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Why "Grip Hands"?

Long Gray Line gripping hands

The phrase comes from a poetic hymn written by West Point Chaplain H.S. Shipman around 1902. The hymn expresses how the current cadets gather strength from their predecessors. It is sung at graduations, memorial services, funerals, and alumni gatherings.

"Grip hands with us now though we see not, grip hands with us strengthen our hearts. As the long line stiffens and straightens with the thrill that your presence imparts. Grip hands tho’ it be from the shadows."

By pulling together this collection, presenting it to the West Point archives, and preparing a catalog, the author hopes these accounts of fictional West Pointers will inspire future West Pointers to firmly "grip hands" with their predecessors.

Selecting Books for the Collection

The initial criteria were straightforward: The book had to be fictional with a plot featuring West Point, the cadets, or a graduate. Any novel by a West Point graduate also qualified for inclusion. That held for the vast majority of works in the collection. However, gray areas soon arose.


How about memoirs by the wives of graduates who endured and recorded Army life and times, particularly in the 19th century? They were added as were books describing Army mascots and other animals, as well as novels and stories on the paranormal, supernatural, and futuristic. Then I discovered many West Point related stories in comic books and the pulp fiction magazines from the first half of the 20th century. Poetry, drama, and film could not be denied.


The collection grew steadily. “Mission creep,” you say? I suppose so, though let's think of it as “securing a better perimeter.”

Grip Hands catalog on the copy table

West Pointers:


Imagine a copy of Grip Hands sitting on your coffee table!  A curious guest cannot resist leafing through it...which will lead to a vibrant conversation on any of a dozen of your favorite topics!

As one reader commented: "I may need a bigger coffee table."

Designing the Catalog

Grip Hands - Page from catalog

From the Chapter "Army Aviation"

A Literary Buffet

Challenge: How to best present the collection so that a reader will see it as more than “a large pile of old books?” Displaying them alphabetically by author leaves the reader with little more than a card catalog with pictures...and not much insight. A chronological presentation based on publication date would give the reader some sense of the evolution of writing style and the significant events that motivated their writing, but no more absorbing that the alphabetical approach.

I found a “literary taxonomy” in grouping books with a similar plot focus together. Fortunately, the history of West Point and artistry of those who wrote about it provided an abundance of primary topics – from cadet life to the Civil War, winning the West, Army life and Army wives, and then the mascots and the supernatural. I am thankful for the many authors who put their minds to work, their pens to paper, and scratched out so many stories for our reading enjoyment and historical enlightenment.

Catalog Facts


  1.   The Cadet Experience                             

 2.   The Cadet Series of Books                       

 3.    West Point Romances                              

 4.    Army Sports                                             

 5.    Mascots & Other Army Animals  


 6.    Paranormal, Supernatural & Futuristic     

 7.    Women at West Point                              

 8.    Army Life & Army Wives                          

 9.    Soldiers of Fortune, Paladins & Rogues

10.   Mystery, Crime & Intrigue                                        

11.   Army Aviation

12.   Army Medical Service Corps

13.   Revolution, War of 1812 & Thayer

14.   Manifest Destiny                                           

15.   The Civil War                                               

16.   The World Wars                                            

17.   General Officers                                           

18.   In the Far East                                              

19.   The West Point Legacies                              

20.   The Cold War & Global War on Terror          

21.   Poetry, Drama & Film                                    

22.  Remembering the “Old Corps”  

23.  West Point Candidates & Ex  

24.  Other Books by West Point Authors                                        

Some of the Authors


Twenty writers authored 30%  of the works in the collection.

John Wesley Howard        (31)

Lt. John T. Hopper **        (18)

Charles King **                  (17)

Jason Kasper **                 (12)

P. G. Allison                       (11)

Jeff Shaara                         (11)

Brian Haig**                        (9)

Janet Lambert                     (8)

Russel Reeder **                  (8)

Robert Sidney Bowen          (7)

W.E.B. Griffin                        (7)

John M. Vermillion **            (7)

Henry “HAP” Arnold **         (6)

William Chamberlain **         (6)

Lt. Frederick Garrison            (6)

Beverly C. Gray                      (6)

Ed Ruggero **                        (6)

Paul Malone **                       (6)

Richard H. Dickinson **          (5)

Tom Willard                             (5)

** West Point graduate

West Point Cadets inspection circa 1920

Visitor's Souvenir Post Card circa 1920

Some Statistics    

Items in the Collection                645+


Authors                                 348

West Point Authors                83

Female Authors                      70

The Catalog             


Pages                                   516 

    Chapters                                24 

    Items in the Catalog            635

Pictures/Illustrations            709

Examples From the Catalog

Soldier of Fortune - title in  Grip Hands catalog

From Chapter 9:
Soldiers of Fortune, Paladins, Miscreants & Rogues

Crofton's Fire - in Grip Hands catalog
Hard to Die  in Grip Hands catalog

From Chapter 6:
Paranormal, Supernatural & Futuristic

Hard to Die  in Grip Hands catalog

 From Chapter 20:  
The Cold War and Global War on Terror

Autumn on the Hudson -  Grip Hands catalog

And there are over 600 more in Grip Hands Thru the Shadows.


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