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BOOK REVIEW: Shanghai 1842-1949: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Monday, July 22, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Shanghai 1842-1949: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City

by Stella Dong

A broad overview of the city sheds considerable light on gangsters, corruption, repression, exploitation, affluenza, squalor, and all sorts of vice through the years covered. Of note, at one point, and for years, the leader of the largest criminal gang (the Green Gang) became the chief of police, where only gang members could become cops and detectives. If you thought Chicago in the 1920s was a gangland paradise, multiply it by 10 and you get Shanghai through the decades. Great setting for 1920s-30s pulp game.

Enjoyed all the colorful characters, from paupers to ultrarich.

Tags:  19th Century  20th Century  Asia-Pacific 

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Book Review: The Spanish-American War 1898

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Monday, May 13, 2019

by Albert A. Nofi.

Well-written book by historian and SPI alum Al Nofi covers the war, including analysis of campaign strategy and operational actions, from beginning to end. Nice maps of land and sea battles. Great OOBs and other wargame-appropriate info in appendices. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  19th Century  Spanish-American War 

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BOOK REVIEW: Steam Traction on the Road: From Trevithick to Sentinel -- 150 Years of Design and Development

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Friday, April 19, 2019
Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2019
BOOK REVIEW: Steam Traction on the Road: From Trevithick to Sentinel -- 150 Years of Design and Development

by Anthony Burton

This 200 page book profiles the rise and fall of steam vehicles, early on called traction engines, that are NOT trains. You might have heard of the Stanley Steamer automobiles? Well, plenty of previous companies created plenty of tractors, autos, trucks, and buses that used steam power to propel them down the road. For example, the first ever steam-powered road vehicle was built in 1769 and meant as a tractor to haul artillery. Despite a second version, neither was adopted by the military.

I found the early years of development fascinating as Burton not only recounts facts and figures, but explains the mechanical differences in the evolution of traction engines as well as their operation. The description of what it took to fire up a Stanley Steamer was quite detailed and to my mind, a tad daunting -- but then again, we're used to just turning a key.

Also, not only do you get a history of the steam vehicles, including farm tractors, stem rollers, pumps, and circus and amusement rides, but you get a bit of industrial patent history and a history of legal restrictions placed on those puffing monsters.

A multitude of illustrations, from black and white mechanical drawings to color photos of working vehicles, enhance the text descriptions.

From our military history perspective, I would have liked to see a chapter on war uses. Burton provides a passing mention of steam vehicles used in the Boer War and steam trucks in WWI. Long ago, I ran across a reference of a tractor used in the Crimean War and another reference about Ford Motor (?) developing a steam tank prototype for the US Army in 1940 (?). It would have been nice to include them and others...perhaps another book?

Although now a curiosity, steam vehicles competed with diesel- and gas-powered vehicles during the late 1800s and early 1900s. They didn't evolve into 'steampunk' vehicles of anime fame, but a 1902 Gardner-Serpollet vehicle nicknamed the Easter Egg set a land speed record of 74.5mph (p.148). By 1906, another steamer topped 100mph. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  19th Century  Steam 

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