Monthly Archives: November 2010

In a groundbreaking work of literary archaeology, a bold young scholar adds a new page to the quintessential book of adventure stories, that of the heroic traditions of the Old Testament.

The empty men : the heroic tradition of ancient Israel Gregory Mobley  The Anchor Bible reference library  New York : Doubleday : c 2005 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xvii, 294 p. ; 25 cm.      Includes bibliographical references (p. 247-266) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Gregory Mobley brings a highly original eye to the familiar stories found in Judges, which depict Israel’s frontier era, and in First and Second Samuel, which portray the ragged and violent emergence of kingship in Judah and Israel. From Ehud’s mission into an inaccessible Moabite palace to the triumph of Gideon and his elite squadron against a Midianite swarm, from the gangland epic of the warlord Abimelech’s rise and fall to the narrative of Samson, Israel’s great outlaw-hero, Mobley rescues these stories from their theologically minded biblical editors and traditional interpreters.

Mobley draws upon Semitic and European heroic traditions about warriors and wild men, and upon Celtic, Anglo-American, and African-American balladry about borderers and outlaws, to dig out the heroic themes submerged in biblical adventure stories.

The Empty Men describes the process by which adventure stories — replete with foolish love, warfare, assassinations, ritual slaughter, and grim masculine codes — were transformed into sermons and history lessons. Mobley also offers reflections on the Iron Age theology of these narratives, with their emphasis on poetic justice, and on the mythic dimensions of landscape in these stories.

Mobley is sure to attract much attention in the scholarly community for his raw portrayals of biblical heroes, for his unblinking attention to the martial codes and the warrior subculture of ancient Israel, and for his bittersweet reflections on the theological and ethical significance of this corpus of adventure stories that are under the surface — but close to the bedrock — of the many mansions that Judaism and Christianity have built in subsequent centuries on these foundational texts.

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Before we allow another president to lead us down the garden path to war and economic recovery we would do well to reflect on a previous such adventure.

Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath John Toland ; [maps by Rafael Palacios]  Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941  Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1982 Hardcover. 1st ed. xvi, 366 p., [32] p. of plates : ill., 2 maps ; 24 cm. Maps on lining papers. Bibliography: p. [328]-336. Includes Index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

On Dec. 7, 1941 carrier-borne Japanese planes found the United States Pacific fleet neatly lined up in Pearl Harbor and the army’s fighter wings in formation on the ground. The rest is history.

But what is the history? Before the sun set on Dec. 7 politicians and military leaders began running for cover. During the war there were official inquiries by the War and Navy Departments and by a Presidential commission, but their reports were delayed and censored, sometimes by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Men changed their testimony; documents disappeared. After the war there was a long and rancorous Congressional hearing. Historians have explored the problem ever since, their efforts fueled recently by tons of documents unsealed by the Freedom of Information Act. No incident in our history has been investigated for so long. During the war the Government appeared to place blame for our surprise on Adm. Husband Kimmel and Lt. Gen. Walter Short, the military commanders in Hawaii. But it would not court-martial them, so they began to look like victims.

John Toland has set out to defend Kimmel and Short and to prove a much bigger thesis: that FDR and the Chief of Staff, Gen. George C. Marshall, had detailed information about the attack on Pearl Harbor beforehand but withheld it from Kimmel and Short.

Most evidence he cites has been known before, and Mr. Toland supplies links and arguments. But, of course, the little missing pieces have always been the important ones. Mr. Toland has written a thriller. He recounts the attack dramatically and then reviews the investigations in a way that raises doubts and questions. Only at the end does he turn to events before the attack – FDR’s contingency war plans, the tangled negotiations with Japan during 1941, the personal intrigue in military and intelligence circles. By the time he has brought his story back to Dec. 7, he has supplied answers to his own teasing questions, answers which he says demonstrate that FDR and Marshall knew about the attack beforehand.

Other historians, notably the late Gordon Prange in ”At Dawn We Slept,” reached very different conclusions. Indeed, using the data Mr. Toland gives, one can arrive at different answers. There are still-secret state papers in several nations that might one day supply more conclusive evidence. But that is doubtful: The story of what Western intelligence sources really knew, and how they understood it, is too confused by contradictions, lost documents, the self-serving statements of moles and faulty memories. Mr. Toland adds a few characters of his own – a ”Seaman First Class Z” and an ”Admiral V,” whose names will be disclosed one day – to give crucial testimony, so that his book seems to claim a place in a continuing undercover intelligence controversy. If ”Infamy” does not answer the big questions about Pearl Harbor, it does raise them again in a combative way.

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In this dazzling biography, Bess Ralegh finally emerges from her husband’s shadow to stand as a complex, commanding figure in her own right.

My just desire : the life of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter Anna Beer  Great Britain , Court and courtiers , History , 16th century, Throckmorton, Bess, 1565?-1647  New York : Ballantine Books, 2003 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxii, 292 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.      Includes bibliographical references (p. 275-280) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Young, beautiful, and connected by blood to the most powerful families in England, Bess Throckmorton had as much influence over Queen Elizabeth I as any woman in the realm—but she risked everything to marry the most charismatic man of the day. The secret marriage between Bess and the Queen’s beloved Sir Walter Ralegh cost both of them their fortunes, their freedom, and very nearly their lives. Yet it was Bess, resilient, passionate, and politically shrewd, who would live to restore their name and reclaim her political influence. In this dazzling biography, Bess Ralegh finally emerges from her husband’s shadow to stand as a complex, commanding figure in her own right.

Writing with grace and drama, Anna Beer brings Bess to life as a woman, a wife and mother, an intimate friend of poets and courtiers, and a skilled political infighter in Europe’s most powerful and most dangerous court. The only daughter of an ambitious aristocratic family, Bess was thrust at a tender age into the very epicenter of royal power when her parents secured her the position of Elizabeth’s Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. Bess proved to be a natural player on this stage of extravagant mythmaking and covert sexual politics, until she fell in love with the Queen’s Captain of the Guard, the handsome, virile, meteorically rising Ralegh. But their secret marriage, swiftly followed by the birth of their son, would have grave consequences for both of them.

Brooking the Queen’s wrath and her husband’s refusal to acknowledge their marriage, Bess brilliantly stage-managed her social and political rehabilitation and emerged from prison as the leader of a brilliant, fast-living aristocratic set. She survived personal tragedy, the ruinous global voyages launched by her husband, and the vicious plots of high-placed enemies. Though Raleigh in the end fell afoul of court intrigue, Bess lived on into the reign of James I as a woman of hard-won wisdom and formidable power.

With compelling historical insight, Anna Beer recreates here the vibrant pageant of Elizabethan England—the brilliant wit and vicious betrayals, the new discoveries and old rivalries, the violence and fierce sexuality of life at court. Peopled by poets and princes, spanning the reigns of two monarchs, moving between the palaces of London and the manor house outside the capital, My Just Desire is the portrait of a remarkable woman who lived at the center of an extraordinary time.

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The GIs of the 442nd eventually earned 21 Medals of Honor and 9,486 Purple Hearts, while their outfit was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations – and they did it without hyphenation!

Rising sons : the Japanese American GIs who fought for the United States in World War II Bill Yenne  World War, 1939-1945 , Regimental histories      United States. Army. Regimental Combat Team, 442nd  New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2007 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xii, 302 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [279]-291) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Despite the fact that they and their families had been forced into internment camps, thousands of the American sons of Japanese immigrants responded by volunteering to serve in the United States armed forces during World War II. As military historian Bill Yenne writes, “It was their country, and they wanted to serve, just like anyone else their age. These young Japanese Americans thought of themselves as Americans, and they wanted to prove it.”

Most of these young Japanese Americans served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and its component 100th Infantry Battalion. For its size and length of service, the 442nd was the most decorated in the history of the US Army. The Japanese American GIs of the 442nd eventually earned 21 Medals of Honor and 9,486 Purple Hearts, while their outfit was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations.

Rising Sons brings to light the stories of these young men who faced down discrimination to serve their country. Some of these sons of Japanese immigrants came from Hawaii, where they had witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor firsthand, and responded like most Americans by signing up to serve. Most of the Japanese-Americans served in Italy and France, in the terrible and difficult battles at Anzio and Cassino, in the Vosges Mountains and on the Gothic Line. Detached from the regiment for service in southern Germany, the 442nd’s artillery battalion had the ironic distinction of being one of the American units involved in the liberation of Dachau. Japanese-Americans also proved themselves invaluable in the Pacific as well, serving in the Military Intelligence Service or in the infamous special-ops commando team known as Merrill’s Marauders.

Weaving together impeccable research with vivid firsthand accounts from surviving veterans, Yenne recounts the incredible stories of the Japanese-American soldiers who fought so bravely in World War II, men who were willing to lay down their lives for a country they were uncertain would ever accept them again. Their courageous actions proved that they, too, were true members of America’s Greatest Generation.

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The Missing Ring is more than a football book. It is both a story of a changing era and of an extraordinary team on a championship quest.

The missing ring : how Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide were denied college football’s most elusive prize Keith Dunnavant  Alabama Crimson Tide (Football team) , History  New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2006 Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. 324 p., ill., 25 cm. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Very few institutions in American sports can match the enduring excellence of the University of Alabama football program. Across a wide swath of the last century, the tradition-rich Crimson Tide has claimed twelve national championships, captured twenty-five conference titles, finished thirty-four times among the country’s top ten, and played in fifty-three bowl games.

Especially dominant during the era of the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, the larger-than-life figure who towered over the landscape like no man before or since, Alabama entered the 1966 season with the chance to become the first college football team to win three consecutive national championships. Every aspect of Bryant’s grueling system was geared around competing for the big prize each and every year, and in 1966 the idea of the threepeat tantalized the players, pushing them toward greatness. Driven by Bryant’s enthusiasm, dedication, and perseverance, players were made to believe in their team and themselves. Led by the electrifying force of quarterback Kenny “Snake” Stabler and one of the most punishing defenses in the storied annals of the Southeastern Conference, the Crimson Tide cruised to a magical season, finishing as the nation’s only undefeated, untied team. But something happened on the way to the history books.

The Missing Ring is the story of the one that got away, the one that haunts Alabama fans still, and native Alabamian Keith Dunnavant takes readers deep inside the Crimson Tide program during a more innocent time, before widespread telecasting, before scholarship limitations, before end-zone dances. Meticulously revealing the strategies, tactics, and personal dramas that bring the overachieving boys of 1966 to life, Dunnavant’s insightful, anecdotally rich narrative shows how Bryant molded a diverse group of young men into a powerful force that overcame various obstacles to achieve perfection in an imperfect world.

Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, the still-escalating Vietnam War, and a world and a sport teetering on the brink of change in a variety of ways, The Missing Ring tells an important story about the collision between football and culture. Ultimately, it is this clash that produces the Crimson Tide’s most implacable foe, enabling the greatest injustice in college football history.

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