S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Communism”

Book Review: Hell and Good Company by Richard Rhodes

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Rating – Three Stars

Rhodes writes an easy read, semi-informative book about the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) that pitted the Fascists forces of General Francisco Franco against Spain’s “Republican” government. The Spanish government was far from a democracy—it was a pseudo-communist government that was suffused with Comintern agents of the Soviet Union. In May 1937, Spanish Communists took over the government.

Fighting with Franco were German and Italian air, artillery, and ground forces. Supporting the government were the military forces of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republic. About two million soldiers were involved in the war—200,000 killed and many thousands more wounded and missing.

Unfortunately, this book has no central theme—it has minimal coherence. Occasionally, Rhodes offers a snippet of the war about and who is doing what to whom, but mostly he focuses his narrative on the volunteer British medical personnel tending to wounded Republican soldiers: their heroism, dedication, and professionalism. Mostly, I reckon he discusses the Western expatriates that pontificated about the horrors of the war and the awful Fascists. Actually, this book is not about the Civil War in Spain, it’s about the expatriates in Spain during the Civil War. Here are a few of these people:

  • Ernest Hemingway. An American novelist. Whilst drinking, womanizing, and sending dispatches to the North American Alliance, he worked with Joris Ivens (Dutch artist and Communist) producing the agitprop film titled, The Spanish Earth.
  • Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s wife. American novelist, poet, political activist, and war correspondent. Worked trying to get Basque children evacuated to safety.
  • George Orwell, British leftist, novelist, and journalist. Volunteered to fight with the people’s militias “The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification.” Wounded in the throat, he was medically discharged and returned to England. In the following years he wrote the satirical novels Animal Farm and 1984.
  • Muriel Rukeyser, American poet, war correspondent for the Daily Worker, and other far-left publications.
  • J.B.S. Haldane, British scientist and war correspondent.
  • Norman Bethune, thoracic surgeon and firebrand Communist, performed hundreds of operations, some in dire conditions. He was nonchalant about danger and would work in the front lines.
  • Man Ray, American Dada and surrealist artist, photographer, and filmmaker, documented the War.
  • Patience Darton, British nurse with keen initiative, gritty survival, and mental fortitude in tending to the wounded. Fell in love with an ardent Communist soldier—killed in action.
  • The International Brigades composed of Western volunteers.

Rhodes dedicates many pages to Pablo Picasso and his painting “Guernica.” Picasso was horrified by the German Condor Legion’s bombing and utter destruction of this Basque city on 26 April 1937. The commanding officer of the Condor Legion, Lieutenant Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, said, “Guernica must be destroyed if we are to strike a blow against the enemy personnel and material.” Joan Mirό, the Catalan surrealist, painted a large mural titled “Catalan Peasant in Revolt.”

Rhodes does not include pictures of these artworks, and his only overall map of Spain is inadequate. Nonetheless, Hell and Good Company would have an appeal for the literati.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!


S. Martin Shelton’s Upcoming Novel

Ming Yellow CoverDuring the chaos that was China in 1935, Randall Kendrick, a wealthy American collector of fine oriental art, and his savvy daughter, Ingrid, embark on an adventurous quest to purchase a cache of extremely rare Ming yellow porcelains.  General Wu Pei-fu, the vicious warlord of Kansu Province, offers the porcelains for sale to the highest bidder. Traveling with Kendrick is the expatriate Australian photojournalist, Matt Drummond who focuses his eyes through his camera’s viewfinder and on Ingrid. Leading the Kendrick party is Wallace Chung, a suave young hustler who claims to have some connection with the warlord and first-hand knowledge about the porcelains.  The Kendrick party travels in a private railroad coach bound for Kansu Province in western China. Soon they are caught in the maw of China’s interior strife: dueling warlords, bandit gangs, marauding militias, Communist cadres, and elements of Japan’s Kwangtung Army.

Ming Yellow is scheduled to release Summer 2015. In the meantime, read a few of my other works on Amazon.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport

RomanovsThis powerful account of the Romanovs’ internment and regicide at “The House of Special Purpose” at Ekaterinburg, July 1918, is compelling, evocative, and horrifying. I suspect that Rappaport’s book on this ghoulish event is the most meticulously researched and accurate account of the Bolshevik’s liquidation of Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their five children.

She weaves the historical events in a storybook style that imbues life into the Royal Family.  We look askance at the Czar who lacks moral courage, is fearful of innovation and change, and refuses to see the social and political problems engulfing Russia. We wonder at Empress Alexandra’s idiosyncratic brand of Victorian prudery, her impulsive sensuality and her hysterical passion, and her onerous addiction to narcotics: morphine and cocaine.  We empathize with soft tears at the naive innocence of their daughters: Maria, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia.  We sympathize with the hemophiliac, Tsarevich Alexy.

We abhor the Bolsheviks’ regicide of the Royal Family as they perished in a fusillade of bullets, bayonets, and blood.  We are appalled that the family’s servants also were included in this senseless butchery: their physician, Doctor Eugene Botkin; valet. Alexey Trupp; cook, Ivan Kharitanov; and maid Anya Demidova.

Lastly, we recoil at the senseless killing of Tatiana’s Pekinese dog “Jimmy”.

We damn Vladimir Lenin who ordered the regicide, Commissar Yakov Yurovsky, the leader of the assassination squad, and the Cheka guards who took unbridled, and unnatural pleasure in their perverse passion.

I wonder if Rappaport had to detail the gruesome details of the regicide and the Cheka’s inept attempts to destroy the corpses.

The Last Days of the Romanovs is a must read for the aficionados of the Russian Revolution.  For the faint of heart, I would suggest an alternate book.

You may also read St. Catherine’s Crown, historical fiction based on the regicide that begs the question, what if Anastasia survived?

What compelled me to pen this historical novel, St. Catherine’s Crown, about the Russian Revolution?

St. Catherine's Crown Final Cover

I chose to write about the Russian Revolution—the overthrow of the monarchy and installation of an atheistic Communist regime—to refresh our minds of its monumental impact on world events for seventy years.    The Bolshevik’s leaders—Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Felix Dzerzhinsky head of the Soviet secret police, for examples—exercised their unmitigated evil and bilious paranoia by slaughtering some twenty- to thirty-million Russians.  The malevolent cruelty and manifestly unnecessary regicide, is a horror of their rabid Communist orthodoxy that engendered the slaughtered of Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their five children, including their youngest daughter, Anastasia.

The Comintern apparatchiks spread its tenancies worldwide to overthrow western democracies and corrupt its citizens with agitprop in the media, films, and universities.  For several decades, we fought the Soviets in Winston Churchill’s  “Cold War,” oftentimes on the cusp of a real nuclear war.

Since I was a nipper, I had interest in Anastasia because of the films, stories, and flimflam hustlers hawking the fiction that she survived the regicide and was living incognito in some exotic locale.  During my naval career and after retirement, I studied Russian/Soviet and modern-day Chinese history.

Scribing St. Catherine’s Crown was a classic evolution process.  It started as a short story about fifteen-years ago.   I combine my two interests: Russia and China into one narrative. I started with the tale of the regicide and the then acceptable idea that Anastasia survived and escaped to a refuge in China.

As a young lad, I enjoyed stories about the orient—especially the comic strip titled “Terry and the Pirates,” by Milton Caniff—who featured such gorgeous femme fatales as the Dragon Lady, Burma, and CopperCanyon.

My tale grew into a novella as I developed Anastasia’s China adventures with blackguards that included the femme fatale, Black Orchid: whom I based on The Dragon Lady.

For reasons I cannot explain I could not leave this tale alone.  Then several years ago, I stumbled on an article about the Czech Legion—never heard of this outfit.   Did research, got interested, and decided to incorporate the Legion into my narrative.  My novella evolved into a complete historical novel.

St. Catherine’s Crown will be available for purchase in August 2013.

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