Reading List 2021

I spent a lot of time reading in 2021.

A friend gave me the book Zero Day by David Baldacci for Christmas 2020 so it was my first book for 2021. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought the next three books in the series. Later on in the year I discovered the Memory Man series and the Will Robie series.

The Memory Man series by David Baldacci has a fascinating main character. Amos Decker had a bad football head injury that, “left him with an improbable side effect–he can forget nothing.” Later in life he is a police detective. One day he came home to find his family had been murdered. A perfect memory turns out to be both a blessing and a curse. Most of us (especially as we get older) would love a perfect memory. However, Amos Decker has a few bad memories that he wishes that he did not remember in perfect detail. It does make him a hell of a detective and makes him excellent at questioning witnesses and identifying inconsistencies and connecting details.

Another new author for me this year was Colin Falconer. I clicked on a Facebook ad (book ads are one of the few I will click) for one of his books and was taken to Amazon.com. The summary of the story read,

The Holy Land, 1260: Templar knight, Josseran Sarrazini is chosen to escort the Pope’s emissary, a Dominican friar, on a diplomatic mission to the all-conquering Mongol horde in an effort to broker a peace deal. To do it, they must undertake one of the most extraordinary journeys ever made.

Silk Road: A haunting story of adventure, romance and courage

This sounded like a great adventure story to me!

I ended up reading three more books in the series. The book Aztec (renamed The Feathered Serpent) was fantastic! It’s the story of Hernan Cortes conquest of the Aztec nation. The book Lord of the Atlas turned out to be another favorite. The Amazon summary of the book says,

Marrakesh, 1893: Two former army officers are offered a small fortune to help the Sultan of Morocco quell a rebel uprising. It seems like the easiest money they’ll ever make. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Later on the summary says, “This is adventure on a breath-taking scale, evoking the beautiful and the barbaric of nineteenth-century Morocco, and transporting the reader to a now-lost world.” I agree!

I actually purchased The Bone Collector back on June 17, 2019 but never read it until 2021. I remembered it was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. I loved the book! Jeffery Deaver has Lincoln Rhyme using some fascinating forensic science techniques to solve crimes. A big part of his technique involved using database technology to catalog and match evidence samples. Throughout the year I eventually read the entire 14 book series. I also watched the movie and a new series based on the novels.

I really enjoyed the book A Ripple in Time by Victor Zugg. He seems a fairly new author on Amazon.com, with the first book listed only published in 2018. Amazon describes the story,

It started as a routine Miami to Charlotte flight for the passengers, crew, and Federal Air Marshal Stephen Mason. But a freak storm over the Atlantic propels the airliner unexplainably back in time to the early 18th century. They find themselves on the sparsely populated coast of the Carolina Colony.

A Ripple In Time: A Historical Novel Of Survival

It turned out to be a fantastic story and since then I have read several other novels by Victor Zugg.

The new Dune movie finally came out. Before it was released I read the book again (I have read it several times over the years). I gained a new appreciation of the challenges that a film producer had when telling this story. The novel Dune has an interesting structure. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from fictional books written by Princess Irulan and Paul Atreides. Some of the excerpts gave us background information that the screenplay writers have to find a different way to present it to the viewers. I really enjoyed the movie and am looking forward to part 2.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler was a recommendation from my friend’s fifteen year-old son. He read it for an assignment at school and really enjoyed the story. It turns out it was a time travel story. A black women from the 20th century named Dana gets transported back to the early 1800’s in Maryland. It was fantastic! She ends up traveling back and forth between 1976 and various years in the early 1800. Every time she seems to be sent back to save the son of a slave plantation owner named Rufus. The story was able to explore aspects of slavery in addition to comparing cultural norms and attitudes of people in the 1970’s and the early 1800’s.

I read the book Rendezvous with Rama before, but it was many years ago. When I saw there was a Kindle version I had to get it. Even thought Arthur C. Clark was a science fiction writer, he had a excellent grasp of the practical side of science. The Rama ship design concept of the enormous tube with the living area on the inside surface is brilliant. Having the craft rotate could provide the artificial gravity. The Star Trek Next Generation episode named Relics used a similar concept with the Dyson sphere where they enclosed a sun with a large sphere and the inhabitants lived on the inside surface.

I also read next book in the series which is named Rama II. Clark wrote this story in partnership with Gentry Lee. I think they did a better job with the drama and conflict between characters compared to Rendezvous with Rama.

  1. Zero Day (John Puller 1) – David Baldacci
  2. The Forgotten (John Puller 2) – David Baldacci
  3. The Escape (John Puller 3) – David Baldacci
  4. No Man’s Land (John Puller 4) – David Baldacci
  5. Silk Road – Colin Falconer
  6. Stigmata – Colin Falconer
  7. Aztec (renamed The Feathered Serpent) – Colin Falconer
  8. East India – Colin Falconer
  9. Toxin – Robin Cook
  10. Memory Man – (Memory Man Book 1) – David Baldacci
  11. The Innocent (Will Robie Book 1) – David Baldacci
  12. The Last Mile (Memory Man Book 2) – David Baldacci
  13. The Hit (Will Robie Book 2) – David Baldacci
  14. Tom Clancy’s Shadow of the Dragon (Jack Ryan Novel) – Marc Cameron
  15. The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme Book 1) – Jeffery Deaver
  16. The Fix – (Memory Man Book 3) – David Baldacci
  17. The Coffin Dancer – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 2) – Jeffery Deaver
  18. The Fallen – (Memory Man Book 4) – David Baldacci
  19. The Empty Chair – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 3) – Jeffery Deaver
  20. The Stone Monkey – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 4) – Jeffery Deaver
  21. Redemption – (Memory Man Book 5) – David Baldacci
  22. Code of Honor (Jack Ryan Novel) Marc Cameron
  23. Another Time, Another Place (Chronicles of St. Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor
  24. The Vanished Man – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 5) – Jeffery Deaver
  25. The Twelfth Card – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 6) – Jeffery Deaver
  26. Walk the Wire – (Memory Man Book 6) – David Baldacci
  27. The Cold Moon – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 7) – Jeffery Deaver
  28. The Broken Window – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 8) – Jeffery Deaver
  29. The Burning Wire – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 9) – Jeffery Deaver
  30. The Kill Room – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 10) – Jeffery Deaver
  31. The Skin Collector – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 11) – Jeffery Deaver
  32. The Steel Kiss – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 12) – Jeffery Deaver
  33. The Burial Hour – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 13) – Jeffery Deaver
  34. The Cutting Edge – (Lincoln Rhyme Book 14) – Jeffery Deaver
  35. Time Tourist Outfitters, LTD – Christy Nichols
  36. The Ferguson Rifle (re-read) – Louis L’Amour
  37. Fast Ice – Clive Cussler
  38. Lord of the Atlas – Colin Falconer
  39. The Lions of Lucerne – (Scott Halverth series #1) – Brad Thor
  40. Path of the Assassin – (Scott Halverth series #2) – Brad Thor
  41. State of the Union – (Scott Halverth series #2) – Brad Thor
  42. Blowback – (Scott Halverth series #4) – Brad Thor
  43. A Ripple in Time: A Historical Novel of Survival – Victor Zugg
  44. Aftermath – Levar Burton
  45. Rules of Prey (Lucas Davenport #1) – John Sanford
  46. Shadow Prey – (Lucas Davenport #2) – John Sanford
  47. Takedown – (Scott Halverth series #5) – Brad Thor
  48. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
  49. The First Commandment: A Thriller (The Scot Harvath Series Book 6) – Brad Thor
  50. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  51. Dune (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
  52. The Eighth Detective – Alex Pavesi
  53. Kindred – Octavia E. Butler
  54. Saving Time – Jodi Taylor
  55. Rendezvous with Rama (Re-Read) – Arthur C. Clarke
  56. The Bourne Identity (Re-read) – Robert Ludlum
  57. Harlem Shuffle –
  58. Rama II – Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee
  59. The Target (Will Robie Book 3) – David Baldacci

The Ferguson Rifle

The Ferguson Rifle is one of my favorite books by Louis L’Amour. The Ferguson Rifle was a breech loading rifle, which was extraordinary technology for 1780. The main character is named Ronan Chantry. When Ronan was a boy living in South Carolina in 1780, Captain Patrick Ferguson gave him this rifle before leaving for what would be known as the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Amazon.com describes the plot,

It began with gold that had once belonged to Montezuma. Stolen and cached in a church in Mexico, it was recovered by two army officers who fled north for the French settlements. Along the way one stabbed the other to death. The remaining officer was eventually killed by Plains Indians, but he buried the treasure just before he died.

Now Ronan Chantry, a handful of trappers, and an Irish girl whose father was killed after telling her a few vague landmarks are searching for the lost treasure. But they are not alone. The girl’s uncle, Rafen Falvey, wants it, too. Like Chantry, he is well educated, bold, and determined. Under different circumstances the two men might have been friends. But in all likelihood it wouldn’t have made any difference. When it comes to gold, even friendship doesn’t keep men from killing each other.

I was excited to find an article on the War History Online website named Revolutionary War Tech: The Ferguson Rifle. It meant that Louis L’Amour had done his research and the rifle was based on real technology of the time. The article included a diagram that showed how the breech loading mechanism worked.

British Army manual for the Ferguson rifle
A sketch of one of the world’s first breechloaders, the Ferguson. Image: Antique Military Rifles / CC-BY-SA 2.0

The article goes on to explain,

As the story goes, Ferguson managed to produce several prototype rifles that he placed in the hands of ten trained marksmen who, along with Ferguson, demonstrated their use in front of the British War Office and Board of Ordnance. Despite being forced to perform in driving rain and gusty winds, Ferguson’s cadre of sharpshooters won the immediate admiration of the Board.

Among other accomplishments, the test demonstrated that the rifle could “put 15 balls on a target at 200 yards in 5 minutes,” and, “after pouring a bottle of water into the barrel… fired as well as ever.” Ferguson’s design was a vast improvement over the Brown Bess, which was only reliably accurate up to about 50 yards.

Revolutionary War Tech: The Ferguson Rifle

The article goes on to say,

Claims that the Ferguson Rifle later saw action during the Southern Campaign of the war are unsubstantiated, although Ferguson himself was killed in action at the Battle of Kings Mountain (South Carolina) on October 7, 1780. Contrary to some popular reports, Ferguson was not armed with his breech-loading rifle at his final battle.

Revolutionary War Tech: The Ferguson Rifle

Mr. L’Amour was very clever to use this historical fact to explain how Ronan Chantry ended up with this marvelous piece of Revolutionary War technology.

Reading List 2020

At the end of 2019 I read the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabalson and was hooked. I began the year 2020 by reading through the rest of the books in the series. Book 2, Dragonfly in Amber, was pretty good and wrapped up some of the story lines in book one. But Voyager, book three, was fantastic and still remains one of my favorite in the series.

During the late spring and early summer I got back into Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. The series combines colorful and zany characters, funny dialog and fascinating historical events. With a year like 2020 is was just the type of escape that I needed.

I read several book in 2020 by Douglas E. Richard, who is one of my favorite sci-fi authors. Veracity is a novel that explores the idea, “What if you developed a technology that made it impossible for anyone to lie? About anything. Would this save humanity from itself? Or would it tear society apart?” Through character dialog and character experiences the author is able to explore the pros and cons of living in a world where lies can be detected by anyone. Although you may think it’s a win-win scenario, there are some downsides to total truth.

Another Douglas E. Richard series that I got hooked on was the Alien Artifact series. The first book is named The Enigma Cube. The introduction to the book on the Amazon.com page says, “To secure a dazzling future they must travel to a perilous past.” Not only is it a time travel story, it’s a near future sci-fi story featuring technology like enhanced “super soldiers” and advanced drone technology.

The news that Amazon was making a mini-series from the Wheel of Time book series by Robert Jordan got me excited. I had hope that Amazon would spend the money and do a good job adapting the books. They signed on some good talent like Rosamund Pike to play Moiraine. The news inspired me to re-read the series again since it had been a few years. It was another good escape from the madness that was the year 2020. However, it’s a long series so by the end of book 6 I was ready for a change and wanted to read something else.

I’m a huge fan of the book series Dune by Frank Herbert. My favorite mini series adaption is the Sci-Fi Channel three-part mini-series that came out back in 2000. The news hit social media in 2020 that a new production of Dune was underway. Naturally I was curious and had hope they would do a good job. I read that the plan was to make a two part movie in order to tell the story better than was possible in a standard 2 hour movie. That was encouraging news. It seemed like the new movie production had an impressive cast of actors and actresses. Understandably, COVID 19 paused production and release of the first movie. However, I was still inspired to get the first three books in the series electronically on my Kindle. So far I have re-read the first two books.

For fans of Jodi Taylor like me, the big event for the end of 2020 was the release of book two of the Time Police series named Hard Time. I was not disappointed. This is a great story and series and I am an fan. The characters are wonderfully imperfect.

As I’m writing this article in 2021, I just received season six of the Outlander series on Blu-ray. This season is based on the book named, A Breath of Snow and Ashes – (Outlander 6) by Diana Gabaldon.

  1. Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander 2) – Diana Gabaldon
  2. Blood of Elves (Witcher Series) – Andrzej Sapkowski
  3. Voyager (Outlander 3) – Diana Gabaldon
  4. Drums of Autumn (Outlander 4) – Diana Gabaldon
  5. The Fiery Cross (Outlander 5) – Diana Gabaldon
  6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes – (Outlander 6) – Diana Gabaldon
  7. An Echo in the Bone – (Outlander 7) – Diana Gabaldon
  8. Written in my Hearts Own Blood – (Outlander 8) – Diana Gabaldon
  9. Eagle in the Sky – Wilbur Smith
  10. Journey of the Pharaohs (NUMA Files) – Clive Cussler
  11. And the Rest Is History: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Eight – Jodi Taylor
  12. An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Nine – Jodi Taylor
  13. Hope for the Best: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
  14. Cry Wolf – Wilbur Smith
  15. Veracity – Douglas E. Richards
  16. Hungry as the Sea – Wilbur Smith
  17. Plan for the Worst: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
  18. The Enigma Cube – Douglas E. Richards
  19. War Cry – Wilbur Smith
  20. The Solomon Curse (Fargo 7) – Clive Cussler
  21. The Long and the Short of It: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Stories – Jodi Taylor
  22. Why is Nothing Ever Simple: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Story – Jodi Taylor
  23. Pirate (Fargo 8) – Clive Cussler
  24. Origin – (Robert Langdon 5) – Dan Brown
  25. Oracle (Fargo 11) – Clive Cussler
  26. Timeslingers – Jay Sherer
  27. Contact – Carl Sagan
  28. The Last Dragon Slayer – Jasper Fforde
  29. Song of the Quarkbeast – Jasper Fforde
  30. Eye of Zoltar – Jasper Fforde
  31. Blue Gold (Re-read) – Clive Cussler
  32. Eye of the World (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  33. A Pivot in Time (Enigma Cube 2) – Douglas E. Richards
  34. The Great Hunt (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  35. The Dragon Reborn (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  36. The Shadow Rising (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  37. The Fires of Heaven (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  38. Lords of Chaos (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  39. Dune (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
  40. Dune Messiah (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
  41. Hard Time (Time Police Series #2) – Jodi Taylor
  42. Marauder (Oregon Series 15) – Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrison

2019 Reading List

Shogun Book CoverBirds of Prey Book CoverOutlander Book Cover

In 2019 I re-read some old favorites, discovered some new authors and enjoyed many Wilbur Smith novels.

I started off the year re-reading Shogun (one of my favorite novels of all time) and finished the year reading Black Samurai, which both took place in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s in Japan. Shogun is a fiction novel by James Clavell (based one real life adventures of William Adams) and Black Samurai more of a non-fiction book about real person.

In 2018 I discovered Douglas E. Richards and his Split Second series. 2019 gave me the opportunity to read a lot more of his novels. These include the Quantum Lens series and the Nick Hall series.

A new author for me in 2019 was Douglas Phillips and his Quantum series. Through his novels I was able to learn more about quantum particles and mechanics.

This was the year I was able to take a deeper dive into one of my favorite all time authors. Wilbur Smith. I first read his books back in the 90’s and became a fan. I did not read his novels for many year but re-discovered him in the past few years. In 2019 I read (or re-read) 12 more of his novels. I recommend every one on the list!

This was also the year that I got into the Outlander series (A bit late I know). Diana Gabaldon is a brilliant story teller and writer! Book one is awesome! Stay tuned for the 2020 reading list to hear more about books 2 through 8.

  1. Shogun (Re-read) – James Clavell
  2. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
  3. Tia-Pan (Re-read)– James Clavell
  4. Oath of Office (Jack Ryan novel) – Marc Cameron
  5. Nobel House (Re-read)– James Clavell
  6. The Hunt for Red October (re-read) – Tom Clancy
  7. Seeker – Douglas E. Richards
  8. Journey – James Michener
  9. The Enigma Strain – Nick Thacker
  10. Quantum Lens – Douglas E. Richards
  11. Infinity Born – Douglas E. Richards
  12. Wired – Douglas E. Richards
  13. Amped – Douglas E. Richards
  14. The Dark of the Sun (Re-read) – Wilbur Smith
  15. Mind’s Eye (Nick Hall series 1) – Douglas E. Richards
  16. Brain Web (Nick Hall series 2) – Douglas E. Richards
  17. Mind War (Nick Hall series 3) – Douglas E. Richards
  18. Quantum Space (Quantum Series 1) – Douglas Phillips
  19. Quantum Void (Quantum Series 2) – Douglas Phillips
  20. Quantum Time (Quantum Series 3) – Douglas Phillips
  21. Game Changer – Douglas E. Richards
  22. The Never Game – Jeffery Deaver
  23. Lord Foul’s Bane (Re-read) – Stephen R. Donaldson
  24. Celtic Empire – Clive Cussler
  25. The Triumph of the Sun – Wilbur Smith
  26. The Romanov Ransom – Clive Cussler
  27. Wild Justice – Wilbur Smith
  28. Birds of Prey – Wilbur Smith
  29. Monsoon – Wilbur Smith
  30. The Tigers Prey – Wilbur Smith
  31. Ross Poldark – Winston Graham
  32. The Falcon Flies – Wilbur Smith
  33. Men of Men – Wilbur Smith
  34. The Angles Weep – Wilbur Smith
  35. The Titanic Secret (Isaac bell) – Clive Cussler
  36. King of Kings – Wilbur Smith
  37. The Burning Shore – Wilbur Smith
  38. Power of the Sword – Wilbur Smith
  39. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness – Wilbur Smith
  40. Rage – Wilbur Smith
  41. Final Option – Clive Cussler
  42. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
  43. Doing Time – Jody Taylor
  44. Ghost Fire – Wilbur Smith
  45. Black Samurai – Thomas Lockley

Shogun by James Clavell

shogun book coverShogun has been one of my favorite novels for years. I had read the book back in the 80’s (a couple times) but had watched the mini series (released in 1980) dozens of times since then. I decided to re-read the book this year when I noticed the Kindle version was available.

Shogun tells the story of Pilot Major John Blackthorn and his time in Japan during the year 1600. After sailing across the Pacific ocean, Blackthorn’s ship is damaged on the coast of Japan. The crew are taken prisoner and accused of being pirates.

Blackthorn find himself in the middle of a power struggle between two powerful Japanese daimyos (lords) which is complicated by the presence of Jesuit (Society of Jesus) priests and Portuguese traders. The Portuguese and Jesuits see Blackthorn as a threat to their monopoly of trade between China and Japan and take steps to limit his influence. Against all odds, Blackthorn gains the respect of Lord Toranaga, is awarded the rank of Samurai and comes to appreciate Japanese culture and society. I encourage you to read the Wikipedia article for an extensive summary of the plot and characters.

Learning from Shogun

I found a wonderful pdf document from on the Columbia University website named Learning from Shogun. In the preface the editor tells us, “Shogun provides a wealth of factual information about Japanese history and culture, information which is probably new to the majority of its readers.” The document contains essays about the history, the clash of cultures, the religion, politics and economy of the time plus Blackthorn’s efforts to learn Japanese.

William Adams and John Blackthorn

In essay one, by Henry Smith, we learn that the character John Blackthorn is based on a man named William Adams who sailed to Japan by way of the Straits of Magellan and the Pacific Ocean. Smith tells us that Adams was “undeniably the ‘first Englishman in Japan,’ indeed probably the first Englishman to settle in Asia.” (Pg. 2). Smith explains that what little we know about Adams time in Japan “comes from six letters which he wrote back to England and which miraculously survived among the records of e British East India Company. Scattered other bits of information are available from the correspondence and other diaries of other Englishmen in Japan in the years 1613-20 and a few more details from Japanese records”. (Pg. 2)

Like Blackthorn, Adams also arrived in Japan with most of his crew dead and in poor health. Adams was also accused of bring a pirate. Smith goes on to say,

But somehow Adams managed to survive not only the slander of the Portuguese, but also the treachery of two members of his crew, and soon found himself being transported to Osaka to meet with the “king”—who turned out to be Tokugawa Ieyasu.

This is similar to what happened to Blackthorn when Lord Toranaga sent a ship to bring him to Osaka castle for an audience.

Trade, Diplomacy and Religion

Essay five is titled Trade and Diplomacy in the Era of Shogun. This essay by Ronald Toby confirms that James Clavell accurately portrayed the political and religious tensions between the Japanese and Europeans during the year 1600. Toby writes, “Only sixty years before ‘John Blackthorn’ arrived, Japan had been reached by the furthest extension of The European Age of Discovery, fist by Portuguese traders then by Jesuit missionaries, who came east from Africa and India.” He goes on to say, “As a result of a half century of Jesuit proselytization (to induce someone to convert to one’s faith) the Iberian’s of the Counter-Refromation were deeply entrenched, with several hundred thousand converts to Catholicism and a critical role in Japan’s external trade to support their position.” The Portuguese and Jesuits were Catholic. So as a Protestant from England, Blackthorn had landed in hostile territory from both a religious and political perspective.It’s no surprise that he was quickly labeled as a heretic.  Blackthorn and the English were defiantly a threat to the Portuguese and Jesuit control of the lucrative trade with Japan. Clavell was also accurate that there were a fair percentage of Christian converts in Japan at the time. I was surprised to learn there were so many Christian’s in Japan at the time.

Toby also observes that “Japan was excluded, by Chinese law, from direct access to the markets of China.” (Page 54) Toby writes, “Direct access to China was now out of the question. This gave the Portuguese, based in Macao on the south coast of China since the 1550’s, an even more important role in Japan’s foreign trade.” Once again Clavell has added drama to Shogun by understanding the threat that an Englishman like Blackthorn would have to the Portuguese (and Jesuit) trade monopoly in Japan.

The Struggle for the Shogunate in 1600

Essay six in Learning from Shogun, by Henry Smith, discusses the struggle for the Shogunate. A Shogun was “the military dictator of Japan during the period from 1185 to 1868 (with exceptions).

As I had hoped, Clavell based the plot and Japanese characters in Shogun on actual events from the late 15 and early 1600’s.  Smith writes,

“Hideyoshi’s (The Taiko) death in the autumn of 1598 created the highly unstable political situation which provides the stage for the drama of 1600—both in Shogun and in reality. Since Hideyori (“Yaemon” in 1600—both in Shogun and in reality. Since Hideyori (“Yaemon” in the novel), the Taiko’s heir by his consort Lady Yodo (“Lady Ochiba”), was only a child of five at the time, a council of five “Regents” (in Japanese, tairo, literally “great elder”) had been set up to govern until he came of age.”

Smith tells us, “In Shogun, the author takes the general political situation of 1600 as the basis for his plot, although he makes no attempt at a very precise correspondences.”

An article on History.com tells us, “After Hideyoshi’s death resulted in a power struggle among the daimyo, Ieyasu triumphed in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and became shogun to Japan’s imperial court in 1603.”

Since William Adams actually visited Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ieyasu became Shogun it seems to me that Clavell based the character Yoshi Toranaga on Ieyasu.

In Learning from Shogun, Henry Smith writes, “only the scheming ‘Ishido’ has a clear model. This was Ishida Mitsunari, whi was indeed an inveterate plotter and implacable enemy of Tokugawa Ieyasu.” (Pg. 56)

Blackthorn’s efforts to Learn Japanese

Essay nine, by Susan Matisoff, discusses Blackthorn’s efforts to learn Japanese. She writes, “and there’s much to be praised in Clavell’s decision to take the readers along on Blackthorne’s odyssey into an unfamiliar language.” (pg. 80) I agree with her! Picking up some words and phrases along with Blackthorn as he learns about Japan and Japanese culture is one of my favorite aspects of the story.

I was a little disappointed to learn that Clavell got many aspects of the Japanese language wrong in the novel. Matisoff tells us, ” A Japanese language review of the book (Hokubei mainichi shimbun, May 28, 1980) calls the language “classroom Japanese,” objecting to the over politeness of some of the common phrases like wakarimasu ka (“do you understand?”), ” (Pg. 81). Matisoff explains, “Although there are occasional correct, complex Japanese sentences in Shogun which must result from Clavell’s asking a Japanese how to say such and such, much of the Japanese reflects not a “classroom” but a “phrasebook” approach to the language.” (Pg. 81).

2018 Reading List

the last crypt book coverI discovered  some wonderful authors this year. The first one was Fernando Gamboa. He wrote a couple archaeology thrillers named The Last Crypt and Black City. The Last Crypt is about the lost treasure of the Templar’s. Black City is about the Lost City of Z. He also wrote a wonderful series named The Captain Riley Adventures, which takes place in the early 1940’s during World War II. I then found a wonderful story by Gamboa named GUINEA: A breathless thriller in the heart of darkness. This is the story of a young woman’s arrest and escape from “authorities” in Equatorial Guinea.

Another author that I started reading is Charles Brokaw. His character, Thomas Lords, is a Harvard  linguist and archaeology professor that specialized in ancient languages. the stories have a great combination of fast moving action and watching the characters solve historical mysteries and make fascinating discoveries.

adrift book coverI really enjoyed a couple mystery novels by Micki Browning named Adrift and Beached. The main reason that I enjoyed them so much is that they took place in Key Largo, Florida and involved scuba diving on the coral reefs off the coast. I love diving in Key Largo so I was familiar with the places mentioned in the novels. That knowledge enable me to have a vivid image of the various scenes and events in the story.

Douglas Richards wrote a couple science fiction books named Split Second and Time Frame that took a different approach to time travel than most other writers. What made the time travel theory used in this story different from others is that we could only travel back in time a fraction of a second. This actually made a duplicate (but younger by a split second) version of the person or object going back  in time. In effect, it was more of a teleportation device than a time travel device.

on leopard rock book coverI enjoyed many novels this year by Wilbur Smith, who is one of my favorite authors. He published an autobiography named On Leopard Rock, which was fantastic! I read a several of his books back in the late 80’s and early 90’s but lost track of his more recent project until a few years ago. On Leopard Rock inspired me to take another look at his more recent work. The Hector Cross series was different from most of Smith’s novels in that it takes place in modern times. In the book Those in Peril, Hector Cross and his security team must rescue the daughter of his wealthy employer from East African pirates.

His novel Sunbird is a two part story. The first part tells the story of the (fictional) archaeological discovery of an ancient Carthaginian city in northern Botswana in Africa. Northern Botswana is a long way from the Carthaginian empire on the Mediterranean coast of north Africa so it was a revolutionary discovery. Part two tells the story of the the cities rise to power and ultimate destruction. Although it was fiction Smith made it seem plausible that it could have happened and told a fantastic story with interesting characters, action and drama.

Eye of the Tiger is a shipwreck treasure hunting adventure that takes place in modern times in the Mozambique Channel and Indian Ocean off of the east coast of Africa. I totally loved the boating, diving and action adventure aspects of the story.

  1. Power and Empire (Jack Ryan) – Marc Cameron
  2. The Last Crypt – Fernando Gamboa
  3. The Prophecy – Heidi Hanley (Smith)
  4. Black City (Finding the Lost City of Z) – Fernando Gamboa
  5. Captain Riley (The Captain Riley Adventures Book 1) – Fernando Gamboa
  6. Darkness: Captain Riley II (The Captain Riley Adventures Book 2) – Fernando Gamboa
  7. The Atlantis Code – Charles Brokaw
  8. The Seventh Plague – James Rollins
  9. The Rising Sea – Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
  10. The Lucifer Code – Charles Brokaw
  11. Sackett’s Land – Louis L’Amour (re-read)
  12. To the Far Blue Mountains – Louis L’Amour (re-read)
  13. Warrior’s Path – Louis L’Amour (re-read)
  14. Adrift ( Mer Cavallo Mystery) – Micki Browning
  15. Beached ( Mer Cavallo Mystery) – Micki Browning
  16. On Leopard Rock – Wilbur Smith
  17. Line of Sight (Jack Ryan Jr.) – Mike Madden
  18. The Temple Mount Code – Charles Brokaw
  19. Split Second – Douglas E. Richards
  20. GUINEA: A breathless thriller in the heart of darkness – Fernando Gamboa
  21. Time Frame (Split Second series) – Douglas E. Richards
  22. Wildtrack – Bernard Cornwell
  23. The Oracle Code – Charles Brokaw
  24. Tears of the Jaguar – A.J. Hartley
  25. Shadow Tyrants: Clive Cussler (The Oregon Files) – Clive Cussler, Boyd Morrison
  26. Those in Peril (Hector Cross book 1) – Wilbur Smith
  27. Vicious Circle (Hector Cross book 2) – Wilbur Smith
  28. Shout at the Devil – Wilbur Smith
  29. The President is Missing – James Patterson and Bill Clinton
  30. Predator (Hector Cross book 3) – Wilbur Smith
  31. Sunbird – Wilbur Smith
  32. Eye of the Tiger – Wilbur Smith
  33. Assegai – Wilbur Smith
  34. Valley of the Shadow – Franklin Allen Leib
  35. Golden Lion – Wilbur Smith

2017 Reading List

2017 was a year of nostalgia and new discoveries. In January I re-read The Second Deadly Sin by Laurence Sanders, which featured his character, Edward X. Delany. I enjoyed that so much I re-read the four books in his Commandment series which features a variety of interesting main characters which Sanders is famous for creating.

In the spring I got back into Jack Higgins novels after many years of not reading anything from him. Back in the early 80’s I discovered the book, The Eagle Has Landed. It’s the story of a secret mission by German Paratroopers to parachute into England and assassinate Winston Churchill. It has remained one of my favorite novels to this day. In the early spring, one of my co-workers was reading a Jack Higgins novel from his Sean Dillon series. I purchased the first book in the series, titled The Eye of the Storm, and was hooked.

Reading List

  1. Odessa Sea – Clive Cussler
  2. The Second Deadly Sin – Laurence Sanders
  3. The Sixth Commandment – Laurence Sanders
  4. The Tenth Commandment – Laurence Sanders
  5. The Eight Commandment – Laurence Sanders
  6. The Seventh Commandment- Laurence Sanders
  7. 1984 – George Orwell
  8. The Emperor’s Revenge – Clive Cussler
  9. The Einstein Prophesy – Robert Masello
  10. The Lost Codex – Alan Jacobson
  11. Duty and Honor (Jack Ryan Jr. Series) – Grant Blackwood
  12. Deception Point – Dan Brown
  13. Eye of the Storm – Jack Higgins
  14. Thunder Point– Jack Higgins
  15. Angel of Death– Jack Higgins
  16. Drink with the Devil– Jack Higgins
  17. The President’s Daughter – Jack Higgins
  18. Dragon Teeth – Michael Crichton
  19. Midnight Runner – Jack Higgins
  20. Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles – Bernard Cornwell
  21. Nighthawk – Clive Cussler
  22. Raiders Wake – James L. Nelson
  23. The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival – John Vaillant
  24. Medicus (did not finish) – Ruth Downie
  25. Bad Company – Jack Higgins
  26. The Archers – Martin Archer
  27. Tucker – Louis L’Amour
  28. The Eagle Has Landed (re-read) – Jack Higgins
  29. Without Mercy – Jack Higgins
  30. The Archer’s Castle – Martin Archer
  31. Touch the Devil – Jack Higgins
  32. The Dogs of War  (re-read) – Fredrick Forsyth
  33. Confessional – Jack Higgins
  34. Lost City of the Monkey God – Douglas Preston
  35. The Bormann Testament – Jack Higgins
  36. The Holcroft Covenant – Robert Ludlum
  37. Shock Wave (re-read) – Clive Cussler
  38. The Odessa File (re-read) – Fredrick Forsyth
  39. Typhoon Fury (Oregon Files)– Clive Cussler
  40. Pharaoh –  Wilbur Smith
  41. Myths of the Norsemen (Puffin Classic ) – Roger Green
  42. Loch Garman – James L. Nelson

2016 Reading List

the-sum-of-all-fears2016 was a big year for reading and re-reading Tom Clancy novels. It had been  a while since I had read his books. I was amazed all over again at Clancy’s military and espionage knowledge in addition to his story telling skills.  In some cases I had seen the movie, but not read the book. I made the assumption that the movie followed the book pretty closely. Boy, was I wrong! As usual the books were much better with far more depth.

The “campus” series featuring Jack Ryan Jr. was especially good. Clancy published The Teeth of the Tiger in 2003. He wrote the second book in the series, Dead or Alive, with Grand Blackwood. He wrote the next two books in the series with Blackwood but wrote Vector Threat with Mark Greaney. Since Clancy passed away in 2013 Blackwood and Greaney have continued his Clancy’s work by writing more stories featuring the characters Clancy created.

In February I read a wonderful non-fiction book titled, Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum. It’s the story of Slocum’s journey around the world between 1895 and 1898. I was inspired enough by the story to plot the stops on his trip on Google Maps and write a Blog article about the book.

I purchased a book by my old favorite, Alistair MacLean, named The Last Frontier. According to Wikipedia, the book was published in 1959 and was released in the US with the title, The Secret Ways. I may have even read it decades ago when I first discovered Alistair MacLean. The story took place in Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. British agent Michael Reynolds, is on a mission to just-one-damned-thing-after-anotherrescue a professor being help against his will by the Communist government.

Another great discovery in 2016 was The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor. It’s a series about modern time traveling historians that go back in time to observe the past. Everything that can go wrong usually does, but somehow they make it back, more or less in one piece. You can also learn a lot about history in a fun way since the characters visit some pivotal events and battles. The stories are fun and funny most of the time, but at times the author yanked the old “heart strings” and made you feel sad.

I enjoyed a series by James L. Nelson that took place during “viking age Ireland” fin-gallabout 852 AD. Book one is titled, Fin Gall. The story follows Thorgrim Nightwolf, a raider from Norway, on his way to the “Viking longphort there, known as Dubh-Linn

I had heard the recent hit movie, The Revenant, was based on a book. I never made it to the theater to see it, but I did purchase the book. It was awesome! It is based in the true story of Rocky Mt. fur trapper Hugh Glass. Glass had survived a brutal bear attack. Fellow expedition members that were caring for him stole his weapons and abandon him to die of his wounds or at the hands of attacking Indians, whichever cam first.

Decades ago, I had enjoyed several Wilbur Smith’s novels set in Southern Africa. I discovered he has a new series of books that takes place in ancient Egypt, which is a fascinating time in history. The first book I got was titled Desert God. Taita, advisor to the Pharaoh, is on a mission to form an alliance with the king of Crete and defeat the Hyksos, who had invaded lower Egypt.

I finished the year reading another book in the series titled, The Quest. The mighty Nile river has nearly dried up and the people of Egypt are dying. Taita is sent on a mission to find the source of the Nile and discover what evil has caused the river to dry up.

  1. The Sum of All Fears – Tom Clancy
  2. Clear and Present Danger – Tom Clancy
  3. Architect of Destiny -Amy DuBoff
  4. Veil of Reality-Amy DuBoff
  5. Bonds of Resolve -Amy DuBoff
  6. The Show – John A. Heldt
  7. Sailing Alone Around the World – Joshua Slocum
  8. Command Authority – Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney
  9. The Teeth of the Tiger – Tom Clancy
  10. Dead or Alive – Tom Clancy and Grant Blackwood
  11. The Last Frontier – Alistair MacLean
  12. Locked On – Tom Clancy
  13. Threat Vector – Tom Clancy
  14. Wood’s Relic – Steven Becker
  15. Patriot Games – Tom Clancy
  16. One Damn Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor
  17. A Symphony of Echoes (The Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor
  18. A Second Chance (The Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor
  19. A Trail Through Time (The Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor
  20. The Whalemen – Edouard A. Stackpole
  21. No Time Like the Past (The Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor
  22. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (The Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor
  23. Cardinal of the Kremlin – Tom Clancy
  24. Under Fire (Jack Ryan Jr. Series) – Grant Blackwood
  25. The Coral Thief – Rebecca Stott
  26. Fin Gall – James L. Nelson
  27. Dubh-linn – James L. Nelson
  28. The Lord of Vik-lo – James L. Nelson
  29. Glendalough Fair – James L. Nelson
  30. Night Wolf – James L. Nelson
  31. Total Recall – Philip K. Dick
  32. The Atlantis Gene – A..G. Riddle
  33. Wood’s Reef – Steven Becker
  34. The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge – Michael Punke
  35. Desert God – Wilbur Smith
  36. Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings – Jodi Taylor
  37. The Trespass – Scott Hunter
  38. The First Deadly Sin – Laurence Sanders
  39. Landfall – Jerry Aubin
  40. The Quest – Wilbur Smith

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

I just finished reading the book Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. As the title indicates, he was the first person to circumnavigate the earth while sailing alone.  By no means did he take the most direct route. He pretty much followed the trade winds and major currents.

He made plenty of stops, which made for an interesting story. He would often stay for a week or more at places he stopped at. In some cases it was because he enjoyed his time with the people he met. In other cases he was waiting for the trade winds and weather to improve. It took him about three years to complete the 46,000 mile journey.

I created a Google Map with his major stops and dates that he arrived at each place.

Examples of his adventures include:

  • Early in the trip Captain Slocum got so sick that he imagined he spoke to the ghost of the Pilot of Christopher Columbus’s ship, the Pinta.
  • His ship was chased by pirates off the coast of Morocco. Watch  Colin Hazlehurst’s recreation of the trip using Google Earth.
  • The Spray ran around on a beach in Uruguay.
  • Natives in the Strait of Magellan tried to board the Spray at night. They left when they stepped on the carpet tacks he had spread on the deck to surprise them. Later they chased him in their canoes and he had to shoot his rifle at them in order to scare them off.
  • He survived a horrendous storm on the west end of the Strait of Magellan near Cape Pillar and got blown south. He had to sail back to Punta Arenas (a port in the Strait) then try again to sail through the maze of island into the Pacific.
  • His sails got shredded in the Pacific Ocean during a storm.

As I mentioned earlier, Slocum made visited many remote and exotic places along the way in addition to major ports of call. Many of the people he met had heard of his journey and were happy to invite him to stay. He met Fanny Stevenson (the wife of author Robert Louis Stevenson) at Samoa. He met the explorer Henry M. Stanley in East Africa and many other prominent people of the era.

I am amazed at the amount of information and resources about the book and Captain Slocum’s journey are the Web.

  • There is a website with the domain name joshuaslocum.com about his life and the journey.
  • I found a wonderful 45 minute documentary video about his life, the Spray and his journey on YouTube.
  • I discovered a wonderful YouTube playlist showing the Spray in Google Earth sailing each leg of the journey.

I recommend this wonderful story to anyone who enjoys history, sailing or adventure stories.

2015 Reading List

AmazoniaIt was another good year for reading during which I finished 46 books. I enjoyed stories from several new authors like James Rollins, Brad Meltzer and John Heldt. I read more from some of my favorite authors like Dan Brown, Bernard Cornwell, William Dietrich, Stephen King and Tom Clancy.

Inferno by Dan Brown was a great book to start the year with. It is another Robert Langdon story and takes place in Italy. I learned a lot about many of the famous art works, buildings and architecture of Florence and Venice. If you enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, you will love this novel.

I discovered author James Rollins this year. His writing reminds me of Michael Crichton, which is high praise. The teaser on his Website for the book Amazonia says, “The Rand scientific expedition entered the lush wilderness of the Amazon and never returned. Years later, one of its members has stumbled out of the world’s most inhospitable rainforest: a former Special Forces soldier – scarred, mutilated, terrified, and mere hours from death – who went in with one arm missing…and came out with both intact.” The story was just as fantastic as it sounds. I went on to read five other James Rollins novels during the year.

StormchildThe Fort by Bernard Cornwell tells the story of the Penobscot Expedition of 1779 during the American Revolutionary War. It is the story of an attack by the militia of the Province of Massachusetts Bay to take a British fort in Castine, Maine. The expedition and attack was a major screw-up. The American fleet was destroyed and the assault force ended up making a long journey over land to Massachusetts. Be sure to read my Blog article about the book.

I also discovered Cornwell’s “sailing thrillers” which takes place in the present day, unlike many of his novels. Of the three I read I enjoyed Stormchild the best. The Amazon Website description reads, “A British yachtsman sails to Cape Horn to reclaim his daughter from eco-terrorists.” But of course the plot and story has more depth than that one sentence description.

I’m ashamed to say that I got behind in reading Tom Clancy novels. I sure made up for it this year when a good friend recommended The Bear and the Dragon, featuring John Clark and Jack Ryan. It was so good that later in the year I went on to read Debt of Honor and Executive Order. Executive Order picks up right where Debt of Honor ended so it read like one long novel rather than two. Both are fantastic stories!

112263 Book CoverOne of my favorite stories of the year was 11/22/63 by Stephen King. King is another author that I had not read anything from in years. Instead of a horror story this is a time travel story. Jake Epping find a way to go back in time to 1958 and finds he can change the lives of people in the present by changing events in past. He ends up undertaking the difficult task to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, hoping that it would change the world for the better. It’s a great story and has become my new favorite Stephen King novel.

In December a friend lent me the book, The Journey by John A. Heldt. It’s the second book in his Northwest Passage series. After the unexpected death of her husband after a tough marriage, a 49 year old women returns to her hometown for a high school reunion. After visiting an room in a mysterious old house in town, she finds herself back in 1979. She encounters her younger self and has the opportunity influence the path she takes in life. It turned out to be a great story. Since I find the concept of time travel interesting I was hooked on his time travel stories and ended up reading three other books in the series.

  1. Inferno – Dan Brown
  2. The Temple of the Winds – Terry Goodkind
  3. Firefight – Brandon Sanderson
  4. Amazonia – James Rollins
  5. Sandstorm – James Rollins
  6. Altar of Eden – James Rollins
  7. Soul of the Fire – Terry Goodkind (Did not finish)
  8. Ice Hunt – James Rollins
  9. Deep Black – Stephen Coonts
  10. Subterranean – James Rollins
  11. The Fort – Bernard Cornwell
  12. The Roman Hat Mystery – Ellery Queen
  13. The Inner Circle – Brad Meltzer
  14. The Recollections of Rifleman Harris – Benjamin Randell Harris
  15. Piranha (Oregon Files) – Clive Cussler
  16. Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
  17. The Fifth Assassin – Brad Meltzer
  18. Scoundrel – Bernard Cornwell
  19. On Writing – Stephen King
  20. Stormchild – Bernard Cornwell
  21. A Bone in the Throat – Anthony Bourdain
  22. Dourado (Dane Maddock Adventure) – David Wood
  23. Crackdown – Bernard Cornwell
  24. The Lightening Stones – Jack Du Brul
  25. The Bear and the Dragon – Tom Clancy
  26. Grey Lady – Paul Kemprecos
  27. Dragon Seed – Pearl S. Buck
  28. The Martin – Andy Weir
  29. The Einstein Papers – Craig Dirgo
  30. The Tesla Documents – Craig Dirgo
  31. The Christos Parchment – Craig Dirgo
  32. Hadrian’s Wall – William Dietrich
  33. Adventure – Jack London
  34. The Sea Wolf – Jack London
  35. Scourge of God – William Dietrich
  36. 11/22/63 – Stephen King
  37. Getting Back – William Dietrich
  38. The Pharaoh’s Secret – Clive Cussler
  39. Debt of Honor – Tom Clancy
  40. Executive Order – Tom Clancy
  41. The Door Into Summer – Robert Heinlein ( re-read)
  42. Without Remorse – Tom Clancy
  43. The Journey – John A. Heldt
  44. The Mine – John A. Heldt
  45. The Fire – John A. Heldt
  46. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway