The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier’s Account of the War in Iraq by John Crawford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Quick recommendation: I read somewhere, I can’t remember where, that the current armed forces are the most literate soldiery in world history and the volume of war memoirs in the past few years are proof of this.
I heard this author interviewed on NPR and he was very funny, which made me read the book.
The book, of course, wasn’t always funny because it is about war after all. It is funny, sad, heartbreaking, and sometimes inspiring. There are a number of excellent war memoirs, so many you certainly can’t read them all. Be sure to make time for this one.
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The story was basic enough, but I’m not quite sure what the point of all the Custer porn was (yes, I said Custer porn). In fact, Simmons eventually acknowledges that the memories of the ghost inhabiting the main character, Paha Sapa, indeed has “pornographic memories” of the widow (can it really be porn if you’re married consenting adults?), but still doesn’t really explain why it’s even there.
The narrators are good, with careful pronunciation of the many Lakota words, although the quiet whisperiness of the main narrator’s voice can be a little sleep-inducing.
I studied 19th century U.S. history for most of my major, so that helped me keep with it because I love when authors weave their fictional stories into historical events, sometimes with real historical figures. Simmons did this much better in ‘The Terror,’ although that one got a little weird.
I remember reading ‘Day of the Jackal’ one summer during college and, despite some of the dense writing in parts, not being able to put it down. That’s how it felt to read ‘Hellhound On His Trail: The Stalking Of Martin Luther King Jr. And The International Hunt For His Assassin’ by Hampton Sides, except I knew the outcome and there was no dense writing.
Despite knowing the outcome, it was hard to put this book down for the night. The chapters are written like the most engaging of page turners, short and punchy, but the wealth of information is amazing. I am too young to have even been alive when King was shot, so, of course there would be things in here that would be new. But this book took the dry, two-dimensional people we read about in history class and really fleshed them out, made them whole people, all against, a backdrop of events that were rocking America.
Much like the agents and officers working the case, Sides finds some of the smallest of details and puts them in without bogging the story down at all. I also especially liked his reconstruction of quotes and conversations from primary sources instead of reimagining them as they might have occurred.
This is a great and very accessible read of a pivotal moment in U.S. history. Highly recommended, even for summer beach reading.