Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Review: The Harlen Hellfighters

I hate Max Brooks. He has destroyed something I really liked, and looks to be set on destroying a second thing I really like.

In the first case he ruined zombies. I used to be a big zombie fan, back when it was a really niche thing and was actually cool. Then Brooks writes his survival guide, and zombies become as popular as Brittany Spears.  If I never read another bad zombie novel I will be a happy man.

So having ruined zombies for us all, Brooks is now set on ruining WW1. And in specific the Harlem Hellfighters.  Unable to get a script on them produced, he writes a comic book about them, sorry that's "graphic novel" even thought it isn’t a novel.  I am sure that now everyone and their buddy will start to become "experts in the unit, and the war.  The day after publication he sold the screenplay, and it is now 'soon to be a major motion picture.'

In all truthfulness I did not care for "The Harlem Hellfighters."  On one hand I really didn't like the art. Some of it was awkward, and I'm sorry but a chauchat with cut off butt stock being fired one handed by a Frenchman with one eye was just too much for me.  There's enough visual faux paws in it that I wish he had run t by someone that actually knew something about the period first.

But more so I don’t care for things that are "based on a true story" and then make up characters or create scenes that probably didn’t happen. The truth, especially with these guys, is great enough.

After having read an interview in which he talks about how much research he did, and how this is all accurate. Of course there is accurate, and there is accurate. Of course a lot of folks in the WW1 Army were prejudiced.  Of course some folks wanted the blacks to fail. But there are aspects to the story that are left out. Like the famous jazz band refusing to enlist until a bunch of rich people donated enough money that they could be paid their normal 'musician' salary.  

It's not mentioned that the main reason the division was broken up and spread around the French army is that they were not a full division: they were essentially four infantry regiments with none of the supports unit.  Of course that's because some folks did not think the black man could handle the mental gymnastics of modern artillery fire or engineering, but still – that just makes it a more interesting story.

And of course, in at least one interview, he says that John Pershing wrote the infamous "don’t be nice to black troops" memo. Which to my understanding, correct me if I am wrong, was written without being cleared by above by a staff officer, and Pershing was not very happy about it. Seeing as how he had commanded and respected black troops before.

I'll admit I just got kind of bored and fed up by the end part, so I skimmed it. Maybe I missed something, but there are other items of 'race value' that were not mentioned. I was particularly disappointed by how Henry Johnson's run in with the MP' was handled. So in short, I think real WW1 guys will not care too much for it, but it will suck up a lot of those that were not interested before; for good or bad.

 Now, can someone help me cut back my chauchat so I can show up as a bearded French liaison officer with an eye patch and charge the Huns with it in a blaze of glory?

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