In Pete Hamill’s novel, Tabloid City, a young newspaper reporter enters the bathroom of his love interest, herself an aspiring journalist turned bartender.
The reporter stares “at a framed browning photograph of a blonde woman. Eyes that miss nothing. From the thirties, maybe? Her grandmother, may be?”
The reporter returns to his love interest.
Reporter: “The woman in the bathroom, who is she?”
Love interest: “My hero. Martha Gellhorn. She’s in the bathroom so I’ll see her every morning. And night.”
Reporter: “She was married to Hemingway, right?”
Love interest: “–Wrong. He was married to Martha Gellhorn. As a journalist, Hemingway wouldn’t make a pimple on her . . . .”
Open Road Integrated Media has reissued Martha Gellhorn’s 1948 novel, Point of No Return. It is the story of a unit of American troops in Luxembourg and Belgium, from the time of the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944) to the surrender of Germany (May 1945).
Gellhorn (1908-1998) was a skilled war correspondent. She engages the reader in the mud of the forests, the boredom and the hopes of the troops, the carnage of battle, and finally the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp.
Central to the story is the developing relationship between Lieutenant Colonel John Dawson Smithers, product of small town Georgia, and his driver, Jacob Levy, a secular Jew from St. Louis (Gellhorn’s hometown).
Levy, who looks like a Hollywood star, does not present as Jewish, but everyone knows that he is. As the book proceeds, Levy begins to understand his Jewishness. Meanwhile, Smithers learns to put aside his anti-Semitic attitudes, bond with Levy, and finally sticks up for him when Levy experiences major injuries and even more serious legal difficulties.
Gellhorn was a superb journalist. If you want to know what World War II was really about, read this book.