Favorite Memoirs: Final Installment

Favorite Memoirs: Final Installment
As this three-part series comes to a close, I think you’ll enjoy the five favorite war memoirs listed by one of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting his comments on each.
1. Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean. Probably the best memoir I’ve ever read. It has three distinct sections. In Part I, it’s the 1930s and Mr. Maclean is a secret agent assigned to the British embassy in Moscow. Chased across Soviet Central Asia by the NKVD on horseback—literally— he later was one of the few Western eyewitnesses to the 1938 Soviet show trial of Nikolai Bukharin. In Part II, it’’s WWII and Mr. Maclean joins the British Army, becoming one of the founders of the Special Air Service, a commando unit that became famous for its daring raids behind Rommel’s lines in North Africa. In Part III, Mr. Maclean is summoned back to London to meet with Churchill, who appoints him his personal representative to the Yugoslav partisan leader Josef Broz Tito and parachutes him into Croatia to help lead guerrilla operations against the Nazis. (After the war, Mr. Maclean—who was one of only two men in the British Army to rise from the rank of private to brigadier general during the war—served as a member of Parliament representing the constituency of Bute and North Ayrshire, in southwest Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde. He also ran an inn, I believe.) You will not be able to put this book down.
2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, by E.B. Sledge. A sergeant in the 5th Marines during WWII, Mr. Sledge later became a biology professor at the University of Montevallo, in Alabama. He wrote his memoir to explain his wartime experiences to his family. His wife eventually persuaded him to publish it (in the early 1980s, I believe), whereupon it was discovered and championed by the late military historian John Keegan, who called it one of the greatest combat memoirs ever written. I agree.
3. Quartered Safe Out Here, by George MacDonald Fraser. At 17, the author, who later became famous for a ribald and brilliant series of novels known collectively as The Flashman Papers, enlisted in the British Army’s Border Regiment and was promptly sent off to Burma to kill Japanese. The title, incidentally, comes from the opening lines of Kipling’s Gunga Din: “You may talk o’ gin an’ beer / When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere, / An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it; / But if it comes to slaughter / You will do your work on water, / An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.”
4. Good-by to All That, by Robert Graves. Before he wrote I, Claudius, Mr. Graves was a British infantry officer in the trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. A real horror show rendered with ineluctable poignancy.
5. Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945, by Leo Marks. During WWII, Mr. Marks was head of communications for the Special Operations Executive, Churchill’s pet spy agency, where he revolutionized cryptography. Because of secrecy laws, Mr. Marks wasn’t able to tell his story—which is replete with tales of derring-do—until 1998. After the war, incidentally, Mr. Marks became a successful screenwriter and, oddly enough, played the voice of Satan in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.

As this three-part Write My Memoirs series comes to a close, I think you’ll enjoy the five favorite war memoirs listed by one of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting his comments on each.

  1. Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean. Probably the best memoir I’ve ever read. It has three distinct sections. In Part I, it’s the 1930s and Mr. Maclean is a secret agent assigned to the British embassy in Moscow. Chased across Soviet Central Asia by the NKVD on horseback—literally— he later was one of the few Western eyewitnesses to the 1938 Soviet show trial of Nikolai Bukharin. In Part II, it’’s WWII and Mr. Maclean joins the British Army, becoming one of the founders of the Special Air Service, a commando unit that became famous for its daring raids behind Rommel’s lines in North Africa. In Part III, Mr. Maclean is summoned back to London to meet with Churchill, who appoints him his personal representative to the Yugoslav partisan leader Josef Broz Tito and parachutes him into Croatia to help lead guerrilla operations against the Nazis. (After the war, Mr. Maclean—who was one of only two men in the British Army to rise from the rank of private to brigadier general during the war—served as a member of Parliament representing the constituency of Bute and North Ayrshire, in southwest Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde. He also ran an inn, I believe.) You will not be able to put this book down.
  2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, by E.B. Sledge. A sergeant in the 5th Marines during WWII, Mr. Sledge later became a biology professor at the University of Montevallo, in Alabama. He wrote his memoir to explain his wartime experiences to his family. His wife eventually persuaded him to publish it (in the early 1980s, I believe), whereupon it was discovered and championed by the late military historian John Keegan, who called it one of the greatest combat memoirs ever written. I agree.
  3. Quartered Safe Out Here, by George MacDonald Fraser. At 17, the author, who later became famous for a ribald and brilliant series of novels known collectively as The Flashman Papers, enlisted in the British Army’s Border Regiment and was promptly sent off to Burma to kill Japanese. The title, incidentally, comes from the opening lines of Kipling’s Gunga Din: “You may talk o’ gin an’ beer / When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere, / An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it; / But if it comes to slaughter / You will do your work on water, / An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.”
  4. Good-by to All That, by Robert Graves. Before he wrote I, Claudius, Mr. Graves was a British infantry officer in the trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. A real horror show rendered with ineluctable poignancy.
  5. Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945, by Leo Marks. During WWII, Mr. Marks was head of communications for the Special Operations Executive, Churchill’s pet spy agency, where he revolutionized cryptography. Because of secrecy laws, Mr. Marks wasn’t able to tell his story—which is replete with tales of derring-do—until 1998. After the war, incidentally, Mr. Marks became a successful screenwriter and, oddly enough, played the voice of Satan in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.

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Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

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That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for that extra commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. SCHEDULE A CALL TODAY if you’d like to talk about what’s right for you. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!