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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralled!, 6 Nov 2006
By 
R. B. Lee (Cambs, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under The Wire (Paperback)
Being ex-forces, and in my 40's, the daring-do books about the SAS and the Gulf Wars have been high on my agenda. I happened to see 'Under the wire' and thought "I'd give it a go". My opinion - absolutely brilliant! I couldn't put it down. A few years ago people applauded 'Chris Ryan' (or whatever his real name is) for his dramatic 'The one that got away'. I'm sorry Mr Ryan, in the hero stakes you're not in the same league as William Ash and his POW colleagues. These guys are the real un-sung heroes, I had no idea about life behind the wire in WWII apart from what I've seen on television (evidently not that accurate). I'd love to know what became of more of the characters in the book (particularly Jimmy 'Dixie' Deans), but most of all I'd love to meet Bill Ash, shake him by the hand, and know I've met one of the most inspirational characters that ever walked this earth.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Under the Wire, 24 Mar 2005
By 
Jim Sells (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under The Wire (Hardcover)
I've read a lot of autobiographies and the 'I did this, I did that' factor can be pretty tiresome unless you are totally fascinated by the author. The fact is that I quickly forgot that 'Under the Wire' was an autobiography - it is so much more than 'just' a story about a man who becomes a fighter pilot, gets shot down and tries to escape. But it is story that makes this book so amazing: all at once it manages to be incredibly moving, heart-warming, hilarious, disturbing and inspiring - and it seems incredible (and often an injustice) that all this could have happened to one person. To come out the other side of these experiences with the deep love for people that Bill Ash clearly does have, just goes to show what an amazing human being he must be. You might say that he can only blame himself for the scrapes that he got into - he is clearly healthily obsessive with standing up to bullies (from playgrounds in depression hit America to nazi thugs bullwhipping women refugees), and it makes you wish that you had the guts to be by his side doing the same. Above all, I think that this book should give you hope - no matter how bad times are, the kindness of people will always find a way. Eternal thanks to Bill and our forbears who fought for a free world.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 1 Jun 2005
By 
Timothy De Ferrars (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under The Wire (Hardcover)
Texan Bill Ash crossed the border into Canada in 1940 to escape a life of poverty as a jobless hobo. Partly out of principle and partly to get enough to eat, he volunteered for the RAF - an action that cost him his citizenship because the US was staunchly neutral at the time. He came to Europe and saw combat as a Spitfire pilot in the RAF.
Shot down in 1942, he spent the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps where he rubbed shoulders with many of the fifty servicemen who were to be murdered by the Gestapo in the aftermath of the Great Escape. Ash made numerous escape bids of his own, and became so familiar with solitary confinement that he is said by some to be the model for Steve McQueen's "cooler king" character in the film The Great Escape.
This book is another in a crop of memoirs penned by veterans of World War II in their twilight years, but it is exceptional in several ways. Ash is candid about his motives for fighting; he reveals hot-headed fury at those who had started the war, something unusual in a generation of writers who tend to censor the emotional content of their work. Never afraid to reveal his feelings, Ash is always witty and ironic: he has a dry and humorous style, and while this book is thoroughly modern and easy to read, it evokes wartime life as vividly as if it were yesterday.
I recommend this riveting book, which compares favourably with Jeffrey Wellum's recent masterpiece First Light.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, gripping, impossible to put down, 14 April 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Under The Wire (Hardcover)
When I began reading UNDER THE WIRE, I expected a story of heroic "derring-do", recalled with a sort of misty, stiff-upper lipped nostalgia by a Grand Lion in the winter of his remarkable life.
Instead, I got so, so much more.
Bill Ash's life is remarkable by anyone's yardstick. From his earliest childhood in Depression-era Texas, he was a hero, ready and eager to take on any bully. While America watched as Europe fell to a maniacal Hitler, he made a decision to personally take on the biggest bully in modern history.
Remarkable? Brave? Courageous? Yes, all of these adjectives describe the heroic life of Bill Ash.
But his life, and his story -- told so extraordinarily well by Ash and his co-writer, Brendan Foley -- is also funny, human and a lesson in living one's life with heart and a true moral compass.
There is as much Huck Finn and Jack Kerouac in Ash's war stories, as there is John Wayne.
Like all great tales of history, UNDER THE WIRE does more than offer adventure after adventure (and WOW, what adventures Bill had!)
The book offers a sense of the times, a sense of the politics, insights into the dangers, the choices, the cat-and-mouse existence of a Prisoner of War.
Bill played cat-and-mouse with the Third Reich, and did it brilliantly.
And I have never read an adventure story with so much genuine humor!
UNDER THE WIRE is a glorious tribute to the sort of person we long for, but never really see anymore: a true hero.
And it's a great, entertaining read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A blockbuster of Escapology, 24 Jun 2007
By 
Joanne S. Isaak "essentials shopper" (Clark, SD, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under The Wire (Paperback)
Breathtaking! One of the most exciting books I have read in the last decade. As an escapologist, Mr. Ash, a Texan who gave up his citizenship to join the RCAF in WWII, repeatedly put his life on the line for the cause to which he was committed. Stalag Luft III, made famous by the movie The Great Escape, was one of the many POW camps from which he escaped. Ash was, in fact, in the cooler at Luft III when the great escape actually took place. Riveting, exciting, and spellbinding! Mr. Ash lived it, Mr. Foley brought it alive. Don't begin reading late in the day or you'll lose a whole night of sleep.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A World War 2 Shawshank Redemption, 20 Sep 2011
This review is from: Under The Wire (Paperback)
I just wanted to jot down a few words about Under the Wire. William Ash's personality shines through the words and paragraphs of this superbly written book like a supernova and by the final page you are left not only wanting to know more about this genuine hero (who they based Steve McQueen's character on in The Great Escape) but also a burning desire to meet this bloke and have a pint with him. Self-deprecating, laid-back and a little bit insane here is a bonafide adventure-monger who stood up to the Nazis and would not be bowed by the most extreme circumstances most of us could barely imagine.
If you like Shawshank Redemption, Touching the Void, Of Mice and Men, The Battle of Britain and Stalag 17 then here's a book that will not only grip you in its tightly woven fist but importantly leave you cheering by the time you turn the final page.

PS Why haven't they made this into a movie?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the top five escapes books ever written!, 20 July 2010
By 
Anon. (Tichigan, WI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under The Wire (Paperback)
As a military historian and author, I make it a point to search out good books with entertaining subject matter and well executed writing when seeking reading matter for my own personal entertainment. I am also an incurable escaper from way back, and have never been able to turn down a good escape book. And in `Under the Wire', by Bill `Tex' Ash and Brendan Foley, I have been most fortunate to have found all these elements in one fantastic volume to add to my collection!

It has been a number of years since I have come across such a wonderful story that has held my attention from start to finish in the way as `Under the Wire' has. Remember the first time you read Brickhill's classic `The Great Escape'? Remember that thrill... that engaging excitement that took you into the world of escapes and improvisation? Remember how it felt to be underground, scraping away the earth ahead of you as the words transported you to Germany or Poland during the war? Remember the danger, the adventure, the stark reality? Well, here it is again - all the realism, danger, excitement and, yes, thrill of all those experiences. And in William `Tex' Ash we also have a hero who stands the test of time, equal to any who ever stood behind the wire and longed to be free once again. Told without any maudlin overtures, but instead in plain and straight forward terms in a truly man to man style reminiscent of those of `The Greatest Generation', Ash and Foley present the story of a gentleman truly a breed apart, and like nearly all of that generation, completely unaware of it. His exploits are remarkable... hard to imagine... and yet they are simply the life of a man who will tell you he merely "did his part".

However, it becomes clear with each page that he did much more than that, and that the extra mile was simply part of his generational makeup. It is at once not only a struggle of Allies against the Axis, but the deeper we get into the book we find the struggle of the man against the bondage, as the political titles fall away and the true meaning of freedom is driven home in the simple, yet meaningful phrases that tell the story. Characters and events out of the past spring to life, and long before it is over the reader finds himself thoroughly engaged. I simply couldn't put it down once I had gotten into the book, and it has found itself a spot on my top shelf alongside the favorites I have revered for years and has been read more than once - and will be read yet again; I guarantee it.

This is more than just a book of one man's story - this is the story of one man's adventure, and I am glad that Foley and Ash shared it with us. DON'T pass this one up - you WILL be sorry if you do!

Robert J. Laplander
Author and Historian
American Expeditionary Foundation Publishing
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humbly I give thanks, 12 Nov 2008
By 
Brett (South Wales) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under The Wire (Paperback)
Hi !

I bought this book at Cardiff airport on my way on holiday and for the full duration of the holiday I was totally and utterly gripped by such a fascinating read.

I am not the best person at expressing what I want to say in text but I felt compelled to write something even though I know that I can never do William Ash or Brendan Foley (Author) enough justice.

The book brought out so many emotions in me...I laughed, I seriously shed a tear and I ended the book feeling so totally inadequate and humbled by one man.

I know that there were many men / women who sacrificed during the war but William truly is a hero. I hope that William feels proud to see that his memory will live on via the book and to know that I will re-read it frequently. (I've gone on about it so much that my wife is reading it now!)

I thank you both sincerely for a truly fascinating read and urge any one to read it.

A sincere best wishes to you both and thank you

Brett
(South Wales)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Under The Wire, 1 May 2007
By 
A. R. Hancock - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Under The Wire (Paperback)
I don't get the time to read books very often but, having been given this one, I took it up on holiday and couldn't put it down - albeit this was a different reading experience to any that I had had before. The story made me appreciate just how much has been given by some many people like Bill Ash in order for us to enjoy the life we all have today. Not only is this account a true story but also a wonderful read, full of exciting episodes. Bill is an incredible character and I would like to thank him personally for the bravery and resolve he displayed then and which are his legacy to us all today.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo Misters Ash and Foley!!, 11 May 2005
This review is from: Under The Wire (Hardcover)
I have Misters Ash and Foley to blame for 2 nights of lost sleep reading this riveting tale. I simply could not put it down. This is an amazing story of a true hero. I admire Mr. Ash's heroism as well as his humor and humility and ultimately his humanity. As an American Jew of the post-war generation I not only owe Mr. Ash a debt of gratitude, but my very life as well for defying an enemy bent on my (among others') destruction.
Bravo also to Mr. Foley whose beautiful crafting of this story lets Mr. Ash's voice ring through. He builds the tension and excitement of this harrowing story in a way that is nothing short of brilliant.
I highly recommend this book!!
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Under The Wire
Under The Wire by Brendan Foley (Paperback - 5 Jun 2006)
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