Lloyd Armour

William R. Trotter has crafted a magnificent Civil War novel, epic in proportion and sweeping in its treatment of the last three years of that bloody conflict. The setting is North Carolina, a theater of the war rarely touched on in most historical accounts. Yet North Carolina was pivotal to the Confederate cause.

Wilmington is the center of the action, largely because of Fort Fisher, the biggest earthen fortification in the South. It embraced a mile of sea defenses, a third of a mile of land defenses. From under its protection poured the commerce so vital to the Confederate states. Because it was built of sand and dirt, naval shelling tended to throw up geysers of the mix without major damage to the fortification or its gun crews. Trotter is a masterful storyteller, and he makes the characters real and imaginary come alive for the reader. There is William Lamb, the fortress-building engineer; Belle O'Neil, the seductive siren and Confederate spy; Jacob Landau, the Bavarian Jew and prominent Wilmington merchant; Gen. Benjamin Butler, a vicious political infighter and corrupt official of the Union; and there is Zebulon Vance, governor of North Carolina and one of the Confederacy's great political figures. Quite a few more lives are closely intertwined in the spinning tornado of a terrible war.

In a couple of instances, Trotter has fudged a bit with history, which he freely admits in an author's note. There is no Shelborne's Point or Uhwarrie River. Nor was there a CSS Hatteras. But these are minor matters, used only to move the story along faster.

Fans of Civil War narratives should be thrilled with Trotter's latest effort, but casual readers with little interest in history should also find it enchanting and hard to put down. The author tells a gripping story of history very well indeed. Lloyd Armour is a retired newspaper editor.

William R. Trotter has crafted a magnificent Civil War novel, epic in proportion and sweeping in its treatment of the last three years of that bloody conflict. The setting is North Carolina, a theater of the war rarely touched on in most historical accounts. Yet North Carolina was pivotal to the Confederate cause. Wilmington is […]

n his new novel, Where I'm Bound, Allen Ballard does a masterful job of filling in the most underreported annals of the Civil War, the fighting exploits of the black soldiers of the Union Army.

These soldiers were under more than one gun, since their capture meant almost certain death by hanging or the firing squad. Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, told his generals that officers of black regiments were to be “put to death” at the discretion of a military court. The black soldiers were to be returned to their masters, sold, or put to work helping the Confederate troops.

What usually happened was that black troops were hanged or shot when captured. At Fort Pillow, for instance, black soldiers surrendered their arms after being promised that all who did so would be treated as prisoners of war. Instead they were shot “without mercy,” according to eyewitnesses.

Where I'm Bound tells the dramatic story of black cavalry scout Joe Duckett, whose regiment roamed the Mississippi Delta, seeking slaves held by the Confederates and trying to keep vital waterways open for Union gunboats. The pictures of war are dramatic as seen through the eyes of black slaves who tried to escape to freedom and the troops who were fighting for the same freedom. It was not a pretty war for most, and cruelty was not the sole transgression of the Confederate troops. This is the first novel by Ballard, who teaches history and African-American studies at the State University of New York at Albany. He has written two nonfiction books on African-American history. Most of Ballard's novel is historically correct, although he has fudged a bit for the sake of greater realism here and there.

Where I'm Boundis an absorbing story that will touch the reader in different ways, but it will entertain and educate about a war that is history, if it is, indeed, sad history.

Where I'm Bound should be required reading for true Civil War buffs, but it is well worthwhile for those who simply like a well-told story.

Lloyd Armour is a former newspaper editor.

n his new novel, Where I'm Bound, Allen Ballard does a masterful job of filling in the most underreported annals of the Civil War, the fighting exploits of the black soldiers of the Union Army. These soldiers were under more than one gun, since their capture meant almost certain death by hanging or the firing […]

The world has been fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I for centuries, and the list of books about her and her reign are as plentiful as raindrops in a summer shower.

It is doubtful, however, that the Virgin Queen has previously been held up as a model for business leadership. Axelrod has done it in bang-up fashion, much as he did an earlier book, Patton on Leadership, a handbook found on many executive desks these days.

Why not? The “Good Queen Bess,” as some of her subjects called her, was a woman in a man's world. She referred to herself as frail, but she had the heart of a lioness and the determination of a tiger. She had vision that went beyond her times and beyond the imagination of her people.

Queen Mary's reign was a disaster and gave credence to the idea that women were not only weak, but unfit as monarchs. When Elizabeth came to power, she had to invent new methods for governing England. The nation was weak and virtually broke. It had no standing army, no efficient police force, a few battered ships, and a crumbling infrastructure. In order to get revenue, the crown had to implore Parliament, which was suspicious of the queen, and loath to increase taxes on an already overburdened populace.

By dint of patience, determination, and clever rule, Elizabeth managed to bring prosperity to England. The merchant fleet grew as the country looked outward in the world for new markets and new territories. The British influence abroad grew by leaps and bounds.

Axelrod's chapter headings highlight some of the lessons of Elizabeth's leadership: Acknowledge everyone. Never forget to be human. Bestow a smile. Work the crowd. Stand for those you lead. Always consider the middle course. Get out to the front lines, and so on. Most politicians learn such things early on, but a good many would-be business leaders never do.

Elizabeth I was a most remarkable woman and a fitting leadership model even today, as Axelrod makes abundantly clear in this fresh and readable new appraisal of her life.

Lloyd Armour is a former newspaper editor.

The world has been fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I for centuries, and the list of books about her and her reign are as plentiful as raindrops in a summer shower. It is doubtful, however, that the Virgin Queen has previously been held up as a model for business leadership. Axelrod has done it in bang-up […]

Louis Kilzer has taken on one of the most intriguing puzzles of World War II in his gripping, well-researched book about treachery in the Third Reich. Most war historians suspected that Hitler had a traitor who was leaking internal secrets, but who was that person? In a carefully woven story, Kilzer unmasks the only one who could have been the world's most successful spy.

Russia's Red Army ran a highly sophisticated spy ring in Switzerland, orchestrated by Maria Poliakova, who was recruited early in life as a member of the intelligence service. Her code name was “Gisela” and the network she ran was known as “Gisela's family.” The spy ring had a number of sources from which to draw, ranging from the Army's high command to the German foreign office. But the most important spy of all was known as Werther. His information would ultimately help destroy the Third Reich.

After the conquest of France, Hitler moved the bulk of his troops to the Eastern Front. The intent was to destroy the Red Army of Russia and grab hold of Moscow. Only two things stood in his way: weather and Werther.

Of the two, Werther was by far the most deadly. When the Germans were bogged down around Stalingrad, Werther supplied Stalin with detailed information about the location of Hitler's panzers, where they were headed, and precisely how many troops were in reserve.

So detailed were Werther's reports to Moscow Center that it tried to “backcheck” his information. Stalin once insisted on knowing his identity. The spy network refused, which is one of the few times Stalin was rejected. It may be that the spy network didn't actually know who Werther was.

Werther acted with impunity, and it is difficult to understand why Hitler, with all his resources and his canny insight, didn't know of the traitor in his bosom. But as Kilzer notes, “For whatever reason, Hitler allowed the culture of treason to surround him until it destroyed him.” At one time or another, it appeared that everybody in high places conspired to destroy the little man with the funny mustache. One bomb went off at his East Prussian headquarters, but Hitler was unharmed. The plotters or some of them were quickly executed.

Certainly one branch of the conspiracy was the Abwehr the Army's own intelligence organization. Gen. Hans Oster, the number two man, almost openly talked of bringing Hitler down. My choice for Werther would have been Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, who headed the Abwehr. But the chronology doesn't fit. Hitler sacked him before Moscow Center got many of Werther's messages.

Kilzer, the author of Churchill's Deception, has done a bang-up job with his latest book. We now know who Werther was. Hitler's Traitor is guaranteed to keep the reader spellbound while the agent is unmasked.

Lloyd Armour is a retired newspaper editor in Nashville.

Solving the ultimate caper BookPage recently talked to Louis Kilzer, an investigative reporter with the Rocky Mountain News and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, about his search for the true identity of the spy in Hitler's inner circle.

BookPage: The obvious first question about Hitler's Traitor is whether you worked from back to front. That is, did you begin with a conviction that Martin Bormann was a traitor to Hitler or did you discover that along the way? Louis Kilzer: I had suspicions before I started the book, but I didn't know how strong of a case it would end up being. It turned out to be a pretty strong case.

BP: How and when did you first get interested in this project? LK: I did a book in 1994 [Churchill's Deception] about the Rudolf Hess mission that entailed research that occurred from 1991 onward. I went to the Soviet Union in May 1991, just three months before the Soviet Empire ended, to access KGB records. Then I did extensive research at the U.S. National Archives and developed a suspicion at that point that Bormann may have been involved in this ultimate caper.

BP: Did it surprise you that women played such an important role in this story? LK: That was fascinating. The people who first wrote about the Swiss spy ring were all men and they, of course, were credited by male historians with having run the ring. But when you look into the original OSS and CIA records, it becomes obvious that the key roles were played by women.

BP: How did your opinion of Bormann change while writing the book? LK: Bormann is a mystery figure. My view of him hardened. I did not know the extent to which he contributed to the Holocaust until I researched this book. He was, in fact, one of the prime movers of the Holocaust. Put that together with what he was doing in the spy ring, and it is very difficult to understand. I don't fully understand it to this day.

BP: If this information about Bormann had been discovered in the immediate aftermath of the war, what effect do you think it would have had? LK: I believe the Soviets would have been rather embarrassed. The Soviet Union had no interest…in letting that secret out because, for the Soviets, it was the Red Army that won the war and not a spy ring. That would take away from the prestige of the Red Army.

Louis Kilzer has taken on one of the most intriguing puzzles of World War II in his gripping, well-researched book about treachery in the Third Reich. Most war historians suspected that Hitler had a traitor who was leaking internal secrets, but who was that person? In a carefully woven story, Kilzer unmasks the only one […]

Patricia Cornwell is back with familiar friends and at her absolute best as a novelist. Though Cornwell has tried other literary pursuits, nothing succeeds like Dr. Kay Scarpetta and the cast of characters around her who make mystery reading pure pleasure.

Dr. Scarpetta is growing older as is everyone and her sometime lover, Benton Wesley, is grayer. Her niece Lucy has changed jobs after leaving the FBI and now works for the ATF. Her familiar sidekick, Peter Marino, is beefier, smokes heavily and sometimes ruffles Scarpetta's feathers. Generally, they mirror the human condition.

For the uninitiated, Dr. Kay Scarpetta is the chief medical examiner for the commonwealth of Virginia. She is also a consultant to the FBI, often called in on cases that are extraordinarily baffling. This time she has a real puzzler. A fire burns down the house and horse barn of a prominent and wealthy man while he is away, destroying some very fine horses. There is also a dead blonde in the bathroom of the main house. With an onslaught of mysterious fires and deaths, Dr. Scarpetta is increasingly bewildered but keeps her cool, even in the midst of a very personal tragedy. Evidently, an audacious and cunning killer is on the loose, but finding and unmasking him sets this mystery apart from the ordinary. Cornwell's mastery of suspense is notable, and Point of Origin is certainly no exception.

This is a superb choice for anyone's summer reading but the odds are that some will find it difficult to put down while the day turns to night, and night to early morning. This is, as the saying goes, a page-turner that will keep the reader utterly enthralled, wondering what will happen next.

Reviewed by Lloyd Armour.

Patricia Cornwell is back with familiar friends and at her absolute best as a novelist. Though Cornwell has tried other literary pursuits, nothing succeeds like Dr. Kay Scarpetta and the cast of characters around her who make mystery reading pure pleasure. Dr. Scarpetta is growing older as is everyone and her sometime lover, Benton Wesley, […]

Many believe that the U.

S. left prisoners of war in Vietnam. The premise of MIAs being alive somewhere has colored the diplomacy of the U.

S. toward Vietnam and of course given fiction writers a place in which to let their imaginations run free. Patrick Davis's debut novel is a case in point. There was a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam called Cao Dinh, the very mention of which made the top brass freeze, and others in the Pentagon react very nervously. What happened there? What fearful tragedy hides behind falsified record books? General Raymond Watkins, the Air Force Chief of Staff, has been sent to Vietnam to look around, and presumably to lend his support to diplomatic moves for recognition of that country. Upon his return, however, General Watkins is discovered dead in his quarters. He had been tortured by means common to the North Vietnamese during the war, in which a fish net was put over the victim's skin and drawn tight until the flesh that was protruding from the net could be cut off.

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Jensen is the officer assigned to the murder investigation, but he finds a paucity of clues. The general's personal computer and those in his office have been fed a virus; some of the hard drives are even removed. Following the general's final phone call from his office Colonel Jensen is led to a Vietnamese restaurant, and ultimately to the murder of one of the owners. This is a fun book to read, for just when the reader thinks he or she knows who the murder mastermind is, that particular suspect turns up dead. But Colonel Jensen plods doggedly on, pursuing the few leads he has. There are lives, reputations, and careers at stake in this mystery, and finally it becomes a test of the colonel's loyalty to the brass in the Pentagon versus his own brand of integrity and patriotism. Make note of this fine new writer this military thriller surely won't be his last.

Reviewed by Lloyd Armour.

Many believe that the U. S. left prisoners of war in Vietnam. The premise of MIAs being alive somewhere has colored the diplomacy of the U. S. toward Vietnam and of course given fiction writers a place in which to let their imaginations run free. Patrick Davis's debut novel is a case in point. There […]

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