Harry Saves the World

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

Harry is a ne'er do well American hanging around in Lisbon as a neutral in not-yet-at war Lisbon. He hops from scam to scam and from bed to bed, enjoying himself immensely. His latest swindle hasn't gone very well though and he is so broke he has to resort to crawling up the drainpipe to avoid his landlady. Then back into his life sweeps the lovely Dorothy, the fiancée he skipped out on two years ago. She's traveling with her brother and they both appear to be working for a secret US spy agency.

It's a fun book but a bit flimsily constructed. There is no intention to be realistic, it is fun of a Bob Hope / Bing Crosby "Road to Lisbon" film.

The flimsy bits have to do with the Nazi plot to use enriched uranium as a disbursed poison. The science is whoo whoo. Radiation poisoning can be acute, with death coming fairly quickly or slowly with cancers taking years to manifest. That part's worked into the storyline. What's ignored is that uranium yellowcake has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Enriched uranium has a half-life of 1600 years. The highly radioactive isotopes have shorter half-lives, but regardless, the site where Hitler uses this weapon won't be livable for a very long time, which is a silly kind of strategy. In this context, there is a reference to "The Radium Girls" which is a bit unlikely give the early date of the book. The story of the Radium Girls started to be big news in the late 1930s and the idea that it was common knowledge in Hitler's Berlin is unlikely. The plot could have been carried by any secret bomb or chemical warfare element that could be placed in Lisbon. 

I read this book when I was on a kind of road trip myself, and it formed an amusing backdrop for a few days in Tbilisi. I really wish the bomb plot had been stronger so that I could have enjoyed it more.
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This "imagined fiction, but steeped in historical fact" book (I think I just made it a thing was a really fun read--once I got into it. Harry is an absolute rake, but a lovable one, and when his high-school fame shows up with her working-for-the-government brother, he's OBVIOUSLY going to help out.

Looking at life in pre-war Portugal, this story about a former all-American football star, turned ex-pat, shows the intricacies of living hand-to-mouth in a world on the cusp of war. Honestly, the spy stuff that Harry gets into reads more like a side-note, than the character study of the rest of the read. 

The author does take some liberties with historical accuracy, not to mention positing what Hitler did during his shower time, but that's some of the fun.
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Was not able to get into the story and didn’t finish
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