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When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: History's Unknown Chapters    by Giles Milton order for
When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
by Giles Milton
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2016 (2016)
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you enjoy odd snippets of facts that don't usually make it into the traditional accounts of historical events or the famous biographies of people, you'll love Giles Milton's When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: History's Unknown Chapters.

In short chapters of two or three pages, Milton offers interesting accounts of some famous and not-so-famous individuals who engaged in quirky behavior.

For example, there's the tale of Dorothy Lawrence who reputedly disguised herself as a male and served as a private in the Royal Engineers of the British Expeditionary Force. As Private Denis Smith, she was the only woman to fight on the Western Front in the First World War.

The reader will also meet Oswald Rayner, a British agent, who had first-hand knowledge of Rasputin's assassination and Emperor Joshua Norton, who in the late 1850s declared himself the Emperor of the United States and the Protector of Mexico. He was a resident of San Francisco, where citizens played to the man's delusional tendency and went along with the charade for years, making Emperor Norton a unique local celebrity.

Other narratives delve into events such as Japan's balloon attack on the West Coast of America during World War II and the British mega-tower that was intended to challenge the Eiffel Tower and overshadow the iconic Paris landmark in height. Constructed in Wembley Park, the 3,000 ton structure created a stir when construction began but problems developed and it was never finished.

Those who enjoy trivia and strange stories gleaned from the past will find this book a very entertaining read. The narrative structure, featuring short accounts of these events and people who did some rather remarkable and unusual things, makes this book one that you can easily delve into for just a few minutes or for an entire afternoon.

You'll quickly discover that reading these true tales (covering everything from war and adventure to espionage and murder) is rather addictive. You'll also probably be inclined to share your newly discovered knowledge with family and friends.

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