Life as a paratrooper in the peacetime 1950s
Hilarious, irreverent, irrelevant, racist, profane, vulgar, tragic: all describe the lives of teenage paratroopers in William Singley's Hook Up, a novel about of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in the late 1950s.
For those who served at Fort Bragg during that spit-polish era between wars, it is a nostalgic read as one remembers similar characters as those skillfully portrayed by the author. He was there, experiencing the agony of jump school and the thrill of leaping from a high-performance airplane, hoping that a canopy pops open to carry him safely to the ground.
Most of the young men were draftees in those days, yet volunteered for the Army's elite only to count the days until their enlistment's end. There's Patterson, the kid from New Jersey who emerges as the lead character, struggling with maturity and proud to be a private first class. Margolin, the ROTC second lieutenant, is intimidated by everyone older and questions his sanity for joining the paratroopers, but somehow excels. Martin, the marionette first sergeant, treats his company as a private fiefdom. The cast goes on. Some you love, some you hate, some you admire, some you wonder how they ever got in the Army, much less the Airborne.
The dark side of Hook Up illustrates blatant racism in an Army barely ten years into desegregation, alcoholism, drugs, and disregard for individual responsibility.
Barracks humor that permeates the book may not be for everyone, especially uptight sergeants major who bristle when anyone tarnishes the image of their beloved 82nd or mothers horrified their precious son was exposed to such antics (but, God forbid, never participated). They too will chuckle when reminded of life back in the day of the OD uniform, spit-shined boots, and raucous bar hopping along Hay Street and Combat Alley in downtown Fayetteville... before the city cleaned up its image.
Singley describes his book as a historical novel. But for those who were there, the situations and attitudes happened. I recommend Hook Up. All the Way!
Reviewer: Joe Epley
It was an Army between wars. Korea was a fresh memory for some soldiers and Vietnam was only an insignificant blip on the military radar. It was an Army in which reluctant draftees mixed with aimless volunteers looking for adventure and ways to test or confirm their manhood. In those days and in that Army, “hook-up” was a jump command for paratroopers rather than a romantic liaison.
Hook Up: A Novel of Fort Bragg takes us inside that Army and introduces fascinating characters who are struggling to become paratroopers and survive in a starch-stiff U.S. Army airborne regiment based at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Side-by-side in that demanding trek are officers like Lieutenant Sy Margolin, a potential nebbish who instead becomes a strong leader, and enlisted men like Privates Willie Patterson and Scott Breslin, who challenge authority every step of the way to winning their paratrooper wings.
In Hook Up we get a close-up, very personal, and fascinating look at an Army that no longer exists—an Army populated with soldiers who have either learned hard life lessons or are about to learn them in a crucible where failure can land you in the stockade or in the morgue. From the rigors of barracks life to the raucous off-post adventures to the thrilling jump sequences, Hook Up is a fast-paced, thrilling story of military excellence pursued and human innocence lost.