#BookReview: In The Blood by Charles Barber

Visionary. Outsider. Hero. One of the great lines from the movie The Imitation Game (whose trailer I was just watching as I tried to find this quote, and where I found the title of this review) that has always stuck with me is “Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” Obviously, in the context of The Imitation Game, it is about the legendary “Father of Computer Science” (and suspected Autistic) Alan Turing.

Barber, in *this* text, makes it clear that it could very equally be said of a man who may well go down in history as at least as important as Turing himself – Frank Hursey. Hursey was a South Carolina native living in Connecticut who discovered a remarkable property of a fairly common substance – and then set it aside like Mordin in Mass Effect 2 looking at some gadget he was no longer interested in. Until Bart Gullong came into his life and recognized the significance of what Hursey had found – and together, the inventor and the salesman/ marketer would go on to change the course of world history.

Barber, through a seemingly episodic format where he provides brief biographical sketches of each of the key players in the unfolding drama while keeping the narrative squarely focused on Hursey, Gullong, and their products, tells a story at least as motivational as anything has ever been told about Turing’s own life. A story of a almost literal garage inventor who finds and develops a substance that has literal world changing powers.

A substance that can make battlefield – or anywhere else – traumas far more survivable, by finally solving a problem humanity had never before solved in its known history – how to stop mass bleeding.

This is the story of how Hursey and Gullong found, developed, and marketed the substance to the US military – and then later found mass market appeal in nearly every segment of the economy that might find a desire to stop a potential bleed out.

Including, per Barber, Taylor Swift having it near her at all times in the case of an attack at one of her concerts.

The only reason for the star deduction here is the slightly lower than my expected average of 20-30% on the bibliography, clocking in here at 16% instead. And as I’ve noted in other reviews of late, given that so many more recent texts are clocking in closer to this 15% point, I may well need to revise my expected bibliography size down a touch.

The tale opens with the story of the Battle of Mogadishu and the subsequent movie form of it, Black Hawk Down. Don’t be surprised to see a movie form of this book itself at some point. Very much recommended.

This review of In The Blood by Charles Barber was originally written on April 27, 2023.

#BookReview: Murder In The Neighborhood by Ellen J Green

Green Finds The Eggs, Butter, and Sugar. Yes, the title here references one particularly poignant line deep in the text – just 7% or so from the final words. Through this point and after, Green has managed to tell the story of what happened on River Road in Camden, New Jersey on September 6, 1949 through the eyes of nearly all of the people who survived the events there that day. A bit later, she’s even going to connect it to a more recent event that was in the news – and that the granddaughter of one of the survivors happened to be at. This is narrative nonfiction, and it has next to no documentation (and hence the star deduction), but it is structured and told much in the manner of a novel – which makes it infinitely more readable. But the most remarkable thing about this book is just how truly balanced it is. A horrible tragedy occurred that day, but rather than painting the perpetrator as some otherworldly monster as so much coverage of and conversation around more recent similar people does, Green builds the case that this man is just as human as the rest of us. There is no “other” here, simply a man – a man who had faults, but also a community that had faults too (and also had amazing things as well). Indeed, the entire reason I picked up this book was because I saw a Yankee author and British publisher working on a book about “the first” (not really) mass shooting in the US… and this defender of the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment worried that it would be just ever more anti-gun drivel. For those who may be looking at this book with similar thoughts, know that there is little of that here. Yes, Green calls a “magazine” a “clip” repeatedly, particularly when discussing the actual actions that day. But even when she brings in Stoneman Douglas (Parkland), she never actually goes those directions at all really. (At least one person she chronicles does, but it is clear that this is that person’s position only and not an “official recommendation” from the book.) But even that speaks to just how well balanced the book overall is. Truly an excellent and admittedly unexpected work, and very much recommended.

This review of Murder In The Neighborhood by Ellen J Green was originally written on April 24, 2022.