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Twelve Desperate Miles: The Epic World War II Voyage of the SS Contessa Hardcover – April 24, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307590374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307590374
  • ASIN: 0307590372
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Historians have so thoroughly fished the drama of World War II that it is hard to believe the subject still has prize catches to offer up, but here comes a keeper.... [Tim Brady] conveys the campaign in an almost novelistic way, bringing seemingly disparate figures and incidents into an engaging narrative.... [he] tells the story in a style that will keep readers on the edge of their seats” – The Wall Street Journal

"Tim Brady's yarn of the Contessa and her role in one of the most crucial episodes in WWII will delight military buffs and those looking for a well-written page turner. Highly recommended." – Alex Kershaw, author of The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter

"[A] tension-filled, exciting story of the invasion and the Contessa’s role in it. This is an excellent recounting of an obscure but important episode of World War II." – Booklist

"An entertaining story of individual heroism, which Brady surrounds by an equally entertaining account of the North African invasion, the largest amphibious operation in history at the time." – Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Tim Brady is the award-winning author of The Great Dan Patch and the Remarkable Mr. Savage and a regular contributor to PBS history documentaries. Based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, he is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently writes for History Channel MagazineMinnesota, and Minnesota Monthly.


More About the Author

Tim Brady is an award-winning author, whose books, Twelve Desperate Miles and A Death in San Pietro, have received wide critical acclaim. He has contributed to PBS history documentaries and has written frequently for the History Channel Magazine. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Customer Reviews

It reads like a novel, but it is a serious book of history.
Thomas E. Wilson
A little bit too much detail in some places throughout the book but the author did do his homework.
BUXUS SEMPERVIRENS
The author did a good job with the politics of battle and the actual battles in Morocco.
Don

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Hemingway on May 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am not a World War II buff, so I approached this book cautiously. I was quickly taken in by Tim Brady's masterful storytelling. He had me caught up in the French resistance in Morocco and sympathizing with a central character before I turned the first page. The writing remained crisp and the story taut throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed my journey with the USS Contessa. I heartily recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about this chapter of history--the USA's first engagement in the European theatre during WWII--of simply looking for a good story.
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38 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Dr.Charles Dusenbury on April 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Casablanca was imprinted into the minds of Americans by the memorable Bogart misquote, "Play it again Sam" . Casablanca and the events of America's entry into the war in Europe via Operation Torch in North Africa were largely overlooked by the public until the 1970 movie, "Patton" starring George C. Scott.

Now enter a new, nonfiction book, "Twelve Desperate Miles", titled like a Bogart classic and worthy of the same dramatic "Coming to a theater near you!" previews that used to be shown between the double movie feature and the Warner Brother's cartoon. There is even what amounts to a "Playbill" introduction to the historically famous and not at all famous characters involved in this real-life action thriller.

So be prepared to be shanghaied aboard the improbably crewed banana boat "Contessa" as the armed Atlantic escort departs without her, only to leave her again to solo navigate twelve miles up a defended treacherous African river to deliver munitions and volatile fuel. In between these two events is "Operation Torch", the entire American invasion of western Morocco. Rushed planning, little training and manned almost entirely by individuals with no war experience, the first entry of America in the European theater of WWII was tragic-comic in some ways, yet deadly serious. Thankfully the Vichy French defenders had little love for their government nor its Nazi masters. Don't miss the next exciting episode, with a cast of thousands and an insight into the lives of the few seldom honored.

But you "Must remember this'" and read this engagingly written book of the North African assault episode nearly forgotten "As time goes by."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Whyaduc on August 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really had high expectations for this book. In my opinion, not enough stories like this have been told about the US experiences in North Africa in 1942-43. The author did a wonderful job of describing the life in NYC and Washington DC during the early stages of the US involvement n WW!!. There are part of this book that are well-written and that captured me. My disappointment in this book is in how the story meanders while the author is striving to set the context for the main topic of the book; the mission of the Contessa. He spends an inordinate amount of time covering the big picture of the early part of the war, which has been very well covered by a multitude of authors.and leaves us short on details about the crew and the mission of the Contessa. The author did a poor job of helping the reader to understand who the crew of the Contessa was. Their names, backgrounds, personalities, quirks, how they interacted. All of this was given very little space in this book. Even the actual mission of 12 desperate miles is described very poorly and takes up very little space in the book. I felt like I had read 80% of introduction and 20% story. The author shows moments of excellent writing skills in this book but he disappoints me greatly in how he put the story together.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Wilson on June 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a compelling historical account of a WWII mission into north Africa by the Allied forces. The book is a real page-turner as the author brings the central characters to life and builds the drama and suspense. It reads like a novel, but it is a serious book of history.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ted on June 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can appreciate an author who wishes to paint a background as well as the true focus of a work. But this book was filled with far to much minutia. The style of storytelling so discombobulated that there was never a time when I even felt like I was interested in finishing it. In fact I didn't. After skipping around for three evenings trying to find some part interesting enough to read, I finally gave up.
I couldn't care less what some gal was wearing when she bade her husband good-by as he heads out the door on a secret mission. Nor could I care what George Patton had for breakfast.
The real story could have been very interesting. In fact that's what I was expecting after reading the reviews and the introductions on the dust cover.
I'd love to hear the real story. But sorry, it's not in this book.

Ted
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Gardner on July 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's been a while since I read a book with a military theme, but my curiosity was piqued by the following blurb on the book's jacket cover:

"The Dirty Dozen meets Band of Brothers in this true story of how a rusty old New Orleans banana boat and an unlikely crew of international merchant seamen, a gang of inmates from a local jail, and a French harbor pilot spirited out of Morocco in the trunk of a Chevy by OSS agents were drafted into service in WWII -- and heroically succeeded in setting the stage for Patton's epic invasion of North Africa."

After spending a relaxing weekend enjoying this story, I came away feeling that my review should be a "tale of two books": the one that Tim Brady wrote, and the one the Crown Publishing marketing department sold. Both are good books, but they aren't the same.

First of all, the book that is written is excellent. Brady is a great story-teller, and weaves a fascinating tale of America's first World War II battle in the European theater centered on some of the more obscure characters and events involved. At times he may go into more detail than some readers will prefer, but I appreciated the immersion into the world of 1940's Morocco, as I shared in the anxiety of ordinary soldiers and civilians on the brink of imminent war.

While the SS Contessa does figure prominently in the story, the scope of Brady's book is much larger. He takes readers through the politics and preparations behind Operation Torch (the Allied assault on Northern Africa) as well as the logistical nightmares and insufficient training that made the attack such a risky proposition. We learn why it was necessary for the U.S.
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