In a stifling basement in Beirut last June, five hostages from a hijacked TWA jet came to a desperate, whispered decision: It was time to plan an escape. The same night, a rock star in New York--by improbable happenstance the brother of one of the hostages--began plotting a freelance commando raid to rescue the five men.
Happily, neither mission had to be attempted; the hostages were freed through negotiations instead. Unhappily for this book, however, the result is anticlimactic. Kurt Carlson, a roofing contractor from Rockford, Ill., has a good memory for detail and a nice eye for character, but his memoir of last summer's siege is very much a hostage's-eye view. Most of what he has to say will be familiar to anyone who has watched a television interview with any newly freed hostage: Our captors were alternately brutal and kind; they have grievances we little understood, and waiting for someone to negotiate our freedom was harrowing.
Still, Carlson's basement-level travelogue of Beirut is nicely drawn. And there is one notable lesson here: After so much sad experience, the United States government is still so maladroit at reassuring hostages' families that some, in frustration, begin plotting their own commando raids.