Selections from Shurik’s Memoirs

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105. Prelude to Chaos

Events were taking place worldwide that would eventually culminate in uprooting our lives. Although we felt the impact of overseas economic crisis in Estonia, who could have foreseen it as paving the way for WW II?  America and Germany were the two countries hardest hit by the Great Depression. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 12 million, which led to a five-day work week. The situation in Germany was comparatively worse with 6 million unemployed.

As a consequence of Germany’s loss in WW I, the National Socialist Party (Nazis for short) emerged. An old Russian proverb says, “When you find people bragging about being robbers, you will also find robbers.” The National Socialists grew from 12 to 107 seats in the 1930 Parliament election, and the Communists from 54 to 77 seats. Hitler’s slogan “freedom and bread” not only appealed to the unemployed but also to those who faced economic hardships. His party continued to grow, the activists organized into highly disciplined units with their own uniforms. After battling Hindenburg for years, Hitler grabbed power in 1933.

Fascism emerged in Italy in 1919. Mussolini and the Fascist Party came to power in 1922 and provided to some extent inspiration and a model for Hitler and the National Socialists. The word fascism derives from the Latin “fasces,” which refers to wooden sticks fastened into a bundle with an axe at its center. This became the emblem of Mussolini’s Fascist Party. Both Fascists and National Socialists embraced a totalitarian and authoritarian system where the individual is totally subjected to the interests of the state.

Other countries that were hit hard by the economic crises included England, Spain, Norway, Hungary, and Austria. Germany’s National Socialist Party’s influence became noticeable in all of them, especially in Spain where civil war would break out. It also made inroads into Estonia.


Q: What are the criteria for Shuriks Picks?

A: The book should be an enjoyable read and/or deal with an important or neglected topic - a book we have read to the end and can recommend. With occasional exceptions, the book should be available in bookstores in English. We also review select e-books and ARCs (advanced reader editions) but not unpublished works. We moved in 2011 and again in 2012. If you do not have our new address and want to submit a review copy, send us first an email. Acceptance of a book will not guarantee that it will be reviewed or mentioned. We are especially interested in classics, true crime, and mysteries. No erotica, porn, or ultra-violence.

Q: Do books qualify that are controversial or present ideas with which you disagree?

A: We welcome controversial books if they are well-written and informative. They are good for the publishing industry.

Q: Will your opinion of an author or publisher influence which books are chosen?

A: Somewhat as to which books we will choose to read but not our evaluation. There are some authors we like as persons but not their books and others we don’t like but have picked their books. In the case of two publishers, we have looked at scores of their mysteries but have found every one boring, and thus tend to skip their novels.

Q: Can the same author be picked more than once? More than two months in a row?

A: Yes. Picks represents books we liked the best during the previous month.

Q: Would you include a book on the basis of having read only a review?

A: Not for Shuriks Picks or other reviews. However, we do mention books in the Commentary section based on reviews or announcements.

Q: How do you choose which books to read?

A: We have a list of books we would like to read that is compiled from book reviews, recommendations, review copies, gifts, and books we purchase.

Q: Will you publish negative reviews?

A: Unlikely. Our goal is to promote books and reading. We might make occasional negative comments. 

Q: Do you recommend publishers for authors wanting their book published?

A: No. Problems can develop with the most respected publishing houses. Before we would sign with any publisher we would have a reputable literary lawyer or agent review the book contract.

Q: What does it cost to have books chosen for Shuriks Picks or otherwise mentioned?

A: Nothing. We neither charge nor pay for the blog content and have never been involved in financial dealings (other than accepting review copies). This applies also to products we mention. We like to support reading and literacy, authors (published & unpublished), bookstores, and libraries.

Q: What happened to November 2012 blog?

A: We have no clue, and Apple no longer provides tech support for iWeb. The November 2012 blog was up for at least eight months. Then it disappeared from our computer and from the Internet. Even listing it in the archives disappeared. We had a printout and added a shortened version to the October 2012 blog.


Pick of the Month, July 2017



Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson, translated from Icelandic by Quintin Bates, Minotaur Books, $25.99

When Ari Thór Aason is about to graduate from police college in Reykjavík, the only job offer he receives is from the police department in Siglufjördur, a small town on the northern coast of Iceland. It’s 2008 (the start of the financial crisis in Iceland), and jobs are scarce. Thus, he accepts the offer even though it causes a rift with his girlfriend Kristín, a medical student.

He moves in November to Siglufjördur, a place where the days in winter are short and cold and the snowfall is heavy. As he struggles to fit in, he suffers from claustrophobia and nightmares. He misses Kristín and fears losing her, their long-distance relationship becoming increasingly strained. Nothing much happens on his job until the internationally renowned author Hrólfur Kristjánsson, who at age 91 serves as chairman of the town’s Amateur Dramatic Society, has a fatal fall at the theater while the Society is holding rehearsals for a forthcoming play. The police rule his death an accident. The locals, however, wonder if it is instead a homicide.

Five days later, Linda Christensen, the girlfriend of the lead character, is found stabbed in her yard, her condition critical. The two investigations draw the rookie Ari Thór into the lives of an interesting array of characters. Having met the lead actress Ugla, he enlists her to help solve the  author’s death. His fondness for her causes him conflicting emotions regarding his relationship with Kristín. Snowblind is an enjoyable read with a memorable setting.


Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime & Politics for a Better America by Sheriff David Clarke Jr. with Nancy French, Worthy, $21.99

Sheriff Clarke minces no words regarding his concern over the War on Cops and presents evidence of Barack Obama and Eric Holder taking the side of criminals over the police. He dissects Black Lives Matter (referring to it as Black LIES Matter) as an anarchist movement and an “anti-police hate group based on the lie of police brutality,” and describes the attacks on Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson by BLM and others. Wilson lost his job, was forced to move for his family’s safety, and still faces death threats and frivolous lawsuits in spite of even Eric Holder admitting the officer wasn’t at fault.

Other issues covered by Clarke include his parents’ impact on his life; problems for black Conservatives; why the FBI is not the right agency to handle domestic security; gun ownership; fake news; the injustice done to author and former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, an African-American who rose from poverty to prominence, because of his off-duty religious beliefs; and the importance of Convention of States. He explains how destructive the Left’s policies have been for inner-city communities and especially for black families. A Democrat, Clarke doesn’t want to switch parties but urges blacks to reform the Democratic Party.

Select quotes from the book:

”Stories about race that dominate the news are, more often than not, utter fabrications.”

”Islamist-radicalized Americans are not criminals. They are enemy combatants.”

”In this nation, those who work hard, finish school, get married, and stay married are very rarely poor.”

This bestseller is an interesting, thought-provoking, and smoothly written read and would make a good choice for book clubs. One of its messages is that we need to face the truth no matter how unpleasant. Among Clarke’s many accolades are 2013 Sheriff of the Year Award and 2016 Law Enforcement Leader of the Year.


Bees: A Honeyed History by Wojciech Grajkowski, illustrated by Piotr Sacha, translated from Polish by Agnes Monod-Gayraud, Abrams Books for Young Readers, $24.95, ages 6 to 12

Bees covers a wide variety of topics, among them description of bee colonies, importance of bees, beekeeping, and a recipe for honey cake that is easy to make. A few of the fun facts mentioned include that honey was an ingredient in cosmetics used by ancient Egyptians; Sherlock Holmes took up beekeeping as a hobby after he retired; and female bees (the workers and the queen) are the only ones with a stinger. This oversized book (11” x 15” and 72 pages) is an informative read that also adults can enjoy.


Specialty/Small Press

Harvest House Publisher, a Christian publisher, was founded in 1974 and releases over 150 books a year - fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature, and Bible studies. Its backlist contain more than 1,200 titles, among them 99 Favorite Amish Home Remedies by Georgia Varozza and the novel Wedding for Julia by Vannetta Chapman.


Author submissions: They do not accept unsolicited submissions at this time.

Site content © 2017


New at the Bookstores

At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic by Lawrence Millman (Thomas Dunne Books) intertwines accounts of cult killings in 1941 in the Belcher Island (Hudson Bay) with the author’s trip to the area, facts about nature, and observations how the current obsession with all things digital is similar to following a destructive cult leader. Millman asks, “Why are there plenty of televangelists in America but not a single tele-ecologist?”


Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton (Harper) is about dinosaur-bone hunters in the 1870s American West. The manuscript of this thriller was discovered after Crichton’s death in 2008 and is the second posthumous novel by him to become a bestseller.


The Farmers’ Market Mishap: A Sequel to The Lopsided Christmas Cake by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter (Shiloh Run Press) is an Amish romance novel that includes tips on healthy eating.


Freddy the Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, illustrated by Russ Cox (Regnery Kids), the fifth in the Freddy the Frogcaster series for ages 6 to 8, will be released on August 21. The series is fun to read and educational.


The Frozen Hours: A Novel of the Korean War by Jeff Shaara (Ballantine Books) has received excellent reviews.


Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee by Wayne Flynt (Harper) clarifies several speculations that surfaced after Harper Lee’s death and reveals that Lee was in full control of her faculties when she approved the publication of Go Set a Watchman.


The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray (Bloomsbury Continuum) is a bestseller described as “a highly personal account of a continent and culture caught in the act of suicide.”

Winners and Losers


  1. Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner, members of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s security team. Although injured, Bailey and Griner fatally shot left-winger James T. Hodgkinson, who was on a mission to kill Republicans during baseball practice on June 14. Hodgkison wounded five persons during the shootout, none fatally because of Bailey and Griner’s quick heroic actions, which prevented a massacre. Some speculate that Scalise, who received life-threatening injuries, was targeted because of his focus on human trafficking.

  2. Second Lady Karen Pence & urban beekeeping. Spurred by the drastic bee colony collapse syndrome, urban beekeeping in backyards, roof tops, and other areas has been expanding, and several cities have lifted restrictions to this practice. Karen Pence, an advocate for saving bees, started a bee colony at the Governor’s Mansion in 2014 while she was First Lady of Indiana and a colony this June at the VP’s mansion in D.C.

  3. Motivational speaker and author Lizzie Valesquez, 28, Texas. When she was just 17, she came across a YouTube video calling her “The Ugliest Woman in the World.” Vicious comments directed at her followed. Neither this extremely painful experience nor her medical condition (Marfanoid-progeroid-lipodystrophy syndrome) prevented her from achieving a successful career. She has become an inspiration to many and an anti-bullying activist. Her fourth book, Dare to Be Kind was published this June.

  4. Tennis player Jelena Ostapenki, 20, Latvia. She won the French Open, the first unseeded woman to win this tournament since 1933.


  1. Former FBI director James Comey, 56, Virginia. During his cringe-worthy testimony before Congress, Comey admitted he was the leaker and that he was weak and afraid of President Trump. His fall from grace started already prior to his firing and confession. Under his leadership the FBI was involved in at least ten major scandals over the years, and confidence in him had eroded within both parties.

  2. Dr. Reagan Ganoung Nichols, 67, Oklahoma. She was charged on June 23, 2017 with five counts of second degree murder for prescribing “irrational” and dangerous combinations of opioids to her patents that resulted in five deaths.

  3. Comic Kathy Griffin, 56. After posing ISIS style with a bloody paper-mâché head that resembled President Trump, public outrage erupted, and she frantically apologized. Then she made matters worse by holding the disastrous press conference where she claimed to be the victim, leading some to wonder if her lawyer had set her up. She lost the Squatty Potty endorsement, was fired from CNN, and all her tour dates were cancelled.

  4. CNN and others who disseminate fake news. CNN promoted several stories that turned out to be false. Then it received a major blow to its credibility from a video of its producer John Bonifield stating that the network’s obsession with alleged collusion between President Trump and Russians lacked evidence and was driven by ratings. And CNN’s Van Jones admitted, “The Russian thing is just a big nothing burger.”


  link to first blogEntries/2008/11/4_Selections_from_Shuriks_Memoirs.html

Siglufjördur, Iceland, the setting for Ragnar Jónasson’s novel Snowblind. Photo:

German stamp, 1941, Mussolini & Hitler, fasces on the left.

Fasces appears on the Gettysburg commemorative half dollar, 1936. It also appears on the U.S. Winged Liberty dimes prior to 1945. Photos:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s goals include to fight against false narratives about American police officers.

After 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, aka The Greatest Show on Earth, gave its final performance on May 21, 2017 in Uniondale, New York. Its dropping of performing elephants last year caused a decline in attendance and, along with rising costs, resulted in its closing. At the end of the 2.5 hour show, ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson led the performers, crew, and audience in singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Many teared up. As a consequence, small and regional circuses, such as Circus Pages, are expected to expand their schedules.

Bees: A Honey History deals with a timely topic. The number of bee colonies has dropped at an alarming rate from 6 million in 1940 to 2.5 million today. To counter this, interest in urban beekeeping has recently grown. The blame for death of bees has been placed on pesticides and cellphones.