The Special Prisonerby Jim Lehrer
John Quincy Watson was a young bomber pilot flying the new B-29 Superfortress in a mission over Japan when he was shot down and taken prisoner. Designated a "special prisoner," as were all Allied airmen, he, along with his comrades, suffered and almost indescribably brutal POW experience under a vicious camp commandant that Watson, with his friends, dubs the "the
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John Quincy Watson was a young bomber pilot flying the new B-29 Superfortress in a mission over Japan when he was shot down and taken prisoner. Designated a "special prisoner," as were all Allied airmen, he, along with his comrades, suffered and almost indescribably brutal POW experience under a vicious camp commandant that Watson, with his friends, dubs the "the Hyena." When a chance encounter years after the war brings Watson, now Bishop Watson, into contact with a man he believes to be the Hyena, the Bishop must struggle with an anger and a desire for vengeance he thought he had long put aside. The Special Prisoner is a taut and dramatic novel.
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Bishop John Quincy Watson, a man of God and grace, was yanked back into his ordeal of hate and horror by a pair of eyes.
They flashed at him from out of the crowd in a concourse at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport-DFW as it was known by those who knew airports. He stopped with a jolt and turned around. He fixed his sights on the backs of people walking past.
None of the backs looked familiar.
He walked toward Gate 32A, where he was to board a flight to Washington's National Airport.
The bishop hadn't seen the face, only the eyes.
Whose were they?
Then he knew. It came to him cleanly, clearly, and absolutely. The eyes were those of a man he knew fifty years ago as "the Hyena." He knew it with a crushing certainty that was as unshakable as John Quincy Watson's faith in the Almighty.
For reasons of exercise and pride, the bishop seldom used the motorized carts provided at airports for the old and lame, choosing instead to make his way slowly on his own with his ivory-headed cane. He was seventy-one years old and retired from his post as the Methodist bishop of San Antonio, Texas, but he did not see himself as an old man. Not yet. He was still active, traveling extensively around the world as a guest lecturer and preacher. He was on his way now, in fact, to address an ecumenical prayer breakfast at a large Methodist church in one of Washington's Virginia suburbs.
Now he did raise a hand to hail one of the carts, which fortunately had no other passengers. He told the young man driving that he was in a terrific hurry to get to the opposite end of the concourse.
They beeped their way through the crowd of people and theirvarious rolling suitcases. "Right here, son," said the bishop to the cart driver after several minutes. "Let me off right here, please."
There he was, the man with the eyes. It was him-his height and build, his bearing and presence. There he was handing his boarding pass to a female flight attendant at the grate. There was the man John Quincy Watson would never, ever forget. Watson walked as fast as he could, but the man was down the boarding corridor and out of sight by the time the slow-moving bishop reached the flight attendant. He ignored the other passengers in line and went right up and asked, "Was that man's name Tashimoto?"
The flight attendant, a forty-ish woman with short brown hair, looked at him as if he were a potential bomber or masher. But after a second or two of further inspection she must have concluded he was safe because she looked down at the stack of tickets on the stand in front of her. "Yes, that's what it says
on the ticket-T-a-s-h-i-m-o-t-o ' " she said. "Now, if you'll
move out the way, sir, so we can resume boarding?"
Bishop Watson said, "Where is this plane going, please?"
"To San Diego," she said, pointing to an electric sign near the door that said just that.
"I'd like a ticket, please."
"We're already overbooked, but see the agent at the counter.)
The agent confirmed that there were no seats on the plane, and Watson couldn't convince him or the attendant at the gate to let him on for just a few minutes to simply look at the passengers. He told them that he saw a man board whom he had known many years ago.
Against the rules, they said. Permission denied.
In a few minutes the boarding door was closed. Bishop Watson stayed right there and watched through the large plate-glass window as the plane-he recognized it as a Boeing 757-backed out from the gate. Now and then he had wondered what it would be like to fly one of these jetliners compared with Big Red, his B-29, and the other propeller planes he had flown in World War 11. But it was only an occasional wonder. In fifty years he had never even entered the cockpit of any kind of airplane.
By the time he started walking again toward Gate 32A, he realized that it was already ten minutes past the departure time of his flight.
It didn't matter. The Hyena was alive! The little Jap was here in America, on a plane for San Diego!
Bishop Watson felt shame for thinking of the Hyena as a Jap. But it was an unavoidable reflex. For the bishop, this man could never be anything but a Jap.
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Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking
Meet the Author
Jim Lehrer began his career as a newspaper reporter, political columnist, and editor in Dallas, Texas. Since 1975, he has been a news anchor at PBS, where he is currently the anchor and executive director of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Lehrer has won numerous awards for journalism, including most recently the 1999 National Humanities Medal.
- Washington, D.C.
- Date of Birth:
- May 19, 1934
- Place of Birth:
- Wichita, Kansas
- A.A., Victoria College; B.J., University of Missouri, 1956
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This was the first book by Jim Lehrer that I read and I have since bought all of his other books. This book grabs you on page one and doesn't let go until you close the book. A great read by a great author.
All Jim Lehrer novels are incredible, and this one is no different at all. Set in a Japanese past and American present, Lehrer takes you from one time to the other with each passing chapter and then blends them together in the end. Lehrer tale of revenge and raw emotions manages to spring surprises on you when you don't even expect them. I read this book in two days, cause I couldn't put it down. I'm not kidding either...when I stopped reading to sleep, I couldn't wait to pick the book back up again.
This book explains the aftermath of the WWII, and how it grew stronger within the characters lives. I believe this book really explains the soldiers point of view. As a woman, I can understand my grandfather experience in WWII and my uncle's experience in the Korean War. This author has written a profound book!! Soldiers need to get better treatment and respect!!!!!!!!!!!
WOW...I just completed reading THE SPECIAL PRISONER and can't get it out of my mind. I am a relatively slow reader but finished this book in one night. The subject matter is a deviation from what I normally read but I am a fan of Jim Lehrer. In my opinion, this is his best.