Von Ryan's Express

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Categories: Suspense/Thriller
Publisher: RosettaBooks | Date published: 08/01/2001


The intriguing title Von Ryan's Express hints at the fascinating situation that unfolds within its pages. Set in an Italian POW camp at the height of World War II, it has a hero who acts like a villain for much of the story, an arrogant, by-theBook American colonel who manages to save the men in his charge after very nearly assuring their doom. David Westheimer's novel captures the gritty oblivion of POW life, while the suspense builds as the prisoners plot their way to freedom. Shot down over Italy, Col. Joseph Ryan of United States Army Air Force is captured and brought to a POW camp in southern Italy. What he finds is a demoralized, slovenly bunch of fellow prisoners, men he determines to whip into shape as the senior ranking officer. So relentless and demanding is Ryan--who seems like a Nazi officer obsessed with order--that the men despise him. They call him Von Ryan, insisting that he is in the wrong army. His sense of order and his respect for military conduct are so complete that he even keeps the prisoners together when their captors vanish after the Italian surrender, believing a trick that is played on them by the Germans that delivers them right back into enemy hands. Realizing his mistake, Ryan concocts an unlikely escape on a train that becomes known as Von Ryan's Express. Westheimer was a POW in World War II, and his experience creates a finely detailed environment for the suspenseful plot of Von Ryan's Express. Ryan is a fascinating character--not unlike the far more tragic Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai--and his plan to save his men brings the novel to a breathtaking conclusion. Von Ryan's Express is a provocative story of heroism in what seems to be an utterly hopeless situation, the perfect setting for a tense thriller.

Also Available from David Westheimer