Under the Radar: Raphael Reviews "The Long Night"

Mar 23, 2012

Book reviewer Lev Raphael has been reading about a radio journalist who was in the thick of covering World War Two from Berlin, and he talked about it with WKAR's Melissa Benmark.

LEV RAPHAEL: This is “The Long Night,” by Steve Wick, and it is a real-life adventure story of one of the most courageous and innovative radio broadcasters in history.

MELISSA BENMARK: Okay. Who is this, and have we heard of him before?

RAPHAEL: Well, you’ve heard of him, but probably not in this context. It’s William L. Shirer, who wrote the classic, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” But it’s not as widely known that before he was an author, and before he was a best-selling and famous author, he was a famous broadcaster.

BENMARK: No kidding. And what did he do? What was his claim to fame?

RAPHAEL: He was the first person to broadcast live from Europe, which had never been done before, with Edward R. Murrow. He was the first person to do radio roundup reports, which had never been done. He was there in Vienna when the Germans invaded. He was in Munich when Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler. He was in Prague when the Germans invaded the Sudetenland. He was with the German Army when they forged across Belgium. He was there when the French surrendered outside of Paris, and in fact, he knew about the surrender before Winston Churchill did.

BENMARK: Wow. Now, that’s a connection, right there. To be able to get that intelligence, especially during that era. Why do we know about Murrow and not about this guy so much?

RAPHAEL: Well, he didn’t stay in radio. He was fired at a certain point from CBS. Happens to a lot of people, right?

BENMARK: Really?

RAPHAEL: And he probably fell afoul of some of the higher-ups. And because he was famous for his writing, his radio career seems to have diminished in popular consciousness. But this book is absolutely amazing. Because the guy was in fear for his life. He had to escape from the Gestapo. It would make an amazing movie. It’s a book that’s hard to put down because, here’s someone committed to telling the truth, and he’s fighting the censors at every step of the way to get the real story out about what’s happening in Europe. And he’s doing his best, and then eventually he has to escape.

And there are sections of this book, describing his attempts to get out of Germany and rejoin his wife and his infant daughter, that are as exciting as anything I’ve ever read. He was a Midwestern kid who grew up wanting to be a part of history, and that’s what he became, beyond anything he could have imagined. And when you read it, it’s really beyond anything you could imagine.