Old habit—I’m back to multi-tasking when it comes to pleasure reading. Friends ask if it’s possible to keep several books separate when reading multiple authors.
It takes some mental gymnastics with two or more books. On my nightstand:
John Sandford’s latest effort—Holy Ghost, the eleventh in his Virgil Flowers series about a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent with ties to Sandford’s Prey character, Lucas Davenport. Set in Wheatfield, a slice of Midwest America, Flowers arrives to hunt an elusive sniper terrorizing the small town. Coincidentally, the apparition of the Virgin Mary in a dying Catholic Church draws the faithful and jump-starts the town’s moribund economy. The mysterious shooter threatens both. Things escalate with a local matron’s killing in broad daylight. As usual, the lusty Flowers has hands full and Sandford’s tale is stocked with a carnival sideshow of colorful characters on both sides of the law.
Second in my stack is military historian Hampton Sides’s On Desperate Ground, a grim telling of the First Marine Division’s 1950 October-December invasion of Kim Il Sung’s North Korea. All had gone well in the beginning with September’s surprise amphibious landing at Inchon—a brilliant plan by General Douglas MacArthur to cut off the enemy and recapture South Korea’s capitol, Seoul. Covered with stardust, MacArthur returned to Tokyo’s spotlight after naming sycophantic general Ned Almond as X Corps commander and assuring President Truman that China would not join the fray. Off go Major General Oliver Smith’s 20,000 marines, one of three separate columns of UN forces—overwhelmingly American—that Almond orders into North Korea’s forbidding mountains. Led by the increasingly wary Smith, Marines march into a Chinese ambush at the infamous Chosin Reservoir. Battling 300,000 Chinese, Americans and their allies face a horrific fate. Cut off in sub-zero weather, the Marines run a bloody gauntlet to survive. Pages filled with gunfire, heroism, and frostbite tell of brutal combat in an alien land, and Side’s description of the fighting is riveting.
Also reading Ron Chernow’s Grant and Dr. Tom Combs’s Wrongful Deaths.