Looking for Mr. Smith: Seeking the Truth Behind The Long Walk, the Greatest Survival Story Ever Told

Linda Willis, Author
Linda Willis, Skyhorse, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61608-158-4
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Ebook - 164 pages - 978-1-62873-244-3
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-1-62636-541-4
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Published in 1956, Slavomir Rawicz's The Long Walk told of a group of Siberian labor camp prisoners at the beginning of WWII and their escape by walking from Siberia to India in 1941–1942. (A film version, The Way Back, is due in January.) The book became a bestseller yet incongruities and unanswered questions led some to question the book's veracity. Wanting to resolve the question, Willis contacted families of survivors and others associated with the escape and the book, including relatives of its ghostwriter, Robert Downing. Rawicz and his wife both died in 2004, but Willis details a screenwriter's 2002 interview with Rawicz, bolstered by a summary of her own correspondence with the couple. The highlight is her interview with Witold Glinski; not mentioned in The Long Walk, he claimed to have been one of the escapees, and his account led to speculation: "Either Downing convinced Rawicz to pretend the story was his... or Rawicz pulled the wool over Downing's eyes Sifting through the contradictions, Willis concludes with her quest for the elusive American escapee, Mr. Smith. A formidable sleuth, Willis recounts every detail of her meticulous research, spanning years, but some mysteries remain. (Nov.)
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