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The Special Prisonerby Jim Lehrer
Synopses & Reviews
Following the enormous success of his two bestselling previous novels, White Widow and Purple Dots, Jim Lehrer takes on a new and controversial subject in this ambitious story about an American soldier who, many years after the fact, is forced to relive his harrowing experience in the Second World War.
The Special Prisoner takes its title from the designation the Japanese government gave U.S. airmen held prisoner during World War II — an indication of the severity with which these foreign devils responsible for bombing Japanese cities were to be treated. John Quincy Watson was a skilled young pilot flying B-29s over Japan when he was shot down and taken prisoner in 1945. Fifty years later, now a prominent religious figure nearing retirement, Bishop Watson believes he has long since overcome the excruciating memories of his months as a POW. But a chance sighting of the now equally elderly Japanese officer who repeatedly tortured him instantly transports the Bishop back to that unendurable time, and he finds himself overwhelmed by an uncontrollable desire for vengeance. The result for Watson is both a vivid return to the horrors of his past and the triggering of a new series of events that are also horrific — and tragic.
Engaging and emotionally poignant, The Special Prisoner delves into the complicated issue of war guilt and forgiveness, starkly portrayed in the characters of an officer from a country that refuses to admit any wrongdoing and a clergyman who is committed to a belief that to forgive is divine. This is new and controversial territory for Lehrer, and he treats it with passion and respect, while writing in the highly readable, engaging style that is his trademark. This fascinating story of what's fair in war — and what's fair afterward — is a dramatic new novel from the veteran Washington author and newscaster.
"Although the ending does not satisfactorily resolve the moral ambiguity of its tantalizing premise, Lehrer's novel successfully illuminates still-sensitive issues for both the U.S. and Japan." Publishers Weekly
"[F]rustratingly elusive....The POW scenes are riveting, but the plotting, particularly the denouement, seems wrenched to fit a fixed idea, making the tale hard to believe and the seeming morality hard to track." Kirkus Reviews
"Confrontation between aging former enemies in a San Diego hotel room forces Lehrer's characters — and readers — to meditate once again about essential moral questions." Mary Carroll, Booklist
"[A] tribute to the men who endured and prevailed over the worst existence imaginable." Stephen E. Ambrose
"Riveting...I couldn't put this book down! The Special Prisoner delves into the full complexity of human evil and revenge." Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking
"Lehrer offers no easy answers in this gripping, sorrowful story that moves well beyond the satire that characterizes his earlier works. Recommended." Library Journal
Now in paperback comes the bestseller by the renowned anchorman and novelist about the difficult World War II experiences of John Quincy Watson, an American bomber pilot.
John Quincy Watson was a young bomber pilot flying the new B-29 Superfortress in a mission over Japan when he was shot down and taken prisoner. Designated a "special prisoner," as were all Allied airmen, he, along with his comrades, suffered and almost indescribably brutal POW experience under a vicious camp commandant that Watson, with his friends, dubs the "the Hyena." When a chance encounter years after the war brings Watson, now Bishop Watson, into contact with a man he believes to be the Hyena, the Bishop must struggle with an anger and a desire for vengeance he thought he had long put aside. The Special Prisoner is a taut and dramatic novel.
About the Author
Jim Lehrer is the anchor and executive editor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS and the author of numerous novels, nonfiction books, and plays. He was a 1999 recipient of a National Humanities Medal for his journalism and writing. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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