An attempt to fill a gap in an otherwise thoroughly examined life.
Hectored by his wife, war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, into going to Europe in 1944, Ernest Hemingway flew to London to cover the war for Collier's magazine. He was in his mid-40s, internationally famous for his fiction, and had no enthusiasm for journalism; he intended to write just enough to remain employed while salting away material for future novels. During his 10 months in Europe, Hemingway rode a landing craft to Omaha Beach on D-Day (and then rode it back to the troopship), assembled a private army of partisans in France, and accompanied an infantry regiment when it was cut to pieces in the Hürtgenwald. His physical courage and enthusiasm for combat are beyond question. But while Hemingway's bibulous exploits in London and Paris are well-documented, exactly what he did in the field remains shrouded in mystery, and Mort (Thieves' Road: The Black Hills Betrayal and Custer's Path to Little Bighorn, 2015, etc.) cannot lift the veil. Parties, dinners, and marital strife aside, Hemingway is missing from much of the book, which is padded with elaborate detail on topics ranging from French political factions to tactics for fighting in Norman hedgerows. When Hemingway appears, a gauzy curtain falls. Regarding his ride on the landing craft, "the details…are a little sketchy." The author presents him amongst his guerrillas but describes none of their activities besides their march into Paris to liberate the Ritz Hotel’s cellar, about which "there's something of a mystery." Even in the Hürtgenwald, Hemingway appears briefly in two firefights and otherwise fades into the background of the larger narrative. Mort rejects the claim that Hemingway was just "a tourist in a helmet," but unlike the frontline soldiers he so admired, he could leave the front any time he wanted and often did.
Entertaining but too short on facts to deliver on its promise.