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The Corps Book X - Retreat, Hell!

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Retreat, Hell!

It is the fall of 1950. The Marines have made a pivotal breakthrough at Inchon, but a roller coaster awaits them. The bit in his teeth, MacArthur surges across the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, only to encounter the Chinese in full force, who drive him back in turn. Back and forth, the bloody tides of war shift, and swept along with them are Captain Ken McCoy and Master Gunner Ernie Zimmerman, caught in the fight of their lives; Brigadier General Fleming Pickering, working desperately to mediate the escalating battle between MacArthur and Truman; and Pickering's daredevil pilot son, Malcolm, lost somewhere behind enemy lines-and maybe lost forever.

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Retreat, Hell! Main Characters

Major Kenneth 'Killer' McCoy
Major Malcomlm 'Pick' Pickering
CIA Director Fleming Pickering
Master Gunnery Sergeant Ernie Zimmerman
Ernestine 'Ernie' Sage
Jeanette Priestly of the Chicago Tribune

Retreat, Hell! Review

I must be getting old. In the past when a new Griffin book was released I bought it that day and stayed up all night reading it. This time I took a week to buy it then waited for the weekend to start reading it. And I took 2 days to read it. A baby in the house will produce these types of lifestyle changes. On to the book…

This is only the 2nd review I've written for the 'Corps Series'. Although I have read all the books in series multiple times I feel that I should only write a review on a book when it is fresh in my mind. So while I'll be making a few negative comments about this book; readers of this review need to understand that the comments are more in comparison to the high standards the other books set.

The blurb about the book above is from the publisher… and bares little resemblance to the book. "Retreat Hell!' is a setup book… meaning it mostly introduces characters and perhaps is trying to set the stage for the major part of the Korean War; but has very little military action. In fact… there is no real military action; the advance into North Korea is reported pretty much second hand and while McCoy is setting up and performing intelligence operations behind enemy lines… the book mostly talks about the planning of the operations; never the detail.

Griffin really limited the main characters in Retreat Hell!. McCoy, of course, is the focus throughout the book. He is like always; likable, efficient and always in the right place at the right time. As much as I like the character… I almost wish he would do something unpredictable or make a mistake sometime.

Fleming Pickering also plays a major role in this book. I believe Griffin uses Pickering to tell the overall strategy of the war and to provide information and background on the real people and events. In past books, Fleming Pickering has been portrayed as either a bumbling, kindhearted leader whose successes were the result of those serving under him or as a 'civilian' whos thinking outside the military mindset produces superior results. In the two Korean books Pickering, as a high level CIA executive (and moving up), seems to have found a home and seems as competent in his role as McCoy is in his.

Pick Pickering… His foray behind lines is resolved which kept me up until 5:00 in the morning the 1st night I was reading the book. But Griffin has taken a character that in the 1st few books he appeared in was as likeable as McCoy, and has turned him into… I can't describe it. He has become the Lowell (Brotherhood of Arms) of the Corps series only worse. Without giving the story away… can anyone really be at the same time highly intelligent, tough and likeable then all of a sudden have such horrible bad luck and at the same time have unbelievable lousy judgment? At times in this series Griffin seems to really not like Pick and wants to slap him down.

Many other familiar character appear in the book. Ernie McCoy of course appears at times throughout the book but the tension between her and McCoy and their different social status is pretty much gone. Zimmerman plays the normal role as McCoy's sidekick but like McCoy has become a little predictable. Banning makes an appearance but his character is pretty unlikeable… much like he was in Corps V. In this case the storyline seems to have been dropped… hopefully Griffin will resolve it in the next book. Hart, Fleming Pickering's aid appears here and there and is only mentionable in that I don't particularly like his character in this book.

New characters are introduced… I feel none of them are really exciting. Captain Francis MacNamara, Transportation Corps seems the most compelling but doesn't really go anywhere… yet. Maybe in the next book. There are other characters introduced; mainly working with McCoy… but since McCoy's actions in the second half of the book are more summarized than detailed it is hard to get more than a one-dimensional view of them. There has not yet been a character introduced in the Korean books that I feel attached too like many of the characters in the previous books.

In re-reading the above review… I see I've been a bit harsh. I did enjoy the book but felt it is not equal to most of the other books in the series. The 1st two-thirds of the book were good enough that I couldn't put it down… but I did not really like the ending. It is not as bad as 'The Generals', in the Brotherhood of Arms series, but I did have the same empty feeling when I was done. Part of the problem may be that the Korean War just doesn't have the 'romance' of WWII. Plus, as a history major in college, I must admit I know little about the events of the Korean War. My goal now is to re-read both Korean Corps books and then decide if this review needs to be tweaked a little.

My recommendation. If you have read all of the Corps books up until now of course you have to buy and read this book. It really is worth reading and you can complain about the ending like I have. Otherwise… start at book one (Semper-Fi) and read them all… you won't regret it.

Review by Andrew Little - 1/15/04

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