Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Book Review: “Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Henry Hemming (http://henryhemming.com) published the book “Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II” in 2019. Mr. Hemming has published seven books. 

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The story begins as WWII breaks out in Europe. 

In the late 30s, there were strong antiwar and isolationist sentiments in the US. This persisted well after the Nazis invaded Poland. One of the most vocal in these feelings was the air hero and personality, Charles Lindberg. Both Germany and the UK began propaganda efforts to sway the US.  

This book is the story of Canadian William ‘Bill’ Stephenson. Germany was pressing its attack on the UK. Churchill and the government came to believe that their only hope was to bring the US into the war as an ally. MI6 recruited Stephenson and sent him to New York. He became head of the station there. His mission was to sway US public opinion in favor of joining the British.  

Stephenson built up a large organization in New York. He brought in workers from both Canada and the UK. An early mission was to sway the 1940 election. They took extreme measures to see President Roosevelt reelected for a third term. There was also a lot of behind-the-scenes work to expedite the Lend-Lease Act. The MI6 office worked to see William J. ‘Bill’ Donovan named as the US Coordinator of Information (COI) in 1941. This agency evolved during the war into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and after the war into the CIA.

The US had no centralized intelligence organization. The British believed that one was needed and helped to organize the young agency. The Stephenson organization spent most of its efforts towards changing American opinions. This involved overcoming the isolationist attitude. Promoting an interventionist policy was critical to the survival of the UK. 

I enjoyed the 8.5+ hours I spent reading this 401-page WWII era history. Until I read this book I had no idea the extent that the British and Germans had gone to in WWII to sway US public opinion. Recent allegations of foreign government involvement in elections are nothing new. The author also brings up a few very interesting but unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. While the book is full of detail, it remains very readable. I like the selected cover art. I give this book a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

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


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 550 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author and historian James Holland (https://www.griffonmerlin.com/) published the book Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France in 2019. Mr. Holland has published more than a dozen non-fiction books as well as nine novels. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of violence. The book gives a detailed history of D-Day in 1944 and the ensuing battle for Normandy. 

This book begins with preparations for D-Day. If follows several individuals over the course of the battle. As you would expect the book includes the stories of Americans, British, and Canadians. In addition, there are tales of both French and Germans as well. Most of the personal accounts are of soldiers in combat, but it also includes the experience of a nurse too.  

The book goes into the planning and training in preparation for D-Day. It also covers the logistics of supporting the invasion forces. It is long and filled with many details. That said it is also very readable. D-Day occurred more than 75 years ago, yet Holland makes reading history as exciting as a thriller.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 20+ hours I spent reading this 805-page WWII history. This is the second book of Holland’s that I have read. The other was Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II. I enjoyed them both and I look forward to reading some of his other works. In particular, I enjoyed reading some of Holland’s perspectives on the battle. I like the chosen cover art. I give this book a 5 out of 5.

Besides his books, Holland is the co-host of the “We Have Ways of Making You Talk” podcast. This show features Holland and comedian Al Murray. They discuss anything and everything related to WWII. It is one of the many podcasts I follow and I recommend it.

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


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 550 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “The Hitler Years: Triumph, 1933-1939”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author and historian Frank McDonough (http://proffrankmcdonough.com) published the book “The Hitler Years: Triumph, 1933-1939” in 2021. Professor McDonough has published more than a dozen books. 

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘PG. The book covers the period between 1933 and 1939. Adolf Hitler ascends during this period becoming the undisputed leader of Nazi Germany.

The book was an interesting read. It covers the politics and intrigue that went on in 1930s Germany. It follows Hitler as he is appointed Chancellor then as he is named the Fürher. Hitler was brutal to those that opposed him. Many opponents were arrested, beaten, or sent to the camps. Some just disappeared.

Hitler won over the population by creating jobs and stimulating the economy. He and the Nazis used the common sentiment against the Jews. Many felt the Jews were responsible for WWI and for the economic situation. He first drove them out of their positions then gathered them for the camps. Hitler was a clever politician during these early years. He used threats and political arrangements to achieve his goals. He used political maneuvering to bully and intimidate various powers of Europe.

I enjoyed the 16 hours I spent reading this 496-page history. While this book was very academic and full of details, it was also very readable. There was far more political maneuvering during these years than I had realized. I do like the chosen cover art. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

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


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 540 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Albert Speer – Escaping the Gallows: Secret Conversations with Hitler’s Top Nazi”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author and historian Adrian Greaves published the book “Albert Speer – Escaping the Gallows: Secret Conversations with Hitler’s Top Nazi” in 2021. Mr. Greaves has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books. This latest book has just been released. 

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The book tells the story of Albert Speer, Hitler’s Architect and the German Minister of Armaments. 

The book goes through Speer’s early life and the growth of the Nazi party. It sheds a different light on Speer. The author was a newly commissioned British Army Lieutenant when he met Speer. Greaves’ first assignment in 1961 was as one of the Guard Commanders at Spandau prison. He served three years in that post. While serving there Greaves became acquainted with Speer sharing many long conversations. The book is a combination of those conversations and other historical data. 

At one time Adolf Hitler considered Speer a close confidant. Speer had joined the Nazi party in 1931. He became Hitler’s favorite architect. He was later appointed as Minister of Armaments in 1942. He had somewhat fallen out of favor by the end of the war. The leading figures of Nazi Germany were tried at Nuremberg after the war. Unlike the others, Speer escaped execution earning only a 20-year sentence. He maintained his innocence of war crimes. He claimed that he had known nothing about the Holocaust and other atrocities 

Speer repeated these claims to the author and throughout the rest of his life. Speer was released from Spandau in 1966 having served his full 20-year sentence. In the years after his release, he wrote three books. Two were autobiographical books while the other was about Himmler and the SS. After Speer’s death in 1981 evidence began to surface linking Speer to the Holocaust.

I enjoyed the 6 hours I spent reading this 192-page WWII history. I had of course heard about Speer, but I learned a great deal more about him from this book. He appears to have been very smart and cunning. The story rambles along at times, but I found it interesting. I do like the selected cover art. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

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


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 540 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Texas Military Forces Museum – Hands On History 2021

{see my other TMFM related posts) – As restrictions are being relaxed following COVID-19 the Texas Military Forces Museum is once again able to host events. The first was the living history presentation of the Vietnam War on Memorial Day. The next event will be the annual Hands On History night.

While the museum is located on Camp Mabry, it is open to the public. A valid, unexpired form of identification with a picture must be presented to enter the post. Admission to the Museum is free. Those wanting early access at this event will pay $5. That would put you early in line to access the vehicles and talk to the living history crew. Here are detailed directions on how to get to the museum. 

Hands On History 2019

As the name implies many of the exhibits that normally can only be viewed will be available to touch. There will also be a contingent of the living history group on hand to show off their kit and answer questions. I had the opportunity to attend the last Hands On History night in 2019. I really enjoyed the evening. 

Hands On History 2019

If you are interested in history this is a unique opportunity to get closer to it.

Book Review: “An Englishman Abroad: SOE agent Dick Mallaby’s Italian missions, 1943–45”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Gianluca Barneschi published the book “An Englishman Abroad: SOE agent Dick Mallaby’s Italian missions, 1943–45” in 2019. 

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The story is set primarily in 1943-45 Italy. 

The book tells the story of British SOE agent Dick Mallaby. While the book does give details of his early life and his post-war life, it focuses on his war service. He spoke fluent Italian and was familiar with their culture as he had grown up in Italy. He joined the Army and trained as a radio operator. He served in North Africa while awaiting his mission. After a long wait and many false starts, he was flown to Italy. 

Mallaby was the first British SOE agent sent into Italy. He parachuted in, landing in Lake Como. Unfortunately, he was almost immediately captured. The British were unaware that Italian Intelligence had compromised the group he was to meet. He underwent questioning and torture but was able to use his skills to survive. In fact, he became a key player in the armistice negations with Italy. He aided the escape of Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III to Allied lines. 

Late in the war, he returned to northern Italy with the SOE. This time it was the Germans who captured him. He faced interrogation again but this time by the SS. Instead of the death sentence he was expecting he found himself saved. This time he helped negotiate the surrender of 800,000 Germans at the close of WWII. In recognition of his achievements, he received the Military Cross. 

I enjoyed the 6+ hours I spent reading this 260-page WWII history and biography. This is one of those true stories that is almost unbelievable. Mallaby went on two missions into Italy. He utterly failed in the missions of both. He was lucky, or perhaps skilled enough, to achieve success in other ways. He was the trained radio operator that was needed for negations. He should have faced a firing squad twice. He ended up making significant contributions to the Allied cause. I had never heard of Mallaby before I read this book. For a history book, this was very readable. The cover art is a little plain but does reflect on the story. I give this novel a 4.3 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

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


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 540 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: Abandoned World War II Aircraft, Tanks and Warships

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Chris McNab published the book “Abandoned World War II Aircraft, Tanks and Warships” in 2021. He has published dozens of books on the military.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The book contains over 200 photos with captions. The photos are of the current existing remains of WWII. Some photos are of fortifications. Other photos are of the remains of WWII aircraft, vehicles, and ships. Each chapter of the book is a different geographic region.

I enjoyed the 1.5+ hours I spent reading this 224-page WWII history. The book contains some very good photos. There were several fortifications shown that I had not heard of. Both Axis and Allied relics are depicted. It is amazing what can still be found if you are willing to work a little to get to it. I give this book a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

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


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 540 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “The Second World War Tank Crisis: The Fall and Rise of British Armour 1919–1945”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Dick Taylor will publish the book “The Second World War Tank Crisis: The Fall and Rise of British Armour 1919–1945” in 2021 (June 15). Mr. Taylor has published nearly 20 books.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The book goes into the history go British tanks and why they were so poor at the beginning of WWII. Production of British armor consistently had to take a second seat to aircraft.

The book lays out the technical details of its tanks. Tanks, especially good tanks, are costly. Britain had to make tough decisions on spending. Finances and manufacturing capacity had a heavy impact on tank design and production. Companies without much experience building armor often received contracts.

Tanks designed from WWI forward were analyzed. The evolution of the various designs is described. British manufacturers were too concerned with meeting production goals. They often sacrificed quality for quantity. Improvements, even when identified, were difficult to apply. Production could not be interrupted. It was not until late in the war that the British began to produce good tanks.

I enjoyed the 9+ hours I spent reading this 240-page WWII history. The book was very interesting. It was also very dry and academic making it a bit difficult to read I do like the chosen cover art. I give this book a 3.8 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

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


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 540 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Galileo: And the Science Deniers”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Mario Livio (http://www.mariolivio.com) published the book “Galileo: And the Science Deniers” in 2020. Dr. Livio has published seven books and numerous technical papers. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. This book, as the title implies, is a biography of Galileo Galilei. 

The book chronicles Galileo’s early life, his period of discovery, and the trials he later underwent. His ‘radical’ views on science contradicted Catholic Church doctrine. This led to his books being restricted and his censure. 

I enjoyed the 8.5 hours I spent reading this 283-page history. I knew the general story of Galileo. This book certainly delves deeper into his life. His discoveries and publications are discussed. The controversy he faced with the Church is covered in detail. This was a very dry and tedious read. From the title, I knew that the book addressed the science deniers from Galileo’s time. I was not expected to encounter commentary on today’s politics. I thought that this detracted from Galileo’s life story. I like the cover art used for this book. I give this book a 3.8 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

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

Book Review”Days of Steel Rain: The Epic Story of a WWII Vengeance Ship in the Year of the Kamikaze”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Brent E. Jones published the book “Days of Steel Rain: The Epic Story of a WWII Vengeance Ship in the Year of the Kamikaze” in 2021. This is his first book. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘PG’ because it contains some scenes of violence. The book tells the story of the light cruiser USS Astoria during the last year of WWII. 

The Astoria was a ‘vengeance ship’. The original USS Astoria (CS-34) had also been a cruiser. She was launched in December of 1933 and commissioned on April 28, 1934. She sank on August 9, 1942, after seeing action during the Battle of Savo Island. The USS Astoria (CL-90), the subject of this book, was launched on March 6, 1943, and commissioned on May 17, 1944. She was a vengeance ship because she was named after a prior ship lost in battle to the Japanese. 

The book tells the story of CL-90. It describes the background of her construction and the corresponding difficulties. The book first follows her shakedown cruise to the vicinity of Bermuda. Soon after she began operations with the Pacific Fleet. Most of Astoria’s war experience was as a carrier escort. 

U.S. Navy Captain George Dyer commanded the Astoria. He had to build the crew from what he was given. He had a few experience sailers, but most were fresh out of training or the rejects of other ships. In the months between commissioning and the end of the war, they became a tight and ready crew. It was at Okinawa where they faced their greatest challenge. It was there they faced their greatest challenge from the Japanese Kamikazes. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the 11.5+ hours I spent reading this 401-page WWII naval history. The author does a good job of working excerpts from crew written letters and journals into the story. I had never heard of using spotter planes for air-sea rescue until reading this book. Cruisers and battleships carried catapult-launched amphibious planes. The Astoria’s pilots made many a rescue. Captain Dyer faced more challenges than I would have expected. The demands of assembling and training up his crew were greater than I would have thought for 1944. I like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a 4.5 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

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



If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 530 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.