Writing non-fiction book reviews for the Historical Novel Society, I’ve discovered places, periods, and people I would not have encountered without the luck of assignment.
In Donovan’s Devils—OSS Commandos Behind Enemy Lines, accompanied by WWII fighters waging a clandestine war of liberation, I revisited familiar Italian villages a dozen years before my birth.
Albert Lulushi meticulously deployed his deeply researched facts to detail every raid: places, times, boat names—even the weather. Officers and soldiers were listed by name and rank, if not serial number. Missing from the heroes’ roll call was their personality, the humanity that allows us to connect with others. I treasured the occasional passage that transformed characters into people, such as:
“Lieutenant George Musulin was the natural choice to command the team. He was born in the United States to parents who had emigrated from Yugoslavia and spoke Serbo-Croat very well. A bulky, 250-pound, five-foot-eleven former University of Pittsburg tackle, steelworker, and physical education teacher, Musulin was far heavier than the 185 pounds that was the official limit for Army paratroopers.” (228)
Adding flesh to characters—in George’s case, kilos of flesh—gives them a past that allows readers to care about their future.
Lulushi writes of men we need to remember. I wish he had given us more to remember them by.