Non-Fiction

Inside the Fortress

Title: Inside the Fortress
Author: Steve Valley
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1589825667

Inside the Fortress is a behind the scenes look at life for an Army senior enlisted leader inside the world renowned Green Zone, where he lived and worked from January 2004 to January 2005.

This book gives the reader an up close and personal look at what was really happening in Baghdad because what everyone saw back home via the main stream media was 180 degrees different of what was actually happening.

Steve Valley was the first sergeant of a unit made up of highly talented public affairs and combat arms Soldiers that brought with them an endless onslaught of personal issues and situations that that he and the unit's commander had to deal with on a daily basis. He played leader, father, brother and friend to countless American Soldiers that looked to him for answers and information while trying to survive the never ending incoming barrage of mortars, rockets and bullets.

Valley's duty station was at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) in Baghdad, located in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. The CPIC was made up of nearly 70 multi-service and international military members and civilians. The organization was responsible for writing and distributing press releases, setting up and hosting all the coalition's press conferences, organizing the military's media embed program and performing extensive media relations with the international media and governmental relations with top level diplomats and politicians.

Valley performed media escort duties for first media trip to the Abu Ghraib prison after the story broke in February 2004. He played a major role in the Abu Ghraib court martial proceedings held at the Baghdad Convention Center, the signing of the Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law, the transfer of sovereignty from the US to the Iraq in June 2004 and Sadaam Hussein's first court appearance the following month. Valley also served as a coalition spokesperson for the major battles of Najaf and Fallujah. He dealt with every reporter that came to Iraq from CNN's Christiana Amanpour, to the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter John F. Burns to the late Peter Jennings in addition to the numerous American daily and weekly community newspapers that needed updated information for their readers and viewers concerning Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Some of the media outlets that Valley worked with on a regular basis included the Associated Press, BBC, Washington Post, New York Times, Fox News (2 separate appearances on the Neil Cavuto Show), CNN, NBC, CBS and Al-Jazeera. He also worked with the CIA and FBI, White House liaisons, Department of Defense and State Department officials and senior Iraqi Governmental officials as part of his normal daily duties.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Valley, Steve

Beyond My Horizon: An Educational Odyssey & Combat Memoir

Title: Beyond My Horizon: An Educational Odyssey & Combat Memoir
Author: Claude Regis Vargo
Genre: Non-Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1608445658

“Share the author’s journey in Beyond My Horizon. Fall in love with the lifestyle of one of the world’s most beautiful hotels; survive the sieges of the hell-holes of Hue and Khe Sanh, Viet Nam; and stand beneath the stone archway of Cornell University. Here is a tale of determination, drive, and a courageous ride through life that you will not want to stop reading. In this engaging, compelling, and inspiring book, Claude Vargo mesmerizes the reader. He eloquently describes his life and the hard work that transformed him from being a youthful academic failure to graduating summa cum laude in just two years in midlife from the Hilton College at the University of Houston while simultaneously attending Cornell.

If Claude did it, you can too! This book is chock full of humorous anecdotes, academic timesaving tips, and common-sense tricks to achieve your scholastic and life goals.

Beyond My Horizon is a must-read for anyone who has a real desire to do well in college, go back to college, or finally make a change and pursue any lifelong dream. Vargo’s odyssey not only is a heartfelt and sincere effort to inspire the reader to go after life goals but also helps the reader believe he or she really can accomplish any goal.”

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Vargo, Claude Regis

Beyond Hell and Back: How America's Special Operations Forces Became the World's Greatest Fighting Unit

Title: Beyond Hell and Back: How America's Special Operations Forces Became the World's Greatest Fighting Unit
Authors: Dwight Jon Zimmerman, John D. Gresham
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Reviewer: Weymouth Symmes

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B0046LUGWG

The accounts of seven pivotal special operations from Vietnam to present day that were instrumental in the creation of Special Operations Command.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Zimmerman, Dwight Jon
Gresham, John

Book of Weapons: Tools of War Through the Ages, The

Title: The Book of Weapons: Tools of War Through the Ages
Author: Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Genre: Non-Fiction, Reference
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B003W8GQ4Q

The Book of Weapons is a sequel to the award-winning The Book of War. It covers the history of weaponry from the earliest most primitive instruments of destruction up to the technologically advanced weapons wielded today. Following in the profusely illustrated format of The Book of War, this history is organized chronologically, and is a fascinating survey that reveals the incredible array of arms, animals, methods, and concepts that were forged, fashioned, manipulated, subverted, and even seduced, into becoming the means to bring defeat and destruction to an enemy.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Zimmerman, Dwight Jon

Nero's Concert

Title: Nero's Concert
Author: Don Westenhaver
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Reviewer: E. Franklin Evans

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1441501096

In 64 AD, the heart of Rome burned to the ground while Emperor Nero famously performed a concert. For 2,000 years, historians have accused him of setting the fire himself and making Christians the scapegoats. To punish them, he embarked on a persecution that was to last for three centuries. But the real Nero was more complex. The story is told by Nero's fictional best friend, Rusticus, a famous gladiator who saves the young emperor's life in a chariot race and goes on to become a top minister in the imperial court. Guided by the distinguished philosopher Seneca, Nero stabilizes the Roman Empire. He downplays military conquest and barbaric displays of violence, opting instead for diplomacy, dependable food supplies, and the rule of law.

Nero and Rusticus personally lead thousands of firefighters and policemen to control the fire for over a week, after which the Emperor asks Rusticus to investigate how the fire began. With the aid of a beautiful nurse, Camilia, he soon discovers three murdered senators, their faces covered by masks. The masks portray three other murder victims who died years earlier: Nero's mother, step-father, and half-brother. While setting his empire on a steady course, Nero has himself become unstable. He is furious that Rusticus cannot find any evidence that the Christians are to blame for the fire and he orders him out of Rome. Rusticus takes the opportunity to go to Pompeii so he can follow two leads in the murder investigation. He is accompanied by Camilia and their eight-year-old daughters, who have become constant companions. By the time they return to Rome, Rusticus has fresh clues about the murders, and he has fallen deeply in love with Camilia.

Rusticus plans to ask for her hand in marriage, but he discovers she is a secret follower of Christ. She has not only concealed this from him, but has introduced his daughter to the forbidden cult. Furious, he walks out on her as she weeps desperately. He quickly discovers two more murders, and this time they are close friends. Rusticus is being hounded by another of Nero's advisers, Tigellinus, and he now knows it was Tigellinus that killed his wife two years earlier. Rusticus and his daughter are forced into hiding. The first group of Christians are rounded up and thrown in prison. Fearing for the safety of Camilia and her family, Rusticus realizes he cannot live without her. Reunited, they are captured and imprisoned, where he meets the head of the new religion, Peter, before they are all led off to the arena to die.

The heavily researched novel takes place in the devastated city of Rome under an emperor who is growing increasingly psychotic. Characters include the evil Tigellinus, Nero's selfish new wife Poppaea, and a witch who seems to read minds. There is a fanatical Christian named Gladius who agitates the Romans by claiming that Christ is coming to smite the unbelievers with fire. Gladius is also the son of the Good Thief, and his life changed 30 years earlier when he witnessed his father die on the cross, pardoned by Jesus.

The tone of Nero's Concert is similar to Robert Harris' best-seller Pompeii, and the recent HBO series, "Rome", in that it merges actual historical figures with fictional characters and does so in a way that brings the action to the level of the street, showing daily life not just as it was for the rich and famous, but also for the common people.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Westenhaver, Don

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