cover image Line of Fire 12-Copy Floor Display with Riser

Line of Fire 12-Copy Floor Display with Riser

W. E. B. Griffin. Putnam, $263.4 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-399-19129-9

The fifth volume (after Battleground ) of Griffin's narrative of the U.S. Marines in WW II is significantly mis-titled. Although the story goes about halfway through the battle of Guadalcanal, none of the characters is ever seen in the line of fire. Griffin's established pattern of describing major events indirectly while highlighting sideshows leads to a depiction of the Pacific War as fought and won in the conference rooms and bedrooms of Washington, San Francisco and points west. Much of the book's first half is devoted to reintroducing characters from earlier volumes. Since no one dies in this series, the cast by now rivals that of War and Peace , both in numbers and in the complexity of their relationships. Ex-Navy captain Fleming Pickering transfers to the Marines as a brigadier general. His son flies Wildcats on Guadalcanal. Eventually the plot focuses on the rescue of a team of coast watchers who have been written off by higher authority. Although Griffin attempts to convey the message that Marines take care of their own, he fails to make the mission anything but an exercise in command privilege. Pickering mounts the rescue because he wants to and has the power and the connections to overcome opposition. The effect of this central incident is to vitiate the novel's impact, already weakened by Griffin's less than serviceable prose. (Jan.)