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Jack Zaleski, Published July 20 2013

Zaleski: Add a heavy to summer reading list

Here are three suggestions for your summer reading. Two of the three might seem surprising choices, but bear with me. Sometimes a serving of heavier fare can be a satisfying literary treat.

First, go light and fun.

“Gridlock,” by Byron Dorgan and David Hagberg. (Tom Doherty Associates LLC, 2013). Before picking up this thriller, read the authors’ first book, “Blowout,” which introduces the characters who reappear in the second book.

The former North Dakota senator has teamed up again with veteran author Hagberg. Together they’ve written an implausible (well, you decide), action-packed, never-a-dull-page romp. The two characters who survived “Blowout” are back: a western North Dakota sheriff and a Bismarck Tribune reporter. They are as compelling and affecting in the second book as they were in the first. Their new adventure involves Iranian agents, a lone-wolf Russian hit man, and a story that spools out a threat to the U.S. power grid.

Like “Blowout,” Dorgan’s deft touch with the culture, landscape and weather of North Dakota, and the character of North Dakotans, is on every page. Hagberg provides the technical expertise about weapons, and insights into international intrigue. The combination works. Great fun. I hope No. 3 is in the works.

“Killing Jesus: The Unknown Conspiracy Behind the World’s Most Famous Execution,” by Steven Mansfield (Worthy Publishing, 2013). I’m not sure if the conspiracy behind the execution is all that unknown, but the power of Mansfield’s book is the language of the narrative. It’s not an academic tome. He makes effective use of biblical and other historical source material, but he avoids the 2,000-year-old debate about who Jesus was.

Rather, Mansfield’s text treats a story most everyone knows with insight into the gritty politics, religion and intrigue of the time. His retelling of the tale from the first Herod to Pilate is gripping in its clear and shocking realism. Unlike the often sanitized accounts of the crucifixion and the events that led to it, Mansfield’s telling transports the reader onto the streets of Jerusalem, into the garden, before the Roman prefect, and below the bloody cross.

Not a read for everyone.

“The Arms of Krupp,” by William Manchester (Back Bay Books, 2003 paperback, first published in hardcover in 1968).

I’ve recommended Manchester’s history of the German arms manufacturing family before, but I recently picked up the doorstop-size book again. It was worth a second, more thorough read. It’s much more than the saga of one industrial family. It’s insight into a period of German history that includes two world wars, both of which required the willing participation of the Krupp clan.

Manchester was criticized when the book came out in 1968 because, they said, it was too anti-German. But his book and subsequent histories suggest that no honest examination of those times can exonerate the German nation and the German people for what transpired, particularly in World War II. The chapters on the Nuremberg trials are especially fascinating.

“Arms” is not a casual novel or a pop culture memoir. It’s the comprehensive work of a serious historian. It’s the story of an industrial dynasty the likes of which the world had never seen, and has not seen since. Might make your summer a little bleak, but it is a good read.


Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.