Facing the Dragon; by Philip Derrick

MWSA Review:
A young boy witnesses the unthinkable, and in pursuit of revenge becomes a man.

Facing the Dragon, by Philip Derrick is one of the best Vietnam war era thrillers I've had the pleasure of reviewing. From page one, Derrick skillfully led me down his visionary path of a boy coming of age in a war zone. Not only were his characters in Facing the Dragon believable, they came to life for me. I was completely drawn in and held captive until the very end.

Derrick had me catching my breath, squirming in my seat, and shouting at my Kindle. Fear, frustration, helplessness, sorrow—I was emotionally embroiled with each page turn. Derrick is a master storyteller; Facing the Dragon satiates the categories of both mystery and thriller. I look forward to reading Philip Derrick's next book.

Reviewed by Sandra Miller Linhart, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
A hitchhiker. A cavern. A series of murders over 25 years.
January 1970 - Twelve days ago fifteen year old Jim Peterson's biggest worry was failing his Geometry class. Now he is Vietnam impersonating a U.S. Army paratrooper. He's there to solve a mystery and make up for his cowardice.

Can someone without military training survive in a combat zone?
Will he find the answers that he seeks?
Or will someone see him as a loose end that needs to fixed?

A compelling page turner, FACING THE DRAGON is a coming-of-age story, wrapped in an historical mystery, and played out in a exotic land at war. Join the adventure.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9991202-0-0
Book Format(s): ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages:

Doing a 180 at 60; by John Takacs

MWSA Review

Sixty is the youth of old age...

"Doing an 180 at 60" is a short motivational book written in a breezy, casual style often sprinkled with humor and sage advice. It is written to help us older folks get more enjoyment as we enter the senior citizen phase of life. 

Finding himself becoming sedimentary at age 60, the author made a U-turn in his life style and set an ambitious goal to accomplish 60 adventures or experiences that he had done in his younger years. This included modifying his diet and engaging in disciplined physical training programs that enabled him to compete in Ironman and triathlon contests, scuba diving, motorcycle riding, skydiving and other less strenuous outdoor activities.  

The author also recognizes not everyone wants to participate in demanding triathlon or Ironman events, but he does encourage his readers to get involved in outdoor activities.

Knowing first-hand how it can be done, John Takacs used his personal experiences in writing "Doing a 180 at 60." Through entertaining and often funny anecdotes, he provides inspirational advice on 60 being a renewal of life, not the start of life's ending. 

Review by Joe Epley, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
How many times have you heard that getting old was a bitch? What if it didn't have to be? What if getting older actually meant getting better?

Author John Takacs takes us on an adventure and shares his journey of transformation from overweight out of shape author to world-class Ironman triathlete in his age group. Along the way he shows us that many of the adages of old age are faulty. Join him in taking steps to:

Change your diet and change your health
Start moving and exercising for a more complete life
Actually go back to doing the things you once loved and enjoyed

You can do a You-turn, but only if you start the process now. If you want a better quality of life at any age, this is the book for you.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-943267-21-7
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): How to/Business, Anthology
Review Genre: Nonfiction—How to/Business
Number of Pages: 157

The Drifter; by Michael D Mullins

MWSA Review

Russell Pearce, “The Drifter,” wants a major change in his life. He has been a hired assassin, dispatching the enemies of the U.S. all over the world, but he is tired of living that life. He wants to drift, to disappear for a while in the mid-South, mostly Tennessee, to see the countryside, and to think.

As he embarks on his leave of absence from federal service, he keeps a low profile, staying in campgrounds and cabins, paying cash for almost everything, listening to nature, awakening with the sun, and making friends along in the way among barkeeps and restaurant owners. The author makes it very clear Russell enjoys home-cooked meals, and although Russell desires solitude, it seems that trouble finds him. He has an innate desire to help those who need it, and it results in several robberies which he foils, helping a shunned old woman, and setting a homeless Vietnam veteran on the right track to recovery. And that’s just the small stuff, some of which required him to use his considerable assassin skills. 

In the area where he has decided to live for a little while, he recognizes an Islamist terrorist who slipped his grasp in the Middle East. Azim  is now setting up a terror cell in the very town where Russell has met a woman, Jill. After Russell prevents many people in a church group from getting killed as a result of the actions of this terrorist, he disappears for a while, but promises to return to Jill. 

His attempt to become “invisible” involves his using multiple identities, having his truck repainted, and having his cell phone fool anyone who could track it. He meets or reconnects with helpful people throughout the book. But he is tired of this life in intrigue and makes a decision that will allow him to explore his softer side and lead him to an adventure in relationships.

Russell Pearce is a likeable character, if a little unbelievable. But the reader goes along with him and enjoys his exploits, hoping he will find whatever it is, besides peace, he is looking for in life on his leave of absence from the CIA. Will he ultimately change his life forever, and settle down? Or his way of living too set for him to change?  Read this enjoyable tale to find out the answer.

Reviewed by Patricia Walkow, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis
The Drifter is a story about a Vietnam veteran and career Central Intelligence Agency operative who had one assignment too many. It made him question his heart and soul. Did have any of either left? Were they hardened beyond redemption? Richard Pearce loves America and serving its people, wherever that took him, whatever he had to do, but fears he lost his humanity as his expertise became legend. Pearce begins a journey to find the answers to his questions, to quell his introspection. Along the way he finds adventure and discovers that his instinct to protect people is as automatic as breathing. His travel takes him into the heartland of his country where he hopes to find a way to fend off his demons. Somewhere in the magnificent mountains of the south he hopes to find peace in himself and perhaps even some way to forgive himself for a life defined by violence

ISBN: 194326712X
Genre: Thriller
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Pages: 224

After Bloody Shiloh; by Larry Murley

MWSA Review
Civil War novels tend to share certain common features. The majority tell the story of the war from the winning side. But those books with a Northern focus are more likely to be filled with tales of great battles won, brilliant generals leading the way, and patriotic citizens at home bravely carrying on in the face of dangers. Those with Confederate sympathies are more likely to be romantic in nature, with bell-skirted damsels waiting sadly but bravely for their heroes to come home, “bloody but unbowed.” Narrators and main characters tend to be men with relatively high military rank, so they are in a position to understand and explain the battles taking place. And the action usually takes place in easily recognizable places like Gettysburg or Appomattox.
Josh’s story features none of those characteristics. His letters from the western front come from places like Pumpkinville, Georgia, or Tullahoma, Tennessee. His comrades are still his good old friends from back home. And his main concerns include the sole of his boot that keeps falling off and the cookies he failed to share with his mates. This story is simple fare, too—the war through the eyes of an uneducated and inexperienced farm boy thrust into a cataclysm he cannot hope to understand. The story is therefore limited but also fascinating in the manner of a trainwreck one cannot help but watch.
Civil War buffs will learn nothing new here, but young readers who need characters with whom they can identify may enjoy the book.
Reviewed by Carolyn Schriber, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Young Josh leaves his home in the hills of northern Mississippi to go and join the Confederate Army at Corinth, Mississippi in April, 1862 to help defend his home form the damn Yankees. Only he discovers that the war will test everything he believes in. As the months progress, he describes camp life and the battles of the western theater of the Civil War through letters home to his parents and family back home in Mississippi.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9960148-8-5, 0-9960148-8-8 paper version
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 207

In the Company of Decent Men; by Andy Horne

MWSA Review

For combat veterans, wartime is more than just memories. In author Andy Horne’s book, In the Company of Decent Men, Bill Boston has fought his personal demons and survived. When revisiting the old family where he hid from society after the war, he remembers a particularly bad battle in 1969.

David Armstead, another veteran who now serves as Assistant Secretary of State for International Security Affairs, comes face-to-face with his memories when a former North Vietnamese enemy, Phan Tran Nguyen, reveals secret information dating back to that same battle in 1969.

Edward Stroud, an officer in the battle, is currently a US Senator and has set his sights on the upcoming presidential election.

The three menserved together on Swift Boats, patrolling the rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta.Now, many years later, their fortunes are again intertwined as the past is brought to light.

In the first chapters of the book, the author sets the scene for a political thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Most readers love stories where good triumphs over evil and In the Company of Decent Menmost certainly delivers.

Review by Pat Avery, MWSA Reviewer


Author's Synopsis:
In the Company of Decent Men is a political action thriller with its share of true-to-life heroes; these are not superheroes or darkly flawed stick figures of extraordinarily violent and fantastic behavior. They are, instead, the good, decent and ordinary men and women always preponderant elements in the high drama of life, especially when compared to publicly adored heroes, deserved or not.

First presented, is a retrospective on a particular brown water raid in a hostile canal complex of Vietnam's Mekong Delta that ends in disaster. More than three decades later, perceptions and known facts are re-examined. With the backdrop of pending selection of candidates for U.S. President, clarity emerges from these distant shadows.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-945507-16-8
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 380

A Time For War; by Ronald Wheatley

MWSA Review
This is a collection of newspaper columns written for a local paper which captures the stories of veterans who have some connection to Scituate, Massachusetts.  The book is organized chronologically by conflict, dating back to the Revolutionary War through the recent war in Afghanistan.  Only World War I is missing. 

The author’s ancestor, who was born in 1765, represents that earliest war where he often served as a substitute for others.  Because this Wheatley lost his discharge papers, he had to wait until age 80 before he was finally granted a pension for his service.

The Civil War is represented by three letters from one of three brothers who was involved with the Siege of Petersburg, which lasted from June 9, 1864 until March 25, 1865.  All three letters were written in the summer of 1864.

The longest section is represented by World War II veterans.  The author recognized that veterans’ stories were being lost and were worth recording.  His stated goal is to “provide some insight into not only the veteran’s service but also the times when the veteran chose to serve.”  (page xii)
Reviewed by Nancy Kauffman, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
"This work, fashioned over 20 years, is a marvelous testament to the diversity of those who have participated in American conflicts and of their many and sundry expressions of patriotism...a valuable historical record of martial valor that’s well-researched, intelligently organized, and lovingly offered. An engaging journalistic account of American military and civilian service during wartime."
—Kirkus Reviews

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-55571-814-5
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 370

June 17, 1967 - Battle of Xom Bo II; by David Hearne

MWSA Review
I am always amazed by the courage and ability to do one’s job under the greatest duress without thought for their own lives, be severely wounded and yet still function to protect the lives of fellow warriors. Mr. Hearne’s book presents a vivid description of kids 18, 19, 20 years old doing just that. His descriptions of the ferocious battle against one of the legendary North Vietnamese battalions is real, and even after 50 years removed from the war, touched me very deeply. I had to stop reading many times as it began to bring back my own memories of that horrible war. But, I’m so glad to have read it.

Mr. Hearne’s book is an attempt to honor his fellow warriors, both those who survived and those who did not. I applaud him for his determination in putting together what must have been a personally difficult undertaking to bring back the names, backgrounds, and search for what happened to those who survived after the war. So many of the after-war stories were very familiar, and all one needs to do to see them is sit outside a VA Hospital and chat with those who experienced it.

I sincerely hope Mr. Hearne’s book is read by every member of the families whose brother, husband, or son participated in the Battle to have an appreciation of the courage of such young men who should have been playing baseball or football or going to college, yet found themselves in a furious battle for their lives, doing things just a year before they could never have imagined. Be proud of them, whatever you think about the war aside, these were our best and they proved it on the battlefield. Read the descriptions of the sounds of war, the bullets hitting, rocket propelled grenades blowing up around you, the whistles and screams the enemy utilized to unnerve these kids, and imagine yourself in such a circumstance if you can.

When reading Mr. Hearne’s book, we should also be proud of the leaders of these men, the ones willing to stand with them in the heat of the battle and provide such calm leadership. I believe Mr. Hearne has done an excellent job in honoring those who participated in the Battle of Xom Bo II, including himself. He has truly reached out in the form of a book to carry the message forward for those who cannot, and for that reason, I respect him highly.

I flew 127 combat missions in Vietnam, and was close in over many of these battles, and I could never imagine what the guys on the ground were going through. Now I know. Thank you, Mr. Hearne and God Bless you and those you served with.
Review by Danny Johnson, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
The true story of the battle of Xom Bo II that was fought on June 17, 1967. It was a battle that pitted less than five hundred 1st Infantry Division soldiers against 800 to 2000 Viet Cong from the 271st Regiment. The bloody clash took the lives of 39 Americans and seriously wounded 150 more. It is the minute by minute story of what happened that day in the steamy jungle and the story of the men who fought so valiantly to survive the ambush. It is the story of the loved ones left behind and the wounded who struggled to become whole again. It's a story that is the result of talking to many of the survivors of the battle and the wives, brothers, sisters, or friends of those who were there when over 8000 artillery rounds rained down around LZ X-Ray to dislodge the entrenched Viet Cong. June 17, 1967 is a story of war, men, and the loved ones. It is the story of the youth, culture and happenings that made the battle of Xom Bo II such an enigma for the summer of love in 1967.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0975597651
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 358

Aztec File; by Dale Dye

MWSA Review
Veteran, actor and author Dale Dye doesn’t disappoint in the latest installment of his “Shake Davis” series, Aztec File.

Retired Marine Warrant and counterintelligence operative Shake Davis just wants to live quietly with his wife Chan in a small town in Texas. Unfortunately, after years of chasing bad guys, Shake’s past keeps pulling him back in, with old friends aware of his reputation offering him “one more go,” at an adrenaline rush to protect the country he loves. Patriot that he is, Shake just can’t say no, and what starts as a simple reconnaissance entangles him in web where he is squarely in the sights of ISIS radicals and Mexican drug runners. Can the Gunner stay one step ahead one more time?

This book moves quickly and is a joy to read. The author inserts recent events into the story in order to both provide background and also comment on the current state of counterterrorism operations in the United States. Shake is a character that even first time reader’s of Dye’s work (like me) will appreciate and like, and the rest of the characters only add to the great story.

Fans of Dale Brown, Tom Clancy, and Jeff Edwards will enjoy this book.
Review by Rob Ballister, MWSA Awards Director

Author's Synopsis:
Shake Davis is back! Retired Marine officer Dale A. Dye returns with the seventh novel in his popular, award-winning “File” series: Aztec File. It’s time to Shake, rattle and roll.

When a former Marine and retired Texas Ranger drops by with evidence indicating terrorists are training south of the U.S. border, Gunner Shake Davis is more than a little interested in the back story. Determined to investigate the situation himself, Shake and his team head south across the Rio Grande where they discover a deadly connection between Middle Eastern terrorists and Mexican drug smugglers.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1944353131
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 280

Ranger's Sacrifice; by Tracey Cramer-Kelly

MWSA Review

Sex, commitment and careers come together in Ranger’s Sacrifice. Two couples, Cory and Maddy and Chase and Ella, work to build their relationships amidst war and separation. Is it possible to find and keep true love alive under these circumstances?

Cory and Chase are members of the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, an airborne unit assigned to special missions. Absent from home much of the time, both have discovered the possibility of lasting relationships. At home, Maddy and Ella must continue their lives while waiting and hoping their men return safely.

Ella, both Chase’s girlfriend and Cory’s little sister, is recovering from a disastrous relationship with Rolando. Maddy is a doctor who met Cory when she treated Ella.

Ranger’s Sacrifice offers plenty of hot sex scenes to tantalize readers. However, can
good sex lead to healthy, lasting relationships? The author digs into the issues of
communication, waiting at home, long-distance relationships and life-changing
events as the story develops. Ranger’s Sacrifice is the second book in the Army
Ranger Series. The author is currently working on book three, Ranger’s Choice.

Review by Pat Avery, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Tracey Cramer-Kelly is an award-winning author who draws inspiration from her past experience as an Army combat medic and helicopter pilot. She lives in small-town Minnesota with her husband and two children and spends as much time outdoors as sub-zero winters allow, all while managing the family motorcycle business.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1544844589
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Fiction, Romance
Review Genre: Fiction—Romance
Number of Pages: 184

The Stan: Father, Son, findin' bombs; by Dan Talley

MWSA Review:
The Stan by Dan Talley is a soul-searing memoir. Though the bulk of the narrative and story is by and about Dan, it includes significant contributions from his wife Karen and son Josh. Theirs is a story told straightforward, without dramatic embellishment. This approach is the book's greatest strength. They tell both what's going on in their minds as well as what is happening around them. In so doing, they give chapter and verse detail of the trauma of combat, its aftermath, and the real cost of it to those in uniform and loved ones at home. Those who have experienced what the Talleys have will understand. Those who have not will find in The Stan a powerful work to help bridge that gulf.

Review by Dwight Zimmerman, MWSA President & Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
“The Stan” shares private thoughts, therapy sessions, journal entries, and memories of our family of four as father and son deploy to combat. A rare opportunity to experience deployment as we say goodbye, sacrifice for others, struggle inwardly, attempt to heal, and move on with life from differing, even opposing, perspectives. Observe unspoken emotions, hopes, and dreams common to military families.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1532966095
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Creative Nonfiction, Memoir
Review Genre: Collections—Creative Nonfiction
Number of Pages: 244

Parables From The Prairie---How an Admiral was trained on dry land; by Dennis Jones

MWSA Review
In Parables from the Prairie, retired Vice Admiral Dennis E. Jones, has written a fun and heartwarming story about his youth. He explains to his readers how growing up in middle America farmland provided him with the lessons and experiences that later molded him into a person who was able to rise through the ranks in the US Navy and became one of its top admirals.

I found it easy to compare my younger days to the authors', despite my early days being in a totally different geographic location. All children and teenagers have friends, "enemies", fears, and desires. We have school stories, neighborhood stories, and interact with others our same age and with a number of different adults that cross our lives. Reading Jones' book brought back a lot of those memories to me. 

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoy books about "growing up" in America, or who is simply looking for a fun, easy read.
Review by Bob Doerr, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Vice Admiral Dennis A. Jones, USN Ret.) grew up in landlocked Fairbury, Nebraska, in the middle of flyover country. It was an unlikely starting place for someone who subsequently spent thirty-seven years in the Navy, serving on and commanding submarines.

“Every day of my career I made decisions that were based on lessons that I had learned in Fairbury, Nebraska, and on a farm in Mahaska, Kansas… I knew that my childhood had given me the tools necessary to succeed and to approach situations in a logical manner. I had been taught to be decisive in my decision making, but most of all, I had been taught … to listen… You can learn a lot from other people, good things and bad things, if you will just listen—I made a career of it. And it all started while observing the good, bad, and stupid things that happened in my childhood—parables.” Vice Admiral Dennis A. Jones, USN (Ret.) grew up in landlocked Fairbury, Nebraska, in the middle of flyover country. It was an unlikely starting place for someone who subsequently spent thirty-seven years in the Navy, serving on and commanding submarines.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-99701550-8
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Memoir, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 418

Bad Apple; by Barry Ozeroff

MWSA Review
In Bad Apple, Barry Ozeroff presents an unusual point of view twist, telling a crime thriller story from the point of view of the criminal, not the law enforcement officer. This change in perspective opens a whole different world of assessment and interpretation to challenge and entice the reader. Ozeroff does an excellent job in the opening scene with a robbery gone murderously wrong that escalates into a chase that is the driving plot element of the story. The author gets high marks for his ability to set scenes and describe neighborhoods to a point where the reader feels a part of the locale. Conflicts and drama are well executed and there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep the reader guessing. Mystery/thriller fans will find much to enjoy in Bad Apple.
Review by Dwight Zimmerman, MWSA President and Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Most cops are honest, hardworking people. But like they say, there’s one bad apple in every bunch. Meet DJ Appleby, one of Portland’s finest. He's a Medal of Valor winner, an ex-SWAT team member, and the lead hostage negotiator. But what a difference a day can make. DJ goes from patrolling the streets one day to being ruthlessly hunted down by his peers the next.

When his own SWAT team finally surrounds him and his fellow negotiators call to talk him out, DJ pulls the disappearing act of a lifetime. But he can't hide forever, and when the clock finally runs out, he's forced to survive in the worst place a cop can be. But DJ's a resourceful guy, and he rises to the occasion—all the way to the very top of the food chain. There, looking his demons squarely in the eye, he doles out some justice of his own, Bad Apple style. In doing so, DJ inadvertently sets up a chain reaction that will change his life forever. 

Bad Apple—From good cop, to bad apple, to badass; one man’s heart-stopping journey to hell and back.

Book Format(s): Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 254

Snow Sticks; by J. M. Taylor

MWSA Review
J. M. Taylor's third novel Snow Sticks reunites the characters from his earlier exciting novels (Missing Sticks and One Stick and a Waco). Interwoven with the fabric of the Battle of the Bulge, the lovable and interesting characters once again face long odds in various combat situations climaxing in a battle that brings them all together (or nearly so) once more. But will they survive?

I specifically enjoyed how well the author highlights the camaraderie that transcends rank within the story. Bonded together by their combat experience, the characters interact as only combat veterans can, with a dry sense of humor and an ultimate selflessness necessary to survive the horrors to which they all are subject. Also interesting is the non-speaking but very important character Max the German shepherd, who occasionally lends his thoughts to the general chaos around him, and serves to emphasize that not all combatants are people.

Fans of historical fiction, those interested in the Battle of the Bulge, or those who enjoy WWII combat fiction will find this an enjoyable and memorable read!
Review by Rob Ballister, MWSA Awards Director

Author's Synopsis:
The men of the 101st Airborne Division fought their way across France and assaulted the Germans in Holland, securing the highway all the way up to "The Island." Finally, the Screaming Eagles are given a break - R&R in France, a time to slip off to see loved ones or simply get drunk and have a good time, as airborne troopers are wont to do. 

Slowly, the wounded from Normandy and Holland trickle back to duty at Mourmelon, the rest center in France. 

Meanwhile, Alex Pfister continues his operations behind the German lines as a member of the OSS, grief stricken when he thinks he has lost his love to a V-2 in London. 

Dawson and his war dog, Max, return from an unauthorized visit to his pregnant war-bride across the Channel. Even Staff Sergeant Harry Rule, the ex-smoke jumper from Montana, slips away from the hospital in England and returns to the Screaming Eagles. 

Since SNOW STICKS is a novel based on facts, both in time, place and military organization, we all know what happens next. The Germans attack, the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. Among others, soldiers of the 110th Regimental Combat Team, 28th Division, scattered Engineer units, men who think they are on R&R for the weekend, all find themselves in the midst of battle as the Germans surge into Belgium in their thrust toward Antwerp. The Nazi's have at least two goals: stop the Allied flow of supplies and capturing what they could to restock their depleted logistics, and delay the Allied advance long enough to bring the Nazi Vengeance Weapons, the rockets, the jet and rocket planes, all the super weapons envisioned by Hitler, to bear.

The Screaming Eagles and their fellow soldiers have two objectives: stop the German advance...and survive.

Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 271

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

Viet Man; by D. S. Lliteras

MWSA Review
Small irritations make wonderful essay topics. Almost anyone can describe the annoyance of a faucet dripping somewhere in the wee hours of the morning—or the incessant buzzing of a solitary mosquito seeking dinner at midnight—or the soreness of a nagging hangnail when no manicure scissors are available. Words and images flow. When it comes to agonizing pain that keeps going on day after day, paralyzing fear, or unimaginable loss, however, the story is quite different.  Words fail, memories shatter, eloquence dies on the tongue. Somehow there develops a distinct inverse relationship between the depth of our feelings and our ability to remember them and talk about them. 

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the great number of recent novels and memoirs about the Vietnam War. Veterans have finally received approval and encouragement to talk about their experiences, only to find that they cannot easily communicate their feelings to those who were not there with them. When an author succeeds in carrying his readers directly into the jungles, the rice paddies, the strangely impersonal hootches and dusty base camps, the world of drugs and blank-eyed mama-sans, the impact of his words makes us gasp for breath and struggle for understanding.

D. S. Lliteras has managed to do exactly that in his tersely-worded literary novel, Viet Man. His narrator has no name other than “Doc.” He is a navy  corpsman; who he was back home doesn’t matter. He is young--just out of high school but equipped with perceptive powers of memory and observation. He arrives in Vietnam with no idea of what the war holds in store for him, but he is determined to take charge of this experience and meet it head on. As readers, we follow him through his first patrols, his first kill, his first visit to the local red light district, the growing recognition of his own mortality. When he describes a scene, his details are specific and honest. We don’t just learn what’s going on; we see it and smell it, feel it and hear it. In peaceful moments he speaks to us in sentences and paragraphs. When danger threatens or fear overwhelms, his mental state retreats into disjointed phrases or single words. We learn about his broken romance back home only when something triggers his own memories. And in the end, we accompany him when he returns stateside, only to find that those at home cannot begin to understand that he now lives in a different world than the one they know.

This is a powerful novel, eloquent while using the simplest of vocabulary and poetic in its clear-eyed imagery. Read it. Your understanding of this tumultuous period of our history will be forever enriched.
Review by Carolyn Schriber, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Viet Man is about the transformation of a young man who enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War, was trained as a hospital corpsman, was transferred into the Marine Corps, then sent to Vietnam where he joined the elite First Recon. It is a first person narrative of alternating episodes experienced in the rear and in the bush. In the rear, Doc encounters a straw-haired mid-western farm boy who shows him how to prepare a meal of long-rats, and Loopie, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx who shares a guilt-torn confession that borders on confabulation. In the bush, Doc experiences the terror of accidentally releasing a live grenade among his men, of rushing to rescue a wounded marine, and of sharing a quiet conversation in a bunker with Trang, a South Vietnamese soldier. After being assigned to the Recon Dive Team and attending the Navy diving school in the Philip-pines, he returns to Vietnam were he engages in numerous combat dives and river operations. At the end of his tour, he is processed out of the military. And upon his return to his hometown as a veteran, he faces a jarring reception of insolence, indifference, and fragmented flashbacks. In Viet Man, D.S. Lliteras unlocks the inner mystery of a man’s combat experience. It is poetic and haunting, authentic and amusing. It is a story told by a man who ultimately survives the war and returns to his homeland, but another country will forever dwell in his soul.

Viet Man (Introspection): The bones of war strip a combatant down to the essentials: neutral mind, disjointed memories, unclear emotions.

The truth about remembering war is the inability to be factually accurate or objective. No combat veteran is able to convey to a civilian what it is all about—it’s impossible. We remember glimpses of war, punctuated by actual truth. The memory of an incident is usually fragmentary. Sometimes these fragments are long, but they are never whole. In fact, a war story that is too whole is usually suspect. A story that reveals too much either comes from a man who wasn’t there or from a man who has been beguiled by the myth surrounding his post war.

Remembering is one thing, collective remembering is another— it’s not you, it’s what others want you to be; it’s not about truth, it’s about glory. And that’s never the true story. Nobody should want to be more than the truth. 

Nobody should want the glory of war.

ISBN: 978-1-937907-32-7
Historical Fiction/ Literary Fiction
Format: Soft Cover (and Kindle)
Page count: 193

Papa's War. From the London Blitz to the Liberation of Holland; by Therese van Houten

MWSA Review
Papa’s War is the story of Dutch Captain Jan van Houten and his family told primarily through correspondence between he and his wife Marie during their years of exile in England following Germany’s conquest of Holland in 1940. Captain van Houten served in the Dutch press censorship office based in London and Marie and their daughter Treesje who were sent to live in the countryside. Therese van Houten has done an excellent job combining a personal story based on the exchange of correspondence between her father and mother during World War II with additional family anecdotes and larger facts about the war. The latter help put into perspective the mundane events described in the letters. Translating text from one language to another, particularly when the source material is so personal, presents its own challenges and I was impressed with her ability in making the translation. There’s nothing more I can add in praise except to say that Papa’s War is now a part of my reference library.
Review by Dwight Zimmerman, MWSA President and Reviewer     

Author's Synopsis:
It's September 1939 and England has declared war on Germany. Jan van Houten, a Dutch journalist working in London, bids farewell to his wife and infant daughter who are evacuated to the countryside. The young couple's almost daily correspondence, during this and subsequent separations, offers an eyewitness account of the devastation of war and its impact on families. When Jan is recruited to the press office of the Dutch government exiled in London, his letters offer a vivid description of daily life during the Blitz. In September 1944, the Dutch military authority sends him, as press censor, to a Dutch town recently liberated by allied forces. Jan arrives within days of the allies failed attempt to cross a crucial bridge across the Rhine--a failure that delays the liberation of Holland until the following May. His letters present the deprivations and horrors experienced by the Dutch during the long winter months prior to the German capitulation, as well as the ongoing deprivations in the immediate aftermath of the war

Papa's War, written by Jan' eldest daughter, places Jan's letters within well-researched historical context.

ISBN/ASIN: 9780692371138
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 222