Category Archives: Biography

Review of “George Washington’s Secret Spy War”

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“George Washington’s Secret Spy War” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by John A. Nagy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Nagy). Mr. Nagy published 5 books, all of the history of the Revolutionary period.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The book covers the period in George Washington’s life from his time serving the British Military during the French and Indian War through the
Revolutionary War. A lot of time was spent with Washington’s spies, how he handled the intelligence they gathered, as well as how he attempted to mislead British spies.

This is a very scholarly assessment of how spies were used by Washington during the Revolutionary War. It is full of details – names, dates, and excerpts of letters. It is also well documented with a very large list of citations.

This was an interesting 7.5 hour read of 384 pages (the last 23% of the book is references). This Non-Fiction book is not one for light reading. It is very dry. While it is full of information, I found it choppy, repetitive and a bit daunting to read. It also seemed to stray into more revolutionary era history than just dealing with spy craft. Organizing it a little differently, and smoothing the writing out would have improved the book. I do think that the cover art was well chosen. I give this novel a 3.4 (rounded down to a 3) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe”

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“Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe” was published in 2016 (October) and was written by Robert Matzen (https://robertmatzen.com). This is Mr. Matzen’s seventh book.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set mostly in Hollywood, CA and England. As you would expect with a biography, the primary character is the subject, in this case James “Jimmy” Stewart.

The story begins when Stewart is in High school and follows him to Princeton University, and then to New York as be tries to start an acting career. He soon finds his way to Hollywood as an actor for MGM Studios. Stewart made many significant films in the five years he was part of the movie industry before World War II.

Always interested in aviation, Stewart had his own plane and by the time that the US seemed on the brink of entering the war with Germany, he had qualified for a commercial pilot license. He was drafted before the war broke out and because of his experience, became a training officer for bomber crews.

Stewart had a heritage of military service and he felt obliged to follow those footsteps. Rather than take the easy route of being a PR face for the military, he fought hard to become a combat flyer. Eventually he was able to travel to England with the unit he had been training and began combat bombing missions over occupied Europe.

Most of the book deals with the 4 plus years Stewart served in the active Army Air Corps. He went in as a recruit, received his officer commission when he was awarded his wings, and left active service after the end of World War II as a Colonel. His story serving as an officer in the 8th Air force parallels those of many others who flew in combat against Germany – Lack of sleep, miserable winters in England, sub-freezing flying conditions, constant threat of attack by the German Luftwaffe fighters and repeatedly flying through heavy flack to reach their targets.

The 16 months he was involved in combat took a toll on Stewart. Today he would be diagnosed with PTSD. He survived and returned to Hollywood, resuming his acting career with “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the just shy of 10 hours I spent with this 400 page Biography! I thought it might be on the dry side, but the story had a good pace to it. I have seen Stewart in dozens of movies and I knew he had an Air Force commission, but I had no idea of what he had gone through. I think that this book not only gives a brief view of Hollywood in the 1930’s, but an excellent view of the air war in Europe. I think that the cover was aptly chosen, though does not really hint at the extent of Stewart’s war experiences. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).