Nonfiction Previews, Feb. 2014, Pt. 1: Military History & Memoir

Alahmady, Ryadh Khalaf (“Johnny Walker”) & Jim deFelice. Code Name: Johnny Walker: The Extraordinary Story of the Iraqi Who Risked Everything To Fight with the U.S. Navy SEALs. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780062267559. $26.99. MEMOIR/MILITARY
Committed to changing his country’s government, Iraqi Alahmady worked as a translator for the U.S. military during the war, also delivering intelligence and saving lives; famed U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was among the soldiers he worked with closely. Alahmady’s efforts didn’t go down well with some of his countrymen, of course, so today he lives in San Diego, where he trains new SEALs. DeFelice was coauthor with Kyle of the blockbuster American Sniper. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Blum, Howard. Dark Invasion: The Secret War Against the Kaiser’s Spies. Harper. Feb. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780062307552. $27.99. HISTORY
The author of New York Times best sellers like American Lightning and an Edgar Award winner to boot, Blum tells the suspenseful true-life story of German plans to bring terrorism and sabotage to America even before it entered World War I; though neutral, the country was suspect because it maintained trade with the Allies. Police Inspector Tom Tunney, head of the NYPD Bomb Squad, put together what’s being described as the first Homeland Security team. Pushed back from September.

Harris, Mark. Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War. Penguin Pr. Feb. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9781594204302. $29.95. HISTORY
Directly before World War II, Hollywood was plagued by accusations of corruption and un-American attitudes; once the fighting broke out, movie folks demonstrated a strong commitment to helping win the war. Outstanding among them, says Harris (Pictures at a Revolution), were the directors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens, who served worldwide in various branches of the military. This study shows how much their wartime experiences changed Hollywood.

Jacobsen, Annie. Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program To Bring Nazi Scientists to America. Little, Brown. Feb. 2014. 544p. ISBN 9780316221047. $30. HISTORY
Most of us have heard that German scientists, valued for their knowledge despite associations with war crimes, were spirited into this country post–World War II. Jacobsen’s account reveals the full extent of Operation Paperclip, as it was called, building not only on interviews but on German archival materials, previously lost archives here, and files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. From the author of the New York Times bestseller Area 51; with a 75,000-copy first printing.

Overy, Richard. The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940–1945. Viking. Feb. 2014. 592p. ISBN 9780670025152. $36. HISTORY
Overy, a University of Exeter history professor who specializes in World War II, offers up some controversy with his latest book. Documenting the extent to which Britain and the United States bombed German-occupied Europe, he asks us to ponder the morality of the Allies’ “moral war.” We’ve heard that before (where are you, Kurt Vonnegut?), but this is a thoroughgoing account that should spark debate.

Townley, Alvin. Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9781250006530. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250037619. HISTORY
Of the hundreds of American POWs held by the North Vietnamese because of the war, 11 who led efforts to resist interrogation were considered dangerous enough to separate from the others. As they remained isolated in the Hanoi prison that became known as Alcatraz, their wives launched a superhuman effort to bring them home. Townley (Legacy of Honor) considers their courage during the war, and (but for the one who did not return) their experiences afterward.

Williams, Kayla. Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War. Norton. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780393239362. $25.95. MEMOIR/MILITARY
Author of Love My Rifle More Than You, a forthright account of one woman’s service in Iraq that inspired raves while setting a few readers’ teeth on edge, Williams returns with something more personal. Initially, she’s anxious about fellow soldier Brian McGough, injured by a roadside bomb. Back home, they fall in love and marry but are nearly undone by the consequences of McGough’s traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, receiving little support from the Veterans Administration. Bound to attract attention, and there’s a seven-city tour to New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.