Sketches of a Black Cat

Sketches of a Black Cat ISBN: 9781535054881 Riverdale Press, a biography by Ron Miner.

This is the “Story of a night flying WW II pilot and artist” written by his son in a forthright manner. It chronicles the daily experiences of his father and the group of men who participated heroically in the largely unknown and little recognized but extremely necessary activities of disrupting enemy supply lines and rescue of downed flyers at sea. Occasionally additional bombing of enemy targets and similar duties also were assigned. And because their ‘flying boat’ PBY’s were not easily maneuverable and of slow airspeed, their missions were flown almost exclusively at night throughout the Pacific. The author states: “This book is built primarily around my father’s words and writings and gleaned from his extensive collection of documents, news clippings, war records, and keepsakes. My aim has been to remain true to his voice…” He departs from this only where: “I felt a particular reference or anecdote might benefit from additional clarification, expanding, or the simple weaving in of a little history for context. Where this required research, I have tried to include and give credit to those sources.”

This is a biography where, unlike many, it has been relatively well written and paced so it reads like a novel and provides recall of action associated with names such as Tinian, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Tarawa, Leyte and more for those few who remember, and an introduction for those who are interested in the history of the early days of war in the Pacific Theatre and a little remembered part of aviation. A few unfortunate parts of the presentation are that the pictures often are difficult to see and fewer than expected and a disconcerting concurrent presentation of a caption often running alongside of the main dialogue. Otherwise, you will not be disappointed.

4* Biography that reads like a novel but with minor disappointments

War and Cold War

War and Cold War, 2nd edition of a historical novel written by Jack R. Williams.

The story: A Theory of War/Introduction, introduces Charlie Chiavao, a young man who becomes a pilot and intelligence officer in 1941 with entry by the U.S. into WW II, He becomes the chronicler of the activities mostly of three members of a military family, their friends and acquaintances during his widely dispersed activities of WW II and the subsequent activities of the Cold War and beyond. Besides himself, the action centers on his wife, Charlotte and Jackson Lee, her five-year-younger brother. The story is presented in four parts, loosely covering a plethora of subjects – One, Charlie’s wide ranging activities during WW II; Two, Jackson’s entry into service and varied activities; Three, various activities of both Charlie and Jackson; Four, Jackson’s poor decision in a Chinese flight mission that ends badly leading to disastrous results.

Discussion: The author has assembled a tremendous number of facts that cover a multitude of areas, many if not all should appeal to any inquiring mind. They include the effect earlier Japanese/Russian/Chinese relations had upon WW II, recall of numerous important land and sea engagements of that war, the important generals, admirals and civilians participating and similar exposition of the post-war period, the Cold War and its participants and features such as the Berlin Air-lift, wall construction and others. There are lengthy ruminations, discourse and statistics on the Rape of Nanking, Stalin’s huge excesses in elimination of opponents in order to further the Soviet Union and more. Even included are lengthy discourse on the engineering principles of the characteristics of flight of large birds such as the Albatross, Pelicans, Storks and Condors. Much of the material set forth is well-known by earlier generations but makes interesting recall AND it does provide a mass of intriguing information for the uninformed. The one depressing feature of the author’s entire presentation is the constant repetition of material with often the same verbalization. Also inclusion of irrelevant items such as the long description of a very poorly planned and handled trip to Block Island where Jackson’s participation ‘saved the trip’ but even his participation seems surprising since he purportedly possessed such excellent sailing acumen. The author’s comments with respect to difficulty to understand the mass suicides participated in by Japanese also are of interest. These actions are quite acceptable if my understanding of the centuries old tradition of seppuku or hari-kari ingrained in the Japanese people of both sexes is correct. Women as well as men, at least at a certain level of society, have their own short swords for the purpose, usually passed down from one generation to another.

Conclusion: A plethora of engrossing information for all readers but in great need of editing, a most surprising need for a 2nd edition.

3* 5* Engrossing mass of information for all; 2* extensive editing needed.