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Color Commentary—Cold War Coloring:  Political Adult Coloring Books of the Kennedy Era

August 1st, 2016

R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

When we find a coloring book without any crayon marks, this does not mean that its contents are “off-color”! While not a dominant part of our online and pending cataloguing stock, we have acquired from time to time works of political cartoonists (including drawings made at an event held at the National Archives), gothic novels (i.e., comic books), and political/satirical illustrated works, including “adult political comic books.”
The noted publishing house, About Comics, has just released Cold War Coloring: Political Adult Coloring Books of the Kennedy Era. As our customers of long-standing are aware, we do not often carry items that are currently in print (unless our copies are early editions, autographed by the author, owned by a notable, or with some other interesting attribute). We do want to make you aware of this work because we were honored to assist in its “birthing.” As the Dedication notes, “special thanks” were given to Dr. Lynne Haims (Ph.D.) of Ground Zero Books, Ltd., “whose efforts above and beyond the call of duty helped make this book possible.” We appreciate the kind words from Mr. Nat Gertler, publisher of About Comics. This book is part of their Presidential Bookshelf project. The book includes the JFK Coloring Book, the New Frontier Comic Coloring Book, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev Coloring Book, Khrushchev’s Top Secret Coloring Book and The John Birch Coloring Book.

We also have some other political coloring books, including some related to the civil rights movement and the African-American experience. These may be incorporated in future products from About Comics. We encourage you to let us know of other comic book titles of interest or to communicate directly with the publisher. The Wikipedia entry for About Comics reads in part:

“About Comics is a publisher of comics and comics-related material founded in 1998 by Nat Gertler. According to Gertler, it is intended to be “[neither] a mainstream comics publisher, nor an alternative comics publisher.” The company has published works by such comics writers as Kurt Busiek and Charles M. Schulz, as well as producing books such as Panel One and Panel Two, featuring comic scripts written by a number of top comics writers. Several of About Comics’ bestsellers have been works that have been rediscovered and republished, including several little-known early comics work by Charles M. Schulz.”

Now back to our regularly scheduled self-promotion of Ground Zero Books, Ltd. We have significantly increased our titles available for browsing at this website, due to a long-planned database conversion and integration activity. There are thousands of additional items across the full spectrum of our holdings. Keywords and browsing conventions have remained the same. We hope you will spend some time trolling for hidden treasures. As always, we appreciate the opportunity to deal directly with you—whether by phone, e-mail, snail mail, or orders placed through the website. We are happy to grant, upon request, a ten percent discount for such direct purchases. As always, we appreciate your business, your insights, your recommendations, your want lists and search requests, and your suggestions for future columns.

May the summer not simmer too hot, nor the winds blow too hard, nor the rain lead us into precipitous behavior—we hope you all have a happy August.

Bio-Upgradable—Reflections on How Lives Spent in Service Elevate Us All

July 1st, 2016

Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

Perhaps “to be or not to be” is not the right question.  Rather, perhaps it is “if one is to be, how to be the best one can be?”  For a long period of time, History was thought best told through the mechanism of Great Men (and the occasional Woman).  Conventions in historiography change, and greater diversity in how one studied “His Story” evolved, and the Great Man focus shifted.

However, the value of a focus on lives well lived, lives which had an impact, lives that preserved things, lives that changed things, lives that innovated and lives that conserved, lives that recalled how things used to be—these have never entirely left the historical stage.  Rather, the focus has moved beyond Great Lives to a recognition that lives that matter and their impacts can be measured beyond military or political victories or defeats.

In doing a quick check of our database, we found that we had 969 titles appear when we searched on “biography,” 541 hits on the word “autobiography,”  84 responses to the word “reminiscences,” and  “memoir” resulted in 525 items being listed.  That is one way to explore our holdings.  Searching on “oral history” yielded 84 listings, and “lives” resulted in 321 titles.  While there is likely some duplication, there appear to be about 2000 titles currently available dealing with the lives of individuals (and perhaps small groups).   Contrast that with searching on “battle” and finding 1096 items listed, and searching on “peace” and finding 959 “hits”—if “hits” is an appropriate term to use with “peace.”   We are surrounded by evidence of lives lived by others that can inform our own lives and how we choose to live them.

What do these numbers tell us?  I could say “search me,” but that is how we derived the numbers to begin with.  If they tell us anything, it is that how lives are lived fascinates us individually and collectively.  The recounting of lives gives us what the writer seeks to impart and also enables us to infer or inject other meaning and relevance as we take their information in.  Recently the New York Times printed an obituary of David Duncan, an antiwar activist from the Vietnam War era, seven years after his death.  The delay was due to late arriving knowledge of his demise, and the publication was due to the Times’ fidelity to its criteria of marking the passage of individuals who had a significant impact on others.  Clearly this was news that was fit to print.  Kudos to the New York Times for not taking the easy way out and letting the opportunity pass and for clearly explaining to its readers its decision to report a seven year old death.  We at Ground Zero Books, Ltd., hope that in our own small ways we can contribute to the communication of lives well led, lives of impact in many spheres and endeavors, and lives that merit reflecting on.

We hope that you will browse through our holdings, using whatever keywords appeal to you.  We always appreciate your suggestions that we use additional keywords to help keep you, our customers, from getting “out of sorts.”  As always, we encourage you to ask us about items not found—we have thousands of items waiting cataloguing and listing online (some of which we can actually get to rather quickly).  We appreciate your business, your want lists, your search requests, your comments, corrections, and suggestions.  As is our practice, in appreciation of direct purchases from our website, by e-mail, by phone, by snail mail, and by telepathy we are pleased to provide a ten percent discount upon request.

Normally Normandy!—The Non-Beatles British (and American) Invasion of 70 Years Ago.

June 1st, 2016

R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

I can remember watching the Huntley-Brinkley Report back when television was broadcast only in black and white and screens were barely larger than today’s I-pads.  I recall the newscasts when the last Union soldier and the last Confederate veteran passed away.  Their last reunions have been decades past, and their passing truly marked an end of an era and the resurgence of legend as there were no eyewitnesses left to challenge the collective memory of those who came after.

In the past year, we saw the deaths of the last survivors of the First World War, in Canada, in Britain, and in Australia—just as we are about to commemorate in August the centenary of that global conflagration.  We still are able to watch, and to listen to, the remaining survivors of the Second World War—although with each passing day their numbers decrease.

This month will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day, perhaps the most momentous single day of the Second World War—more significant than the June 20th attempt on Hitler’s life and arguably equal to or greater than either of the atomic bombings of Japan.

There are fewer survivors than a decade ago.  The 60th anniversary was sadly overshadowed by the decline and death of President Ronald Reagan—who had memorably recognized the Boys of Point de Hoc at the 40th anniversary commemoration.  Now not only are the heroes of the assault the stuff of legends, but President’s Reagan’s address ranks as one of the most elegant and eloquent battlefield tributes to sacrifice and glory since the Greeks honored the Spartan dead at Thermopylae.  Perhaps only Lincoln’s address at the cemetery at Gettysburg surpasses Reagan’s homage to “the Boys of Point du Hoc.”

This column, in its own small way, seeks to recognize, respect, and honor The Greatest Generation, which included our fathers.  Whether on land, sea, or air, battles were fought, boredom was fought, loneliness was fought, privations endured, and sacrifices made—loves, limbs, and lives were lost.  But the legacy that they have left us has not yet fully left us.  We should treasure the remaining veterans while we still have them.  We should strive to ensure that the collective memory that remains when they are gone is true to what they did, what they experienced, what they believed, and what they fought for.  Much of our collective memory is now based on their letters, their oral histories, their taped reminiscences, and their written words and published works.  We at Ground Zero Books, Ltd. are fortunate to have some many of these items—not only about D-Day or the Second World War, but about the quests of the valiant to ensure the triumph of good over evil since the fall of the Wall at Jericho to the liberation of Kuwait and beyond.  We hope that as you browse through our online listings at our website or as you ask about specific titles or topics in our “to be catalogued” stock, you will muse, or reflect, or just remember the humanity beneath the pages that help to enable us to enjoy reading and other freedoms today, and hopefully long into the future.

As is the case every month, we are happy to report that we continue to list more items on-line across a wide range of topics and formats.  We hope that you will enjoy exploring and experience the joy of discovery and the delight in making multiple purchases.  As is our practice, we will gladly grant a discount of ten percent for purchases made directly with us—either via the website, via e-mail, or via phone order.  We are not yet able to accept orders via drones but hope to start shortly after Amazon obtains Federal Aviation Administration approval of this technology and establishment of appropriate safety standards. Until then, we will seek to forgo aeronautical drones or tomes that appear also to drone on.

Thank you as always for your orders, your want lists, your search requests, your column ideas, and your general comments and suggestions.  Thank you in advance for your reactions to this column, which is a bit less whimsical and far more reflective than our normal monthly fare.  All we can say is that this is how we react normally to Normandy.

To ‘Dis’ or Not to ‘Dis’ and How to Dis-tinguish the Choice

May 2nd, 2016

May 1st, 2016
R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

As has been noted in previous columns, the English language is versatile,
flexible, evolving, and often seemingly incomprehensible. One of the
recent additions to the language is the concept of “dissing” or of
disrespecting. This observation led to a consideration of how often, in what ways, and
sometimes how unbalanced the use of the “dis” prefix can be. Unbalanced?
Yes, considered how often there is dis-cussion of dis-gruntled feelings
but when was the last time you read or heard about a ‘gruntled’ employee?
Or for that matter, how often ‘cussion’ is dis-cussed as opposed to
discussion?

Now, as you proceed to read the rest of this column, we hope that you are
now, and will be at the end, fully gruntled.
Words can have specific as well as general associations—and for us, there
is interest in associating such words with one or more of our specialties
in War, Peace, or Politics. “Dis” originally was a Latin prefix meaning “
apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” “lack”, “removal,” or having a
negative, or intensive, reversing force. It was also the name of the
ruler of the underworld in ancient Roman belief. In more modern times DIS is
the short form reference to the Disney Channel (a cable television channel).

In terms of Politics, words like distrust (as oppose to “Trust Ted/Trusted”),
disgrace (like having your name in the DC Madam’s black book, but not
necessarily when associated with a Bimbo eruption), and distinct as in a
policy position different from those of others (such as suggesting the NATO
was obsolete or Japan should develop its own nuclear arsenal).
Then we can consider Peace, which we all know can be disturbed. I am not
certain that there are occasions when the Peace is either partially or
fully “turbed,” although enthusiasm for certain peace proposals can be curbed.
Peace is not solely the province of the distaff side of the human race,
but there is a strong affinity for peace among those who nurture. There can
be peaceful discourse as well as discourse on peace—and perhaps then the
course of some events could be altered. Some arguments about peace, arms
control, and other topics can be both ingenious and disingenuous. Often the
road to peace is long in terms of time and other factors, but though it can
take years, proponents try to go the distance. They know when to present
their stance and to take a stand or perhaps to distort their position to
advance toward their long term objective.

Advancing toward an objective is one of the aspects of War (as well as
politics and peace). The cost of war can be the disfigurement of some of the
wounded, or perhaps their dismemberment. In olden days (up to the Japanese
committing Hari Kari) some of the injured were disemboweled. War by its
very nature is the ultimate disagreement. Attacks that are disjointed often
fail. In after action reports, the causes of both successes and failures can
be discerned. The reasons for failures can be disaggregated from the
entire battle assessment and highlight what should be the most cause for
con-cern. On the battlefield, one side may seek to disgorge the fruits of
conquest from their adversary. Such fruits would not often be found in gorges,
caverns, or canyons. Often after a battle some survivors were distraught.

This column has sought to dis-play the versatility even of prefixes.
Hopefully we have not pre-sumed too much on your linguistic interests. We
would be dis-appointed if you were dis-mayed (especially since this is our May
column).

We end this column as we normally to, with thanks to all for your
purchases, want lists, search requests, and essay suggestions. We are happy to
grant a ten percent discount upon request for purchases from our website, by
phone at 301-585-1471, and via e-mail (gzbooksltd@aol.com
(gzbooksltd@aol.com) ).

We look forward to hearing from you. And, as always, thank you.

What April Remembrances Tell Us About War, Peace, and Politics

April 1st, 2016

April 1st, 2016
R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.
I was watching television the other night, and a Match.com commercial cameon. It was about getting not only a date, but the right date, perhaps a date that would endure in the memory of a couple, or a family, or a community. Certainly I was not thinking about a “date that would live in infamy” [clearly not the month to make that connection]. As my mind wandered aimfully throughout the nooks and crannies of my cerebral territories, I found that April as a month was woefully underrepresented in terms of memorable dates, or at least dates I could remember. April 1st was easy; in additional to its traditional point of reference it is also my granddaughter’s birthday. Then there is April 15th—and it is not too taxing to understand why that sticks if not in the memory then in the craw… Second tier recollections, at least for United Staters (apparently Americans is out of vogue if used to only refer to inhabitants of a country between Canada and Mexico) are the surrender of Lee at Appomattox Court House (the 9th) and the shooting of Abraham Lincoln—shot on the 14th, died on the 15th.

So, the purpose of this column is to FINALLY give April dates greater recognition, especially in terms of war, peace, and politics. In doing research for this topic, I came to a conclusion as to why April might be so underrepresented—dates can be schizophrenic. Take for example April 10th. In 1942 it was the day the Bataan Death March started. That was a horrific example of man’s inhumanity, racism, war crimes, and ultimately of survival. Three years later, half a world away, the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated. This was another horrific example of man’s inhumanity, racism, war crimes, and ultimately of survival, but rather than signifying the start of torment, it marked the starting point of liberation, revulsion against such inhumanity and racism, and recognition of war crimes and a spur to the creation of the Nuremberg International Tribunals that established very clearly the principle that the community of nations collectively could hold individual nations, and their individual leaders, accountable for such heinous acts.

Let’s backtrack to April 4th. It has special meaning for human rights. In 1802, April 4th, as we all no doubt remember, was when Dorothea Dix was born. She was an early leader not just of women’s rights, but human rights, and (as head of the nurses during the American Civil War) a leader in humanitarian assistance. Fast forward to 1968 and rather than a life commencing, on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, a life was extinguished when a sniper’s bullet felled Martin Luther King, Jr. Is the 4th a date of celebration or mourning? It can be, and should be, both. Having addressed war and peace, let us see if this same duality holds for dates relevant to politics. The date of April 8th comes to mind. Recall that heady feeling among the populace in the halcyon era before the outbreak of war in Europe. The last strife-free year was 1913. Have you figured it out? Of course, it was the date when the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, taking the power to name Senators away from State legislatures and turning this authority over to the people (or manly to males who had the right to vote—but we will not go there at this time). What can contrast with this! How about a President exceeding his authority, taking near dictatorial action which is ultimately declared unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court. Who was that President and what was that action? Steel yourself to learn the answer, which follows the end of this sentence! President Harry S. Truman seized control of America’s steel mills to prevent a shutdown by strikers. However, on April 29th, the seizure was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court. Workers immediately began a strike lasting 53 days, ending it when they received a 16-cents per-hour wage increase and additional benefits. A fitting end to the crisis, a fitting end to the month of April, and in terms of examples, not a bad action to begin to bring this column to its close.

Since this column sought to break the ice on April dates to remember, let us end with a singular event, that has excited our imagination, challenged our technology, and reaffirmed our values, such as transportation safety. Did that last phrase give you a sinking feeling? That event, on April 15, 1912 of course is when, in the icy waters off Newfoundland, the luxury liner Titanic with 2,224 persons on board sank at 2:27 a.m. after striking an iceberg about midnight. Over 1,500 persons were lost while 700 were rescued by the liner Carpathia which arrived about two hours after Titanic went down. The world learned much about ship to ship communications, standardizing emergency communications, and the benefits of having enough life-boats for all passengers from that tragedy. In addition, it seems to have for each succeeding generations box-office bonanzas as the story is remembered, retold, and reinterpreted. And there were a fair number of books and pamphlets produced over the years as well.

April is, in essence, a month of seasonal duality, transitioning between winter and spring. There is no duality in terms of how Ground Zero Books, Ltd., appreciates you, our clients, our customers, our supporters, our commentators, or recommenders, and at times our conscience. We always appreciate your suggestions for topics for future columns, your want lists and search topics, corrections, and comments. As is our custom, we are happy to grant a ten per cent discount upon request for orders placed directly with us—by our website, by phone, by e-mail, by encounter while walking in the city, or by telepathy.

Peroration on Piration

March 1st, 2016

March 1st, 2016
R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

We had a major snowstorm on the East Coast in late January—three feet even if it is light powder is a lot of snow to deal with—and this event ultimately provided the inspiration for this column.
First, let me dispel any confusion on your, dear reader’s, part. While a peroration is often used to describe the ending of a speech or oration, it is also a “highly rhetorical creation” and a noun denoting a communicative process and context.  It is in the latter sense that this word is being used for this column.  We are not ending this column as we start it; rather we are starting it with an end in mind.  Which brings us back to the term “inspiration.”  We were inspired to consider the importance of the word fragment “piration” to our language, our culture, and our lives.
First and foremost, “piration” has nothing to do with Pirates, although it would be interesting to suggest it could connote a mythical Pirate Nation.  But let us focus on actual words—ones that can be found in dictionaries, thesaurus, and other works by lovers of lex.  We want this to be a memorable column—that is our aspiration.  We worked hard on this column, fingers flying over the keys, using multiple screens to search terms in various databases, and in the end having our brow drenched in perspiration.  Our vigorous activities caused a marked increase in our respiration. Our efforts were methodical and not frantic, and characterized by intensity and not by desperation!

Piration has evolved into terms that do not seem to be actual words.  One can google Fitspiration and land on a fitness website.  Then there is Yinzpiration which is a term used on a site dedicated to the challenge of interviewing 100 Pittsburghers.  I tried to figure out the motivation of this second one but gave up in exasperation.

Which brings us back to inspiration.  Since our last column there have been substantial changes to our holdings.  Many items have succumbed to the gravitational pull of collectors, researchers, and institutions.  This has been counterbalanced by an influx of new items across the spectrum of our holdings, especially signed items, military studies, pamphlets, and technical and military manuals.  We continue to add breadth and depth in regional studies, political works, and the current international bane—terrorism.  We hope you will browse through our website and find items that challenge, intrigue, and delight you.

As always, we are happy upon request to grant a 10 per cent discount for direct purchases through our website, through the snail-mail, by e-mail, and by phone (cell or land-line!).  We also very much appreciate the opportunity to search for items requested or to provide lists of items of possible interest when asked about specific authors, genre, and topics of interest.  Thank you always for your business, your comments, and your suggestions.  As we close, and this part meets the other definition of peroration, we hope that within our holdings you will find inspiration and not exasperation, that you will search without raising perspiration or changing your rate of respiration, and that you will complete your efforts without any sense of desperation or exasperation.

What Are We Resorting To For This Column?

February 1st, 2016

R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

We do not know how you spent some of the holiday time, but we had the
opportunity to take the kids and grandkids to the Orlando area. There are a
lot of places called resorts down there. (There are also a lot of places
called theme parks but we will save that discussion for a later column.)
Have you ever paused to consider the many and various meanings of the word
“resort”?

Perhaps the most often used meaning of the word is as a place that is a
popular destination for vacations or recreation. We went to LEGOLAND for a
couple of days. While we had thought about visiting it for quite a while,
and got our tickets on line in advance, it is also true that visiting
LEGOLAND is always, and we mean ALWAYS, a “snap decision”!
At the other end of the definitional spectrum, how about the process of
organizing things and information again and again in different arrangements—
i.e. re-sorting.

Also at the other end of the spectrum (can a spectrum have three divergent
ends?) from a place for recreation is to resort to a strategy or course of
action (especially a disagreeable or undesirable one) to respond to a
difficult situation. For example, some fanatics resorted to violence when they
were unable to achieve their objectives through persuasion.

In addition to “resort” meaning the lack of other viable options, as
defending the Alamo was the last resort of Travis, Bowie, Crockett, and their
followers, “resort” also means an act of choice. People resorted to going to
the movies when the weather made outdoor pursuits undesirable.
The word “resort” can be a noun or a verb. As a verb it can mean to go to
a place, especially frequently or customarily. For example: Coney Island
is a beach to which many people resort. In this instance it is the act of
going and not the destination.

Speaking of destination, this leads us to consider destiny. Destiny is
the power thought to predetermine events. Perhaps it is your destiny to
purchase one or more of our items. Do you believe in destiny? We certainly
would like to! We hope you will take some time to browse again through our
offerings. Every month there is substantial change, as some items depart
and others arrive. We try to balance our additions between restocking items
sold and adding depth and breadth to our holdings of monographs, battle
studies, biographies, political works, technical studies, government reports,
and a range of esoteric items.

As is our standard practice, for sales made directly with us, rather than
through a third party, we are pleased to grant upon request a ten per cent
discount whether you order by the website, through the mail, or by phone or
fax. It is your choice which method you choose to resort to!

2016—The Year of Electile Dysfunction

January 1st, 2016

January 1st, 2016

Alan Lewis, President

Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

 

Happy New Year!

For those of us living in the United States, it seems as if the 2016 Presidential election cycle started in mid-November 2012, before the ballots of the last go-round had gone cold!  Well, if we may be forgiven a racing, rather than a racist, reference, it seems as if we are going into the home stretch.  Next month, in February 2016—after millions of dollars will have been spent on polls, political consultants, political advertisements, campaign buses, campaign staff, etc., the first actual caucus and primary votes will be cast.  These do not result in decisions, but rather ultimately into delegates aligned with specific candidates who choose their party’s nominee at national convention.

Many, many commentators and others have remarked that this Presidential campaign is like no other.  Quite a few bemoan the fact that old rules, assumptions, standards, and playbooks no longer either apply or work.  In their view, the process this time around is dysfunctional.  Others contend that the old ways did not work as intended, that often those promising change quickly became guardians of the status quo when elected.  To them, the previous political process was dysfunctional.

Thus, this is a banner year for the production of work on “politics,” and due to the intersection of associated issues, also for works on “war” and that ever elusive “peace.”  To “Trump” or not to “Trump” has gone beyond the confines of the game of Bridge.  In the last half of 2015, political commentators, pundits, spin-meisters, academics, and others have opined on the Trump phenomena—it was a summer fling, he could not hold a lead for long, he could not crack 20 per cent in the national polls, then 25 per cent, then 30 per cent.  Today, the “smart money” is suggesting that the eventual reductions in the Republican field of candidates will enable a viable alternative to emerge.  This may be so, or not.  Perhaps a future column will address the perspicacity, sagacity, or stupidity of the proponents of this expectation, prediction, or proposed desired outcome.  In times past, it almost seemed as if the Republican Party needed to beat the bushes for sufficient candidates to vie for the nomination.  Now it seems that most of the candidates, at this stage, can beat at least one Bush.  Perhaps because of the opinion some hold of his brother, Jeb may feel “Bush-wacked.”

Last year ended the bicentennial of the War of 1812.  One of the famous quotations from that conflict was from Oliver Hazard Perry, who exclaimed during the Battle of Lake Erie, that “I have just begun to fight!”  It seems as 2016 begins that those who live and breathe the political process are demonstrating that they “have just begun to write.”  We will soon be able to see in the collectible and second hand book market, the recycled fruits of their labors.   Please be assured that we at Ground Zero Books, Ltd., will be on the lookout to harvest from these bumper crops—for your reading, research, and collecting pleasure.  This will be somewhat of a departure for us, as it has been our general policy not to list books still in print or items produced within the previous decade.  We make exceptions, for fields such as terrorism and for signed, inscribed, and other items with significant associations.

In the past month, we have continued to add to our stock across the board, and have been fortunate to have found additional copies of a number of items that have recently sold.  We will continue to add in the coming weeks and months, with a special emphasis on materials that may be particularly relevant to current affairs, terrorism, and Presidential politics.  As always we invite comments, suggestions, inquiries, want lists, and search requests.  Also, upon request, we will grant a ten per cent discount on direct purchases via our website, phone, and e-mail.

We wish you a healthy, happy, and bibliographically fulfilling New Year.

After the Fall—Occupation, Reconstruction, Transition, Chaos?

December 1st, 2015

R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

As we shift from Autumn to Winter, conventional thinking might have led us to have a column about the seasonal change and the upcoming Holidays/New Year.  Alternately we could have offered you an essay about the gravity of falling objects, and how with the upcoming inclement weather might lead to trips and slips, as well as falls.  There are many tie-ins between accidents and war, peace, and politics—General Gavin hurt his back in a parachute drop during Operation Market Garden,  General Patton died as a result of a traffic accident, etc.  However, given what has been going on in the world, we are taking a different approach.

Cities fall, regimes change (aka fall), countries dissolve, and even civilizations crumble.  This has been one of the constants in world history, from before the Fall of the Roman Empire to the fall from power of Saddam and Ghaddafi and Pol Pot.  What has been less constant and predictable has been what happens after the fall.  This has given rise to a broad and diverse set of writings by participants, partisans, politicians, and prognosticators—among others whose nomenclature does not lend itself to continued alliteration.

In the last century we have seen a spectrum of outcomes from a variety of “falls.”  The fall of the House of Romanov was sharp, bloody initially, bloody during the ensuing civil war, bloody during Stalin’s consolidation of power, and yet after several generations of repression, depression, and political regression, the fall of the Soviet Union was somewhat more like slow motion,  with economic dislocation and significant social stress but far less formal conflict and political bloodshed.  The contrasts are interesting in and of themselves and also as the fodder for memoirs, analytical studies, cultural assessments, and a variety of predictive assessments and projections of future events within Russia, within Europe, and globally.  Only time will enable us to determine which of these assessments and projections are more right than wrong, but the marketplace will vote on which ideas are more popular or believable at the time.

Another “after the fall” contrast is the post war period in Europe and Japan after the end of the Second World War and the post war period in Afghanistan and Iraq after the Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the defeat of the Taliban and disruption of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  Clearly these outcomes were vastly different.  There were periods of post war military occupation.  The national political successors to the Nazi’s and the Imperial Japanese Court were significantly different and largely evolved in less than a decade after the surrenders—despite the complications of the start of the Cold War and intense geopolitical and economic rivalry between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., and  between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.    After the transitions, West Germany and Japan were demonstrably more democratic than before the war and these institutions “took root” and became more fully ingrained in each national culture.  To the extent that this shift was one of the WWII war aims, this post war transition, not without time and pain, was successful.  It may have created an expectation that subsequent conflicts could, and perhaps would, have similar culturally shifting outcomes.  However, when we look at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the implementation of the new constitution and new government in Afghanistan (and the ending of its prior monarchy), we do not see a similar success in nation-building.  In fact, many would argue that the process of political and military disengagement that was both manifest and manifestly successful in Europe and Japan has abjectly failed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are other modern examples that are more Near East than European, such as the fall of Mubarak, the fall of the entrenched leadership in Tunisia, and the fall of Ghaddafi.  The Arab Spring sprang in different directions than many Western observers thought it might.  The “after the fall” transitions are still on-going.

By now, you may be wondering where this column is going—so are we.  Not every issue can be wrapped up neatly with a bow like the hoped for holiday presents.  Historians may be better able to present the past in an understandable narrative than political and social scientists can predict what will happen in the near future.  A century ago events at a distant part of the globe might be shrugged off with a “What does it matter,” while today we see events unfold in real time communicated images, and violence can reach our shores in hours.  It behooves us all to seek to understand and also in turn to seek to be understood.

And this, at last, brings us back to Ground Zero Books, Ltd.  We are not intended to be an agent of change but we are by intent purveyors of information.  We have no specific perspective to promote, but we do seek to enable inquiry, analysis, and hopefully thoughtful consideration and communication.  We have a large selection of works on war, peace, and politics that covers conflict essentially from when Cain slew Abel to the present.  We have items on military occupation, military government, political institution building, negotiation, pacifism, pacification, leadership, and politics.  Our items range from multi-volume works, memoirs, biographies, Congressional Hearings, government reports, technical assessments, propaganda, pamphlets, broadsides, monographs, and the occasional artifact.

As we move into the holiday season and into the New Year, we hope that we all can be optimistic for the future.  We look forward to supplying you with items we hope you will prize or as gifts that others will prize for a long time.  As always, we are happy to grant upon request a ten per cent discount for orders placed directly with us through our website, or with us by phone, letter, or e-mail.  We also appreciate learning of your specifically wanted items and general interest areas.   We also take to heart your comments and suggestions for future columns.

Happy holidays and Happy New Year.

Always Remember the Fifth of November, and the other 29 Days

November 1st, 2015

R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground  Zero Books, Ltd.

Time is a concept, a reality, a starting and ending point, a continuation, and a frame of reference.  November is a demarcation in and of time; it connotes an ending (the Armistice that brought the fighting of the First World War to a cessation) and a beginning (the Armistice sowed the seeds of the resumption of conflict known at the Second World War).

We pen (metaphorically) these columns monthly—daily would be too frequently, annually would not be frequently enough, and weekly would dilute our communications into something more weakly.  Thus monthly seems to be the right frequency for our conversations with you.

November is a notable month (and yes there are eleven other notable months).  Do not worry; this column will not march through each of the thirty days.  There are, however, some notable days to build this column around.  The first, in homage to the intersection of war, peace, and politics, is Guy Fawkes Day.  Why you ask (or I do rhetorically for us) that day?  Well, the Gunpowder Plot was one of the earliest acts of attempted urban terrorism.  It was an exercise of political violence and a precursor of what we now describe as urban warfare.  It was a breaking of the peace, but also a misguided attempt to change the reigning political dynamic in the hopes of resulting in a more equitable redistribution of political power, authority, and policies.  A desired result was a more peaceful Britain.  Thus, Guy Fawkes Day can be seen as having elements of war, politics and peace.   Delving into that event, there are elements of sectarian violence, intelligence operations, political repression, and societal inequality—sounds a lot like the present day.

In addition to fixed date events, like the 5th of November, there are also constant variable dates, like the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November—the American election day for Congressional and Presidential elections.    It can occur between November 2nd and November 8th.  It is an endpoint on which millions (if not billions) of dollars and efforts are focused.  It is the starting point for the implementation planning for individual elected officials and the transition of Presidential administrations.  Elections have been validations of popular desire for continuation of status quos and events that sparked major power and policy shifts at city, county, state, and national levels.  Some elections are one-sided in outcome, and others have been cliff hangers—decided by a role of the dice, a cutting of a deck of cards, recounts, disputed ballots, and legislative chambers.  Election Day has always been a wonderful opportunity for a civics refresher for the electorate and other residents and citizens who chose not to vote.

Returning to consideration of a fixed date, and one that had global impact rather than the narrower sphere of impact of an election or a single focused act of terrorism, consider November 11.  Armistice Day commemorates the suspension of the first modern, high technology, high level of civilian casualty global war.  European originated wars have “gone global” in the past.  The Seven Years War is one example, in that combat was in Europe and outside of Europe, and territories were transferred from vanquished to victors.  But those wars were largely waged by standing armies and had relatively limited impact on the civilian populations of the nations at war–granted that those who starved during sieges or suffered privations due to the foraging of troops that marched through their lands would have a different view.  Armistice Day has evolved into Veteran’s Day in the United States, and is still a special date of commemoration around the world.  It honors not only those who served in uniform, but also those who served at home, and even those who endured at home.  The Armistice was not an end of a war, but a cessation of active hostilities.  The Treaty of Versailles did not resolve all the issues, as was proven when a generation later the Second World War commenced.  The world learned a lesson from the Armistice—and the victors demanded unconditional surrender.  This was a political decision as well as a military one.  It was a decision understood at the time to be an investment in winning a lasting peace.

It is important to understand that military action cannot only result in peace but can be a significant strategic means of achieving peace.  Let us briefly consider that from the era of Frederick the Great and Napoleon until the end of the Second World War, the level of violence in warfare, especially on civilian populations and nominal noncombatants, was constantly escalated.  Since the use of nuclear weapons to end the Second World War in the Pacific, wars have been regional rather than global, increasingly asymmetric and irregular, and while they may last longer typically result in fewer losses among the armed forces, the civilian populations, and national infrastructures.

So, hopefully after reading the above, you can appreciate why November is one of my twelve most favorite months.  We hope that you will take the opportunity to explore our on-line offerings through our website.  As we do every month, we have added many new titles and replaced others that have sold recently or in the past.  We continue to focus on terrorism, elections, leaders and leadership, and a range of topical studies.  If you do not see something in our listings, please ask us.  We have thousands of titles waiting to be catalogued.  We also have an international network of colleagues to whom we can reach out to for assistance in uniting you with the item or items you desire.

Thank you for your purchases this month (and in the past), your want list requests, your research needs, and your comments and suggestions.  As always, we encourage you to purchase directly from us rather than through our third party venues.  We are happy to grant a ten per cent discount upon request for purchases from our website, via e-mail, and by phone.  We will also try to honor snail-mail purchase requests but due to the time involved, desired items may not be available by the time your letter gets to us.

We hope those of you who live in the United States have a Happy Thanksgiving and that all of us have a wonderful November.Always Remember the Fifth of November, and the other 29 Days