California Literary Review


Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson


January 4th, 2009

Lincoln came to the Presidency without any real military experience. He had been an Illinois militia captain in the Black Hawk War of 1832 but as he said in self-deprecation to his fellow Members of Congress in 1848, his combat record amounted to “charges upon the wild onions” and “a good many struggles with the musketoes.”

Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America by Meredith Mason Brown


November 16th, 2008

It was brutal stuff. Massacres, scalpings, crops burned, winters with only salted meat to eat – and this on both sides. Again Boone survived this melee, but it took a great deal of guile to do it. When his daughter Jemima was kidnapped by a Cherokee and Shawnee war party, for instance, he needed his backwoods know-how to track them down quickly and shoot the offenders.

Events Leading to America’s Involvement in Vietnam


October 30th, 2008

Given the political vacuum in the South, a Communist takeover of all of Vietnam within two years, or even less, seemed unavoidable. Beyond vague ideas of somehow rallying the Vietnamese in the South and contingency plans for creating stay-behind agents to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Vietminh, the U.S. had little idea of how to prevent a complete Communist take-over.

Résistance by Agnès Humbert


October 28th, 2008

The early resistors soon discover that the Nazis don’t view their activities with similar lightheartedness. Oblivious to the reason why a German car might be parked outside the hospital her mother is in, Humbert walks straight into hell. A member of the Gestapo has infiltrated and betrayed their group, and she and her friends are rounded up for a show trial. It is only April 1941. What follows is an account that tests our 21st century belief in rationalism.

A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn by James Donovan


September 25th, 2008

Had Sitting Bull and his war chiefs reacted in the customary skirmishing style of Plains Indian warfare, the outcome would have been very different. But the Sioux and Cheyennes, fighting with their backs to the wall against the encroaching tide of white civilization, opted for a pitched battle and almost from the outset, Custer’s tactical plan went terribly wrong.

Photo Essay: North Korean Propaganda Posters


August 19th, 2008

Posters are visual illustrations of the slogans that surround the people of North Korea constantly. North Korean society is in a permanent mobilization. Party and government declarations are stripped down to single-line catchphrases. Through their endless repetition in banners, newspaper headlines, and media reports, these compact slogans become self-explanatory, simultaneously interpreting and constructing reality.

Bracing For Armageddon? by William R. Clark


August 14th, 2008

Asahara amassed hundreds of million dollars and sent agents to far-flung destinations to ferret out information and materials for use in bioweapons. In 1995, he sought to hasten the apocalypse and seize earthly power by spreading an unlikely sacrament, sarin gas, in the Tokyo subway system. This event killed twelve people outright and injured another thousand or more, many of them seriously. The group had carried out a previous gassing, a sort of practice run for the Tokyo event, in the outlying town of Matsumoto. Seven died.

A Boy’s View of a World War


July 15th, 2008

The three Libby’s men were the first American businessmen to receive Allied permits to travel to the Continent. They spent most of the summer there. My father kept a journal that was full of business data but also recorded tragic scenes, including the crowds of people walking down Dutch roads, coming back from forced labor in Germany, and the almost total desolation in Hamburg, where Allied bombing raids had killed perhaps fifty thousand people and a million others fled the city.

Eugene Debs and the Fight for Free Speech


June 26th, 2008

Debs was the great voice of socialism in the United States for the first two decades of the 20th century, a five-time presidential candidate for a third-party crusade against capitalism. He was a homegrown rebel, born and raised in Indiana, and a powerful speaker who knew how to translate socialism into an American idiom.

Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II by Sarah Byrn Rickman


May 27th, 2008

They were also a PR dream. Initially working for her future husband, Robert Love, the young and pretty Nancy Harkness was hired to demonstrate and sell airplanes. Predicted to replace the family car, the private plane was seen as the wave of the future. If women could fly it, the perception was, anybody could. What Love thought of all of this malarkey, the cheesecake photographs and press coverage, is hard to determine.

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson


March 7th, 2008

Often written in a quiet, understated style that belies the madness and violence that seep through every aspect of life in this jungle country more than forty years ago, Tree of Smoke subtly hammers the reader with an unceasing rage that is the true nature of war’s insanity.

Notes From Italy: Villains, Romance, and Views


February 7th, 2008

Filettino was not always a happy place, in history or in fiction. In the time of the Caesars the people here were Aequi, an Italic tribe of rough herders whom the Romans subdued with difficulty. For many centuries, probably millennia, the Aequi practiced transhumance, leading their herds over the Serra in late autumn to spend the winter in pastures in the Liri valley far below, and returning to the uplands for summer.

Battle for Falluja: Photos from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot


January 28th, 2008

The captured fighter claimed to be a student who had gotten stuck in Falluja. A Marine responded, “Yeah, right, University of Jihad, motherfucker.”

The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson


November 14th, 2007

This long, well documented book by Rick Atkinson is one of the best accounts of any war to appear in the last decade or more.

Images from How To Photograph an Atomic Bomb


October 22nd, 2007

Between 1945 and 1962, the United States conducted over 300 atmospheric nuclear tests above the ground, in the ocean or in outer space.

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