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Bookmarks Issue: 
36-Sept-Oct-2008
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A-Killing RommelSteven Pressfield is best known for his quintet of novels of ancient warfare, including Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. Here, he fast-forwards to World War II and fictionalizes the real-life British plot to assassinate the elusive Desert Fox.

The Story: In autumn 1942, Hitler has overrun Europe. In North Africa, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the legendary Desert Fox, and his Afrika Korps stand ready to sweep across Egypt and Suez, take control of the Middle East’s oil fields, and gain access to India and the Pacific. But the Long Range Desert Group, an elite British special forces unit, has other plans for the Germans. Presented as the memoirs of a 22-year-old British lieutenant, Lawrence Chapman, Killing Rommel describes all aspects of desert warfare and the attempt to kill the Desert Fox—from the intelligence gathering to the ambushes, the camaraderie, and the intensity of tank combat—as the unit fights to stop the Afrika Korps and secure an Allied victory in North Africa.
Doubleday. 320 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0385519702

Armchair General 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Killing Rommel is a highly-recommended tour de force that deftly combines his well-known, much-acclaimed, finely honed skill as a compelling storyteller with an unmatched degree of historical accuracy and authenticity." Jerry D. Morelock

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"The brutality of modern warfare and the bravery of troops on both sides of the conflict seep through every page. Killing Rommel is both a captivating history lesson and a rousing guts-’n’-glory saga." Paul Katz

Military Writers Society of America 4 of 5 Stars
"Those who have fought, and especially those Marines and Soldiers who have fought at An-Nasiriyah, Fallujah, Haditha, Anbar Province, and the Diyala River Valley, will understand the pictures Pressfield paints of the thirst, heat, sand, and boredom—interrupted by intense combat—in the desert. … It’s the story of these citizen-soldiers and how they react to the carnage around them that makes Killing Rommel one of Pressfield’s best books." Andrew Lubin

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Steven Pressfield’s well-written fictional memoir (by a literate British lieutenant named Chapman) is surprisingly contemplative, more a coming-of-age tale than a thriller. But gearheads will love every vehicular snafu, and the one pulse-racing battle sequence—when Chapman’s patrol is shot up during a surprise encounter with the enemy—is worth the wait." Jocelyn McClurg

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"By thus combining the true history of the war with his novelistic imagination, Pressfield has produced a splendid tour de force, one that brings to life the heroism, sacrifice, tragedy, frustration, fear and—yes—thrill of war. It should not be missed by military-history buffs or by anyone who wants a moving reminder of the bravery, ingenuity and sacrifice that ordinary men are capable of when given a cause they believe in." Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

Moving away from the ancient world and into the 20th century seems to have served Steven Pressfield quite well. Many readers may be unfamiliar with the Long Range Desert Group (popularized in the 1960s TV series The Rat Patrol), but this powerful, thoroughly researched novel should change that. Pressfield creates the same edge-of-your-seat drama, remarkable battle scenes, and strong characters that populate his acclaimed novels of ancient warfare. Chapman contemplates war as he learns to fight and lead amid carnage; Rommel’s spirit threatens like a dark cloud over the entire story; and the ruthless desert emerges as its own character. The reviewer at Armchair General sums it up: "Reading Killing Rommel is the closest thing to actually participating in one of these daring WWII raids in the trackless desert of North Africa that any of us today will ever get."