Review: Cable of Fate by John Eric Vining

December 12, 2017 • Frank Frisson

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


               John Eric Vining is an author who is responsible for such historical fiction works as The Trans-Appalachian Wars, 1790-1818: Pathways to America’s First Empire and Tales of the Midwest: Growing Up and Growing Old in Rural Small-Town, U.S.A. His latest offering is Cable of Fate: The Zimmermann Affair and the Great Southwestern War of 1917. After a short prologue that tells readers the dialogue and much of the events that occur in this book is all fictional, the author first takes readers through his cast of characters which include actual photos of distinguished World War I figures, an actual Zimmermann Telegram, and a map of the Southwest United States.

               It is 1917. Britain is a thorn in Germany’s side because they are an obstacle to be removed if Germany wishes to even their numerical odds with France and cumulatively, win the war. But to defeat Britain, something hazardous must be implemented that could surely result in the United States joining the Entente Forces. That something is unrestricted submarine warfare which, when they implemented it in 1915, made them suffer the wrath of worldwide public opinion. On January 15, 1917, Germany’s Foreign Minister, one Alfred Zimmermann, composes the famous Zimmermann Telegram in the hopes of acquiring help from Mexico so that America’s military forces can be kept at bay long enough for Germany to defeat Britain.

               First of all, there’s something about war strategy that just gives me this thrill. Of course, the making of war moves that I’m talking about happens on gaming consoles. Anyway, the thing is, I like it a lot. So when I read a book like this, a book in which high ranking military personnel discuss clever strategies to win a war, my spine tingles over and over again. I know little about World War I and why it even happened, so, in light of this, the fact that this war is already in progress since the first page made for some difficult reading because I kept wondering about everything behind this war, though the author maintains an intelligent and understandable writing quality throughout that kept me reading to a point where I finally found myself unable to stop reading.

               In most fiction novels, you have a clear idea of who your protagonists are after the first couple of chapters, but here it is different because one cannot fully say that this book has protagonists or even antagonists. Only sides. The Germans, the Mexicans and the Americans. Germany, of course, devises a clever scheme that an intelligent mind can’t help but admire. In Mexico, there is the President and the rebel general – two rivals striking an alliance to win back the lost territories of Mexico. In America, Theodore Roosevelt gets to assemble an army of “Rough Riders” for the second time.

               There was little for me to relate to when it came to German military figures like Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his second-in-command General Erich Ludendorff as they are mostly seen in discussions. Following them was like being in the process of reading an historical research paper and disappointingly, the author stops focusing on them and their progress with Britain at a certain point. When I came to read of Mexican figures like Venustiano Carranza, the Acting President of Mexico, and the rebel general Francisco “Pancho” Villa, there was a truce to be made by two enemies for the purpose of besting America, a much bigger fish. How the Mexicans are progressing with their plot is a propelling force for the reader for the first half of the book because in essence, theirs is a story of a David going up against a Goliath, so readers who grew up rooting for underdogs to topple big foes will find it difficult to maintain their interest in scenes without the Mexicans in it.

               And so it comes to pass that Germany angers America enough to participate in the war. Woodrow Wilson is the president at this time. The reader’s interest levels double when it appears Germany has deceived Mexico in some small way by providing the Mexicans with weapons, but not nearly enough ammunition for a sufficient assault on an America whose numbers would be dwindled when its attention is focused elsewhere. “This invasion of the United States plays directly into their hands and is completely to their benefit. We draw the Americans down upon us, along a border nearly a thousand miles long.” A further complication for the Mexican side is the fact that Pancho, with the reputation he’s built, is a man Venustiano Carranza cannot completely trust.

               Eventually, in the month of November, 1917, we see former president Theodore Roosevelt who had commanded “the Rough Riders” and he is to command an all-new batch of them after it becomes known that Pancho Villa and his forces have invaded America. As Roosevelt and the Rough Riders ride out, the rebel general and his men find themselves having to face off against Mother Nature. “The wind-driven rain lashed at the slowly moving column of soldiers, as both man and beast bent before the awesome power of nature. Lightning rent the air with jagged light, and shattering drumbooms of thunder rapidly accompanied it.”

               It is clear from the very beginning that the author harbors an expansive bank of knowledge concerning warfare in World War I, but a major drawback of the writing is that it is unbalanced in the sense that it is more informative and intriguing then it is natural and relatable. Having enjoyed this book despite this until the very end, I cannot recommend this book to World War I enthusiasts enough. Reminding readers exactly why these novels will never get old, John Eric Vining writes, in his own style, a novel that compels the reader to truly consider what it means to be a patriot and also to honor those heroes both renowned and unsung.

Kindle Edition:
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
Date Published: October 25, 2016
Genre: Historical
Pages: 250