I knew bombers David Fine and Leo Burt as fellow members of The Daily Cardinal staff and figuratively crossed swords with them at editorial meetings over the strident content of staff-written editorials.
Bates manages to weave together an number of parallel narratives so the book reads like a novel. To do this he gives colorful, sometimes cruel physical descriptions of his characters, reconstructs conversations that took place years earlier, and describes the thoughts of characters, including Leo Burt, who has never been found and whom, we must presume, Bates never had the privilege of interviewing. But Bates understands his role as journalist and historian and with the above reservations, I believe he performed it well.
He documents the role of the Army Math Research Center in advancing the military capabilities of the U.S., and does so with a lucidity and economy of words that I never found in the exposes of Jim Rowen, who investigated the AMRC in the late '60's and helped inspire the bombing.
Rads traces the influence of three well-known UW history professors, including the Marxist Harvey Goldberg. Their conflicting views illustrate the diversity of thinking about anti-war tactics and revolution.
It is interesting to note in this book how many radicals turned to violence after being beaten by police at anti-war demonstrations.
At last this book is the story of Karl Armstrong. The narrative reveals Karl as confused, ambivalent and in every instance incompetent as an anti-war terrorist, fugitive and defendent, whose achievements were made possible by the countervailing bungling and in-fighting of the authorities. I can at the drop of a hat regale people with hilarious episodes of Karl's stupid criminal tricks, but of course that shortchanges the gravitas and the tragedy of this major episode in 1960s American radicalism.
I do not fault this book for proposing that abuse by his father laid the psychological groundwork for Karl's venture into violence. Bates did not weave this interpretation into his narrative, and I would be disappointed if an author did not offer his interpretation of events after devoting years to their study. The result is that Karl comes across as a sympathetic character, and his anti-war motivations are not discredited.