Sunday Book Reviews – 2/17/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Dismantling America by Thomas Sowell (2010, Basic Books)

Who does this call to mind? “No one – not even the President of the United States – has an entitlement to a “positive” response to his actions.”

How about “XXXXX YYYYY has made every mistake that was made by the Western democracies in the 1930s, mistakes that put Hitler in a position to start World War II – and come dangerously close to winning it. At the heart of those mistakes was trying to mollify your enemies by throwing your friends to the wolves.”

“Using human beings as mascots is not idealism. It is self-aggrandizement that is ugly in both its concept and its consequences.”

“People can get attention either from their accomplishments or from their deliberate attempts to get attention.”

Sowell’s book is a compendium of opinion columns he wrote in the late 2000s, and most of them are thoughtful attacks on Democrats and President Obama. Where he attacks them is in their philosophy and its results… and by providing his rationale, he makes strong cases. It is nothing short of astounding to realize how many of his columns could be run in today’s newspapers simply by changing “Obama” to “Trump”, “Democrat” to “Republican”, “Fox News” to “CNN” and “Iran” to “North Korea”.

In those areas where there is no reversal, the columns typically display the difference between rational honesty and prejudice. For example, Sowell makes a case against amnesty for illegal immigrants based primarily on the notion of respect for what I would describe as fundamental Americanism. We cannot continue to import people who are disinclined toward notions such as individual liberty and property rights. This is the opening salvo in a reasonable argument. The prejudicial argument is limited simply to “We cannot continue to import people.”

The book can be read simply to remind oneself of some of the many valid concerns which were front of mind while President Obama and a fully Democrat Congress were in control. It can also be read as a cogent rebuttal of President Trump and nearly all things the current Republicans in Congress are doing, in the style of Buckley vs. the John Birchers. It’s fascinating yet disconcerting to recognize its success on both levels.

The Wolf’s Hour by Robert R. McCammon (1989, Pocket Books)

For most of the 1980s and, to a lesser degree, into today, people have talked about “the next Stephen King”. He already exists, and his name is Robert R. McCammon.

McCammon made a name for himself by producing a series of exceptional books throughout the 1980s, gathering an ever-larger and more devoted fan base until suddenly abandoning writing in the early 1990s. Very few of his works were adapted for film; in that respect only, the “next Stephen King” mantle should be granted to Clive Barker. But as a writer, McCammon matched King novel for novel, typically producing better work.

He retired from writing after some particularly disturbing incidents with obsessed fans, only to return to publishing about a decade later.

The Wolf’s Hour was a showcase of some of the skills he’d developed over what was then a decade-long career. Part WWII spy thriller, part werewolf horror story, the book sets up an internal mythology around the traditional werewolf concept and works that into the structure of an Allied agent operating in Nazi-occupied France.

Along the way we are treated to an obligatory secret plan which can only be destroyed by the agent, interesting secondary characters and the personal development of the main character, Michael Gallatin. The writing is gripping, and even at more than 500 pages it manages to keep the reader engaged and interested.

The only book that leaps to mind which rivals Wolf’s Hour in form and scope would be Black Wind by F. Paul Wilson. For those familiar with Black Wind, that is high praise. One notable difference, however, is that McCammon has given readers further adventures of Gallatin in the form of novellas published in the collection The Hunter From the Woods. With any luck, he will revisit the character again.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.