MAYBE I'M DEAD by Joe Klaas
Kirkus Star

MAYBE I'M DEAD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This makes all the other prison camp stories of World War II seem contrived and romanticized. Mere is no prison break story, no specific central plot. Here, instead, is what reads like a documentary, told on various levels -- through differing personalities and background- building up to shared experience and final liberation. It is moving through the very quality of authenticity in content and telling. One has a sense of actually knowing at least the nucleus of prisoners, air force men and Americans, who shared the horrors, the violence, the incredible hardships, as they were shifted from camp to camp. There are flashbacks which fill in the backgrounds of the main characters:- Major Peter Smith, regular army and a good guy, who tries to make the grim lot of his group bearable when he can; there is Jim Weis, from Seattle, self made and of good stuff, on whom the Major counts for leadership- and who has his human frailties and needs the affectionate understanding of his pals; there is Al Koczech, who agonized for three months until he knew his wife and son were all rights; there is Captain Daniels, stated for medicine but mistakenly put in the air corps, and still taking every chance to practice where his gift is needed; there are a score of others, another half dozen of whom are vignetted sharply. Together their stories build up into a record of young America against fearful odds,- taken prisoner in Africa, in Italy, in Germany; transferred to German camps; marched- as the Russians advance- an incredible distance, with temperature at 40 below, with almost no food, no rest, no humanity of treatment; and finally sweating it out in overcrowded conditions in a camp where some of their own plot against them and the Commandant steals the Red Cross packages, where the fundamental rights of men are ignored, and where somehow they exist until Patton's army ""liberates"" them. This is the kind of war story that needed ten years to come to fruition. Can the public take it? Remarque's A Time to Love and a Time to Die has this same quality of almost unbearable penetration behind the trappings of civilization; it wasn't a success, commercially speaking. But it will live. Maybe I'm Dead has that same quality of greatness in concept, it is not as well written, but it tells an unforgettable story. Don't pass it over as just another panel of an old war.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1955
ISBN: 0595090370
Publisher: Macmillan