Sunday, September 19, 2021

Nazi Gold -- The sensational story of the world's greatest robbery, and the greatest criminal cover-up


That was one serious ride.

You never know what to expect before you start reading.

Nazi Gold by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting has me considering where I would go if life gave me time enough to go to Germany and leave the airport in Frankfurt. I've been through there four times, but never into the countryside. Garmish-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald, and Merkers strike me as more interesting than Berlin nightclubs, the famous old university towns, and other potential tourist traps. Those first noted Bavarian-area cities have interesting old post-war stories to tell if they would.

An awful lot of money, gold, coins, currency, stocks, and such went through there, some evidently went into Swiss bank accounts, some may still be buried in the mountains. I now know that it wasn't necessarily limited to the wild social life that ex-occupation GIs smiled about in conversations when I was a boy. Some were in an almost SciFi wild west. The Black Market was a major player.

Sayer and Botting admitted that their book was complex, and I had previously noted on Goodreads that some of the editing was lacking, but it remained a page-turner throughout. Sometimes I really hated to put it down, and get the sleep I needed for other things, and sometimes four or five pages was enough to put me to sleep. But, I had no desire to quit reading this one.

Their epilogue is a must, but not enough to skip the rest of the content.

Do not look for a movie version in a theater near you.

"Despite the movie rights having been sold on no less than five occasions there was no big screen interpretation of Nazi Gold. The story is true, but complex, having outwitted a succesion of screenwriters over the last decade," they said. "The search for Nazi Gold is fraught with dead-ends and misleading trails. What awaits us may be yet another chapter, but never an ending, to this infinite tale. no, never an ending."

Monday, June 28, 2021

Miracle in Shreveport


If you haven't had a miracle happen in your direction in a while, this is your book. But, if you have problems with religiosity then you should look elsewhere.

David and Jason Benham's father Flip was, or is, a Methodist minister in the Dallas area, so don't blame them. Blame the preacher gene.

Late every summer after Little League, the Benhams would visit their maternal relatives in Atlanta, and pass by Fair Grounds Field on I-20 in Shreveport. Home of the AA Texas League's Shreveport Captains. The good reverend seized the moment and got the twins praying to one day play there. 

That one day finally happened. It was a miracle, and this time I will not spoil it for those needing a miracle in their reading life.

The twins appeared to have the talent, but the minor league drag, plus I believe an ounce of burnout and life changes, left them to leave baseball one season later. Before playing college baseball at Liberty they had been playing sports all year round and working out. Their work ethic is well-noted throughout.

It can be hard to rewind a rubberband once unwound.

But read the book for that miracle your psyche might need. Content moves brilliantly, fast, and emotionally. It's only 175 pages, which is one path more of the publishing world needs to note. Brevity can be beautiful, especially for people who have other things to do. The Dallas Morning News article, starting on p. 177 should not escape your reading, too.

I hope my step-dad has a miracle in Shreveport. He likes the casinos there.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Historians


This one surprised me at Walmart and kept my interest all the way through. I like the careful plotting Cecilia Ekback did to make this almost too multi-character book into a winner. The usually short chapters helped, too.

Proper subject choice also played a major role here. Sweden was neutral in WWII, but both their Scandanavian sister countries, Denmark and Norway, were occupied by the Nazis. Sweden played between the Germans, the Allies, and the war between neighboring Finland and Russia. It wasn't easy, but they managed to stay out of the war.

The Historians is fictional but is based on a student group of five who fall into the friction between the sides. Two members are killed, but they help keep Sweden from falling into the abyss of war. 

Ekback is from Sweden, but lives in Canada. I know author Isabel Allende writes in Spanish because she feels most comfortable expressing herself in her native language. I wonder if Ekback writes in Swedish? There were a few patches of wordiness, which can come from translations.

The Acknowledgments, Credits, and other back-of-the-book content is worth reading, too. It was a terrific read, and quite recommendable.

The George Kirksey Story: Bringing Major League Baseball To Houston


(Photo from Amazon)

There is a lot more to baseball than bats and balls. There are those events that happen to make it happen. This is one of those books that leads readers through the usually obscure underworkings in a major city that wants to move up from minor league to major league.

Campbell B. Titchner, then chair of the University of Houston Journalism Department, put together the story in Houston. His story was a terrific and quick read, and having seen plenty of baseball there, and sold tickets, I could identify with it, too. I think the author was there quite often.

Houston had been a successful minor league town with the St. Louis Cardinals' affiliate Buffs. Great stars played there, but it wasn't enough for automatic promotion. Guarantees, financial calculations, and plenty of meetings were necessary. I was still writing sports at that time and found the book very educational. I found the book in one of San Antonio's several used book stores.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Il Basket D'Italia


Book Passage Press owner Elaine Petrocelli presented me with a copy when I surprised several as a sportswriter that wants to learn travel writing. 

I was there at their annual Travel Writer's Conference in the summer of 1995 in Corte Madera, California. I jumped on this one as soon as I got home to Laredo, Texas, and felt I had been to Italy. I still haven't gotten there, but it remains on top of my bucket list. I gotta get there someday.

The content moved smoothly through the season, venues, and standout personalities. It was not a waste of time. I appreciate Mrs. Petrocelli's thoughtfulness.

I attended the conference the following year, too. I met Isabel Allende, Peter Mayle, many awesome people, and took some classes from Donald George and Simon Winchester. It was time well spent.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch by Jayme Blaschke

 Pardon me if I get unusually long-winded here. Everybody, all around, seemed to do a great job on this one. I could easily recommend Jayme Blaschke's non-fiction work, and the hard work was evident.

I had to look very hard to find any error, at all. I might have found a few fatigue sentence errors, which is exceedingly good by today's standards. It is also very much an extensive look at this former institution, its place in the local community, history, and sociological perspectives. A quality book worthy of sharing and discussion in many professional, academic, and governmental corners.

This book probed well beyond the deceptive surface of the oldest profession. It is said to have been established during the Texas Republic in 1844 when such businesses were a norm with the Central and Eastern Europeans who settled in the LaGrange-area. Times changed, and bets are that the 1973 closing led by Houston TV celebrity newsman Marvin Zindler might have been only a few years ahead of the eventualities. 

On the surface, any such institution is bad, and too often subject to mob control. Human trafficking is nowadays considered a usually connected side crime. Fortunately, there is a growing effort against that.  

Prostitution has probably been with us since prehistoric times, and will not likely ever completely go away. Numerous militaries around the world have their own bawdyhouses. Sooner or later those professional, academic, and governmental powers that be will likely have to convene in several places. 

My first job after getting my bachelor's degree was in LaGrange in 1978. The dust was still settling from the closing events in 1973, and I knew several of the local players still in the area. This is one book that anyone curious about these things really should read. Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch is a quality read. I recommend it.   

The Camera Never Blinks

 I read this when I was about to suddenly enter the throes of a divorce I didn't see coming. That can mess with your memory, and ability to write things down when you are quite distracted. I don't remember if Goodreads was around then. I don't think it was.

At that time I was still in radio and could identify with the younger Dan Rather. We were both from Houston, both did play-by-play sportscasting, covered news, familiar with the same high schools and universities. It went on. I followed him pretty well until the time of his undoing at CBS and then saw him again some in his TV interview program. He is usually interesting and informative.

The book was pretty good, and it should've with co-author Mickey Herskowitz, one of my favorite Houston journalists and writers. 
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Sunday, May 02, 2021

All Quiet On The Western Front

 Required reading in college English, and it might have also been in high school, too. Its acclaim speaks for itself. It is clearly against the horrors and wastes of war. I read it back in the '70s, but who can immediately remember everything?

Remarque wrote several other books, but this one stood out. I once found a collection of his books at a used bookstore just off Broadway in San Antonio, but had to pass for lack of funds and time. It was during my South Texas sportswriting days when I didn't have much energy once a workday ended, usually.

I think it was a good selection for required reading in those early 20s years. With a lot of people at that time, it is often a choice, or not, between the classroom or the parade ground. Remarque demonstrated a strong talent for proper words and timing.

Friday, April 16, 2021

 The author, with some well-noted help, woke me up to some elements of Japanese culture, especially the extreme discipline in their Navy during empire times. being slapped was normal in their training, and in some wartime matters.

Saburo Sakai was individually one of the best fighter pilots of all time. His survival is testimony enough in that. Many of the pilots he knew did not.

His mental approach to his tasks, and to survive is plenty of reason to reread. It's been a very long time since I carefully laid this one down, knowing my worldview had changed. That was back in 1968.