Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What About the Great War?

Watching "Downton Abbey" this season has resulted in me wanting to learn more about the Great War, aka World War I. Here's some questions for you all to ponder and/or comment.

Does anyone have recommendations for good history books on the Great War?

What about fiction? What good fiction is out there that is centered around the war?

And what about the pulps? What magazines had fiction stories with the Great War as a backdrop? Obviously there were the BATTLE ACES and other air-flight magazines that, up until the mid-1930s, were focused on WWI. But what of other magazines?

And as an aside, is it my imagination or is there a current trend towards producing movies and television about the war? Other than "Downton Abbey," there's also "War Horse" released this season. Well, I guess that's only two examples. But it still feels like a trend. We are coming up on the 100th anniversary within the next few years of the war starting.


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20 comments:

Cap'n Bob said...

The Lost Battalion and Paths of Glory come to mind. James Reasoner has a book that takes place in WWI, and dang me if I can recall the title.

Barry Traylor said...

I would recommend The First World War by John Keegan. I read this several years ago, Amazon has it in pb right now for $10.77 or perhaps your local library has a copy. Quite a few historians feel that WW II was a continuation of the First World War (a view I happen to share). Would Hitler have been able to come to power without the chaos caused in Germany by the first war. Germany did not think they had lost WWI due to the fact that the Entente/Allied Alliance never invaded Germany. This is a fascinating subject and I have gotten a bit long winded (something both Jack Cullers and Mike Chomko like to kid me about).
One final thought about the pulps like Over The Top and Battle Stories, I rather doubt many/any
combat veterans ever read them.

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

The only fiction set during WWI that I can recall reading is Rilla of Ingleside, the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series - one of my favorites in the series, actually.

Max Brand wrote a WWI story, called "Pringle's Luck," which I read in a collection of his stories, but it wasn't from a pulp magazine - it was published in Cosmopolitan in 1937.

As for nonfiction, I did read Alvin York's autobiography once. That's about it for me! I agree it's something I'd like to learn more about.

Anonymous said...

These come immediately to mind:

All Quiet on the Western Front--the book and the movie.

The Dawn Patrol movie.

Walker Martin said...

After many years of reading fiction in the pulps, slicks and popular magazines, I discovered that the best WW I fiction was written by Leonard Nason, who wrote most of his stories for ADVENTURE in the 1920's and also for THE SATURDAY EVENING POST.

Many of the novelets were written from the viewpoint of the privates in the trenches. Several were collected in hardcover and they are available from abebooks.com. Nason, who had fought in the war, employed a strange, bitter, and dark sense of humor. These were not the typical gung ho and childish stories that appeared in G-8 and HIS BATTLE ACES or the other air war and battle pulps. These were adult tales that the combat veterans could identify with as told by a fellow vet who had seen terrible things and events.

Anonymous said...

A very good combat memoir is Toward the Flame, by Hervey Allen.

Ron Scheer said...

FAREWELL TO ARMS comes to mind for me, and the name of Reasoner's novel is UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS.

Oscar said...

Good Soldier Schweik has been called the Catch-22 novel of WWI. Very funny book.

Pat Downey said...

I second All Quiet on the Western front. Great book told from a German soldier's pov.

Laurie Powers said...

There's a lot of great suggestions here. I vaguely remember reading All Quiet on the Western Front many years ago. Barry, I have seen Keegan's book around before and might give it a whirl. I like Walker's suggestions about Leonard Nason.

Cap'n Bob said...

How could I forget ALL QUIET...? I read it in high school. The Lew Ayres movie was excellent, too. Next to my chair is a large book called THE WARPLANES OF WORLD WAR I. Al you need to know about the air war is here. This was the first war to include aerial bombings on a large scale, dogfights, and tactics for the use of air power.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

There's a DVD box set available of the BBC documentary series, The GReat War which is pretty impressive. Also World War One in Colour, also on DVD, is excellent. And of course THE film on the conflict must be the original, All Quiet on the Western Front. And the original novel is also worth seeking out. There was a British comic strip called Charley's War which is available as collected graphic novels and this is a truly remarkable version of the conflict. It's not heroic like most comic strips but tell it pretty much as it was.

Walker Martin said...

I have the dvd box sets that Gary Dobbs mentions and I also recommend them as a great way to see films of the soldiers and how they lived under terrible conditions.

Matthew P. Mayo said...

In addition to All Quiet on the Western Front, which others have also recommended, I suggest reading Jim Harrison's novella, Legends of the Fall. It takes place, in part, during WWI and it's beautifully written, as is much of his work. The movie, with Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, was well done, too.

Pat Downey said...

Re: the air war, if interested, I would recommend Richthofen: Beyond the Legend of the Red Baron by Kilduff. Airplanes were barely a decade old when the war broke out. These young guys were basically inventing the rules of aerial combat as they went along. Learning by trial and error.

Melissa Marsh said...

I've taken a greater interest in this war, too, thanks to Downton Abbey. Expect to see an explosion of books set during this period from the publishing world, methinks. :-)

There's a World War I museum in Kansas City, a three hour drive away from me. I must visit it next time I'm headed that way.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a WWI reading list:

http://www.battlegroundpro.com/dhbooks.htm

Anonymous said...

Laurence Stallings' The Big Parade and What Price Glory.

40+ Teenage Werewolf said...

I'd like to put forth some easier reads, to pack up in your old kit bag.

'World War One' by Norman Stone, published by Basic Books.
This is a nice one volume history of the entire war by an historian who had previously written an extensive one just about The Eastern Front.This gives a short, easy to understand history of the war and the events leading up to it. Most of which come from eastern Europe and the Germans wanting to fight Russia before it got to big an army for them to defeat. And then everything went wrong. Which gives you an idea of how complicated it was, but this book lays it all out. Here's the NY Times review, which wasn't too favoable but gives you an idea of what it's about.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/books/review/Andelman-t.html?scp=1&sq=short%20history%20of%20world%20war%201&st=cse

As for fiction, there are the many, many great works of literature that came out in the decades right afterward, but if you're in a 21st Century hurry pick up the series of 'graphic novels', 'Charlies' War'. A British comic book series by Pat Mills,now reprinted in multiple volumes by Titan. Very well researched, with amazing illustrations.
Ann Perry has a series of mysteries set in the trenches featuring a chaplain named Joseph Reavley. "At Some Disputed Barricade" is the title of one.
As for films, seek out two films by James Whale, 'Journey's End' and 'Waterloo Bridge'.

Sextonblake said...

I would suggest that anyone interested in this topic has a look at greatwarfiction.wordpress.com
It looks at stuff written during or soon after the conflict, and finding out what people actually involved in the conflict, rather than those a century afterwards, thought about it is rather enlightening.