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A Time of War (1990)
If you're looking for a Vietnam War novel, but you don't want to wade in too deep, this is perfect lightweight fare. Think of it as a cross between Tom Clancy and Graham Greene (see Orrin's review of The Quiet American)--with the civil servant as superhero trying to navigate a moral cesspool. Bradley Lawrence Marshall is the blue blood, war hero, diplomat who is sent to Vietnam as the personal emissary of President Johnson, to find a way out. In country, he meets with real figures like General Westmoreland, who tries to convince him everything is copacetic. But he also meets folks like: his driver, Corporal Mead, a decent though violent American lad of ambiguous sexuality, who is sick of the war; Lacouture, a flamboyant, Guy Burgess-like, Frenchman who sells information to all sides and loves Mead; and the insidious CIA station chief, Wilson Abbot Lord, who lives to fight the Communists and, fearing that Marshall will end the war, plots to kill him. And it's all set against the backdrop of the Tet Offensive.
The whole premise, of Johnson and a bureaucrat secretly planning an exit strategy, doesn't withstand much scrutiny and the stereotypes and clichés run rampant. But taken on its own terms, as a sort of politico-military potboiler with only mild pretensions of addressing issues in any serious way, it succeeds pretty well. It's certainly a more diverting read than many of the more critically acclaimed novels of the war.
Now if you want to read something really entertaining, check out the links below and all the trouble the author got into when his exaggerations about his war record were exposed during his mayoral campaign in Durham, NC.
-ARTICLE: Candidate fabricated war injury: Durham hopeful admits falsehood (DAN KANE, Saturday, September 18, 1999, News-Observer)
-ARTICLE: Faking of war injury explained (DAN KANE, News-Observer)
-EXCERPT: Charlie Two Shoes and the MARINES of Love Company By Michael Peterson and David Perlmutt: CHAPTER ONE
-REVIEW: of A TIME OF WAR. By Michael Peterson ( DONOVAN FITZPATRICK, NY Times Book Review)