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The Losing Role by Steve Anderson
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The Losing Role

by Steve Anderson

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254616,890 (3.9)2

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I enjoyed this very much. I've found myself drawn more and more to history and historical fiction and Steve Anderson did a great job with both in The Losing Role. His attention to detail in the locations and events surrounding the storyline are much appreciated, yet those details are used to bring life to the story rather than merely rehashed trivia.

It is also refreshing to see a portrayal of a German soldier as something other a buffoon or a soldier mindlessly following in Hitler's quest for world domination. Max is simply a German actor who gets drafted into service during wartime, yet all he wants to do is to entertain his audience, wherever that may be.

The Losing Role is an excellent story that you don't have to be a history buff to enjoy.



This was a First-Reads selection. ( )
  snotbottom | Sep 19, 2018 |
This is the story of a failed actor who is plucked from the Eastern Front, to take part in an elaborate but poorly thought-out plan to infiltrate behind American lines in the last days of WWII, disguised as American soldiers.
Max is an appealing character who gradually reveals how he comes to be in this situation.
( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
The Losing Role is a WWII espionage story from the German point of view, based on an actual German spy mission in which English-speaking German soldiers were sent behind American lines. Steve Anderson was drawn to the story because, although the operation took on legendary status, it was really a debacle. Most of the soldiers recruited for the effort had been actors, waiters, or sailors – exposed to some American English, maybe, but not really fluent and not capable of pulling off such an audacious campaign of wartime terrorism.

Max Kaspar gets plucked off the Eastern Front and into the operation because he is an actor who spent years in New York. As the official plans go awry, Max forms his own plan, one that finds him at cross-purposes with everyone he encounters.

Telling the story from Max's perspective gives it an edge not possible with an American narrator. The Nazis and their SS goons are the real bad guys. Max is stuck in the middle, with mixed feelings for America where he failed as an actor, and grieving for his country and its inevitable destruction. His is a story of thwarted ambition, personal identity, lost love, divided loyalty, and, above all, the striving for freedom.

Anderson's journalism background reveals itself in the clear way he tells the story, with descriptive details instead of leaden explanations. He understands the rule that it is better to show the reader than tell the reader.

He also has a great ear for dialog, which is crucial in a story about language and linguistic subterfuge. Again, without telling, simply by doing, Anderson subtly distinguishes between Germans with varying levels of fluency in English -- from those who have mastered American slang, to the hero who is fluent but too formal, to those who get it all wrong. Much of the plot turns on these distinctions.

The Losing Role is a terrific book that deserves a wide audience. It is exciting and funny and keeps you thinking long after the action is over.

Also posted on Rose City Reader. ( )
  RoseCityReader | Apr 15, 2011 |
World War II and the German false flag operation are historical facts, but Anderson takes poetic license with the details, introducing us to an imaginary German soldier known as Max Kaspar. His geniality and optimism seem out of place in the middle of a battlefield, and yet the author depicts him with just enough hardness to make his persona believable. When an impossible mission is set before him, it is easy to wish for his personal success and to cheer him on anxiously, even with an ever-present awareness of how the war finally ends.

The characters in this novel are well-drawn. While some personalities may touch upon stereotypes, the author adds enough minor detail and emotional range to make his creations human and accessible. Flashbacks into Max's past help the reader to understand his present mindset, and subtle nuances in the dialogue reveal more about motives and suspicions than the conversations appear to discuss. The author's attention to speech and word choice creates consistency and clearly distinguishes each character from the next. Even as Max slowly loses himself in his role, the reader never loses his handle on Max.

More often than not, The Losing Role plays fast and loose with the basic rules of grammar — and it works. The sentences, much like Max's thoughts, alternate between well-structured and half-formed, complex and simple. Sections of stream-of-consciousness writing allow us to access the protagonist's mind, while more formally written passages convince us that the author is in full command of his pen. The sprinkling of German adds authenticity, and the combination of Anderson's writing style and well-chosen descriptions gives us the sense that we are actually present in POW camps, icy woods, or an old, abandoned theater.

As an espionage thriller, The Losing Role succeeds in capturing and maintaining a reader's attention; the constant, underlying tension practically demands it. The pacing is outstanding, as are the explanations of "tells" that give the German spies away. War novels are not usually my genre of choice. Even so, Anderson's book renders that preference wholly irrelevant through wit, charm, and a well-crafted plot. I look forward to the next installment in this innovative series. ( )
  hideandread | Feb 24, 2011 |
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