A REAL GOOD WAR by Sam Halpert

A REAL GOOD WAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Engrossing fictionalized WW II flyboy memoir, a first novel from a 77-year-old retiree. Former Air Force light navigator Halpert (Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography, not reviewed, etc.) offers a conventional tale of naive, wide-eyed heroes up against fear, alienation, and unpredictable catastrophe. The story is set during the last winter of the war, as thousands of B-17s leave England regularly for bombing runs over Germany. Halpert's take on American innocence abroad doesn't come close to the grand tragedy of James Jones's epic From Here to Eternity or the absurdist comedy of Joseph Heller's Catch 22, though he manages to build compelling suspense as his unnamed and brooding narrator, the product of a broken home, wonders which of the members of his new surrogate family, if not himself, will be the next to die. Will it be the obnoxious gunner Skiles, whose annoying social tics mask a sincere desire to be accepted? The strong but vulnerable copilot Cavey? Or the swaggering, fearless squadron leader Hartak, whose obsessive passion to drop his bombs up ``Adolf's wazoo'' recalls Melville's mad Captain Ahab? The boys have predictable encounters with vindictive prostitutes, oddball locals, fatuous officers, and the occasional nice girl who just wants love. Flying high enough above platoon-movie clichÇs to give the battle scenes here a fresh and bracing realism, Halpert gives us a hero who wrestles with guilt and uncertainty as he finds himself spared the calamities, in the air and on the ground, that indiscriminately befall the good, the bad, and the merely terrified, and who discovers, amid so much violence, episodes of humor, grace, and even the odd moment of fellowship. An inspiring debut: nostalgic, ironic, and respectful of a harrowing moment in America's history. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Dec. 24th, 1997
ISBN: 0-941072-30-4
Page count: 276pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1997