QL 4; by James Garrison

MWSA Review
This is the fictionalized story of the author’s year as a drafted MP in Vietnam during the war.  The story moves forward in a vaguely chronological pace, but the chapters focus on one individual at a time whose name is in the chapter title.  Everything that went wrong on bases throughout Vietnam is described as all happening at this small base, and the young MP observes hints of problems while being unsure who can be trusted among his superiors. He comes to realize that the illegal activities involve people in town and in the ranks of their counterparts in the South Vietnamese Army, and he questions the deaths of those who may have become aware of the problems.  His duties range from mind-numbing gate guard duties to patrols in town that can be dangerous to crowd-control during a riot.  Underlying the story of relationships during the Vietnam war are the cultural tensions between some Americans and the native Vietnamese as well as between black and white American soldiers and between the more and less educated soldiers.

While the extreme foul language is off-putting at first, the reader is drawn into the story as it develops.  The main character, SPF4 Bell, has completed one year of law school before being drafted.  Not only is he unhappy to be in Vietnam because he does not support the war, but the regular army members (referred to as lifers by Bell) are not impressed with college boys who do not know how to fight or police.  Bell and his fellow “new guys” have had only 8 weeks of training and arrive to find that they will learn their new duties “on the job” while patrolling with experienced army regulars who may or may not be trustworthy.  Some of these senior soldiers are biased against the native people, blacks, Jews, and the more educated.  Some are trigger happy – especially when drunk, which is frequently.  Bell becomes more and more curious and, of course, gets into more and more trouble while sometimes being surprised about the support he receives.
Reviewed by Nancy Kauffman, MWSA Reviewer 

Author's Synopsis:
PFC Justin Bell, a newly-minted U.S. Army MP, quickly discovers that there’s more than a war going on along QL 4, the main road from Saigon into the Mekong Delta. It’s old-fashioned crime and corruption. He doesn’t want to get involved, just serve out his time and go home, but life for an American MP in Vietnam in 1970 doesn’t work that way. QL 4 leads Bell deep into a swamp of deception, mayhem, and death that insinuates its way both into towns the MPs patrol each day and into the old French villa where they live.

Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 337