Category Archives: Book and Film Reviews

Saturday Matinee 2016 37: Sully (2016)

sully-poster02This is probably the least military-related movie we’ve ever reviewed here, even though the hero (who is, to the relief of anyone who’s been watching movies lately, actually shown as a hero) is a veteran. Indeed, he’s a man who’s worn the mantle of heroism like a hair shirt, insisting that “I was just doing my job.” He was; it’s what airline pilots do. What’s different is only the challenge that was thrown at him and his copilot, and the success with which they met it. (Today is a friend’s first revenue flight in new equipment — 787 — to Shanghai. Like all pros, he is impressed with what Captain Chesley Sullenberger and FO Jeff Skiles of US Air did, and hopes that he never faces such a tough problem, and that if he does, he handles it as well as they did).

In case you were under a rock during this January 2009 incident, Sully’s US Air Airbus 320 ingested a large quantity of geese into both engines on climbout from New York’s Kennedy Airport. Copilot Jeff Skiles was pilot flying, and Sully was pilot monitoring, but he took control of the plane after the birdstrikes. Out of power, altitude and options, he couldn’t make it back to the airfield — or to any other. He chose to make a water landing.

sully_2016_12468875

While there have been several jetliner water landings with survivors in the six-plus decades of jet air travel, this event was was unusual in that everyone survived. It helped that the incident happened in winter months, and the usual summer swarms of pleasure boaters were not active.

Acting and Production

The actors are all perfect in their roles, and the two men of the aircrew are made up as pretty near ringers of the two pilots, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and Jeff Skiles. Tom Hanks is his usual Everyman as Sully…sully_2016_9643843…and Aaron Eckhart shows that he has acting chops beyond his usual action-hero roles as copilot Skiles.

sully_2016_12468881

 

Supporting actors in important roles such as accident investigators (one of them Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad fame), union reps, Sully’s wife, New York river boatmen (one of them a real harbor ferry captain, playing himself), and the passengers and cabin crew are all just right. The producers and director knocked themselves out to show us regular people doing regular things on a day that turned out to be extraordinary for all of them.

Director Clint Eastwood makes a complicated script with flashbacks and dream sequences flow clearly, somehow; it’s never confusing, even though he monkeys with your head: is this a flashback to an actual event that ended one way, or a nightmare that will end the event differently? After a couple of times, you lose all complacency in anticipation.

sully-tom-and-clint

Accuracy and Weapons

There are no weapons to speak of in the movie, although there’s a brief appearance by a pair of F4 Phantoms, as Sully flashes back to a previous emergency during his Air Force days. The Phantoms are in the correct period camouflage.

The flying stuff is generally pretty accurate, both in the depiction of what went right and of what would have gone wrong with some small changes in aeronautical decision making.

sully-crew

CGI is, mirabile dictu, used to make extremely realistic and convincing renderings of things that would be hard or impossible to pull off with practical effects. The Airbus A320 is particularly well-rendered to include aerodynamic effects on the wings and the effects of bird ingestion on the powerplants.

The accident investigation is almost entirely misrepresented, in order to create Hollywood “conflict” between Sullenberger and the investigators. Some of the investigators have had their noses out of joint about that. Also, the NTSB’s great divide between professional investigators (who might head something like a Human Factors group, or examine wreckage, etc.) and the figurehead Board Members, who are often lawyers who owe their positions to Washington influence-peddling, is erased, and instead you see an investigation as if it were carried out by gormless lawyers. It culminates in a Perry Mason style trial scene (Hollywood scriptwriters put these in because their Jewish mothers wanted them to be lawyers) at an NTSB public Board Meeting. In actual fact, these public meetings are designed for the political appointees on the board to rubber-stamp in public, the results the professional investigators have written up for them, and there’s never any question about what will happen at the meeting — it has literally been rehearsed.

But that is a small complaint, and it does serve the story line, whereas if the conflict were entirely in Sullenberger’s head, with his very real second-guessing of his own decisions, how could they portray that in a movie that you would like to watch? So the writers externalized the conflict so it could meet the audience expectation of a good guy in a white hat and a bad guy in black.

The bottom line

Sully is a well-produced, well-directed, well-acted story with a likeable all-American hero (two, if you count Eckhart’s Jeff Skiles). It’s a good late-summer fun flick for all ages, and it’s in theaters right now. It will be ignored by the Oscars, unless they choose to pillory it for not making Sullenberger a tranny or something. But go thou, and givest thee thy money to Mr Eastwood, Mr Hanks and their associates, for making an excellent work of entertainment.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page

It’s also available to stream for free for Amazon Prime members:

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3263904/

  • IMFDB page (none)

 

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (82%):

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sully/

  • Wikipedia  page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sully_(film)

  • History vs. Hollywood Page.

http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/sully/

Notes

none

Saturday Matinee 2016 31: Hyena Road (2014, Canadian)

Hyena_RoadWelcome to Afghanistan, where Afghans’ loyalties are never certain, snipers chafe under restrictive ROE, fraternization on the FOB can destroy careers, and an intelligence officer struggles to understand something about the badal revenge code that is part of Pushtunwali. 

And, holy schnikeys, it’s not a documentary, but a feature film.

Made on a tight budget ($13 million Canadian) with a lot of support from the Canadian Department of National Defense, this movie gives you a gritty you-are-there feeling as ordinary and extraordinary Canadians struggle to come to terms with their duties in Taliban-rich country outside the teeming camp of Kandahar.

Acting and Production

Paul Gross directs and co-stars; his character, Captain Pete Mitchell, is one of the two male leads, an intelligence officer who understands the Afghans — or thinks he does. Rossif Sutherland is Ryan Sanders, the NCO leading the task force’s sniper teams. Sanders has a secret, although it’s clearly the sort of secret everyone pretends not to know: a cross-ranks romance with battle captain Jen Bowman (played convincingly by Christine Horne).

Sutherland (l.) and Gross (r.)

Sutherland (l.) and Gross (r.)

You may remember Gross from Passchendaele, which we also need to review.  A visit to Afghanistan made him want to tell the story of Canadian Forces there. In an interview with the Calgary Herald, he said:

It was absolutely mesmerizing. I don’t know what I expected by it wasn’t what I found. I felt like, in some strange way, I had been misled or the full picture was never presented by successive governments or by the press. I mean we had some very good journalists there but, by and large, I thought the press was rather shallow in trying to explain what it was we were doing in such a complicated environment.

In essence, everything in the movie is based on something that actually happened and the characters were all roughly characters I met or composites of them. All I really did was assemble them into a narrative that I thought would make for an exciting movie. But it’s all fundamentally based on the real stuff of my trip.

Gross actually made two trips: the first, his initial “entertain the troops” visit, he found himself less busy than the singers and comics who had rehearsals and sound checks; so he spent his time wandering around, meeting average Canadian troopies — and being blown away by the experience. He came back with a camera crew (which explains why some of the exteriors look so correct. They are.) Other parts were shot in Jordan and on Canadian Forces training areas in the west of Canada.

Gross really did an incredible job here, making a big movie for small money.

Accuracy and Weapons

Weapons never do the impossible and all of them look and sound right. Care has been taken with signatures — no Hollywood fireballs.

One thing you’ll see here that is rare in modern movies is artillery firing live. The dust, the blast, the recoil, are all lost when some director calls for big guns to be CGI’d or fired with blanks.

The sniper procedures are generally not too far off, although there is of course the inevitable cranking on about 1000 mills on the scope turrets. The sniper rifles, however, are either dead-on (the McMillan .50 as used by CF) or very close (a PGW .308 standing in for the .338 that’s actually used in the field). The other Canadian weapons and optics are right, and the Taliban are armed, as in the real world, with AKs.

Some TTPs are accurate and some are not, either for opsec’s sake or for narrative reasons, take your pick. The final battle does go “Hollywood,”  but not completely out of the range of possibility.

The bottom line

Surprisingly excellent, Hyena Road is a great little movie you’ve probably never heard of. You don’t have to be Canadian to enjoy it, but we recommend it even more strongly to Canadians than to other readers.

Thanks to OTR for sending the DVD.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hyena-Road-Rossif-Sutherland/dp/B01CYBGODE/

Amazon streaming video:

https://www.amazon.com/Hyena-Road-Rossif-Sutherland/dp/B01CTHMFW2/

 

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4034452/

  • IMFDB page:

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Hyena_Road

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (55%):

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hyena_road/

  • Wikipedia  page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyena_Road

  • History vs. Hollywood Page.

(none)

Saturday Matinee 2016 30: Star Trek: Beyond (2016)

Star_Trek_Beyond_posterThe movie is called Star Trek: Beyond. So what, exactly, are they beyond? Well, the last two episodes of the Star Trek “reboot,” maybe. The edge of known space? The box-office reach of endless sequels? The capacity of endless CGI to entertain?

Has the Great Buggernaut inserted a gratuitous attempt to mainstream teh ghey?

Yes. Yes to all of those, to all of it.

But… it’s not all bad, particularly for fans of, or at least people familiar with, the original Star Trek TV series. There are numerous homages to the original, including: known taglines: “I”m a doctor, not a…”; the expected interplay between Bones and Spock; and, worthy of a laugh out loud, the officers of the Enterprise running through a cheesily-lighted set of even cheesier papier-maché “rocks,” just like Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley did fifty (yes, 50!) years ago.

There is at least one missing cliché: Kirk doesn’t fall for any of the women (alien or crew). But then, they’re all arrayed along the Galactic H-Line between Homely and Hideous; you won’t fall for them, either. That may be the reason for Kirk’s un-1966 chasteness, or it may just be that the imaginary century being depicted here is post-hetero or something.

So it has the entertainment value of any average 50-minute Star Trek episode, crammed tightly into over two hours of plot twists and more and more CGI. Apart from the above-mentioned cameo by the fake rocks of 1966, the entire movie seems to have been shot in front of a green screen.

Acting and Production

The actors are all competent and all have clearly studied the TV versions of their characters; for most of them, the continuity is remarkable. The exception is Zachary Quinto as Spock; he’s a perfectly logical bowl of seething emotions, whatever that is.

A vast fortune was spent on pixels that were blown hither and yon by CGI. By and large, the effects, while dominating the film, don’t fail at their role in telling the story. But the score also tries to dominate the film, and that’s worse luck. It’s jagged, distracting, and just generally “off.” A good score often goes unnoticed, but this one kneels on both armrests of your theater seat and punches you in the face — and then comes back to do it again the next time the director’s insecure about the DRAMA or TENSION (his caps, honestly) in a given scene.

The movie is available in regular and 3D; we recommend, after watching the 3D for a stinging $14 a seat, and being somewhat disoriented at times, given the 3D a miss.

The script was co-written by Simon Pegg, the talented British actor who plays Montgomery “Scotty” Scott. Pegg’s brilliant comedies are essentially a string of episodes only loosely organized by a plot or storyline, and, sad to say, this script is like that, too. On the plus side, he did write a decent part for himself, so there is that.

Idris Elba, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon?

Idris Elba, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon?

Idris Elba’s talents are utterly wasted as a mostly unexplained Starfleet-officer-turned-immortal villain, and he’s stuffed in a fake rubber Creature from the Black Lagoon suit anyway, so it could have been anybody.

As we have said in other recent reviews (John Wick, for one, although we might not have hit publish on that one), the current trend in cinematography of loading up the dark end of the histogram means that this will have a hard transition to the small screen.

Accuracy and Weapons

Space opera is not the place to quibble about accuracy, but the physics of the Star Trek movie universe is so far off plumb as to be inadvertently funny.

You know, if James T. Kirk really totaled a starship every movie, Starfleet would stop giving him the keys.

You know, if James T. Kirk really totaled a starship every movie, Starfleet would stop giving him the keys.

We could give endless examples of this, but here’s one: a spaceship reenters a planet’s atmosphere and tumbles to the surface in a jagged, mountainous area. On impact with a jagged, rocky crag, it breaks the crag off. And this doesn’t happen just once, but every time the screenwriter is stuck for a way to get Character X from space to surface, and the screenwriters seem to get stuck a lot.

In true Roddenberry, fuzzy-thinking-LA-denizen spirit, numerous saccharine platitudes about the universal and overwhelming power of peace and love are floated out by the script, before the situation is resolved by the good guys with a massive arsenal blow the living Jesus out of the bad guys and their massive arsenal.

The bottom line

Star Trek: Bryond is a must for Star Trek completists. It’s not a bad movie to take a teenager to, because it has enough cartooney violence to please the kid without the violence ever failing to be cartooney. Really, it’s basically just an overgrown (and scriptwise, unnecessarily convoluted) Lost Episode of some baby boomers’ favorite childhood TV show.

See the matinee, though, and don’t splurge on the 3D.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page (preorder only):

http://www.amazon.com/13-Hours-Secret-Soldiers-Benghazi/dp/B018IDVB5S/

You can also find Blu-Ray at that link. Amazon also has the book on which the movie is based:

http://www.amazon.com/13-Hours-Account-Happened-Benghazi/dp/145558228X/

(Interesting to note: most of the reviews max the book out, four stars. But there are some one-star reviews. Or are there? When you click on the one star to read them, they are mostly very positive. Apparently if you ignore the stars when reviewing, Amazon defaults to one star).

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2660888/

  • IMFDB page:

(none)

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (60%):

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_trek_beyond/

  • Wikipedia  page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_Beyond

  • History vs. Hollywood Page.

(none)

Some $1 Kindle Military History Books

100000-dollar-bill

Who says a good read has to cost a fortune?

These may not be available to users outside the USA, but you can try. We’ve had good luck ordering physical books from other nations’ Amazon stores, but have never tried an e-book. Maybe one of you guys out there can let us know if the system lets you order.

The cool thing about these books? Mostly older books, they’re on Kindle for 99¢. You can read Kindle books (in the .Here are four, oldest (in terms of war covered) to newest:

Three Years with Quantrill: A True Story Told By His Scout by John McCorkle & O. S. Barton.

This 1914 memoir was reportedly dictated by the then-elderly McCorkle to Barton. The smallest taste:

We rode up to a house and found two ladies at home. One of them asked me if we were in the fight that had taken place there shortly before. I told her “Yes.” She then asked me if any of us had lost part of a pistol in that fight. Jim Younger told her that he had lost the cylinder of his pistol and the lady remarked, “Well, we found some part of a pistol out there in the road; I don’t know what you call it, but here it is,” and it was the cylinder of Jim Younger’s pistol that he had lost in the road.

Yes, that Jim Younger. Both Younger brothers, Jim and Cole, are mentioned several times, but there is only one reference to their postwar partner in crime, Jesse James. We think we’ll really enjoy this one. At the end, the unit disguises itself in Union uniforms and tries to make is way to Virginia through swarms of victorious Unionists. (We just skimmed it).

Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War by Deneys Reitz

This is apparently one man’s memoir of the war from the Afrikaner side. Haven’t even opened it yet. Several other Reitz memoirs (sections of a lifelong diary, perhaps?) are also available.

Q-Ships and Their Story by E. Keble-Chatterton, Lt. Cmdr,, RNVR

This is the story of the daring Q-Ship operations of World War I, originally written and published in 1922. The author observes that the submarine war was one of imagination, more than brute force. One of the surprising discoveries here is the degree to which sailing ships were commissioned as His Majesty’s warships.

Vassili Zaitsev: Secrets from a Sniper’s Notebook By Robert F. Burgess.

This is a brief overview of the famous Soviet sniper’s wartime efforts. It’s one of a series of short books by WWII veteran Burgess on snipers and sniping. Short but informative, and includes as an appendix a list of rules for snipers that Zaitsev established. There’s a newer version of this book with a different title if your budget goes to $3.

Best thing about all these books is that, any one that you pick (here, Three Years with Quantrill), Amazon suggests a umber of other 99¢ specials for you…

99-cent_amazon_history

And there you have it. Four books, $4, and more just awaiting the discovery.

Righteous Read: Romesha, Red Platoon.

Red PlatoonWhy would you read a book about a fight that you’d already read one excellent book about? The Battle of Camp Keating, also called the Battle of Kamdesh, has been the subject of an excellent New York Times best-selling book by TV reporter Jake Tapper, and Tapper’s book, The Outpost, is as good as any military story written by a journalist can be — up there with the field’s previous standard-bearer, Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down. Surely any other book would be, as an incendiary Mohammedan prince said of the Library of Alexandria, either duplicative of The Outpost, and thus redundant; or contradictory, and thus heretical.

This is not the case. While it can be read in conjunction with Tapper’s account — there is little overlap between the books. Tapper tells a journalist’s story, with a great deal of framework-building “context” and with on-the-ground source and fact subordinated to a didactic Narrative (even though he is one of the most even-handed reporters working today). Clint Romesha, on the other hand, tells the story of Combat Out Post (COP) Keating as only an NCO who was deeply involved in its defense can.

The placement of COP Keating, named after Lt. Ben Keating who died in a truck mishap on the dangerous roads to the remote camp, was typical of the kinds of tactical decisions that began to be made as generals like Stanley McCrystal pursued personal celebrity and issued big-picture orders to subordinates who seemed disinclined to ask questions; none of these officers seems to have had the least regard for the men their orders sent to these modern Little Big Horns. Romesha writes that the position of COP Keating was selected, not by an experienced combat arms officer or soldier, but by tactically naive intelligence analysts. As a result, they wound up with the sort of defensive position that Bradley Manning might have chosen: Keating was surrounded 360º by high ground held by the enemy. Someone had “checked the box” by providing an OP (Observation Post) on higher ground, but so sited that the terrain between meant that neither the COP nor its OP could provide the other with observation or direct fire. (The COP was staffed by a company minus, the OP by a platoon).

While this was arguably an infantry mission, the men on the COP were from a cavalry scout unit.  Their “troop” or company-sized unit had three platoons, imaginatively labeled Red, White and Blue. Red was Clint Romesha’s platoon.

A chart showing where the 7 slain and 1 mortally wounded scouts fell. The photo is from before the attack, though.

A declassified chart showing where the 7 slain and 1 mortally wounded scouts fell. The photo is from before the attack, though. The police at the ANP station surrendered to the Taliban, and were summarily executed.

What use is an observation post that can neither observe nor be observed? Only this: it “checks the box” for some inept leader working off a checklist with no real comprehension of what he’s doing. No one from lieutenant colonel on up seemed to really grasp the weakness of the position; but the weakness was clear to two elements:

  1. The junior officers, NCOs, and soldiers of the outposts; and,
  2. The enemy.

The enemy’s presence was evident from the beginning, and attacks became a daily occurrence. What Romesha did not understand at the time, but came to realize later, was that these attacks were probes designed to tickle the Keating defenses and observe the defenders’ reactions. In the weeks before the big attack, patrols found numerous signs of enemy surveillance.

The attack launched on 3 October 2009 (yes, the anniversary of Mogadishu. Probably a coincidence — remember that the enemy here use the Moslem lunar calendar). It showed that the enemy had made great use of its surveillance logs; they first sent in a tsunami of withering fire, and followed it up with a storm surge of men.

After the withdrawal, the explosive charges failed to fire, and the remaining rubble was further destroyed by a B-1 bomber.

After the withdrawal, the explosive charges failed to fire, and the remaining rubble was further destroyed by a B-1 bomber.

By the time the wave hits, Romesha has introduced you to the key players in the defense of Keating (with a heavy dose of foreshadowing for those of his friends and platoon mates for whom this was the last battle). You also have met the supporting players, like the helicopter crews, and you’ve gotten — as, after the battle, Romesha got — a better perspective on some of the things that perplexed him as a low-ranking NCO. His even-handedness, good nature, and curiosity served him well when researching this book. This excerpt is a small example of the even-handedness that so impressed us. He is discussing how it seemed to the men at Keating that the supporting helicopter unit abandoned them; they had no way to know the choppers were being tasked to save the Afghan town of Bargi Matal from being overrun, and supporting five strikes a night on targets associated with the search for deserter Bowe Bergdahl. Sure, the war was under-resourced, but Romesha resists finger-pointing:

One could say that this boiled down to a cause-and-effect chain of lousy ideas, poor decisions, and flawed thinking. When it’s laid out that way, the logic of this argument seems to hold water. But most soldiers who have experienced combat understand that armchair quarterbacking is shallow and often misguided. It’s easy to second-guess decisions based on their ramifications, and then to assign blame. Considerably harder is excepting that in combat, things can and will often go wrong not because of bad decisions, but despite even the best decisions. That is the nature of war.

The book is frank, fair and sufficiently intense that we had to put it down from time to time and go do something else, anything else. It is an excellent corrective to those of us who read Tapper’s The Outpost and thought we understood this fight. Understanding might be one cognitive leap too far, but Red Platoon will inform you of the ends to which our young men are sometimes put, and the character with which they meet such challenges.

The very best parts of the book are the ones where Romesha shares with you clear word portraits of the other men he served with; we were especially moved by his description of Eric Snell, a soldier he’d served with — and lost to a sniper — on an earlier tour in Iraq. At the end of Red Platoon, you know the men who died, warts and all. And you mourn them and regret you never got to meet them. You also know, and you recognize the sheer guts and skill of, the survivors.

U.S. Soldiers with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division pose for a photo after a mission in Afghanistan in 2009. Standing, Left to right: Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, Spc. Thomas Rasmussen, Sgt. Brad Larson, 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann, Pfc. Christopher Jones, Spc. Kugler and Spc. Knight. Kneeling, left to right: Sgt. Armando Avalos, Jr., Spc. Zach Koppes, Spc. Gregory, Pfc. Davidson. (U.S. Army Courtesy photo/Released)

U.S. Soldiers with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division pose for a photo after a mission in Afghanistan in 2009. Standing, Left to right: Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, Spc. Thomas Rasmussen, Sgt. Brad Larson, 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann, Pfc. Christopher Jones, Spc. Kugler and Spc. Knight. Kneeling, left to right: Sgt. Armando Avalos, Jr., Spc. Zach Koppes, Spc. Gregory, Pfc. Davidson. (U.S. Army photo).

Is there anything about the book we’d change? We’d like to see better maps. The endpapers contain a commercial artist’s sketch map of COP Keating, but it really can’t show the relief, and it’s too small to show the relation of the min COP to OP Fritsche, the mutually-non-supporting Observation Post. As a soldier, these things are easy to follow from Romesha’s written description, but we worry that civilian readers might miss these aspects of just how incredibly bad, tactically, these siting decisions were. Then again, the topographical maps that make the nightmare terrain clear to a military reader may be Greek to the average civilian.

Many of those heroes of the fight who distinguished themselves, like Romesha himself and his platoon leader, Andrew Bundermann, left the Army subsequently. Bundermann, says Romesha, blames himself for the loss of eight men of his platoon. Romesha and the other survivors disagree vehemently; from the command post, Bundermann marshaled supporting fires like a great conductor animates his strings and woodwinds; without those fires, there would have been no survivors, and the post would not have been held. Still, he feels guilty that his name was not among the dead.

Every combat vet understands.

The Book

Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor was published in May by Dutton, an imprint of one of the big New York publishers. It is available in hardcover (Amazon link) and in an overpriced Kindle e-book. Expect trade and mass-market paperbacks in due course.

Many thanks to OTR for recommending this book. -Ed.

For More Information:

Compare the Battle of Wanat, another badly sited post defended by off-the-charts valor:

The Big Lie About Wanat (COP Kahler), Part 1 of 2 (long)

A good post on the battle of COP Keating:

http://plbirnamwood.blogspot.com/2013/02/medal-of-honor-ssg-clinton-romesha-cop.html

Keating, the Medical Story (by the deployed Physician’s Assistant; scroll to p.21 of this .pdf):

http://www.sapa.org/MAYNewsletterSAPA2011.pdf

(Note that Spc Ty Carter, mentioned in this article, has also received the Medal of Honor for his conduct in the battle).

Saturday Matinee 2016 25: Soldier of Orange (Dutch, 1977)

This is the movie that made Dutch director Paul Verhoeven a “name” in Hollywood and led to his subsequent career in the American movie industry. (He continues to work in his native Netherlands, too, occasionally returning to wartime stories). It is the story of several young friends and their disparate experiences in World War II Holland, including the brief shooting war of 1940, occupation, resistance, collaboration, exile, and liberation.

Scenes set in Holland are subtitled in English. Scenes set in England are not.

Scenes set in Holland are subtitled in English. Scenes set in England are not.

As the movie opens the protagonist, Eric Lanshof (Rutger Hauer), and his friends are undergoing the horrifying experience of a fraternity hazing, unaware of the real nightmares that lie right ahead. The friendships forged here are tested in various ways.

Several of the boys join the resistance: some boldly, some timidly. One is turned by threats against a third party — throughout, the Nazi counterintelligence operation is portrayed as ruthless and competent. One is torn by his mixed Dutch/German ancestry. One will be buried in an unmarked grave in the Dutch barrier dunes; another, executed in a horrifying way in a concentration camp. One winds up in the Dutch SS and becomes, for a time, a hero of the new Europe. And one just stays in school until it, too, is forced underground by the Occupation — and manages to keep studying.

Eric himself is not looking to be a hero, which makes him all the more convincing one. At one level, this movie is a gripping (if complicated) adventure story of resistance against an implacable and evil empire. At another, it’s an exposition of the techniques and countertechniques of resistance and repression. And overall, it is a great arching human tragedy of chances, choices, circumstances and consequences.

It can be difficult to see here in North America; it was posted to YouTube in sections, but at least one has been taken down by the copyright lawyers determined to score valuable points by keeping their clients’ art unseen. (Lawyers. Is there any question but that most of them would flock to the  ranks of the collaborators, were they to face the choices of these film characters?)

Acting and Production

The movie was quite expensive for a continental European production, with the best Dutch talent in front of and behind the talent, and some talented Germans brought in just to creep the audience out — the avuncular CI chief will stick in your mind, as will his gutter-minded assistant.

Rutger Hauer is powerful as Eric. He is perfectly cast as a big Dutchman (after all, he is a good-sized Dutchman). One other actor familiar to Anglosphere audiences is Edward Fox, typecast as usual as a British officer. The other actors, mostly Dutch,

Accuracy and Weapons

Someone worked hard on accuracy for this film. The 1940 Dutch Army is painstakingly equipped with appropriate guns, like Dutch Mannlichers and Browning 1922 pistols.

soldier_of_orange_02

Resistance guys have Stens, Webleys, and other British hardware. Dutchmen in exile train with Lee-Enfields. This is all more or less correct.

A couple of incidents involve a revolver (possibly a Webley) and a small .25. The Germans are armed appropriately, with German weapons, although they have an MG42 in 1940.

soldier_of_orange_01

Some of the bigger stuff works, some doesn’t. The “British” floatplane that comes to pick up a courier is a postwar DeHavilland Canada product; “German” tanks are Leopards. But a Russian RGD-33 grenade, a nearly forgotten frag grenade that would be just right for the tax in which it’s employed.

A lot of small, unexpected little details are accurate; some of the Morse radio calls and prosigns are those actually used: messages begin QRA DE (“any station receiving, this is…”) and then lapse into

The security check and duress check signals that the SOE and SIS used in 1940 are simplified, but the radio procedure is close.

Explosions are, unfortunately, Hollywood fireballs (one is excusable, as it is a gasoline FOOM).

Eric’s many roles in the war — Resistance man, pilot, aide to Queen Wilhelmina — seem to make him a Dutch Forrest Gump (or Zelig, if you prefer characters crafted by famous Hollywood pervs). But the character is actually based on a real Soldier of Orange, who filled all the roles.

The bottom line

Soldier of Orange is one of the best resistance films made in the last fifty years. (Hmmm… that would be a good list to make, wouldn’t it?)

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film. We watched it on a movie channel, where it occasionally shows up.

  • Amazon.com DVD page (yikes. Expensive DVD).

https://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Orange-Rutger-Hauer/dp/B000X03BBM/

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076734/

  • IMFDB page:

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Soldier_of_Orange

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (a rare 100% Fresh rating):

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/soldier_of_orange/

  • Wikipedia  page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldier_of_Orange

  • History vs. Hollywood Page. (none).

Notes

none

How to Be a Gunwriter

patrick sweeney gun booksAt Guns and Ammo, Patrick Sweeney answers the question in the title. His books, on the right, include a couple that we paid for recently, so it’s obvious that we’re interested in what he has to say on this subject.

His key points, as we distill them, are these:

  1. Learn everything you can about guns, and keep an open mind;
  2. At some point, have a professional relationship with guns;
  3. Gain command of the English language, so that you communicate clearly and people enjoy your writing;
  4. Learn how to take photos.
  5. Write with discipline; to steal a phrase from Steven Pressfield, Do The Work.
  6. Make sure you GET PAID. (Caps in honor of all the writers’ advice Larry Correia puts out).

It’s hard choosing an excerpt from this long and useful article, but we’d recommend this one; then we’ll tell you what we think about items 1-6.

At some point, you will have to have a turn at a professional relationship with firearms. This can be in law enforcement or the military, although the risk there is ending up with a provincial attitude. You can also work at a gun shop or manufacturer. The law enforcement and military approaches are examples of the deep and narrow focus. Yes, you could end up shooting a lot, but if you do, it will be with whatever the issue firearm or firearms are. A firearms or ammunition manufacturer will be even more narrowly focused.

Working in a gun shop or gunsmithing can be narrow, but at least you have the option of branching out. Working in gun shops can be useful if you keep one thing in mind: You’re there to learn. Learn what customers want, what they like and dislike, and what they believe, true or not. You’ll get a chance to handle a wide variety of firearms, and if the shop has a gunsmith on hand, you can also learn what breaks, why and how.

A moment to mention competition: Do it. You will be a better shot for competing, and you will also be able to rub shoulders with and soak up info from those who are winning matches.

If you are going to be a gunwriter, you have to learn to write. Knowing every fact, data point and historical tidbit of every firearm or cartridge won’t do you any good if you can’t make it entertaining to read. When I started meeting other gunwriters, I was surprised at how many had degrees in journalism or English. Being a gunwriter, or planning to be one, does not excuse you from going to college. Before the Eisenhower era, a high school diploma was good enough to get you a well-paying job. Today, lacking a college degree qualifies you to be a surfer dude.

Writing styles vary, and I have to be truthful here. There is a gunwriter or two whose prose I find painful to read. (Heck, you might find my style grating.) Nevertheless, they have devoted readers, and I can find useful info in their efforts. You must find your own style, and this will probably happen with the help of a good editor. If that editor happens to be a teacher in school, you’ll have a leg up on all the other would-be gunwriters who hammer out a style once they start working as an actual gunwriter.

Hmm… are we among those guys “whose prose he finds painful to read.” Hope not, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Not everyone is going to be a fan. In any event, if you are a gunwriter, want to be a gunwriter, or want to know some details about how the sausage s made, go Read The Whole Thing™.

Now, here’s our impression of Patrick’s advice, per our numbered examples above.

 

  • Learn everything you can about guns, and keep an open mind;
    Honestly, we think that this is the key to how gunwriters are made. If you aren’t intensely curious about guns, you’re not going to develop a good frame of reference for thinking about them. As far as the open mind goes, even the best and most curious minds often close on a subject. Would you rather see Rifle X analyzed by a guy who’s got the t-shirt as a Company X fanboy, got the other color t-shirt as a rival Company Y fanboy, or who can put his preferences aside and see what Company X is delivering on its own terms?
    For a writer, learning about new guns (or learning new things about old guns!) doesn’t entirely feel like work, but it is. (Also, if you’re getting paid, you can buy Pat Sweeney’s books, or mine, and expense them on your Schedule C, a big benefit if you live in a tax hell like Massachusetts or Maryland).
  • At some point, have a professional relationship with guns;
    He is right to suggest that a professional relationship can be narrowing but it need not be. Yeah, a rifleman is trained in a handful of his own nation’s weapons, but he learns all about the use and employment of those weapons, especially if he makes it to, say, squad leader or so. A small arms repairman may not have the eye for terrain that an MG squad leader develops, but he sure develops a sense of what Joe breaks and how to fix it.
    SF weapons man is a relatively rare position where one gets hands-on experience with enemy, allied, and unaligned nations’ arms as well as one’s own. (Technical intelligence troops may get some of this, too). A military reserve career is a good parallel to one’s civilian work (it took us nine years to discover that SF was better pursued as a hobby than as a living), but done right it is very time consuming and it’s hard to sell missed birthdays, graduations and anniversaries for a “hobby.”
    Most of the writers we enjoy reading have had this professional relationship at some time. An important thing is to keep you eyes open and your wits about you while working in that job. Tam Keel, for one, seems to have gotten a lot more out of working in a gun shop than the average guy or gal would; she has a very wide range of gun knowledge, and shoots better than most of us. (Here’s a great example of why we always put down the Dr Pepper before opening her blog. Carbonated, acidic beverages are hell on sinuses).
  • Gain command of the English language, so that you communicate clearly and people enjoy your writing;
    Some people seem to think that this is a talent you’re either born with or not (like, say, a good singing voice), and one that you can’t improve with training and/or practice (unlike, say, a singing voice). It’s more like, say, guitar playing. Rare cases may be born with a natural gift, but anybody can get better through almost any combination of instruction and practice. (For the best results, use both). We would shy away from university writing programs, especially those aimed at technical and scientific communication. A lot of really horrible English gets broadcast in scientific papers; you’re supposed to be struggling to catch up with the new discovery, but we’re as often struggling to understand what the writer intended to say. (Native speakers are worse than immigrants, at least by the time the paper hits Science or Nature).
    We’d also add that everybody needs an editor. This typo-ridden and sometimes ill-organized blog is what you get when you turn loose a pretty good writer without an editor except for the one in the back of his brain housing group. (Which is no good; you can’t edit yourself).
  • Learn how to take photos.
    We’ll admit we’ve been lazy about this and use lots of net photos and too many cell phone photos. And yet, we’ve got decent cameras, and while we’re a bit rusty, there was a great two-week photography module in the pre-digital-camera Special Forces Operations and Intelligence course (including such obsolete tech as turning your Gore-tex jacket into a darkroom to develop the film). The key things to learn are simple though, and you can start getting the hang of it in a day: How to select a lens for a clear picture, how to focus, how to use depth of field, how to compose a picture properly.
  • Write with discipline; to steal a phrase from Steven Pressfield, Do The Work.
    Patrick notes with approval a friend who writes 1000 words a day (plus however much extra he feels like), and rewrites the previous day’s work. We have a similar goal, which is 1000 words on each of two books every day. Along with whatever goes in the blog, which is usually an average of 3k words. Insider secret: the more you write, the better you get at it, the more productive you are. Insider secret two: academics and literary critics are a lousy test of your quality. Those guys all love fellow New Hampshire writer J.D. Salinger who lived, if frugally, on having his one book assigned to generations of defenseless high school students, and they disdain our New Hampshire neighbor Dan Brown; if you ever visit Hog Manor we can take a drive past Brown’s house and see it’s not really made of gold bars. (But, he’s not hurting. And you’ll laugh when we explain why).
  • Make sure you GET PAID. (Caps in honor of all the writers’ advice Larry Correia puts out).
    Obviously we are a no-go at the get paid station, but that’s because this blog is one of an (involuntarily and early) retired guy’s avocations. We are working sy-mon-tane-EE-yussly on two books for release this year, one of which will sell in a trickle to gun geeks, and one of which may have broader appeal in the gun culture.

 

Saturday Matinee 2016 19: Max (2015)

Max-poster2Let’s begin at the beginning: it’s a kid’s movie, and so it’s a direct, fun romp from heartbreaking start to heartwarming end. It harkens (barkens?) back to old doggy hero shorts, like Rin Tin Tin, with the tried and true formula of a boy and his dog, with a couple of well-selected sidekicks, up against a raft of grown up bad guys, and lives hang in the balance.

Were this the whole thing, mainstream critics might have loved it; but there’s also a patriotic sense throughout Max that ennobles service and, even, sacrifice; if you saw bad reviews of this movie, that may be why.

It’s not high art; it’s light entertainment. (Maybe, emotionally manipulative light entertainment). It’s a story of a boy and his dog, for cryin’ out loud.

Acting and Production

Too many flags for the critics?

Too many flags for the critics?

None of the actors are names or faces we know, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying them in their roles. Sometimes the script stretches a hair, but most of the characters act plausibly and have reasons for what they do, something that often comes up missing in Hollywood these days (“he’s a bad guy ’cause he’s a bad guy” is all too common).

Enough was spent on the movie for it not to  look cheap. The actors are good, even the dog:

max0at-funeral

There are several internal cliffhangers and events that keep things moving quickly.

A lot of the characters (and actors) were hispanic, which struck us, because a lot of real-world Marines and soldiers and their friends are hispanic, and we can’t recall another movie that put patriotic Americans of (presumably) Mexican extraction so front and center, and did it so matter-of-factly. (The bad guys come in white-Anglo and Mexican flavors, too). It really felt like it was not done to make Precious Diversity Beans of these roles, so at least they did it subtly if they did it. Two points for the writer and director.

Accuracy and Weapons

The bad guys have guns in this movie, which the good guys from time to time get their hands on. They’re plausible guns. They aren’t really key to the movie.

max-in-afghanisandpitSome of the stuff about dog handling is fictional, some is quite accurate. Yes, dogs do have stress reactions, and dogs can get something pretty close to PTSD. It is very traumatizing for a military working dog to lose its handler (and vice versa) and usually, either way, the surviving partner is a basket case for a while.

Dogs that can’t get over combat trauma, physical or psychological, are adopted out. In the real world this is a long and paper-heavy process. And if a dog can’t be safely placed with a family, it is put down. There has also been at least one case we know personally where such a doomed dog was saved by a dope-deal between special operations and explosive ordnance disposal personnel and the dog-handling bureaucracy.

Several years later, the dog hasn’t bitten anybody and lives happily with other critters and people in an old house in an old town. His master is an old war dog of the figurative variety, and an old friend of your humble blogger.

The bottom line

Max is fun. It’s okay to watch a movie to have fun. You have our permission.

max-dog and boy

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film. We watched it on a movie channel, where it occasionally shows up.

  • Amazon.com DVD page

http://www.amazon.com/Max-Josh-Wiggins/dp/B00ZQ36S52/

There are several other versions that can be found at the link, including Blu-Ray, digital video and a novelization.

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3369806/

  • IMFDB page (none).
  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (35%, what’s wrong with those people?):

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/max_2016/

  • Wikipedia  page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_(2015_film)

  • History vs. Hollywood Page. (none).

Notes

none

Saturday Matinee 2016 18: The ODESSA File (1974)

Odessa_posterIn the early 1970s, there were a few authors who had the action/espionage/adventure genre down, and produced bestselling thriller after thriller. Some had been around a long time, like Alistair MacLean. Frederick Forsyth, a former peacetime RAF pilot and BBC Biafran war correspondent, was one of the new guys, then; The Odessa File, published in 1972, was his second novel. It was as big a hit as his first, The Day of the Jackal, and like it was based on real people and organizations and given a twist.

The basic plot of the movie follows the novel in general terms: in Germany in 1963-64, independent journalist Peter Miller is looking for a particular SS officer, Eduard Roschmann, “The Butcher of Riga”, apparently for journalistic reasons. Roschmann is thought to have died — or gone underground. Miller discovers that the SS had set up sophisticated escape and evasion networks and stay-behind networks, which operate under the aegis of an SS veteran’s organization, Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, ODESSA by acronym. The clandestine ODESSA network has spirited some Nazis to South America, and given others new identities in Germany. Miller makes contact with an Israeli group who are trying to infiltrate ODESSA, and they prepare and train Miller to take on a former KZ guard’s identity. Miller makes it as far as ODESSA’s master forger, one Wenzer; but the organization is on to him. Will he find Roschmann and expose the other war criminals before the organization finds him and plugs the security leak?

Acting and Production

Miller is well cast as, and well played by, Jon Voight; Roschmann, likewise, by Maximilian Schell, Hollywood’s go-to Nazi of the era.

Voight in old-SS-vet mode, and yes, the movie really hinges on an eponymous file.

Voight in old-SS-vet mode, and yes, the movie really hinges on an eponymous file.

Other strong performances include the then-unknown Derek Jacobi as Klaus Wenzer, a forger who, while he must be a Nazi, is a model of filial devotion (that is classic Forsyth: depth of even bit characters, laid out with an economy of words).

The movie diverges widely from the book in many details; Miller’s movie derring-do is more physical, and less psychological, than his book investigation. Both are worth enjoying, even now almost 50 years later.

odessa_voight_castle

It’s an adventure movie: the hero has to wriggle into an enemy castle!

The ODESSA File is shot in color, but there’s such great attention to light and shadow in each shot that one suspects that director Ronald Neame was paying homage to the black-and-white classics of film noir. It may be simpler than that; before Neame became a director in his own right, he was an acclaimed cinematographer who worked with David Lean.

Schell in a flashback.

Schell in a flashback. Image from IMFDB

Now, this is embarrassing: our recollection is that flashbacks are presented in black and white, but stills exist in both b&w and color, making us doubt our memory. The flashbacks are useful, not distracting, as is the framing device of an old concentration camp survivor’s diary and his last request. (Note that in the 1970s, when the movie was made, or the 60s, its setting, no one said “Holocaust” with a capital H yet).

Make-up did a remarkable job of aging Maximilian Schell for his “contemporary” scenes and of “appearing to age” Voight’s character to disguise him as an older SS man. We don’t often think of the makeup artist’s contribution to films, because unless it’s an extreme job, like this, or unless it’s really bad, it’s invisible.

The score is… how to put this nicely? Nicely, hell, let’s just be honest: it’s awful. It’s jarring and distracting, musique concrète meets the bizarre synthesized sounds of the 1970-vintage Moog synthesizer. All the excesses of the period are on the soundtrack, and they haven’t aged well. After the film ended, it was not surprising to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s name roll by as the composer. Naturally.

Accuracy and Weapons

Forsyth (who is still with us, as he closes in on eighty, supporting the Brexit campaign) is famous for his painstaking research. He has said that his inspiration for The Day of the Jackal was to apply journalistic research and sourcing to fiction, and his books contain real persons acting plausibly, real. The real names used in the book include both Roschmann and “The Butcher of Riga” (who were two different people), several other Nazis who are bit players, and Nazi nemesis Simon Wiesenthal.

Naturally the uses he puts these characters to in the book, and the slightly different uses they have in the streamlined movie, are fictional. Roschmann never shot another Nazi officer, and never headed an industrial firm — indeed, at the time of the book and movie his whereabouts were unknown and it was thought probable he had perished in the sinking of one of the Baltic refugee transports, a transport that plays a small role in the movie —  and any suggestion that Wiesenthal worked with kinetically-oriented Israeli Nazi hunters is based on guesswork, not evidence. Some reviewers seem to be spun up about that, but Wiesenthal, at least, seems to have given interviews to Forsyth and liked the book and movie.

Roschmann, it can be fairly said, didn’t like it at all. He was living in obscurity in Brazil, under an assumed name, when someone who had seen the movie put two and two together and ratted him out. With several nations wanting to try him, he was extradited to Germany. He died in prison before the 1970s were out.

ODESSA is a but of a fictional construct, at least in its size and centralization. There probably was no single overarching Nazi escape organization — they were smart enough to realize that, when one must go underground (as Nazis had had to do from time to time before taking power) you need compartmentation, not centralization; and definitely not German efficiency! The US captured the entire SS Personnel Office files, and didn’t give them to the Bundesarchiv for decades, for fear that irredentist Nazis or sympathizers would eradicate the files of fugitive SS-men.

There is a sub-plot involving German guidance systems and missiles. German scientists and industrialists did indeed assist Egypt, during the days of Nasser’s pan-Arab call to greatness, with aircraft and missile projects. While money and technology were factors in the trade, mutual antisemitism can’t be ruled out as a motive. In the real world, the Egyptians didn’t have enough captive Jews to build new pyramids….

What's that excrescence on the end of his Smith & Wesson? Oh brother!

What’s that excrescence on the end of his Smith & Wesson? Oh brother!

There’s not a lot of gunplay, but what there is will set your teeth on edge. Yes, the good old silenced revolver shows up in a critical fight scene, going “pthutht”. It is, in fact, the most featured firearm in the show. (Although Roschmann keeps a Walther PPK in a drawer, fortunately without Nazi grips).

The bottom line

The ODESSA File is an entertaining 70s caper film, with a few little snippets of real tradecraft in it, and some film noir angles and lighting that will entertain you. It was shot partly on location in Bavaria, and the performances (especially Voight’s and Schell’s) are outstanding. There’s a nice twist at the end. Taken together, it’s enough to make you forgive a silenced revolver.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film. We watched it on a movie channel, where it occasionally shows up.

  • Amazon.com DVD page

http://www.amazon.com/Odessa-File-Jon-Voight/dp/B00441GYYC/

Unfortunately this inexpensive ($6.99) DVD is a fullscreen butcher job, as are all US format DVDs.  There is a $29.95 widescreen version, but it is a PAL Region 2 (Europe) disk. That will not play in a US player; many travelers have a multiregion player, but most people don’t.

  • Amazon Digital Video ($3.99 to rent).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000X9XNRK/

The Digital video is supposed to be widescreen, but we haven’t watched it.

Amazon also has the book on which the movie is based, from overpriced ($14!) current paperbacks to the 1¢-plus-shipping vintage copies here:

http://www.amazon.com/ODESSA-File-Frederick-Forsyth/dp/067052042X/

The book is a different and more complex plot than the movie; each is enjoyable in its own right.

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071935/

  • IMFDB page:

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/The_Odessa_File

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (64%):

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1015389-odessa_file/

  • Wikipedia  page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Odessa_File_(film)

  • History vs. Hollywood Page. (none).

Notes

none

Know The Law so You’re Hard to Convict

law_of_self_defense_branca_standard_editionFirst, a disclaimer: we’re enthusiastic about this book, and more generally about attorney Andrew Branca’s message: You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill. Know the law so you’re hard to convict. We’re enthusiastic enough to have bought several books, attended a live seminar, and signed up for his instructor program even though we’re not teaching presently. (After looking at the targets from yesterday’s range session, that’s A Good Thing; we got pretty rusty over the winter).

We have in the past reviewed Branca’s The Law of Self Defense in these pages, but this week we received the new Third Edition. We have spent some quality time with it (only some of it spent sleeping curled up in a recliner with the book and Small Dog) and have read the first half through (the second half is by-state tables of law). If you think you might be interested in this book, you probably want to know the answers to some key questions: “How is it changed? Do I have to buy it to replace my Second Edition? Would it make a good gift for a new self-defense gun owner? Will an experienced gun owner learn anything from it? Is it too lawyerly for a novice?”

Let’s dispose of the last question first, and work our way up:

Is it too lawyerly?

Definitely not. Andrew writes with an easy, conversational tone and his explanations of complicated legal issues are clear and comprehensible for anyone.

Moreover, the advice he gives is largely grounded in his real world of the trial court, where law consists not only of the black letter of the statute itself, but also of the established conventions of the law: case-law precedents (what juries and judges have done before), and jury instructions (what exact issues the judge allows the jury to decide, and what he tells them about the law). So you could probably say it’s just “lawyerly” enough, and it’s vastly better than relying on some non-lawyer’s (like, ours, or yours) reading a statute off a website, when the actual plain English meaning of the law might have been turned topsy-turvy by case law precedent.

Will I learn anything from it?

Certainly, even if you are an experienced carrier and a careful reader of self-defense news. In fact, even if you’re a defense attorney like Andrew, you will benefit from this book and some of the related resources, like his case-law collections; these days, in fact, his law practice comprises helping other attorneys out with legal issues in self-defense cases. After all, he’s the guy that wrote the book on the law of self-defense!

Would it make a good gift for a new self-defense gun owner?

Well, Your Humble Blogger bought a copy intending to do just that with it — present it to an octogenarian relative who’s thinking about owning a gun for the first time.

Do I have to buy it to replace my Second Edition?

Law of Self Defense Andrew Branca

2nd Edition, which some of you already have.

Generally, you don’t. While self-defense policy and politics are evolving rapidly, the material in the Second Edition is still sound.

The first edition dates to 1998, and so it is outdated. The Second Edition is from 2013, so it’s still fairly current.

The changes in the new edition include: a new forward by Mas Ayoob, nearly 1/3 more content, and more examples that arose after 2013. The Third Edition has also benefited from a complete review of state laws (which are always changing), and an overall rewrite.

So you don’t have to buy it, but you might still want to. We did!

How is the 3rd Edition Changed?

One example of the new content is Branca’s use of the 2014 trial of Michael Dunn for the shooting death of Jordan Davis and the attempted murder of Davis’s friends. Dunn did specific things, both during the shooting and afterward, that left him unable to convince a jury his was a of self-defense. Although he was only convicted of the attempted murder — the jury hung on whether Davis was killed in self-defense or not — it was a pyrrhic victory, with a remarkable life-plus-90-years sentence, possibly a record for “attempted” murder. (It seems likely that the judge disagreed with the jury, and sentenced Dunn based on the conviction the judge thought should have been delivered). Dunn’s key errors were: continuing to fire as the Davis’s friends’ vehicle fled, but most of all, fleeing the scene himself. Branca always stresses the importance of both acting within the limits of the law and telling a consistent story of your lawful actions in self-defense. If you run away, like Dunn, they will find you, and when you throw down the self-defense card they will not believe you. Ask Dunn if you want; it’s going to be a long life plus ninety, and he could probably use a visitor.

Each chapter ends with a “Wrap-Up,” and the main body of the book concludes with a chapter that essentially wraps it all up, and a final one that gives you a sort of meta-question to ask: was (is) it worth it? Before you draw, before you fire, you should be able to answer that question in the affirmative. Andrew gently points out that answering this question might well draw a pretty tight line around you and yours, that will keep you always in the right of the Law of Self Defense in your state — even if it’s Ohio.

law_of_self_defense_branca_uscca_editionIs there anything we’d change? After the narrative material concludes, there’s a by-defense-principle and then by-state rundown of the law. It’s useful, but the headings are printed in fine italic type on a grey background. We’d change that. We’d also like to see an index.

Get your copy here at Law of Self-Defense, at Amazon, or get the special USCCA edition (which has a foreword by Tim Schmidt in place of the Mas Ayoob one).

(Note for the record: Andrew kindly offered us a review copy when the 3/e went to press; we declined it because it is our policy to purchase books for review, and pre-ordered instead, and got our copies when the rest of the pre-orders shipped).

Update

In the comments below, Andrew extended the offer of a significant discount to WeaponsMan.com readers.  From his subsequent comments, you guys have found it… but in case you haven’t, and want this book, dig in and grab it while he still offers the code.