Lawrence Cerri (1923-1987) wrote a number of war novels in the 70s and early 80s under the pseudonym Lawrence Cortesi. As a veteran himself, serving in the South Pacific Theater during WWII, Cerri's literary work is somewhat technical, constructing timelines, battle plans and scenarios within the detailed ranks and divisions that participated. While fictional, this New York author had a real expertise of the subject matter, relying on veterans and families' accounts to document his novels. My first experience with Cerri is the 1979 Belmont Tower paperback “Rogue Sergeant”.
The protagonist is battle-ridden Private Mike Renna, a three-year veteran of WWII. Distinguishing himself with a Purple Heart, the Silver Star and a Bronze Star, Renna was promoted three times to Sergeant. Each time Renna went AWOL, refused orders or generally just refused to conform to military hierarchy. From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, Cerri's novel is really just a five-month account of Renna's service.
“Rogue Sergeant” isn't the rousing men's WWII adventure novel I was expecting. Most of the action takes place during the book's last 20-pages. If this was a lightweight, early Belmont novel at 154-pages, the author may have effectively gained a foothold. But at 220-pages, this is a slow-burn chore as Renna gains an injury and recuperates repeatedly through the plodding narrative. Thankfully, the only saving grace is a romance tale buried in the counterfeit bravado – not a real attribute here at Paperback Warrior.
Other than this novel, I have one other Cerri paperback, 1978's “Escape from Mindanao”. Based on the quality of “Rogue Sergeant”, I'm in no hurry to read it.
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