CVCL Library Talk

get the lowdown on Camp Verde Community Library


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Library Experience – Allen McKinzie

DSCN0942Hi neighbor, my name is Allen C. McKinzie!

I have lived in the Verde Valley for 20 years, before that retiring from the Phoenix Police Department, subsequently having a heart transplant 22 years ago.

I am pleased to share my very first Library experience, which had a direct relationship to my publishing five novels and six children’s chapter books in later life. My greatest measure of personal writing success was being selected as a Keynote speaker at the 2015 Cottonwood Author’s Forum.

Ironically, there are some parallels with Babe Daley’s experience.

Living in a very small town in Louisiana, I was raised by a single Mom. I was the oldest of four children, being as poor as dirt. The school I attended was grades 1 thru 12, about 400 children all told.

It was extra hard, both scholastically and socially, for most of the people were of French descent, speaking a French dialect. We had to learn quickly in order to survive. My life changed forever when my second grade English teacher saw something in me, giving me special attention. I didn’t like the complexities of English, but I liked words and stories.

She was a large kindly woman, who one day after school took me by the hand and introduced me to our one room Town Library and the Librarian. She explained to me that in this little room was the key to the World and my future. And all I had to do to open it was to read the books.

She knew I had seen a cowboy movie and was fascinated by the West. Therefore, she presented me with my first library book, a Zane Grey western. I read all of his and subsequently countless other westerns, expanding to other genres.

The librarian would smile when she saw me coming, knowing I would be checking out several at a time. I was her best customer! Had it not been a free library, I would have read none of them. Only the affluent could afford to buy books back then!

By virtue of all this reading, when in eighth grade, I scored the highest I-Q of anyone at the school ever, the equivalent of 1.2 years of college! And I always had a vivid imagination. It was my escape from the poverty and many hungry days and cold nights!

Therefore, I will always love the librarian and that teacher, both long dead. I consider a Library to be the keystone of every community, the securer of our knowledge for the present and the future!

I praise the visionary government who voted to build this new library, amidst much criticism. As this representative of ‘faith in the future’ towers above the Town, the doomsayers will soon recognize its value to the entire community, and be as proud as those who supported it! I think it will draw businesses which are sorely needed.

Kudos to those who hung in there!

Thanks for listening!

Allen


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The Privilege of Understanding – Julia Connolly

“A self-leader cries for no followers by himself. He does his thing and people get to know him, chase him and learn from him.” — Israelmore Ayivor

Julia Connolly imageSo it is for many authors. They have something to say … a story to tell … they risk telling it and hope that we will listen.

I’ve been in search of and chasing great authors my entire life. I owe that curiosity to two people – a woman whose name I never knew and James Hilton. They introduced me to literature for, in our house, there were no books.

Barely age 10, I woke up one morning and heard my mother crying. My older sister simply said “Daddy died.” No other words about it were spoken to me. I adored my father and was confident that he would never leave me without saying goodbye. So I waited … and waited for him to return.

Each night I had the same repetitive dream. There was a large ballroom with a black and white tile floor, several large pillars and an upper balcony that encircled it on all four sides. The balcony was packed with people but they all had their backs to me. I was by myself downstairs across the room from its only object, a casket containing my father’s body. As I slowly approached it, feeling frightened and alone, I would glance upward hoping that someone would help me. Just before I reached the casket, suddenly everyone on the balcony turned towards me. They had no faces. At that moment, I looked into the casket and saw that it was not my father – it was me. Every night I experienced this identical nightmare. It was just as fresh and frightening each time. When I awoke from it, I’d force myself to stay awake. My broken heart was racing.

In the late 1950s children were to be seen and not heard. I had no one I could turn to in my grief and fear. My mother was trying to cope. My older siblings were not around. My younger sister was only 5 years old. I felt invisible. After school, I did not want to go home. I wanted to run away … far, far away.

While wandering the neighborhood, I passed a storefront and saw books in the window. There were shelves of books and several people were reading. A door opened and I peered in. A woman asked me if she could help me. Afraid to speak, I shook my head and turned to leave. She asked me if I would like to spend time in the library. I summoned my courage and asked her, “What is a library?”

This librarian showed me around and the next day I went in search of my first book to read. I chose Lost Horizon by James Hilton. Each day after school, I went to the public library to read more chapters. I now had hope, something to look forward to, and a grand sense of adventure. The librarian and James Hilton became my mentors.

We did not have a car so I was limited to wherever my legs could take me. The farthest thing I could see was a water tower and I promised myself that someday my friends and I would see what was on the other side of that tower. I was pretty sure it was Shangri-La until I read the Wizard of Oz and then I was positive we would see the yellow brick road.

As time went on I discovered a world of interesting people: Alexandra David-Neel who inspired my dreams of adventure and travel; Charles Dickens who understood my heart; Thomas Merton who understood my soul; David Grayson who explained contentment; H. V. Morton and Lowell Thomas who introduced me to other cultures; P. W. Joyce and T. P. O’Connor, two historians on Ireland, who are still teaching me about my roots; Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky who made you want to drink vodka; Margaret Mead and Isak Dinesen who made me appreciate cultural anthropology and animal behavior; Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith who enabled me to visualize African art and culture; Lassie who inspired me to become a dog rescuer; and Lewis Carroll who taught me how to throw a mean tea party!

I am forever indebted to that librarian who by one gentle gesture changed my outlook on life. To all of the authors who have become friends of the mind, soul and spirit, I say to you: Had you not taken the risk of writing your story, I would not be who I am … you have enriched the lives of so many people. Thank you.

I mentioned earlier that in our home there were no books. It was not until I was older that I understood why. It was then that I discovered that my mother had been the oldest of 12 children, eight of whom survived. In the early 1900’s in rural Ireland, only the boys in her family were allowed to go to school. The only book my mother had access to was the school book of her younger brothers. Looking over their shoulders as she waited upon them, my mother taught herself how to read and write. My mother read the daily newspaper cover to cover and on Sunday, she read three. She often said to me, “Always protect your eyes, Julia. They allow you to read.” I regret that I never brought my mother to the public library. She would have enjoyed it.

“The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance.” Libba Bray

To that I must add: It opens our eyes and hearts to wisdom, gratitude and love. Libraries provide the privilege of understanding.

Julia Connolly is a resident of Lake Montezuma. Retired from Marketing Management and New Product Development, she has become a contemporary art docent, an aspiring author, a photographer and a fiber and mixed media artist. With faith and humor, she has been a child advocate, a disability advocate and a dog rescuer for 50 years. Julia loves to travel.


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Where Have You Been? At the Library – Mike Bove

Mike Bove image copy“I spent a lot of time in the library at school, that’s where the smart girls were.” I wrote that for one of my books, but it’s true. I spent a lot of time in a lot of libraries, and sat with a lot of smart girls, mostly at different tables.

Not so much in grade school, I stayed clear of girls then, and the librarian was a big mean nun, Sister Mary Something.

But, by Jr-Hi there was a blonde named Alice who often sat next to me in classes because our last name initials were the same. And, boy, was she ever smart. I was kinda smart, so we were in a bunch of the same classes. She was also pretty. I was nervous. Alice knew everything the teachers asked, and the teachers knew she knew all the answers so they stopped calling on her. They started calling on me!

This continued in HS, and I still never spoke to Alice, except “Hi,” or ” Scuse me.” I hung out in the library, because I thought that’s where the smart girls would be, and sure enough, I’d see her there frequently. And then, one day (it seemed that sudden) I manned up and began initiating conversations with her. Eventually, she took part. Later we would meet in the library after school to do homework. Later we would meet other kids at the Rexall after school for cherry cokes.

Then we graduated and I never saw Alice again until our twentieth HS reunion, and she may have still been smart, but was not still pretty.

However, in the meantime, there was college.

There was a girl I liked, but she wasn’t in any of my classes. Naturally, I looked for her at the snack bar, dining hall, and in the library. I kidded her about drinking tea, and she was amused when I turned my cake upside down because the icing was too sweet. I bugged her in the library, especially in the library, because there was not a ton of people around, annoying her at first, mostly about her being left-handed, or her long auburn hair and and abundant freckles. We soon were laughing often and loud enough to get thrown out. More than once. The first time was when I drew a picture of her with just a few short hairs sticking out of a bald head with predominant freckles and big ears with big holes and dangling rubber chicken earrings. That was because she wanted to get a short haircut and her ears pierced. I wasn’t sure I’d like her that way. She didn’t do it, not until a long time later.

By then we had discovered the grass behind the library.

Not right behind the building, but past some trees, up a small hill, and between some other pine trees. Standing at our spot we could see the library, but not if we were lying in the grass. The first time was for a walk, to get some air, since we had been studying seriously for a couple of hours straight. I was a Phys Ed major so I was able to help her out with her nursing courses. I think she was smarter than she let on so that I would help with the anatomy stuff. We often brought a blanket with our books to our spot in the grass up the small hill and studied more there than in the library. Weather permitting.

We went to our grass spot several times with no book or blanket, just to sit and talk during tough times, or to walk silently hand-in-hand at odd times. Back of the library, turn right. Where have you been? At the library.

While I was a public school teacher I spent a lot of time in the library. Working, planning classes. I noticed smart girls there. And smart boys, too. I knew what was going on. The boys were flirting, I mean studying, with Alices and future nurses. I would smile and secretly wish them luck, just a bit of the luck I had.

That was many years ago and I am still holding on to my luck, my nurse, my wife.

____

Mike Bove is an ex-teacher and coach, and also a retired postman from New England. He reads a lot of mysteries from the library or on his kindle and even wrote a couple of Bruce DelReno Mysteries,WillowTree and Stinger Maguire . He now lives in Cottonwood with his wife and golden retriever.


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Of Many Libraries – John Jenkins

John W. Jenkins image
I look across my desk to my home library. Most are old friends, more are in other bookshelves. Some authors are living now, most speak from their graves. One old friend is a well-worn dictionary; others are seminary professors who keep me honestly Christian when I visit other faiths.

Then there’s Shakespeare, in a class of his own. His plays and poems are deep and puzzling at times. When I fail to understand England’s sixteenth century Elizabethan words I have a book that helps me. I try not to fail.

Poets, explorers, fiction writers speak from my book shelves. Also my how-to books teach photography, writing, computer and publishing, fiction and prose, physics and astronomy, all which make my heart sing and imagination soar.

Then again, Amazon Fire Fly contains my digital library. Fortunately, my thirst for knowledge is not restricted to my home library. No sirree! It is only a tiny extension of our own Camp Verde Community Library, which has connections to communities throughout Yavapai County.

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My first library in the middle 1930s was a two-story schoolhouse in Fulton, Michigan. Its public education came in eight rows of desks below, each row a grade—one teacher. High School was upstairs with four rows of desks—one teacher.

The school’s library was a room about the size of a large bathroom, with wall to wall shelves, from ceiling to flour. Its shelves held hundred of books standing at attention, waiting to be read. If I could have read them all, I would have had a literature road map leading out of town to the world beyond. Even so, simple adventure fiction led me out of myself. I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes again and again. He was the man I wanted to be like when I grew up. Jane came with Tarzan and that was ok. My Jane was beyond my radar, two years younger, living many miles away.

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Returning from Okinawa and Japan by troop ship, in late 1949, I visited the ship’s meager library and pulled out a biography of Thomas Eakins with prints of his paintings. Inspired, I wanted to be an artist.

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In the early 1970s, I was asked to serve on the Camp Verde Library Building Committee. We focused on building plans, fund-raising projects, and grants. Furthermore, we discussed construction bids and presented our decision. Over the decades, our library has become an important member of our community, educating generations and helping to form the personality of our town.

Most mornings I visit our Camp Verde Library and greet volunteers and staff. Then, I read the Wall Street Journal, borrow magazines, do research, and look over shelves of DVD movies. Mondays I often attend poetry and prose writing sessions. Also, our book review group helps me discover new authors and what they have to contribute. This I enjoy.

Next year, our new library will be finished and our old library will be given a new life a new building. It will continue to grow exponentially in our twenty-first century to better teach, serve and form. Quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet out of context, nevertheless true today: “What dreams may come, must give us pause.”
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John Jenkins is a retired minister, gardener, beekeeper, artist, poet, writer, fly fisherman, reader, thinker, and author of A Voice In the Wilderness, a book of inspirational essays, and Catching a Dream; a Bicycle Journey Across America. Beside his cross country bicycle trip, John has hiked the Grand Canyon many times. John and Doris have three children, seven grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.

John lives in Camp Verde continuing his journey without Doris, his wife of 60 years who passed in 2011, where he explores his love of nature, the mind, and the spirit. He is currently working on “Insights” and “Methodist Monk.”

 


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Galloping to the Library – Doris McFadden

“Our library books arDoris McFadden Library horse image 4e due. We better take them back to the library.” My mother was referring to the small Richmond, California, Public Library branch near our home.

“Let me saddle up Pacer,” I replied. Always eager to visit our library, I gathered my books and ran out to the corral, where Pacer stood under the shade of a peach tree.

Once a wild mustang, Pacer’s lineage went back hundreds of years. White, with a long white mane which sparkled silver in the sunlight, his appearance was dazzling. I named him Pacer after a wild horse in a library book (The Pacing Mustang in Wild Animals I Have Known by Earnest Thompson Seton) my dad read to me.

Pacer saw me approaching, pricked up his ears, and whinnied, hoping for a treat. I grabbed a halter and entered the corral. Patting Pacer’s neck, I gently placed the halter over his head and led him to the hitching post. I pulled the red and white striped Navajo blanket off the fence, placed it on his back, and tossed the saddle over him. I mounted and rode off waving to my mother telling her I’d meet her at the library.

At first we went along at a gentle lope, but Pacer wanted to move out, tossing his mane and moving sideways. So I let him run, flying with the wind across grassy fields. I felt his powerful muscles engaging as his stride reached out, eating the earth as his wildness came back.

Minutes later we arrived at the library. When I pulled him up, he kept stomping and pawing as I calmed him. “Easy, fellow. Good boy.” He settled down. I dismounted and tied him to the porch railing.

Inside the library several boys and girls looked at books. The librarian smiled and asked where my mother was. I told her I’d ridden my horse ahead of her.

“You rode your horse over here?” She and the children all dashed outside to see my horse.

I went to the books about horses and chose C. W. Anderson’s Favorite Horse Stories and How to Draw Horses, two of my favorite books.

The boys and girls came back in laughing. One boy glowered and said, “There ain’t no horse out there.” I ignored him and continued looking through the books.

I checked out my books, placed them in my saddlebags, mounted Pacer, and galloped home.

Any eight-year-old horse crazy kisd would be proud to ride their own horse to the library, even if he was made of a wooden stick, painted white, with a horse-shaped head, curtain trimming mane, and dog leash reins.

Doris McFadden

Doris McFadden is a wolf activist, dog trainer, and educator. Throughout her life she has embodied the Spirit of the Wolf, the Voice of the Raven, and the Courage of The Lone Ranger. Remaining an inspiration to all who know her, she teaches dog training, offers workshops, and follows her lifelong interests in animals, the environment, and a creative life. Author of Wolf Howl Raven Speak: a Collection of Poems, Stories, and Dream  she lives in Camp Verde with Sirius, her retired racing greyhound.


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My First Library – Babe Daley

I started first grade in 1931 at Osborn School in Phoenix. My teacher was Bonnie Baskett. We were at war from the first day I picked up a pencil with my left hand. I never learned to write legibly, but I sure learned to read. By the time I was in the second grade I had discovered the library and found out that Mrs. Thompson, the librarian, would let me take books home. What a happy day!

I started reading Zane Grey and didn’t quit until I had read all the westerns. From then on I read every book I could find. We lived on a farm, and I didn’t have anyone to play with, so by summer when I could no longer get into the library I discovered my parents had a set of the Book of Knowledge. Wow! My old uncle lived with us and he subscribed to The National Geographic, so, I had something else to read.

Now, at 90, I`m still reading. My tastes have changed, but, I`m still reading.

About Babe Daley

Babe1I was born in Phoenix in 1925 the 6th of 7 children. We had a farm at what is now, 11th Avenue and Thomas Road. Phoenix Community Collage is there now. There was very little money during the Depression, but I was young enough that it didn’t bother me much. We always had extra people living with us, so we had lots of interesting things going on.

I finished high school in May 1943 and Frank and I were married in June. We had 4 children. 3 girls and one son. We lost our oldest daughter when she was 39 years old. Frank passed in 2000.

I’ve had a good life, a lot of fun and a good ride.


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Recent Reviews from Mr. V Hatch

Never dull reading: Random Reviews in Random order from the Inestimable, Mr. Von Hatch, library volunteer and patron.

Read a Book. It’s good for what ails you. Especially if what ails you is a dearth of reading! Need ideas?  There is no lack of ideas in our world and here are a few (in alpha-order, no less) to pique your interest.

13 SOLDIERS: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF AMERICANS AT WAR by John McCain & Mark Salter

(Yes, that John McCain) This book is made up of brief tales of citizen soldiers from each of our major wars. These 13 Americans could have been any 13 Americans who have gone in harm’s way over the past 240 odd years because so many others have done what they did. They refused to give into the logical feeling to turn and run like crazy away from the carnage that lay to their front and instead went to the sound of the muskets or the AK-47s. The rightness or not of the particular conflict seems not to matter as much as the dread of failing to be there for your comrades. There are no new revelations made in this book but its value is in the re-examination of the men and women who answer the call; citizen soldiers in the main, wanting to do their duty and return home to their interrupted lives. Most of them are able to do so.

THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS: THE GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST by Eugene Rogan

The White Man’s Burden is indeed a heavy load to pack around, particularly when considering the mess that is the Middle East. Granted, the residents of that region shoulder a significant responsibility for the seemingly nonstop high drama that provides endless headlines, pitiful refugees and mind numbing body counts. What had been the remnants of a centuries old Islamic empire was caught up in the intrigue of European empires as they jockeyed for position to expand their own interests. As Europe began it’s descent into war after Sarajevo, the Ottomans, who had their own interests to protect, began shopping around for European allies that would provide the best partnership for the powers in Istanbul. They chose Germany. One of the first results of that decision was to make the European War a World War due, in great part, to the size of the Ottoman Empire which reached from The Aegean Sea to the Indian Ocean and from the Red Sea to The Persian Gulf. Once upon a time it was much larger. It is estimated that the numbers of troops deployed by both sides in WW I to battle in the Ottoman area of operations lengthened the awful blood bath that was the war on the Western Front appreciably. It’s all in this book: The Balfour Agreement, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Lawrence of Arabia, the Armenian Genocide, and more. The duplicity of the great powers and their “allies” south of the Dardanelles make the Borgias and Medicis seem like bridge clubs. The events of this era are with us still, including the fear that arises at the word jihad.

IT IS ABOUT ISLAM by Glenn Beck

In this fairly compact dissertation about the dangers ISIS and others of their ilk present to, not only our country, but the non-Muslim rest of the world, Glenn Beck goes to great lengths to differentiate between Islam and Islamists. Islam being the religion practiced by most of the 1.5 billion adherents to the religion who don’t behead journalists and Islamists who do. Then he goes on to mostly lump them together. To be sure he is addressing a clear and present danger presented by a large group of terrorists who are Muslims. He then proceeds to indict the teachings of that religion and to state that because Muslims everywhere are bound by the teachings of the Quran they are mostly helpless to divorce themselves from its doctrines. Unlike Mr. Beck, I am no scholar of comparative religions, but I’m not convinced. Nor am I persuaded by his arguments that such well known events as the Inquisition, the bloody European wars that followed the reformation, and the finer points of the Crusades should be seen in radically different light than 9/11 and many other actions of Islamists. While this book raises many valid points, it also comes with the Glenn Beck world view. You have been alerted.

KILLING REAGAN: THE VIOLENT ASSAULT THAT CHANGED A PRESDIDENCY by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

As you might well guess, reactions to this book span the emotional globe. It seems to me that Dugard has done his usual, voluminous amount of research and no doubt did some cherry picking in order to make this book come in at just under three hundred pages. There seems to be a good deal of nitpicking about his cherry-picking but it seemed to me to be relatively even-handed. Most people don’t doubt the conservative creds of Mr. O’Reilly but the tone of the book struck me as well-balanced. The story of Ronald Reagan is a very intriguing American tale and makes for compelling reading from womb to tomb. For those of us who were alive and presumably paying some attention, the book reminds us of certain things, further explains some things, reinforces the virtues of the President that many wish to believe, and gives credence to the huge failings of the Reagan Presidency that many others devoutly insist upon. It’s an All-American book: you can have it your way.

KING SOLOMON’S MINES by H. Rider Haggard

As a young boy, I dreamed of adventures in far-off lands, of exciting treks and fierce battles, of dusky maidens…well, maybe not so much the maidens, and treasure beyond counting. Strangely enough I discovered this book and I read it. It fulfilled all of those fantasies and more and in a really strange form of English. It is the English of the mid-19th century as spoken in Africa by our hero, Allan Quatermain, big game hunter and explorer. He is given a proposition by a rich guy to go find the rich guy’s brother who is missing from a journey to find a fabulous treasure. He says, “OK,” and off we go into the unknown reaches of deepest Africa. Adventure ensues. What I didn’t really notice on the first reading was the attitude toward big game hunting and the racial attitudes of the White guys. Not that there are any surprises there but 150 years have passed and, hopefully, so have some of the attitudes. Be all of that as it may, it’s a pretty cool adventure yarn. Go ahead, live dangerously.

MISSOULA: THE RAPE AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN A COLLEGE TOWN by Jon Krakauer

When you read this book, you will want to run to the “first we kill all the lawyers” list and add a few new names. They will all live somewhere near Missoula, Montana. The sub-title to this book is: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Here are the stories of several women who were raped in or near the campus of the University of Montana, home of the Grizzlies. What follows is the search for truth and justice in the legal system of both the state and the university. The rapes for which they are seeking redress did not last very long; the violations visited upon them by the system lasted much longer. The debate about the numbers of rape taking place in our college towns, and elsewhere, does go on. The figures and attitudes examined by this author are fairly convincing. The events described in this book are about three years old and none of the convicted remain behind bars but many people are still serving time in their minds. Montana is in the process of changing their attitude about the handling of rape cases and the victims. But there are still tens of thousands of untested rape kits across the nation, which may indicate attitudes need to be changed in more places than Montana.

RAVENSBRUCK: LIFE AND DEATH IN HITLER’S CONCENTRATION CAMP FOR WOMEN by Sarah Helm

It is reasonably safe to say that most people have heard of Auschwitz, Dachau, and, perhaps, even Buchenwald, but Ravensbruck is rarely recognized by most of us. Ravensbruck was unique in that it was the only concentration camp that housed only women. Unlike Auschwitz it was not, strictly speaking, a death camp but if the brutality and harsh conditions found in the camp were killing you, there would be nearly nothing done to prevent your dying. First opened in May of 1939 as a concentration camp for undesirables, Gypsies, prostitutes, communists, and other groups, Ravensbruck was mostly a labor camp where its inmates wore worked to death. As time went on, the camp added medical experiments, gassing, mass sterilizations, and a crematorium to its available services. The systematic murder of the inmates continued to the last week of the war even as Russian and American troops were within miles. This is an awful book to read. It is awful to see what otherwise normal humans are capable of doing to one another. It is awful to see how callous international organizations dedicated to the well-being of mankind can be. It is awful to see how governments disregarded the carnage. It is awful to know that the world lied when we all said, “Never again.” In the shadow of this book, it is awful to contemplate words and deeds we are exposed to today. It is awful that the concept of “the banality of evil” is alive and well. And it is awful that this book might well serve as a distant mirror.

SATURN RUN by John Sanford and Ctein

I don’t usually do pop-fiction because everyone reads their favorites in any event and who cares what I have to say? Please, that is rhetorical and I’m not looking for an answer. This is a call out to all fans of Science Fiction wherever you are. A devoted Sci-Fi maniac wouldn’t touch John Sanford with a ten foot light saber but I’m telling you this book is worth your while. It has all of the meticulous plot movement of the Lucas Davenport or Virgil Flowers series but it all takes place in outer space and in the future. What more do you need? And I am pleased to report there are no “wantum mechanics” involved. I sort of had to take that on faith because I wouldn’t know quantum from wantum if I were sitting in a bucket of either. However I do know a bit about plot, suspense and character development and there are oodles of it here. It all starts with a decelerating object in the rings of Saturn and we ALL know that nothing in space decelerates unless it is a contrivance of some life form or the other. We are one and the source of this object is the other. Other what? You will find out near the end of this book I am trying to persuade you to read. And there is more. Be still my heart.

SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson

There are no Adams in this book, just the seven Eves. I waded into Science Fiction waters again and it was mostly pleasant but there be piranha, too. I found the premise of the book to be intriguing: the moon is broken into pieces and it is determined that there remains only a couple of years to get out of the building that will soon be burning, i.e., earth. This is accomplished by expanding the ISS…a lot. The earth burns up as predicted and there is much drama among the survivors, as they are incapable of modifying the behaviors that make mankind so very entertaining. This part of the drama ends with just seven survivors that, you might have guessed by this point, are all women. Seven women and a lot of high tech information stored in chips. Part of that information verifies the attitude held in some circles that men are mostly superfluous. Then, as we say in film editing, jump-cut 5,000 years into the future. We are still in the neighborhood of earth, still not getting along and eventually come to some sort of resolution…sort of. I found that part to be a bit underwhelming. This book runs to nearly 900 pages and the first 500 are ripping good, the next 200 worthwhile, and the last 200 akin to the last 10 minutes in the dentist’s chair. Are we done yet?

THE SHORT NOVELS OF JACK SCHAEFER by Jack Schaefer

Working the front desk at the library (many of my stories begin this way) I noticed the title, Shane along with a couple of others on a book and I was amazed because I didn’t know Alan Ladd had written a book. Another hole in my English studies as it turned out. Shane was the product of the mind of Jack Schaefer, as were a number of other Western type books, including Monte Walsh. I figured I would read Shane and let the others go. Didn’t happen. The other short novels of this anthology are, First Blood, a tale of reaching manhood, The Canyon, the quest of a young Indian for the Native American Dream, Company of Cowards, does being charged with cowardice make a person a coward?, and The Kean Land, a tale of shady land grabs that happened somewhere besides Arizona. The story of Shane and the image of encroaching society being opposed by the violent proponents of the status quo and the mysterious stranger who comes from nowhere to ensure the triumph of civilization almost made me put on my English Major hat. Fortunately for all of us I couldn’t find it, but that doesn’t prevent me from saying this is good stuff.

 

SINGLE HANDED: THE INSPIRING TRUE STORY OF TIBOR “TEDDY” RUBIN, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, KOREAN WAR HERO, AND MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT by Daniel M Cohen

In the midst of the current furor over immigration, here is the story of an immigrant to this country that exemplifies the potential these good folk bring to our country. It is the tale of Tibor “Teddy” Rubin, born in Hungary just in time to spend his early teen years as an inmate of the Mauthausen death camp. After its liberation by American troops, Teddy swore he would immigrate to the US and join the Army. As it happened, the confusion of post-WW II conspired to spit him out in NYC. Speaking almost no English, he was able to find work and eventually made his way into the Army. He made it just in time to find himself in Korea in the dark, first days of that conflict. For his feats of incredible valor, his commanding officer instructed the company First Sergeant to prepare the paperwork for the recommendation of a Medal of Honor. Not once but twice. The First Sergeant, unfortunately, was a hater of Jews, Negroes, and others of less than Aryan bloodlines, and the paperwork was never processed. Private Rubin, along with thousands of others, was taken prisoner in the ill-advised pursuit of the bad guys toward the Yalu River, where the bad guys were joined by other bad guys and the arms race turned south once again. Private Rubin then spent nearly 3 years as a guest of the Communist Chinese and survived. Many didn’t. He came home and then there was a really long trial to secure his Medal of Honor. It involved many twists and turns including anti-Semitism and disdain of soldier prisoners of the Chinese (think Manchurian Candidate). George Bush finally awarded the medal and it all ends happy ever after…sort of. This is riveting stuff. By the way, Teddy Rubin died this December. An American hero by way of Hungary.

TWO BOOKS: 1632 by Eric Flint and DARWIN’S RADIO by Greg Bear

My reading eyes very rarely see Science Fiction. An old chum of mine, whose eyes rarely see anything but, recently either twisted my arm painfully or smoothly convinced me (I’m not sure which) to give Sci-Fi a try. I did. I’m not unhappy I did. Book one: “1632” by Eric Flint. A tale of a small W. Virginia town that finds itself plunked down in the German countryside in the middle of The 30 Years War. The story is an interesting rewrite of European (therefore our) history. While reading this book I found myself returning time after time to Google to check the history of the era. The author is spot-on as near as I can tell. Fast moving, humorous, lots of little love stories and the good guys mostly win. The science of how this event occurred is in the preface. After reading the book, you’ll want to go back and re-read it. Book two: “Darwin’s Radio”, by Greg Bear. This one gave me a migraine. It has a lot of information about DNA, RNA and other scientific stuff at the beginning. To me it ruined the book as successfully as Melville killed(for me) the joy of reading about a white whale with way too much information about whales. Third’s the charm book: “Old Man’s War”, by John Scalizi. In the future, in several galaxies far away the armies of humankind’s descendants fight to keep the universe safe for our colonizers and crush the bad colonizers. This army is comprised of geezers. You have to be 75 to sign up and then the good times begin. You get a REALLY complete makeover that makes you a better man (or woman) than you ever dreamed you could be and off you go to boot camp and the deep corners of the universe. Space ships, exotic weapons, a little in the way of renewed hormonal life, conspiracies and the pursuit of truth, justice and the American way…all that I imagine Science Fiction to be and more. Good stuff. And that new bod under the 75 year old brain? Sign me up. Reminiscent of that old song,  “When you wish upon a star…”

UNDENIABLE: EVOLUTION AND THE SCIENCE OF CREATION by Bill Nye

If you are like me, when hearing about “string theory,” the “big bang,” and the idea of an ever expanding universe (what is out there where the universe is not?) you ask yourself, “Who thinks this stuff up?” This book by Bill Nye (yes the science guy) examines the notions of evolution – past, present and future. This book is not “Evolution for Dummies” but it is sort of understandable even to less than mediocre biology students such as myself. Mr. Nye does not address the concept of a divine creator but concentrates his energies instead on the exploration of scientifically verifiable evidence. In short, the how as opposed to the Who. Bill methodically builds his case and comes to his conclusions with clarity and wit. Mr. Nye had a sympathetic reader here, but for those who lean toward creationism I expect he would arouse a different emotion. He had a celebrated debate with Ken Ham, a prominent and vocal proponent of creationism, last year. The debate is available online if you have two and a half hours to devote to the cause… whichever one you champion.

WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE: THE SOUNDTRACK OF THE VIETNAM WAR by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner

Over There and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With anyone else but Me) are two songs from the great wars in the first half of the last century. But when was the last time you heard them? Don’t know of any songs from the Korean kerfuffle and if there were any they, like that war, have been forgotten. The songs that form the soundtrack for Vietnam are heard every day on “Golden Oldie” stations all over the country. Admittedly there are more Vietnam vets still with us, but just as that war ripped at the fabric of what we thought our nation was about, so did the music of that era shred what had gone before, musically. The lyrics, the presentation, and the actions of those who performed it were unlike anything that had gone before. You don’t have to like it, you just need to admit it. Accept I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag as the pulse of a huge chunk of the youth of America at the time and you’ll be onboard. This book covers many of the songs of that time, along with narratives by men and women who served and how the music touched them then and in many instances continues to do so. The authors had some idea of making a Top Twenty List and came to the conclusion it was an impossible mission. But they made a list of way more than twenty songs and by popular acclaim, Eric Burdon and the Animals’ hit, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place was number one, with a bullet.

ZERO: THE BIOGRAPHY OF DANGEROUS IDEAS by Charles Seife

I have yet to comment on a book I haven’t read. I’m breaking new ground today. This book caught my eye one day while I was toiling at the front desk of the library and iT sounded too interesting to not read. It was billed as the biography of a dangerous idea. How could I resist? The book begins with a bang. A billion dollar missile cruiser is brought to a shuddering halt when its computer system dies because a zero was not removed from the system after testing. Wow! Then the math starts. I should have guessed it would. I was an indifferent math student at best and this book beat me into submission in a hurry. Unlike the flea approaching the elephant with lust in his heart, I wept at my shortcomings but admitted them. And this, from the book cover, hints at my zero aptitude for this book and this concept. “Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, the quest for the theory of everything.” If that excites instead of terrifying you, this might be a book for you.