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Reviews of "In Harm's Way" by Doug Stanton and "Buffalo Bill Cody" by Robert A. Carter.

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True Terror
Did the reeking hypocrisy of Survivor get you down? For a true survivor story that puts the media frenzy over reality shows to shame and may change your life forever, try Doug Stanton's "In Harms Way" (Henry Holt, $25), about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis by Japanese torpedoes just two weeks before the end of World War II.

After delivering key parts of "Little Boy," the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, to a small U.S.-controlled island near Japan, the Indianapolis was making its way toward Guam for drill and target practice in preparation for the invasion of Japan. She never arrived.

Hit forward and aft by torpedoes, the ship sank in 12 minutes. Some 300 men were killed instantly. Nine hundred went overboard into a sea of burning fuel oil. The captain was sucked under by the sinking ship only to be thrown 30 feet into the air by a rising air bubble. Incredibly, an SOS signal left the ship before she sank.

Not everyone had time to grab a life vest. Through the night of the attack, the men tried to stick together in little clusters. By daybreak, however, men were scattered over several miles.

And then there were the sharks. Attracted by the blood in the water, they were ravenous feeders. For the five days they were adrift, the sharks never left them alone. Even during the rescue, men were being pulled under and eaten.

Unfortunately, there were bigger sharks in Washington waiting to make the captain the scapegoat for the disaster. Even though the Indianapolis had been told no escort was needed, and though its SOS was ignored when it was received by the nearest military command post, the captain was court-marshaled and his naval career ended. For the rest of his life, Captain McVey received hate mail from the families of the dead.

This story is so incredible, so tense, I had to put the book down several times. The gory details of this tragedy are monotonously revealed, but as the facts start to pile up about what these people went through, the author's writing style adds to the horror. Like some sick scientific experiment, this is the story of what happens to the human body in conditions where bravery and character do not matter, an odyssey Homer could not have imagined.

— Thom Jeter



American Legend
Robert A. Carter, a Richmond author, has written a fine biography of the flamboyant William Frederick Cody, "Buffalo Bill Cody, the Man Behind the Legend" (John A. Wiley and Sons, $30).

At age 11, Bill Cody was introduced to the rigors of responsibility when his father died and he was hired by a freight company to run messages between supply trains. It was while riding with a train convoy to Salt Lake City that he killed his first Indian, who was trying to ambush the wagons. For this, he earned public notice for being "the youngest Indian Slayer of the West." By 13, he had begun to develop impressive credentials as an expert marksman. Before enlisting, at age 15, in the Union Army of Kansas under General Phil Sheridan, his work had included stints as a Pony Express rider, cavalry scout and independent militiaman. His Civil War service was committed more to scouting and Indian fighting than to actual encounters with the Confederacy.

Cody held no overt animosity toward Indians, yet he would fight hard against any band of marauders (particularly the Cheyenne) who would attack peaceful settlements, especially in Nebraska, where he made his permanent home. His duel with the Cheyenne chieftain Yellow Hand is told with the drama of a medieval tournament.

Eventually, he became a guide for buffalo hunting expeditions for visiting royalty, including Grand Duke Alexis, son of Czar Alexander II. He was a model for the dime novels of Ned Buntline. His combination of rugged physical attributes and flair for the theater would be catalysts for the 1883 creation of his Wild West Show, which featured Annie Oakley as well as an aged Chief Sitting Bull.

The quality of this biography is due to the gracefulness of its presentation and its effortless style. Buffalo Bill Cody actually accomplished his many courageous feats and there were few disparities between legend and truth. "Buffalo Bill, the Man Behind the Legend" testifies that heroes are not confined to fiction but reside among us.

— Bruce R. Simon



In Time for Summer:Knopf has published a series of pocket-size guides to six famous cities: Barcelona, London, New York, Paris, Rome and Venice ($8.95). The editors have divided each city into sections with each section having an easily read fold-out map and suggestions as to important sites and restaurants and shops, emergency numbers and other essential tourist information. If you are planning a trip, you may want to take a look at these little travel

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