Category Archives: Historical

THE BRINK

Title:  The Brink

Author:  Marc Ambinder

The Cold War’s most dangerous moment:  a high-stakes and secretive game of nuclear brinksmanship that played out in the forest of Germany, in stealthy submarines underneath the Atlantic and Pacific, in hidden London compounds, in fortified bunkers and code rooms across the globe.  The year was 1983.  The world was on the brink.  And American spies were missing the warning signals.

Mark Ambinder explains the anxious period between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1982 to 1984, with the Abele archer 83 war game as the fulcrum of the tension.  With astonishing and clarifying new details, he recounts the scary series of close encounters that tested the limits of ordinary men and powerful leaders.  Ambinder explains how political leadership triumphed over misunderstandings and the strife of interests, helping the two countries work toward a fragile peace.

The Brink provides one of the most comprehensive and chilling descriptions of the nuclear command and control process, from intelligence warnings to the composition of the nuclear codes themselves.  Ambinder reveals, with significant new reporting, the full story of the much-whispered-about continuity of government program that President Regan built up to give the presidency a chance to survive a bolt-from-the-blue attack.  He also provides glimpses into the secret world of preemptive electronic attack that scared the Soviet Union into action.  Amvinder’s account reads like a thriller, as  it recounts the spy-versus-spy games that kept both countries–and the world–in check.

From geopolitics in Moscow and Washington, to sweat-caked soldiers fighting in the trenches of the Cold war, to high-stakes war games across NATO and the Warsaw Pact, this book serves as the definitive intelligence, nuclear, and national security history of one of the most precarious times in recent memory.

CARMINE THE SNAKE

Title:  Carmine the Snake

Author:  Frank Dimatteo & Michael Menson

In the golden age of organized crime, Carmine “The Snake” Persico was the King of the Streets.  The defacto boss of the Colombo Mafia family since the 1970s, he oversaw gang wars, murders,  major rackets, even from prison.  He is suspected of personally murdering as many as 60 people and ordering the hits of hundreds more.  Sentenced to 139 years in the fed, he continued to exert power over a vast criminal empire from behind bars.  His brutal rise and bloody reign is the stuff of legend.

In his blistering street-level account, “Mafia survivor” Frank Dimatteo teams up with true-crime master Michael Benson to take down one of the most notorious figures in the American La Costa Nostra.  This is the real inside story of Carmine “The Snake” Persico, from his crime-filled childhood on the streets of Brooklyn to the long-term jail sentences that didn’t stop him from controlling his criminal empire with the help of his brother, the equally kill-crazy Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico.

His deadly teen years as leader of the fearsome Garfield Boys.  His recruitment into the Profaci–later the Colombo–crime family.  His bloody betrayal of the Gallo brothers..  Anastasia–the Lord High Executioner of Murder, Inc.–as he sat in a barbershop chair getting a shave.  The terror he struck into the hearts of the New York Mafia’s other families, and even his own crews.  And the  many courtroom trials where Persico walked after witnesses came down with sudden cases of amnesia.

Today, Carmine “The Snake” Persico schmoozes with Ponzi king Bernard Madoff behind bars where at age 84 his legend, packed as it is with coldblooded brutality, continues to inspire goodfellas everywhere.

 

A BROTHER HOOD OF SPIES

Title:  A Brotherhood of Spies

Author:  Monte Reel

On May 1, 1960, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union just weeks before a peace summit between the two nations.  The CIA concocted a cover story for President Eisenhower to deliver, assuring him that no one could have survived a fall from that altitude.  And even if pilot Francis Gary Powers had survived, he had been supplied with a poison pin with which to commit suicide.

But against, all odds, Powers emerged from the wreckage and was seized by the KGB.  He confessed to espionage, revealing to the world that Eisenhower had just lied to the American people–and to the Soviet premier.  Infuriated, Nikita Khrushchev slammed the door on a rare opening in Cold War relations.

In a Brotherhood of Spies, award-wining journalist Monte Reel reveals how the U-2 spy program, principally devised by four men working in secret, intensified the Cold War and carved out a new mission for the CIA  This secret fraternity, made up of Edwin Land, Best known as the.  inventor of instant photography and the head of Polaroid Corporation; Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, a hare-charging taskmaster form Lockheed; Richard Bissell, the secretive and ambitious spymaster; and ace Air Force flyer Powers, set out to replace yesterday’s fallible human spies with tomorrow’s undetectable eye in the sky.  Their groundbreaking clandestine successes and all-too-public failures make this brilliantly reported account a true-life thriller with the highest stakes and the most tragic repercussions.

RISING IN FLAMES

Title: Rising in Flames

Author: J.D. Dickey

Antebellum America was a deeply troubled country, divided by partisan gridlock and ideological warfare. There were angry voices in the streets and the statehouses, and furious clashes over tace and immigration, coupled with a growing chasm between immense wealth and desperate poverty.

The Civil War that followed brought America to the brink of self-destruction. But it also created a new country from the ruins of the old one, bolder and stronger than ever. No campaign in the war was more destructive—or more important—than William Sherman’s legendary march through Georgia and the Carolinas. It would cripple the heart of the South’s economy, free thousands of slaves, and mark the beginning of a new era.

The invasion not only quelled the Confederate forces, but transformed America, forcing it to recon with a century of injustice. In this timely, narrative social history, Dickey reveals the story of women actively involved in the military campaign, and later in civilian networks, one of whom was so vital, even Sherman himself would call her “General.” African “Americans also took active roles as soldiers, builders, and activist, despite the hesitation on the part of some, though not all, Union officers to integrate the ranks.

Rich with despair and hope, brutality and compassion, Rising in Flames tells the dramatic story of the Union’s invasion of the confederacy. Dickey brilliantly examines how this colossal struggle provide a radiant and violent rebirth for a nation on the edge of collapse—and helped create a vigorous new country from the embers of the Old South.

A Brotherhood of Spies

Title: A Brotherhood of Spies

Author: Monte Reel

On May 1, 1960, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union just weeks before a peace summit between the two nations. The CIA concocted a cover story for President Eisenhower to deliver, assuring him that no one could have survived a fall from that altitude. And even if pilot Francis Gary Powers had survived, he had been supplied with a poison pin with which to commit suicide.

But, against all odds, Powers emerged from the wreckage and was seized by the KGB. He confessed to espionage, revealing to the world that Eisenhower had just lied to the American people–and to the Soviet premier. Infuriated, Nikita Khrushchev slammed the door on a rare opening in Cold War relations.

In a Brotherhood of Spies, award-winning journalist Monte Real reveals how the U=2 spy program, principally devised by four men working in secret, intensified the Cold War and carved out a new mission for the CIA. This secret fraternity, made up of Edwin Land, best known as the inventor of instant photography and the head of Polaroid Corporation; Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, a hard-charging taskmaster from Lockheed; Richard Bissell, the secretive and ambitious spymaster; and ace Air Force flyer Powers, set out to replace yesterday’s fallible human spies with tomorrow’s undetectable eye in the sky. Their groundbreaking clandestine successes and all-too-public failures make this brilliantly reported account a true-life thriller with the highest stakes and the most tragic repercussions.

BOOTS ON THE GROUND

Title: Boots On The Ground

Author: Elizabeth Partridge

In over a decade of bitter fighting it claimed the lives of more than 18,000 American soldiers and beleaguered four U.S. presidents. More than forty years after America left Vietnam in defeat in 1973, the war remains controversial and divisive both in the United States and abroad.

The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it’s the personal stories of eight people–six American soldiers, one American military nurse, and one Vietnamese refuge–that create the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic helicopter rescues and harrowing escapes, each individual experience reveals a different facet of the war and moves us forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding us of all that was happening at home during the war, including peace protests, presidential scandals, and veterans’ struggles to acclimate to life after Vietnam.

With more than one hundred photo graphs, award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge’s unflinching book captures the intensity, frustration, and lasting impacts of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.

THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY

Title: The Death of Democracy

Author: Benjamin Carter Hett

Why did democracy fall apart so quickly and completely in Germany in the 1930s? How did a democratic government allow Adolf Hitler to seize power? The Death of Democracy, Benjamin Carter Hett answers these questions, and the story he tells has disturbing resonances for our own time.

To say that Hitler was elected is too simple. He would never have come to power if Germany’s leading politicians had not responded to a spate of populist insurgencies by trying to co-opt him, a strategy that backed them into a corner from which the only way out was to bring the Nazis in. Hett lays bare the misguided confidence of conservative politicians who believed that Hitler and his followers would willingly support them, not recognizing that their efforts to use the Nazis actually played into Hitler’s hands. They had willingly given him the tools to turn Germany into a vicious dictatorship.

Benjamin Carter Hett is a leading scholar of twentieth-century Germany and a gifted storyteller whose portraits of these feckless politicians show haw fragile democracy can be those in power do not respect it. He offers a powerful lesson for today, when democracy once again finds itself embattled and the siren song of strongmen sounds ever louder.

PIRATE HUNTERS

Title: Pirate Hunters

Author: Robert Kurson

Early one January morning in 20012, I received an international call from an unknown number. It was coming from the Dominican Republic, But I didn’t know anyone in that country. I had never been there in my life. The voice on the line, however, was unmistakable. “if you like pirates, meet me in New Jersey.” The caller was John Chatterton, one of the heroes of my book Shadow Divers. I hadn’t spoken to Chatterton in more than a year, but knew his New York-tinged baritone right away. “What kind of Pirates?” I asked. “seventeenth century. Caribbean. The real deal.”

So begins Pirate Hunters, a thrilling new adventure of danger and deep-sea diving, historic mystery and suspense, by the author of the New York Times bestseller Shadow Divers.

Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men–John Chatterton and John Mattera–and willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, The ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister should have been immortalized in the lore of the sea–his exploits were more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s. But the story, and his ship, have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history–it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the glove in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates–like Bannister–that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

Fast paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, Pirate Hunters is an unputdownable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost.

PEARL HARBOR FROM INFAMY TO GREATNESS

Title: Pearl Harbor From Infamy to Greatness

Author: Craig Nelson

The America we live in today was born not on July 4, 1776, but on December 7, 1941, when an armada of hundreds of Japanese warplanes supported by aircraft carriers, destroyers, and midget submarines suddenly and savagely attacked the United States, killing 2,403 men–and forcing America’s entry into World War II. Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness follows moment by moment,
the sailors, soldiers, pilots, diplomats, admirals, generals, emperor, and president as they engineer, fight, and react to this stunningly dramatic event in world history.

Bestselling author Craig Nelson maps the road to war, beginning in 1914, with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the assistant secretary of the navy (and not yet afflicted with polio), attending the laying of the keel of the USS Arizona at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Writing with vivid intimacy, Nelson traces Japan’s leaders as they lurch into ultranationalist fascism, which culminates in their insanely daring yet militarily brilliant scheme to terrify America with one of the boldest attacks ever waged. Within seconds, the country would never be the same.

In addition to learning the little–understood history of how and why Japan attacked Hawaii, we hear an abandoned record player endlessly repeating “Sunrise Serenade” as bombs shatter the decks of the Pennsylvania; we feel cold terror as lanky young American sailors must anxiously choose between staying aboard their sinking ships or diving overboard into harbor waters aflame with burning fuel; we watch as navy wives tearfully hide with their children in caves from a rumored invasion; and we understand the frustration and triumph of a lone American yeenager as he shoots down a Japanese bomber, even as the attack destroys hundreds of US airplanes and dozens of ships.

Backed by a research team’s five years of work, which produced nearly a million pages of documents, as well as Nelson’s through reexamination of the original evidence assembled gby federal investigators, this page-turning and definitive work provides a trhirlling blow-by-blow account from both the Japanese and American perspectives and is historical drama on the grandest scale. Nelson delivers all the terror, chaos, violence, tragedy, and heroism of the attack in stunning detail and offers surprising conclusions about the tragedy’s unforeseen and resonant consequences that linger even today.

1917 WAR PEACE & REVOLUTION

Title: 1917 War Peace & Revolution

Author: David Stevenson

1917 was a year of calamitous events and on of pivotal importance in the development of the First World War. In 1917: War Peace and Revolution, leading historian David Stevenson examines this crucial year in context and illuminates the century that followed. He shows how in this one year the war was transformed but also what drove the conflict onwards and how it continued to escalate.

Two developments in particular–the Russian Revolution and American intervention–had worldwide repercussions. Offering a close examination of thee key decisions, Stevenson considers Germany’s campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare, America’s declaration of war in resp9onse, and Britain’s frustration of German strategy by adopting the convoy system, as well as why (paradoxically) the military and political stalemate in Europe persisted. Focusing on the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, on the disastrous spring offensive that plunged the French army into mutiny, on the summer attacks that undermined the moderate Provisional Government in Russia and exposed Italy to national humiliation at Caporetto, and on the British decision for the ill-fated Third Rattle of Ypres (Passchendaele). 1917 offers a truly international understanding of events. The failed attempts to end the war by negotiation further clarify the underly8ing forces that prolonged it.

David Stevenson also analyses the global consequences of the year’s developments, showing how counties such as Brazil and China joined the belligerents, Britain offered responsible government to India and the Allies promised a Jewish national home in Palestine. Blending political and military history, and moving from capital to capital and between the cabinet chamber and the battle front, the book highlights the often tumultuous debates through which leaders entered and escalated the war, and the paradox that continued fighting could be justified as the shortest road towards regaining peace.