NEMESIS: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45, by Max Hastings. HarperPress, 2007, £25, 699 pp., (cloth). (U.S. release is titled RETRIBUTION: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45. Knopf, 2008, $35)

At Frankfurt airport, the insecurity police screening hand baggage discovered something in my bag that alarmed them. Gingerly they opened the bag, swabbed the object with bomb-sensitive tape and took the tape to a detector machine. The machine gave the all-clear. It was not a bomb. It was only a book.

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