The Last Liberator

Jerry Yulsman, Author
Jerry Yulsman, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-525-93382-3
Reviewed on: 12/02/1991
Release date: 12/01/1991
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-451-17334-8
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Abe Cohen, the hero of this WW II novel, is actually Danny Esposito, a two-bit hood who turned state's evidence at the trial of Lucky Luciano. To evade retribution from the Mafia, Esposito adopts a Jewish identity (though uncircumcised) and enlists in the Army Air Force, becoming a flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator bomber. The action centers on the ill-conceived and poorly executed air raid on Ploesti, the Romanian oil center that provided Axis forces with much of their petroleum. Interspersed with the account of the raid are flashbacks to Cohen's prior life and descriptions of his transformation into the man he pretends to be. The object of anti-Semitic slurs, he eventually becomes a supporter of the Zionist underground. The story of Ploesti (and an earlier attack on Rome) switches back and forth between the points of view of the Americans and the enemy, and mixes historical figures with fictional characters, a la Samuel Fuller's Big Red One. Although the combat sequences are compelling, the emotional heart of the book, Cohen's metamorphosis, lacks drive, while the Luciano subplot is muddled and contrived. Yulsman ( Elleander Morning ), who participated in the Ploesti raid, clearly knows his subject, and readers may wish that he had instead concentrated solely on the history of the battle. (Dec.)
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