What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Doc Savage, Conan the Barbarian, and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. None are literary masterpieces, but all are series I read in my youth, and they still hold a special place for me. Many times, during a military move to one duty post or another, I’ve been tempted to throw them out like an old baseball mitt, but I never have, and they still sit on my shelf.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
Voracious. I was the kid that hid a flashlight and read in the dark after my parents told me to go to bed. I read everything, from Heinlein to Bradbury to Twain to Tolkien. I remember being in English class in eighth grade, hiding a science fiction novel behind the boring stuff we were reading and getting caught. My teacher pulled me in front of the class, castigated me for the “trivial” book, basically embarrassing me in front of my peers, and ended by chucking my paperback in the trash. To this day I wonder if she realized she should have been encouraging everyone in the class to read whatever they want — cereal boxes, comic books, whatever. Instead, she made me feel like I had done something wrong by reading an actual book that wasn’t by Willa Cather (the most boring writing ever). I swore I’d never do that to my kids.
Favorite childhood literary character or hero?
I hinted at it earlier. Bigwig from “Watership Down.”
What’s the best book you ever received as a gift?
A first edition of “Selous Scouts: Top Secret War.” It’s about the bush wars in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and focuses on a special forces unit called the Selous Scouts, written by its commander, Col. Ronald Reid-Daly. It is a fascinating story and holds truths on insurgency that we’re still relearning today. I had the paperback and wanted a hardback, but unfortunately, they were long out of print. My father found one at a high cost and gave it to me for Christmas.
What book would you recommend for the current political moment?
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” or “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Anything that is hell and gone from today’s politics. Reading should be an escape. Why on earth would anyone want to read one more story about today’s political environment?
What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
“Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens. It’s been on the best-seller list since forever, and everyone has raved about it, so I decided to give it a go. I couldn’t get through it. I know this has something to do with me and not the book, because my Lord it has been selling like toilet paper in a pandemic since 2018, but I just didn’t get into it.
Whom would you choose to write your life story?
Winston Churchill. Any man who says “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it” is the man I want at the helm of my life story.