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Single Harness©

A riveting glimpse of extraordinary measures; ethically speaking, the reader will be the judge.

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A brief, between-the-lines memoir by a former government operative living with memories of covert missions he doesn’t talk about because he’s still sworn to secrecy.

Now approaching 70, debut author Gregory is, by his own account, the sole survivor of 18 elite special team members handpicked by the military and extensively trained in survival techniques, covert action and the lethal arts. Details of what he and his teammates Marlboro and DR did on these missions are necessarily vague, but they seem to have been carried out in the mid to late 1960s into the 1970s in Southeast Asia and in Central and South America. Between missions, Gregory—an Indiana native who dropped out of college to enlist at a time when the war in Vietnam was raging and many in his generation were doing everything they could to oppose it or avoid the draft—became a successful entrepreneur and worked variously as a salesman and business owner. He also emerges as a daredevil, a not-so-merry prankster and a fairly heavy social drinker able to make friends and decisions fast. At his core, though, is a single-harness loner most at home in the wilderness. A subtheme of the book is that it’s impossible to know whether the older guy quietly living next door once did extraordinary things; maybe you don’t really want to know. Readers are also asked to understand that, in Gregory’s case, these things were done for this country and always to the perceived benefit of people elsewhere trapped in horrific circumstances. “We knew without anyone saying it that we would be able to make a difference in the lives of people who no one else could help,” he writes. And if the job was done right, no one would know they had even been there. Gregory has no regrets, he says, but he goes to bed after 3 a.m. to avoid dreams of bad guys and memories of how they looked the moment they realized what was about to happen to them. He’s a strong writer, using Hemingway-esque terseness but also showing a fondness for jocular understatement that barely conceals the violence of which he is capable.

A riveting glimpse of extraordinary measures; ethically speaking, the reader will be the judge.

Pub Date: April 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496900098

Page Count: 130

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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

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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