A Peek Inside Their Lives
by Virginia Williams
Reading is one of the joys of life, and it can be done for free. I’m usually reading at least one, if not two books, at all times. But not all of my reading is educational. It’s no secret by now that I’m a fan of historical fiction. A brief tour through “My Books” on my Goodreads profile quickly points to a propensity of the historical fiction genre. That’s pretty much everything from eons ago to WWII, including stories of the Civil War and Vietnam War eras, the latter of which my husband was part.
Having read so many books, it was natural for me to begin leaving ratings and reviews, most especially for those books I truly enjoyed. I generally reviewed them on both Amazon and Goodreads, especially after I began receiving so many “giveaways,” and on Amazon as a result of the many free downloads through BookBub to my Kindle.
I’m not sure if Vietnam era stories fall into the historical realm at this point, but one of my favorite authors, a veteran himself, is Bob Meyer. I also read and reviewed June Collins’ novel Goodbye, Junie Moon. Older folks may remember the scandal she stumbled across and wrote about that lead to congressional hearings.
Reaching further back than that, I read the biography Calvin Many Wolves Potter, penned by his great-great-granddaughter, Elaine Brooks Held. Now THAT was a feat! Held recounts the bittersweet tale of 12-year-old Calvin Potter stealing away in the night from an abusive father in Pennsylvania. She does an amazing job of putting you in his moccasins as he is discovered near death and is carefully and patiently nursed back to health by the Sisseton Sioux of Minnesota. Held weaves a spellbinding tale of Calvin as he is integrated into the Dakota nation, taking the name Many Wolves, learning the language, adopting their ways, and becoming a warrior. As the white man continues to make inroads into the tribe’s territory, however, he is forced back to the people from which he was born; but he is no longer white, nor really Native American.
I also won a “first reads” Goodreads giveaway, Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life. The biography was authored by Peter Ackroyd, who did a splendid job of painting a picture of Charlie the man (with all his warts), Charlie the actor, and Charlie the powerhouse film innovator.
Knowing the name, I was amazed at the impact his life had, not only on the U.S. (his adopted nation) in film technology in the early 20th Century, but also worldwide.
Born a child of the London slums to an alcoholic and psychologically unstable mother, Chaplin discovered a natural talent as a mimic and established an image as the “Little Tramp.” The timing was perfect for his character, and he later found a new home in silent films in America.
No fan of the cast, crew, or directors, Chaplin quickly worked himself into becoming the dominant personality and expanded the then popular “one-reeler” (one reel, approximating 13 minutes) into two. It was actually Chaplin, along with Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford who created United Artists. His fanatical attention to detail and the change of the acting art itself, along with differences in camera use and filming, began a volatile change in the cinematic industry.
While the man himself, that I could see, was a despot, he actually began a revolution in the movie industry. And, even after all his personal scandals, he was eventually venerated and accorded an honorary Academy Award.
Virginia Williams began to publish her grandfather’s books after she retired for the last time in 2012. She had inherited a steamer trunk full of his manuscripts, poems, short stories, and paintings after his death, but only recently found a way to fulfill her long-ago promise to publish his works. Look for books by Stanley McShane on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, both in print and eBook form, as well as via Kindle and Smashwords or your favorite book source.