The best books to safely satisfy your lust for action and mystery

Marvin J. Wolf Author Of M-9: A Chelmin and Spaulding CID Mystery
By Marvin J. Wolf

The Books I Picked & Why

We Were Soldiers Once... and Young

By Joseph Galloway, General Harold Moore

Book cover of We Were Soldiers Once... and Young

Why this book?

This was written by my late friend, Joe Galloway, and tells the true story of the first major encounter between elements of the regular armies of North Vietnam and the United States. It is full of heroic acts, the tragedy of the deaths of many fine men, and a satisfactory, if unsettling, conclusion. But for the grace of God, I would likely have been one of the men who died in those battles: A few months earlier, I had reenlisted as an Infantry private (after a break of three years from my previous three years in the peacetime infantry, half of which I served as a sergeant) and was assigned to one of the companies that were all but massacred at Landing Zone Albany. Two months before they departed for Vietnam, I was pulled out of my company to become a combat photographer for the First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) Public Information Office. So this book is very personal to me.


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Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae

By Steven Pressfield

Book cover of Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae

Why this book?

Pressfield has recreated the famous encounter between the Spartans and the invading Persian armies under Xerxes The Great. What makes men willing to die for their country? Pressfield shows us. He also illuminates the forces that shaped the men of Sparta, who remain the ideal of all soldiers since. I had long been curious about this battle because the Spartans were not merely greatly outnumbered but because Xerxes had conquered much of the ancient world. I wanted to know how those Spartans were relevant to today, and Pressman tells us.


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Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse's 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.

By Diane Carlson Evans, Bob Welch

Book cover of Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse's 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.

Why this book?

Evans was the power behind the creation of the Vietnam Women's Memorial located at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Twenty-some years ago, she called me—we didn’t know each other—and asked to meet. She was looking for help in writing about her experiences as a combat nurse in Vietnam, and how that led to her spending ten years to create the Vietnam Woman’s Memorial. We spent a long lunch at a beachfront bistro in Venice, CA talking, and finally agreed that she should have the catharsis from writing her book, when she was ready. This is that book, and it tells about war and politics—war by peaceful means—from a woman’s perspective. Positively riveting story by an extraordinary woman.


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The Naked and the Dead: With a New Introduction by the Author

By Norman Mailer

Book cover of The Naked and the Dead: With a New Introduction by the Author

Why this book?

This is a fictionalized account of Mailer’s WWII experience during the amphibious invasion of a Japanese-held Island and shows the courage and cowardice of men in war. I decided to read this after meeting Mailer at my cousin Jack Gelber’s Manhattan Apartment in 1966. Upon learning that I had received a battlefield commission in Vietnam, Mailer, who was drunk, called me a baby killer, jerked me from a chair, and assumed a boxer’s stance, meanwhile challenging me to fight him. He was unceremoniously shoved into his overcoat and out the door. But the man could write


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They Were Expendable

By W. L. White

Book cover of They Were Expendable

Why this book?

The author recreated as a novel the adventures of a handful of Navy officers whose tiny Patrol Torpedo Boats more than held their own against the full might of the Japanese Navy during the fall of the Philippines. Told in the first person by three of the principal characters, we meet Douglas MacArthur, seasick and soaking wet, as he flees Manila in an overloaded PT Boat, and eventually reaches a smaller island from which he is flown to safety in Australia. And we see and are in awe, of these young naval officers. In 1951, when I was ten and perched on my father's shoulders, I saw MacArthur from just a few feet away as he passed during a Chicago parade. I became fascinated with the man and his legend, and here he is presented as a very human creature.


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