An associate professor of English at the University of Michigan, Cecil Eby has written a colorful account of the drama of the Alcázar —one of the most spectacular episodes in twentieth-century Spanish history. The challenge of attack, the strain of defense, exchanges of insults, the hope of relief, hoses spraying gasoline, tank guns blazing —these are a few representative features of a siege lasting ten full weeks before being lifted in September 1936.

Eby’s actors range from career army officers and women in labor to journalists, a Paramount cameraman, and a female combatant nicknamed Snub Nose. Armored ears, grenades, and point-blank fire are scarcely unexpected. But the military-history buff who savors details will be impressed by “pieces of steel tubing packed with dynamite and lit by a cigarette” (p. 189), as well as by parachutists deliberately machine-gunned from the air. Green cadets and seasoned Civil Guards defending their positions are opposed by overall-clad miliciamos faltering on the charge. Half-buried corpses sticking out of stones, a stethoscope used as a mine detector, a baby girl suddenly born in the dark at a moment when subterranean mines explode, hand-to-hand fighting, a tank with hooting klaxon, soldiers stumbling through the rubble to rifle pit and parapet—what marvelous material for the historian, or for what we once thought of as Hollywood.

While “Reading Notes” are collected at the back of the book, there is no point-by-point documentation in the usual sense of the term. Almost equally regrettable is the absence of an index. On p. 99, it is stated: “The Republican mine was the brain child of a woman, Margarita Nelken.. . . When the Alcázar failed to be starved into surrender, she wired twenty-five Asturian miners: I NEED YOU. WE MUST BLOW UP THE ALCÁZAR.” Your reviewer quoted this passage to Señora Nelken, who replied: “I wish to answer your attentive lines referring to my SUPPOSED letter to some Asturian miners, in order that they use dynamite to blow up the Alcázar of Toledo, which does not have ANY MARK of truth.. . . I NEVER sent any such demand to the Asturian miners.. . .” Respecting so central a matter, it would seem that the author should have consulted and cited informed people on both sides even if he chose to relegate all versions except one to footnote or “Reading Note” status.