VON RYAN'S EXPRESS by David Westheimer


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Report repeated from p. 885 when scheduled for fall publication. It is now the February Book-of-the-Month-Club selection. ""An action adventure tale, Van Ryan's Express remains quite credible until halfway through, when the action begins to pour and roar like Walter Mitty in full flood. During WW II Colonel Joe Ryan crashes in Italy and is interned at POW Concentration Camp 202. There are about a thousand British and American prisoners living in squalor, overseen by Italian troops. Colonel Ryan, as ranking officer, assumes control of the POWs and begins running their lives like a West Point commandant. He makes them shave, but their hair, police their barracks and latrines, attend to their uniforms, hold physical training daily and have close-order drill. He is such a martinet that the POWs dub him 'Von' Ryan, meaning he's strict as a Nazi. When Italy capitulates, German troops arrive and hustle the POWs into a train for Germany. Von Ryan and several officers successfully hijack the train and maneuver it through Italy and across the Swiss border to freedom. The superexpert colonel, a real scrapper who can kill faster than James Bond, is essentially an escapist conception, while the POWs and Germans and Italians are seldom deeper than movie types. Still, men may very well enjoy it.

Publisher: Doubleday