The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America’s Desert Military Experiment by Forrest Bryant Johnson

Book cover of The Last Camel Charge
The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America’s Desert Military Experiment by Forrest Bryant Johnson is a splendid recounting of the Army’s attempt to adapt dromedaries to the American desert. Johnson also features the events of the times, the Civil War, the Mormon War, the Indian Wars and the political upheaval as the young country moved resolutely westward in search of land and gold.

The author of Phantom Warrior follows the trail of the men who went to Europe in search of camels to test their suitability for the Southwest desert region. This forgotten piece of history is brought to life by Johnson’s attention to detail and his adept skill at bringing these historical characters to life.

In this narrative, readers see just how much disdain the older countries felt for the young upstart U.S.A. From the first shipment of “old diseased” creatures to the final receipt of camels which were hale, hardy and ready for the long journey to the American Southwest, Johnson reveals the personalities and men behind this little known experiment. Following the journey, The Last Camel Charge does not rely upon the “Journal of May Humphreys Stacey” as one would expect. It does deviate from existing reports and follows Lt. Beale’s trail blazing and his attachment to these foreign creatures.

Picture of camels being transported in Turkey
Camels being moved in Turkey. Photo from Fort Tejon Historical website.

Beale was not alone in his love affair with the two types of camels brought over for the Army’s use. Seemingly just about everyone who had any dealings with these creatures became lifelong fans. Even, Beale’s friend and “business” partner Samuel Bishop who lodged camels at his ranch and later, when the Army wanted the creatures back, was very reluctant to release their treasured charges. Bishop was a fan of the animals and it is he who rode the beasts, along with a few others, to attack the Mojave that were induced to misbehave in a horrific fashion against the non-Mormon settlers who were entering the area.

The book details the beginnings of the Civil War, which would ultimately cause the camel experiment to lose support, as well as the “Mormon” war. The Native American tribes of the area are also looked at as well as their affiliation with other tribes, the Mormons, new settlers, Beale, and the Army.

This is a fascinating look at all the players in the experiment, including a pretty in depth look at “Hi Jolly” whose immigration to America as a Camel Drover led to his working in many different trades and becoming a “local” legend in Arizona. The Last Camel Charge is a well researched and well written recounting of a time when the US was facing problems on all sides.

On top of the battles of “brother against brother” there were the “savages” who stood in the way of gold prospecting, settlers and expansion of young America’s “manifest destiny.” Mormon’s were another issue and the horrific massacre of innocents by this “new” religion caused an outcry to equal the Native American concern.

Published this year, the book is a fascinating read and one that any western history buff will find interesting and entertaining. A real 5 star effort from Forrest Bryant Johnson.

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz: Different is Good

Cover of Made by Raffi Artwork by Margaret Chamberlin
In a world where bullying takes the top spot in the news it is refreshing to see a children’s book which addresses the issue of being different. Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz, and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, is a story that celebrates just how good it is to march to a different beat.

Published by FRANCES LINCOLN CHILDREN’S BOOKS, an award winning company that specializes in releasing books that celebrate diversity, the story of Raffi has been getting a lot of positive attention across the globe.

The youngster is a lad quite different from his schoolmates. Raffi cherishes quiet and rather than boisterously play with the other children, he learns about knitting and sewing from one of his teachers at playtime.

Raffi’s teacher reveals a creative world of color to the boy and he discovers that not only does he love this new pastime but that he is very good at it. The child talks to his mother and father about his knitting and they assure him that his interest is nothing to be ashamed of.

His classmates make fun of Raffi at first but that all changes with the advent of a school play and soon everyone wants something “made by Raffi.”

Pomranz points out that the tale of a boy who likes to sew and knit is based upon a true story. The book has, thus far, been printed in at least six different languages and published in as many countries. Reaction to the story has been positive and the Archdiocese of New York Catholic schools received 75 copies of the book from a donor to be included in their libraries.

The book, Made by Raffi is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the U.S. and it was just recently announced that the book was shortlisted for the Little Rebels Award. Children’s books published in 2014 which promote diversity are nominated for the award and the winner will be announced on 9 May this year.

Craig himself revealed that the story was written to support children who are perceived as being “different because of their appearance or hobbies.” As positive reviews continue to pour in for the book aimed at the 4 to 7 year-old age group, Pomranz has passed on the information that composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s The Rose) and Michele Brourman (The Land Before Time) have written a song titled “Different” to be included as part of the book.

The author told MikesFilmTalk that he was in Los Angeles recently speaking with the two composers and May is the month they hope to have the song out. Reviews for the Made by Raffi have been positive and The Bookseller and Rhino Reads have both written about the picture book with the diverse message.

These types of books should be part of every school library in the world and Mr. Pomranz is to be congratulated on writing splendid tale that celebrates uniqueness and shows that children are the answer. Made by Raffi is a real 5 star book that has an important message for everyone.

You can follow Craig, and Raffi, on Twitter @MadebyRaffi

World Gone Wild by David J Moore A to Z of Post Apocalyptic Films

World Gone Wild by David J Moore A to Z of Post Apocalyptic Films

World Gone Wild by David J. Moore is an A to Z collection of post apocalyptic films from a man who clearly loves the genre. Subtitled A Survivor’s Guide to Post Apocalyptic Movies this book is a must for fans of these type of films, or even television shows. In his 12 page introduction Moore explains what got him hooked on the genre, essentially the same things that get most people hooked. The main difference is that the writer tracked down every example of “end of the world as we know it” films he could find. The search also included small screen versions of tales about after the apocalypse and Moore has included them all.

Lucky Sevens by Cynthia Vespia: Page Turning Vegas

Lucky Sevens by Cynthia Vespia: Page Turning Vegas

Las Vegas author Cynthia Vespia has delivered another page turning novel with Lucky Sevens. The story of a former Navy SEAL with an attitude and a drinking problem whose boss takes a nose dive off his penthouse balcony. Head of security, Luca “Lucky” Luchazi loses his mentor and friend when Charles Vega winds up dead outside the Lucky Sevens Hotel and Casino and for a brief time, he loses his way as well.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King: The Shining Revisited

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King: The Shining Revisited

No other author can make characters come to life quite like Stephen King can; his earlier book, The Shining brought Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrence sharply into focus and now he revisits Danny who is all grown up and known as Doctor Sleep. Keeping the same theme as his first journey to Colorado’s Overlook Hotel; evil places exist and draw evil to them; young Master Torrence makes his own nostalgic trip, but, this time as a battle scarred adult.