Characters debate more than act, but the novel astutely examines the Vietnam War.


In Hart’s debut historical thriller, a secret group hopes to build a nuclear bomb that will force the government into ending the Vietnam War.

Arthur Weiss is the son of an Army colonel, but he still has no itch to volunteer for Vietnam, especially after his older brother, Tom, returns from the war in a body bag. In fact, at the University of Illinois, he helps fellow student Joshua Taylor evade police at an anti-war demonstration on campus, an act that has unexpected consequences. Joshua turns up murdered, and FBI Agent Vic Torkis is on the case. The agent’s immediate supervisor, Frank Bono, wants to link the murder to a group Joshua was actively involved in, Students for a Democratic Society. Bono also assumes Joshua, who is black, belonged to the Black Panthers. Potential dissension between SDS and the Panthers, Bono believes, could aid in blaming Joshua’s death on the latter and discrediting the organization. Months later, Arthur, now a chemist at the University of Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory, is contacted by Billie Lee, a woman who claims to have been friends with Joshua in Illinois. Due to her association with the late student, Vic’s keeping an eye on her—and soon watching Arthur as well. Billie Lee tells Arthur she belongs to a “very select group,” separate from SDS, with plans to build a nuclear bomb as a means to negotiate with the government to end the war. Arthur can use his skills (and lab) to convert uranium to plutonium, but before long, he has doubts regarding the group’s true motivation. Hart’s entertaining tale often plays like a soap opera. Vic is sure his wife, Cathy, is having an affair. He starts a pseudo-romance with Susie-Q, who works at a massage parlor, and is shocked when his daughter, Denise, wants to drop out of college. Arthur balances relationships with both Billie Lee and Donna Will, whom he meets at a student bar. Billie Lee is a sexually enticing, radical protestor, while Arthur sees himself settling down with Donna, who believes in ending the war peacefully. Nevertheless, Arthur’s dalliances render him less likable; seeing both women involves deceit, and Arthur shows no sign of remorse. There’s heavy political discourse throughout, and these extensive discussions consider various aspects of a nation at war, from racism in draft exemptions to the reason for the Vietnam War (imperialism, someone suggests). The narrative leaves little room for action, so while it’s abundantly clear that at least one individual remains in peril in the final act, the ending is a bit anticlimactic. Fortunately, Hart sprinkles in some humor: Arthur, having dropped acid (it’s the’60s, after all), hallucinates that President Richard Nixon is in his apartment, explaining why he won’t pull troops from Vietnam and making soup in a giant cauldron.

Characters debate more than act, but the novel astutely examines the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59330-688-5

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Aventine Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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