An eye-opening, first-rate account of a forgotten World War II episode.




A book chronicles a prisoner of war ordeal in a Nazi concentration camp.

Prolific author Martini (Exploring Tropical Isles and Seas, 1984, etc.) turns to World War II history for his latest offering, a thoroughly researched and fully documented work of nonfiction. Thanks to his storytelling skills, it reads like the smartest of historical thrillers—or else the screenplay for the Hollywood movie it could easily inspire. In a dual narrative, Martini unfolds the stories of two very different men at the close of the war and in their new careers. One of these figures is German scientist Wernher von Braun, who was involved in the operation of the Nazi V-1 and V-2 rocket program, whose wonder weapons were intended by Hitler to turn the tide of the war back in Germany’s favor. And the other focal point is the author’s own father, Frederic, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Corps who was shot down during a mission over France and taken prisoner along with several of his fellow airmen. They were eventually transferred to Buchenwald for two months, despite the official Army line that no American servicemen were held in Nazi concentration camps. The author juxtaposes the tales of the two men—one a U.S. veteran whose wartime experiences were denied by the very government he served, the other a Nazi weapons designer who used concentration camp slave labor at the Mittelwerk factory in Germany but was whisked out of the country and installed in style with his team as the mind behind the fledgling American space program. On one level, Martini tells a very simple story: a hero treated shabbily while a villain is rewarded. The reading experience of the book is far more than that, however, mainly due to the author’s unfailing dramatic instincts. He spent years delving into his father’s past, but unlike so many family researchers, he doesn’t rest on his findings—he also remembers to craft a narrative and fill it with telling historical and psychological portraits. Of his father’s ordeal in Buchenwald, Martini writes that he lost an average of one pound each day: “He emerged as a pared down version of his former self, leaving youth, optimism, faith, and all illusions about human nature behind in the dust and the greasy ashes.” Von Braun is depicted as arrogantly heartless: “What happened to incompetent häftlinge (prisoners) was none of his concern.” He is shown intent only on success (“His dramatic, charismatic, and flamboyant presentations had convinced Hitler…that a massive V-2 bombardment would change the course of the war, and now they would accept nothing less”). The multilayered injustices the volume reveals—not only the coddling of Nazi war criminals for their technical expertise, but also the silencing of veterans like Fred—should leave readers intrigued and unsettled in equal measure. Martini concludes his book with a stirring call for justice, exhorting the U.S. government to finally recognize his father’s wartime experiences.

An eye-opening, first-rate account of a forgotten World War II episode.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9991558-0-6

Page Count: 246

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2017

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


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



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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