Category Archives: History

Betty Zane (Ohio River I) (1903)

I have a blog called “Zane Grey and me”. This is my review of the first book he wrote, “Betty Zane”. Betty Zane is one of Grey’s ancestors and also the heroine of this historical novel. It does not pretend to be unbiased or historically correct, but Zane has tried to make it as correct as his white male privilege allows.

Zane Grey and me

Heroism of Miss Elizabeth Zane, 1851 Popular Graphic Arts; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-2355

Charles Francis Press, New York, 1903

Parents’ Magazine Press, 1947

In this busy progressive age there are no heroes of the kind so dear to all lovers of chivalry and romance. There are heroes, perhaps, but they are the patient sad-faced kind, of whom few take cognizance as they hurry onward. But cannot we all remember some one who suffered greatly, who accomplished great deeds, who died on the battlefield–some one around whose name lingers a halo of glory? Few of us are so unfortunate that we cannot look backward on kith or kin and thrill with love and reverence as we dream of an act of heroism or martyrdom which rings down the annals of time like the melody of the huntsman’s horn, as it peals out on a frosty October morn purer and sweeter with each succeeding…

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MacShane, Gifford: The Hedgerow Schools of Ireland (2015)

So on a sunny summer afternoon, it was not unusual to see a priest walking up and down on the edge of a field for an hour or so, his hands waving, his mouth working, extolling the tenets of Catholicism to children who were hidden from sight. (Gifford MacShane)

Interview With Former British Paratrooper, Victor Gregg

Victor Gregg talks about his experiences during WWII. He states firmly that he blames only the decision makers for the atrocities of the war. The reason he has come forward at such a late time of his life is because he sees that nothing changes. The people are still being lumbered with the horrible decisions being made by governments. Gregg also states categorically that he is no pacifist, but that someone needs to speak up for all the victims.

Highly recommended.

an Gorta Mor (or The Great Irish Famine, 1845-1852)

“Hundreds of thousands throughout the Isle were dispossessed, and they trudged in weary lines to the port cities, hoping to find passage to America. With no food and little to no money, inestimable thousands died along the way and were buried in mass graves.”

Gifford MacShane

Most of the time I find history boring. But every once in awhile, I stumble over something fascinating. And usually, that something makes me cry.

I’d heard quite a bit about the Irish Famine at different places along the way, like in English class in high school when we read Jonathan Swift’s essay A Modest Proposal (if you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend it. It gives an incredible satiric look at the British government’s feelings on “the Irish problem.” The problem, in short, was that there was such a thing as “the Irish”.)

At any rate, the subject cropped up now and again. But it wasn’t until I started writing my Donovan series that I realized how closely related I was to it. My father’s family emigrated from Ireland in the early 20th century, chased out by the British Army (or so the story goes). As I started…

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Junge, Traudl: Through the Final Hours (Bir Zur Letzten Stunde) (2002)

til siste slutt

Traudl’s brother Karl suffered from schizophrenia. After Hitler’s star rose in Germany, so did his ideas. This is the environment Traudl grew up surrounded with. When the government decided Karl had to be sterilised, the family thought it only right.

At the age of 21 Traudl was desperate for a change, for an opportunity to chase after her dream of becoming a dancer. When Albert Bormann suggested she get a job for the government she applied for one thinking she could pursue her dancing off-hours. But life did not turn out that way. Later she drifted into applying for a position as one of Hitler’s private secretaries and just happened to get it. She wasn’t especially qualified, she was just the first one through the door. She kind of drifts into a lot of things in the book.

Reading Traudl’s story puts me in mind of ending up with a cult. Hitler was an intense person who could turn even the best arguments on their heads. He was, the first couple of years, a kind of father figure to Traudl and made Traudl feel as though she was part of something special. Information beyond what Hitler and his compatriots provided was not allowed on the premises of the various bunkers and Berghof. Finally, Traudl was like many young people, available for the position of follower.

Then the picture begins to crack. The idealistic leader meets trouble and failure. His narcissism is showing more and more, but the brainwashed Traudl is so caught up in his personality and her own denial that she sticks with him until the bitter end.

Perhaps the way I’ve presented this autobiography reads as an attempt on Traudl’s part to excuse her own participation as part of Hitler’s staff. But I did not get that feeling while I read it. It does, however, present a very believable kind of human being. Perhaps I would have had more in common with her when I was 21 than I would like to admit.

The worst part of coming out for Traudl was having the neo-nazis come up to her to shake the hand that had shaken Hitler’s. For her that made a mockery of all of the suffering that he had been responsible for and that she, if indirectly, had enabled.


Swift, J.K.: Altdorf (The Forest Knights) (2011)

Altdorf
Cover design by Chris Ryan, collecula

“The Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Hospitallers, Order of Hospitallers, Knights of St John, Order of St John, and currently The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders during the Middle Ages.” (Wikipedia)

J. K. Swift writes historical fiction. This time he writes about the lives of ex-Hospitallers. What kind of person do you become after having been taken away from your parents at a young age and sent into the “Holy War” against those terrible heathen Jews and Muslims?

Like most people our ex-Hospitallers seem to be the same personality they were upon entering the Hospitallers. You know, just people – greedy, selfless, courageous, lonely and so on. Just people.

In the name of religion people sometimes do terrible things. Ignoring terrible actions carried out toward others is the most common one. To begin with Thomas ignores the plight of the citizens of Altdorf. But once the deeds of Duke Leopold of Habsburg touches closer to home, Thomas can no longer deny the unrighteousness of Leopold’s deeds.

Duke Leopold is a greedy man who wants to control the flow of merchandise through the pass of St. Gotthard. “The Gotthard Pass or St. Gotthard Pass (Italian: Passo del San Gottardo) (el. 2106 m) is a high mountain pass in Switzerland between Airolo in the canton of Ticino, and Göschenen in the canton of Uri, connecting the northern German-speaking part of Switzerland with the Italian-speaking part, along the route onwards to Milan.” (Wikipedia)

In The Empire of Man one even finds that “the College of Magic which studies Ghyran, the Lore of Life, is the Jade Order of Wizards. Jade Wizards, (also occasionally mistaken for druids to which their power is related), are powerful healers, who spend most of their time wandering the countryside of the Empire providing their services to rural communities. They construct monolithic stone circles around hidden groves where Ghyran is strongest, using them in their yearly rituals which they perform in order to channel their magic into the soil to provide fertility and abundance.” (Wikipedia) Seraina is a Priestess of the Old Religion, and the last Druid disciple of the Helvetii Celts. She has been gifted by the Great Weave to see what others cannot. In it she knows that she and Thomas will be needed in her people’s fight for freedom.

Part of my reason for digging a little into various sites had to do with the excellence of the novel. Altdorf made me curious about the background for the novel – beyond what the author tells. The whole area has a fascinating history and it was amazingly fun to discover that Altdorf (the area) is used in The Empire of Man.

Anyways, history and fantasy lesson over – except maybe a hint that you check out the background of the Wilhelm Tell myth – you know the whole shooting an apple off the son’s head story. It has relevance.

There is one scene that involves Pirmin that made a huge impression. Pirmin is a lovely character – full of life and enjoyment of life. Anyways, there is one scene that made me think – once again. Fantasy can do that to you. All of a sudden I see humanity in a new light or am reminded of a quality that some people do possess, even people I know.

The Forest Knights is a serial. You can walk away from the serial after Altdorf, but I believe you might regret it. I am going to get Morgarten myself – simply because I want to keep in touch with these people.