GLORY DENIED: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War
Col. Floyd James "Jim" Thompson of the U.S. Army Special Forces was captured by the Vietcong in South Vietnam in March 1964 and held longer than any other prisoner of war in American history, suffering greatly physically and emotionally. He was released, along with other American POWs, in March 1973. Thompson's troubles, however, only multiplied after his release. During his captivity, Thompson's wife, Alyce, moved with their four young children into the home of an army sergeant and told the children their father was dead. The Thompsons reunited after his release, but their marriage soon dissolved, and Thompson later suffered a stroke that diminished his mental capabilities. For this biography, Philpott, who writes the syndicated column "Military Update," interviewed 160 people over 15 years. In an even more vérité manner than Mailer's The Executioner's Song or George Plimpton's Truman Capote, Philpott tells Thompson's story mainly through the verbatim testimony he gathered from Thompson's family, friends and colleagues, along with various newspaper articles and other ephemera that have collected around Thompson. The Thompson family's postwar lives read like a Jerry Springer show, replete with severe alcoholism, spousal abuse, adultery, teenage pregnancy, bitter divorce and the jailing of Thompson's son on a murder charge. Philpott arranges the entire story deftly, with the most riveting sections covering Thompson's incarceration. Much of Thompson's own contributions come from interviews he gave for another book before his stroke. Philpott himself emerges here mostly through his choices in montage, and his refusal to comment directly gives this work real dignity. (May 14)
Forecast:A New Yorker abridgement (Apr. 2 issue), a short foreword from Vietnam POW Sen. John McCain and release in time for Memorial Day should launch this book with verve, and its uncanny mix of human and military interest should quickly propel it onto bestseller lists. Expect serious sales and reviews that dwell on Philpott's primary source–based narrative method.