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When I agreed to review 1945(*), my friend Edmund Morris, the eminent biographer, instructed, "Be fair, it could be imperishable literature." I tried, honest I did, struggling through 382 pages of tortured prose. But I have concluded that the book is a convoluted, cliche-riddled literary debacle. The best I can say is, mercifully, the print is very large. The worst, the promise of a sequel. The book ends with three ominous words: TO BE CONTINUED.

Co-authors Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen, both historians, have popped every vein and twisted every sinew in an effort to produce high-octane sci-fi. What they have come up with instead is a muddled, military mishmash: part Rambo, part Tom Clancy, widi Pulp Fiction-esque gore tossed in. Their fantasized, sanitized view of Nazi Gennany might well be retitled Romancing the Reich.

Though they can wax lyrical over the nitty-gritty of macho, martial hardware, (these finite descriptions take up approximately half the book), the posturing of their major character--a fatuous hero named James Mannheim Martel and the flamboyant villain, Otto Skorzeny--are ludicrous. The plot, if it can be called that, is based on the premise that the United States won the Great Pacific War against Japan, but never entered the European war, opening the door for a Nazi conquest of the Soviet Union. Now, Nazi Germany is ready to take on the United States. Hitler plans to invade Great Britain, but his main target is the Manhattan Project. He aims to annihilate all the scientists working on the bomb and destroy the American nuclear facilities at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The Fuhrer appears a couple of times and mutters such memorable lines as, "This meeting is concluded. You know your duties, get to them."

Other major historical figures get similar treatment, among them General George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill, OSS Chief "Wild" Bill Donovan, and George Patton. Even World War I warrior Sergeant Alvin York is plucked from the recesses of history and plunked down, complete with flashlight and rifle, in the midst of the blitzkrieg of Oak Ridge. Fortunately, all are dead. Otherwise they'd sue.

As for women, forget it. Only two play any kind of role. One is a Pollyanna, a true blue, patriotic gal. The other is Newt's now-famous "pouting sex kitten," Erica, an exotic German spy, who ensnares the President's chief of staff by nuzzling his neck and biting his shoulder as "her fingers entwined the fur of his chest." She also comes up with some supposedly titillating dialogue: "To think that when we started I was little more than a throwaway container for your Just." Or, "Such games we have. You play wonderfully. Now tell."

Mata Hari, not.

Puzzled as to what possessed the Speaker of the House to pen such a novel, I called his publisher, Jim Baen, who told me Gingrich was paid $15,000 for his part of the project. "You didn't like it?" Baen asked. "Oh well," he sighed, "this is not intended to be a literary effort. It's a beach book. Not quality."

But 1945 is a little more than just that. It's The World According to Newt: alternative reality, filled with sturm and drang and high technology--a guy thing. If Gingrich is seeking a nomination, it won't be coming from the publishing world.

(*) Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen, Baen Books, $24

Sandra McElwaine is a journalist based in Washington, D.C.
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Author:McElwaine, Sandra
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1995
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