WAR STORY by Gordon McGill


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It's February 1945: the Russians are moving rather faster than the Allies toward bombed-out, bunkered Berlin. And among the many worries in British Intelligence is the fear that the Reds will capture bunker resident Gen. Bergner--who, embittered by the Stalingrad horrors, has been helping British Intelligence with its anti-Russian strategies. So a four-man, German-speaking commando squad is assembled to get to Berlin and bring Bergner out: nervy Scotsman Driscoll, violent jailbird Patterson, Nazi-hating immigrant Roth, and squad-leader Gresham--well-bred, brilliant, and disturbed. With nothing but hindrance from U.S. troops in Holland, they finally do get to Berlin, steal uniforms, and make contact with a helpful prostitute-agent; and they manage (though Patterson and Driscoll are killed) to grab Bergner while he's taking his daily constitutional. But poor Bergner has by now become a childish madman, and--when left unwatched at the hideout (Gresham is ill, Roth out wandering)--Bergner strolls back to the bunker. Thus, the dwindled commando forces must go after Bergner again, and this time it's not so easy: the Russians are close, the corpse-strewn city and the bunker are closed up tight. They have inside help, however, from the prostitute's secretary-cousin. . . and from Martin Bormann--who's eager to desert the sinking ship. So: much scurrying-about ensues, ending with a revelation that's been hinted at all along: secretly Nazi Gresham has his own motives for this mission--he kills Roth and spirits Bormann off to Argentina. McGill (Arthur) writes this all in strong, lean scenes, with crisply effective violence and fine, grim Berlin-1945 atmosphere. Somehow, however, the double-cross espionage framework (the layered motives of the British Intelligence chief, Gresham's secret) detracts rather than adds to the drama; the secrets and surprises and ironies never really come off as they should. Curiously unsatisfying, then, in the end--but moment by moment it's an intriguing, tough, and fast reworking of an essentially familiar scenario.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1980
Publisher: Delacorte