Reviews | Charles Ota Heller

Reviews for Ready, Fire, Aim!

“Terror was a fact of life in author Charles Ota Heller’s early life under Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia during World War II. Hidden by friendly neighbors, he avoided the fate of many family members during the Holocaust, but the impact of that childhood, brilliantly told in his first book, Prague: My Long Journey Home, lingered even after his family’s escape from communism and emigration to the United States.

Readers of Heller’s Ready, Fire, Aim, are skillfully introduced to those childhood lessons in terror in Chapters One and Two. Of an interminable investigation of his company, CADCOM, by the FBI (on a trumped-up charge), he writes, “I didn’t survive the Nazis and escape from the Communists so that I would be subjected to arbitrary punishment by faceless bureaucrats in America.”  The terror continues to surface over the years of business and academic challenges and triumphs.

The sub-title of Charles Ota Heller’s fascinating book— An Immigrant’s Tales of Entrepreneurial Terror—says a lot.  The words Immigrant and Entrepreneur are highly significant to the author. As a 13-year-old immigrant arriving in the U.S. in 1949, Heller spoke two words of English, ‘Sank you.’ Before disembarking, his father impressed on him two things. (1) ‘Forget everything that happened to you on the other side of the Atlantic.’ (2) ‘Start learning to speak fluent English; a year from now, I want you to speak without an accent.’

Heller took his father’s advice to heart. In this book, as in his life, Heller returns often to the impact his father’s example and advice on many topics. The immigrant thread, easy to lose sight of as these ‘tales’ of business and academic successes and challenges unfold, is skillfully woven through the book.

‘Mr. Entrepreneurship,’ Heller’s media-created name, is referenced near the end of the book. It sums up Heller’s achievements, not only in starting and running businesses, but in using his knowledge and experience to guide others. Heller’s tales from the trenches of the business world seamlessly incorporate his personal life and feelings. His signature style, clear, self-deprecating, compelling reveals much. His passionate devotion to family and respect for family history shines through. In a satisfying development, his father’s admonition ‘to forget’ is revisited by Heller later in life. He powerfully documents the experience of allowing long-ignored memories to flood in.

Heller weaves a compelling tapestry stretching from Europe in the last century to the United States, and back to Europe again.  I recommend this book to all readers for its appealing narrator, meaningful content, and its sensibility—an un-selfpitying, learn-from-my-mistakes attitude. I recommend most of all as a portrait of an American Dreamer.”

— Susan Moger, author of Of Better Blood