Monday, December 29, 2014

The Lieutenants by WEB Griffin

I ate too much last night.  It felt like I had swallowed a medicine ball.

One of the Christmas traditions from Mrs ERJ's side of the family is to make ham loaves.  She contends that ham loaves were a holiday staple in the deep south (DeQuincy, La) at the turn of the last century.

In the absence of artificial refrigeration, hams were preserved with salt, dehydration and smoke.  Country hams in-the-day were not soft, pink, succulent lumps of meat.  They were hunks of pork jerky that needed prolonged and multiple soakings to rehydrate and desalinate them to the point of edibility.

The holiday season marked a time when fresh pork was available and the need to rotate inventory strongly encouraged the usage of any hams from the year before.  Ham loaves fit the bill.  Grind up the reconstituted ham with enough fresh pork to make it stick together.  Spice with brown sugar, mustard and "secret family ingredients". 

Sugar, salt, fat, protein baked crispy.  These were potato chips before Frito-Lay incorporated.

Mrs ERJ quickly tired of hearing me moan-and-groan and flop like a beached whale (an extremely apt metaphor).  She suggested that I pick up a book to distract myself.

The Lieutenants by W.E.B. Griffin

One of the finest books ever written is the book The Lieutenants by W.E.B. Griffin

I like the richness of the characters and how the author meticulously interweaves their lives.

Picture from HERE

I like the life-lessons, that bad fortune often visits good people.  And that things will get better if one survives, stays honorable and keeps swimming in the best possible direction.

It has beautiful women, handsome men, romance, a little bit of whoopie, battles, luck (both good and bad) and fabulous wealth.

It has frumpy women, flawed men, betrayal, death and defecation, poverty the vicissitudes of war.

It speaks to the tension between administrators (who dominate during times of peace) and warrior-leaders (who must dominate during times of conflict). 

The economics of writing

One seldom stumbles across books like this due to the modern economics of writing.  The rich, interlocking characterizations take much time to plot.  It takes even more time to craft those characters using written words in a way that will project clear images into the reader's mind.

The Lieutenants is really three books that are layered together.  That is three times the number of words and ten times the complexity.  It is a compelling read.

I feel much better today.  Thank-you for asking.


  1. Ate my share of ham loaf over the years... :-) Griffin did a good job on the first few, but has become more formulaic lately... IMHO

  2. Comment submitted by "Lucky" by email:

    I’ve been on a hiatus. The two boys were home to help with some honey-do list items, before Christmas. (Consequently, I) didn’t get to catch up on the ERJ blog until today.

    If you’re ever looking for other reading material, I heartily recommend Ferrol Sams’ Porter Osborne trilogy. I started out with the third in the series, “When All The World Was Young” – which hit home to me; very familiar to me as young boy growing up in the Deep South…though Dr. Sams (and the protagonist, Porter Osborne) were my Dad’s age… though many of the things were still familiar to me, a generation later. I still enjoy going back, from time to time, and re-reading WATWWY, and its precursor, “The Whisper of the River”. The first in the series, “Run With the Horsemen”…good, but not as much to my liking…seems like I recall it being written more in a third-person style…just not as appealing.


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