Shanghai.

This book is, to be sure, a splendid achievement, this sweeping 1088-page epic chronicle compresses four centuries of political and social change into a sharply observant narrative. The difficulty of finding a complete, one-volume history of China is no longer a problem with publication of this work, which covers Chinese history from the 16th-century Ming Dynasty to the 1989”China Spring” demonstrations.

Spence offers contemporary perspectives on the British 19th-century drive to get the Chinese masses addicted to opium, Chiang Kai-Shek’s secret police apparatus and proto-fascist supporters, Japan’s ruthless occupation during WW II, the Mao bloodbath known as the “Cultural Revolution” and the legacy of China’s bureaucratic, authoritarian Ming and Qing dynasties

The text is written in an informative manner that will appeal to students; their lack of knowledge of Chinese history is forestalled by the comprehensive glossary that explains phrases, people, and events. To Spence’s credit (at least from my perspective) he uses Pinyin to Romanize Chinese names of people and places. The Wade –Giles system just is no longer relevant to modern China.

The Library of Congress lists a new edition of the book (2013) but I have not seen it.

A Better War

Title:                      A Better War

Author:                  Lewis Sorley

Sorley, Lewis (1999). A Better War: The Unexamined Victories And Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years In Vietnam. New York: Harcourt Brace

LOC:       99010495

DS558 .S65 1999

Date Posted:      January 26, 2013

The Publisher’s description follows:

Neglected by scholars and journalists alike, the years of conflict in Vietnam from 1968 to 1975 offer surprises not only about how the war was fought, but about what was achieved. Drawing on authoritative materials not previously available, including thousands of hours of tape-recorded allied councils of war, award-winning military historian Lewis Sorley has given us what has long been needed-an insightful, factual, and superbly documented history of these important years. Among his findings is that the war was being won on the ground even as it was being lost at the peace table and in the U.S. Congress. The story is a great human drama of purposeful and principled service in the face of an agonizing succession of lost opportunities, told with uncommon understanding and compassion. Sorley documents the dramatic differences in conception, conduct, and-at least for a time, results between the early and the later war. Meticulously researched and movingly told, A Better War is sure to stimulate controversy as it sheds brilliant new light on the war in Vietnam.

This book is also reviewed on the AFIS web site, Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #32-99, 12 August 1999


Why Do We Americans Submit to This

Title:                      Why Do We Americans Submit to This

Author:                   Susan Huck

Huck, Susan (1997). Why Do We Americans Submit to This? McLean, VA: Newcomb Publishers

LOC:       97066393

JK421 .H77 1997

Date Posted:      January 24, 2013

Conservative Review was published bimonthly from 1990 through 1997. Dr. Huck was the Associate Editor and a fairly prolific contributor. The current, second edition of the book is a complete collection of all her articles during the eight-year period. The title of the book reflects the author’s usual frame of mind when settling down to write. Although the more than sixty articles were created in random order, the book groups them under thirteen general headings such as education, environmentalism, other “hardy perennials of the liberal agenda,” as well the propaganda wars, foreign affairs, and “spook stuff.” The author states that satire is her “edged weapon of choice.” Many a tempting target feels the knife. Guaranteed fun.

The author of this book is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), and the above review is published on the Association’s website. In this section of the list of reviews the authors, titles, and reviews tend to be jumbled, so beware.

Reviewed by Dwight D. Murphey

The title of this book raises a question that is central to the “culture war.” There is nothing that enemies, foreign and domestic, can do to American society that is nearly so damaging as our own docility. Were it not for the comfortable acceptance by Americans of the ongoing attack on American culture, that assault would be stopped in its tracks.

To What Are We Submitting?

Just in case anyone, perhaps awakening from a forty-year slumber, wonders what it is that Americans are submitting to, Sue Huck (as she is affectionately known around the office of the Conservative Review, where she is, along with this reviewer, an associate editor) sets out her “D list” on the back cover. It refers to “what liberals like to see in the rest of us.” Here is a sample from it, although it deserves a close reading in its entirety—one of several reasons for buying the book:

Liberals, she says, like to see Americans as:

  • “Dumb, as in both ‘dumbed-down’ and mute.
  • “Docile, ready to be guided and trained, ready to accept any outrage.
  • “Deprived of as much of our income as we will allow to be taken from us…
  • “Deceived by the current propaganda line, whatever it may be…
  • “Denounced for destroying the earth, oppressing ‘others,’ harboring bad thoughts…
  • “Deracinated, if white—forbidden a sense of racial identity or pride…
  • “Displaced from schools and jobs by federal pressure favoring federally-privileged groups…”

This list captures the essential points in American submissiveness. It is by default that we are losing our civilization and our culture.

[I, on the other hand – the maker of this blog – believe that Huck’s list is more applicable to Tea Party people than to liberals.]

Why Are Americans So Submissive?

Sue starts with a review of Jared Taylor’s excellent recent book, Paved With Good Intentions, and relates a conversation with Taylor in which he broadened the question: “‘I think future historians will ask why whites committed suicide.” The trend, he notes, is now global. Yes, it is—everywhere in Europe, visibly so in South Africa, and even in Australia.” So it isn’t just Americans. Western civilization itself is under attack, and is allowing itself both to be eaten away by the acids of an alienated intellectual subculture and ultimately to be caused, through the medium of a massive influx of non-Western peoples, no longer recognizably to exist.

All of us who write on these issues are short on explanations of why so few people care. And, despite her title, Sue Huck doesn’t give much explanation. Her book is a compilation—much better organized than other compilations I’ve seen, and with a short introductory essay to each cluster—of the many articles and book reviews she has written for Conservative Review between 1990 and 1997. It is a splendid, angry, and yet delightfully told account of the assault upon us. She has positioned herself to “see the face of evil” by being in personal contact with the countless crazies of the Left. There is probably no better book than hers for someone who wants the down-in-the-trenches detail of the culture war. But her question—vitally important as it is—remains mostly unanswered.

Readers who got this far are welcome to read the rest of Murphey’s review by going to the link. I would ask, “Why do Americans put up with this kind of knee-jerk radical right bilge?”

Science and Technology in Post-Mao China

Title:                      Science and Technology in Post-Mao China

Author:                  Denis Fred

Simon, Denis Fred (1988) and Merle Goldman, eds. Science and Technology in Post-Mao China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

LOC:       88028456

Q127.C5 S333 1989

Date Posted:      January 23, 2013

Thanks to this original, clear, and vital collection, the place of technical and scientific issues in China today and in the near future can be understood by all. The editors of this book in the Harvard Contemporary China Series have assembled 14 essays by established, respected specialists. Despite the variety of subjects—ranging from historical precedents, through present-day domestic policy emphases, to technology transfer from abroad—masterful introductory and concluding chapters draw everything into a unified survey that will serve intermediate and advanced students and observers of contemporary Chinese developments.The essays cover an impressive range of topics.

The book offers a very valuable balance-sheet for professional analysts of China’s economic and scientific policies, and its case studies in particular may prove useful background reading for foreign businessmen dealing with corporate strategy and tactics. Since the whole economic reforms involve a fine balancing act between central planning and free market forces, between central control and the delegation and decentralization of power and authority—vital issues in developing countries of the Third and Second World—a book about the way China grapples with these problems should prove interesting also for comparative studies in modernization theory.

The studies brought together in this solid, meaty volume appear to add up to a fairly comprehensive treatment of China’s present scientific and technological condition…The book is a valuable addition to the literature relating to the relationship between science and the state, in the particular context of a centrally planned economy subjected to the rigorous primacy of political ideology.

This careful and realistic overview of China’s past and present technological state presents an even-handed, historical account of the transition from Nationalist to Communist policies toward science and scientists…Well-integrated chapters make this an informative, readable, and fascinating account of China’s love-hate relationship with technology. Anyone who wants to understand the vagaries of Chinese policy toward science and foreign influences should enjoy this book.

I used this book in a course I taught in the 1990s on S&T in China.

Women in the Civil War

Title:                      Women in the Civil War

Author:                  Mary Elizabeth Massey

Massey, Mary Elizabeth (1994).Women in the Civil War. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press

LCCN:    93045580

E628 .M3 1994


Date Updated:  December 11, 2015

The Civil War wrought cataclysmic changes in the lives of American Women on both sides of the conflict. Women in the Civil War demonstrates their enterprise, fortitude, and fierceness. In this revealing social history, Massey focuses on many famous women, including nurses Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, and Mother Bickerdyke; spies Pauline Cushman and Belle Boyd; writers Louisa May Alcott, Julia Ward Howe, and Mary Chestnut; pamphleteer and military strategist Anna Ella Carroll; black abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth; feminists Susan B. Anthony and Jane Grey Swisshelm; and political wives Varina Davis and Mary Todd Lincoln. The anonymous women who maintained farms and plantations are described, as are camp followers, businesswomen, entertainers, activists, and socialites in Charleston and Washington.

The Ambler Warning

Title:                  The Ambler Warning

Author:                 Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (2005). The Ambler Warning. New York: St. Martins

LCCN:    2005049407

PS3562.U26 A75 2005


Date Updated:  April 16, 2015

This is Ludlum’s twenty-sixth, a remarkable feat given that he is deceased. For some bestselling authors, death is no impediment to an enduring career. But the latest Ludlum (d. 2001) novel, penned by an unnamed hired hand, reveals the problems inherent in such an arrangement: neither sufficiently like Ludlum’s originals nor compellingly distinctive, it inhabits a kind of thriller purgatory to which only the most dedicated Ludlumite will be eager to venture.

After a two-decade career as a clandestine operative, Hal Ambler is drugged and warehoused in the Parrish Island Psychiatric Facility, a government nuthouse for spies. The locale is a barrier island six miles off the coast of Virginia and officially part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. At Parrish Island, “potential security risks could be carefully managed and the patients are identified by number, never by name.” A sympathetic nurse aids his escape, and soon Ambler is on the run, trying to figure out who he is and, more importantly, who he was. There are a few interesting characters—particularly CIA accountant Clayton Caston, a man who knows little about feelings but who can tease a mountain of information out of a spy’s expense account—but the villains are mostly invisible and everybody else ends up dead before you really get to know them. Just because a writer can copy what was once a successful style does not automatically assure his publisher a successful book.

The Cry of The Halidon

Title:                  The Cry of The Halidon

Author:                 Robert Ludlum

Ryder, Jonathan (pseud. for Robert Ludlum) (1974). The Cry of The Halidon. New York: Delacorte Press

LCCN:    74001108



Date Updated:  April 16, 2015

Taut with international intrigue and frenetic action, Robert Ludlum’s novels are generally highly entertaining and rich with suspense. The standard of The Cry of the Halidon, however, is well below his usual.

Unlike most of his other books, The Cry of the Halidon is rarely suspenseful and does not build to a recognizable climax. The plot is typical Ludlum fare, with Alexander Tarquin Mcauliff selected by a company—Dunstone Limited—to head a survey team deep into the Jamaican forests. Minutes after successfully attaining the survey assignment, he is approached by British Intelligence and informed that the motives of Dunstone are far from honest.

Naturally, he finds himself involved not only with British Intelligence, Dunstone, and the rebel factions of Jamaica, but also with a third faction, an organization known only as the “Halidon.” While initially this may seem gripping and interesting, the text quickly becomes confused and rambling. With so many hostile organizations and no primary antagonist, it is frequently difficult to comprehend the plot, let alone the actions of the main character.

Although the novel does become more interesting at its conclusion, I found The Cry of the Halidon to be ultimately unsatisfying, with its more suspenseful elements overwhelmed by a confusing plot, a sprawling diction and a lackluster climax.