Day: October 17, 2015

The Author as Historian by Charles Ray : #race, the frontier and setting the record straight

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I appeared as a Guest Blogger on author Helen Treharne’s Blog. Go on over and check it out!

Helen Treharne

Today I’m joined by Charles Ray, an author who is setting the record straight straight about the diverse history of the American West, highlighting that not all “white hats” were in fact white and the contribution of black Americans to the development and stability of the frontier.


Like many of my generation, growing up in the 40s and 50s, I spent a lot of time; probably far too much; sitting mesmerized in front of a small screen black and white TV. Like most boys my age, my favorite shows were the war shows and the westerns. I grew up on a diet of Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, and Gene Autry. I cheered when the cavalry came riding to the rescue of the wagon train under attack by bands of Indians, and dreamed of what it must have been like to live in such times.
What I didn’t realize until I…

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Review of ‘In the Garden of Beasts: by Erik Larson | Summary & Analysis: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin’

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In the Garden of Beasts: by Erik Larson/Summary & Analysis by Instaread is a review of Larson’s account of the experiences of Ambassador William Dodd and his family in Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s just before the outbreak of World War II.

A fairly good overview of a book about an interesting episode in US diplomatic history, with a good analysis of the author’s style, but it does not live up to the standards that I’ve come to expect in Instaread books. For one thing, in the opening, it mentions that the book is about life in Berlin through the eyes of the American ambassador and his family, without naming them, and then in the next paragraph brings up George Messersmith, who was the US consul general in Berlin. Later in the review this is explained, but it confuses the reader to have to wait for this explanation. Would have been better to make it clear up front.

Later in the book there’s a bit of confusion that is never explained. It mentions the death of Mattie (the name of the ambassador’s daughter) in 1939, and then a couple of paragraphs later, after detailing her marriages, says that she died in 1990. While I’m sure the first death mentioned was actually Dodd’s wife (whose name, by the way, was not Mattie), meaning this is just an inadvertent typo, it is nonetheless very confusing.

Beyond these two problems, it is a good review that I feel captures the full book’s essence effectively. I’m afraid I can only give this one three stars.