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The Special Prisoner: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Jim Lehrer
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $9.99
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jim Lehrer's Tension City.

Following the enormous success of his two bestselling previous novels, White Widow and Purple Dots, Jim Lehrer takes on a new and controversial subject in this ambitious story about an Ameri-can soldier who, many years after the fact, is forced to relive his harrowing experience in the Second World War.
         The Special Prisoner takes its title from the designation the Japanese government gave U.S. airmen held prisoner during World War II--an indication of the severity with which these foreign devils responsible for bombing Japanese cities were to be treated. John Quincy Watson was a skilled young pilot flying B-29s over Japan when he was shot down and taken prisoner in 1945. Fifty years later, now a prominent religious figure nearing retirement, Bishop Watson believes he has long since overcome the excruciating memories of his months as a POW. But a chance sighting of the now equally elderly Japanese officer who repeatedly tortured him instantly transports the Bishop back to that unendurable time, and he finds himself overwhelmed by an un-controllable desire for vengeance. The result for Watson is both a vivid return to the horrors of his past and the triggering of a new series of events that are also horrific--and tragic.
        Engaging and emotionally poignant, The Special Prisoner delves into the complicated issue of war guilt and forgiveness, starkly portrayed in the characters of an officer from a country that refuses to admit any wrongdoing and a clergyman who is committed to a belief that to forgive is divine. This is new and controversial territory for Lehrer, and he treats it with passion and respect, while writing in the highly readable, engaging style that is his trademark. This fascinating story of what's fair in war--and what's fair afterward--is a dramatic new novel from the veteran Washington author and newscaster.

Editorial Reviews Review

An overwhelming sense of symmetry permeates The Special Prisoner, but it doesn't come in the lovely, harmonious, balanced variety. Instead it's the terrifying symmetry of life at its most basic, of innocence, guilt, death, and rebirth. Jim Lehrer's hero, Bishop John Quincy Watson, is imprisoned alternately in physical and metaphysical realms throughout the novel, a "man of God and grace" who comes to wrestle with a "long-dormant barbaric monster ... waiting in his soul."

This retired Methodist is an all-American boy who did his duty for his country in World War II at a high personal cost. Shot down over Tokyo on his 17th mission as the young pilot of a B-29 Superfortress, Watson spent the rest of the war in a Japanese POW camp. Designed specifically for bomber crews--who were considered the worst of the White Devils--it was run by a particularly ruthless guard called the Hyena. As the novel opens, the now 70-year-old, crippled Bishop has just spotted Tashimoto, the Hyena, in an airport in Texas, casually boarding a plane. Memories of the camp come flooding back and slam head-on into what Watson had presumed was a rock-solid wall of spiritual piety, and he quickly sets off on a mission of revenge. He tracks his prey to a hotel room in San Diego, and what happens next plunges him into recollections of unspeakable horror, changing his life irrevocably. The novel becomes a vicious game of back and forth between past and present, captor and captive; the Bishop unwittingly slides in and out of each role as he confronts the demon without and ousts the demon within. But is Tashimoto really the demon he seeks? If not, what monsters of delusion has the Bishop actually let loose?

Lehrer explores questions of guilt, shame, forgiveness, and self-examination with an obvious passion, if not intellectual rigor, and his eye for detail is sharp. He intertwines the stories with the precision of a chainlink fence, using such devices as the interplay between the Hyena's bamboo stick and the crippled Bishop's cane. The Special Prisoner is a densely packed, suspenseful read that gets more captivating as it gathers speed. --S. Ketchum

From Publishers Weekly

As in his previous novel, White Widow, the plot of newscaster-writer Lehrer's newest book turns on a chance encounter. In this case the pivotal meeting is between retired Methodist Bishop John Quincy Watson of San Antonio, Tex., an elderly ex-B-29 pilot and POW, and a Japanese businessman in whose eyes Watson sees the stare of the interrogator who tortured him. Incredulous that his old nemesis could have survived, Watson nevertheless discovers that the stranger has checked into a San Diego hotel under the interrogator's last name, and he decides to confront him. Mr. Tashimoto, however, denies he is the former camp official his prisoners nicknamed "the Hyena" because of his sadistic laugh. With this tension-filled standoff underway, Lehrer suspensefully alternates between Watson's harrowing memories of WWII and his present-day cat-and-mouse interrogation with the roles reversed. The first half of the narrative is a provocative, at times wrenching, dramatization of racism, war crimes and revenge--with right not necessarily on Watson's side--but the second is deprived of much of its drive when Watson tragically loses control of the situation and is brought to trial for his violent behavior. Although the ending does not satisfactorily resolve the moral ambiguity of its tantalizing premise, Lehrer's novel successfully illuminates still-sensitive issues for both the U.S. and Japan. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 338 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1903985307
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st trade ed edition (September 19, 2000)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,413 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
`The Special Prisoner' is a special book. Jim Lehrer has scripted a beautiful and emotional tale about a WWII American B-29 pilot coming to grips with horrid memories that he would like to have forgotten over the past 50 years and his ability to forgive.
Quincy Watson, known as Big Red during his runs over Japan today is a fragile shell of what he could have been. Today as a retired Methodist Bishop, he `accidentally' runs into the man who tortured him so many years ago in a POW camp. The man known as `Hyena' killed many of Watson's compatriots in numerous and sickening ways, the whole time playing mind games with Watson. But Watson didn't escape easily after the war. His leg is maimed, his reproductive organs shattered, he is numb to death, and hate begins to bubble down inside. This is where Quincy spends the next 50 years recovering, an emotional hurdle to overcome, where religion is discovered and forgiveness is a key element. But his life is put to a new test in his 70's, as the world as he knew it was over, a shocking sight open up all wounds. What do you say to the man who controlled whether you lived or died if you bumped into him today?
The story is amazing, simply put. It is a fairly easy read, but the images and descriptions of the atrocities of what happens in the POW camps will leave the reader not only speechless but asking themselves of their own capacity for forgiveness. What is equally presented here is the opinions and perspectives of the Japanese. Is it really that cut and dry for Americans? I challenge you to read the side of the Japanese mentality and you may learn more about yourself than you thought you knew.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting story of revenge and forgiveness May 15, 2000
This is a novel about the best and worst of the human spirit; and some of the terrible legacies of war. The main character in the story is Bishop John Quincy Watson of the Methodist Church. In 1945 Watson was a B-29 bomber pilot, flying missions over Japan. On his seventeenth mission his plane went down over Tokyo, and he was taken prisoner by the Japanese. The Japanese authorities called downed American airmen "Special Prisoners", and reserved for them especially brutal treatment and death. Bishop Watson survived the war, but his body and soul had been permanently maimed in the Japanese prison. After the war Watson became a minister. One day fifty years after the war had ended Watson was in the Dallas Airport, and he saw the face of a man that he believed was one of the main commanders of the prison camp in Japan. Every day of his life for fifty years he had suffered pain and disability from his time as a prisoner of war in Japan, and now the source of his pain was standing before him in the airport. Watson began following the Japanese man, seeking a confrontation with him. The chapters in the book begin switching back and forth from the past to the present, describing events from the war and Watson's confrontation with the Japanese commander. Much of the little known history of American prisoners of war in Japan is given in the novel. As a minister Bishop Watson believed in forgiveness; but could he find a way to forgive a very real monster from his past? There are several moments in the novel that will go straight to your heart. There is a rising sense of tension as you keep reading; and a deep sense of wrenching truth about the nature of forgiveness and the lasting horror of war. There is a very haunting, moving quality to this novel that I will always remember. This is a deeply felt novel that I highly recommend.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A special story... June 1, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm not a regular reader or necessarily a fan of short or long fiction. When I heard this book hyped on IMUS, I decided to give it a try. Of course, I've been a fan of Jim Lehrer for years -- his no nonsense approach to journalism.
"The Special Prisoner" is an easy terrific read -- short but surprisingly complex in its treatment of major issues associated with war and theology.
The book's essence is heavy and somewhat depressing. There is nothing the least bit light and funny about this story. A great story to read in remembrance of our veterans who gave so much that we might be free.
Highly recommended.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I hope I not interrupt important something" May 24, 2000
That comment is made by a European Chef who wishes to extend his best wishes to The Reverend Bishop Watson the book's main character. The response comes from a dear friend of the Bishop while they are speaking of many serious issues, some heinous. The Bishop's friend responds, "We were talking about sex, specifically about getting the Bishop laid". I suppose this type of humor is possible in the circumstances portrayed, only by men who have experienced hell on earth together. Both men were Prisoners Of War interned in a hell created by their Japanese captors. That this passage in the book works, and does so brilliantly, is a credit to the Author Mr. Jim Lehrer.
This is a story that contains horrible historical truths and the impact they can have on the victims. Issues of revenge and retribution, divine and personal forgiveness, a man's loyalty to both the Bishop's office he has held, and the loyalty to and truth about himself he must face.
This is not a long work, but I sat up until 3:30 this morning so I could finish it in one sitting. It was very much worth the lost sleep. This is not an easy book to read, and the issues it addresses are not resolved to this day. The dilemmas, moral and otherwise are faced by individuals, their sons, and as always the government which does not always make the best choice, just the best political decision.
Mr. Lehrer is well known on both television, and as a writer. He is a veteran, which brings authenticity to the story, which is enforced by his Brother who is a Minister who helped with the contents.
A disturbing read, but one that is very much worth your time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
An excellent story about moral struggle. Lehrer is a great storyteller.
Published 8 days ago by cybergidget
4.0 out of 5 stars very good, much to think
very good, much to think about
Published 1 month ago by jcs
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read...
After reading this novel, I found it hard to believe it was fiction.
Every chapter was interesting! Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bob Dean Wing
5.0 out of 5 stars My first Jim Lehrer novel
This was a special novel, very interesting & suspenseful. I couldn't put it down until I finished. It took a Saturday morning. Can't wait to read more Jim Lehrer.
Published 10 months ago by Colette K. Wagner
5.0 out of 5 stars The Special Prisoner
Jim Lehrer writes a compelling story of a B52 bomber all of 18 years old who has many bombing missions over Tokyo before his plane is shot down and he is taken prisoner. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Laura Dorais
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Readable POW Nightmare
A very likeable story with some unexpected turns. I was doing the old two books at one time when this book just took over my attention completely. Read more
Published on July 10, 2012 by W. Powell
5.0 out of 5 stars Revenge Runs deep.
I recently had the pleasure of reading one of Jim Lehrer's novels called The Special Prisoner. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jim Lehrer he is most commonly known as the... Read more
Published on June 27, 2012 by Trina Romeo
1.0 out of 5 stars Stick to the news, dude
I picked this one up at the library based entirely upon Jim Lehrer's reputation as a news person, and out of curiosity born of knowing that he has written numerous novels and... Read more
Published on November 27, 2007 by Cecil Bothwell
3.0 out of 5 stars Good
Interesting story about war, forgiveness and how things are not always what they seem. It seems only natural that we are pulling for our unfortunate hero because he was victimized... Read more
Published on June 26, 2005 by David Blanton
1.0 out of 5 stars Melodrama masquerading as deep thinking
Jim Lehrer is a smart and talented man, but this book is basically a male soap opera, with melodramatic and unrealistic plot twists. Read more
Published on November 29, 2004 by Nathan Webster
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