A cold July in Cuba

A Cold July in Cuba ISBN: 9781599328560, Advantage Group, a biography/memoir copyright and written by Ray F. Ledon, M.D.

The author, a board certified physician in internal medicine and gastroenterology after serving as chief resident at UMDNJ is now a prominent member of that state’s medical community. His book, sub-titled “Recollections of My Father, the Revolutionary”, provides details of the trials and tribulations of his father, a physician renown for establishing the first Department of Anesthesiology in Cuba as he fought the corrupt administration of Batista, was apprehended, beaten, starved and threatened with death, saved miraculously to became Castro’s Minister of Health establishing services for the people throughout Cuba. Attempting to overlook the new regime’s anti-freedom activities that gradually but inexorably were ruining the lives of the very people they purportedly had attempted to save, he again became politically involved, participated in the poorly planned and executed Bay of Pigs invasion, and eventually escaped to Spain and then Canada. These are the memories of the young son who was old enough to establish a lasting bond with his father as he too was forced later to escape with his mother and younger sister and of the hard times he and they suffered devoid of a father until finally arriving at their present situations in life.

Discussion: This recounting of details of one family’s activities during the Cuban ‘revolutions’ must be accepted for what it is. Specifically, a number of readers will remember the endless accounts published at the time and subsequent books on the Cuban revolts. They were a prominent part of any American’s life for several years creating intense interest. Thus, if a reader is looking for anything ‘new’, it is not to be found here. In fact, it would be unnatural for a young child, to understand the extent of corruption and associated factors present in his world. The author makes it quite clear that he has no intent other than to describe his recollections and how he and his family were affected by these catastrophic changes and how they came about in large part because of his father’s participation as a Cuban revolutionary. Also evident is the sub-consciously haunting but unallowable memory of a young boy with a loving attachment to a father who sacrificed a beautiful family relationship because of an overpowering love of his country followed by bad choices. Such repressive reaction is understandable because of his similar love of country and his early established bond with the father that had no subsequent replacement. Yet, according to the substance of this book, parts of the father’s subsequent activity seemingly still are somewhat difficult to keep from occasionally ‘peeking out of’ that suppressive capsule.

Summary: If you are a reader who enjoys memoirs, and especially those with interesting psychological undertones, this book is for you.

5* For memoir genre devotees an interesting psychological aspect.

Fallen to Tyranny

Fallen to TYRANY, From Mauthausen to Gulag ISBN: 9781477213707 (soft cover) Authorhouse publisher, a collection of personal memories by Thomas Z. Lajos.

Recently I received a gift of this small book written by a physician who was born and originally trained in Budapest. He escaped the Soviet troops in 1956 to Austria, Canada and finally the United States where he became a well-known and highly respected cardiovascular surgeon and Professor at New York State University there. The story is about his uncle, Dr. Ivan Lajos a true Hungarian patriot who was under constant attack first by the Nazis and then by Stalin’s regime. His offense? Being an outspoken visionary politician and patriot of untouchable integrity dedicated to his family and to his country and to its survival as such. As with many of those individuals who disagreed with the principles espoused by either of these regimes, many of the specifics of his interment and interrogations never have never come to light. Instead there are rumors, bits and pieces of his activity and other often only tangentially associated. However the author has done a remarkable job of piecing together what has been gleaned over the ensuing years and assembled into this book. Included are notes on the beginnings of trouble in Europe followed by the Nazi occupation and finally “Russian Liberation” in 1945. Particularly interesting is the fact that Ivan survived imprisonment in the infamous Nazi Mauthausen, only to be sentenced to fifteen years at hard labor in one of Stalin’s equally infamous Gulag’s, a.k.a. death camps. A chronological list of Ivan’s “Political Saga During and after the Events of WW II” also are included along with his bibliography and publications. Numerous illustrations are included with one particular map startlingly depicting the number and distribution of Stalin’s Gulags. Perhaps not so surprising since Stalin is accredited with killing more prisoners than even the Nazi’s.

Conclusion: An interesting quick read of how the patriots of another small European country fared during WW II and the subsequent shuffling between the major powers that often led to further tragedy.

5* A true martyr whose story should not be lost.

To Be Had

To Be Had ISBN: 9780473408855, ABSeeS (New Zealand) Publisher, an e-book by Sava Buncic.

The story follows the life and struggles of Boris, the product of a woman beaten down by a cruelly mentally abusive alcoholic husband who employs the same tactics with his son. Money always is a problem exacerbated as he retires with a small pension insufficient to support his drinking along with usual expenses. Boris does manage to obtain a law degree and gain employment as a part-time assistant to one of the two lawyers in his home town which is too small even to adequately support these. Thus, money also for him always is a problem complicated further by having married directly after leaving high school and his wife conceiving shortly after. He believed she should not obtain a job because it would ‘not send the proper message as wife of a practicing lawyer’. Concentrating on his mounting problems, he completely neglects his daughter, still refuses to allow his wife to work, and when his employer can no longer even afford him and terminates the position, he decides to move to a larger town for a position in a small firm. The wife and child are left behind until ‘he gains sufficient funds’ to establish a new home for them in the new city. Within a short time his life begins to totally unravel. The salary is barely sufficient to support the two residences, he becomes involved with a woman co-worker, almost completely ignores his wife and daughter, begins stock market trading, his father is incapacitated and mother requires money, his wife and daughter refuse even to talk with him, as a lawyer he becomes involved in land deals using trust money, his unlawful activity results in court appearances and loss of his ability to practice law. Desperate, he becomes a male prostitute where he does meet and become friends with Simona, the wife of a prominent politician. The establishment is raided and part of the fallout results in a financial windfall in a most unusual manner, but this only produces a lengthy mass of further complications as his unwise attempts expand. Ultimately, Simona again finds him and together they reestablish a relationship, he finds his now rather sadly partially mentally compromised daughter as a result of complications of her own and the story eventually proceeds to the small town in which it began.

Discussion: The story, through Boris’ actions, actually presents interesting illumination of several common fallacies in personal development; total self-interest, opportunistic behavior with at best fragmentary personal honor/ethics and little to no personal respect. Also interesting commentary on a number of social issues – the tendency for TV Reality shows to appeal as resulting from provision of excuses for similar tendencies within the audience; again, for the attraction presented by the subjects of such shows for some; for the only somewhat veiled persistence of ‘class distinction’ and its manifestations. Additionally positive is that Boris does exhibit persistent perseverance in the face of repetitive disasters. Other than these features, Boris’ performance is quite painful to follow. He never seemed able to acquired even the slightest ability to equate with people and only was marginally successful in general. His decisions often lack seemingly normal responses as does his attendant performance. With respect to mechanics of presentation, further judicious editing would greatly enhance the content.

Summary: This is the second book I have read by this author, and again must caution it has a distinct dystopian slant that will not appeal to the reader who is looking for enjoyment. However, individuals who like tales of the less enjoyable aspects of life, mostly self-created, with additional commentary on some of the not so subtle aspects of social intercourse will find To Be Had to their liking.

3* 4* For certain type of readers.

Sketches of a Black Cat

Sketches of a Black Cat ISBN: 9781535054881 Riverdale Press, a biography by Ron Miner.

This is the “Story of a night flying WW II pilot and artist” written by his son in a forthright manner. It chronicles the daily experiences of his father and the group of men who participated heroically in the largely unknown and little recognized but extremely necessary activities of disrupting enemy supply lines and rescue of downed flyers at sea. Occasionally additional bombing of enemy targets and similar duties also were assigned. And because their ‘flying boat’ PBY’s were not easily maneuverable and of slow airspeed, their missions were flown almost exclusively at night throughout the Pacific. The author states: “This book is built primarily around my father’s words and writings and gleaned from his extensive collection of documents, news clippings, war records, and keepsakes. My aim has been to remain true to his voice…” He departs from this only where: “I felt a particular reference or anecdote might benefit from additional clarification, expanding, or the simple weaving in of a little history for context. Where this required research, I have tried to include and give credit to those sources.”

This is a biography where, unlike many, it has been relatively well written and paced so it reads like a novel and provides recall of action associated with names such as Tinian, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Tarawa, Leyte and more for those few who remember, and an introduction for those who are interested in the history of the early days of war in the Pacific Theatre and a little remembered part of aviation. A few unfortunate parts of the presentation are that the pictures often are difficult to see and fewer than expected and a disconcerting concurrent presentation of a caption often running alongside of the main dialogue. Otherwise, you will not be disappointed.

4* Biography that reads like a novel but with minor disappointments

Escape from Injustice

Escape from Injustice, an e-book published, Copyright and written by Warne Wilson.

The story is preceded by a quote from Joseph Campbell: “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us” followed by a prologue describing an incident that occurred in 1850’s Ballarat, Southern Australia. Combined they provide the basic theme and setting for this book of the early developing country. The protagonist is John Lille, a 17-year-old college student with plans to graduate the following year, read law at Cambridge and join his barrister father’s practice in London. Unfortunately, he has an altercation with a classmate on a walk into town and although he only defended himself when attacked by his companion, the boy falls striking his head on a tree root and dies. Faced with imprisonment and probable hanging resultant from accusation by the boy’s vengeful father who threatens to produce a witness to outright murder, he flees with help from his father. Aboard ship to Australia, he makes friends with his barrister roommate and a very lovely young girl travelling with her mother from Ireland. He also learns to respect the reciprocal honor and trust that develops among the uneducated seamen who so constantly share recurring dangers. The relationship between John and Bernadette secretly blossoms and the two enter a partnership upon arriving in Melbourne. With help from his barrister friend he finds employment that leads to land speculation with his partner Bernadette, advances to a search for gold with additional partners who were members of the ship’s crew who had decided to take a run at prospecting. Now physically involved as well as partners with Bernadette, his life begins to take many turns that propel him and his friends through many adventures.

The author has set forth a tale that provides fascinating accounts of the scrambles for land acquisition in the newly developing country, the details of various steps in mining, the development of friction between the miners and the governing body and even interesting details of the differences between Catholicism and the Anglican Church and the demand for strict adherence required at that early time. It also is replete with constant setbacks for John along with the repetitive appearance of factors that might expose him as an escaped prisoner.

In summary, the author has presented an appealing tale in a well-written fashion with believable characters moving forward at a pleasant pace and has done so in a manner of writing that somehow, at least for this reader, recalls writers of an earlier age – a charming touch.

5* Charmingly presented historical fictional biography.

Active Goodness

Active Goodness ISBN: 9788494754838, Kwill Books, an e-book by Edward Abel Smith.

The author has provided a remarkable “true story of how Trevor Chadwick, Doreen Warriner & Nicholas Winton rescued thousands from the Nazis.” And, following a direct quote from Winton, “There is a difference between passive goodness and active goodness. The latter is, in my opinion, the giving of one’s time and energy in the alleviation of pain and suffering. It entails going out, finding and helping those who are suffering and in danger and not merely leading an exemplary life, in a purely passive way of doing no wrong”, he embarks upon a minutely detailed description of the horrendous job assumed and brought to fruition by these courageous and self-sacrificing individuals. Most interestingly, and quite lacking frequently in similar stories, is the ‘closure’ offered to the reader in the concluding chapters by providing the subsequent activities of the protagonists as well as that of many of their ‘saved ones’. The mechanics of presentation actually are quite scholarly in that biographical details are set forth in a fairly straightforward manner supported by a large number of references. Simultaneously however, the author has managed to present the protagonists and many of the other characters in a manner that makes them ‘come alive’ so considerable empathy is engendered within the reader. A few proofing errors do not interfere with the flow of the tale.

Conclusion: The substance of this book perhaps is most succinctly described by A, Mann: “To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is Godlike.” Specifically, it presents historical interlocking biographies of somewhat disparate individuals in an authentic, yet remarkably empathetic presentation aficanados most certainly will enjoy.

5* Empathetically presented historical interlocking biographies of remarkable individuals.