The torch burns in Rio

Saturday Savings 06.08.2016 celebrates the games

Olympic LordsReady or not, Rio de Janeiro is aflame with the 2016 Olympic Games. The athletes, and the spectators, have arrived and it’s time to look beyond the accommodations, the displaced, and the threat of Zika to the competition.

It’s also a good time to look back, to past games and past glories. Endeavour Press is discounting two ebooks — one which is really a long essay originally published in 2012 about the three lords who brought the Olympic Games to London, the other , the other about the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin — to help readers get in the mood.

Lords of the Olympics by John Bryant tells the story of the three British Lords who brought the Olympic Games to London, the only city to host them three times.  It’s a short read, 40 or so pages, written by a Fleet Street journalist and lifelong athlete who also coached an Olympian, but it’s only 99 cents (USD) today.

Each of the three brought the games to London in his own way. Each also snatched triumph when the Games faced disaster and crisis.

Lord Desborough, the perfect Edwardian sportsman – cricketer, sculler, fencer and huntsman – masterminded the Games in just two years when a near bankrupt Italy pulled out. He bequeathed the Edwardian concept of “play up, play up and play the game” which was to set the tone of international sport for 70 years.

Lord Burghley stepped in when two great wars ripped the world apart. There were no Olympics in 1940 or 1944, but with just two years to go he demonstrated that the Olympics were about sport and not war. Britain was almost bankrupt, rationing was rife, and bombsites littered the London landscape. But in these make-do-and-mend Olympics, Lord Burghley and the indomitable spirit of London overcame every obstacle.

Lord Coe, one of the greatest middle-distance runners that Britain has ever produced, faced a different problem when he entered the race to bring the Olympics back to London. In a fiercely commercial word everyone wants the Games. He’s had to see off the threats of corrupt and unethical practices, the gift-giving and inflated budgets that have haunted recent bids to secure the Games.

Remember Gabrielle? Grace, Gold, and Glory is the autobiography of the girl Gabbywho stole hearts and made U.S. Olympic history in London during the 2012 games.  It’s a tale of faith, perserverance and determination, from the first U.S. woman’s gymnast to win gold in team and individual events. The ebook is $1.99 (USD) today. Gabrielle began her training at age six, and became the Virginia State Champion only two years later. When she was 14, she left her family in Virginia Beach to train with coach Liang Chow in Des Moines, Iowa. Under Chow’s guidance, and with tremendous faith in God’s plan for her, Gabrielle competed in the Olympic Trials and walked away with the only guaranteed spot on the team. Since her Olympic triumph, Gabrielle has used her platform to inspire millions with a powerful message: With hard work and persistence, any dream is possible.

Nazi OlympicsThe Nazi Olympics by Richard D. Mandell, also 99 cents today, describes the staging of a fantasy-drama that was, in essence, a superbly engineered piece of Nazi “realpolitik.” Over 5,000 athletes from 28 nations fought as political gladiators. Hundreds of pampered foreigners, journalists, businessmen, and diplomats abandoned themselves — and their judgment — to the extravaganza. The Nazis controlled Germany, and they expected the games to prove Aryan supremacy (and all their other bigoted beliefs) to the watching world. It didn’t work out that way, thanks to the athletes:

Jess Owens:  black, beautiful, and innocent.

Helen Stephens: “the fastest woman in the world.”

Kitei Son: a Korean running the marathon under the hated Japanese flag

Helene Mayer: the statuesque, half-Jewish fencing champion who became a “cause célèbre” by competing under the swastika.

Richard D. Mandell (1929-2013) was a professor of history at the University of South Carolina. He was also the author of Sport: A Cultural History, The First Modern Olympics. and The Nazi Olympics

Kindle ebook $9.99 (USD)
Kindle ebook $9.99 (USD)

I anticipated the games by starting The Boys in the Boat, another tale from the 1936 Olympics, but one which is not discounted.  Daniel James Brown recounts an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate times with this improbably and intimate account of nine working-class boys from the American West who showed the world what true grit really means.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

Saturday savings . . .

The Great War, WWII, and so much more

The Battle of the Somme, Britain’s bloodiest battle in all time, occurred 100 years ago, and the UK’s Endeavour Press marks the sacrifice with a sale on several books about the great battle and the Great War, most for a mere 99 cents (USD).  Other significant savings are available today, from biographies & memoirs to historical fiction set in World War II.  It’s a great day to have a Kindle!

SommeSubaltern on the Somme  is the memoir of a junior officer whose regiment suffered the heaviest casualties of any unit on the first day of the battle, with 70 percent killed or wounded.  Max Plowman, who served in the 10th Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment, tells the story of trench warfare from the perspective of a junior officer.

“The war of attrition” entered the military lexicon in 1916, and Attrition: The Great War on the Western Front by Robin Neillands explores the beginning of this new form of warfare.

At the start of 1916, the outlook was the Franco-British Armies on the AttritionWestern Front. They were getting the men and guns they needed. New technology in the shape of tanks and aircraft was about to appear and, after more than a year of fighting what amounted to private wars, the Entente Powers (Britain, France, Italy and their allies) were about to mount a number of co-ordinated offensives against the German and Austrian Armies, culminating in the Big Push – a joint Anglo-French offensive astride the Somme.

But then, unfortunately for the Allies, the Germans struck first, at Verdun. By New Years Day, 1916, the fighting on the Western Front had cost some two million lives – by the end of the year it had risen to four million men and the territorial gains had been negligible. Focusing on this crucial year, Neillands examines the actions of the principal commanders as they sought a way to win the war and opted for the deadly doctrine of attrition: the notion that it was only possible to win by killing a vast number of soldiers. The soldiers, German, French, British, Canadian, Australian, died in their hundreds of thousands at Verdun, along the Ancre and on the Pozieres ridge in the muddy fields above the Somme.

A controversial and compelling text, Attrition points at the failure of the high command to realise that until new offensive technology was invented to overcome the bias of defensive technology, the death toll could only rise, and asks why no system of Supreme Command was set up to handle the strategic direction of the war. Although 1916 did see some Allied success – the French held Verdun against the German assault, the British introduced the tank – when that fatal year ended, victory and peace were as far away as ever … and another two million lives had been lost.

Days to rememberDays to Remember explores the conflict in terms of Empire.  This is not merely the history of the Western Front, but the history of the colonials who fought, willingly or not, for the British Empire.

In this fascinating study, Henry Newbolt and John Buchan take a general overview of the First World War, from its causes to the aftermath, with the focus on the central role played by both Britain and its colonies. They cover the major campaigns on the Western Front – Ypres, Loos, Cambrai, Marrières Wood and the Marne, as well as the battles fought around the globe – in particular Galipolli and the capture of Jerusalem – and the main campaigns at sea.

Henry Newbolt was born in Wolverhampton in 1862, and went on to become a poet, novelist and historian. He was also a very powerful government adviser. John Buchan was a Scottish novelist, historian and Unionist politician who also served as Governor General of Canada. During the First World War he worked for the British War Propaganda Bureau. He is most famous for his classic thriller, ‘The 39 Steps’.

Animal Heroes of the Great War is the history of the furred and feathered Animal Heroessoldiers, from beasts of burdens to mascots and messengers:

During the World War I nearly 70 million combatants served in the armies of all the countries and empires, but there was another army involved, one that is often overlooked in the history of war: The army of animals that supported the armies of men.

From regimental mascots to beasts of burden, animals played a vital part in the war machine of all involved, and often beyond anything we might imagine. There was man’s best friend — brave, loyal dogs who served as patrolmen, messengers, sentries, even combatants and detectives. Communication has increased importance in modern warfare, yet at times a homing pigeon’s instinct of orientation was the sole hope available to soldiers in the field. And despite the lowering esteem in which conventional cavalry was held, horses were still able to go where the most modern of vehicles could not.

Focusing on the Allied Powers, Ernest Harold Baynes tells of “the work done by animals in helping to win the war,” recording the services and sacrifices borne by these noble animals and more, including the advent of chemical warfare and what it meant.

Ernest Harold Baynes (1868-1925) was an American writer and naturalist. After reporting for The New York Times, he regularly contributed articles to other newspapers and to magazines. A natural with wild animals, he became known for hand-rearing, protecting and championing their cause. Animal Heroes of the Great War was his last book.

Her Privates WeErnest Hemingway praised Her Privates We as “The finest and noblest book of men at war.” The classic novel of the Great War is set during the Battle of the Somme.

Her Privates We follows the story of Private Bourne, an ordinary soldier dealing with extraordinary circumstances. It conveys the camaraderie and heroism of the trenches and also explores the terror and monotony of being a soldier. A cloud of fatalism hangs over the narrative, which is brightened up through friendships, a shared, grim sense of humour and colourful conversations between the privates.

Bourne and his comrades must fight their demons within, as well as the enemy across No Man’s Land. Men die, but still a sense of duty endures. Her Privates We is as much a triumph of realism as it is of the imagination. Readers of both military history, and literary fiction, will continue to be haunted by its prose and insights.

“The book of books so far as the British army is concerned” T.E Lawrence

Frederic Manning was an Australian-born poet and novelist who moved to England at the age of 21. Much of his writing was inspired by his experiences in the infantry during the Great War. Her Privates We remains his most enduring work on the subject.

Delville Wood is the history of the one of the most bitterly contested battlesDelville Wood on the Western Front and of the 3,200 soldiers of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade that entered the battle on 14 July 1916.  Fewer than 800 mustered afterwards.

For six days and five nights, in the solitary square mile of Delville Wood, the South Africans stood firm against three crack German divisions. By the time they were relieved a legend had been born, but who were these men that took and held the wood in an inferno of exploding shells, flame-throwers, machine-gun and rifle fire? Fresh-faced youths, Boer War and South West African campaign veterans, enlistees with false names … all were volunteers whose overriding desire was to serve in France.

First published in 1983, Delville Wood remains a landmark volume commemorating the daring and fortitude of South Africa’s soldiers at the Somme during the First World War. In forming an overall picture of each day’s fighting through the words of the survivors, the statistics of battle are cast aside by Uys in favour of something altogether more profound, exploring their characters and ensuring they will never be forgotten

Ian Uys (b. 1942) is a South African accountant and author. A co-founder of the Military Medal Society of SA and former committee member of the SA Military History Society — and related to a survivor of the battle of Delville Wood — his interests have led him to write many books on the subject.

And, finally, a profile of the Desert Fox, Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel, Rommel’s Great War by Gordon Corrigan.Rommel

Born in 1891, Rommel did not come from a militaristic family, nor from the military stronghold of Prussia, but instead from a small town in southern Germany and son to a long line of schoolmasters. Initially he showed no inclination towards a military career with interests in physics and engineering, but his father pushed him towards the army.

He joined the army in 1910 at the age of eighteen, within one year he would rise to the rank of sergeant. As war broke out in Europe Rommel and his regiment marched out of the barracks to the sound of drums and cheering as they boarded the troop train to the western front.

Gordon Corrigan provides expert analysis of World War I, both in terms of what it would have been like for a young officer like Rommel as well as the wider political and militaristic movements that were occurring at this time. This thoroughly researched profile gives fascinating detail on Rommel’s life, from when he was first shot and wounded in trench warfare, his experience of combat in the Romanian mountains and on the Italian front, through to his life after the war in the tumultuous years of the Weimar Republic. It was in these years that the Desert Fox learned his trade and forged into Rommel such a formidable opponent during the Second World War.

Beyond the ShadowMoving forward to World War II, today brings what is likely to be a short-term offer of Beyond the Shadow of War, the long awaited sequel to Diane Moody’s bestselling Of Windmills and War (currently, $4.99 USD).

When the war finally ended in May of 1945, Lieutenant Danny McClain made good on his promise to come back for Anya in Holland. He expected her to put up a fight, but instead found her exhausted and utterly broken. Maybe it was unfair, asking her to marry him when she was so vulnerable. But this much he knew: he would spend a lifetime helping to make her whole again.

The war had taken everything from Anya–her family, her friends, her home, her faith. She clung to the walls she’d fortressed around her heart, but what future did she have apart from Danny? At least she wouldn’t be alone anymore. Or so she thought. When the American troops demobilize, Danny is sent home, forced to leave Anya behind in England. There she must wait with the other 70,000 war brides for passage to America. As England picks up the pieces of war’s debris in the months that follow, Anya shares a flat with three other war brides in London and rediscovers the healing bond of friendships.

Once again, Danny and Anya find themselves oceans apart, their marriage confined to little more than the handwritten pages of their letters while wondering if the shadow of war will ever diminish.

Enjoy!

Here There Is No Why

Available in Kindle ebook, paperback or used hardbound editions at Amazon.com
Available in Kindle ebook, paperback or used hardbound editions at Amazon.com

“Here There Is No Why” was the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele’s answer to Roma, the author of one of the most compelling Holocaust memoirs, and to millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Written to fulfill a promise made in the darkest moment of human history, this simple and eloquent story is unique in that it spans the geography of the Nazi’s Final Solution.

Rachel Roth, or “Roma” in Polish, has written perhaps the most compelling, the most powerful Holocaust/World War II memoir I have ever read.  If you only read one, you must consider this before you make your choice.

In part, it is powerful simply because Rachel Roth survived not only the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but also three of the most notorious concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz — and Mengele’s infamous selections. It is also powerful because of the deftness with which she describes the experiences, at times painting terrifically detailed scenes, at times allowing the horrific events to speak for themselves without cloaking them in emotionally charged language. Yet the emotions are there, when they are most telling. One of the ways she survived was to dream of better times, to transport herself — and others, too — away from the camps to better times and places. After sharing one of these stories with those around her, an anonymous prisoner made her promise to write of what happened there. It would be decades before she was ready to do so.

In keeping her promise, she has given us a tremendous gift — and one that cost her a great deal in recalled pain. It is understandable that she needed time to fulfill the promise, though it is also unfortunate that earlier generations were denied the gift she offers here.

The result is a rare first-hand look at life in the Jewish Ghetto until its destruction, as well as life in some of the most notorious concentration camps, and a tale that encompasses love and hate, kindness and cruelty, grace and horror. It deserves a lasting place in the library of anyone interested in history or the Holocaust. Or simply in human nature.

About the author:  Rachel Roth was the teenage daughter of a journalist when Hitler became a topic of conversation in her family’s summer colony. She is an outspoken witness to life in the Warsaw Ghetto and a participant in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  She poignantly relays to audiences the daily events of a schoolgirl under German occupation of Poland. She survived the remainder of the war with her Aunt as they were transported into and out of Majdanek, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. She has spoken in English and Hebrew before countless audiences of children and adults, in schools, universities, and synagogues as well as at the U.S. Department of State. Rachel was awarded an honorary diploma from the Ramaz Upper School in New York City in recognition of her studies in the Warsaw Ghetto and her dedication to Holocaust education

Note:  Sis first read this through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  Its impact on her affected many of her friends and fellow readers, who then borrowed or bought copies . . . and one of those friends, realizing that Sis didn’t even own a copy of the book she had so highly recommended, sent her the gift of the ebook for her very own.  It is definitely one she’ll read again.

Kindle Edition, $3.99 list price

Paperback, $14.55

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