‘The Guns at Last Light,’’ the concluding volume of Rick Atkinson’s magnificent Liberation Trilogy, is conquering the bestseller lists and will surely be the most lauded World War II title of the year. But “The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II,’’ Charles Glass’s powerful and often startling new book, should not be overlooked. One of the best works of nonfiction I’ve reviewed this year, it offers a provokingly fresh angle on this most studied of conflicts.
Where Atkinson works on vast canvas, Glass, a former ABC Mideast correspondent, zeroes in on the stories of three infantrymen, two American and one British, who quit the ranks during their respective tours of duties as they fought in North Africa, Italy, and France. Fear, exhaustion, or outright disgust were the primary motivations for two; greed helped drive the third.