With his finger firmly placed on soldiers’ wartime experiences, the author delivers a potent, thrilling collection of...



A group of stories provides military melodrama and trouble galore.  

Dedicated to “those in peril on the sea,” Hess’ (Unloaded, 2016, etc.) atmospheric and moody collection of 16 war-themed tales offers characters who find plenty of danger all on their own. The impressive title story, which takes place aboard the USS San Jacinto, seems drawn straight from a fictional Navy man’s journal. The first-person narration brings readers to the battle stations of a ship at the mercy of storms, death, and long months at sea yet concludes with a homecoming saluting the fierce allegiance, pride, and American patriotism of the armed forces. When two shipmates quarrel in the striking tale “Last Battle Aboard the Old Pro,” the outcome is violent and unexpected. Through authentic dialogue and jagged details, Hess’ stories become effective snapshots of military life, including its unsavory aspects as well as the provocative ones. This occurs best in the daring, crass, sexually charged game of “Smiles” enjoyed among randy crewmates docked on Philippine soil, where a soldier preparing to leave on honorable discharge winds up dissatisfied with the prostitutes who shimmy around him “as if they are sandwiches in a vending machine.” Elsewhere, the unpredictable chaos of military duty dominates: ships are tossed around amid rough seas; death saturates a Navy crew with the mere unlatching of a watertight engine room hatch; and the unforeseen suicide of a lieutenant discovered by a smitten soldier in “Here Today, Guam Tomorrow” proves a painful coda to a hardscrabble story about finding human connections on the Pacific island. The physical and mental fallout from war for soldiers is palpable in less contemporary tales like “Strong to Save,” set in 1949, and the racially charged “Attention on Deck,” in which a white Navy man in 1972 witnesses hate and anger from a group of black sailors eager to settle the score. Tension is at its highest in the exhilarating “Cash for G_d,” in which a desperate ex–Navy sailor holds up a grocery store at gunpoint, with the result ending up much bloodier than he’d anticipated. Cohesively rough and edgy, Hess’ heady volume should appeal to fans of military suspense as well as readers who want a generous slice of hardened Navy SEAL action stocked with grizzly servicemen doing the best they can. 

With his finger firmly placed on soldiers’ wartime experiences, the author delivers a potent, thrilling collection of sharply drawn tales.

Pub Date: May 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943402-82-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Down & Out Books

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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