January 23, 2009

Author Douglas Jacobson takes a look at WWII Belgian Resistance

Douglas Jacobson (second from left) and former members of the Comet Line.

Author Douglas W. Jacobson researched the history of the Comet Line—a WWII Belgian Resistance organization that rescued downed allied aviators—for his book Night of Flames. Now he shares what he learned with War Through the Generations, a blog devoted to war and its impact.

Uncommon Courage
Part 1 of 3

On a dark night during World War Two, American airman, George Watt, a gunner aboard a B-17, was on a mission from England to the Ruhr valley in Germany when his plane was shot down near the Belgian village of Zele. He parachuted to earth and landed in an open field, drawing the immediate attention of local Nazi authorities. Frightened and alone, Watt hid in a ditch while the local townspeople distracted the authorities by pointing off in the wrong direction. Before long, one of the locals approached him and led him to a rural homestead where he was given civilian clothing and warm food. A few days later Watt was taken to Brussels where he was interviewed to make certain he wasn’t a spy and was soon off to Paris and eventually to safety in Spain. Watt didn’t know it at the time but he had been aboard the “Comet Line”.

The Comet Line was Europe’s largest and most successful underground escape line during World War Two. Established in 1941 by a 24 year old Belgian woman, Andrée De Jongh (known to all as Dédée) and her schoolmaster father, the Comet Line transported more than eight hundred Allied aviators to safety during the course of Nazi occupation. Dédée escorted over one hundred of these young soldiers to safety herself . . . (Read the full WWII Belgian Resistance article.)

Purchase Night of Flames: A Novel of WWII, by Douglas W. Jacobson at mcbooks.com

January 13, 2009

A Fistful of Diamonds called a “many-faceted page turner”

On January 11, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram ran an in-depth review of A Fistful of Diamonds, by John B. Robinson. The novel takes up where the first book of the series, The Sapphire Sea, left off, only this time Gem Expert Lonny Cushman chases blood diamonds in Rwanda. Reviewer Nancy Grape found the new novel unforgettable.

Several years ago, Portland writer John B. Robinson, armed with a Harvard education, a taste of life as a struggling artist in Paris and a thirst for experience, won a writing fellowship that took him to the sapphire fields of northern Madagascar. There, in the danger and unpredictability of mining and trading gems, the first novel in his Gemstone Thriller series was born.

"The Sapphire Sea" was warmly welcomed. Now the second novel in the taut series has arrived. And "A Fistful of Diamonds" has been worth the wait.

The year is 2000. Robinson's hero, New York gem dealer Lonny Cushman, has moved on to a new mission in Rwanda, a country where death broods, visible and threatening, over a horrific history of genocide and violence. Tensions roil throughout Central Africa. Danger threatens. Violence beckons or repels. And so do the storied diamonds of the area. (Read the full review.)

Purchase the Gemstone Thrillers, by John B. Robinson, at McBooks.com

January 8, 2009

Boxing Author George Kimball talks to Gelf Magazine about the "Sweetest Science"

Max Lakin recently interviewed George Kimball for Gelf Magazine about Kimball's new book Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran, and the Last Great Era of Boxing, and the state of boxing yesterday and today.

There is a kind of after-hours stigma attached to modern boxing. Far removed from Ali standing—black-and-white-poster-print—over Liston, fights now are usually a rock-em, sock-em Late Nite show piped out on deeply-buried cable stations, or a blue-moon main event accompanied by the letters PPV and sponsorships shinier than the shorts in the ring. Boxing's been given the inorganic HBO treatment—bastardized, some would say—by grotesque caricatures like Tyson and his impossibly-high-pitches theatrics.

Which is perhaps why boxing—the way it used to be—has been canonized, too, enjoying somewhat of a sentimental resurgence in the mainstream with movies like Million Dollar Baby, Cinderella Man, and Resurrecting the Champ portraying a pageant of grit and heart—of earnest men giving themselves to the ring and doing it for pride and class, not promotional contracts.

It is precisely this kind of boxing that veteran sportswriter George Kimball chronicles exhaustively in Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Durán and the Last Great Era of Boxing, an enthusiastic jaunt through the sport's brief return to artistry in the post-Ali era, painted by Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, and Roberto Durán.

The book reads like a compendium of boxing manna in its own right, with recollections from fighters, promoters, and those for whom simply watching these fighters spar was as much a thrill as a gift. But more so, Four Kings is the product of Kimball's immediately apparent zeal for the processes of the sport. . . (Read Gelf's full interview with George Kimball.)

Purchase Four Kings, by George Kimball, at McBooks.com