Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book review - The Last Battle

The Last Battle tells the history of an obscure fire fight that took place in Austria in early May, 1945. It was unique in that US and German soldiers fought side by side against a determined group of die hard SS troops.

A small castle in an obscure town in Austria was used by Germany as a prison for high value political prisoners. The prisoners, a group of high level French politicians, were housed in relative comfort but were still prisoners of the Reich. There were held as political bargaining chips and included names like Daladier, Weygand, Reynaud and Clemenceau.

When it became clear that the war was lost, the German SS commandant left the prison and the prisoners unprotected. Alerted to the situation by Austrian partisans and fearing that roving bands of die hard SS might act on orders to kill them, an American tanker was ordered to secure the castle and protect the prisoners. When he arrived, he found that a few German soldiers had also decided to protect the French politicians and the two former enemies joined forces against the SS.

This obscure battle in a remote Austrian town had a profound effect on the future but details about it had been lost to history until Stephen Harding's research brought it to light.

Harding spends a great deal of time describing the prisoners and the key players. This makes reading a little slow but it is necessary to set the background for what is to happen. The battle itself was probably rather routine for the time and was relatively short, ending when a larger group arrived and the SS retreated in the face of a superior force. What is unique is that German and US soldiers fought side by side in the last day of the war.

Harding tries to provide an after the war follow up on the people involved. This was easy to do for the French politicians. He was also able to learn a little about the post war life of the US commander. But the life of the other soldiers after the war is unknown.

This is worth reading to learn about a unique piece of history.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review - Wonderland

Wonderland is the latest of the ghost written Spenser series. The Parker family selected Ace Atkins to write these under Robert's name. It was an excellent selection because I cannot tell the difference between their writing styles when Ace puts on his Robert Parker persona.

Wonderland was the name of an old (and now derelict) amusement park that was located on Revere Beach a little north of Boston. Revere Beach was the place to hang out back in the day. Spencer's friend Henry Cimoli has a condo on the beach. Henry, and his fellow condo owners, are being pressured to vacate their homes and Henry asks Spencer for some help. As is typical of any Spencer mystery, there is much more going on behind the scenes and Spencer, along with new side kick Zebulon Sixkill, jump into the mix of competing casino developers.

You will recall that Zebulon was introduced in the last book written by Robert Parker.

Haaaaand, Salute!

Tom is a long time friend. We have known each other since first grade and have been lucky enough to stay in touch through the years. He emailed recently that his son is now one of the newly minted Second Lieutenants graduated from West Point. After Ranger school, he's probably headed for Afghanistan in 2014. It's good to know that there are still young men like him.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cajun Turnips

Here's a little something my wife dreamed up last night that makes turnips taste good. She deviated from the usual Holy Trinity (green pepper, celery and onions) although it could be modified to include that if one so wished. She did it this way because we are doing a low carb diet that restricts cooked onions (we don't know why, but they do).

3 lg turnips peeled and diced into small cubes
½ diced jalapeno pepper
1 stalk of diced celery
2 Oz Tasso, chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
handful of chopped fresh thyme, marjoram and parsley,
2 smashed cloves of garlic
¼ tsp. asefetida
½ tsp. of onion pwd
½ tsp. garlic pwd
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. Splenda
1 cup chicken stock

Put olive oil in a hot pan when oil is hot add Tasso, celery, jalapeno pepper, garlic and asafetida. Fry until fragrant - a couple of minutes. Add chopped turnips and cook, stirring until they are brown. Be  careful not to burn them. After about 6 minutes add chicken stock and all seasonings and fresh herbs, and Splenda and cook until done. When done add ½ cup chopped green onions   Asafetida is a spice substitute for onion and is common in Indian dishes. If you don't have it, add more onion powder.  

Friday, June 7, 2013


Ramadan will start on July 8 this year. This date, along with 9/11, should trigger an automatic increase in the level of security alert for all westerners. Be alert......the world needs more Lerts!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review - The Broken Places

This is the third in Ace Atkins' series featuring Quinn Colson that started with The Ranger.

Three inmates break out of prison and head to Quinn's home town of Jericho. They want to settle a score with another fellow inmate, Jamie. Jamie had been in prison for murder where he started preaching the gospel to his fellow inmates. He managed to secure a pardon and returned to Jericho to continue his ministry. Quinn and the family of his victim are not happy to see him return but the fact that Quinn's sister is living with him complicates the issue. Everything comes to a head when the escapees come to town and, in the process of settling accounts, leave a trail of bodies and end up in one of the worst tornadoes the area has experienced.

Ace is one of my favorite authors. He should be up there with Sandford, Child, Crais and Connelly. This one has plenty of twists and the action to keep you engaged. While you can follow the story without reading the previous novels, you will understand the characters better if you take the time and do your homework.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Several bloggers have posted that today is the anniversary of the capture of U-505. She is now a museum boat in Chicago. Go pay her a visit.

But what happened to the crew? All but one was captured alive. They had to be kept isolated so that they couldn't alert the Germans that they had been captured and the naval codes compromised. They were sent to a POW camp in Ruston, Louisiana. It so happened that their guards were members of the US Navy baseball team. These guards taught the German submariners how to play baseball and that story can be found in "Playing with the Enemy". Evidently a movie based on the book was in development but it never got into production.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Head Count

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made up for lost time last month by separating 11 criminals from their heads. This brings their year to date total to 43. Most of them were murderers with an odd druggie thrown in for good measure.