The John Batchelor Show

Saturday 15 December 2012

Air Date: 
December 15, 2012


Picture, above: African genius, Gen Alexandre Dumas, the true Count of Monte Cristo.

General Alexandre ("Alex") Dumas (25 March 1762 – 26 February 1806) was the first black general in French history and remains the highest-ranking person of color of all time in a continental European army. He was the first person of color in the French military to become brigadier general, the first to become divisional general, and the first to become general-in-chief of a French army. Dumas shared the status of the highest-ranking black officer in the Western world only with Toussaint Louverture (who in May 1797 became the second black general-in-chief in the French military) until 1989, when the American Colin Powell became a four-star general, the closest United States equivalent of General of the Army, Dumas's highest rank. Born in Saint-Domingue, Alex Dumas was of mixed race, the son of a white French nobleman and a black slave mother. He was born into slavery because of his mother's status, but his father took the boy with him to France in 1776 and had him educated. He helped him enter the French military.

Born 25 March 1762 in Jérémie, Saint-Domingue (today Haiti), Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie was the son of a French nobleman, the Marquis Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie (Antoine) (20 June 1714, Belleville-en-Caux–15 June 1786, Saint-Germain-en-Laye) and Marie-Cessette Dumas (birth and death dates unknown), his African slave.


Saturday 905P Eastern Time:   Human Game: The True Story of the 'Great Escape' Murders and the Hunt for the Gestapo Gunmen by Simon Read; 1 of 4

“A gut-wrenching account of World War II’s Great Escape and its brutal aftermath. Simon Read’s riveting tale...will touch your soul and increase your admiration for the ‘Greatest Generation.’”—Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, USA (Ret.), New York Times bestselling coauthor of Beyond Band of Brothers

"Simon Read has done an impressive job stitching together a highly readable and informative story from various sources, and making it live again.”—Jim DeFelice, bestselling author of Rangers at Dieppe, Omar Bradley: General at War, and American Sniper

Drawing, below: representation of US servicemen's escape tunnel from Stalag III - 24" wide, more than 30 feet deep in vertical, well over a hundred feet long horizontally. 

About the Author   Simon Read was an award-winning journalist before he became a nonfiction author. Read graduated from California State University, Northridge, and he resides in California with his wife and son. In March and April of 1944, Gestapo gunmen killed fifty POWs—a brutal act in defiance of international law and the Geneva Convention.

This is the true story of the men who hunted them down.

The mass breakout of seventy-six Allied airmen from the infamous Stalag Luft III became one of the greatest tales of World War II, immortalized in the film The Great Escape. But where Hollywood’s depiction fades to black, another incredible story begins . . .

Not long after the escape, fifty of the recaptured airmen were taken to desolate killing fields throughout Germany and shot on the direct orders of Hitler. When the nature of these killings came to light, Churchill’s government swore to pursue justice at any cost. A revolving team of military police, led by squadron leader Francis P. McKenna, was dispatched to Germany seventeen months after the killings to pick up a trail long gone cold.

Amid the chaos of postwar Germany, divided between American, British, French, and Russian occupiers, McKenna and his men brought twenty-one Gestapo killers to justice in a hunt that spanned three years and took them into the darkest realms of Nazi fanaticism.

In Human Game, Simon Read tells this harrowing story as never before. Beginning inside Stalag Luft III and the Nazi High Command, through the grueling three-year manhunt, and into the final close of the case more than two decades later, Read delivers a clear-eyed and meticulously researched account of this often-overlooked saga of hard-won justice


During the second world war, hundreds of allied prisoners were held in the Stalag Luft III camp, which the Germans had built to be escape-proof, even planting seismographs in the ground to detect the sounds of tunnelling.

However, a group of prisoners managed to escape through three elaborate tunnels, which they named Tom, Dick and Harry. The plan was the idea of Roger Bushell, a Royal Air Force squadron Leader.

Considering what the men had at their disposal, the three 9 metre-deep tunnels were technological marvels, featuring electric lighting, a railway and an air ventilation system.

The prisoners made tools out of tin cans and used wood from their beds to support the tunnel walls and keep them from collapsing. To hide the dirt produced by tunnelling, the men carried it in their trousers and scattered it, as inconspicuously as possible, on vegetable patches and elsewhere in the prison grounds.

On 24 March 1944, 76 men crawled through Harry to escape the prison. Only three, however, reached freedom: 50 escapees were shot, on orders from Hitler, and the remaining prisoners were sent to a concentration camp. Their story inspired the Hollywood film The Great Escape, which starred Steve McQueen.

Saturday 920P Eastern Time:   Human Game: The True Story of the 'Great Escape' Murders and the Hunt for the Gestapo Gunmen by Simon Read; 2 of 4

Saturday 935P Eastern Time:  Human Game: The True Story of the 'Great Escape' Murders and the Hunt for the Gestapo Gunmen by Simon Read; 3 of 4

Saturday 950P Eastern Time:   Human Game: The True Story of the 'Great Escape' Murders and the Hunt for the Gestapo Gunmen by Simon Read; 4 of 4



A ripping yarn that's survived many movie adaptations, Alexandre Dumas pere's The Count of Monte Cristo, published in 1844-45, offers up more than 1000 pages of love, betrayal, action, intrigue and intricately plotted revenge — the challenge for filmmakers has always been paring it down to manageable size. At its heart is poor Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel), a young man of low birth but decent prospects. Marseilles, 1814: Hard-working sailor Dantes hopes to earn his captain's papers so he can marry his lovely fiancée, Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk) and support his elderly father

Saturday 1005P (705P Pacific):  The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss; 1 of 4

“Tom Reiss wrings plenty of drama and swashbuckling action out of Dumas’ strange and nearly forgotten life, and more: The Black Count is one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that also sheds light on the flukey historical moment that made it possible.”

“A remarkable and almost compulsively researched account…The author spent a decade on the case, and it shows.”
--Christian Science Monitor

“Fascinating…a richly imaginative biography.” 
--New York Times Book Review
“Vibrant…Sometimes the best stories are true.  This is one of them.”
“Reiss details the criminal forgetting of Alex Dumas…This remarkable book stands as his monument.”
--Washington Post
“Superb... as improbable and exciting as [Dumas’s] best books… but there is much more to this book than that.”  
–Newsweek/The Daily Beast

“Lush prose and insightful details make The Black Count one of the best biographies of 2012…a tale that is as easily engrossing as one of Dumas’ page-turning and timeless works.”
“Impressively thorough…Reiss moves the story on at an entertaining pace…fascinating.”
--Wall Street Journal
“To tell this tale, Reiss must cover the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the rise of Napoleon toward Empire; he does all that with remarkable verve.”
--Boston Globe
“Fascinating [and] swashbuckling...meticulously evokes the spirit of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France...Dumas comes across as something of a superhero...a monument to the lives of both Dumas and his adoring [novelist] son.”
--The Seattle Times
“A piece of detective work by a prize-winning author...brilliantly researched.”
--The Daily Mail (U.K.)
“Sometimes real life does, indeed, trump even the wildest of fiction…With a narrative that is engaging and entertaining, Reiss sets the literary table for one of the most satisfying adventure stories of the autumn.  Richly detailed, meticulously researched and beautifully written, this is the unlikely true story of the man behind one of the greatest books in literature.”
--Tucson Citizen
“Triumphant…Reiss directs a full-scale production that jangles with drawn sabers, trembles with dashing deeds and resonates with the love of a son for a remarkable father.”
--The Herald (U.K.)
“Fascinating….Reiss argues that Dumas is an important, criminally neglected figure [and] it’s difficult to argue with him…A truly amazing story.”
“A story that has everything…The Black Count has its own moving narrative thread, made compelling by Reiss’s impassioned absorption with the general’s fate.”
--The Literary Review
“A thoroughly researched, lively piece of nonfiction that will be savored by fans of Alexandre Dumas.  But The Black Count needs no partner: It is fascinating enough to stand on its own.”
“A compelling new work by literary detective Reiss, author of The Orientalist, tracks the wildly improbable career of [Count of Monte Cristo author] Alexandre Dumas’ mixed-race father…Reiss eloquently argues the General’s case.”
--Kirkus Reviews

Robert Donat as the Count of Monte Cristo.

“Alex Dumas, an extraordinary man whose sensational life had been largely lost to history solely because of his race, takes the spotlight in this dynamic tale…Reiss capitalizes on his subject’s charged personality as well as the revolutionary times in which he lived to create an exciting narrative.”
--Publishers Weekly
“Thrilling…Reiss makes clear that Alex lived a life as full of adventure, triumph, and tragic loss as any of his son’s literary creations…This absorbing biography should redeem its subject from obscurity.”

“From pike-wielding mobs to prisoners locked in a fortress tower, The Black Count is as action-packed as The Count of Monte Cristo. Unlike Dumas’s famous adventure novel, however, Reiss’s incredible tale is true.”
  – Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic
“Tom Reiss has literally drilled into locked safes to create this masterpiece…. His portrait of a man who was arguably our modern age’s greatest unknown soldier is remarkable.”
  – James Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys
“A masterful biography, richly detailed, highly researched, and completely absorbing. The Black Count is a triumph.”
  – Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of A World on Fire and Georgiana
“It’s hard to imagine a more colorful or engaging subject than the man who inspired The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. In the wonderful hands of Tom Reiss, Alex Dumas comes to vivid life, illuminating far-flung corners of history and culture. This is a terrific book.”
  – Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston
“The Black Count is a dazzling achievement. I learned something new virtually on every page. No one who reads this magnificent biography will be able to read The Count of Monte Cristo or any history of slavery in the New World in the same way again.”
  – Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University
 “Rousing and thought-provoking, The Black Count is an adventure like no other. I marveled at every twist and turn of this remarkable true story, brought to life with the charm and personal touch that has become the trademark of Tom Reiss.”
  – Laurence Bergreen, New York Times bestselling author of Columbus and Over the Edge of the World

Saturday 1020P (720P Pacific):  The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss; 2 of 4

Saturday 1035P (735P Pacific):  The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss; 3 of 4

Saturday 1050P (750P Pacific):  The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss; 4 of 4


Saturday 1105P (805P Pacific):   The True Story of Catch 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller's 340th Bomb Group in World War II by Patricia Chapman Meder; 1 of 2

After the publication of his bestselling novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller usually chose to deny that any of his richly drawn characters were based on his actual war mates. However, to those who served with Heller in the 340th Bomb Group the novel's characters were indeed recognizable-the hard-drinking, vengeful, and disillusioned Chief White Half Oat, young, sliced-in-half Kid Sampson, shrieking, frenzied Hungry Joe, Colonel Cathcart, General Dreedle, Yossarian and that capitalist supreme, Milo Minderbinder. In this book, written and colorfully illustrated by the daughter of the 340th Bomb Group's commander, Colonel Willis Chapman, we finally encounter the real men and combat missions on which the novel was based. While Heller's fully developed characters stand solely, solidly and uniquely on their own merits, The True Story of Catch-22 proves that any resemblance to persons living or dead is, in fact, actual. This three-part book blends fact, fancy, and history with full-blown original illustrations and rare, previously unpublished photos of these daring USAAF flyers and their Corsican-based B-25 Mitchell. Along with descriptions of the 340th's real wartime events, the work includes twelve men of the Bomb Group relating twelve richly told tales of their own. Now, all of the men upon whom Heller based his characters are gone. However, the last survivor, George L. Wells, was an extraordinary combat pilot who tied the record for the number of bombing missions flown in WWII with 102. George, the model for Catch-22s Capt. Wren, is the common thread weaving through this book, allowing the reader truly to feel the war and even thumb through George's well-worn mission book describing attacks on Axis ports, ships, bridges, and the notorious Brenner Pass. In this book the reader will discover that truth is indeed as fascinating as fiction!  The author, Patricia Chapman Meder, has been a professional artist in both fine and commercial art for the past 35 years, 13 of them in Europe. When Catch-22 was published it was quickly apparent that it was based on the Bomb Group her father had commanded in World War II. This true-life, parallel book thus begged to be written.

Saturday 1120P (820P Pacific):  The True Story of Catch 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller's 340th Bomb Group in World War II by Patricia Chapman Meder; 2 of 2

Saturday 1135P (835P Pacific):   Dust to Dust: A Memoir by Benjamin Busch; 1 of 2

A meditation on the literal and figurative borders of life—country to country, river to lake, soil to dust, wood to ash, life to death, blood to bones, child to man—[that] explores the wonders of the natural world and our solitary lives within it.” (Hour Detroit magazine )

“Elegiac, funny, wistful, deep, and wonderfully human, Dust to Dust moved me to laughter and tears, sometimes simultaneously. . . . After reading this book, you will want to go outside and really look at our world.” (Karl Marlantes, bestselling author of Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War )

Dust to Dust is a wonderful book, original in concept and stunningly written, a soldier’s memoir that is about soldiering and much else besides. The last two dozen pages are a tour de force, a breathtaking meditation on loss and remembrance, dust to dust.” (Ward Just )

“Busch is a brilliant prose stylist for whom every pause counts, a man of three worlds—the heart, the mind, the earth. Dust to Dust is a stunning literary work about this mysterious trinity, and a return to home.” (Doug Stanton, bestselling author of Horse Soldiers and In Harm's Way )

“This brave soldier with his singular sensibility . . . builds us a fort we’re loath to leave.” (Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club, Cherry, and Lit )

“Busch is a poet with the soul of a civil engineer, and for as long as his body sustains him, he is the perfect soldier. I loved every page of this mesmerizing book.” (Bonnie Jo Campbell, bestselling author of Once Upon a River )

About the Author

Benjamin Busch was born in Manhattan in 1968 and grew up in rural New York State. He is an actor, a photographer, a film director, and a U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer who served two combat tours in Iraq. He played the role of Officer Anthony Colicchio on the HBO series The Wire and has appeared on Homicide, The West Wing, and Generation Kill. His writing has been featured in Harper's and has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He has also been a guest commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. He lives on a farm in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

Saturday 1150P (850P Pacific):  Dust to Dust: A Memoir by Benjamin Busch; 2 of 2


Saturday/Sun 1205A (905 Pacific):  Iago: A Novel by David Snodin; 1 of 2

From Booklist:  It’s early sixteenth-century Venice, and one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing scoundrels has just escaped from a Cyprus prison. He’s been accused of several murders, including those of the island’s governor (the Moor) and his wife, Desdemona. Sound familiar? Readers of Snodin’s debut revisit the story of Othello to explore the motivations of its charming but evil mystery man. In Snodin’s world, Iago embarks on a convoluted journey to evade the law, joined by a cast of characters representing a slice of the Venetian social pie, including young Gentile Stornello, heir to a well-known local family; his tutor, Baldassare; and Franceschina, a young servant girl whom Gentile loves from afar. On their trail is Annipale Malipiero, chief inquisitor of Venice, known locally for his heinous torture methods, but who is far more interested in what makes Iago tick. As the novel unfolds, readers are swept up into a fast-paced, dark, yet humorous adventure. Iago is a complex, detailed immersion into Renaissance Venetian life and a thoughtfully imagined speculation on the fate of one of literature’s most famous desperados. --Carol Gladstein


“[A] familiar coming-of-age story with a touch of Elizabethan finery. . . . A likable page-turner about love, war and conspiracy in the early 16th century.” – Kirkus

“Snodin gives readers a closeup of an unforgettable villain: his charm, his strength, his capacity for brutality and manipulation . . . . while simultaneously taking readers on a dark, fast-paced adventure with satisfying moments of humor and romance.” – Publishers Weekly

“Readers won’t need a thorough knowledge of Shakespere’s Othello to enjoy this vivid. . . novel, which is filled with all the drama, intrigue, and violence of Renaissance Italy—and even a little romance on the side.” – Library Journal

Saturday/Sun 1220A (920 Pacific):   Iago: A Novel by David Snodin; 2 of 2

Saturday/Sun 1235A (935P Pacific): A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz; 1  of 2

Christie Hefner, former chairman and chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises and longest-serving female C.E.O. of a U.S. public company:  “As was written about The Feminine Mystique, A Strange Stirring is ‘a journalistic tour de force, combining scholarship, investigative reporting and a compelling personal voice.’ Stephanie Coontz has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the most transformative movement of our lifetimes. Much of what Coontz reports regarding the prevailing ethos of the 1950s as a time of conformity, cultural conservatism and social repressiveness will be fascinating and eye-opening for younger readers. This book is a must read for men as well as for women. And the transformational desire for a work/family balance in life is now reflected not just by gender, but by generation, as both men and women ‘need to grow and fulfill their potentialities as human beings,’ as Friedan wrote almost a half a century ago.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love:  “Stephanie Coontz is not just one of the most important historians in America, she is also a personal hero of mine and a brilliant writer. This book—like all her books before it—has been a marvel and education for me to behold. I am awed by the scope of this research, of this thinking, and I am struck once more by how much there is learned (and taught) about the slow, stubborn advancement of women in America over the last one hundred years. I will keep A Strange Stirring in the forefront of my bookshelf forever.”

Library Journal:  “Coontz recaptures the impact of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique when it was published in 1963. Although Friedan claimed credit for initiating the modern feminist movement, Coontz places the book more dispassionately in its historical context as one of many factors working against entrenched gender roles. Still, Coontz demonstrates persuasively that women readers from many backgrounds found relief—some called it life-saving—in knowing that they were not crazy and not alone in their need to find some work independent of their family roles.”

Saturday/Sun 1250A  (950P Pacific):  A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz; 2 of 2

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Music (using New York City broadcast times)  

9:00 hour:  Good German

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11:00 hour:    

midnight hour:  

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