Coffins of the Brave -- Lake Shipwrecks of the War of 1812, Edited by Kevin J. Crisman, Texas A&M Press '14, $60, 440 pages, 23 color and 114 b&w photos, ASIN #1623490324. Index of ships, general index, bibliography and sources, glossary, three appendices, notes follow each essay.
Although of coffee table-book size, Editor/archaeologist Crisman's new work is not primarily a picture book, although it sports more than 100 black and white photos and 23 color images. It is primarily a serious narrative, gathering 14 essays by leading scholars in the field and grouped in three sections: The Naval War of 1812 on the Upper Lakes, The Naval War of 1812 on Lake Ontario, and The Naval War of 1812 on Lake Champlain.
This daunting volume features 16 separate examples of 1812-era commercial and naval shipbuilding, ranging from "four small prewar vessels to four 16- or 20-gun brigs, three warships of much greater size, a steamboat hull converted into an armed schooner, two gunboats and two postwar schooners."
"Mounting tensions and heated rhetoric over 'free trade and sailors' rights' launched the United States of America and Great Britain into a short, intense conflict known as the War of 1812," writes editor Crisman. "Both nations scrambled to build fighting vessels to contest North America's strategically vital inland seas: the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. Following the conflict in 1814, the ships were left at anchor -- "mothballed" -- in modern terms. Sadly, over the next decades, "disuse and deterioration turned most of them....into mere wrecks, sunken, neglected, and in ruins."
Editor Kevin J. Crisman is an associate professor in the Nautical Archaeology Graduate Program of the Anthropology Department at Texas A&M University. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things -- A Novel by Alice Hoffman, Scribner '14, First Scribner Hardcover Edition, $27.99, 368 pages, ASIN #1451693567. Further reading, unillustrated.
Veteran novelist Alice Hoffman's latest work is a rich melange of events in the New York City of a century ago, in the era in which two catastrophic fires -- the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dreamland Fire "transformed the city and the life of every New Yorker."
"Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses," writes the author. "An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father's 'museum,' alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle."
But what would a period novel be without romance, as Coralie is drawn to a dashing Russian immigrant photographer named Eddie Cohen? "When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire," Hoffman recounts, "he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie."
Author Alice Hoffman is the author of a remarkable 28 works of fiction, including the recent blockbuster bestseller, The Dovekeepers. She lives in Boston.
What Good is Grand Strategy? -- Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush by Hal Brands, Cornell UPress '14, $29.95, 288 pages, ASIN #0801452465. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
From the dust jacket:
"Grand strategy is one of the most widely used and abused concepts in the foreign policy lexicon. In this important book, Hal Brands explains why grand strategy is a concept that is so alluring -- and so elusive -- to those who make American statecraft. He explores what grand strategy is, why it is so essential, and why it is so hard to get right amid the turbulence of global affairs and the chaos of domestic politics. At a time when 'grand strategy' is very much in vogue, Brand critically appraises just how feasible that endeavor really is.
"Brands takes a historical approach to this subject, examining how four (should be eight?) presidential administrations, from that of Harry S. Truman to that of George W. Bush, sought to 'do' grand strategy at key inflection points in the history of modern U.S. foreign policy As examples ranging from the early Cold War to the Reagan years to the War on Terror demonstrate, grand strategy can be an immensely rewarding undertaking -- but also one that is full of potential pitfalls on the long road between conception and implementation."
Hal Brands is assistant professor of public policy and history at Duke University and has written two previous works.