TedG's blog

"One Second After" What?

  • Posted on: 28 January 2012
  • By: TedG

The book our group is reading now, One Second After, is a fictional account of a true phenomenon. It’s a story about what happens in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion detonated in the upper atmosphere that creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). This pulse wipes out all electronic and electric capability in the United States. Can you imagine what that would be like? Just think of all the things we would not be able to do – communicate by phone or radio, use lights, drive cars. It’s mind-boggling.

So is this phenomenon a real possibility? It is. In fact, the federal government established an EMP Commission in the early part of the 21st century under an authorization granted by title XIV of the Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (as enacted into law by P.L. 106-398; 114 Stat. 1654A-345). The Commission was charged with assessing the threat of an EMP attack on the United States and with identifying any steps it believed should be taken by the United States to better protect its military and civilian systems from EMP attack. The EMP Commission was reestablished via the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 to continue its efforts (www.empcommission.org).

But what is an EMP? According to that virtual treasure trove of information, Wikipedia, an EMP is an abrupt burst of electromagnetic radiation that usually results from certain types of high energy explosions, especially a nuclear explosion, or from a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. The resulting rapidly changing electric fields and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_pulse). U.S. scientists first became aware of EMPs during nuclear tests that began in 1945. Word of them spread further in 1981 after William J. Broad published a series of three articles about nuclear electromagnetic pulse in the journal Science. In 1962, a 1.44 megaton nuclear bomb was detonated 250 miles above the mid-Pacific Ocean. The EMP produced by that explosion caused electrical damage in Hawaii, about 898 miles away from the detonation point, that knocked out about 300 streetlights, set off numerous burglar alarms, and damaged a telephone company microwave link. A similar test conducted that same year by the Soviet Union over Kazakhstan induced an electrical surge in a long underground power line that caused a fire in a city power plant.

USA Today did a story in October 2010 that laid out two scenarios for what could happen after an EMP. One was a nuclear explosion scenario, the other a naturally-caused event resulting from solar activity similar to what occurred in March of 1989. On March 9, 1989, the sun generated a blast of high-temperature charged solar gas that struck the Earth three days later. The geomagnetic storm resulting from the blast “made the northern lights visible in Texas and induced currents in Quebec's power grid that knocked out power for 6 million people in Canada and the USA for at least nine hours” (www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2010-10-26-emp_N.htm).

It’s an interesting thought exercise for us, and an even more interesting story to read. Let’s hope it remains that way rather than a real-life experience to endure.

REVIEW: "Blue Blood" by Edward Conlon

  • Posted on: 14 January 2012
  • By: TedG

With two exceptions, the group was of two minds about this biography/memoir by a New York City police detective. The exceptions were Adrian, who employed his “50 pages and out” rule – “if a book hasn’t caught my attention in the first 50 pages, I move on; I have a lot of other things to read” – and, on the other end of the spectrum, me. Though I don’t need to read the book twice, I enjoyed it very much the first time around. However, as I read it, I knew that the group was going to say it was slow and too long. They did, and maybe it was.

The two mindsets for the other three readers were these: the book had some really good parts, and those parts were interesting to read, but they were broken up by some really long and not necessarily relevant stories about the author’s family history, or details about day-to-day minutiae. There were too many names, too many details, and too much jargon (though Conlon does a good job of explaining the terms when he first uses them). But the good parts were really good! Who knew there was SO MUCH paperwork involved, especially with signing up informants! And it is AMAZING how much truly awful behavior and tedious work police officers have to put up with! The book was good and not so good.

Edward Conlon comes from a law enforcement family that is pretty well known among the NYPD, so it may seem natural that he became a police officer himself. However, he doesn’t do so right out of high school, choosing instead to go to Harvard first, which is apparently not the regular path of most civil servants. He tries to keep this fact quiet, as well as his interest in writing a book. In fact, he does not get a job with Department Commissioner, Bernard Kerik (after they recruit him, and everyone says “don’t turn this down”!) because the commissioner is thinking of writing a book, and when he learns Conlon is thinking of writing a book as well, Kerik does not want there to be an appearance of Conlon perhaps having written his book for him. But that’s a very small story in this larger view of the police world. Conlon is a good cop, and his path through the department toward the much-coveted “gold shield” of the NYPD detective is perhaps typical. He’s hard-driving and hands-on, always looking to make the arrest. But he is also keenly aware of the city’s and the department’s history, and his place in it. He reflects on all of this, bringing it to bear in his daily work on “the Job.” (“Job” is always capitalized, representative of how he views police work as a vocation rather than just a profession.) His appreciation of irony and coincidence and perhaps fate all make the side stories and tangents relevant to his larger contemplation and respect for police work.

Conlon earns his transfer to the detective bureau in the summer of 2001, and soon after, of course, is the attack on the World Trade Center. His description of that day and its aftermath – his assignment to sift through the rubble at the Fresh Kills landfill, and a story of his partner’s assignment to the morgue as a sort of honor guard for when the remains of police and fire fighters come in – is perhaps the most interesting for those who are not as taken with the rest of the book. Even now, 10 years after that horrific day, Conlon’s telling of it stirs raw feelings and emotions.

I have always been interested in law enforcement. It’s an interest that has been mixed with both true admiration and faulty misconceptions. As I kid, I read all the Hardy Boys books (twice!), and I have always been interested in the TV cop shows and movies (my favorites were Dragnet, Adam-12, Starsky and Hutch, CHIPS, The Untouchables, and the Lethal Weapon series). I’m still in awe of this vocation (it really is a calling), which is why when I saw Blue Blood on a National Public Radio book list, I added it to the our group’s candidate list. Perhaps, then, my enjoyment of the book is colored by that long-standing interest. Indeed, the group felt cops would probably like this book. (If any officers are reading this blog, we welcome your participation!) In the end, the average score for interest was a 3.5, and readability scored a 3.3 (both on a 1-5 scale). Three people said they were not interested in reading another book by Conlon, while one other person could be, if, like with Douglas Brinkley’s Wilderness Warrior, he knew ahead of time how long the book was, and if he could read an independent review of it AND have access to Clif Notes (do they still make those?). I would read something else by Edward Conlon, even if it was more “true crime” than personal history. The mystery – or just the burden of proof – and the intelligence that is required to provide the proof and solve the mystery always make for good reading.

To Protect and Serve

  • Posted on: 28 December 2011
  • By: TedG

As our group delves into Blue Blood this month, I am reminded this is our second look into the world of law enforcement (of the nonfiction variety). The first time we visited this topic was in early 2010 when we read Joseph Petro’s Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service (written with Jeffrey Robinson), an account of one man’s 23-year career with that enigmatic agency, focusing especially on his four years protecting President Ronald Reagan.  

Petro’s memoir is not filled with macho story-telling and name-dropping. Instead he provides a very rare glimpse into how “the job is not about taking a bullet for the president, it’s about doing everything possible to prevent that decision from ever having to be made.” “Everything possible” translates into an incredible amount of detail-oriented planning, evaluation, and preparation before a site is even approved for a presidential visit. I don’t remember, and looking back through the book, it’s difficult to determine if Petro was with Reagan the day he was shot in March 1981. He talks about that day in Chapter 1, but it is in the context of a brief history of high-profile assassination attempts and successes, and the creation of Secret Service. He talks about John Hinckley’s attempt on the president’s life from a detached perspective, not as the re-telling of a personal memory. Regardless, Petro’s story is engrossing, and as someone who grew up in the Reagan era, it was interesting for me to recall these events that I remember hearing about and watching on television, history that Petro literally stood next to. I’m also a fan of back-story, so I liked reading about what was going on behind scenes of the political events that we saw on the evening news. Aside from Reagan, Petro also served on protection details for Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Pope John Paul II, and Dan Quayle. That’s a lot of history, and it all makes for a good story.

The five of us who discussed Standing Next to History ranked it a 4 (out of 5) for both readability and interest. The lack of “action” may make it a slow read for those looking for a nonfiction thriller, but if you are looking for a genuine account of how protecting and serving takes place in the real world (pre-9/11 anyway), this is worthy of your time.

REVIEW: "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America" by Douglas Brinkley

  • Posted on: 17 December 2011
  • By: TedG

Five of us met at The Ideal Market last night to discuss the physically largest book our group has read - The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley (Harper Perennial Press, 2010). It was an interesting and whole-hearted discussion given that only two of the five had finished the book. (The other three, myself included, vow to finish the book.)

Our ranking process for Interest and Readability yielded an average of 4.6 and 4.1 (out of 5), respectively. Despite not earning full 5s, we all agreed that the book is excellent and well worth reading. In fact, all five of us said we would read another of Brinkley's books with the qualifier that we would first look to see how long it is. The only other criticism was that there was not an epilogue. The book ends at the same time as Roosevelt's presidency. It would be nice to know what happened after that time, given that Roosevelt lived for nine years after leaving the White House.

One interesting point that came out of the discussion is that Adrian wrote to Brinkley to question Roosevelt's account of hunting "wolves" in Oklahoma. Based on details of size and other revelations, Adrian was convinced that Roosevelt was hunting coyotes and not wolves, invoking the latter to simply increase the grandiosity of the hunt. Roosevelt's personal disdain for "nature fakers," wrote Adrian, runs contrary to his own fakery in this regard. Brinkley replied, agreeing with him that Roosevelt had inflated the story and asked if Adrian would let Brinkley contact him as a "wolf expert" for a book he is currently writing.

Our group will meet on Friday, 13 January, to discuss Blue Blood by Edward Conlon.

Just How Many Books Are There About Theodore Roosevelt?

  • Posted on: 16 December 2011
  • By: TedG

With our group reading Wilderness Warrior over this last month, I suddenly was noticing books about Theodore Roosevelt everywhere I looked. So I did a search to see just how many there are, and I found 21 novels (I didn’t include kids books or “factoid” collections) written about or by the former President between 1982 and 2011. Theodore Roosevelt himself had seven books (one was a two-in-one compilation) re-released between 1983 and 2010.

Of course, the one chosen by the MBG, Wilderness Warrior, is the largest of them all (we are book warriors). Weighing in at 960 pages, it beats the next biggest book – T.R.: The Last Romantic by H.W. Brandsby (1998) – by 32 pages. All 21 books combined have 11,331 pages, with an average length of 539 pages. The other book our group read about Roosevelt – Candice Millard’s River of Doubt (April 2010) – is a little less than half the length of Wilderness Warrior (432 pages). Roosevelt’s own account of the trip detailed in Millard’s book – Through the Brazilian Wilderness – is even shorter (214 pages). 

So many books, so little time.

Men’s Book Group Chooses 2011 Book(s) of the Year

  • Posted on: 11 December 2011
  • By: TedG
Though an observer standing at the corner of Kavanaugh Street and County M on November 11th might have thought it another quiet evening in Cable, a peek inside the warmly-lighted interior of the Ideal Market would have found high-minded and insightful discussion swirling at the first Men’s Book Group “Book of the Year” event.


The red carpet event hosted by Redbery Books and The Rivers Eatery was attended by local literary luminaries Barry Blakeborough, Adrian Wydeven, Ron Caple, and Ted Gostomski. Fellow luminary John Sill, a Town of Namakagon firefighter, was participating in a live-fire training event and so sent his votes by email.


There were nine candidates:


  • In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
  • A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto by Jorge Ramos
  • The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • True Grit by Charles Portis
  • From Microsoft to Malawi by Michael Buckler
  • The Overton Window by Glenn Beck
  • Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille


The group had only recently begun reading the year’s final book: Douglas Brinkley’s The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, so to give it a fair review and consideration for Book of the Year, it will be considered for the 2012 Book of the Year.


The competition was fierce, the debate lively, the arguments deeply impassioned and well reasoned. In the end, two winners emerged – one each of non-fiction and fiction. They are………. (drum roll) ……. The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea and The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille.


Of The Devil’s Highway, the group felt “it wove a good [story] into a nonfiction tale”, and it brought to light the very real peril of illegal immigration and just how far it reaches into people’s lives. The Lion’s Game was noted as being well-written and a “purely enjoyable read.”


When it was all over, the table around which the men sat was littered with books and paper, empty plates and glasses. The conversation had taken its toll. The group was sated. One by one, they shuffled out the door and into the quiet November evening. No paparazzi crowded around and no reporters sought interviews, but we knew we had fought the good fight. And we will do it again next year.

A History of Men, Chapter 2: Our Formation

  • Posted on: 11 December 2011
  • By: TedG
It began with a question. I was browsing the store one day when one of Redbery’s earliest book clubs was meeting. They were discussing the first book in the Twilight series. Recently, the daughter of my wife’s friends had posted on her Facebook page that she was one of a growing group of teenagers who probably had an unreasonable view of love and romance because of Twilight. I asked Bev about this, and she took me into the group’s meeting to pose the question to them.
Technically, that’s the question that started it all. But in reality it was the one that came next. After Bev and I left the group to continue their discussion, I asked her, "Why do book groups seem to only be comprised of women?" She thought about it for a moment, and with a slight smile said, “would you consider starting a men’s book group?” I looked around the room with the strangest feeling that I had sprung a trap. Bev smiled.
The Men's Book Group held its first meeting in June 2009. Barry Blakeborough and I discussed Seth Kantner's Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska on that early summer evening. There were only two of us that first night and the following month, but the seed was planted. Four people attended the August 2009 meeting
Our group has grown over the past two-and-a-half years, and we have developed a solid pseudo-reputation as the “smarty pants group.” (I’m not sure what that means.) Our reading interests tend toward history and historical fiction, but there have been a couple of thrillers, some current events, and one classic (Moby Dick). The group’s full reading history is provided in "A History of Men, Chapter 1.”
In 2010, we began rating the books as a way of sharing with Redbery customers what we felt were good books for men. We rate the readability and the interest of books on a scale of 1-5. Later in the year, we added another question to our evaluations: “would you read another book by this author?” These rankings are often shared on the Men’s Book Group page of the Redbery website, and they will now be shared in this blog. Past rankings are also shown in "A History of Men, Chapter 1.”
The group established its first “Book of the Year” selection in 2011, but that’s another story.

A History of Men, Chapter 1: Our Reading List

  • Posted on: 11 December 2011
  • By: TedG
2009   Mean Rating
  (Scale of 1-5)
  Readability Interest
June Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska     
  by Seth Kantner    
July Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story     
  by LeAnne Howe    
August The Tenderness of Wolves    
  by Stef Penney    
Sept/Oct Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10     
  by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson    
November Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer    
  by James L. Swanson    
December OFF    
2010   Mean Rating 
  (Scale of 1 – 5)
  Readability Interest
January One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd  4.7 4
  by Jim Fergus    
February Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot with an Arctic Herd  4.5 4.5
  by Karsten Heuer    
March Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service  4 4
  by Joseph Petro, with Jeffrey Robinson    
April River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey 4.5 4.9
  by Candice Millard    
May The Bodies Left Behind 3.75 2.8
  by Jeffery Deaver    
June The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon  5 5
  by David Grann    
July OFF - -
August The Road Home 3 3.8
  by Jim Harrison    
September Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf  2.3 2.6
  by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman    
October The World Without Us 3.7 3.7
  by Alan Weisman    
November 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus 5 5
  by Charles C. Mann    
December The Haj 4.8 4.8
  by Leon Uris    
2011   Mean Rating 
  (Scale of 1 – 5)
  Readability Interest
January In the Spirit of Crazy Horse -- --
  by Peter Matthiessen    
February A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto 4.2 2
  by Jorge Ramos    
March The Devil's Highway: A True Story 5 4.9
  by Luis Alberto Urrea    
April True Grit 5 5
  by Charles Portis    
May From Microsoft to Malawi -- --
  by Michael Buckler    
June The Overton Window 5 5
  by Glenn Beck    
July Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival  4 2.5
  by Norman Ollestad    
Aug/Sept Moby Dick 2.5 4.5
  by Herman Melville    
October Lion’s Game 4.9 4.8
  by Nelson DeMille    
Nov/Dec The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America    
  by Douglas Brinkley    
2012   Mean Rating
  (Scale of 1 – 5)
  Readability Interest
January Blue Blood    
  by Edward Conlon    
February One Second After    
  by William R. Forstchen    
March Griftopia    
  by Matt Taibbi    
April The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America     
  by Erik Larson    

Digital Man - the Inaugural Blog Post for the Men's Book Group

  • Posted on: 10 December 2011
  • By: TedG

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Let it be known throughout the digital universe,

that on this 10th day of December, in the year Two-thousand and Eleven,

Redbery Books has granted the Men's Book Group (MBG) this blog space so that we might share, in greater detail, information about our group and our book reviews, as well as offer our own witty, insightful, intelligent, and gripping commentary about writers and books that we like.

Thank you Redbery!