“At First Light” celebrates 2nd anniversary with the best review of all

April 19, 1944 — Adopted kids at Anzio
April 19, 2024
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“At First Light” celebrates 2nd anniversary with the best review of all

At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse was released two years ago yesterday, on April 19, 2022. It has just recently been released in a soft cover edition. Below is not only the best review the book has received to date, it’s one of the best reviews for any of the 41 books I’ve written.

Book Review:

‘At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse’

By Dustin Bass

Walt Larimore and Mike Yorkey have written a masterful retelling of a heroic life. “At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse” is a full story. I mean this is in the complimentary sense that it is a story of a courageous life such as one would typically find in fiction. Indeed, there were several times when I had to reconfirm whether the story was fictionalized, or cleverly and overly embellished. But the authors of the book set the record in stone at the end with a hefty collection of news clippings, photographs, and letters, along with a thorough bibliography.

The story is about Philip Larimore, the primary author’s father, who turned out to be (even to the surprise of his son) one of the most decorated infantrymen of World War II. As the author mentions in the epilogue, his father never talked about the war, which led him to wonder whether his father had seen any action at all. Indeed he had! And earned three Purple Hearts (he refused three others), two Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Creative License for a Working Narrative

Larimore and Yorkey prove their literary mettle by creating believable dialogue throughout the book, whether during battle scenes or romantic sequences. In the introductory “Note to the Reader,” Larimore admits to using creative license while compiling Philip’s life into a working narrative. I was concerned that the writing may suffer, as writers often try so hard to make a true story believable or an actual character relatable that they miss the mark. But as I made my way through, chapter after chapter, I found that the marks were consistently hit.

For a biography, there are times where the violence of the fighting is embellished, like when Phil shoots a German in battle; but that isn’t to say the retelling of the situational carnage is not accurate.

Philip Larimore and Tuckern. The horse was later sold at auction by the Army, and the auctioneers would not allow bids from anyone but Larimore.

Love, War, and Horses

“At First Light” follows the young soldier as he rises through the ranks by using his wit, resolve, courage, and tactical understanding. As he marches through Europe with the 3rd Infantry Division, the reader marches on with him, meeting various officers, fighting countless battles, enduring incredible hardships, and writing and reading letters to and from home. Concerning the latter, the thematic element of love during wartime is a literary device used exceptionally well in this book. The timing and usage of specific love letters creates an air of suspense (a suspense obviously different from the battles), and these letters prove both uplifting and wounding.

Philip’s love of and experience with horses play a pivotal role in the book. For this reason, among others, “At First Light” seems like historical fiction. The pieces of the story, both tragic and triumphant, fall seamlessly into place, but this is less a credit to good writing (though that credit is well-deserved and given) than it is to good research.

The authors tie in several themes―love, war, and horses―throughout the book. They introduce Philip’s love of horses early on, which remains a connecting point throughout. The fact that horses play a significant role makes this nonfiction war story different from so many others. And that role is significant for several reasons. Not only is it a theme woven throughout, but it also gives the reader a glimpse into the heart and personality of the book’s subject.

A Finely Tuned Read

As aforementioned, “At First Light” is a finely written and well-researched book. Larimore’s tireless efforts over the course of years have culminated into a beautifully told story.

Larimore notes that his research enabled him to bridge gaps in his father’s story, while at the same time confirming the stories he had been told and the topics he had read in his father’s letters. One may be able to bend reality in dialogue or emotional reactions, but you can’t bend the facts, especially when it deals with wartime actions or engaging with the country’s highest authorities, including Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Harry S. Truman (both of whom Philip spent time with).

“At First Light” is an inspiring read, not just because it is about a soldier who fought bravely but also because of the subject’s ability to persevere through loss (love and comrades), injuries (he was wounded six times and lost his leg a month before the war ended in Europe), and rejection (the Army Retiring Board’s refusal to maintain a disabled soldier on staff).

It is a fast read and a full story that honors the men and women who served their country and each other. Larimore and Yorkey’s book is highly recommended for more reasons than one can pinpoint in a book review.


The book has received better reviews and won more awards than any book I’ve written, including :

  • The Non-fiction “Book of the Year,” The Golden Author Award, and the “Book of the Year” in the Genre “True Stories, by the International Page Turner Awards (London);

  • A 2022 Silver Medalist for “Book of the Year” by the Military Writers Society of America;”

  • Was a 2023 featured book by The National WWII Museum in New Orleans; and
  • Was a “Featured Book” at the Louisiana Book Festival in October 2023.

I’m delighted that the book has received over 500 5-star ratings on Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and Target. If you’d like to leave a star rating at these sites, send me an email and I’ll send you the links and some posting tips. Thanks for considering this!

Also, as a result of the book,

  1. On August 1, 2023, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division inducted Dad (posthumously) into their Marne Hall of Fame at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Dad was inducted along with General Marshall, General Eisenhower, General Ridgeway, and his two commanders, General O’Daniel, and General McGarr. What a wonderful honor. My brothers and I were able to attend together along with our spouses and kids.
  2. In addition, General David Petraeus has nominated Dad to the Army’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) Hall of Fame at Fort Moore (formerly Fort Benning), Georgia. That induction is in early May, 2025, should Dad be chosen.
  3. Finally, the LSU Military Museum in the LSU Memorial Tower opened an exhibit honoring Dad in October 2023. It will be there for at least a year and the museum entrance is free. You might enjoy going there to see it. Be sure to ask for the museum director, James Gregory, if you go. He’d love to hear any “Dad” stories you’d want to share with him.

Last, but not least, at my website, www.drwalt.com, I started a new blog series on January 1, 2023: “Where Was Phil Larimore 80 Years Ago Today.” If you subscribe to the blog (it’s free), you can follow more details and history about his WWII exploits that were in the book. I’ll also be putting in all of the letters he wrote home from January 1944 through at least the end of 1945.

Stay tuned for my blog tomorrow. I’ll be sharing the very best review ever for the book.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2024.

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