This is a much-hyped book, and I'm afraid I contributed to the hype with my Wall Street Journal review the other day. Temper your expectations! It's a good read, but it's hardly the earth-shaking event promised by the blurbs. (A blurb, as perhaps you know, is praise from a well-known colleague who probably hasn't read your book, and who expects you to return the favor with equally fulsome praise for one of his.) The Escape Artists is a good read, though the story is slow to begin and can be confusing at times. In brief, thirteen British officers (no enlisted men need apply, of course) tunneled out of the Holzminden prison camp in 1918. Altogether, twenty-nine officers got out before the tunnel collapsed. Nine of them covered the 120 miles to the Dutch border, on foot, while the tenth -- a fluent German speaker -- brazenly boarded trains that took him on a scenic tour of western Germany, dining meanwhile in cafeterias and even stopping for a shave and haircut before he walked across the border to freedom. For more, see my WSJ review.
Now, this is a good book, and worthy of its blurbs. It is however a very difficult read, not because Rampage is badly written but because the events are so unrelievedly awful. We all know about the Rape of Nanjing, but Manila got a very similar treatment in February 1945. As is usually the case, General MacArthur gets much of the blame -- MacArthur gets the blame even when he does everything right! But the monster in the case is Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi of the Japanese navy, charged with the defense of the city. He decided to make it a suicide mission for his men, consisting of 12,500 navy personnel plus 4,500 soldiers who to their misfortune fell under his command. Rather than defend the city, they destroyed it, raping and mutilating its women, bayoneting men, women, and children, and burning them alive. Perhaps 100,000 civilians died, along with a thousand US troops and virtually every Japanese sailor, marine, and soldier.
Amazon has become a movie studio! This is a very good mini-series, in which Tom Clancy's famous hero is at once brought up to date and taken back to his youth. He's a young CIA financial analyst and Iraq War veteran who is exceptionally good at hand-to-hand combat. Sent to debrief two terrorists in a "black" prison (always the evil CIA!), his life becomes entangled with the cold-blooded but sympathetic Sulieman brothers. And we're off! to Paris, to Yemen, to southern France, to Turkey, to Syria, and God only knows where else. (It was filmed in Washington DC, Quebec, and Morocco, which may explain some of my bafflement at where we were at any given time.) Altogether, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan is a hoot, and I'm delighted to see that Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salandar in the good (which is to say, the Swedish) version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, will appear in season two as a German secret agent. I can't wait!
Finally, the second issue of editor Steven Sherman's Vietnam magazine is now available for download. For more, see the Annals of Vietnam on this website. Blue skies! — Dan Ford
They'll be autographed and mailed straightaway, as long as they last. Media Mail takes about a week in the Lower Forty-Eight. Get the order blank here. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford
Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! — Dan Ford
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Posted October 2018. Websites © 1997-2018 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.