The focus on this different type of soldier renders this more than a mere paean to the WWII generation; their stories offer...




A gripping account of the eclectic group of artists, sound engineers, theatrical designers, actors, and writers who became America’s masters of battlefield deception during WWII.

Novelist Gerard (Desert Kill, 1994) tells an amazing and little-known story about the greatest generation. Following the battle of El Alamein, where the British general, Bernard Montgomery, revolutionized the use of camouflage to surprise and rout the German army, movie star and adventurer Douglas Fairbanks Jr. sold the American military on the idea of creating a unit that specialized in covert deception operations. Gerard chronicles not only the efforts of free-thinking senior officers like Fairbanks and Lieutenant Colonel Hilton Howell Railey, but also those of artistically inclined junior officers and soldiers like Lieutenant Fred Fox, a scriptwriter for NBC radio in civilian life, and Bill Blass, who would go on to become a famous fashion designer after the war. Surprisingly, he finds that this flamboyant blend of artists and technicians, armed only with a few dozen radios, truckloads of inflatable rubber tanks, and jeeps modified to serve as mobile loudspeakers, quickly adapted to military discipline and learned to create the perception of tens of thousands of soldiers and armored vehicles. Drawing on interviews with veterans, Gerard reveals that success for these young artists resulted in convincing the enemy to concentrate troops and fire on their “Ghost Army” so that real Allied fighting units could maneuver more safely. Gerard concludes that the efforts of these soldiers saved thousands of more conventional soldiers from facing massed German defenders.

The focus on this different type of soldier renders this more than a mere paean to the WWII generation; their stories offer intriguing evidence of a unique and selfless service that resonates poignantly in today’s crisis-filled world. (Photos and illustrations throughout)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94664-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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