Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Linda's Reading Lounge presents: The Yanks are Starving by Glen Craney

The author has kindly offered to gift us 3 copies of the ebook for three lucky winners. To be sure of a chance to win, just leave a comment below or comment on our Facebook page.
The draw will be on Wednesday the 9th December!

It is a difficult to approach a review of author Glen Craney’s masterwork The Yanks are Starving without shedding a tear or making a political statement.  It is a courageous book.

   Craney combines the visual imagery of a screenwriter and the objectivity of a journalist with the passions of a writer - a mix of oil and water that Craney somehow pulls off.  The history is so meticulously portrayed and so painfully presented it is hard to remember this is a novel.  The events in this book are true. Many of its characters are genuine. Bringing their story to light is a bold endeavor. It is not an easy reading experience for fast adherents of the political rhetoric of the American Dream. It is essential reading for those who found truth and beauty co-existent in the works of John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos.
   Did you know that in 1932, a battle was fought between two armies almost on the steps of the Capitol Building, both armies flying the American Flag, each heavily represented either by freshly trained or battle weary American soldiers? Lives were lost, hopes were dashed, careers were made. Politicians who wished to posture themselves as less than heartless treated it as a communist inspired political demonstration gone out of hand.

The March on Capitol Building

   General George S. Patton, then a junior officer, later commented 'it was more of a war than was popularly believed', and called his own role ‘the most distasteful form of service.' 
   He and General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur do not fare well in Craney’s brilliant book. The subject of the novel is not generally included in the American History curriculum in even the most academically acclaimed American colleges. I admit to being blissfully unaware of it until I volunteered  to read the book based on the quality of Craney’s other books. Author Craney dares to tell the story in the only way it can be adequately understood. This is not an event that can be told without a comprehensive back story. While the climax occurs at a place called Camp Marks in Anacostia, Virginia, in 1932, the novel begins in the days before the United States of America entered World War I.  It’s setting is an America still suffering the effects of devastating Civil War. The country was experiencing growing pains inherent in sudden industrial growth and territorial expansion. Waves of immigrants were arriving from places like Italy, only to be exploited and bullied by the last generation of new arrivals, principally Irish and some Germans.
   There is no single protagonist in Craney’s book, although it is framed in a prologue and epilogue featuring the leader of the Bonus Army, Walter Waters. The story is told through many voices, but each is kept separate.  There is no confusion as to who is reporting any given event.  Some of the principals are historical characters, including Bert (Herbert) Hoover, Douglas MacArthur and Journalist Floyd Gibbons. The following characters are historical personalities: Herbert Hoover, President of the United States; General of the Army Douglas MaArthur; Pelliam Glassford, Chief of Police in Washington D.C.; Walter Waters, the leader of the Bonus Army; Floyd Gibbons, famous journalist; and Joe Angelo, an Italian-American veteran. Craney adds two characters who are composites based on his research.  They are Menonite nurse Anne Raber and Ozzie Taylor, an African-American musician who became a member of the Harlem Hellfighters. We cannot understand what happened on the June day of 1932 unless we have a sense of who these individuals and their colleagues were and how their situations brought each to the point of armed conflict. Craney lets us glimpse the idiosyncrasies and ideologies of each in beautifully written introductory chapters.

Pelham Glassford: Chief of Washington Police

   The story itself is framed by its prologue and epilogue, both set in a rural Oklahoma town in 1941, on the brink of American involvement in WWII. A lank man in his fifties wearing a strange combination of clothing which gives him the air of a Mussolini stand-in arrives at a barracks and tries to volunteer.He refuses to take no for an answer in spite of his age, and will not stand down until he tells his story.  For WWI Sergeant Walter Waters, the story begins with Herbert Hoover, who almost brought about the Second American Revolution. Thus, we begin the story with a vignette providing some insight into the soul of the devout Quaker mining engineer who later became the President of the United States. The tale begins in 1900 in China, when Hoover witnesses the bloodshed of the Boxer Rebellion, and also the deprivation the conflict has brought to the Walled City and hears his injured friend proclaim: ‘Makes one glad to be an American, don’t it, Mr. Hoover? Folks back home would never let their neighbors starve like those poor folks out there.’ Hoover leaves China, believing Christian industry and capitalism is the answer.

   The first segment of the book traces the experiences of the eight principals through the horror that was The War to End All Wars. Only through viewing the sacrifices of each of the eight can be understood the depth of despair of the veterans and the frustration of the political and military leadership (represented by MacArthur and Hoover) when the Great Depression strikes, and the veterans of World War I find themselves forgotten - a situation not unlike the survivors of Vietnam.
   Through the next 140 pages of Craney’s book, we are taken to the trenches, the war rooms and the field hospitals to share the triumphs, and the agonies, of the eight characters in Craney’s story.  Part One shows Craney as a military historian and martial writer extraordinaire.This section of the book balances action and dialogue to create realistic, combat scenarios, that never allow the reader to forget the heroics of ordinary men and women in extreme situations. Craney is just as sensitive in portraying conscripted nurse, Anne Raber’s, frustration when she realizes her friend and mentor Nurse Fairchild, has died of mustard gas poisoning, as when Colonel Pelham Glassford, tells his short-sighted superior officer, where to head in. In reading this segment, Craney has allowed me, born in 1939, to time slip back into the years before I was born to events that shaped my own family life. He has extended my personal history by forty years.

   After the armistice, Craney takes us to the Pacific Northwest, in 1931, as a few of the veterans who served in the Marne, face the despair of the Depression Years.  Coming home later than most of their fellow servicemen, they encounter lean times, even before the Wall Street Crash. For many of them, the jobs they left behind have been given to others. Not all families were welcoming, and not all relationships survived. By 1931, they were on the brink of starving, when Walter Waters, aka Dubya Dubya, spearheads a march on Washington in support of a Bill before Congress to accelerate the bonus payments promised to veterans by a nation that had been grateful in 1919, but not in 1931. By now, Herbert Hoover is President, still a man of good intentions but without the fortitude to lead a nation through the dark days of the Depression. MacArthur is one of his chief military advisers, convinced that the veterans' group is a front organization for Bolsheviks. The second segment of the book covers the cross country journey of what many people regard as a bunch of panhandling hobos.

   When they get to Washington, the one bright spot is to find fellow veteran. Pelham ‘Happy' Glassford, as its compassionate Chief of Police.  Nevertheless, there is only so much Glassford can do.  Even his old friend MacArthur advises him to distance himself from the men who were with him in the trenches. With the Bonus Army encamped on the outskirts of the city, and leaders in the Hoover government with a sinister agenda for dealing with the demonstrators, the same eight Americans we met in the Battle of the Marne, do battle once again, members and sympathizers of two different armies, flying the same flag. Craney recreates the final confrontation between two groups of Americans, each thinking it has right on its side, and he does it with brutal honesty, and a sense of pathos.

Joe Angleo
   One of the most poignant passages for me was when Private Joey Angelo, decorated for having saved George Patton’s life, and who worshipped him as if he were a God, approaches him on the steps of the Capital during the last days of the Bonus Army, and was turned away. ‘I do not know anyone by that name.’…’Take him away. Under no circumstances allow him to return.’
   While this might not be a book for everyone, those who appreciate expertly written, historically accurate, novelized history of events, that shaped our times, will applaud Glen Craney’s book, and treasure it.  There is a profound message in its pages.  While the book is available on Kindle as an e-book, for history lovers, this is one readers will want to position on a book shelf' as a reminder of the oft quoted words of philosopher – essayist George Santayana, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'
Reviewing this book has been an honour.
About The Author
Glen Craney holds graduate degrees from Indiana University School of Law and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He practiced trial law before joining the Washington, D.C. press corps to cover national politics and the Iran-contra trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Nicholl Fellowship prize for best new screenwriting, and he is a three-time finalist for Foreword Reviews Book-of-the-Year Award. His debut historical novel, The Fire and the Light, was honored as Best New Fiction by the National Indie Excellence Awards. His books have taken readers to Occitania during the Albigensian Crusade, to the Scotland of Robert Bruce, to Portugal during the Age of Discovery, to the trenches of France during World War I, and to the American Hoovervilles of the Great Depression.


      Twitter: @glencraney

Linda Root is the author of six historical novels set in the late 16th and early seventeenth century, The First Marie and the Queen of Scots, (2011) and The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots (2013), both large historicals, and the Legacy of the Queen of Scots Suite consisting of four books to date and the fifth coming early in 2016. She also writes historical fantasy under the name J.D. Root.  Root is a former major crimes prosecutor living in the high desert above Palm Springs with husband Chris and two Alaskan malamutes Maxx and Maya.  Visit her author page on Amazon


  1. Thank you, Linda, for the marvelous review. I'm gratified that the book found you, with your childhood memories of those years following the Bonus March during the Roosevelt administration.

  2. Sorry, forgot to add my name to the above comment. Glen Craney

    1. Glen it's lovely to get such awesome feed back. I'm sure Linda Wii be over the moon. She is one of our best reviewers and now a very valued member off the admin team.

  3. this done sound like a compelling book to read

  4. I meant "does" sound like a compelling book to read .

  5. Great review Linda...A book already ear - marked for my reading list!)

  6. Great review Linda...A book already ear - marked for my reading list!)

  7. Wonderful review - it did what all good reviews should - it compelled me to order the book!