October 06, 2010

C. J. Chivers 1, Abu Muqawama 0

I have a review of the new C. J. Chivers book, The Gun, in the newest Wilson Quarterly. In brief, I really enjoyed the book and was glad to get the opportunity to review it since it was one of those big books that I really do not have the spare time to read these days. This assignment gave me the excuse, which I welcomed because Chivers has written an engaging treatment of not only the AK-47 -- the "gun" in the book's title -- but small arms in general.

One funny story from the review process: I have always really admired the reporting Chivers has done for the New York Times, but I was looking for things to criticize in the book and found something on page 170 of my review copy. Chivers wrote that a decision made by then U.S. Army chief of staff Douglas MacArthur to reject the .276 Pederson round in favor of the tried and true .30-06 round "ensured that American rifle design efforts fell decades behind those of the USSR."

I've got him, I thought to myself. Because that claim struck me as a bit of a stretch. As a veteran of the 31st Infantry, I'm all in favor of criticizing Doug MacArthur when he deserves it. But you can't blame failures in U.S. rifle design on a single variable, much less one decision by one general officer. So I criticized that in my review.

The problem was, sometime between the publication of the review copy and publication of the hardcover, Chivers struck that offending line from the text. Perhaps he too realized it was a bit of a stretch. So I was left to revise my review and discovered, going through my marked-up review copy, that the one line about MacArthur was the only problem I had discovered with the book. The rest was really quite excellent. On the one hand, some of the material in the first 150 pages is also covered in that great John Ellis book, The Social History of the Machine Gun. But as a whole, the Chivers book is well-researched, well-written, and knowing in the same way that Chivers' blog posts on marksmanship are knowing -- and reveal the author's past life as a Marine officer.

So buy the book. It's just very solid work that will very much appeal to readers of this blog.


This has nothing to do with the above post, but if there are any Liverpool supporters out there, you should know that you will never have as good an owner of your club as you will have if John Henry buys your team. As even a Yankees fan would concede, he is one of the real class acts in U.S. sports.