A Killer of Lions tells the stirring story of “Buddy” A. Bowman, Jr., who ignores racial prejudice to heed his country’s call to enlist in the armed forces during World War II. Against his parents’ wishes, Buddy defies the military’s official policy of “Negro inferiority” and successfully bucks the system to follow his dream. Going from Harlem to the segregated South, he enters the Army, advances to flight school, and is eventually given assignments over Italy and central Europe. As part of the 332nd Fighter Group — four squadrons of black pilots — Buddy experiences ultimate glory over the skies of Germany fighting the Luftwaffe. On his last mission, Buddy is shot down over the Balkans and captured by the Nazis, but escapes into the Romanian countryside to join up with a band of Partisans, where he has a torrid love affair with Mariza. This compellingly authentic story of a fledgling aviator’s trials of manhood filled with near death episodes is not only certain to satisfy lovers of WWII adventure stories , but is also a significant addition to the literature on African-American achievement and the heroic deeds of the Tuskegee Airmen.
I normally don’t read war novels, but this one sounded really good. I was a little disappointed when I got the book and saw how thin it was. I read another of Stan Weisleder’s books and it was significantly larger. I think that should’ve been my first clue as to whether I was going to like this or not. I really liked the story that he was trying to tell about the Tuskegee airmen and their battle that they had with each other, America and with the war. But, I don’t think that Mr. Weisleder told enough of the story. There was a lot of information in the book and a lot of characters and they could have been embellished a bit more. There were relationships between some of the characters that could’ve been expanded upon. When a character or someone that he had written about dies, it was hard for me to remember who it was because I didn’t feel like the characters were fleshed out really well. I didn’t connect with Buddy that well. He was a hard character to understand and I felt indifferent towards him.
I also felt like there were areas where there was too much information. For example, there is a discussion between two Germans: one is the interrogator, the other is the captive. They are speaking German. Nothing is explained about what they are saying, no one is translating and you are left to guess what it is exactly that they were saying. Another thing was the description that went into all of the aircraft and some of the maneuvers that they flew. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about when he would mention the name of some kind of aerobatic maneuver that they were doing while in a dogfight. I am not a military person; I don’t know about aircraft and I don’t understand the lingo. It would’ve been nice to read that part and be able to visualize what it was that they were trying to accomplish when in the dogfights. I just had to make something up in my head.
I actually gave this book to my husband to read because he is an airplane geek and knows all about the planes used in this book and just about every airplane out there. We discussed the book after I had read it and I told him what I thought. He was in agreement that there was a lot of technical information in the story and while he understood it, he agreed that it would be frustrating if you didn’t. He said he felt like the movie Red Tails with Terence Howard did a much better job of telling the story of the Tuskegee airmen. I have to agree with him on that. I can only give this book 3 books.
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