Already substantially invested in North Africa, the French created a national commission to study the possibilities, setting in motion a fine example of debacle by committee.
This book is about a colonel in the French military who in 1881 was completely consumed with his love for 2 things: 1. His love and desire for fame, which to his dismay had eluded him his entire life. 2. His love of the Sahara desert.
To pursue them both, he brushed aside all good advice and agreed with one lone crier who said that all would be well if he trekked across the Sahara to the famed city of Timbuktu. His backers saw nothing but gold when they thought of that illustrious city. Colonel Flatters and over 80 of the 96 men who left Algiers with him on the first French expedition to cross the Sahara desert, all perished. As we used to say in East Oakland, “THEY GOT WHOOPED”. The few starved, dehydrated and injured stragglers who staggered into a French owned settlement called Wargla less than a year later would never be the same. They reported a horror story from which they barely escaped with their lives. Their statements along with Flatter’s letters to his wife and military records of the failed expedition became the basis for this book. The great morals of this book are things we already know. Number 1:Don’t be a greedy fool! Number 2: Bloom where you’re planted. Ask yourself, “Do you really need the desert….Does it really need you?” Number 3: There’s a reason why they call it GOOD advice! As the author notes, Colonel Flatters did finally achieve the fame that he always wanted, but only for the completely unnecessary and foolish way in which he died. The author indicates that Flatters saw the danger and walked right into it. I found this book to be an excellent follow up to Skeleton’s on the Sahara and Death Raft which describes further blunders of the 19th century French Military.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Death in the Sahara
John Wlikes Booth awoke Good Friday morning, April 14th, 1865, hungover and depressed.
The Confederacy was dead.
This well researched account of the asassination of President Lincoln reads like a good work of fiction, pulling the reader along with fascinating historical detail and day by day accounts of America’s greatest manhunt. Washington’s mood was elevated after years of bloodshed and was ready to celebrate the impending defeat of the Confederacy. The “Great Illumination”, a wonderous lighting of every possible public and private building by candlelight, torch, and fireworks had just occurred. The city was finally starting to brighten, but Booth was feeling very blue. His beloved Confederacy was crumbling, and only a bold and decisive stroke could save it. A series of circumstances the morning after the illumination changed Booth’s outlook and the course of the nations history.
After setting in motion a plot that had been in the planning stages for some time, the murderous deed was done. The reader is taken along on the chase through Maryland and Virginia, feeling as though they are standing off to the side, witnessing the words and actions of the villain and those in pursuit. Many direct quotes from the historical record, Booth’s diary, and newspaper accounts are used to create a feeling of immediacy and “insider” knowledge. The author James L.Swanson has created a compelling account of our national tragedy with many photos and illustrations included. I was reluctant to see the book end and lingered over some sections before returning my copy.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Manhunt
We tend to think of mental hospitals as snake pits, hells of chaos and misery, squalor and brutality.
I was gobsmacked by this book! This volume is filled with beautiful photographs of crumbling asylums. It is a form of photojournalism that tells of the majesty of asylums: their architecture, interiors, landscaping and purpose. And it also tells the story of their decline and decay: the shattered windows, peeling paint, abandoned suitcases and trees growing up through cement. The pictures themselves are stunning and the story they paint is equally moving. Coupled with an introductory essay by Oliver Sacks who clearly loves these facilities and what they represent for our society, the result is a marvelous book.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Asylum
“Yes, you can tell Carnegie I’ll meet him,” Frick said finally, wadding the letter and tossing it back at Bridge. “Tell him I’ll see him in Hell, where we both are going.”
Before Andrew Carnegie was known as the hero of public libraries, having funded the construction of over 1,500 libraries in the U.S., he was a ruthless steel baron, strikebreaker, and all-around unlikeable guy. Carnegie’s longtime business partner, Henry Clay Frick, an equally merciless businessman, has also since redeemed his reputation as the namesake and benefactor of (among other philanthropic endeavors) the Frick Art Reference Library in New York. Meet You in Hell tells the dramatic story of their business relationship, their personal lives, the steel industry in the late 19th century, and the building of America.
The book centers on the pivotal Battle of Homestead, a steel worker strike in 1892 that defined labor relations in the steel industry for the next 50 years and was the primary cause of the later vicious hatred between Carnegie and Frick. Les Standiford does an excellent job of making this history book read like suspenseful fiction – but without footnotes (my only complaint) you just have to believe he didn’t make this stuff up. Consistently referring to correspondence, business records, newspaper reports, oral histories, and memoirs, Standiford gives credible historical context to the drama. He fills in the details with lines like: “…they got the news from an exhausted but wild-eyed worker who had just rowed himself across the quarter-mile-wide river from Rankin to the Union Hall in Homestead…” which makes it sound like he was standing on the banks of the river watching the action. A nice balance of intrigue and historical fact.
History comes alive in Meet You in Hell! And it’s coming to get you!
Check the BPL Catalog for this title: Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership that Transformed America