Monday, January 21, 2008

What has happened to the Military Book Club?

Jay Franco, the last identifiable editor of The Military Book Club, wrote the following copy to describe the club a few years ago:

"Dear Military Reader,

More than a thousand books cross my desk every year. They span every front, in every war with every weapon. Yet they all have something in common. They want to tell what it was like when a warrior stares into the eyes of another and knows that only one will walk away.

That warrior can be a Roman legionary with a bronze-tipped spear in his hand waiting for a Visogoth to step out of the morning mist....or a Delta Force commando trusting his training and his night vision to take out a terrorist before innocents are lost.

Our authors have been there. There are leaders and scholars. Soldiers and specialists. When they write about weapons, you can smell the cordite. When they talk tactics, you see the big picture. And when they recount tales of courage, you will want to stand up and say, 'Thank-you.'"

Then in late 2007 he signed off from the club: "I'll be moving along to new things. I'll miss sifting through all the gritty tales of blood and battle....War is ugly, but if history has taught us anything, it's that it is important to learn from it."

And the Military Book Club changed drastically. In its last 24 pages of book selections in December 2007, it only offered seven pages of books about military history. The rest of the pages offered a cook book gift basket, a travel book about China, books about Presidents, Pompeii, ancient Rome, Mary Lincoln being bi-polar, Sigmund Freud, Alexandre Dumas and Marco Polo. You get the drift.

Does this mean that Doubleday and its German owners have decided that military books don't sell enough any longer? Do they think that those interested in military history will buy cook books?

As Franco said in his sign-off, it IS important to learn from history. Particularly military history. For example, if our last secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld knew from military history that we were invading Iraq with too few troops in 2003, rectified the situation before invading, we might not be stuck there in 2008.

Jay Franco used to sign off his letters in the Military Book Club newsletters with the statement, "Holding down the fort, Jay Franco." Who is holding down the fort at the Military Book Club now? Is it someone as incompetent as Rumsfeld who thinks MBC members are going to buy cook books?--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,


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