Code of Conduct
Author: Karen Black
Publisher: C & K Publishing (2003)
Binding: Paperback, 448 pages
Matt Tillet, an F-8 Crusader pilot, is shot down over North Vietnam in 1966, just one week before his ship would be heading home after his second back-to-back six-month tour. Escaping from his spiraling out-of-control jet with only seconds to spare, and evading for all of three minutes, he becomes a Prisoner of War. Surviving torture, months of solitary confinement and the infamous Hanoi March, the dream of returning home to his wife and two children keeps him going. Repatriated in 1973, he returns to find his dream shattered.
Code of Conduct takes place in the middle of a war; however, it is not so much a blood and guts war novel as it is the emotional tale of a family torn apart by war, more than seven years of separation, and the long journey to reconstruct their lives.
While many POWs came home to broken marriages, the personal relationship portion of the book is purely fictional. The prison scenes are based on actual events that happened to the POWs in Vietnam. The story was inspired by many years of listening to the recollections of the author's husband and several of his Vietnam ex-POW buddies. Time does not seem to have faded their memories of what they went through (although they can now joke about it) and each reunion or get together provided a new tidbit.
The author's goal is to present the horrendous prisoner-of-war experience and the resulting shattered personal lives in the format of a novel.
MWSA 2005 Bronze Medal for Fiction, Military
MORE THAN A NOVEL ABOUT A POW’S Karen Black has done her homework and research on the POW experience and it shows. Reading her book, Code of Conduct, leaves you feeling that you just got a realistic view of American POW’s life in captivity during the Vietnam War. She has spent years listening to former POWS and her husband, talk and express themselves about their personal experiences; it is obvious that she was listening. She not only heard the small details of their life experiences but she listened to their feelings and emotions. She used all of that emotional and psychological energy to create a historical novel about the Vietnam War.
Karen adds a special touch that perhaps only a woman writer could—mixing relationship issues and sex tastefully into the story line and making it more sensitive and compassionate in the process. The story line deals with not only the POW captivity experiences but hits directly or indirectly, on issues related to family, friends, marriage, love, fellowship, honor, fate, hate, anger, sex, forgiveness, separation and loneliness, healing, truth, justice and the American dream!
Code of Conduct raises many sensitive issues as it captures the essence of feelings that these POW’s and their families had upon their return home. This is a comprehensive and compelling look through fiction at the whole scope of the POW experience. You will not be able to put down the book once you start. It is well written, well organized and has depth in its characters and it uses great word imagery to convey the action to the reader.
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2005)