A portrait of elite fighting men at their best that will appeal to a largely male readership.

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BEYOND HELL AND BACK

HOW AMERICA’S SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES BECAME THE WORLD’S GREATEST FIGHTING UNIT

Nuts-and-bolts accounts of Special Forces missions.

Military writers Zimmerman (First Command: Paths to Leadership, 2006, etc.) and Gresham (DEFCON-2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the Cuban Missile Crisis, 2006, etc.) recount seven operations of the past four decades, undertaken in places including Vietnam and Iraq. They show a SEAL team on the ground plucking two downed fliers from the midst of a major North Vietnam offensive after 14 air rescuers had already died in the attempt. They dissect a complex operation in which elite attack-helicopter teams flew far beyond their normal range to destroy Iraqi radar sites, opening the way for air strikes before the first Gulf War. In the Second Gulf War, half a dozen Green Berets slipped 350 miles inside Iraq, hid near a major road and military concentration site, called in intelligence and devastating air strikes, then withdrew after ten days without firing a shot. Some operations depicted here were misfires. A brilliantly executed 1970 operation to rescue prisoners in North Vietnam went off without a hitch, but the camp turned out to be empty. The operation known to most readers is the disastrous 1979 attempt to rescue American hostages held in Iran. The authors relate the excruciating details, emphasizing the lessons our forces learned and not neglecting the opportunity to criticize a Democratic president. Their narrative provides solid entertainment for military buffs with its densely technical descriptions of weapons, training and tactics, an avalanche of acronyms and the traditional purplish prose. Zimmerman and Gresham don’t conceal their contempt for the Hollywood version of special ops: colorful but insubordinate soldiers, missions described as suicidal, big explosions, a dazzling triumph despite crippling casualties. In the real world, they remind us, brains and teamwork trump heroism, and planners reject operations likely to fail. Five out of seven represents a reasonable success rate.

A portrait of elite fighting men at their best that will appeal to a largely male readership.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36387-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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