Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Review of "A Higher Call" by Adam Makos

Before the fantasy world of video game warfare and the very real world of drone warfare, the fighter and bomber pilots pioneered the concept of remote battle. Primal battles with rocks, spears, and knives were rather intimate events. But technology has made the distances between combatants greater, allowing for more abstract and dehumanizing confrontations.

“A Higher Call” is about a World War II pilot who fought against those numbing tendencies of aerial warfare and on one particular incident risked his life to save an enemy.

Adam Makos early in life became fascinated with the stories of WWII, hearing the stories of his grandfathers. He built model airplanes, read about the war and watched movies about the war, but then took his interest a step further. He began interviewing other veterans of the war and told their stories in a self published newsletter while still in high school and on through his college years. Out of school, he started a publishing company devoted to preserving the stories of WWII veterans while they were still around to tell them.

Makos himself had make a decision to depersonalize the enemy (the Germans and the Japanese.) He would only tell stories of Allied soldiers and then only stories that put “our” people in a good light. He would not tell the enemies side of the story.

That was the case until he met a veteran bomber pilot by the name of Charlie Brown (no reference is ever made to Charles Schultz’ creation.) Brown said he had an extraordinary story if he heard the other side, from the lips of German fighter pilot Franz Stigler.

Makos begins Stigler’s story not when he was a soldier, but after the war and then tells Stigler’s life from when he was a child. We are allowed to see Stigler not as an enemy, but as a man.

Eventually we get to the battle that brought Brown and Stigler together. I’d rather not talk about what those circumstances were; how much better for you to read the story from Makos (with assistance from Larry Alexander.) It’s a rather brutal tale in ways, but it ends with an amazing note of grace.

Brown and Stigler were both religious men. Brown, a devout Methodist and Stigler, in his heart a devout Catholic (though he was excommunicated for the sin of dueling.) At the heart of the book is the question that was asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In that way, you can look at “A Higher Call” as a powerful version of story of “The Good Samaritan.” (2013, Berkley Caliber Books)

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