Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Light Reading

Some five or six years ago, I stumbled across a WWII historical fiction title, available on my Barnes & Noble NOOK reader, titled "Billy Boyle (A WWII Mystery)".   It was at an introductory price of $1.99, so I figured what the heck.  Well, librarian and author, James R. Benn, was wise to get folks hooked on the first of a series that he was writing.  Even Mrs Av has enjoyed reading the Billy Boyle Series, and we have both looked forward to each new volume's release, although volumes 2 through 11 have not been $1.99 specials.

If you like historical military fiction, the Billy Boyle series is a treat.  Somewhat similar to W.E.B Griffin's continuing tales, but lighter in nature.  But well tied into actual personages and events of WWII as seen through the eyes and adventures of a young and unlikely hero, Lt. Billy Boyle.  At the end of each volume, Benn explains the events relevant to the book, along with historical parallels, if you may not have recognized them.

The books are available in print and electronic (Kindle & NOOK) form.

The description of the first book is:

What’s a twenty-two-year-old Irish American cop who’s never been out of Massachusetts before doing at Beardsley Hall, an English country house, having lunch with King Haakon of Norway? Billy Boyle himself wonders. Back home in Southie, he’d barely made detective when war was declared. Unwilling to fight—and perhaps die—for England, he was relieved when his mother wangled a job for him on the staff of a general married to her distant cousin. But the general turns out to be Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose headquarters are in London, which is undergoing the Blitz. And Uncle Ike wants Billy to be his personal investigator.
Billy is dispatched to the seat of the Norwegian government in exile. Operation Jupiter, the impending invasion of Norway, is being planned, but it is feared that there is a German spy amongst the Norwegians.
Billy doubts his own abilities, with good reason. A theft and two murders test his investigative powers, but Billy proves to be a better detective than he or anyone else expected.


  1. Thanks Al, I'll put Billy Boyle on my reading list. I've gone through all of John LeCarre and Alan Furst so need replacements. Just checked my local library and they have several of the series, but not the first one you mentioned. But that is good as it gives me an excuse to drive down to FDChief's lair and visit the city of books.

    Am currently reading Viet Thanh Nguyen's 'The Sympathizer', a winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It also won the American Library Association medal for excellence in fiction. I have mixed feelings about some of the plot twists and storyline, but the author has a dynamic prose style.

  2. Thanks for the mention of "The Sympathizer", mike. It's available in eBook, so I can get it without jumping through hoops.

    1. Al -

      There are some scatological parts. And I just got to a particularly raunchy one about halfway through the book, so I almost regret mentioning this book.

      But since the author was born in Viet-Nam and as a child experienced the relocation camps in Indiantown Gap and probably either the Philippines or Guam, I'd like to hear your comments on it if you do read it.

      The author BTW is now an associate professor of English at USC.

    2. It would be interesting to read about the relocation camp, as I spent 6 weeks or so working the one at Ft Chaffee, AR, in 1975.

      Speaking of which, I also spent 6 months on the Task Force staff at Chaffee during the Cuban Refugee Assistance Program, which was quickly renamed when we pointed out to Washington the acronym that it created. I have to say that the program was quite impressive. When the refugee crisis hit Europe, All I could think of was why someone in the EU didn't pick up a phone, call a veteran of the Vietnamese or Cuban relocation programs and ask how it was handled. You know, simple stuff like what level of resources were necessary to effectively and humanely process the refugees.

      I lay a good part of the success of the Cuban operation to the civil servant "veterans" of the Vietnamese operation from Ft Sill (Chaffee was a sub-installation of Sill at the time) who pulled out the After Action Report of the Vietnamese program, thus enabling us to avoid repeating errors identified in the first resettlement operation.

      Thus, I had to laugh when the EU proudly announced, several months into the crisis, that it was giving Greece 9 million Euros to "address the needs of the 66+ thousand refugees on Greek soil" that would be here for an extended period. Why did I laugh? Well, Chaffee cost $1 million per day for 22,500 refugees. Figuring 2,000 calories per day at an estimated 5 Euro cost, that 9 million would provide about 27 days of foodstuffs, not counting the costs of preparation, etc. Still no money for shelter, sanitation, clothing or healthcare.

      In November, another proud announcement of 9,000 blankets being provided for these 65+ thousand refugees. As a side note, I have no idea of how EU resources compare to Aviator family resources, but Mrs Av and I purchased 100 fleece blankets for delivery to the refugee center on Lesvos, BEFORE the start of cold weather. A firm in Athens made these available at cost, and Greek parcel delivery companies delivered them at no charge, as they did for all other charitable goods in support of the refugees.

      OK, I have digressed, but the mention of the relocation program brings back memories.

  3. Al -

    There are also a 1M to 1.5M refugees in Iraq. Most have taken refuge in the Kurdistan region, a mountainous region, it will be a cold, hungry winter for them I fear. UNHCR is trying to respond but too little and too late maybe.


    'The Sympathizer' novel I mentioned is not about the camps. It only mentions them briefly in passing. It is more about the divisions in Viet-American society in Southern California. A place I knew briefly years ago when I used to go often to Little Saigon in Westminster for lunch in the Pho shops there. There were divided loyalties even back then in the 80s, probably worse now I suppose. But basically it is an espionage novel of a sleeper agent in that community, looking for signs of former ARVN officers trying to start a counter-revolution back home.

  4. Two UNHCR senior field workers have summer homes on our road. I had asked them why UNHCR didn't press Europe into a program similar to the Viet and Cuban refugee programs. According to them, their mission is not as much resettlement as it is temporary refuge, as the UN has no authority to direct permanent resettlement. That's a national decision. Both were very frustrated with the EU response, as they saw the situation more in line with the Viet/Cuban situation in that the refugees (not economic migrants) were not seeking temporary accommodation, but asylum, which is generally considered permanent in nature.

  5. Finished reading 'The Sympathizer'. I still have mixed feelings about some of the plot twists and storyline. But the lampooning of Francis Ford Coppola and his opus flic 'Apocalypse Now', and star Marlon Brando are alone worth the read.

    Plus the author has a way with satire and metaphor almost matching our own FDChief.