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Posted July 3, 2011
This book is both masterfully written and immaculately researched. Easy to read, it is nonetheless a compelling biography and work of geopolitical history. Anyone with an interest in China, its relationship with the United States, the Second World War, the Cold War or history generally will find this book both fascinating and enjoyable. I came away with a much deeper insight into America's involvement in China during World War II, its dealings with Mao and the opportunities lost when the US myopically wed itself to Chiang Kai-shek's regime. Lynne Joiner's sympathetic, but by no means uncritical, narrative of John Service's life, career, tribulations and character is a major work of non-fiction.
Dr. Paul Vout, former Chief Representative in China of Blake Dawson International Lawyers
Posted July 1, 2011
I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend Honorable Survivor. The last time I lost this much sleep over a book it was Red October. Lynne Joiner wrote a great novel. Except it's history. When I took history in high school it was boredom incarnate. I guess Lynne didn't take that class. I have spent time in China and was immediately able to connect with the story she tells. I knew pieces of it but have never had the opportunity to see it all come together - and she does a great job of bringing all the pieces together. The only problem with making a movie out of John Service's life would be trying to fit this story into so short a time. Last thought: there are few novelists who could create so complex a plot. This book should solve about a third of your Christmas gift list.
Disclosure: I met Lynne Joiner in Shanghai when I was running a business there in the 90's. I think I am on her friends list. I know she spent much of the past decade on this book. It was worth the wait.
Posted November 21, 2009
If Tuchman's =Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45= (published in 1978) drew obvious parallels between America's misadventures in China and Vietnam, this one seems to posit similarities to our more recent involvement in the Middle East.
In =Honorable Survivor=, Joiner has retold the story of how the West "lost China" in a considerably greater - and more useful - detail than Tuchman's version, in no small part because Joiner was able to tap many formerly classified documents... as well as get the story straight from the horse's mouth.
Using the same dramatic device employed by Tuchman, Joiner tells us the long, sordid tale of a man's attempts to simply report the truth as he saw it to his superiors. As in =Stilwell=, the author personalizes the story adequately to help the reader sense the central character's considerable dismay and frustration, something to which anyone who's worked in the "political mystery" can relate.
Had Stilwell lived into the late `40s and early `50s, he might have himself been the principal "whipping boy" for those seeking to gain greater control over American society in the name of "national security." Stilwell passed on, however, and State Department veterans Jack Service, John Davies and John Vincent became convenient targets for narcissistic and unscrupulous power-seekers like Patrick Hurley, Edgar Hoover and "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy.
Service was vastly more castigated and pilloried for his truth-telling than Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson. His "crucifixion" lasted over a decade (from 1945 to 1957). FBI documents, finally declassified under the Freedom of Information Act, spotlight a virtual obsession with the State Department in general, and Service in particular, on the part of a director of a truly "secret police" who'd been at his post since 1924 (the same year Joseph Stalin became the most powerful man in Russia).
Knowing his nephews, I was honored to speak with "Uncle Jack" in 1998. At 89, his memories were crystal clear. Equally clear was the fact that he had worked through and made sense of the entire matter and bore no lingering grudges. Service understood the anti-communist paranoia of the Cold War, as well as how it was used by some to advance their personal and political imperatives.
Few people in the West have ever known or understood the Chinese people and their Communist masters as well as Jack Service. Those who seek to gain at least a bit of his (and the author's) remarkable grasp of China in the 20th Century will find =Honorable Survivor= to be =the= book on America and China of this era, as well as another look into the manipulation of truth with fear.
Posted August 2, 2011
No text was provided for this review.