Lightning Down: A Story of Survival in World War II by Tom Klavin (St. Martin’s Press)
American fighter pilot Joe Moser was shot down over France and captured by Germany in August 1944. The P-38 Lightning was an American fighter jet piloted by Moser when it crashed.
But don’t worry – you don’t need to know technical jargon or even care about airplanes to love Lightning Down: A Story of Survival in World War II by Tom Klavin. Although, if you’re interested in specs, rest assured the Clavin will scratch whatever itches.
Lightning is a historical biography that contains textbook information when read like a novel. Footnotes are often as interesting and well-written as the story itself. Given the quality of research and readability, it should come as no surprise that Klavin has over a dozen such books under his belt and has a long career in journalism. He knows that people make history interesting and he benefits from it. These are the gripping plots that precede the blanks throughout the book.
You might think that with a piece of history it would be difficult to maintain any real anticipation for the pages to turn, but Clavin handles it nonetheless. The Prologue is an excerpt from the end of the second act of the book, in which readers are immediately immersed in the action and then returned to a quiet farm in Ferndale, Washington, where Moser’s life story begins.
Clavin begins long before Moser was born, but quickly moves through Moser’s younger years, focusing on necessary and interesting details. The first act tells the story of Moser’s family and his childhood, creating the basis for the person with whom we will spend about 300 pages. The next two sections tell about his time in the army and under German captivity.
Although the bulk of Moser’s biography dates back to his years in the Air Force, Klavin spans his entire life. The book continues after his return home to show how his story was silenced due to people’s disbelief in his experiences. This shows how he coped with the memories of the concentration camp and became a typical American family man and worker. This continued until his death in 2015.
Even with this information, nothing is messed up because the style and structure of the Clavin is worrying enough to keep readers informed. And despite the horrors that Moser endured and is vividly described by Klavin, “Lightning Down” carries with it an all-encompassing positivity and glorifies resilience.