In Flanders Fields

Title:                      In Flanders Fields

Author:                  Leon Wolff

Wolff, Leon (1958). In Flanders fields; The 1917 Campaign. New York, Viking Press

LCCN:    58010607

D541 .W7


Date Posted:      November 21, 2014

In Flanders Fields: The 1917 Campaign is a history of the 3rd Battle of Ypres by Leon Wolff published in 1958 with an introduction by Maj. Gen. J. F. C. Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO. The book is out of print and is quite a rare find, usually only in large public or university libraries. A re-edition of the book was included in the Time-Life Reading Program in 1963, with an additional introduction by B. H. Liddell-Hart.

The first chapter “The Deadlock” is a brief description of the causes and events of World War I leading up to the year 1917. It details the military plans of the year by the French, British and German High Commands with considerable references to the diaries and official histories of the commanders and countries involved, the press, journalists, historians and political figures. There are several maps and photographic plates of the battlefields in the book.

While Third Battle of Ypres is synonymous with mud, death, futility of battles and horrible conditions of warfare, the writings do not play on these experiences of the soldier in the field too much, but instead gives the reader a somewhat unbiased view of what was really occurring at the very top of the commands: the British Prime Minister of the day, Lloyd George, Sir Douglas Haig, Sir William Robertson, Robert Nivelle, Ferdinand Foch and others. There are short quotes from newspapers of the day and soldiers at the front, with brief but vivid sketches of the actual battlefield, while comparing this with the views at Headquarters (none of the commanders of the armies seems to have ever visited the front or even seen it through field glasses and could not relate to the conditions of the battlefield and the struggles of the men through the unrelenting mud, and thus assessed the situations incorrectly, especially Haig).

Sir Douglas Haig is shown to make large assumptions without proper intelligence about the German defenses, enemy resources of men and guns, or the conditions of the battlefield. Leon Wolff does not say these things specifically, but gives the readers the facts as presented in official minutes of meetings with Lloyd George and the War Cabinet and diaries of high officers and leaves the reader to unequivocally reach his own conclusion of the characters involved.

The book also details all the battles of 1917, from Nivelle’s offensive and the French Army Mutinies (1917), Messines Ridge, Poelcapelle, Menin Road, the village of Passchendaele (fought by the Canadian Corps) and Ypres. It ends appropriately with a sequel of the end of the careers, and life after of Sir William Robertson, Sir Douglas Haig and David Lloyd George, quoting a line of Siegfried Sassoon’s “On Passing the New Menin Gate” and ending finally with a passage of Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle which seems to truly explain the cause and reasoning of a war as horrible as World War I, if not all wars:

…there dwell and toil, in the British village of Dumdrudge, usually some five hundred souls. From these…there are successively selected, during the French War, say thirty able-bodied men: Dumdrudge, at her own expense, has suckled and nursed them; she has not without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood, and trained them to crafts, so that once can weave, another build, another hammer, and the weakest can stand under thirty stone avoirdupois. Nevertheless, amid much weeping and swearing, they are selected; all dressed in red; and shipped away, at the public charges, some two thousand miles, or say only to the south of Spain; and fed there till wanted. And now to that same spot in the south of Spain, are thirty similar French artisans, from a French Dumdrudge, in like manner wending: Till at length, after infinite effort, the two parties come into actual juxtaposition; and Thirty stands fronting Thirty, each with a gun in his hand. Straightway the word “Fire!” is given: and they blow the souls out of one another and in the place of sixty brisk useful craftsmen, the world has sixty dead carcasses, which it must bury, and anew shed tears for. Had these men any quarrel? Busy as the Devil is, not the smallest!… their Governors had fallen out; and, instead of shooting one another, had the cunning to make these poor blockheads shoot. Alas, so it is in Deutschland, and hitherto in all other lands… [p. 233]

This is one of books in The Time Reading Program (TRP) which I read in 1982-83. I found these books to be outstanding. The full list is found at Napoleon’s Russian Campaign.

In Defense of Women

Title:                      In Defense of Women

Author:                 H. L. Mencken

Mencken, H. L. (1918, 1931). In Defense of Women. Garden City, N.Y., Garden City Pub. Co.,

LCCN:    32011723

HQ1221 .M25 1931


Date Posted:      November 20, 2014

In Defense of Women is H. L. Mencken’s 1918 book on women and the relationship between the sexes. Some laud the book as progressive while others brand it as reactionary. While Mencken did not champion women’s rights, he described women as wiser in many novel and observable ways, while demeaning average men.

According to Mencken’s biographer, Fred Hobson:

Depending on the position of the reader, he was either a great defender of women’s rights or, as a critic labelled him in 1916, “the greatest misogynist since Schopenhauer”,”the country’s high-priest of woman-haters.” History

The original goal of Defense was to help clarify Mencken’s views on women, garnered from an inconsistent and confusing reputation in newspaper columns, various reviews, and several plays. Along with Marion Bloom and Kay Laurell, Mencken gathered material for his book not from libraries and universities, but from saloons and hotels. The original title for Defense was A Book for Men Only, but other working titles included The Eternal Feminine as well as The Infernal Feminine. Originally published by Philip Goodman in 1918, Mencken released a new edition in 1922 in an attempt to bring the book to a wider audience. This second edition, published by Alfred Knopf, was both much longer and milder.

In general, biographers describe Defense as “ironic”: it was not so much a defense of women as a critique of the relationship between the sexes. Topics covered by the book included “Woman’s Equip-ment,” “Compulsory Marriage,” “The Emancipated Housewife,” and “Women as Martyrs.” Women were gaining rights, according to Mencken—the ability to partake in adultery without lasting public disgrace, the ability to divorce men, and even some escape from the notion of virginity as sacred, which remained as “one of the hollow conventions of Christianity.” Women nonetheless remained restrained by social conventions in many capacities.

Mencken’s love of women was driven in part by the sympathy he had for female literary characters (especially those brought to life by his friend Theodore Dreiser), as well as his almost fanatic love of his mother. Mencken supported women’s rights, even if he had no affection for the suffragist. Although he originally intended to be ironic when he proclaimed that women were the superior gender, many of the qualities he assigned to them were qualities he deeply admired–realism and skepticism among them, but also manipulative skill and a detached view of humankind.

“Women in general seem to me to be appreciably more intelligent than men… a great many of them suffer in silence from the imbecilities of their husbands.”

Mencken praised women, though he believed they should remain in the background of industry and politics. In personal letters especially, Mencken would write that women should appreciate men and do their best to support them. Although Mencken did not intend to demean women, his description of his “ideal scene” with a woman in the 1922 edition was not conventionally progressive:

It is the close of a busy and vexatious day—say half past five or six o’clock of a winter afternoon. I have had a cocktail or two, and am stretched out on a divan in front of a fire, smoking. At the edge of the divan, close enough for me to reach her with my hands, sits a woman not too young, but still good-looking and well dressed—above all, a woman with a soft, low-pitched, agreeable voice. As I snooze she talks—of anything, everything, all the things that women talk of: books, music, the play, men, other women. No politics. No business. No religion. No metaphysics. Nothing challenging and vexatious—but remember, she is intelligent; what she says is clearly expressed… Gradually I fall asleep—but only for an instant… then to sleep again—slowly and charmingly down that slippery hill of dreams. And then awake again, and then asleep again, and so on. I ask you seriously: could anything be more unutterably beautiful?

Mencken often espoused views of politics, religion, and metaphysics that stressed their grotesqueness and absurdity; in this context, escape from the fraud of such somber subjects was welcome to him.

The book was reviewed very well: according to Carl Bode, there were four times as many favorable reviews as unfavorable.

The first edition of the book sold fewer than 900 copies, a disappointing showing. The second edition sold much better, during the more progressive Roaring Twenties.

This book is available for free download at Project Gutenberg e-text of In Defense of Women

This is one of books in The Time Reading Program (TRP) which I read in 1982-83. I found these books to be outstanding. The full list is found at Napoleon’s Russian Campaign.

Fancies and Goodnights

Title:                      Fancies and Goodnights

Author:                 John Collier

Collier, John (1951). Fancies and Goodnights Garden City, New York: Doubleday

LCCN:    51014145

PZ3.C6903 Fan


Date Updated:  November 19, 2014

Fancies and Goodnights is a collection of fantasy short stories by John Collier, first published by Doubleday Books in hardcover in 1951. A paperback edition followed from Bantam Books in 1953, and it has been repeatedly reprinted over more than five decades, most recently in the New York Review Books Classics line, with an introduction by Ray Bradbury. A truncated British edition, omitting roughly one-quarter of the stories, was published under the title Of Demons and Darkness.

The collection is viewed as a classic of its genre. It won the International Fantasy Award for fiction in 1952, as well as an Edgar Award for “outstanding contribution to the mystery short story.” It compiles most of the stories from Collier’s prior collections as well as seventeen previously uncollected stories, several original to the volume. Collier reportedly rewrote many of his early stories prior to book publication.

The list of stories, from the Library of Congress catalog is as follows:


  • Bottle party — De Mortuis — Evening primrose — Witchs money — Are you too late or was I too early — Fallen star — The touch of nutmeg makes it — Three bears cottage — Pictures in the fire — Wet Saturday — Squirrels have bright eyes — Halfway to hell — The lady on the grey — Incident on a lake — Over insurance — Old acquaintance — The frog prince — Season if mists — Great possibilities — Without benefit of Galsworthy — The Devil Geoge and Rosie — Ah the university — Back for Christmas — Another American tragedy — Collaboration — Midnight blue — Gavin O Leary — If youth knew if age could — Thus I refute beelzy — Special delivery — Rope enough — Little memento — Green thoughts — Romance lingers adventure lives — Bird of prey — Variation on a theme — Night youth Paris and the moon — The steel cat — Sleeping beauty — Interpretation of a dream — Mary — Hell hath no fury — In the cards — The invisible dove-dancer of Strathpheen Island — The right side — Youth from Vienna — Possession of Angela Bradshaw — Cancel all I said — The chaser.


This is one of books in The Time Reading Program (TRP) which I read in 1982-83. I found these books to be outstanding. The full list is found at Napoleon’s Russian Campaign.

Elizabeth the Great

Title:                      Elizabeth the Great

Author:                  Elizabeth Jenkins

Jenkins, Elizabeth (1958, 2000). Elizabeth the Great. London : Phoenix Press

LCCN:    2001265626

DA355 .J4 2000


Date Posted:      November 14, 2014

Elizabeth the Great (1958), by Elizabeth Jenkins, is a biography of Queen Elizabeth I of England, “Good Queen Bess,” who reigned from 1558 until her death in 1603.

Elizabeth I was born in 1533, the daughter of King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn. When Elizabeth was only two years old, her father ordered the beheading of her mother. When Henry VIII died in 1547 he was succeeded by his son, Elizabeth’s half-brother, the nine-year-old Edward VI. After Edward VI died in 1553, Elizabeth’s half sister became Queen Mary I of England. Mary, who was Catholic, earned the name Bloody Mary for her persecution of Protestants during her reign. Because Elizabeth was Protestant and because Mary feared Elizabeth might plot against her life, Elizabeth was imprisoned throughout most of Mary’s reign.

Upon Mary I’s death in 1558, Elizabeth was named Queen of England. Elizabeth was masterful at creating a public image for herself that appealed to the emotions of her citizens and allayed their concerns about being ruled by a female monarch. Elizabeth’s refusal to marry, and therefore to bear heirs, was a significant point of conflict between herself and her Parliament throughout her reign. Meanwhile, she maintained a close companionship through much of her life with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom she also refused to marry.

Throughout her reign, Elizabeth was threatened by various plots to murder her and place the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. A number of conspiracies against her life and crown were uncovered, resulting in many executions for treason, including the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. However, upon Elizabeth’s death, King James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, was named as her successor, making him King James I of England.

This is one of books in The Time Reading Program (TRP) which I read in 1982-83. I found these books to be outstanding. The full list is found at Napoleon’s Russian Campaign.

The Land of Promise

Title:                      The Land of Promise

Author:                 W. Somerset Maugham

Maugham, W. Somerset (1914, 1921). The Land of Promise. In The Works of Somerset Maugham: Nine Novels in One Volume (first edition, Halcyon Classics) Houston, TX: Halcyon Press Ltd.; First edition (re-issued in 2009). Kindle Edition (downloaded December 21, 2010)

LCCN:    14005819

PZ3.T63 PS3539.O567

Date Posted:      November 7, 2014

The Land of Promise is a 1917 silent film produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Joseph Kaufman and starred Billie Burke and Thomas Meighan. The film is based on the 1913 play by W. Somerset Maugham, The Land of Promise, which also starred Burke on Broadway with Shelly Hull as her leading man.

The play was toned down to make the film in its Canadian version. An English girl, Nora Marsh (Burke), goes to Manitoba, Canada, to live on a farm run by her brother Edward. But Nora’s British reserve angers Edward’s hard-working wife Gertie (Mary Alden), because she mistakes it for snobbery. One of the farm’s hands, the manly Frank Taylor (Thomas Meighan), has saved up a bit of money and announces that he’s going to start his own farm. He also plans to go to an employment agency to find a wife who can cook and sew for him. Nora, who has been arguing with Gertie, offers herself. So they are married and Frank takes her to his crude farmhouse. In the play, he brutally takes advantage of the marriage vows that first night, but in the film, he sleeps on the floor while she turns the farmhouse into a dream of domesticity. Finally, after six months, he suggests that she at least kiss him. His crops wind up failing, and Edward arrives with an unexpected inheritance for Nora. He intends to take her home, but she realizes that she has come to love Frank and decides to stick by him.

Trojan Odyssey

Title:                                      Trojan Odyssey

Author:                                   Clive Cussler

Cussler, Clive (2003). Trojan Odyssey. New York: Putnam

LCCN:             2003058502

PS3553.U75 T76 2003


Date Posted:                        November 6, 2014

This book ended the adventurous careers of Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino, as Sandecker moves to vice president, and Dirk to head up NUMA. At last they are too old, after this adventure, to continue in their mayhem ways. It’s a long book and a decent read, although it seems to be two books in one to me.

Review of Trojan Odysseyby Mary Connealy.[1]

There is a touch of Dirk Pitt in the soul of every man who longs for adventure.

I could search through the whole book and not find a better quote to reflect this novel. I’d change one thing though. I wouldn’t say man. It works for a woman, too.

In the Trojan Odyssey, the 20th in a series of Dirk Pitt novels, Clive Cussler grabs you and takes you on another thrilling adventure. The whole gang is back, after three novels with a new hero and two non-fiction books, Clive Cussler returns to his roots.

Dirk Pitt, Al Giordino, Admiral Sandecker, Rudi Gunn and the rest of the gang are all as brave and daring as ever in Trojan Odyssey.

Cussler, as always, manages the difficult task of creating a bad guy who has a plan to rule (or destroy) the earth. He puts the world in peril, always by way of the sea, then lets Dirk Pitt snatch the planet from the jaws of disaster.

Cussler has a style that is uniquely his. He begins his novels with a long ago myth. Then he jumps to some other, seemingly unrelated scene. He drags you into one of his stories, takes you to a moment of climax and jumps to another story.

I always think, “No don’t leave them there, hanging by a thread!” Then, before you know, you’re completely hooked by the new situation. The writing style keeps you on the edge of your seat until all Cussler’s stories collide.

Cussler’s fearless master of the sea is Dirk Pitt. He appears in Trojan Odyssey, but he doesn’t appear until Chapter 9. Of course, he shows up right in the nick of time. Cussler has such sure disaster heading your way that you’re going to think the catastrophe is the basis of the story. Then Dirk shows up.

Oh, my gosh, Cussler’s going to let them live. BUT HOW?

A little side note: at first, if you’re not a Cussler fan, you think… “Dirk Pitt? What kind of dumb name is that?” By the end, I promise, you’ll be wanting to name your first child Dirk. Pitt is the bravest, strongest, smartest hero that has ever wise-cracked his way through the pages of literature.

If you’ve never read Cussler before, you have a real treat in store for you because a body of work this rich is still out there waiting for you. If you’re a fan, then you can’t miss Trojan Odyssey because big things are in store for Dirk.

Between his bold characters and fast-paced writing, there’s no escape from a Cussler novel. In the end, you snap the book closed and think, “I’ve got to learn to SCUBA dive, or join the Navy, or at least go ice skating.” You need an adventure. You need the water. Cussler makes you long for adventure.

The rating Sleep Robber doesn’t go far enough for Cussler. Because I laid awake a couple of nights AFTER I’d finished the book, trying to figure out how to arrange a SCUBA diving adventure along some coral reef. I’ve heard the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is nice! Brace yourself. And don’t plan a winter vacation until after you’re read Trojan Odyssey. You’re going to want an adventure under the sea.

[1] This article originally appeared in the Lyons Mirror-Sun newspaper. See more at: