Always With Honour by General Baron Peter N. Wrangel

Always With Honour is a great first-hand account and a front row seat to the 1917 Russian Revolution. Following Gen. Wrangel, we’re seeing the war through his eyes. While the book has been written roughly 40 years after the events, these are still important recordings of one of the most important events in modern history. The Russian Revolution changed the face of the world for over the next one hundred years.

The writing is quite adequate for its purpose with a nice and aristocratic air of style. There are disjointed moments and it isn’t always well-connected but it doesn’t take too long to rediscover one’s footing.

Gen. Wrangel brings the reader to the ground floor of the revolution from the streets of Moscow to the Ukraine and eventually the later-recognized Southern Russia. There are incidents of the politicking which went on within the White Army, the difficulties in working with the flaky Allies who abused the White Army and there are a number of first-hand battle descriptions.

There are also personal conversations with important people, most of note with General Denikin who was one of the main features of the White Army. And others such as Semenov or ambassadors receive further recognition.

Always With Honour is another excellent addition of a first-hand account of an important part of world history. While General Wrangel and his allies ultimately failed in their efforts to remove communism from Russia, he sought valor, honor and a desire to restore the state of Russia to what it had been. As the White Army crumbles, he then goes into detail on what happened to some of his men afterwards and toward the rear of the book provides a speech he gave in Brussels in 1927 where he still hoped to eradicate collectivism from his homeland.

Wrangel isn’t going to be the focus of someone who is looking for a wider view of the civil war. He certainly has his views that the communists such as Trostsky were brought in as German spies and he had his own beliefs and ways of doing things. And without a broader idea of the revolution, one can become lost in the details especially with the messy maps located in the rear of the book.

Overall, it is an excellent addition to the knowledge of the time period especially if one has the basic knowledge of the Russian revolution. For a good overview on the Russian Revolution, check out the book by Richard Pipes or a modern version for popular consumption but not as good as Pipes, another by Sean McMeekin.

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

When considering classic western authors two names often come to popular culture’s mind: Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. From those two recommendations often are linked to The Lonesome Gods and Riders of the Purple Sage. After reading a number of Zane Grey novels whenever I wanted a classic western fix, it was finally time to tackle the legendary Riders of the Purple Sage.

Riders of the Purple Sage is often classified as Zane Grey’s elite western. Naturally this brings along high expectations of a classic, incredible western. While the setting does take place in the western United States, it merely has the setting of a western but is actually a romance novel.

Mormons, who in this instance are led by a corrupt man, harass a lone conflicted Mormon woman living on her own. From this point, the typical western plays out but quickly morphs into a pair of uninteresting and very typical romances.

Grey’s other books, while not great, are infinitely better than Riders of the Purple Sage. Books such as The Rustlers of Pecos County, while far from great, are interesting enough westerns to pass the time while Riders of the Purple Sage drags, slows, and loses most of the action and adventure of Grey’s other novels.

There simply isn’t much to Riders of the Purpose Sage. Grey mentions the purple sage often enough because it sounds nice, there are action moments but there’s little reason to care for one dimensional characters and the predictable romantic storyline. It is surprising this book receives as much praise as it does. Naturally it is quite dated but so are many books that are over one hundred years old. And Grey certainly isn’t a literary writer. Much like Stephen King, Grey ought to be remembered for being a pop writer of his time but little more.

Grey’s works are generally enjoyable but this was only mildly interesting in certain parts, and only within a specific substory. To get started on Grey I would recommend nearly any of his other novels. One ought to expect a dated view of the Western which can still be immensely enjoyable in certain contexts and if you go into it with the right frame of mind. But Riders of the Purple Sage is nothing more than a romance novel which is why my opinion of the book ranks so low.