Summer Reading — Books Fit for the Season, Part 2
- Thursday, June 03, 2010
The story was told, incompletely, in the film "The Man Who Wasn't There," and has been the subject of considerable speculation and legend. Now, Ben Macintyre of the The Times [London], author of Agent Zig-Zag, tells the whole story — and what a story it is.
Macintyre gained access to the papers of Ewen Montagu, the mastermind of the operation. He was able to put the story together with details never before known. It is a page-turner that is better than fiction. As Macintyre relates: "The plan was born in the mind of a novelist and took shape through a most unlikely cast of characters: a brilliant barrister, a family of undertakers, a forensic pathologist, a gold prospector, an inventor, a submarine captain, a transvestite English spymaster, a rally driver, a pretty secretary, a credulous Nazi, and a grumpy admiral who liked fly-fishing." As has been said, truth is stranger than fiction.
One by one, Hitler's key advisers were being drawn into the deception, either by access to the documents themselves or through independent "confirmation," as the same intelligence arrived by other routes: Canaris, Jodl, Kaltenbrunner, Warlimont, von Roenne. By May 20, Mussolini "had come round to the same view." A collective willingness to believe seems to have gripped the upper reaches of the Nazi war apparatus, driven by Hitler's own belief. It takes a brave man to stand up to the boss in such circumstances. The men around Hitler were not made of such stuff.
10. S. C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History (New York: Scribner).
Empire of the Summer Moon caught me by surprise. Sam Gwynne tells the story of the battle between the white settlers and the Comanches, the most fearsome and skilled warriors of the Native American tribes. He takes his readers into frontier life in the "Comancheria," most of which is in modern-day Texas. Time and time again, soldiers and settlers would learn the lessons of the Comanches the hard way as the war continued from 1836 to 1875. Like the ancient Spartans, the Comanches trained their sons to do one thing — to be warriors. Comanche boys rode horses bareback by age 6. As Gwynne remarks, "No tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second." By the middle of the nineteenth century, this much was clear — either the Comanches would be defeated or the westward expansion would be stopped dead.
But as well as Gwynne tells this story, what makes Empire of the Summer Moon so enthralling is his telling of the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a nine-year-old member of the pioneering Parker clan, who was taken as a hostage in a massacre. She became known as the "White Squaw" of the Comanches, refusing to go back to her native world until captured by Texas Rangers. She became the mother of Quanah, the most fearsome and legendary of the Comanche warriors and leader of the Quahadis, their most savage band — a man never defeated in battle who became the crucial leader for the transition of the Comanches in a new age. Empire of the Summer Moon tells a story that will not only captivate the reader, but will reveal a largely unknown dimension of the nation's history.
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