Next book



A short but engaging tale of a harrowing POW experience.

Vietnam veteran Henderson (Down to the Sea: An Epic Story of Naval Disaster and Heroism in World War II, 2007, etc.) tells the story of Navy pilot Dieter Dengler and his escape from a Laos prison camp during the war.

When Dengler’s plane was shot down in February 1966, his chances for survival were slim. Quickly captured, he endured torture, starvation and beatings from Pathet Lao guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers before eventually escaping from a POW camp. Dengler’s story has been told before, most notably in the 2007 film Rescue Dawn, a fictionalized account by Werner Herzog, who also directed a 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. But Henderson has his own connection to the material. He and Dengler both served on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger during the war, and the author personally conducted interviews with Dengler in 1997 and 1998. (Dengler died in 2001.) Henderson provides an account of the German-born Dengler’s prewar years, including a memorable moment when a very young Dengler was enthralled by the sight of a low-flying American fighter plane during World War II, and vowed that he would one day fly such planes. During his Navy training, he escaped a simulated POW camp—twice—experiences that served him well in Laos. Dengler’s actual POW experiences are the centerpiece of the book, and, thanks to Henderson’s storytelling skill, these scenes often read like a first-rate suspense novel, particularly after Dengler meets a group of other POWs and they formulate plans for a daring escape. The author’s portrayal of Dengler’s post-rescue life, though brief, is poignant in its details. He bought his own restaurant in San Francisco, following through on a desire to “never be hungry again” after the starvation he had endured. Later, suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, he e-mailed a friend, “I have looked death in the eye, so it is easier for me to handle.”

A short but engaging tale of a harrowing POW experience.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-157136-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

Next book


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Next book



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview