ON WINGS OF EAGLES

Based on interviews with nearly everyone involved (except the Iranians): a competent, not-too-novelized reconstruction of Texas entrepreneur Ross Perot's efforts to engineer the rescue of two unfairly jailed executives in Tehran. . . just as the Shah's regime was collapsing in 1979. Perot's company is ESD, a Dallas-based computer-tech firm—hired by Iran to organize its new social-security system. Circa December 1978, however, the Iranian government had gotten millions behind in its bills. Was it just coincidence, then, that the two top ESD execs in Tehran were arrested, with bail put at a ludicrous $13 million? Perot, back in Texas, expected the execs to be released after a little pressure; but not even Secretary Kissinger could get a response. (And the State Dept. refused to treat the case as kidnapping.) So Perot, "whose role in life was to rescue others," started planning a private (illegal) jailbreak mission—headed by ex-Colonel Bull Simons (who headed a Perot-funded Vietnam-POW rescue try), staffed by ESD exec/volunteers with G.I. backgrounds. ("Perot was just so proud of them.") They planned, rehearsed, trained meticulously. Unfortunately, however, they got to Tehran just in time to see the ESD prisoners moved to a different prison, this one an "impregnable fortress." Though the Shah's regime was crumbling, the demonic official behind the ESD jailing remained firm; bail negotiations continued, fruitlessly. But, eventually, as anti-Shah riots spread, it became clear that a mob would soon storm the prison—so, in the book's least credible chapter, an Iranian ESD-trainee named Rashid impetuously triggers the storming of the jail ("Rashid had become a revolutionary leader. Nothing was impossible"). The execs escape, manage to join the ESD forces at an American hotel. And, after this rather anti-climactic turning-point, the book moves into its only really suspenseful chapters: the journey of the ESD team, guided by Rashid, through Revolution-torn Iran towards the Turkish border: and only after further hassles in Turkey and Germany do all the ESD people finally get. . . home free. Clearly determined to glorify Perot & Co., Follett doesn't go in for much textured characterization. Especially when it comes to the exploits of Rashid (who escaped with the Americans), he may have fallen for a tall-tale or two. And his prose, increasingly sloppy in recent novels, is at best rudimentary here. Still, for readers partial to macho sentiment, gung-ho theatrics, and can-do philosophy, this is solidly diverting action-entertainment—with the byline (if not the shapely melodrama) of a proven best-seller.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1983

ISBN: 0451213092

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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