Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Dead Are Mine

Earlier this summer, we were called to help clean the books out an estate here in York. There were hundreds and hundreds of paperbacks involved; nearly 600 as I recall.

In the heat of battle, as it were, you don’t stop and examine every book in detail. There simply isn’t time. Often we’re one of the last calls, and when we get there we’re informed that everything has got to be out in just a few days, so it is either us or the dumpster. And if the book isn’t falling apart, it goes into the box to be sorted out later.

Such was the case with this estate. When I did finally get around to going through the boxes I came across a rather interesting novel, published in 1965, The Dead Are Mine by James E. Ross.

It is the story of a combat man, a sergeant of the regular army during World War II; specifically during the action at the Anzio beachhead during the early months of 1944. That was a particularly brutal period of the war, and this is a particularly brutal book about the everyday life and duties of a grave registration squad. It was their job to pick-up the bodies, German as well as American, and deliver them to the cemeteries for internment.

The Dead Are Mine is an extremely well written book. Originally published by David McKay Company, Inc. in 1963, the paperback edition from the estate (Cardinal #50075) was published in 1965. As far as I can determine, there was only one printing of each edition.

It tells a bleak and depressing story. And it has the ring of authority, with the sort of detail and color that doesn’t come from sterile research. Unlike Harriet Beecher Stowe, for example (who never saw a plantation nor had met a slave prior to writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin), it was clear to me that Mr. Ross had seen this side of the war.

Which led me to wonder what else he had written. The answer, apparently, is nothing. Searches on various online databases only made reference to this one book. And there is virtually no biographical information available at all. There was one reference, however, to a story about him published in the December 3, 1963 edition of Life magazine.

Finding an old issue of Life isn’t that big a problem, if you happen to be in the used book business. One of the fringe benefits of the business is that I often come in contact with old issues of magazines. And this past Tuesday, while visiting yet another estate, the issue presented itself. And there was the article, buried deep (page 110) within.

It turns out that Mr. Ross wasn’t a particularly nice man. The article was written because the book was just being published. He was 43 at the time, and had spent 20 of those 43 years in prison for a variety of reasons. He was a pool hustler, a con man, a thief and a murderer. As a sideline, he was also an alcoholic and borderline drug addict. He wrote the book in his cell, on a dare.

The book really was his story.

He was in the army, as a sergeant, and he was at Anzio. As punishment for deserting the battlefield, he had been assigned to pick-up bodies and deliver them to the cemetery at the beachhead. There is no black humor here, as there is in Catch 22, or in Bill Mauldin’s Willy and Joe cartoons. There is no we’ll-get-through-this-togetherness, as there is in Audie Murphy’s To Hell And Back. But there is detail and color--the mud and the slime, the bleak occurrences, the descriptions of newly-dead bodies and mangled body parts and wounds and bloody, burned uniforms and the aftermath of sudden and violent death. And the outlook of a short and bleak future with no end, other than the very real probability of adding yet another body to the pile, in sight.

Mr. Ross’ descriptions were accurate because they were real. He had seen and experienced them all firsthand. There was little that came from his imagination; most of it just came from his memory. And the man had a talent for putting it all down on paper in vivid and horrible detail.

I don’t know what happened to Mr. Ross; I can find nothing more recent than that one article. He may be living still, perhaps in a prison cell. If he is, he would be close to 90 now.

Life said an agent was attempting to sell the book to a movie studio, but no movie was ever made. Life also said that Mr. Ross was working on a second novel, but if that was ever finished it was never published.

But I do know that, if he did nothing else, Mr. Ross delivered one truly remarkable book. Maybe that was enough.

31 comments:

  1. Wow. Great entry and great research into a tiny corner of book lore.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Damn it, now I want to read it!!

    Mike

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that's a good read. When I was cleaning also our library, I stumble some materials that are worth to read.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can't believe I found this. I have been wanting to find this book again for years. I read it while I was a teenager and it made a great impact on me. I would love to read it again. Thanks for writing this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I still have this paperback. Bought it for something to read during a week-long hospital stay for a double-hernia operation back in August 1965. As a 13 year-old who tuned in every week to watch Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) lead his squad on the TV series "Combat", "The Dead Are Mine" opened my eyes to the real horrors of war. Another good read is Willi Heinrich's "Cross of Iron", also a novel based in World War II.

    ReplyDelete
  6. i read that book in 64/65 while in korea. i still think of that book at times when i read of some of the gore that occurs in the world today, i dont remember the ending, i would read it again if given the chance. i will be 70 soon and dont know if i will be around that long..

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have been looking for this book for 30 yrs, and no one knew of it. I didn't know who wrote it. I read it in about 1967 and for got it for a long time. Now maybe I can get me a copy. Thanks for all the info on bk & author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Professional India based Responsive web design company India - Indian SEO Company 9999669114 is offering affordable SEO Services India for its clients And Online Reputation Management and mobile App Development.

    Best Internet Marketing Company in india
    Best Internet Marketing Company
    SEO Services India
    Best SEO Company India
    SEO Company in India
    Best SEO Company In india


    https://www.iaptris.com/
    info@iaptris.com
    support@iaptris.com
    9999669114


    ReplyDelete
  9. Luxury cars provide luxury car rental Dubai, exotic car rentals, Sports car rental, luxury cars in Dubai at very affordable rate for more details www.luxurycarsrentaldubai.co"

    Luxury Cars Rental Dubai
    Luxury Car Rental Dubai

    Visit here: http://www.luxurycarsrentaldubai.co/
    info@luxurycarsrentaldubai.co
    +971 56 845 2520

    ReplyDelete
  10. Rac Luxury Rental is Luxury Car Rental in Dubai.we Offers on sports car rental Dubai,rent luxury car Dubai, exotic car rental in Dubai. Rent lamborghini,farrari,audi,bentley,BMW,Mclaren,Mercedes,Porche,Range rover,Bugatti,Rolls Royce,etc call:- +971 56 845 2520

    Luxury Cars Rental Dubai
    Luxury Car Rental Dubai

    Visit Here: http://www.racluxuryrental.com/
    +971 56 845 2520

    ReplyDelete
  11. Enjoy our short video promoting Paithalmala Tourism. We are located inside the natural landscape of Paithalmala, which is the highest geographic peak in Kannur, located about 65 km from Kannur, becoming a favorite location for nature enthusiasts, creative photographers and international travelers


    Paithalmala Tourism

    Visit here: https://paithalmalatourism.org/

    Paithal Mala, Chandanakampara Road,, Near Paithal Mala, Vanchium., Kannur, Kerala 670582, India

    +91 9605482389 | 0460 2219062

    ReplyDelete
  12. Property Management Software - Find online information about best property management software, real estate management software, online property management software, simple property management software and related more."


    Property Management Software

    http://www.myirent.com/
    9194736805

    iRent Sales
    719 Scott Street
    Wichita Falls, TX 76301
    919.473.6805

    ReplyDelete
  13. Cheapest Tickets with special offers for theme parks, attraction, tour, zoo, animal kingdom and universal studio in San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, New york, Orlando, San Diego, Niagara, Chicago and more - All Park Tickets in USA

    All Park Tickets

    Visit here: http://www.allparktickets.com/

    ReplyDelete
  14. 7M Tours appreciates the support of all of our travelers, agents and suppliers. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments for us. Thank you for your continued business!

    USA Tour Operator
    Canada tour packages
    South America tour operator
    USA student groups educational tours
    USA student group tours packages
    USA budget fixed tours packages
    brazil tour operator

    Visit here: http://7mtours.com/

    ReplyDelete
  15. That isn't any difficulty to getting Call girl in Jaipur, due to the fact we have been here in order to assist you with this element of one's own life and can accomplish this just 30minutes once you touch us. We've assembled the very exquisite, gorgeous and enchanting girls within the whole city at a convenient location. Like a chief heart of this financial nation, Jaipur has many gentlemen right here on business tour or trip.

    ReplyDelete
  16. If you're searching for that supreme fantasy date with stunning girl or you're at Jaipur there are Jaipur escorts, at the townMost Useful Leading Escort at JaipurREAD MORE :-jaipur call girls

    ReplyDelete
  17. My fabulous appearances have come out of indian heritage- chiefly Punjab and Jaipur. Mine can be as you'd expect perfect golden skin sleek, easy, toned boy nonetheless womanly well styled body, intensive dark eyes and lengthy silky-smooth hair found In All Jaipur Escort . I'm a readily available under-size, lingerie, swimwear and naked version.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Orlandoprinters is one of the leading suppliers of digital printing. The state of the art printing technology we use in our production process gives our customers the best print quality. We are expertise in all kinds of gifts for corporate needs, Industries, Institutions, Banks, Hotels, Social clubs.

    banner standss
    best car wrap
    best yard signs
    blank yard signs
    business cards orlando
    car wrap design orlando
    car wraps orlando
    cheap printing orlando
    cheap t-shirts

    Visit here: http://www.orlandoprinters.com/

    ReplyDelete
  19. I understand well what things to complete to decide on a nice grin in your head. I'm the lady who's competent to definitely change your amount of time at Jaipur Escort right into a superb fantasy. I'm a very elite and attentive impartial Jaipur Escort serving for both wealthy and intricate gentlemen that are excited to really have the very best, are habituated to lavishness and want the upper-most conventional privately support

    ReplyDelete
  20. We’re a local roastery based in the heart of the Ottawa Valley. Since 1998, we’ve been roasting and delivering fresh coffee each and every week. We have a passion for good coffee and a deep respect for the people who grow it.

    Fair trade coffee in Canada
    Weekly delivery in Canada
    Direct trade coffee in Canada
    Single origin coffees Canada
    Espresso best Canada
    Espresso best Canada
    coffee roaster Canada
    coffee roastery in Canada
    coffee shop roaster in Canada
    local coffee roasters in Canada
    roastery coffee house in Canada
    natural coffee in Canada
    coffee house in Canada
    fresh roasted coffee in Canada


    Visit here: https://www.equator.ca/
    Elgin St.
    Ottawa, ON K1P 5W1
    equatornac.cna@gmail.com
    613.563.7771

    ReplyDelete
  21. The experts from Gates and Cameras in Dubai have outdone themselves! They have installed several Parking Gate Barriers, Industrial Garage Doors with Motion Detectors and a Wireless CCTV Surveillance Camera System, which I can even check in remotely from my phone app!

    Visit here: http://gatesandcameras.ae/
    Address
    Gates & Cameras – Dubai
    Al Welaya Technical Services L.L.C.
    Office No-218 Abdulla Al Fahed, Building No 3, Plot No: 243/204 Al Quasais Industrial Area-2, Dubai
    United Arab Emirates

    Contact Details
    +971 55 8489255
    +971 50 8489255

    ReplyDelete
  22. Wholesale Yard Sign, Yard Sign in Orlando, Yard Sign in Florida. Send your order online for yard sign wholesale, cheap yard sign in Orlando, cheap yard sign in Florida and yard sign in USA

    wholesale yard signs
    yard sign usa
    cheap yard signs
    yard sign wholesale
    yard sign in orlando
    cheap yard sign in orlando
    yard sign in florida
    cheap yard sign in florida
    custom yard signs
    wholesale yard sign in usa

    ADDRESS :
    Wholesale Yard Sign
    1415 McCoy Rd,
    Orlando, Florida - 32809.
    EMAIL ID : sales@wholesaleyardsign.com
    TELEPHONE : 407-401-8787

    ReplyDelete