The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles, Book 2
ISBN: 9781514490112, an e-book history/thriller (Rev. Date: 05/20/2016 Xlibris 18887954274) by Ronald E. Yates.
Plot: Ted Sayles is recounting from journals of his grandfather William (Billy) Fitzroy Raglan Battles as this fundamentally journalistic newspaperman encounters endless adventure in the waning years of the 19th and early years of the 20th Century, the era of intense attempts to extend colonialism. The reader is informed that Book 1 covered the first thirty-three years of Billy’s life from the time he is a wide-eyed eager teen from Lawrence, Kansas who, although employed as a newsman, also became a Deputy U.S. Marshall involved in a shoot-out with an outlaw gang and tragically loses of his dearly beloved wife after only a few short years. In this second book the reader finds that Billy, in utter despair has deserted his four-year-old daughter, his mother and his dead wife’s loving parents and boarded the S.S. China to ‘loose himself’ in the ‘mysterious orient’. Here he meets the ravishing but intimidating Baroness Katherina von Schreiben, a widow travelling to visit her brother who has a hugely successful mahogany export business in the Philippines. She is being followed by a German intelligence agent because of the manner/cause of her husband’s death and because she purportedly is carrying missing governmental secret documents. The man following her is Oskar Eichel, coincidentally a former Pinkerton man who had been assigned earlier to investigate Billy because of the manner in which one of the gangsters had ‘disappeared’. The Baroness is desperate, confides in Billy that she had killed her husband, but had not murdered him. From this excitingly complicated beginning, the author takes the reader on a journey involving war and/or action in Hawaii, the Philippines, French Indochina, Hong Kong, several cities in the United States and in Germany and other parts of Europe.
Discussion: This is a story covering a most interesting era in history when the ‘developed nations’, as well as the relatively newly formed United States were attempting to expand their control over the rest of the world. The most obvious, and for the subjected countries the most devastating results, were the death, destruction and pain suffered by the inhabitants. All the while these extremely poorly disguised attempts to ‘bring enlightenment’ to the natives of Hawaii, Indochina, Philippines and the rest were nothing more than crass desire to exert power and acquire the riches existing in these countries.
The author of this series is an extremely well-qualified and multi-awarded journalist who has experienced countless hours of activity in the many far-flung areas described in his books. Furthermore he has provided an interesting fictional scenario whose main thread is fascinating and to a large extent totally credible. The bold effrontery of the United States in their Philippine activity is most appropriately presented, as is the hint of that so disgracefully exhibited in Hawaii and Indochina. Although I have not read Book1, I assume the author, with his obvious sentiments, similarly must have made at least some allusions to this country’s treatment of the American Indian and to the problems encountered by the Tejanos who had helped the United States in the Mexican War (which also was an engineered ‘land grab’) and were so badly treated in part because the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo never had been ratified. He also, as would be expected, has presented this material in a very well written manner. His description of the specifics of the thoughts and action patterns of the individuals involved is nicely depicted although this reader is ‘not convinced’ with respect to the thought patterns behind some of that set forth particularly by the protagonist. Further, the story is perfectly set forth if the reader prefers to learn his/her history in the less rigid structuring provided by a fictional presentation. Unfortunately the reader who is looking more specifically for an entertaining novel will find here numerous hiccups where judicious editing would have contributed to retaining the well-paced level of activity evident in large portions of the story
Summary: A historical novel for readers who enjoy learning history in a less structured manner. Regrettably at least for this reader, judicious editing would provide a much smoother and enhanced pace and enjoyment.
3* 5* Provocatively well-written historical novel; judicious editing would enhance pace/enjoyment.