A Kansas perspective on military, journalism

Two new nonfiction books by Kansas authors explore national subjects with connections to the state: a pioneering female journalist and columnist from Kansas, and the "school of war" at Fort Leavenworth.

"Doris Fleeson: Incomparably the First Political Journalist of Her Time" by Carolyn Sayler (Sunstone Press, 300 pages, $32.95 hardcover/$24.95 paper)

Doris Fleeson, a native of Sterling, went from a small Kansas town to the center of American politics. She rubbed shoulders with senators and presidents, and wrote a nationally syndicated political column that stood out not only because she was the first woman to do such a thing, but also because of the quality of her reporting and writing.

Fleeson left Kansas after college and got her big break at sensationalist tabloid the New York Daily News, where she, by her own admission, "belonged to the 'who the hell reads the second paragraph' school of journalism." However, she developed a flair for political reporting that she was able to turn into a long and successful career.

This biography isn't just about the life of a journalist; it touches on historical events and journalism history from the 1920s through the 1960s, including anecdotes and comments from many people who knew Fleeson. Sayler meticulously documents her sources and presents a detailed look at an interesting figure in 20th-century history.

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"In the School of War" by Roger J. Spiller (University of Nebraska Press, 403 pages, $21.95)

This collection of essays by a retired professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, the "school of war" of the title, touches on all aspects of wars, past, present — and future. Written over the course of nearly two decades (1988-2005), the essays run the gamut from scholarly to mass-media, concrete to theoretical. A sampling: One essay is a lengthy look at Army doctrine after Vietnam; two others are quick, 200-word pieces on overrated and underrated generals.

Spiller offers his experienced insights, carefully documented and presented in an engaging writing style. He doesn't glamorize war or gloss over its effects, particularly on the soldiers who actually fight on the ground. The book's topic is fairly narrow, but the range of information and analysis within it is wide.


Mystery writer Maggie Sefton returns to Wichita on tour for her latest book — No. 8 — in her Knitting Mysteries series, " Skein of the Crime" (Berkley, 304 pages, $24.95). Kelly Flynn and her knitting buddies investigate the murder of a college student. The book also includes a recipe and knitting pattern. Sefton will read and sign books Friday at 7 p.m. at Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas.

And Saturday, Les Anderson, author of "Never Take a Snake for a Ride," has a signing from 1 to 3 p.m. at Best of Times, 6452 E. Central, in Normandie Center. The book is being sold as a benefit for the Valley Center Public Library.