Monday, March 12, 2012

Truman and Baldacci

An odd combination, the title, but I have 2 reviews to catch up on after our trip.  While I was hesitant about taking the heavy tome, Truman by David McCullough along I could not imagine starting another book until I finished all 992 pages, 1117 with Acknowledgements, footnote resources, index and photo credits.  I bought this likely out of print, published in 1992 volume at People's Library book sale in May, 2011 in my hometown in PA.  I believe this is  David McCullough's masterpiece.  McCullough who is one of my favorite authors does intense research ala James Michener and writes outstanding historical non-fiction.  His book about building the Panama Canal, "Path Between the Seas" awaits me.  Harry S Truman, is the first President I recall, from my  toddler days.  Harry known as "Give' em hell, Harry" was likely the very last common man to ever be President.  He was never a wealthy man and was a solid and plain as the Missouri homestead.  He was a farmer and went broke in the haberdashery business, entered local politics and was especially fond of railroads and roads and highways.  The book begins in 1841 when the rough and fighting  Kentuckians, Harry's ancestors migrated along with  others westward to Missouri.  There is a wealth  of history between then and Harry's death at age 88 in 1972.  What's the first thing you remember about Harry? is a question I have asked older friends and the answers range from his dropping the bomb on Hiroshima to end WWII, to firing of General Mac Arthur, to his plain spoken ways, to when he seized the steel industry.   Harry detested what he called the "striped pants" of the eastern elitists and big moneyed executives but he had little use for West point stuffed shirts as well.  Harry liked his bourbon and would imbibe freely on his Potomac yachting trips when he could be plain Harry and play poker.  I  had previously  read and reviewed J B  West's "Upstairs at the White House" which  McCullough uses  as a source for  several White house tales.  Dean Acheson called him  the "Captain with the Mighty Heart" referring to his rank as Army Captain in WWI. He remained devoted to his battery of men and they to him.  George Marshall said in 1948 "the integrity of the man will stand thru the ages."  One scene shows him elderly at a winter funeral in Missouri, one of the few mourners ; when the astonished undertaker comments, "Mr President it is so bitterly cold"  Harry replies, "I never forget a friend."   Harry was a man of decisions  and absolute character.  Bess, his beloved  wife outlived him by another 10 years and both are buried  in the courtyard of the Truman library.  He adored Bess and their daughter Margaret.  Harry was  quite the letter writer and I am anxious to visit the Truman library in Independence where so many of his hand written letters to his mother, to his sister, to Bess, to Margaret and many others are on display.  To say I enjoyed this book does not do it justice--I relished each page.  It is a permanent part of our home library.  It was with great pride that I read about a man who surely has rolled about in his coffin to hear of the Democrat party of today, somewhere  after Harry it all disintegrated.  I could really go on and on and on about this book and include quotes from now till kingdom come and still not touch on the swathing epoch that it is.  On a scale of 1 low to 5 high I rate this book a 10*!



After "Truman"  it was time for lighter  reading and so I delved into a quick reading paper back, fiction, "Hell's Corner" by David Baldacci, a contemporary author whom I enjoy from time to time.  He does not write prolifically like the outline authors common today, his  books all have plot and delightful deep characters.  Pay no attention to the price on the cover because I picked this up for 50cents at a local book sale.  Published in 2011, the 572 pages  in paperback, brings more adventures of the Camel Club characters and Oliver Stone aka John Carr former espionage trained assassin who is called back to serve the President.  There are so many twists, characters and wonders in this book typical of Baldacci  that I could not guess the culprit and read in suspense to the end.  This genre is thriller, politically  intriguing mystery.   I rate  it 5 * out of 5 possible with 5 being the top number.