Pick of the Month, June 2012



Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters, Tom Doherty Associates, $25.99


Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters conducted an impressive amount of research for this historical novel that focuses on the best known battle of the Civil War. He includes voices from both sides, starting with events that led up to the conflict. The participants come alive: Gen, G.G. Meade, Gen. Robert E, Lee, Col. Wlodzimierz Bonawentura Krzyzanowski, Gen. James Longstreet, to name a few.


Peters observes that Gen. Lee fought brilliant battles but his weakness was that “his beloved Virginia was the center of his universe and the need to defend it at all costs blinded him” at times. General Meade is viewed as a victim of lies spread by Gen. Hooker and others close to President Lincoln. The novel depicts war as brutal and ugly, and the well-written dialog captures a feel for the times. It is a fascinating read especially for Civil War buffs.


Ralph Peters is the author of numerous works of fiction (some under the pseudonym Owen Parry) and nonfiction. Since childhood, he has been interested in the battle of Gettysburg and frequently visited that “hallowed ground.”



The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney, Crown Archetype, $26.00


Much of The Big Miss deals with coach Hank Haney’s analyses of Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Wood’s technique and performance at golf tournaments and is too technical for the general reader. Although he remains in awe of Tiger as an athlete and admires his work ethic and dedication to golf, this does not blind him to shortcomings, and he diagnoses the former No. 1 golfer as suffering from “driver anxiety.”


Tiger called Haney a friend (a term he used even for casual acquaintances). Yet the coach felt as if there was a wall between them. The picture of Tiger that emerges is of an exceptionally talented golfer who is cheap, moody, secretive, stubborn, hardworking, passive-aggressive,  a glib liar, and somewhat of a loner. The book contains no discussion of his siblings - apparently he avoided them. In May, his half-brother Earl Woods reportedly stated that their brother Kevin has multiple sclerosis, needs a wheelchair, and is on the brink of losing his home but calls to Tiger go unanswered. The siblings claimed that there has been practically no contact with Tiger since the death of their father in 2006.


During the time Haney coached him (2004-2010), they never had a deep conversation about anything except golf. Instead, they watched a lot of TV, mainly nature documentaries and sports. Tiger was fascinated with the Navy SEALs, trained with them, and wanted to be one of them. He would watch the DVD Navy SEALs: BUD/S Class 234 over and over again. Above all, he was immersed in golf. Haney concludes: “Giving himself over to golf instead of a more normal life had many advantages, but being a well-adjusted, fulfilled person wasn’t one of them.”


When the adultery scandal broke in late 2009, Tiger’s caddy Steve Williams (who was with him from 1999 until he was fired in 2011, his record as a caddie “considered the greatest in the history of golf”) and Haney were accused of enabling him, many insisting they had to have known. I believe Haney’s claims that he and Williams, although part of the inner circle, had no knowledge of the over a dozen mistresses and had never seen Tiger act improperly with a woman. Even afterward, Tiger told them nothing relevant, their knowledge limited to media reports. Thus, the scandal receives brief mention. Haney offers no good explanation for this self-destructive behavior, implying that perhaps it was to compensate for him being viewed as a nerd during his younger years.


Regarding rumors of performance enhancement drug use, Haney is convinced that Tiger never took any. Yet the rumors persist for several reasons. Tiger could have kept the drugs hidden from those close to him just as he had the mistresses. Haney and others did notice that Tiger quickly bulked up, something the coach attributes to exercise. It seems odd for Tiger to receive treatment from a doctor in Canada, Dr. Anthony Galea, who has been linked to HGH distribution. Although Haney saw Galea give him injections, he states that they were for platelet-rich plasma therapy or “blood spinning.”


Many people were surprised by Tiger’s sudden fall, bizarre double life, and revelations of media cover up. Although he remains good for golf ratings, the reason for this has changed from fans following an adored “hero” to gawking at a human curiosity, his life a combination of soap opera and freak show. While he used to be mentioned in reverent tones, now he elicits jokes and stunts. At the 2010 Masters, for example, a plane flew over the tournament with two banners, one of the stating: “Sex addict? Yeah. Right. Sure. Me too,” and at the Frys.com Open in 2011, a man threw a hot dog at him.



Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams, HarperCollins, $8.99, ages 8 & up


First published in 1952, the powerful story of Charlotte the spider’s efforts to save Wilbur the pig has continued to captivate children. My daughter read it in her second grade class and loved it, only insisted on creating a different and happy ending for Charlotte.


The book was ranked No. 1 on Scholastic Parent & Child magazine’s list of 100 greatest children’s books. As of 2000, it was the bestselling children’s paperback of all time. The recent reprint has a foreword by popular author Kate DiCamillo.


Specialty/Small Press

University of Texas Press was founded in 1950 and publishes around 90 books and 11 journals annually. Among its many areas of interest are anthropology, art history, conservation and the environment, film and media studies, the Middle East, and women’s studies. Recent titles include Friedricksburg, a novel by Friedrich Armand Strubberg, translated, annotated, and illustrated by James C. Kearney, which captures the flavor of this Texas town during its founding years; and Dwight Yoakum: A Thousand Miles from Nowhere by Don McLeese, which discusses the singer’s music.


Author submissions: the editors accept proposals in the areas of interest listed. They do not publish unsolicited original fiction or poetry.

Waldhof was Imperial Russia’s biggest cellulose mill. It opened in 1900 in Pärnu between Pärnu River and Riia Street and was destroyed during WWI.

Shurik’s second great-granddaughter at age 3. She loves dancing, everything Lassie, chocolate, Thomas the Tank Engine books, stories about princesses, and playing with her Nintendo DSi. Photos ⓒ LMC

Cain at Gettysburg  by Ralph Peters gives due recognition to General George Gordon Meade (1815-72). Although Meade defeated General Robert E. Lee at the battle of Gettysburg, he is not nearly as well-known and admired as Lee. Actor Matthew Fox is his great-great-great-grandson.


Ten Controversial Homicide/Manslaughter Verdicts (non-scientific poll)

The O.J. Simpson & Casey Anthony cases topped the list as the worst verdicts:

  1. O.J. was acquitted in 1996 in California for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. He lost, however, the lawsuit filed by the Brown and Goldman families for wrongful death. Mark Fuhrman’s bestseller Death in Brentwood is one of many books written about this case.

  2. Casey Anthony was acquitted in 2011 in Florida for the murder of her daughter Caylee Marie. The trial is analyzed in Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton (book review in the January 2012 blog).

Other cases mentioned (chronological order):

  1. Dan White killed San Francisco Mayor George Mascone and Supervisor Harvey Milk just days after the Jonestown mass murders. He received a 7-year sentence in 1979 and served only 5, using successfully the Twinkie defense. This slap on the wrist led to the so-called “White Night Riots,” mostly by gay demonstrators, against parties uninvolved in the verdict. Windows were smashed and a dozen police cruisers and a motorcycle set on fire. After White’s alleged suicide, rumors linked his motive to the People’s Temple, both Mascone and Milk having been supporters of Rev. Jim Jones.

  2. Steven Steinberg was on trial in 1982 in Arizona for the murder of his wife Elana who cried out to their two children while he stabbed her 26 times. His defense was that her shopping drove him to kill her. He charmed the jury, and they acquitted him. (For details, see Shirley Frondorf’s The Death of a “Jewish American Princess”: The True Story of a Victim on Trial.)

  3. Charlene Adelle and Gerald Gallego (aka the Love Slave Killers) were charged for the murder of 10 persons in California and Nevada, mostly teenage girls whom they kidnapped, kept as sex slaves, and tortured. While he received the death penalty, Charlene was sentenced in 1983 to only 16 years and 8 months. This dangerous female serial killer was released in July 1997.

  4. Louise Woodward, au pair from England, was convicted by a jury in 1997 in Massachusetts of 2nd degree homicide in the shaken baby death of Matthew Eappen. Judge Hiller B. Zobel changed it to voluntary manslaughter and sentenced her to time served, leading to speculations of a connection between him and her attorney Barry Scheck (who was part of O.J’s defense team). Controversy remains as to her guilt.

  5. Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson pled guilty in 1998 to lesser charges in the brutal murder of their infant son and received a slap on the wrist from Judge Henry duPont Ridgely. Amy served only 64 days in jail. Some had expected them to receive the death penalty.

  6. Billionaire Robert Alan Durst admitted in his 2003 trial in Texas that he cut up the body of his neighbor Morris Black but claimed self-defense. When the stupid jury acquitted him, he appeared just as shocked as the others in the courtroom. He remains a suspect in the disappearance of his wife.

  7. Donna Ecochard Scott Somerville chose a non-jury trial in the poisoning death of her multi-millionaire husband Hamilton Somerville, a Virginia farmer related to the du Pont family. In 2004, Judge Daniel R. Bouton found her not guilty. Later this former hospice nurse lost a wrongful death lawsuit to the victim’s three natural daughters.

  8. Cynthia Sommer was convicted in 2007 in California of the murder of her Marine husband Todd Sommer. When she was granted a new trial in 2008, the prosecutor dismissed the charges and she was freed. Controversy over this case continues. Some believe she was wrongly convicted only because she is a repulsive individual. Others believe she is guilty and point out that nobody else could have killed Todd. The motive includes a $250,000 life insurance and her joyful celebration after his death.

Winners and Losers


  1. Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The painting sold at Sotheby’s for $119,922,500, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at an auction. (Paintings at private sales have sold for more.)

  2. The Avengers. The film opened on May 4 and grossed 207.4 million that weekend, which is the largest debut of all time.

  3. Dusty Swanson, 19, Hill City, South Dakota. He was paralyzed four years ago during a high school wrestling tournament. Now a student at South Dakota School of Mines, he landed a NASA internship. His positive outlook and achievements have proven an inspiration.

  4. Snigdha Nandipati, 14, San Diego, California & Lori Anne Madison, 6, Lake Ridge, Virginia. Snigdha won the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 31, 2012. She is an avid reader (loves whodunits), collects coins from around the world, and plays the violin. Home-schooled Lori Anne, whose mother is a college professor, could read before she was 2 and is the youngest to ever qualify for the National Spelling Bee. She made it to the second round.


  1. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman. Even though foreign student Dharun Ravi committed a despicable act of invasion of privacy that led to the suicide of his roommate Tyler Clementi, Judge Berman sentenced him to a paltry 30 day jail sentence, 300 hours of community service, and a fine of $10,000 to be given to a charity chosen by the judge. Reportedly the judge went so far as to recommend against deportation - one can only wonder why.

  2. Sergio Fernando Vasquez, 27, illegal alien hanging out in New Jersey. This knife-wielding thug tried to rob and carjack two sisters, ages 94 and 92. The feisty women fought back and won, causing him to flee. He was captured by the police. The women wanted to remain anonymous to avoid reprisals.

  3. Sharon Love, 62, Cockeysville, Maryland. Her daughter Yeardley Love, a student at University of Virginia, was brutally murdered by her boyfriend. Sharon is suing the killer for wrongful death and rightly so. However, she is also suing the State of Virginia and the university’s men’s lacrosse coach and assistant coach and the athletic director for 29.45 million. She is not the only one trying to cash in on the death of a family member. We desperately need tort reform.

  4. National Football League (NFL). Bad PR keep mounting: the bounty scandals; controversy over concussions; the suicide of Junior Seau and two other former players within a 15-month period, all of whom suffered from head injuries; the players’ union (NFLPA) dragging its feet over HGH testing; and a lawsuit by the NFLPA accusing team owners of collusion regarding salary cap and asking for $3 billion to compensate the already excessively overpaid players.

Mural by Frances Vandeveer Kughler (funded by the Joseph Palmer Knapp Foundation) depicts the charge by Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg, July 1863. Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew (in center) is about to signal his North Carolina troops to fall back.  Source: log.unc.edu

Confederate General James Longstreet (1821-1904), aka “Old Pete” and “Lee’s War Horse.” His views on General Lee caused controversy. In 1880, President Hayes appointed him ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

Picture on sale at oldgloryprints.com

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” pastel-on-board, 1895, one of four versions, each done in a different medium. Together with the “Mona Lisa,” it is the most famous painting.

”The Card Players” by Paul Cezanne, oil on canvass, 1892-93, one in a series of five paintings, was bought by the royal family of Qatar in 2011 for $250 million, the highest price ever paid for a painting.

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