Welcome to the Memorial Day Book review-in keeping with the theme, I have 2 books about military heroes-one a graphic novel called the Harlem Hellfighters, an excellent story about an African-American infantry regiment during WWI. I have also just finished reading Glorious War: The Civil War Adventures of George Armstrong Custer, and I hope that you love this book as much as I do. I thought I knew my Civil War History, but I was surprised to find that Custer, he of the defeat at Little Bighorn fame, was a major hero during the Civil War, so major in fact, it is alluded to in this book that he was instrumental in the Union defeat of the Confederate Army. I suggest that any Military history buff should read Glorious War. I have another graphic novel that I was excited to read, The Maxx: Maxximized Volume 1, which is a hardbound collection of the first 4 issues of the MAXX by Sam Keith …and the art has been remastered. Finally, the book Jigsaw Man was one I read a little while ago, and it is from 2012, but it was so out there, I had to share it with you. Like a lot of good books these days, you can get the Kindle (or any other reader) version at a really good price. Jigsaw Man was one I downloaded from Amazon for a pittance. It is a wildly entertaining, and disturbing read. Have a safe Memorial Day and enjoy some good reading this weekend. When you are tired of reading, scroll down for the Thugbrarian Set-List and see what I have been listening to this week. Check out the video links for songs by this week’s bands. Ahoy!
Glorious War: The Civil War Adventures Of George Armstrong Custer
by Thom Hatch
(Dec. 2013) St. Martin’s Press, Ed: 1st, Kindle Edition, 381 Pages
What struck me most about this book was how little I actually knew about General George Armstrong Custer. Like many people, when the name Custer comes up, we automatically reference his defeat at Little Bighorn. In Glorious War, Thom Hatch uses all of the archival data available to tell the true story of Custer’s beginnings at West Point. We learn of his upbringing, his love for his mother,his childhood, as well as his courageous deeds during the Civil War. For those of us who only know Custer from his infamous defeat at Little Bighorn, within these pages we learn how Custer was instrumental in the Union’s defeat of the Confederates during the Civil War, such as capturing the first enemy battle flag of the war, or that he was responsible for the defeat and subsequent surrender of Lee’s forces at Appomattox.
Glorious War is actually an invitation to the world to rethink Custer’s place in American Military history from that of bungling General who recklessly charged into a no-win situation, to the undefeated War hero that he was during the Civil War. The man made General at the age of 23, he defeated the South’s most feared generals such as Jeb Stuart and captured more battle flags than any of his peers, not to mention his bravery at Gettysburg. Yet, he is remembered only for his crushing defeat at the hands of the Cheyenne and Sioux in 1876.
Thom Hatch writes history that feels like an action novel. His depiction of battle had me at the edge of my seat, while his detailed explanation of strategy and the daily life of military men during this brutal war was vivid and enlightening. For those who wish to read further on the subject, there is a treasure trove of references listed, giving the reader the opportunity to search out the writer’s sources to research for themselves.
I found Glorious War to be not only enlightening and informative, but quite easy to follow, as well as highly entertaining. That is all one could ask for in a good book. I have a new respect for, and a greater knowledge of one of America’s most misunderstood war heroes, a man who can truthfully be named one of the most important generals of the Union Army during the Civil War. I highly recommend Glorious War to anyone who is a student of the American Civil War, American History, and the history of the U.S. Military.
out of 5
The Harlem Hellfighters
by Max Brooks & Caanan White
(April 2014) Broadway Books, Edition: 1st, paperback (Graphic Novel), 272 pages
This beautifully illustrated Graphic Novel tells the story of the all African-American 369th Infantry regiment during WWI. Although African-Americans have been fighting during war since the Revolution, The Hellfighters were the first all African-American unit that was commanded by an African-American officer, as all previous Black troops were led by White officers. Caanan White‘s black ink illustrations are some of the best art I have seen in a graphic Novel, somewhat reminiscent of Frank Miller’s style. Max Brooks‘ (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide) story is riveting as he tells an accurate, historical account while keeping it entertaining.
Within these pages, the art and dialogue underline the racism the unit encountered while training in the South, along with the long stretch of menial tasks that they were given, while other (white) units were able to fight. Eventually, they would be sent to the front, and prove themselves as proud soldiers. The German enemy had given them the name Harlem Hellfighters, a sign of respect to be sure, as the Hellfighters perplexed the German’s at every turn. It is an amazing story told here, one that should be more widely known to all American’s. I recommend this to anyone who studies African-American History, Military History, WWI, Comic Art and History in general.
out of 5
The Jigsaw Man
by Gord Rollo
(2012) Enemyone, Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Where to start. The plot is original, and most of the characters are quite unsavory. A play on the Frankenstein story, but much more twisted and really just plain sick. I mean, there is a scene where the character Drake is sodomizing a severed head that is being kept alive with experimental science, while menacingly holding a knife to the victim’s eyes. That is twisted, really. It just is. There are scores of scenes such as this. I was not crazy about the timeline jumps; I felt like there must have been some important information missed when the story would just appear 13 months later. All in all, I found this to be a highly entertaining read, with some over-the-top characters that made me mentally dance with glee when they finally met their end. I give this 4 stars simply because the plot was just more imaginative than anything I have read in quite a while. Hopefully, Mr. Rollo’s future work will be a little more structured, because some of the characters could have used some further fleshing out; many times I found myself wanting more back story on certain characters. While this may not have been the most polished writing I have read, the story itself kept me glued to the pages.
out of 5
The Maxx: Maxximized Volume 1
by Sam Keith & William Messner-Loeb
Diamond Book Distributers/IDW Publishing-To be published July 8,2014
Around 20 years ago, I was one of many eager comic book fans who devoured anything published by the new, artist-owned comic book company Image Comics. One of the standouts to me was The Maxx, by Sam Kieth (artist/writer). The art was different from the usual comic book fare, and the stories were even more original. This is a collection of the first 4 issues, scanned from the original art, remastered and recolored, all in one hardcover book.
The Maxx is a homeless superhero who lives in a box, traveling in an alternate universe with his social worker friend Julie, through the imaginary “Outback”, or IS it imaginary? That is the beauty of the Maxx…it doesn’t matter. Keith conjured up fantastical plots, coupled with some of the most daring and original artwork. Keith’s writing and art stand up against today’s offerings, and are as fresh and interesting as they were 20 years ago.
For old fans of the original series, this will be a very cool addition to your collection. You will enjoy revisiting the early Maxx, as well as marvel at the remastered original art. For those of you who enjoy comics and graphic novels that are innovative, entertaining and more than a little dark, this is an excellent opportunity for you to discover an art and writing style that changed comic books by bringing weird, edgy story lines and more elaborate artwork into the game. Volume 1 will be published June 8th, 2014.
out of 5