December 27th, 2018

Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Another Hornblower Book Review

So on Christmas Day I finished reading Commodore Hornblower... fitting, as in the US version of the book, he arrives back home as Lady Barbara is entertaining Christmas Carolers....

Here's the review of it that I penned several years ago...
Commodore Hornblower
By C. S. Forester
Reviewed by D. Andrew McChesney

            Several decades ago, a book loving high school freshman searched the shelves of his school library, looking for something to read.  By chance he came across Commodore Hornblower and was intrigued.  In his grade school years, the Weekly Reader which was distributed to students featured a columnist with a cat named Admiral Hornblower.  Noting the connection, and genuinely curious, the student took the book from the shelf, opened it and took the first steps into the exciting world of C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower.
            While the adventure related in the story certainly appealed to this first time reader, it was also the contrary personality of Hornblower that caught his attention.  Here was an often grumpy and mean-spirited individual who for various reasons hid a kinder and more caring nature.  As well, it seemed that Hornblower was aware of the different sides of his personality and struggled to keep them in balance.
            The opening scene of the book, with Hornblower sitting in the tub comparing his thin hairy legs to those of large South American spiders caught the young reader’s fancy.  That was immediately followed by a refusal to admit a mistake in donning trousers before putting his stockings on, necessitating him to growl, “cut the tops off the damned things.”
            Over the intervening years, that student has read this and all of the Horatio Hornblower books several times.  Having recently read Commodore Hornblower again, he offers the following review.
            The quiet domestic life as the new Squire of Smallbridge is soon in the past as Hornblower receives orders from the Admiralty.  He is appointed Commodore, and with a small squadron is to attempt to tip the balance of power in the Baltic.  Assigned the seventy-four gun Nonsuch, two sloops of war, two bomb ketches, and a cutter, Hornblower is soon on his way.
            In his assigned area of operations, Hornblower’s squadron soon makes the British presence felt.  He uses the bomb ketches to destroy a French privateer sheltered behind a spit of land and sends a raiding party of ships’ boats to play havoc amongst coastal shipping.  Most importantly he attempts to persuade the Czar of Russia to declare against Napoleon.  At the same time he foils an attempt to assassinate the Russian ruler and is lured into a brief entanglement with a Russian countess.  Later, he and his squadron come to the aid of the besieged city of Riga.  There Hornblower leads a final counterattack which breaks the enemy lines and sends the attacking French forces fleeing.  He is also instrumental in the defection of Prussian forces from Napoleon’s empire.
            Whether as a result of general fatigue, conditions on the battlefields around Riga, or the flea bites suffered during his tryst with the countess, Hornblower comes down with typhus.  Having recovered at the King of Prussia’s palace in Königsberg, and with his mission accomplished Hornblower sails for England in the cutter Clam.  He arrives at Smallbridge at Christmas time as his wife Lady Barbara entertains a group of carolers.
            Commodore Hornblower, or The Commodore as it is known in the United Kingdom, takes place well into Hornblower’s life and career, with only two books remaining in which to complete the story.  Nonetheless it is a great tale in which to begin a lifelong appreciation of C. S. Forester’s fictional naval hero.  While all the books in the series tell a larger story if read in order of Hornblower’s life, they are all capable of standing alone or of being read in any order the reader might desire.  For the young student mentioned earlier, this book was certainly a successful introduction to the character and the series.
            As in all of Forester’s Hornblower books, and indeed in his other works, the writing is precise and to the point.  Forester writes simply and makes even complex plots easy to understand.  He paints complicated and sometimes confusing and hard to understand characters with a few choice well-placed words.  There is evidence of a keen understanding of naval life in the early nineteenth century, although apparent technical errors seem to crop up now and then.  As in Lieutenant Hornblower and a description of HMS Renown, Forester mentions HMS Nonsuch as having seventeen guns per side on each gun deck.  Again this reviewer believes that number to be excessive.  Fourteen or fifteen guns per side per deck would seem more likely.
            Somewhere in popular legend, it is suggested that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was a Horatio Hornblower fan.  It is said that the design of the Enterprise, and particularly the aft end of the nacelles was done in imitation of the sterns of the great ships of Hornblower’s time.  It has even been put forth that Roddenberry based the character of James Kirk on that of Horatio Hornblower.  That may or may not be true, but certainly there are similarities between the two.  Yet in a passage near the end of Commodore Hornblower, where it says, “He had striven all his life to restrain his features from revealing his feelings,” one can see a bit of Spock in Hornblower.  Perhaps Star Trek’s creator did too.
            According to the copy read for this review, Commodore Hornblower was originally copyrighted in 1945 and renewed in 1972.  This volume was reissued as a paperback in 2000 by Back Bay Books, carries an ISBN of 0-316-28938-8 and a cover price of $13.00 (US).
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Weekly Book Review

We are nearly through the list of book reviews in the files of Spokane Authors and Self-Publishers.  There will be one more after this.  Then I will post from the files on an as needed basis... when there is a new review added to those already on file for a particular book, or when a totally new review is posted.  As always, these reviews are available on the SASP web-site.

Reviewed by James B. Parry

        This is a first-person account of the 1994 twin tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base: a mass shooting followed by a B-52 crash four days later – written by the very airman who took out the shooter! It’s a thoroughly gripping book that would make a thoroughly gripping movie, as it has an In Cold Blood vibe. Although this is Mr. Brown’s first book you’ll be amazed by his excellent, professional, matter-of-fact writing style.

         Having lived in Spokane all of my life I vividly recall these two incidents, but knew few of the details.  Brown provides all of those details.  Besides having been in the middle of the bloodshed he has researched the heck out of both tragedies, finding that both were quite preventable had any of the “professionals” taken the time to think things through.  Hundreds of interviews, medical records, and other transcripts show that colossal mistakes in judgement were made.  They seemed like two unrelated events, but Brown has tied them together by showing us that both were caused by warnings that went unheeded.

         Towards the end of the book, Brown discusses the trauma experienced by all involved – that continues to haunt them still.  Andy has had a particularly difficult time of it but has finally made peace with it.  He currently has a good job and a wonderful, supportive family.

         A fast-paced, exciting (and sad) book with a good ending. 

Reviewed by Kate Poitevin

        I was living in Spokane in 1995 when the events depicted in Warnings Unheeded took place. I remember being glued to the TV, waiting for any bit of news to explain what was happening. We heard how the hospitals were filling up and sketchy details, film of, what looked like, every first responder in the county gathered together. There was one of those info bites that they kept repeating about the young man who stopped the rampage. I remember my heart aching for him and I thought this will change his life forever. I never was giving the answers I needed, but frequently thought about that day and the brave young man who saved so many more lives.

         Imagine my surprise, 22 years later, when that same young man stood up to speak at my writer’s group.  I nearly burst into tears! Andy spoke to us of that day and about the research he had done to put this book together. It was clear that I was right all those years ago; his eyes revealed that he is still haunted by the events, not only the one he was involved in, but also the tragic B-52 crash later that week.

         Mr. Brown has finally answered all my questions and more, not only in the minute-by-minute telling of the events of that day, but of the histories of the shooter and all those involved. He tells the story in a fair and completely non-judgmental way. Just the facts. And with those facts, he lets us decide where to lay the blame.

         Recently, a former military man, with a bad conduct discharge for violent acts, entered a church and killed 26 people with a gun he should never have been able to buy. He did buy it because the military “forgot” to put him on the list. My first thought when I heard the news, was of Mr. Brown. After all these years and so many unheeded warnings, they still foist their damaged men out onto an unsuspecting population with no back up plan.

         From the eyes of an author, Warnings Unheeded is very well written, extensively researched, on-the-edge-of-your-seat, best non-fiction book I’ve ever read.

Beyond the Ocean's Edge

This and That

It seems I end up posting two or thee times, all in the same day, here on LJ.  Keep thinking I should spread it out over the week, but somehow that doesn't seem to work.  Maybe next time???

Anyway, we are through with Christmas for another year.  Jessica came over in the afternoon for dinner and we opened a few gifts.  Most were for the animals, Coco and Stormie.  For the most part we didn't buy a lot of gifts, but instead made some small donations to various charities.  I personally didn't do any shopping at all, perhaps because I'd been trying to shake off a cold.  It had me laid out pretty low a couple of days late last week and so I didn't bother to try and go anyplace or do anything.  Matter of fact, today is the first day I've felt pretty much back to normal, and even then I've got a lot of congestion and had a hint of an earache earlier.

No snow for Christmas, but it was foggy, so I guess Rudolph earned his keep.  Snowed yesterday, however, and we have two or three inches on the ground now.  For once the temperature is staying below freezing so it isn't all turning to slush and melting off.  Made it easier to shovel when I was out earlier in the day.  Did our front walk, most of our driveway, and the side walk in front of our place plus in front of the neighbors on either side of us.  Sometimes the neighbor(s) with snowblowers will do our walk, so figured it was a bit of paying it forward.  Since the snow wasn't all wet and heavy, it was fairly easy to shovel, so I figured, "why not?"

Earlier mentioned I'd finished reading Commodore Hornblower on Christmas and posted my review of it.  Today, started reading Lord Hornblower.  One more to go after that.  Noticed that when I wasn't feeling all that good, that my reading suffered... instead of sitting in the recliner and reading, I'd just nap or rest a bit.  And my writing went by the way side as well... I suppose there was a ten day gap where I didn't make any progress.  Part of that was when I was working on our family newsgram for the holidays, and then when I wasn't up to snuff, the ambition wasn't there.  Got back to it a bit last night and wrote three or four pages.

Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!