About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction Shortlist

Yesterday the American Bar Association Journal and the University of Alabama Law School announced the shortlist for the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

The finalists are:

1.) Ronald H. Balson for Once We Were Brothers;

2.) John Grisham for Sycamore Row; and,

3.) Elizabeth Strout for The Burgess Boys.

For what seems like the first time this year I have read a book on the shortlist for a major crime fiction prize. I read Sycamore Road at the beginning of the year. I consider it excellent legal fiction.

I have not read any books by either Balson or Strout.

Information on the books can be found on the ABA Journal announcing the shortlist at http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/2014_harper_lee_voting. As with previous years readers of the Journal can help pick the winner by voting online at the Journal. The public, through the book attracting the most votes, effectively becomes a 6th selector whose vote is recognized as an equal vote to each of the selection committee members.

The members of the selection committee this year are sports columnist, ESPN panelist and University of Maryland professor, Kevin Blackistone; New York Times bestselling author, Fannie Flagg; partner at Kornstein, Veisz, Wexler & Pollard and former Harper Lee panelist, Dan Kornstein; journalist, lawyer and Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, Adam Liptak; and journalist, author and former Harper Lee panelist, Marianne Szegedy-Maszak.

The previous winners are Grisham, Michael Connelly and Paul Goldstein.

Strout becomes the first woman author to be on a shortlist for the Prize.

I read all the books on last year’s shortlist and agree that Goldstein’s book, Havana Requiem, was the best of the trio. I hope to read Once We Were Brothers and The Burgess Boys before the winning book is announced.

The Prize will be presented on August 28 in Washington as a part of the Library of Congress National Book Festival.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gold Web by Vicki Delany

Gold Web by Vicki Delany – Fiona MacGillivray is an enterprising Scottish woman who has made her way from the Isle of Skye to London to North America to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon at the end of the 19th Century. 

Her 12 year old son, Angus, has come with her. In the boomtown of Dawson City Angus is an oddity. There are few women and fewer children in the Klondike. 

With her business partner, Ray Walker, Fiona is running the Savoy Saloon and Dance Hall. The name is grander than the hastily built edifice deserves for a title. Fiona and Ray operate a combined dance hall, bar, show theatre and gambling room for the miners clawing gold from “the Creeks” near Dawson City.  

While regally beautiful Fiona is succeeding in the rough and tumble Klondike because of her business skills. I think it unlikely she would have been able to run such a business in the large cities of the era. The Klondike has created business opportunities for women as well as men. 

Evening entertainment begins promptly at 8:00 and roars through the night. Miners crowd in to watch the female singers and dancers. The enthusiastic patrons will toss gold nuggets on to the stage for their favourite singers and dancers. 

On her way home for a quick supper before the usual hectic night at the Savoy, Fiona literally stumbles upon a man who has just been stabbed. He dies in her arms uttering the words “MacGillivray” and “Culloden”.

Fiona conceals from RCMP Corporal, Richard Sterling the deceased saying “Culloden” as she strives not to be involved in the investigation of the death of a man she had never met until that evening.

While titled a Klondike mystery the murder is almost incidental to the story. I found myself wondering when the plot would actually deal with the murder.

The book is really about Fiona running the Savoy and her personal life. She does not investigate the murder. She hopes memory of the killing will fade away as murder is bad for business. If a mystery, like the Joanne Kilbourn series by Gail Bowen, has murders come into the life of an amateur sleuth I prefer the lead character to be an important part of the investigation.

Sterling wants to solve the murder but relatively little of the book is about his investigation.

There is no history on the victim who had arrived in Dawson City but a few days before he was stabbed.

The real intrigue of the book is over the arrival in Dawson City of pert and pretty Eleanor Jennings. Another female entrepreneur she has come to establish a photography business. Offering to take a photo for free of the girls who perform at the Savoy causes quite a stir.

The attractive Eleanor also creates tension as Sterling is entranced by her.

The most interesting part of the book was the back story of Fiona on the streets of London as a young teenager fending for herself.

I was glad to see Delany integrated Angus into the story. He longs to grow up so he can join the Northwest Mounted Police.

I appreciated the insight into life and politics during the Klondike Gold Rush. I have read little of that time and place. Overall I enjoyed more the first book, A Cold White Sun, I read in Delany’s other series featuring Const. Molly Smith. The book had an active sleuth and concentrated on the mystery.  

Readers who like historical fiction and strong women characters will enjoy the book. If you are looking to read a mystery you may be disappointed. I intend to read another in the series to see if Fiona is more of a sleuth in a different book.
Gold Web is the 12th book of 13 books to meet the annual Canadian Book Challenge hosted at the Book Mine Set blog by John Mutford.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Orrin Porter Rockwell - Danite, Man of God, Son of Thunder

Ken Corbett portrait of Orrin Porter Rockwell from a
photo of Rockwell
In my last post I put up a review of A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson. In the book is a unique character claiming to be the original Orrin Porter Rockwell. It is an impossible assertion as the real Rockwell was born in 1813.

The Rockwell of the book is heavily armed and obviously a man accustomed to violence. At the same time he is a devout Mormon believing in the early principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Fascinated by the fictional character I did some online research of the 19th Century Rockwell who was known as Porter Rockwell. He led a remarkable life.

Baptized a Mormon on the day the Church was organized in 1830 he was a personal bodyguard for founder, Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young.

In Johnson's book Rockwell describes himself as “Danite, Man of God, Son of Thunder, and the strong right arm of the prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”.

I had not recalled hearing of a “Danite” before reading the book. They were a secret Mormon militia formed in Missouri during the late 1830’s when there was major conflict between the Mormons and non-Mormons of the northwest part of the state. They participated in raids and battles.

I had not remembered that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, featured the Danites. In Wikipedia it states:

In the story, the Danites constitute a brutal group of enforcing vigilantes operating under the direction of Brigham Young—and more particularly the fictional Sacred Council of Four, silencing criticism and questioning, and preventing dissenters from leaving the Salt Lake Valley.

In The Case Of The Repentant Writer Sherlock Holmes' Creator Raises The Wrath Of Mormon by Hal Schindler there is a fascinating discussion of how Sir Arthur changed his attitude towards Mormons after traveling to Salt Lake City in 1923.
It was claimed that Rockwell attempted to assassinate the former governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. Wikipedia provides a striking quote on why he was not indicted:

A grand jury was unable to find sufficient evidence to indict Rockwell, convinced in part by his reputation as a deadly gunman and his statement that he "never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot! ... He's still alive, ain't he?"

Released after 8 months in jail Rockwell went back to his Mormon brethren. Their leader, Joseph Smith, said on Rockwell’s return:

"I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that you — Orrin Porter Rockwell — so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee.

In Richard O. Cowan and William E. Homer, California Saints: A 150-Year Legacy in the Golden State (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1996), 127–42 there is a fascinating quote about Rockwell owning and running bars in California during the Gold Rush:

It must have amused Rockwell to hear tavern patrons tell “Porter Rockwell stories” without realizing that he was behind the bar. For protection, he kept loaded pistols and a trained dog at his side. When he traveled on horseback, the dog rode behind him with its paws on his shoulders and searched the trail ahead for trouble. It was trained to lick his face rather than bark—a silent alarm.

Having a good acquaintance with the other side of the law Rockwell was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Great Salt Lake City in 1949.

He is reported to be the source of the classic Wild West American phrase:

            "I never killed anyone who didn't need killing".

Considering his life it is somewhat surprising he died of natural causes in 1878, the last survivor of the original Mormons.
Who could make up a life like Rockwell’s?

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson

A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson – A quiet day in Durant, Wyoming becomes interesting when Sheriff Walt Longmire and Undersheriff, Victoria Moretti, go over to the house of 82 year old widow, Barbara Thomas, to investigate what angel has been doing chores and repairs for her.  

They startle a 15 year old boy repairing the sink. In a desperate attempt to escape he knocks over Vic banging his knee against her nose and giving her a pair of big black eyes. Captured later that afternoon on the school playground he is taken to the jail where the police eventually learn his name is Cord. 

He has extensive knowledge of the Bible often using Biblical quotes in conversation. From a Book of Mormon found in his cache near the Thomas house the police conclude he is a member of a splinter group of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

While apparently of normal mental development Cord is curiously naïve. Everyone at the detachment is startled when, Cord, given a video of the movie, My Friend Flicka, is absolutely entranced. It is clear he has never seen T.V. 

Not wanting to turn him over to child care services, Sheriff Walt decides to go to western South Dakota where a sect of polygamous Mormons has taken up residence that it appears Cord had been a member of the group. The Sheriff learns Cord’s mother is missing. He is sure she has been killed. 

Prior to the trip Walt ventures down to the southern edge of Absoraka County where a group from the same sect has purchased a ranch. In a bar at Short Drop near the ranch Walt has a tense confrontation with members of the sect. 

After getting to South Dakota Sheriff Walt is introduced to Vann Ross Lynear, patriarch of the sect. He has been working in his backyard for 55 years building 12 spaceships, each named for one of the 12 tribes of Israel, to take his followers to the 12 planets reserved for them when the Rapture occurs. He explains to Sheriff Walt that no engines are needed for the spaceships as they will be propelled by divine celestial power. 

Later at the ranch there is a standoff between Sheriff Walt and a truckload of teenagers that ends poorly for the teenagers. 

On returning to Wyoming the Sheriff meets up with a grizzled elderly man who has a massive beard and hair down below his waist. He says he is Orrin Porter Rockwell,  “Danite, Man of God, Son of Thunder, and the strong right arm of the prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”. The original Rockwell was one of the early adherents to the Mormon faith and became a fierce and violent defender of the church. Sheriff Walt is skeptical of his identity for it would make Rockwell almost 200 years old. He says he has lived almost two centuries as he was touched by the prophet, Joseph Smith, and given eternal life. Sheriff Walt places him in cells with Cord. The staff are equally amused and surprised when Rockwell loves My Friend Flicka as much as Cord. It appears the ancient Mormon has as little experience with T.V. as Cord. 

Sheriff Walt, with the aid of Vic, searches into the pasts of Cord and Rockwell. At the same time he is wondering why the sect, the Apostolic Church of the Lamb of God, has bought a ranch in Wyoming and what is their economic base. How are they sustaining themselves?

There is not much mystery about the killers. The story is about the investigation.

It was a book for which I have mixed emotions. 

I enjoyed the introduction into the storyline of the expansion of the polygamous Mormom sects in the American West. Where do they fit in our current society?

Yet much more could have been with the story of the breakaway Mormons. What is the impact of the “lost boys” cast out of the sects for dubious reasons that reduce the number of men to share the women for wives?
The characters were fascinating. Orrin Porter Rockwell is a character to long remember. My next post will discuss the real life Rockwell.

However, Sheriff Walt is in danger of becoming the stereotype of the lone American lawman riding, now driving, into bloody confrontations with the bad guys. In earlier books the Sheriff was more balanced. His keen intelligence is little utilized in this book as he barges around from fight to fight. It reminds me of the later Spenser mysteries when violence became the first option to solving issues.

The ending was strained to me in set up and execution. Hollywood endings were not utilized in most of the earlier books. I am uneasy Johnson is going to be writing books about the iconic lawman personally overcoming evil with a trail of bodies in front, beside and behind him. 
This book still has enough characters and complexity to make me read it quickly but I hope the bullet and the fist does not become Sheriff Walt’s preferred method of policing the New West.
Johnson, Craig – (2007) - The Cold Dish; (Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - Death Without Company; (2008) - Kindness Goes Unpunished ; (2009) - Another Man’s Moccasins; (2011) - The Dark Horse; (2011) - Junkyard Dogs; (2012) - Hell is Empty; (2013) As the Crow Flies; (2013) - Longmire T.V. Series; Hardcover

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Kathy D. and I – A Resistance Dialogue

The paperclip was a symbol of the Norwegian Resistance
partially chosen as it binds things together
Over my last three posts I have reviewed books. on the Danish Resistance and discussed a real life flight which led Ken Follett to write Hornet Flight. I have had previous posts on European Resistance movements during WW II. One post stands out for me as it discusses real life members of the Resistance I have had the chance to meet. The post was about a Dutch teenager and about a Danish farm couple and their inspiring actions. My posts on the Resistance have always drawn comments from regular commenter to my blog, Kathy D. For a post I wrote titled Alan Furst’s Quiet Heroes we exchanged a series of comments I felt fitted with my recent posts on the Danish Resistance. I want to share our exchange with all readers of my blog.

Kathy D. December 10, 2013 at 9:15 PM

So glad to read this review about Alan Furst's books and characters. If I read this genre, and could bear to read about WWII, I would read his series first.

I have given Spies of the Balkans to a friend as a holiday gift, hoping he'd like it. I think I'll give him another book by Furst this holiday.

On resistance in Europe, the more one reads blogs, books and talks to people about the subject, the more one learns about this. The NY Times ran a piece a few years ago about Germans hiding a Jewish musician during the war.

Irene Sandler, with help from others, smuggled 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, to farm families in rural areas. She was arrested, tortured and then released from prison. She won a Nobel Prize for this.

Then there's a book out about a couple, which saved 300 people in the Warsaw Zoo and in their homes. A blogger wrote of an elderly woman living on a French farm who hid three Jewish men in her cellar, wrapping her groceries in newspaper every day so she could bring home the war news to them.

There were many resistance fighters. After I saw the film Defiance about the Bielski brothers who saved 1200 Jews in the forests of Belarus,, I looked up more about partisans and Resistance fighters, found more in Belarus, some in Poland (a tough place), and, of course, in Italy. Read The Collini Case for a legal mystery about that.

Greece had a strong partisan movement, as did Yugoslavia. Even Malta; I read about a teenage girl who was shooting a machine gun at the Nazis; unfortunately, she was caught.

And then within Germany itself, reportedly 800,000 political prisoners under Nazis, including students Sophie Stoll and her friends.

Margaretta von Trotta's film Rosenstrasse tells of non-Jewish German women who demonstrated every day in front of the deportation center where their Jewish husbands were held. They stood up to Nazis with machine guns. They won their husbands' release.

And then the famous Warsaw Ghetto uprising happened in 1943; the Resisters had nothing to lose. My grandmother, a Russian/Polish/Jewish immigrant had a friend who wrote a book about other resisters in other Jewish ghettoes.

And then in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, resistance, too. This post reminds me that I know a man who never knew his Dutch uncle. He died at the hands of the Nazis while in the Dutch Resistance movement. And there's the famous burning down of the population records building in Amsterdam. Although most involved were caught and paid the ultimate price, thousands of Jews were saved.

So, if one keeps reading, one finds out a lot more about European resisters.

Kathy D. Thank you for a thoughtful and insightful comment.
As I read your comment I think Mazower was too narrow in his conclusions about lack of resistance in Western Europe. He took resistance to require armed action against the nations. I think your Examples, as with my examples, show resistance took many forms.

When I was in the Lofoten islands north of the Arctic Circle in Norway last year I met people who told me the Nazis had required them to help build fortifications against a potential Allied seaborne assault. Required to carry stones for the project they would stumble when they could so the stones would roll down hills and they would have to go get a new stone to carry.

Kathy D.December 12, 2013 at 7:47 PM

Good you added that.

Another point, which is quite astounding is that women who were rounded up in France in a 240 or so in a women's convoy were at a camp. Even though they were of different religions and political ideology, they all jointly sabotaged the labor in the Germans' work camps. They deliverately sabotaged the machinery, did slowdowns of work and protected the more fragile women who couldn't do hard physical work. This is from my reading of marks by a leading French resister who was imprisoned in a camp. After she got out, she testified at the Nuremberg trials, then told of the women's resistance inside a camp.

I think if more people had weapons in Europe and military training, many more would have fought back physically. When people have no weapons or training and are taken by surprise by the German military with a lot of force and weaponry, what do they do? And what do villages do without guns, ammunition, military training?

In the movie "Defiance," the Bielski brothers and people in their encampment did fight back with whatever weapons they could buy or get via bartering or just finding and seizing.

I left out but should have included the massive resistance in Spain to Franco and fascism; so many sacrificed and died then.

Cara Black who writes the Aimee Ledoc series set in Paris, has written of commemorations to deceased and still living French Resistance fighters, who are highly honored still. And in Greece, I believe the Italian government gave that government two hours to either capitulate or not at the start of the war. The Greek people said NO and valiantly fought back, including Jewish people. Just read at Murder Is Everywhere about the last living Jewish Resistance fighter in Greece, a retired dentist. And so on.

All over the world, people have fought for independence and freedom throughout the centuries. I don't think Jewish people or Polish people or Italians or any other people were more passive than others.

Kathy D.: Thanks for the further comment.

I think the word "resistance" was an appropriate word to describe the response in conquered nations. "Resistance" is not confined to arms. It takes all the forms described by you in your comments.

The peoples of Nazi occupied nations could not have expected as brutal and systemic scheme of murder as carried out by the Nazis. Certainly there have been atrocities and killings by previous occupying powers but they could not have expected the scale of Nazi brutality. Had they realized sooner what was going to happen "resistance" would have been far more.

Agree. If people had known -- and had access to weapons and were trained in how to resist, more resistance would have happened.

And as a further bit of information, as I was reading Rachel Donadio's piece about traveling to Naples in the New York Times Sunday Travel section, I came to this section, which is new to me:

In 1943, when the Nazis began rounding up Neopolitan men, the furious women of Naples fought back, successfully driving the Nazis out of town, albeit on a killing spree, in a rare mass citizens' revolt against the German occupation!

So glad to see this group resistance by women. I do know that women were part of the Resistance Movement in occupied countries and carried out many tasks. In addition to other tasks, women were also often couriers of messages for Resistance forces.
Kathy D.: I was not aware of the battle in Naples.

It is ironic that Allied governments were far more willing to use women in clandestine operations than they were to allow them in regular military forces.

That's interesting; it's true.

But women were in the Resistance movements all over Europe. I've read amazing stories of courage and determination, of great risk-taking. Women were part of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance, and were among French resisters, too.

Although I just can't bring myself to read it, there is a book about the convoy of women rounded up in France and taken to a camp. It was about 240 women. Their stories are told in this book. I think about 49 survived. A friend got the book, but became too sad and also upset at their suffering, so she stopped reading it.

But some wonderful heroes are mentioned, leaders, organizers even within the camp.

There is also the choir at Terezin camp. These Jewish prisoners sang to resist, and they kept on singing even while their numbers were dwindling around them.

There is a terrific documentary about them. Survivors speak of how even if the German soldiers had burst in and threatened their lives, they would have stayed in their places and kept on singing. It's quite a story.

Kathy D.: Have you read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl in wich the author, a pyschologist from Vienna, discusses life in concentration camps and what he learned from the experience. I posted a review on January 18, 2011. The book has influenced me since I was taught about it in 2nd year university 42 years ago. His observation that the inmate who lost “faith in the future – his future – was doomed” is a powerful statement on the importance of hope.

I have not read Frankl's book, but I have read all about it many times. I have gleaned from what I read that one important aspect of survival was the interaction and humanity among the prisoners.

From one anecdote, I learned that on Frankl's birthday, a fellow inmate had given him a pencil stub and matchbook so he could write. What an incredible kindness amidst that horror. 

Kathy D.: I hope you get a chance to read the book. It can change the way you think about life.

I have read a great deal about Frankl's book. I may or may not read it. I try to steer clear of reading about the horrors of WWII, which is why I don't read novels set during the war. I know enough. As a 5-year-old living in New York, my friend's lovely parents had numbers on their arms.
Her mother looked so sad and gaunt. Her eyes looked haunted. I noticed this at that age, and also knew that she was a kind person to her child and her friends.

I asked my parents about the numbers on the adults' arms, and I was told by my Jewish mother enough that I could grasp at that age. By 9, I knew about the Holocaust enough to talk about it.

Sara Paretsky's latest excellent book, "Critical Mass," harks back to 1938-1942 Vienna in the Jewish ghetto, and mentions the deportation of the characters, except the grandchildren who were able to go to London. The adults could not get visas, and we know what happened then.

The book does describe a few horrors, enough for me. What sane people who care about humanity cannot in their wildest dreams think of, the Nazis did.

So, it's not distraction for me or entertainment, what I expect of crime fiction.

Kathy D.: I would not be afraid to read Frankl's book. What happened in the camps was awful. Frankl takes us into the minds of those who were there and challenges us on how to live our current lives and deal with bad times.

I am angry each time I read how the Nazis were so brutal and caused so much suffering and loss. At the same time I admired how Frankl developed a philosophy of life out of those terrible circumstances.

Frankl was in Vienna during the years of 1938 - 1942. The book delves into why he stayed.
Thank you Kathy for your thoughtful and thought provoking comments. You have made my blog better through your comments.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Comparing the Recounting of a Real Life and a Fictional Flight

In both Hornet Flight and Hitler’sSavage Canary, reviews of which have been my last two posts, there are flights from Denmark during WW II. This post will discuss the similarities and differences between the real life and fictional flights. For anyone likely to read Hornet Flight it is best not to read the rest of this post as it is bound to contain spoilers. 

In Hitler’s Savage Canary, the non-fiction story, Thomas C. Sneum was a Royal Danish Fleet Arm fighter pilot who wanted to escape to England from occupied Denmark so that he could join the war against the Nazis. 

Originally he wanted to fly to England so he could deliver information on a German radar base that was detecting English aircraft. Rather than wait to personally take the information Sneum found another means to send it to England. 

In Hornet Flight, Follett’s work of fiction, young Harald Olufsen has film of the German installation that must urgently reach London. The only way he can get the information in time is by flying to England. 

Looking through government records Sneum found there were 25 privately owned planes still in Denmark. Sneum approached Poul Andersen, a dairy farmer near Odense, about buying his Hornet Moth plane. Andersen, upon learning Sneum’s plans, agreed he could take the plane. 

Olufsen finds his plane through his connections with the Duchwitzes, a wealthy Jewish banking family, who have their own Hornet Moth. 

With his plane quite severely damaged Sneum, with the aid of a friend and a mechanic from Copenhagen and a shop in Odense, secretly repaired the plane over three weeks. The repairs were made next to an encampment of German soldiers. 

Olufsen repairs the fictional plane, less damaged than the actual plane, with the aid of the lovely Karen Duchwitz. 

Shortly after midnight on June 21, 1941 Sneum and Keld Petersen, a fellow Naval pilot who was accompanying Sneum, took the plane out of its hangar and rolled it by the sleeping Germans to get to a field from which they could take off. 

In the major departure from real life it is Karen who will pilot the plane and Olufsen be the passenger. To add to the drama she has a sprained foot and he will have to help fly the plane though he has no pilot’s training.
Sneum sought to time the starting of the airplane engine and take off with an approaching train. As they lifted off they were too low to clear a power line so Sneum flew underneath the line. 

Some German soldiers saw them but, probably thinking the Danish crosses painted on the plane, were Luftwaffe crosses they did not open fire. 

Olufsen and Duchwitz take off in a far more exciting way with German soldiers and Danish police physically trying to stop them and guns being fired. 

With but a page torn from an atlas, a compass and the North Star to guide them once they left Danish air space Sneum and Petersen headed for England.

Duchwitz and Olufsen rely solely on a compass reading they have worked out to take them to England.

Detected by radar a German fighter plane was sent up after Sneum and Petersen but it could not find them.

A German night fighter encounters the fictional plane but is unable to shoot down the little plane darting in and out of the clouds.

When the carburettors iced up and the engine was failing Sneum and Petersen dived to within a few hundred feet of the ocean before the engine started up again.

Olufsen and Duchwitz have the same terrifying experience. Follett does not need to do more than describe the incident to achieve dramatic effect. Had I not read of the icing up and unfreezing taking place in real life I would have thought the scene exaggerated.

Sneum re-fueled the plane by stepping out onto the lower wing of the biplane and running a siphon into the fuel tank. Using the extra fuel they had stored Petersen managed to get fuel into the tank.

Olufsen equally leaves the cockpit to add fuel. Follett adds a couple of twists to heighten the tension.

Six hours after take off both intrepid duos arrived in England.

I was surprised by how closely Follett followed the true life story in Flight of the Hornet. It is probably a sign of his skill as a writer in that he recognized there was enough drama in the flight that he need not embellish it a great deal.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hitler’s Savage Canary by David Lampe

18. – 765.) Hitler’s Savage Canary by David Lampe (1957) – The book is not a conventional chronological history of the Danish Resistance during WW II. Lampe writes about a subject or theme in each chapter.

In the opening chapter titled “Paper Bullets” he discusses a form of Resistance far from the traditional images of bombs and bullets. Through the Occupation there were underground newspapers published across Denmark. A secret news service, Information, was established that put out frequent bulletins, 575 in all, that were sent out to “eighteen illegal newspapers all over Denmark”.

There is a chapter on the rescue of Torben Ørum, a Danish Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel, rightly considered by the Germans to have set up a spy network. He is sentenced to a lengthy term in jail. Unhappy that Denmark did not have capital punishment the German authorities were planning to take him back to Germany where he will be executed. A Danish Resistance group carried out a clever scheme to save him. While Ørum is in the Copenhagen Military Hospital members of the group overpower his guards. After disguising Ørum they plan to walk out of the hospital. As they near the entrance another member of the Resistance creates a distraction by dropping a bottle of pills. Wearing the cap of a Customs Officer Ørum greets a Gestapo man on the docks and walks on to a Customs cruiser that takes him to safety in Sweden.

There is a fascinating chapter on how a group of doctors were instrumental in helping Danish Jews flee Denmark for Sweden. To assist in the costs of the program they solicited donations from businesses and wealthy individuals that eventually totalled over 1,000,000 kroner. Jewish men, women and children were gathered in hospitals and transported by the Red Cross and sent to Sweden on small boats. They succeeded in helping about 2,000 of the 7,200 Danish Jews reach Sweden. The doctors did not have a single person lost during their transport operations.

I had not known that the Danes kept track of the 570 Jews who were captured and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Discovering they could send food and clothing parcels to them a secret government fund was used for Danish government officals to send parcels to individual Danish Jews in the camps. The book states only about 50 Danish Jews of the 570 died in the camp.

The actions of the Danish people with regard to their Jewish populations illustrate how much more could have been done by other Western European countries with regard to their Jewish populations.

Yet another chapter sets out how the Danes dealt with secret radios. They had been sent radios by the English that were bulky and not operating on the electrical current used in Denmark. Arne Duus-Hansen, an engineer at Bang og Olufsen, invented a radio “smaller than a London telephone directory, worked on both alternating and direct current, used valves that could be replaced with those in almost any Danish home wireless, transmitted on all the frequencies assigned to the Danish Resistance, weighed only three pounds, and had twice the power output of the British-built transmitters”.

It is a book about the accomplishments of the Danish Resistance rather than a critical look at the Resistance. It spends little time on the issue that the Resistance did little to directly confront the German occupiers until three years into the Occupation in 1943.

In visiting the Danish Resistance Museum in Copenhagen I saw challenging exhibits on how much Denmark co-operated or colloborated with the Germans for those 3 years. The word “collaboration” is so emotionally charged.

Mark Mazower, in Hitler’s Empire, recognizes there were reasons why a more violent Resistance did not take place in Western Europe. While wanting to limit casualities in occupied countries the British, for political reasons, did not want large Resistance organizations that could challenge the exile governments that had been established in England. As well, the harsh reprisals of the Germans to Resistance actions in France discouraged the Resistance in other countries.

Hitler’s Savage Canary is an interesting and informative book.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hornet Flight by Ken Follett

Hornet Flight by Ken Follett (2002) – Last Christmas my son Michael, who had just returned from a semester of law school at the University of Copenhagen on exchange from the University of Calgary, knowing my long term interest in WW II gave me this book and Hitler’s Savage Canary by David Lampe as Christmas presents. I have now completed both books.

In this post will be my review of Hornet Flight. I will follow up with a post reviewing Hitler’s Savage Canary. I will go on with a post about the fictional flight and a real life flight from Denmark to England. I will close the quartet of posts with a post on a series of comments regular commenter, Kathy D., and I exchanged some time ago concerning the Resistance in WW II occupied Europe.

Hornet Flight opens in the spring of 1941. England has survived the Blitz and is looking to hit back at Germany with its only offensive weapon – heavy bombers – but the bombing campaign is not going well because the Nazis appear to be able to electronically track the bombers. While the English do not believe the Germans are ahead of them in the development of radar they do not know how the bombers are being targeted. With losses mounting to unsustainable levels Churchill orders British intelligence to find out how the Germans are finding the bombers.

In Denmark the population is adjusting to life under their German occupiers. Most are going about their lives as they did before Germany took over the country. Some have joined a Resistance movement which is gradually becoming organized. Others are Danish Nazis.

Harald Olufsen is a high school student who has grown up on the island of Sande just off the west coast of Denmark near Morelunde. His father, Bruno, is the pastor of the island church. His congregation has moved from Evangelical Lutheranism to a more “uncompromising puritanism”. Harald’s older brother, Arne, is a flying instructor in the Danish Army Aviation Troops. With his love of jazz Arne is drifting away his father’s religion.

Arne is engaged to Hermia Mount. She is English and spent several years in Denmark before the war. Now in England she is in British Intelligence. She has set up the Nightwatchmen, one of the first Resistance networks in Denmark. Uneasy that Arne’s gregarious personality is unsuited to intelligence work she has not recruited him.

After learning of Churchill’s directive Mount seeks to assist in determining how the Germans are locating the bombers.

Karen Duchwitz is a lovely young Jewish ballet student. Her wealthy banker father still has his businesses and estate. She knows Harald and Arne through her brother.

Copenhagen police officer, Peter Flemming, has also grown up on Sande. A dedicated and ambitious officer he is not a Nazi but sees the way to advance during the war is to be of service to the Germans.

When word reaches him that a flight to Sweden will contain a package with secret information he acts swiftly to intercept the flight. What he finds sets off a complex interaction between the characters as the British seek the Nazi secret and Flemming diligently pursues members of the Resistance as he considers them criminals.

While the book is over 500 pages Follett keeps up the pace of the plot. I never dragged in the reading of the book and enjoyed the characters. They are better developed than in many thrillers.

It is a thriller that does not have the book littered with bodies. While there is not a heavy body count Follett, in his usual style, has characters die that most thriller writers would not kill off.

I appreciated the fictional look into life in Denmark during the Occupation. It is a very good thriller that does not strain the reader’s credibility.

As with every book I read about European Resistance I wonder what I would have done had I been lived in Occupied Europe during WW II.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Analyzing the Fictional Lawyers of Spring Legal Mystery Reading

A week long jury trial that has turned into a trial longer than a week has taken me away from blogging for a few days. I expect life to allow me more blogging time by the middle of the week.

Also keeping me away from the blog was a trip to Alberta last weekend to attend the graduation banquet from law school for our younger son, Michael. We spent the weekend in Banff where the banquet was held. Spring in the Rockies has been as late as Saskatchewan. It snowed most of the weekend in the mountains. The banquet was a wonderful event. (A year ago Michael provided a guest post review on One-L by Scott Turow which is a barely fictionalized account of Turow’s 1st year law experience at Harvard.)

In my last post I set out the primary 13 lawyers in the 7 legal mysteries I read during what I had thought would be spring.

Out of the group there were 2 prosecutors, 6 defence counsel, 4 civil litigators and 1 articling student (in Canada law school graduates must spent a year of apprenticeship called articling before they can gain admission to the bar).

While not intentional I wonder if I, unconsciously as a defence counsel in the criminal cases in which I am involved, looked to books featuring lawyers defending those accused of crimes. I certainly relate better to defence lawyers than prosecutors.

Out of the 4 lawyers in civil cases 3 of them represented plaintiffs. Only 1 lawyer, David Sloane in The Jury Master, acted for defendants. My practice also includes civil court cases. Where the parties are individuals I represent both plaintiffs and defendants. When the cases involve large corporations or governments I will be on the plaintiffs side of the courtroom.

The books do a good job of showing that the personalities of lawyers are reflected in their court personas.

Brian Pomeroy and John Brovak in Kill All the Lawyers by William Deverell are larger than life characters whose private lives are filled with crises. In court they are the classic Hollywood lawyers relishing the dramatic moment.

Steve Solomon, featured in Paul Levine’s Solomon & Lord series, is flamboyant and funny in and out of court. While Solomon is over the top in his fictional courtroom humour there is wit in real life courtrooms. In the tension of a court case all involved may find humour. Often it is not as funny when repeated as it is the humour of the unexpected moment rather than a planned joke.

Rarely on T.V. or in the movies do we see a quietly effective lawyer guiding his or her client’s case through the legal system. They do appear in books where their subtler skills can be better expressed.

Jonathan Klein in Defending Jacob by William Landay is a defence counsel who does not dazzle with verbal pyrotechnics. At the same time he will be the lawyer to find the case for a legal argument that can provide victory.

Godfrey Higgs, the defence counsel in Who Killed Sir Harry by Eric Minns, is the fictional and real life name of the lawyer who successfully defended Sir Alfred de Marigny in 1943 in the Bahamas. Higgs, unlike Steve Solomon winging it in the courtroom, carefully built up the information to allow him to impeach the credibility of a supposed Miami fingerprint expert in the Bahamian murder trial.

Victoria Lord dresses conservatively and prepares obsessively. She functions well in court cases which proceed essentially to the lawyer’s plan. She does find it harder to adjust her strategy in the middle of the trial.

What I regret in my spring legal mystery reading is that only 2 of the 13 fictional lawyers were women and none of the 7 authors was a woman. Should I embark on another spring legal mystery reading season in 2015 I will look for female authors and fictional lawyers.