Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Yarn of the "Nancy Bell" by W.S. Gilbert (1980 something)

The following epic poem was written in the 1980's by a guy who sailed with Military Sealift Command; the same quasi-military organization I was with at the time. The poem was posted by 
Edward Nanartowich the other night. I immediately remembered seeing it before and have asked for permission to re-post it here. 

"Some of you old timers were around when Gilbert wrote this poem I am sure, but it is a tongue in cheek, gallows humor kind of story back in the days of wooden ships and iron stomachs (to coin a phrase). Enjoy it if you have the patience to read."

 The Yarn of the 'Nancy Bell' by W.S. Gilbert

 'Twas on the shores that round our coast
 From Deal to Ramsgate span,
 That I found alone on a piece of stone
 An elderly naval man.

 His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
 And weedy and long was he,
 And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
 In a singular minor key:

 "Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
 And the mate of the Nancy brig,
 And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
 And the crew of the captain's gig."

 And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
 Till I really felt afraid,
 For I couldn't help thinking the man had been drinking,
 And so I simply said:

 "O, elderly man, it's little I know
 Of the duties of men of the sea,
 But I'll eat my hand if I understand
 How you can possibly be

 "At once a cook, and a captain bold,
 And the mate of the Nancy brig,
 And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
 And the crew of the captain's gig."

 Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
 Is a trick all seamen larn,
 And having got rid of a thumping quid,
 He spun this painful yarn:

 "'Twas in the good ship Nancy Bell
 That we sailed to the Indian sea,
 And there on a reef we come to grief,
 Which has often occurred to me.

 "And pretty nigh all o' the crew was drowned
 (There was seventy-seven o' soul),
 And only ten of the Nancy's men
 Said 'Here!' to the muster-roll.

 "There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
 And the mate of the Nancy brig
 And the bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
 And the crew of the captain's gig.

 "For a month we'd neither wittles nor drink,
 Till a-hungry we did feel,
 So we drawed a lot, and accordin' shot
 The captain for our meal.

 "The next lot fell to the Nancy's mate,
 And a delicate dish he made;
 Then our appetite with the midshipmite
 We seven survivors stayed.

 "And then we murdered the bo'sun tight,
 And he much resembled pig,
 Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,
 On the crew of the captain's gig.

 "Then only the cook and me was left,
 And the delicate question, 'Which
 Of us two goes to the kettle?' arose
 And we argued it out as sich.

 "For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
 And the cook he worshipped me;
 But we'd both be blowed if we'd either be stowed
 In the other chap's hold, you see.

 "'I'll be eat if you dines off me,' says Tom,
 'Yes, that,' says I, 'you'll be,' --
 'I'm boiled if I die, my friend,' quoth I,
 And 'Exactly so,' quoth he.

 "Says he, 'Dear James, to murder me
 Were a foolish thing to do,
 For don't you see that you can't cook me,
 While I can -- and will -- cook you!'

 "So he boils the water, and takes the salt
 And the pepper in portions true
 (Which he never forgot) and some chopped shalot,
 And some sage and parsley too.

 "'Come here,' says he, with a proper pride,
 Which his smiling features tell,
 ' 'Twill soothing be if I let you see,
 How extremely nice you'll smell.'

 "And he stirred it round and round and round,
 And he sniffed at the foaming froth;
 When I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
 In the scum of the boiling broth.

 "And I eat that cook in a week or less,
 And -- as I eating be
 The last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
 For a wessel in sight I see!

 "And I never grin, and I never smile,
 And I never larf nor play,
 But I sit and croak, and a single joke
 I have -- which is to say:

 "Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
 And the mate of the Nancy brig,
 And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig!"

Monday, March 30, 2015

"The Train to Crystal City" by Jan Jarboe Russell (2015) A Review/Commentary

This is a very well written book. It takes on a very emotional topic. Therefore, this is not an ordinary review. But before I begin I want to say that; with the exception of the chapters dealing with the treatment of the Internees in America; I found this book to be very informative. 

The American policy at the end of the Second World War in regards to Displaced Persons has not been explored enough by past authors. Ms. Russell has done an excellent job in reporting on that aspect of our history. The apologist’s portions of this book are what made it difficult for me to do a "straight" review of it, without commenting on that aspect of the work. 

Note:  This paragraph is from a Wikipedia page about the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines.  It is important that you read this paragraph before reading this book.

“Santo Tomas Internment Camp was the largest of several camps in the Philippines in which the Japanese interned enemy civilians, mostly Americans, in World War II. The campus of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila was utilized for the camp which housed more than 4,000 internees from January 1942 until February 1945. Conditions for the internees deteriorated during the war and by the time of the liberation of the camp by the U.S. Army many of the internees were near death from lack of food.”

Contrast the former description of Santo Tomas with the conditions, as described by the author, of the conditions in the Crystal City Internment Camp;

“In Crystal City the weather was sultry and hot and life settled into endeavors at normalcy. Eb and his crew worked overtime to keep iceboxes full. At Federal High School, fourteen students in the freshman class organized the Service Club. They worked in the library, distributed school supplies, cleaned blackboards and repaired desks.”

In addition, I have searched high and low for the death rates due to starvation and disease related to poor health and sanitary conditions in the Internment Camps in the United States. I have come away from that search empty handed. It is important to know these things before reading this book.

The story of the American internment camps of World War Two was not something openly explored in school when I was a kid. We had heard about the Japanese camps; which seemed somehow acceptable on two levels. The first was obvious; the Japanese had attacked us. The second was a bit more subtle. They were Asian. They were different. So, we put them in internment camps; interrupting lives, and in a way betraying our own beliefs.

But there is more to that neatly filed away story; the story of the Germans and Italians who were rounded up as well; even though their homelands had not attacked us. Even though; in many cases; their homeland was the same as ours. In this finely written book author Jan Russell opens that old sore and takes us for a look inside a darker chapter of our own history not often lit.

To begin with, let us agree that the internment camps in the United States were not the type of camps used by any of our enemies during the war. These were, for the most part, well thought out places that were even built with the advice and council of some of the leading citizens of the ethnicities who would be living in them. They were equipped with schools, hospitals, beauty parlors and athletic facilities.

They grew their own food and used the surplus to supply the nation’s war effort. Photographs taken by the inmates themselves bear all this out. Dorothea Lange photographed the Japanese aliens at the point of embarkation in San Francisco. The guards do not have weapons trained on the women and children; or the men. This was not Germany. And, neither were we the Japanese.

The memory of the Black Tom explosion of 1916 during the 3 years prior to our entry into World War One was still fresh in the minds of most Americans. Even today it still stands as one of the biggest disasters in American history. The ships were being loaded with ammunition bound for England and France. That explosion was the work of saboteurs working for Germany.

The Zimmerman telegram was still also at the forefront of many people’s minds. That was the telegram between the Germans and the Mexicans exploring the possibility of having Mexico stage an incursion on our southern border; drawing our attention away from the War in Europe and leading the way for a possible German invasion. Mexico would receive the return of the territories lost in the War with Mexico in the 1840”s.

When the Second World War broke out in Europe in 1939, it was considered to be an extension of the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles had left Germany reeling under an agreement to pay back the damages the war had inflicted on the European continent. It was believed that such a hard treaty would make it financially impossible for Germany to ever re-arm herself for a war of aggression.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor prematurely, she awakened the United States to the dual dangers facing the world. One in the Pacific; the other across the Atlantic in Europe; where we had been supplying the British with the materials of war for about 2 years under the Lend-Lease program. 
 
The author concentrates on the memories of the children from several displaced families in making her case against the United States and the Internment program. Two particular examples offer an insight into the experiences of a German family; while the other is Japanese.  The German family was headed by Mathias Eiserloh, who was married and had 3 children. He appears to have been a hardworking man who was trying to build a life for his family here in America. He emigrated here from Germany to live in the Cleveland area, where his sister had already begun a family.

The FBI had begun an investigation of him in 1941 before the war began at Pearl Harbor. A co-worker had given his name to the FBI based on the hysteria of the times; news columnists were already talking about the presence of “Fifth Columnists” in America. Indeed, one of the best movies of the year was about that very subject. It was called “All Through the Night” and starred Humphrey Bogart.

But, beyond that hysteria there were some facts that are still troubling, and no doubt contributed to the FBI’s interest in Mathias. Prior to the attack on Pearl, as well as the actual implementation of any Internment plans. Mathias was a former German officer in World War one; and this new war was nothing but the unfinished business of the first one. In 1935 a German official had traveled to the home of Mathias and presented him with the Iron Cross; which he had earned in the war.

And, in addition to this, Mathias was a vocal Anti Semite who railed against Roosevelt because he was really a secret Jew named Rosenfeld. He also expressed his support for Germany as she advanced across Europe in the early days of the war. He was visibly; and vocally; pro-Nazi.  Not the best example to have used in trying to engender sympathy for the subject at hand. While none of these things justify the abuses of the laws which took place; they do help in seeing why he was under suspicion to begin with.

Another German internee was Fritz Kuhn, who was the head of the Nazi Party in the United States. With over 100,000 members, this group paraded in uniform in NYC, and had collected money which Kuhn presented to Adolph Hitler in a visit to Germany in 1936 Olympics. These are hardly the actions of an innocent immigrant; to be sure. 

Then there was also Karl Kolb, who organized the prisoners and had the American flag torn down in the cafeteria and inside the compound. Much to the credit of the American in charge of the camp, the flag was removed to placate the radical Germans.

Some of the other examples used by the author are of Japanese families, and Italians; all of which contained something that compromised their “innocence.” One Japanese man used as an example of our “barbarism” was a member of the Konkokyo Federation of North America, which was a Shinto cult. They believed in the dogma of the militant leaders in Japan who launched the attack on Pearl Harbor.
 
The author claims to have interviewed over 50 former internees in writing this book and I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that claim. What puzzles me is why she chose to use the examples she did; which did nothing to gain my empathy.

But the book does work very well on the level of giving a good insight into just how the various camps came about and how they were organized. Particularly of interest is the main camp; Crystal City; located in Texas. The history of the area, and the site itself, make this book worth reading for that alone. These portions of the book; those without an agenda; were a pleasure to read. And, the book is carefully researched and contains a good index of the author’s sources. I just have a problem with the revisionist history concerning the camps themselves.

As for the subtitle of this book; "FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange"; Towards the end of the war and right after, some of the Internees were repatriated back to their homelands at the invitation of our government. But others, like Kolb, were sent whether they wanted to go or not.

The ones selected had all failed the test of democracy. Kuhn had even tried to blackmail Helena Rubinstein in 1939, just 3 years after giving Hitler that check. His ruse with Ms. Rubinstein was that she was to give him $5000,000 or her sister in Poland would be killed by the Nazi's. He was the leader of the American Bund at the time. He was arrested later for other crimes. He, along with other undesirables, was traded for American fighting men and barred from returning to the United States. Although the author may be troubled by this, I have no problem with it, whatsoever.

In short, while I agree that the steps taken to place Japanese, Italian and German immigrants in detention camps was not our finest hour; I do have to look at this subject in the context of the times in which it occurred. We were expecting war when the plans were formulated. And we had been viciously attacked when those plans were then put into motion.

Even as we buried our dead, we continued to do everything reasonable to protect ourselves and the immigrants. We continued the education of their children; and we saw to it that they were fed and clothed properly. We did all that we could to make life as normal as possible for the people who were related to the very people who were torturing and killing our sons and daughters in a bid for the conquest of the world.

The public sentiment in the hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked lent itself to vigilante actions. Conversely, there was also tremendous concern for the safety of the immigrants. It is always easy to play Monday morning quarterback; it requires little imagination to see the “could’ve; would’ve; should’ve” of history. But that’s all folly.

You see, in the end I just re-read the description of the Civilian Internment Camps run by the Japanese; and then I look at the Concentration Camps of the Nazi’s; and then comparing them to our own, I don’t feel bad about anything. As a matter of fact, I’m proud of the actions which my country took to save the world. 

Note: For a far more sympathetic picture of the Japanese Internment question, you could do no better than to see the film "Bad Day at Black Rock" with Spencer Tracy. Although it is fiction, it makes the same point as the author is trying to impart; in a far more sympathetic way.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Happy Birthday to Rooftop Reviews!


It was on this date in 2009 that I posted my first blog. I celebrate it each year by either skipping a post that day or re-posting an old post; sometimes the first one; which is what I did last year. Sometimes I tell the story about how I started this thing to begin with. And each year it gets harder to think of something special to mark the occasion.

So, this year I decided on fireworks and a big festival. It was great. Wish you could have been there. The food was delicious, too! Seriously though; and I hate to be like that; what I have actually decided to do is to do nothing. It’s just another day.

Here is a clip of two of my favorite performers; Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. Did I ever tell you how Louis Armstrong got me involved in coin collecting? I was about 9 years old at the time. I had read that Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans on July 4, 1900. That set my imagination on fire! July 4th was the birthday of our nation and 1900 was a new century.

Man, I wanted a piece of that for myself! Something tangible to hold in my hand that would make me feel as if I were holding a part of history itself; something which had actually been there at the time; a penny.

So, I went to the Hobby Shop on Coney Island Avenue and bought a 1900 Indian Head penny for about 50 cents. I was hooked. I wore that penny out; turning it over and over in my hands; even sleeping with it. The book I’d read said that Armstrong played for pennies in New Orleans as a kid. I couldn’t help but feel; make that know; that this was one of those pennies.

Anyway, this is what I do here. I tell stories to myself in the hope that someday my grandkids; and even great grandkids; will sort through all of the flotsam and jetsam of these posts, and obtain a better picture of the “old man” as a result.

Meantime, enjoy the video. It’s from the 1947 film “New Orleans” and serves as the title song, performed here by Billie Holiday on vocals and Louis on vocals and coronet. The song appears in the film several times as background music, and also by Armstrong and Holiday in a big band setting; but this is what I call the “performance” version. It’s also my favorite one.

And, if you really would like to see the first post of Rooftop Reviews from March 29, 2009 (which was also a Sunday) just hit this link;


Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Hupmobile - Ahead of It's Time

The Hupmobile was a cheaply made, easily maintained car with a 4 cylinder engine way back before anyone was really thinking about mileage. From 1909 until just before the outbreak of the Second World War the Hupp Motor Company of Detroit was turning out these snazzy; and also classic; automobiles.

Introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in February 1909 they caught on instantly; selling at about $500 bucks each.The manufacturer; Robert Craig Hupp; was a former employee at both Oldsmobile and Ford Motor Companies; and decided to take a gamble on his own. Organized in 1908; along with his brother Louis; they began the actual production of the first car in 1909. By 1910 the demand had increased to over 500 per year.

Robert Hupp had some disagreements with his financial backers and sold his shares in 1910. He then founded the RCH Automobile Company, but soon foundered. He even tried an electric car under that name and also the Hupp-Yeats Electric Car Company.

By 1912 he would be one of only two automakers who used all-steel bodies. The other company was an English firm; BSA; famous for their motorcycles. Hupp was also busy designing and manufacturing a 7 passenger vehicle which would become the forerunner of Greyhound Bus.

While Hupp was doing these new experimental things, the company he originally founded was prospering along with the nation. In 1924 Hupp Motors was the leading competitor of both the Ford and Chevrolet companies. But even before the Depression was in full swing the company had seen a drop off in sales. They tried bigger touring cars, but somehow they couldn’t compete with the Pierce Arrows and foreign touring cars which were common during the 1920’s. This was a strategy which proved fatal; as they were shutting out their former “bread and butter” customers; who then went to Ford.

Hupp Motors continued with trying new designs during the 1930’s; even using Ford bodies which were modified. But by 1936 they were selling off the plants and other assets; meaning it was only a matter of time until this classic automobile would be gone. Even the acquisition of the Cord Motor Company designs; with thousands of orders; couldn’t save the company now. Without the plants they had sold off, they couldn’t fill them. They turned to competitor Graham-Paige Motor Co.; who had troubles of their own and arranged to share the Cord die; and were built at Graham's facilities. That car was called the Hollywood, and was essentially the same as the Skylark.

In 1939 the death blow came with only 319 orders to fill. The following year saw the closing of the Graham facilities; essentially marking the end of both companies. But what a legacy of design features Hupp left behind. He was the first to design and introduce what he called “free wheelin” the precursor of today’s 4 wheel drive. He was also the first to offer heaters using fresh air, rather than the engine air which was less than pleasant. The new technology became standard in the industry after Hupp left the field in 1940.

For a look at more of Hupp’s cars, use this link;


Friday, March 27, 2015

Bert's Story

While reading the book “The Train to Crystal City”; which I will review here on Monday; I ran across a new character who had heretofore been unknown to me. That’s a long way of saying I never heard of him before. What a story! I mean both the book; as well as the story of this man named Bert.

While flying a P-38 over Germany during the war, Bert was shot down. As a result he lost his leg and was traded in a POW exchange with Germany in early 1945. I know, you’re saying “So what? A lot of guys were wounded, maimed and came home when the war was over.” And you’re right about that. But there’s something special about Bert’s story.

On August 4, 1945; only 7 months after being exchanged as a POW; Bert was home and working. He had mastered the art of walking on an artificial leg while a POW in Germany. So, when he came home he was quick to return to work. Actually, it was kind of an extension of his old job.

The night of August 4, 1945 saw the Washington Senators baseball team being soundly whipped by the Red Sox. In the 4th inning the score was already 14-2. Bert was watching the game anxiously; he really loved the Senators and wanted the team to win. But things weren’t looking too good on that score.

While Bert probably wasn’t that surprised at the manager’s decision to put in a relief pitcher, he was surprised at the choice of the man who would be pitching. It would be Bert.

You see Bert was a pitcher before the war; and afterwards; in only 7 months’ time, he had become the Pitching Coach for the Washington Senator’s. And on the night of August 4, 1945, he made history; when he took the pitcher’s mound and became the first man with an artificial leg to pitch in a Major League Baseball game. You may know him as Bert Shepard.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

In Plain View - Probable Cause

We have a situation in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a man is flashing his neighbor’s wives and children from his front doorway; as well as his garage; where he works out in the nude. The Police claim to be powerless to do anything about this. They say he is not breaking the law.  Here is the N.C Statute pertaining to Indecent Exposure;

§ 14-190.9.  Indecent exposure.

(a)        Unless the conduct is punishable under subsection (a1) of this section, any person who shall willfully expose the private parts of his or her person in any public place and in the presence of any other person or persons, except for those places designated for a public purpose where the same sex exposure is incidental to a permitted activity, or aids or abets in any such act, or who procures another to perform such act; or any person, who as owner, manager, lessee, director, promoter or agent, or in any other capacity knowingly hires, leases or permits the land, building, or premises of which he is owner, lessee or tenant, or over which he has control, to be used for purposes of any such act, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

(a1)      Unless the conduct is prohibited by another law providing greater punishment, any person at least 18 years of age who shall willfully expose the private parts of his or her person in any public place in the presence of any other person less than 16 years of age for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire shall be guilty of a Class H felony. An offense committed under this subsection shall not be considered to be a lesser included offense under G.S. 14-202.1.

(b)        Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.

(c)        Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a local government may regulate the location and operation of sexually oriented businesses. Such local regulation may restrict or prohibit nude, seminude, or topless dancing to the extent consistent with the constitutional protection afforded free speech. (1971, c. 591, s. 1; 1993, c. 301, s. 1; c. 539, s. 124; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1998-46, s. 3; 2005-226, s. 1.)

The problem seems to be in the wording of sections (a) and (a1) which state the offense must be in a “public place.” The police and the District Attorney have stated that the man is on private property and so they are powerless. I have called the District Attorney’s office and have been told that they are not permitted; nor required; to entertain questions from the Public. They prosecute criminal offenders, supposedly in defense of society in general.

I now understand the difference between the Police and the District Attorney. The Police are there to protect your rights and help you out against the criminals; the District Attorney’s Office is engaged in both prosecuting; and defending; the rights of the criminals. In essence, they walk a fine line; working both sides of the aisle.  I don’t like it; but I now understand it.

My question is a simple one. If, for instance; the police can enter the premises of a home for probable cause based on something in plain sight; like a marijuana plant, or other overt circumstances; why then are they barred from arresting the naked flasher who operates from across an invisible property line, which places his actions in “Plain View” and thus creates the “probable cause” which would allow the police to intervene?

The answer is also simple; when you do something publicly, whether on public or private property, you relinquish; by your own actions; any reasonable expectation of privacy. If I can understand this principle, then why can't the District Attorneys Office? 

I’m no rocket scientist, but this seems to me to be a carelessly written law; not fully thought out as to the various ways in which it could be violated. The District Attorney is taking the stance that they are powerless to do anything about it until the law is rewritten. Clearly, that is not the case. Had this narrow type of thinking been prevalent back in the days of Prohibition, then Al Capone would never have been imprisoned for tax evasion.

The only thing which is keeping the people of that neighborhood in Charlotte from feeling safe is the lack of imagination in the Charlotte Mecklenburg District Attorney’s office.

Feel free to contact them at 704-686-0700. 

Or, by mail at 700 East Trade Street; 
                     Charlotte, NC 28202

Tell them Rob from Rooftop sent ya’. It will make their day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Putamaya - World Music Series

For those not familiar with the Putumaya Series of World Music I should explain that this album is but one of many. There are Putumaya albums for virtually every type of music, and I have them all, courtesy of my local Public Library. As a matter of fact, these CD's represent world music in such a way that even the Mooresville Public Library, which does not have CD's, has these CD's. They are, literally, that valid, almost as much so as literature.

This album, "Americana", draws on every genre of American music, from the jazzy sound of Nora Roberts singing with The Little Willies, to the gospel sound of Terri Hendrix, all the sounds of American music are on display. The playlist may contain some names you have not heard before, such as The Little Willies, but these are the sounds that really drive the creativity of today's musicians.

1 Robinella • Down the Mountain
2 Mulehead • Frankie Lee
3 The Little Willies • It's Not You It's Me
4 Robert Earl Keen • Ride
5 Eliza Lynn • Sing a New Song
6 Old Crow Medicine Show • Wagon Wheel
7 Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez • Sweet Tequila Blues
8 Tim O'Brien • House of the Risin' Sun
9 Alison Brown • Deep Gap
10 Terri Hendrix • Prayer for My Friends
11 Josh Ritter • Harrisburg
12 Ruthie Foster • Hole In My Pocket

It's interesting to note that many of the progressive sounds we listen to in music are derived from the basic folk and bluegrass scenes, with a touch of jazz thrown in. And when it's all lumped together it becomes a uniquely American sound.

This album is so good that I keep a copy in each car and on my flash drive. I just don't want to lose it!

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Foreign Correspondent" by H.D.S. Greenway (2014)

What struck me most about this book is the author’s sense of history and his knowledge of literature.  His assessment of the post-World War Two era as post-colonial may hardly be novel; or even new. But his treatment of the subject allows a deeper understanding of just what has happened in the world since then. His assertion that the post-colonial era engendered many; if not all; of the world’s conflicts since then is borne out by contemporary history itself. And Mr. Greenway was on the front lines for much of it.

In this age of Brian Williams, Peter Jennings and Glenn Beck; as well as all the rest of the “pretenders”; what a joy it was to read this book by a real correspondent and veteran of 50 years of reporting from some of the hottest spots on the planet. This is one guy you never saw playing “anchorman” while the film rolled on the screen in a studio. Greenway was busy; he was there.

His accounting of Vietnam is not the usual assortment of stories and anecdotes we have come to expect. To be sure, there are plenty of great stories here; but they are told within the context of a larger history, making this book all the more unusual. His time with Sean Flynn; the irrepressible son of the actor Errol Flynn; are a particular treat. Although his exploits have been covered by other authors, Mr. Greenway’s friendship with Mr. Flynn comes across as particularly close.

His political grasp of Vietnam from the earliest of days after the Japanese surrender until the last helo out in 1975 could fill volumes; yet he is able to condense it all into a highly readable chapter which brings a familiarity to the reader concerning the leading names of the war. He explains the treaties, the elections and even the failures in a way which will re-inforce your own knowledge, yet also allow you to take that knowledge one step further in the puzzle which was Vietnam. 

The chapters dealing with Cambodia and Prince Sihanouk will explain just how that unfortunate and beautiful country was dragged into the periphery of the war. He also explains just how the interim leadership of Lon Nol gave way to Pol Pot and the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge, who slaughtered almost 2 million of their own countrymen before order was finally restored. The attitude of the United States then; after the failed war which gave birth to that tragedy; stands as an analogy to the United States today, in regards to ISIS in the aftermath of our blundering in Iraq. History never dies; it just repeats itself, hoping we will learn something.

It is likewise with the section of this book dealing with Israel. You will come away scratching your head at some of the misconceptions about the Mideast which have all but become prevailing wisdom; true or not. The 1973 War (Yom Kippur) was not just another blunder by Egypt. It was a face saving move that was necessary before Egypt could begin to modify its stance regarding peace with Israel. And, once again; the history of the area is at the center of this whole narrative. The author’s love of history and literature shines through each page, making the book highly readable.

His chapters on Indonesia, India: and especially Pakistan; should be required reading for serious students of today’s volatile political climate, as these stories are the story of decolonization and the ruin in which the colonial powers left their former charges; who then turned to the Communists for help in certain places. Reading these portions of the book you can actually understand how we lost much of the goodwill engendered by our victory in World War Two in a senseless race with the Soviets to prepare for a war which never came.

This is also the story of how Mr. Greenway managed to move his family around the world with him for most of his career. There were times the family stayed in Hong Kong while he covered the War in Vietnam. And, for other times, and other stories, there were other homes. In each of these places he manages not only to take some time with his wife and children to absorb the local cultures where they live; he also takes the time to Impart to the reader as much of the history as he can to help in the understanding of the time and place in which the events take place.

There is richness to this book which cannot be adequately described in a review. There is history and literature on each page, just waiting for someone to open the cover. When you do, you will be stepping into the author’s world. From Vietnam all the way through to Afghanistan, he has covered it all. This is the best world journey you will ever embark upon from your favorite armchair.
   

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"I'll Never Fall in Love Again" - Tom Jones (1969)


This is one of those records which can transport me back to a time and place so vividly that I can still feel the raindrops pelting the car on the side of the road outside Miami in 1969. We were on a road trip to St. Augustine, and then down to Miami, to see my mother's cousin who owned a nightclub there. The music on the car radio ranged from rock to pop to folk to Broadway show tunes.

That's the way it was then. With only the AM radio for entertainment, and no "ear buds", families shared the time, and music, while in the car. It was a good system, and as I've said, I can still feel the rain pelting the car, and see and hear the thunder and lightning raging outside the windows of our 1966 Pontiac. This version of the Tom Jones hit differs only slightly from the released version, but when you watch him sing, it opens a whole new dimension to the song. He's really feeling it.

Although this Tom Jones song was over a year old when we made the trip, I do remember it coming on a few times, especially when we pulled over to wait out that violent thunderstorm. It's a very distinct and pleasureable memory, safe in the car with my parents. And I even remember the follow up song being Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay", which my Mom really liked. This was our last vacation together as a family.

This is another song from "Nashville Skyline" which my Mom enjoyed. She said he finally had found his voice. Funny thing was, I was wondering what had happened to it! Great song and great memories...




Friday, March 20, 2015

The Nazi Manhole Mystery - 5 Years Later

One of the greatest things about doing this blog is that it serves as a kind of diary; as well as a record of books which I’m reading and also what I might be involved in concerning local politics; community events; or in this case, solving a mystery and also effecting a change. And I’m usually successful to some extent, but when it comes to the Nazi Manhole Mystery I’m afraid to say that nothing has changed. A brief recap is in order here.

Tuesday night I was wandering through my posts from March and April of 2010; just taking a “look-see” at what I might have been doing 5 years ago. I was considerably more mobile at the time, and so there was no telling where I was going to wind up each day. My daughter, Sarah, told me about a picture she had received on Facebook and I was surprised to see this manhole cover.

I went to look at it in the parking area of this building on the corner of West and West G Streets in Kannapolis, and posted a photo of it. I also wrote about manholes in general; how they are ordered, and the cultural differences which; even today; have some manholes manufactured with swastikas on them. You can read that post here if you like;
  

I then followed up with a call to the town of Kannapolis to see what they could tell me about the history of these manhole covers; and also why this one was still there after so many decades. You can read about that here;


Both of those posts have drawn tens of thousands of hits. I don’t know how, or why. Just like the post on the Vance Hotel in Statesville, certain posts take on a life of their own.

Still, the manhole remains and nothing has changed. And I’m not sure I want it to. Let it stand as an example of just how far an ideology can travel. The Nazi’s began their journey in Munich in 1925. In 1933 they engulfed all of Germany; poised to take the rest of Europe before they were stopped.

But; for a brief bit of time at least; that insanity was gaining ground here in America. Let this manhole serve as a testament to that; lest we forget.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel



This was a great record, and so is this video. At the time of the records release the Cold War had just come to an end. This film is a review of the world from 1945-1989, done in quick frames as in "Classical Gas." That video reminded me of this one and after watching it I felt like posting it here to share.

Even if you're not a history buff, the song itself really does rock! And hit the link to the alternate version, which though quite similar, is quicker paced and packed with more images.
Here's a link to Billy Joel's original video. For me, it doesn't rise to near the level of the previous two, which were made by fans. You decide:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFTLKWw542g

Inspired by Mason Williams’ 1968 hit video/song “Classical Gas”, this one, too, will stand the test of time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Crossing the Line with Strange New Laws

Something is wrong up in Raleigh; which is home to our State Legislature here in North Carolina. Some bizarre new laws are being proposed; and in some quarters embraced; that would have an adverse impact on many of the state’s citizens. Literally and figuratively they have crossed the line.

The new traffic ordinance would erase decades of traffic engineering studies and allow you to pass on a double yellow line on a blind curve if the car in front of you is not going as fast as you’d like. Yes, there are requirements in there somewhere about the percentages of speed required to avail yourself of the rule. Let's see how that works out.

I suppose the effect of that safety factor will have drivers using their cellphones as calculators to determine if they are in compliance. But generally people will just pass one another as they do now anyway. I don’t mind if they want to die; I just feel sorry for the ones who are in that oncoming lane and will be feeling the full impact of this foolishly considered piece of legislation. 

Then there is the brilliant move to a flat fee; paid annually; for gas taxes which have always been paid at the pump at the time of purchase. This has always been the fairest way to tax the roads; it’s referred to as a “Use Tax.” The little old lady down the street; who uses her car to attend church once a week and pays about $1.50 in taxes based on about 5 gallons of fuel at 30 cents per gallon tax for an annual total of $78; will now have to fork over $210 at the end of each year. Meanwhile someone with an SUV or pickup who uses 50 gallons per week for a tax of $15 at the pump for a total of $780 per annum will be getting quite a break!

Our local laws are also getting just as twisted. Only one week after the Charlotte City Council voted down a new Gender Friendly ordinance; which would have let you use the public restroom you felt most comfortable with on any given day; the City is now touting the success which the schools are enjoying in the same sex classrooms being tested in one of the city’s Magnet Schools. I am not making this up. Just so you know; the laws don't bother me half as much as the inconsistencies.

But, consistency and reasoning has flown the coop in the great state of North Carolina. I remember when I moved here about 16 years ago. The biggest case of county corruption involved the misappropriation of $1,500 by a local councilman. Sue and I laughed aloud that this item even made the news.

Since then we have had politicians resign in disgrace and scandal; and the former Mayor of Charlotte is currently under Federal Detention for trying to sell the city. And, as far as new laws are concerned, the biggest story when we moved here was whether or not the old Confederate flag would be removed from one of the local parks. Well, those days are gone; and we ain’t laughing anymore.
   

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day - Nana and the Orangmen

Growing up with my Irish grandmother only about a mile away on my bicycle, I used to ride over there to see her. She used to tell me stories about how she met my grandfather; who I never met, he died before I was born; and about growing up. But, I was always confused about her stance concerning St. Patrick’s Day. Moreover there seemed to be something going on about “orange men” that confused me even further.

Of course, at the time I had no idea about the religious and political differences which divided Ireland over a thousand years ago. And, even now; at 60 years of age; it is still something I am trying to understand.

First off, that’s Nana above. Born Mary Burke, she was the daughter of my great great grandparents Thomas and Ellen Burke, who moved from Ireland to Brooklyn in the 1850’s. He was a blacksmith and a wheelwright. She stayed home and idid what women did back then; had kids; one of whom was my grandmother “Nana.”

Even my Dad used to joke about not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day and that orange would drive the average Irishman to drink. Later on I got the joke, but as  a kid I couldn’t understand the thing at all. And then when the Irish-Protestant Troubles kicked up again when I was about 13, I gave up trying to figure it out. I mean if these guys; who both worshiped the same God as far as I could see; were going to kill one another who was I to interfere. As for the orange men; well they sort of faded away into a fairy tale; more of a family joke type of thing.

But this year I resolved to find the answer to that ancient question which has tugged at me since I was a kid; what is an Orangeman and why does his mere existence drive the average Irishman to drink? So, with the help of Aunt Gloria; who is an expert on Orangemen; and the assistance of Wikipedia, this is what I have learned.

I figure that the Williams family didn’t want to be considered Irish; but then my Welsh great grandfather Isaac married an Irish woman, my Nana, pictured above. So, it probably started as a joke between them, but then that wouldn’t explain why Nana no longer wore the green after he passed away. Nor would it explain why my Dad especially used to deny being Irish; stressing the English part of the family tree instead. So, we turn to history.

There is an organization called the Orange Institution which holds hundreds of parades throughout Northern Ireland annually. The biggest one is held on July 12th, in honor of the Battle of the Boyne. Okay, so what was the Battle of the Boyne? Guessing it has something to do with the English and also the division between the Irish Catholic and the Anglican Church. There are also others throughout the year to commemorate the Battle of the Somme. Some of the parades are confrontational, depending on the routes they take.

There are different “neighborhoods” in Belfast where the sentiment runs strong as to whether or not you are an Orangeman; or a Nationalist or Republican. Many of these divisions go back earlier than the Troubles of 1916.

There are also many parades on St. Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland, not just Belfast. Mainly the parade commemorates the Patron Saint Patrick and his place as Patron Saint of Ireland. He is also recognized as the Patron Saint of both Unionists and Nationalists. So now I am totally confused over this Orangeman stuff and besides, Nana was Irish right down to the way she inserted r’s into words like “beirl” and “toirlet”. And if that ain’t Irish, then I’ll eat that hat.

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Dreamers and Deceivers" by Glenn Beck (2014) HISTORICAL FICTION

This is not a non-fiction book. But that's where it is being filed in the library and in book stores. It is what is known as “historical fiction” according to Mr. Beck; but that in itself is an overstatement. Historical fiction is a genre in which true events are used as a backdrop for a story. What Mr. Beck does is to take actual people; inventors, politicians and the like; and make up whole conversations and thoughts based solely on what he believes occurred. 

Actually, it is a fiction to think that this book was even written by Mr. Beck. At the end; in the section where even Mr. Beck refers to this work as “historical fiction”; he speaks of the “teams” he used to cull other peoples books and biographies to re-write them in a way which will “clarify” for the reader what the original author really meant.

Reading the chapter about Desi Arnaz is nothing more than reading a book report of Mr. Arnaz’ brilliant autobiography “A Book.” It is the same with all of the other chapters. And some of the source notes for the chapters are really almost funny.  For instance, in the notes on the chapter dealing with Edwin Armstrong; the inventor of the radio receiver which revolutionized Marconi’s wireless, as well as FM radio itself; actually read, “From an imagined conversation.”  I’m not kidding you.

This is a continuation of a troubling trend (nice bit of alliteration there) which began when the book “Dutch” was published several years ago. That book was purported to be an autobiography of Ronald Reagan as imagined by the author, who was not Ronald Reagan.

Rush Limbaugh uses horses that talk in his books “Rush Revere.” That’s okay. Those are children’s books and we all know; or should know; those horses and other animals cannot talk. That’s historical fiction. And it serves a purpose in getting children interested in reading about the actual events later on.

"Gone With the Wind" is a perfect example of historical fiction; wherein real life events serve as the backdrop to a fictitious story. Lincoln and Lee are only names in the film; and Shiloh and Gettysburg are merely names of distant battles.“Shogun” and any other number of other books also come to mind. None of which contain real people doing and saying anything. While the King may be real in “A Prince and a Pauper”, we know that the book is fiction. It is labelled that way. Even in “The Bridge Over the River Kwai”, by Pierre Boulle; which is a fictional tale about the real bridge; the author uses fictional names for the characters. (By the way, Boulle also wrote "The Planet of the Apes.")

Books like this one by Mr. Beck do a great disservice to serious history; as they will be read largely by adults who will then not read the books written by the original authors and biographers who have already carefully chronicled the true events. And, naturally, fans of Mr. Beck's TV show will be taking his books to be the "gospel" on the subjects they purport to be about. That's troubling. Also, consider the younger readers who will take this book to be all fact..

What troubles me most though is that the real stories no longer seem to be of interest to the average reader. The books have to be suggested by Oprah; or else re-written by "talking heads" like Mr. Beck. Certainly there is an agenda at work in these projects. And, even with a team of researchers and writers, Mr. Beck's book has Neil Armstrong broadcasting from the surface of the Moon in 1968. For the benefit of those who might not be old enough to remember, we didn't land there until 1969. With an error like that, how am I to trust him in the chapter about something as complicated as the Alger Hiss case?

Having a team of researchers distill the essence of other people’s writings and experiences; while adding conversations and motives not attributable to any real source other than “imaginary”; only serves to slant history and dumb the reader down. I will be asking my library to please file these types of books under Fiction, where they clearly belong. This is not just my opinion. Even the author says so on page 285. 

While the author has the perfect right to pen whatever he chooses to, he also has the responsibility to see that the book is not misrepresented as something it is not. While Mr. Beck may be blameless; leaving the publisher at fault initially; surely Mr. Beck noticed that his book was listed and reviewed as Non- Fiction rather than Historical Fiction, and yet chose to do nothing about it. 

Note: Having read almost all of the books referenced in "Dreamers and Deceivers", I was unable to finish reading this one. I made it to the end of Chapter 2 before looking at the source notes and confirming my suspicions that this is merely a collection of highly imaginative book reports. I then skimmed through the remainder of the book, which did not improve in regards to being "imagined history" rather than a collection of true biographical sketches.

However, the book is registered with the Library of Congress as a Biography; and I have registered my concerns with them about whether or not this book should even be classified as Non-Fiction, let alone as Biography. 

Here is the reply I received last Tuesday from the Library of Congress. It would appear that the book was presented by the Publisher as something which it is not.

"The original record (you see it as Cataloging in Publication Data printed on the copyright page of the book) is created pre-publication based on the minimal information provided by the publisher.  Hopefully we got the cover info, title page, copyright page, table of contents, preface, and first chapter.  We did not have page 285.  If you look at our record, one of the summaries provided by the publisher says, "The new nonfiction from #1 bestselling author and popular radio and television host Glenn Beck" and the other says, "Glenn Beck provides stories of the people who built America and the people who sought to destroy it." The table of contents provides chapter titles that show no sign of fiction.*  So to say the book is "so poorly cataloged" isn't exactly correct based on what the publisher provided to LC.  It is difficult enough to catalog with minimal information and the publisher providing incorrect information will be reflected in what you see."

David Williamson
Cataloging Automation Specialist
Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20540

* The original e-mail from Mr. Williamson stated "non-fiction" here in error. It was corrected later by a subsequent e-mail from him. For the sake of brevity I have inserted and highlighted the correction.

End Note: I have contacted the publisher; Simon and Schuster; about this issue and as of this writing they have chosen not to respond.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Ill Fly Away" - Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (2011)


I first posted this a few years ago. It's such a beautiful performance of the old standard that it deserves to be posted again. I listen to this one often in the car. Sue will have to tell you about me driving over the mountains one foggy and rainy night, singing this song and trusting in the Lord to take us home! She made me stop and get a motel room, which only led me to question her faith; and earning me no points at all....

Gillian Welch is one of the modern gospel singers who, along with guitarist, and real life partner David Rawlings; have been keeping that good old time gospel music alive for the past decade, or so. They are part of an independent music scene that increasingly draws upon the resources of our American past, particularly the so-called Appalachian sound, borne of the poverty and hopelessness of the Great Depression.

The main thing which attracts me to this type of music is that it is easily played by just about anyone with a guitar; including me. With just a few simple chords, the amateur guitarist can soar with the angels. Watch David Rawlings on the solo and see how he is at one with his instrument. That's an old 1936 National guitar and he never plays anything else that I've seen. And his sound and approach to music are as unique as that guitar.

Music is a balm which soothes the soul. And gospel music is one of the main roots to American music in general; even being somewhat of the basis for jazz; and certainly the father of rock and roll. I like playing this song- it relieves me of my troubles and pains. Sometimes music can transport you beyond this world and all of its shortcomings, hinting at a better place. Kind of like Judy Garland and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It’s all about hope. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

"The Green Prince" - A Docudrama (2014)

In this film of the memoir by Mosab Hassan Yousef, the Palestinian son of Palestinian cleric  Sheikh Hassan Yousef ; who turned informant for Israel; screen writer Nadav Schirman brings to life one of the most unusual stories to come out of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 Mosab Hassan Yousef and his Israeli handler Gonen Ben Yitzhak  both portray themselves in this documentary; as does the elder Sheikh Hassan Yousef. The film chronicles the struggle of the son to understand the father’s position on the dual question of a Palestinian State and Israel’s survival.

When the Intifada began Sheikh Hassan Yousef was a fierce proponent for Hamas, at the time an unknown entity in the “game” between the Israeli Shin Bet and the Palestinians. As a matter of fact that is how both Mosab Hassan Yousef and Gonen Ben Yitzhak characterize the espionage that takes place between the two powers; as a “game.”

When the younger Yousef is confronted by his father’s imprisonment he is approached by the Israeli’s to become an agent for them. His task is to infiltrate Hamas. To do this he is arrested and sent to the prison where his father is being held with other members of the group. This provides him with a “cover” as he attempts to gain entry to Hamas. There he witnesses the brutal treatment of the other Palestinians by the Hamas members; including Kangaroo courts and executions.

Seeing this violence as extortion the young man slowly begins to change his mind about the conflict and the righteousness of the “cause.” He witnesses his father’s own helplessness to stop the madness and decides to become an agent.

Ultimately he faces the supreme test when the opportunity to kill off the top leaders of Hamas and decides he cannot do it. It is only after he sees that these are the men responsible for all of the suicide bombings which lead up to 9-11 does he decide to act.

This film is a rare look at the Shin Bet and the way in which they operate. Both the spy and the spymaster present a compelling piece of the larger mosaic which is the Middle East.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"The Second Coming" by Wm. Butler Yeats (1919)


Every artist interprets events differently. In the First World War two poets went to battle. They both wrote poems which would stand the test of time. Both poems grew out of the same horrors, and yet both perceived their experiences in such different ways. Here we will examine just two; which have both become emblematic of that conflict; the War to End All Wars.

The first one is by W.B. Yeats. He wrote the classic poem “The Second Coming” while still in France in 1919. The horrors of what he has seen and experienced are compared to the end of time as envisioned in the Bible. It is a stark and dreary assessment of what man hopes for as a result of war; yet he is resigned to a fate which he hopes will bring him rebirth.

THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

This second poem is much simpler in construction, as well as message. Joyce Kilmer served with the NY Regiment in the same war. He, too came away with a sense of rebirth and a belief in a better world. But the difference in the two poems and their outlooks is astonishing. You all know this one. It’s from 1st grade.

Trees

I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree.
 A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
and lifts her leafy arms to pray;
 A tree that may in summer wear
a nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
who intimately lives with rain.
 Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Guys Only - The Three Stooges - "They Stooge to Conga" (1943)

I’m half joking with the title “For Guys Only. But, I’m only half. Most women hate the Three Stooges. Something about eye poking and hammer hitting just rubs most women the wrong way. Occasionally you might find a woman Stooges fan; but it’s kind of like a young man looking for love at a Star Trek convention.

In this 15 minute short the boys go from fixing a doorbell to thwarting a Nazi effort at sabotage involving a U-Boat and a shore to shore radio. No one does Hitler better than Moe; and that includes Chaplin in “The Great Dictator.” I also enjoy the use of the few Yiddish words which the boys manage to slip into this one.

Filled with sight gags and verbal; as well as physical; hi-jinks, this one will have you cracking
up just as it did when you last saw it; which was probably decades ago.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Dear White People" - A Justin Simien Film (2014)

Hold on to your sides and check your political correctness at the door for this film as Director Justin Simien kicks out the stops in this wonderful piece of satire. He also wrote this original screenplay which depicts the interaction of four black students at an Ivy League in the age of Obama. And in doing so he highlights just how far we haven’t come in feeling comfortable about the issue of race; even in 2014, when this film was released.

The film is the story of a controversy which breaks out when a black face party thrown by the white students is perceived to be racist by the African-American students. This plants seed for the whole movie; how do we deal with these divisions? Biracial student DJ Samantha White implores her white listeners to name 2 black people in their lives; not counting their “weed dealers.”

Thrown into the mix is the plight of Sam, who has finally become the first black president of his all black residential hall; only to discover that in an age of diversification it “don’t mean a thing.” The all black residence hall is on the way out. Fellow student Coco Conners has ideas for a student TV show called "Doing Time at an Ivy League."

And, as if to sum up the mis-communication between the races in this age of instant communication, a student loner named Lionel Higgins is tapped by his fellow white students  to join the school's all white newspaper to cover the controversy over the black face party. Being black automatically makes him an expert on the subject to his white peers, even though Lionel knows nothing about “Black culture”.

This film is a fast paced and funny look at how far we probably haven’t come from the days of the TV show “Julia.” Comedian Godfrey Cambridge used to joke about the fact that when that show came on the air, each time he waited for an elevator a white person would ask him if he’d seen “Julia” that week. He usually said no. One week he decided to say yes and ask which part of the show the other man liked. The response was telling. He hadn’t watched it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

"The Phantom Killer" by James Presley (2014)

This is a case which they still speak of in Texas. It has never been solved. The Phantom Killer; so dubbed by the local press in Texarkana; is America’s Jack the Ripper. We think we know who did it; but then again, we’re not quite sure. And the fascination with the case may be more entertaining than actually finding out who really did it. It’s kind of like JFK and Dallas. We want to know, but then what would we do about it?

The town of Texarkana straddles the two states of Texas and Arkansas. The old joke was that a man could stand in the center of town with his mule and claim he was in Texas while his ass was still in Arkansas. With the advent of the oil industry; and later the war; work was plentiful and Texarkana was somewhat of a boomtown. But with all of the quick money came increased crime and a transient population. 

The author; James Presley; is the nephew of Sheriff Bill Presley; who was the the chief investigator on the case and; as a trained historian with a Pulitzer Prize nomination to back him up; has taken all of the eye witness accounts and affidavits from the investigation, distilling them down to a very convincing argument as to who the Phantom was. In addition he draws upon his knowledge of the local folk lore and geography to paint a portrait of the town; as well as the effects the crimes had upon the average citizen.

Eventually, after the town has been literally terrorized as they wait for the next killings; which occur with regularity; every African-American is pulled in for questioning. Eventually, though, the leads all point to a white man named Youell Swinney and his girlfriend Peggy. But catching him proves difficult, until his alibis don’t seem to match up. And just as the noose is tightening in the case against him, he marries Peggy, thus avoiding her having to testifying against her new husband. But, still their stories don’t match the facts and the investigation continues for years.

Swinney had a rap sheet going back decades by the time he was prosecuted again in 1981 for other violent crimes. Fans of CSI will be aghast at the way the investigation was done; with officers from 2 counties trampling over evidence and not roping off crime scenes. They even allowed the public to swarm all over the terrain where the killings took place; rendering any evidence gathered useless.

In the end Swinney walked free. But he continued to have problems with the law until 1981, when he was finally convicted of larceny. This is a great insight into the way that justice has changed; along with crime detection; over the last 6 decades. It is also look at what society was like in the heady days after the end of World War Two, when life sometimes seemed more perfect than it was. And to this day no one has been proven guilty of the 5 murders that terrorized the entire town in the summer of 1946.