Long time coming
April 14, 2006
Up until now, I don't think I've ever had a book that I've waited several years to read. In this case, the wait was about fifteen years.
One of the great books of my formative years was The Great Escape*, the classic true story of the largest prisioner escape of World War II. In it is this passage:
It was about this time in East Compound that Eric Williams and two of his friends escaped through the most brilliant and ingenious tunnel yet devised.
They made a vaulting horse with covered-in sides and parked it every day by the warning wire in exactly the same place. While a team of men had vaulting drill over it, Williams and his colleagues, who had been carried to the spot inside the horse, were tunneling underneath. Being able to start by the warning wire instead of under a hutgave them a couple of hundred feet less to dig to freedom. After weeks and weeks of dogged and courageous work, they broke through outside the wire one night and all three of them got back ton England by way of sweeden. That effort (described in Eric Williams' brilliant book, The Wooden Horse) is already acknowledged as one of the classic escapes of history.
I had read those words from a vintage 1950's copy of The Great Escape that I had found in a used bookstore. I assumed at the time that the only place I would find The Wooden Horse would be a used bookstore as well, but years of browsing proved fruitless and eventually I forgot about it.
Not too long ago, I found a selection of re-issues of classic WWII books in the bargain bin at Books-A-Million for five dollars a piece, one of them being The Great Escape. I purchased it along with a few other books. I only just recently re-read it, and of course was reminded of my long sought after book. For some reason the thought to search Amazon didn't occur to me immediately at the moment, but it did when I was placing an order for Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and The Pride and The Force of Reason. I was in the usual bind of being just under the threshold for free shipping and needed to order another book. I was stumped for a moment, but then sprang into action and sure enough, found that a reprint of The Wooden Horse was released in 2005.
Got it in the mail yesterday, and am so happy that I'm blogging about it now 😉
* The link is to the particular edition I found in Books-A-Million. The funny thing about it is the cover, which features Steve McQueen on a motorcycle. The image of course, is from the movie adaptation of the novel. The scene that the picture is taken from is completely fictional. As such, anyone who picks up this copy without having ever seen the movie is bound to be puzzled by the selection for the cover.
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