Tag Archive: Robert Kurson


I wanted to do this revu earlier , but got busy helping a new Author get her book out there. Please forgive the lapse as this book is definitely part of my 2018 “Summer of Reading”, like never in recent memory! (smile)
By the time I returned “Hitmen” to my local library, I was already curious about Kurson’s previous book, “Shadow Divers”, which was mentioned in every promotional note I read for his latest work. I know this book has been reviewed – it isn’t on the “new” list and it was published in 2004 – I just want to share it with you, a fan or one of the curious about my blog because it became part of my summer 2018 reading list.
At first, I dismissed it as another boring “fish story” about scuba diving, but boy was I wrong! This book is a great historical narrative of non-fiction which is SO to the point that I had to let you know about the story as this milestone summer wanes.

This volume has elements of suspense, drama, mystery, education and science.
Its about men who dive deepest sunken shipwrecks like the Andrea Doria for sport, coming across an object very near to New York harbor, which they identify as a German U-boat submarine, and their quest to precisely identify it because previous history had no record of such a vessel in those waters so close to our east coast!

As with “Hitmen”, Kurson lays the groundwork of the story, then biographies each character, alternating between perspective, action, more history and biographical perspective which includes their love lives. He teaches us while describing this unique saga of connecting personalities and wartime “dots” to identify this object at the bottom of the sea, not far from the New Jersey coast and New York City. He names the book during chapter 2 at the bottom of page 33.

“Shadow Divers” is a most amazing story that I thought I would never read. These men dive for “sport” so much deeper than Lloyd Brides ever did on one of my boyhood favorite television shows, “Sea Hunt”, which is the first place I ever heard about “the bends”, an affliction caused by the chemistry of nitrogen and oxygen in our blood and returning to the surface of the ocean too fast. You will read and experience the profound, dangerous excitement of the mix of air they breathe underwater and the discovery by these sportsmen to the point that it is so scary, that it catapults you to read-on!

One of the most moving parts of the book is his recounting of the father and son divers, the Rouses, who joined many other divers on Bill Nagel’s Seeker to attempt to recover artifacts and identify the “U-Who”.
“The Seeker rose and fell with nature’s onrushing tantrum, each explosion against the ocean threatening to catapult the divers overboard and crush Chrissy under the stern.” (pg. 218)

In my schooling, the Pacific theater of WWII was taught as a more important battleground than the Atlantic resistance. Yet, throughout this book and feeling the investigative bravery, persistence and fortitude of these divers, I learned that Hitler launched many of these demon submarines and was upon our biggest east coat city’s doorstep. Oh wow! This is true and these few men men saw it through! If a book can be describes as a “nail-biter”, then this is one of them – right until the chapter where Chatterton and Kohler’s rehearsals bear fruit. Even our recently departed and beloved United States Senator and war veteran, John McCain contributed to the back cover liner note endorsements of “Shadow Divers”!

Reading this book brought another one of my favorite underwater dive movies to mind, 1977’s “The Deep” with the great dance beat soundtrack theme by the late Donna Summer and sexy underwater underwear scene with Jacqueline Bisset. Whoa! That shipwreck was only in 70 feet of water, however. Let’s listen to that theme, which I appropriately apply (and it was a great dance music hit during the those days!) below.

If I were you, I would quickly add this book to my library. I actually read it twice and my rating is still five-out-of-five depth charges!

I wasn’t looking for another space book to review, but when I returned “Endurance” to the library and then browsed the “New” section, this cover caught my eye:

The rocket men featured are astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders; the crew of Apollo 8.

“Rocket Men”, penned by Robert Kurson, is historical, educational, suspenseful. Those are but a few of the adjectives I can use to describe this incredible book, which is necessary reading at this juncture in American history, given the inexperience we have in the Oval Office currently which has the country in a similar snit as back in 1968. It reads almost like a novel, except it really happened!
Whether you grew up as an American with the “space race” and NASA by your side like I did, or (especially) not, this is a riveting must read!

Kurson had a great planned layout for this book. He gets right into it with the beginnings of the space race and builds some drama as the Russians leap way out in front. Then after he sets up the moon as a goal versus events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy getting assassinated, the ongoing unpopular Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination and the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, he goes into the personal stories of Frank Borman, then back to NASA, Jim Lovell then back to NASA, Bill Anders and back to NASA and the strife of our country at that time. I found one of the most endearing qualities of this read to be how he wove the struggles and faith of the astronaut’s wives and families into the story of “Rocket Men”.

We are suddenly launching Apollo 8 before the middle color photo pages! You need to read how they got to that point. Twenty-four chapters, a great Epilogue and Acknowledgement section, plus easy to comprehend diagrams. I couldn’t put it down except to sleep, eat and do my own work.

Its the story of the space race between our USA and the Soviet Union (Russia) and the genius of NASA’s group of scientists, which eventually led to the Apollo space program more particularly. Feeling that we were losing the race, a bold president challenged the nation to be better and win. My favorite president, John F. Kennedy, is mentioned often, because if it were not for his famous gauntlet of words thrown down before the Congress of the United States in 1961, we would have lost the race to the Moon to the Russians. Ironically, within the genius brain-trust that made Apollo 8 a success was Wernher von Braun, a former Nazi Germany rocket scientist, who was responsible for Hitler’s V-2 campaign against London and other European countries, late in World War II. This brought to mind a movie my parents took me to called “Operation Crossbow”, which recounted Europe’s response to the V-2 Campaign. You never know who will become your helpful bedfellow in this life.

The improbable success of the Apollo 8 moon mission is the focus of the book and by the time you finish reading, you will feel, like I do, that its success was something that was “meant to be”. If you ever doubt there are such circumstances, this book will change your mind. Names from my youth like Yuri Gagarin, Sputnick (“fellow traveler”), Laika (Russian for ‘barker’) and Alan Shephard are revisited and for me, personally, all while I was a teenager learning how to become a young man.

Did you know that in all, twelve Americans walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972? I must have known this, but in truth, those mission almost became commonplace back then! Unbelievable that our men flying to the Moon became routine at that point in time! Since Apollo 17, though…we have never returned there. It is fifty years later.

Remembering the name, Chris Kraft (how can one forget such a unique and appropriate handle?) and his quote on page 323, “never more courage than on anything we ever did in the space program”, because they accelerated it in order to meet the, by then late, President Kennedy’s deadline challenge.

One of my favorite quotes from the book came from his mention of the deadline challenge our great President Kennedy threw down, “Only by attempting ‘the impossible’ would a nation truly find out who it is…”

Another one is from Borman’s wife, Susan, who after being criticized for showing emotion after her husband Frank’s first launch on Gemini 7 said, “But…I have come to realize you can’t be all things to all people. So I decided not to pretend and not to try to hide my feelings – I decided to be myself.” The Author equally writes about how Marilyn Lovell and Valerie Anders coped and showed strength and concern for the safety of the sudden mission – in different ways.

This book is real life history, which is so very worthy your time.

Earlier than half-way into the book, Kurson so aptly employs the description the lift-off of the troubled and slightly untested Saturn V booster rocket on that fateful morning in December, 1968, that I had to go find the video on YouTube!

Even the Epilogue is an epic as it reminds us of how Apollo 13 had an explosion which almost doomed the crew. Great job, OMG…

For me, as a personal “by-the-way”, this story reminisced these launches, which were on the news daily back in those days. My father insisted on us watching the evening Walter Cronkite CBS News at dinner time, because our dining together was mandatory; a good thing that I didn’t like then, which, in retrospect should be more emphasized in today’s American families. Space stories are reminders that our earthly “problems” are petty when viewed against the dark vastness of the universe, of which our planet is a beautiful, but tiny dot.

I give this book five-out-of-five Earths!

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