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Nuremberg: The Reckoning


Nuremberg: The Reckoning

Historical novels generally follow a simple recipe. A major event
in history forms the foundation for a fictional recounting that
mixes real characters with fictional counterparts. History and
fiction coincide in a manner that allows the reader to consider
real events in a different context than historical narration. The
list of novels and great authors that have followed this tried and
true pattern is a lengthy one. NUREMBERG: The Reckoning by William
F. Buckley Jr. follows the general recipe for the historical novel.
Unfortunately, although the ingredients are all in the bowl, chef
Buckley has not brought forth a successful entrée.

William F. Buckley Jr. is a master of both the spoken and written
word. A well-recognized, conservative political philosopher, he
often appears on public television as a participant in major
debates on significant public policy issues. As an author he has
extended himself beyond politics in a wide range of fictional
efforts that defy categorization. He has authored 15 novels and
over 25 additional works of nonfiction. NUREMBERG, as its title
implies, is a story centered on the post World War II war crimes
tribunal. The historical cast of real life characters is present.
Herman Goering, Albert Speer, and Justice Robert Jackson all make
appearances in the novel. When those participants are present the
story does have some spark. Sadly, those moments are simply too

The story begins and ends in Germany and covers the historical
epoch from pre- to post-World War II. In 1939, 13-year-old
Sebastian Reinhard and his family are scheduled to leave Germany to
emigrate to the United States. Axel Reinhard, Sebastian's father,
is denied permission by the Gestapo to leave the country. He
promises his family that his detention will be brief and he will
join them shortly in their new homeland. His family never hears
from him again.

Sebastian, now living in America, becomes a valuable commodity in
the war effort. Fluent in German, he is assigned to the Nuremberg
trials as a translator and interrogator. His return to the homeland
of his youth allows him to accomplish several tasks --- most
importantly, an investigation into the fate of his father in Nazi
Germany. Sebastian becomes Buckley's eyes and mind at the Nuremberg
trials. From the character's viewpoint, as expressed by the author,
the reader confronts issues raised by both the inhumanity of the
Nazi government and the concepts of justice established by the
victorious allies at the Nuremberg trials. The historical
significance of these issues has not been diminished by the passage
of 50 years. Many of these same concerns are once again being
discussed and debated in a world struggling to confront the evils
of terrorism.

NUREMBERG: The Reckoning is not William Buckley's finest
accomplishment, but there are some entertaining and thought
provoking areas in the book. One of the interesting aspects of
historical novels often is the philosophy that the author brings to
the era. Buckley's thoughts and views about the war crimes trials
as well as those of the participants, as expressed by his
characters, make for interesting reading. Unfortunately, those
scenes and those characters cannot carry this book. Those readers
who enjoy Bill Buckley or who are students of the Nuremberg Trials
will enjoy this book. Other readers will have difficulty navigating
its slowly developed story.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 22, 2011

Nuremberg: The Reckoning
by William F. Buckley

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 015602747X
  • ISBN-13: 9780156027472