Review of Dennis Haugh’s Pocket Guide to Communism & The Foundations of Critical Race Theory

Spoiler Alert – Communism is inherently evil.  If that offends you, I offer zero apologies. I am from a generation of Americans that went to college and learned the true nature of socialism and communism in college; that it is a self-consuming economic system, destined to fail, that exists by devouring the freedoms of its followers.  So when I was sent a copy of Dennis Haugh’s book I was prepared to be bored. After all, I knew about communism already. 

Thankfully Mr. Haugh proved me woefully out of touch in some aspects. 

It is safe to say we all need a refresher from time-to-time, present company included.  I devoured this book in one sitting.  In fairness, it is short, being a pocket guide and not an in-depth study.  The length of the book is one of its strengths.  Rather than a textbook exploration of these topics, Haugh crisply keeps the focus of the book on subject; short and disturbingly sweet. 

I found the condensed format seductive. The prose of this book are concise and at times, painfully blunt.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a pain that we need.  A lot has changed since the 1980’s when I learned about this system. With social media and a never-ending assault on values, morals, and common sense, we need a book like this that positions the topic in a tight, digestible format. 

You may wonder why two topics, Communism and Critical Race Theory, are in the book. When you read this potent guide you realize just how interconnected the two topics are and what the implications of that mean to America.  I’ve had a number of people tell me they don’t know what CRT is – and even I have fumbled at times to explain it. Dennis Haugh has encapsulated the tenants of Critical Race Theory and what it means to our society, both long and short term.

I’ve plucked just a few random gems from this book:

  • “Labels are a convenient way to twist the way someone views a person, place, or thing.”
  • “Stalin identified “social reforms” as an ideal smoke screen to hide preparations for the revolution to destroy western societies.”
  • “Critical Race Theory replaces Marx’s class struggle with a race struggle for the dividing line between oppressor and oppressed, but it has gone further than classic Marxism in its quest to divide society.”

This book accomplishes in 44 pages what many college textbooks do in hundreds – it outlines the core tenants of Communism and Critical Race Theory against the framework of the society that we live in. It is a starting point and a refresher as to why this cultural and economic system is such a threat. The book is available from Defiance Press on Amazon.com 

Frederick Zinn of Galesburg and Battle Creek to be inducted in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame

A true American hero

I received an email two weeks ago informing me that a person I had nominated to the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame was going to be inducted this year.  Frederick Zinn was born in Galesburg, Michigan and raised in Battle Creek.  I wrote an award winning book about him, Lost Eagles, (University of Michigan Press) years ago.

Zinn was a true aviation pioneer.  Here’s a short summary of his life:

  • After graduating the U of M in 1914 he went to Europe, became embroiled in the Great War, and joined the French Foreign Legion where he was wounded.
  • He transferred to the French Air Service as an observer – making him America’s first combat photographer. It also made him the first combat airman from the state of Michigan.
  • When America entered the war, he was one of the first aviators to transfer to the American Air Service.
  • He was one of the original members of the Lafayette Flying Corps and was close friends with the members of the Lafayette Escadrille.
  • He established the first American observation training school.
  • He flew combat missions.
  • After the war, Zinn remained behind, initiating the search for missing airmen.  Up until this point, the military did not search for missing warriors. He recovered or identified the remains of 194 out of 200 missing airmen. He embodied the phrase, “We will leave no man behind.” 
  • He ran a successful grain and feed company between the wars.
  • In WWII, he worked directly with General Marshall to create the system for recovering missing airmen (the Missing Air Crew Report system). 
  • When he was denied the chance to find missing airmen, Zinn joined the OSS – the precursor to the CIA, as a counterintelligence officer.  His cover, provided by the Kellogg Foundation, was to search for missing airmen. 
  • He recovered countless missing American airmen during the war.
  • He performed several counterintelligence missions, well past the age of 50, during WWII. 
  • After the war, he was a state representative in the Michigan House. 
Zinn in his Sopwith 1 1/2 strutter in the French Air Service

If you live near Kalamazoo, you should consider attending the induction ceremony. Zinn was, and remains, a true American hero.  While I have a prior commitment that prevents me from attending the ceremony, I am pleased and honored that he is finally getting the recognition that he so richly deserves. 

Review of Nueces Reprise by Mark Greathouse

I have been reading westerns recently because their stories transcend the genre.  A western tale easily can be migrated to a science fiction or other setting.  I snagged a copy of this at the Rally Against Censorship recently and it finally worked its way to the top of my reading pile.  It is the second book of the Tumbleweed Saga, the emerging legend of Luke Dunn, Texas Ranger. 

The book is a wonderful read, picking up almost immediately after the events of the first novel. I won’t spoil the story other than to say that the plot thickens.  Many of the characters that you are introduced to in Nueces Justice are back, with more depth added to their backstories.  Some seemingly minor characters in the first novel, emerge and stand on their own.  The ensemble cast is part of the mystique of this series. Everyone has a motive, many of which conflict with the others – which is where the conflicts arise…and there are a lot of conflicts in this book – true to the western genre.

Some authors chop off the heads of characters as if they were George R. R. Martin. Mark is not above killing characters, including those that have redeemed themselves. In fact, their redemption makes their deaths all the more poignant. He’s not a butcher like some writers, but puts a notch in his author’s pistol only when necessary and impactful.   

As with the first novel, Greathouse is a master of crafting a plot that is far from obvious. Just when you think you know what is going on and then you find yourself in a new, unexpected place. That is the mark of a good storyteller.  Handling ensembles of characters and complex plots requires a firm yet artistic hand, one that Greathouse possesses.

The author does his research, right down to the idiosyncrasies of the firearms being used. He stays true to the western genre, weaving in bits of real history with his fictional characters. His heroes are far from perfect, as demonstrated at the end of this novel – which I really found myself enjoying. 

Nueces Reprise doesn’t stand alone – you need to read the precursor novel.  Fortunately both are a good investment of time.    

To my friends that served in Afghanistan…

The events of the last few weeks have no doubt been disturbing, if not, infuriating for you and your loved ones.  I wanted to say this, clearly and concisely…your time there was not in vain. 

You put your lives on the line for the rest of us.  Your efforts prevented dozens, if not hundreds, of potential terror attacks.  You preemptively prevented terrorists from killing other Americans.  There are few things more honorable than protecting your family, friends, and homeland. You traveled far from home, lived a life under constant threats and stress for us.  Those of us that weren’t called or didn’t serve, were shielded by your service.  We all owe you a debt of thanks.  You have mine.

Many of us believe you deserve better than what our performance has been in leaving Afghanistan. 

Was it time to go? Probably. It was never a matter of the decision to depart.  What matters is the execution of that departure.  It is nothing short of a debacle. Calling it anything else is an insult, and the majority of Americans who witnessed it unfold on television.  Lives have been lost and more may be as a result of one of the worst planned and executed military operations in US history since the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Your service is not reflected by the events unfolding over there right now.  You are not defined by the actions currently taking place.  You did your job, and for that, I am thankful as are millions of others.  You do not bear any taint from what is taking place right now. Your service was not wasted.  You did your duty with honor and dignity. 

The fact that so many civilians in Afghanistan want to leave and come here is a testimony to your roles as ambassadors of our great nation. Many are willing to lose everything because they saw the kind of country and people we are because you were there. Even though you may not have been there in years, you are still saving lives…those of the civilians who are risking their lives to come here. Each civilian saved that comes to America is your greatest living legacy. 

We owe you more than our appreciation and sincere thanks. We owe you accountability, both in the government and the military. The people that unfurled this poorly conceived operation need to be held responsible. It is not vengeance or blame-setting; it is our solemn responsibility to you to ensure that such a disaster does not happen again.

We do not owe this just to you, but to your loved ones who have also endured hardship and strife as a result of your service. Men and women do not go to war alone, their families are impacted as well. We owe them as well to get some answers to how this happened. People must be held accountable – period.

You can hold your heads up high for your service in that strife-filled country. Your honor is sterling and remains, as always, intact.  None of us believe your service was anything short of honorable and in the finest tradition of the United States.  We, as citizens, need to take action to evaluate the intelligence, planning, decision making process, and execution of this catastrophe. This is our call to duty, to ensure that this kind of horrid affair does not occur again. 

Review of The Blueprint of Liberty: Why And How We Could Restructure The United States In a Way That Pleases Everyone And Preserves Freedom by Alu Axelman

I try and avoid political non-fiction, but having had a phone call with the author, his premise caught my attention.  This is a short book making it a fast non-fiction read – but the topic is anything other than light. What Axelman does with this book is layout a detailed case for secession in the United States.  As a historian, I found the concept intriguing enough to pick up the book and managed to finish it off in just a few evenings of reading.

To be clear, I don’t personally support the premise.  That doesn’t mean that Axelman doesn’t do an admirable job of making his case.  There were a few times where I found myself in such agreement with the case he presents that I was actually challenging what I thought; which is what good writing can and should do.

He does a remarkable job of highlighting the philosophical and cultural differences that exist between the left and the right in America. Rather than resolve these, he contends that resolution may not be possible.  Thus, the solution, is a division of the United States.  He goes so far is to present a new Constitution, which is more Libertarian than traditionally conservative (at least in my opinion). 

His case for secession is seductive, because it allows both sides to rule in the manner they desire.  He even tackles the roles of the military in such a split, as well as how basic services would be administered. 

The author makes his case solidly with prose like:  “The United States is becoming increasingly divided and polarized. This polarization is augmented by federal laws that prohibit States from governing themselves. With each passing year, the laws that govern all 300+ million people in the US are becoming more similar, while ignoring how unique we actually are. As time passes, it will become increasingly evident to progressives as well as conservatives that a peaceful dissolution of the union – and independence for each State – is the only way to truly satisfy the dramatically different populations which comprise the union. Consider the avoidance of a violent civil war to be a bonus benefit of secession. If you don’t want to secede, at least give conservatives the nudge they need in order to leave the union.”

Powerful and thought provoking stuff to say the least!

I found myself agreeing with much of the early part of the book, but less with the solution. It didn’t feel right…yet.  I stress the ‘yet’ in this. Sometimes this kind of work is dependent on the historical context and current events.  While the present-day events don’t necessarily push for the solution that the author presents, that doesn’t mean he is wrong.  Having started a book titled Texit, about Texas splitting off as its own nation again, forces me to concede that this line of thinking may very well gain momentum in the politically charged environment that we find ourselves in. If that is the case, then Axelman is a visionary.  Only time will tell. 

If you have had thoughts along the lines of, “Maybe we should just pack up our stuff and form our own country, with our values,” then this is a book I highly recommend.  It is not a piece of fantasy, as evidenced by the extensive footnotes of support.  This book grabs you hard, shakes you, forces you to reflect on the world around you, and lays a possible foundation for a roadway to political sanity.

A Shout-Out to a Fellow Author – Justin Sheffield and the All Eagles Oscar Organization

Justin and me in Dallas

At the recent Rally Against Censorship, I had the opportunity to meet fellow Defiance Press author Justin Sheffield.  Justin is a former Navy Seal and the author of the book, MOB VI

Justin’s first book

In my career, I write about brave men and women, from fictional characters to real-life historical figures out of military history.  I just write about heroic people.  Justin is the real thing.  The stories he was telling were incredible and moving.

I’ll be doing a review of his book in an upcoming blog post.  From what I have read, he is an author of considerable merit.  This, however, is not about promoting books.  Today I want to draw attention to Justin’s organization, All Eagles Oscar.  While the name may sound strange, it is the callout made when all ‘eagles’ or warriors are okay and heading back to base. 

This organization helps warriors recover, rehabilitate, and transition after their time in the service. Many veterans suffer with chronic pain and the stress that this can cause, and All Eagles Oscar helps them with this transition.  You can go to their web site here – obviously I encourage you to do so:

All Eagles Oscar

Justin has committed himself to this organization and its cause. I am a person that believes in supporting noble organizations, especially those that support the veterans of our nation.  I invite you to take a few minutes and hit their web site, and if you feel inclined, make a donation to them.

Anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk

The queue of BEF and French forces attempting to evacuate mainland Europe

Today marks the start of the anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk, 26 May – 4 June 1940.  I read Walter Lord’s book on this in my youth and I did enjoy the recent film of the battle as well. It is a fascinating struggle. 

The German invasion of France was stunning on many levels. France and Britain had been huddled behind the fortifications of the Maginot Line and along the coast.  Germany invaded Belgium and it appeared that they were executing the same strategy they had tried to employ in the Great War, a dash along the coast, sweeping down to Paris from the north.  The British moved eastward to blunt this assault. 

It was a grand strategic deception. 

The German force in Belgium was enough to hold the BEF in check.  Meanwhile, the Germans came through the Ardennes, an area that was lightly defended and thought to be impossible as a venue for attack.  They allowed their panzer divisions to operate far from their infantry support, cutting deep into the rear areas.  The French fought valiantly, but could not hold.  The Germans then swung north, essentially trapping the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) around Dunkirk.

The panzers at this stage of the war were not the bulk of the German Army.  They were actually rather primitive compared to the tanks produced even a year later.  In reality, the German Army was still using horses to move their heavy equipment.  But General Guderian operated his panzers boldly, thrusting deep into the rear areas, confusing the French attempts to coordinate defenses. The German army’s use of radio communications for command and control was vastly superior to that of the British and French forces, allowing them to bring in Luftwaffe assets and artillery quickly and effectively. 

A lot was at stake, more than the world realized.  The BEF constituted the bulk of the British Army.  If it were destroyed or captured, Britain would be left vulnerable, possibly unable to resist the Germans if they invaded.  WWII would have played out very differently.  The fate of the United Kingdom hung on the small port of Dunkirk, though at the time, few realized just how desperate things were. 

The German assault slowed, stalled, and stopped.  The Luftwaffe felt it could finish off the BEF.  Meanwhile the Royal Navy scrambled every ship, civilian and military, to rush across the channel to ferry out what personnel it could save.  So much has been written about the small civilian ships that ferried troops, I cannot possibly do it justice in a blog post. 

The British felt they would be lucky to save 10,000 – 30,000 troops at the start of Operation Dynamo, the rescue mission. While the Germans bombed, strafed and shelled them, the British and French forces clung to the beaches, desperately attempting to get to their ships and to England. 

When it was over, 330,000 British and French troops were saved, with a loss to the BEF of 68,000.  Almost all of their equipment was lost.  Most importantly, Britain would survive and go on to be one of the victors of the war as a result. Dunkirk was a tactical defeat, a painful lesson, but it galvanized the British people and gave hope that they would fight on.

Review of Nueces Justice by Mark Greathouse

The perfect early summer diversion

This is a book by one of my new publishers, Defiance Press.  I support my fellow authors as best I can.  If I’m not a fan of someone’s book, chances are I won’t review it, just so they are not damaged in any way by my opinion.  I don’t ask them to do the same for me, there is no quid pro quo here nor did the publisher provide me with a free copy.

You may be wondering why I would be reading a western, given that I write a lot of military science fiction, political thrillers, true crime, and military history. The reason is simple, I often read in genres I don’t write in to get different perspectives.  Westerns are something that is purely American, and some I have read have inspired some science fiction stories (Like Waylon’s War, which I wrote for Shrapnel.) This genre really can go far beyond its perceived reach.  Remember Firefly?

Westerns often have the elements of a cry for justice, a love interest, the gritty reality of life in the wild, and a dose of Indians.  This book hits all of these elements well.  In other words, there’s something for everyone. 

I have read about five westerns in my life, so I came in with not a lot of preconceived notions.  At first, I thought that this was going to be a pursuit book.  It is, and it isn’t.  This is more of a book that is true to its title, Nueces Justice.  Justice comes in many forms and flavors.  I was pleased that the author didn’t get too sucked into the sometimes overplayed, ‘everything has to be resolved with gunfire.” 

The author does a fantastic job in providing the setting for the stories, though it is far and wide at times. I love Texas and its people, so it was easy to get drawn in.  This is not a simple linear story of a good guy after a bad guy.  There are numerous twists and turns.  There is a neat cast of characters here, each with their own story to tell.  They are all intertwined around the lead character, Luke Dunn, a Texas Ranger. 

Right up to the end, I wasn’t sure where the numerous plot lines were going to end up.  I was pleased with the resolution and now find myself compelled to jump into the next book in the series. I recommend this book if you like the western genre.  Mark Greathouse clearly knows the terrain he writes about, the cultures, and his history…making for a solid and entertaining read and a romping intriguing set of tales.   

Answering Some Questions About Writing

I get questions from readers from time-to-time about the writing process. I thought it might be worth putting some of these out for people who are contemplating being authors, fiction or non-fiction. These are not hard and fast responses carved in stone, but simply my responses based on experience. Don’t accept these as gospel, they are merely my responses.  Other authors I’m sure have completely different answers that may be just as right – for them. 

Here’s the most common ones I receive from readers/would-be authors:

Do you write out a detailed outline to work off of for a book? 

Generally I do.  Some authors don’t.  Some of my chapter summaries are little more and a two of three sentence summary.  For fiction, it helps me estimate how big the book is going to be.  My chapters tend to be between 2.5 and 5k words in fiction, so knowing how many chapters I have allows me to estimate the project’s length.  Also for fiction, it helps me see obvious issues, like a character not getting mentioned or on-screen for too long of a gap. It also helps me see where pacing might be a problem. On a new project, after I created the outline, I realized that I had no real action taking place for two chapters – just people talking.  That drove me to a change. 

For non-fiction I find the chapter breakdowns are a must.  They help organize your research materials which is critical when writing military history or true crime. 

I am not locked into the outline.  If I come up with something that warrants a change, or a new chapter, I do it on the fly. 

I’ve checked the math – it’s true.

Where do you start?

For me, it either begins with a great character idea or I mentally get a scene in my head that pops (to me) and from there, the rest of the story gets flowed out. Example:  I have a novel coming out where I came up with one scene with two characters that I thought was cool.  It tells you everything you need to know about this character and the strategy involved.  From that one scene, the rest of the book was easy to craft.  That scene happens now, but in the middle of the novel. 

Sometimes it is the character. I have one coming up where I wanted a character based on Jack Churchill of WWII fame.  I want a character like him.  Now it is the matter of figuring out how he would fit into a broader plot that has been suggested.  Oddly, understanding this character’s ins and outs compels situations where he will fit in. 

What are the hardest parts to write?

I have tried to narrow my response to three things I find challenging to write. 

The opening of the book.  I like stories to start with an event – be that a battle or in the case of true crime, it can be the discovery of a body or a murder. In one case, my daughter and I began with something different, meeting a profiler and getting his perspective.  You have to start off with a compelling reason for readers to want to read more.  Some may bail if you start out poorly. 

The end of the book. Ultimately you want and ending that leaves the reader satisfied.  You don’t have to wrap up every loose end – sometimes that is done intentionally.  It gets a little tricky when writing true crime books on cold cases, because the crimes remain unsolved.  That doesn’t mean that you can ignore giving the reader some degree of closure in the form of summary as to where the cases remain. 

For fiction, I try and put in a twist of some sort.  Sometimes it is big, sometimes it is nothing more than a small revelation.  It is as much about bringing closure for the reader as it is for the characters of the story.  It is a fine balancing act between the two. 

Changes in the character arcs.  Characters grow, they evolve, their perspectives change.  If they don’t, they are dull.  I work on arcs for my characters as much as I do the outline for the story. Each character has to grow in some way, or devolve.  Writing the scenes where a character’s path changes is tricky.  If you don’t do it right, the reader feels that you are not being true to the character. 

In fairness, some readers never can wrap their hands around changes in character arcs no matter how you justify and explain it.  They are so invested in their perspective of the character, they refuse to accept change in any form.  It is both a compliment and a struggle – but such is the nature of fan bases.

If you have questions, feel free to submit them in the comments. I will do another post in the future.

If it were reported today…Lexington and Concord

Red (Coat) Lives Matter…

Today makes “The shot heard ‘round the world’ – the battle of the American colonists against the British at Lexington Green and Concord.  It is seen as the ignition point of the war between the colonists and Great Britain.  It is an iconic event in US history, including the rides of Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott to alert the colonists.

Image, if you would, if it were covered by today’s media.  I took a stab at it, just for grins – and to make you consider some of the messages that we are exposed to. This isn’t a grandiose political statement on my part. It is merely aimed at making you think about how words are used (or misused) to package a story.

“Several Dead in Terror Attack Outside of Boston.  

“An alt-right militia group attacked local law enforcement officials who were sent to disarm them in Lexington, outside of Boston.  This mostly white/male group of extremists possessed a stockpile of military-grade assault weapons and ammunition that was deemed dangerous to maintaining the peace.  Further they may have had links to other terror activities and attacks in the area.  As such law enforcement moved in to confiscate these ‘weapons of war’ to ensure that no innocent citizens were placed at further risk.  These domestic terrorists ambushed law enforcement, killing one, while losing four of their number before the terrorists fell back to Concord.

The brave men in law enforcement withdrew to Boston. Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, the leader of the operation, was unavailable for comment at this time.

“These extremists were aided by use of a covert ‘social network’ of riders who fed these terrorists information on the police movements but allowed them time to prepare their ambush.  Evidence points to them using a series of lantern signals to spread their message of insurrection.  It is believed that the members of this network may have been assisted by extremists close to law enforcement, but that has not been confirmed.

“These rogue, right-wing militia groups such as these have been responsible for numerous acts of lawlessness in the region.  As you may recall, just a few months ago, a group of these insurrectionists illegally boarded a vessel and threw their cargo of tea into the harbor.  In a brazen act of cultural appropriation the disguised themselves as native Americans, adding hate crimes to the long list of charges leveled against them.  It is clear that such groups are a destabilizing threat and may be part of a larger insurrection seeking to overthrow the legal and legitimate government which has brought nothing but prosperity to our shores. 

“If you have information on these insurrectionists, please contact the authorities in Boston.”