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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/1 - War & Peace

I've always loved war movies and documentaries, but I haven't read many books on it. The two that come to mind are Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front and Robin Moore's Ballad of the Green Berets. I just finished The Five Fingers by Gayle Rivers and James Hudson. The cover does not state whether it's non-fiction. The action is told from the point of view of Rivers, a pseudonym. The time is 1969, the setting Southeast Asia. An elite, international group of seven is sent on the first ever combat mission in China. The men travel on foot through Thailand, Laos and North Vietnam. They go from hunters to hunted, suffering two months of intense action, much of it in jungles and swamps. Since Rivers, a New Zealander, is telling the story, it is obvious he survives. The suspense lies in who else will. This takes blood and guts further than anyone has previously. What the group does is often ugly. Civilians, women and children among them, are killed. The brutality is stunning, unabashed. Rivers pulls no punches. Anyone squeamish about violence should pass on it. The writing is not polished. It's not supposed to be, as it's told from a soldier's point of view. Although I often felt it was too much (one of the characters likens the unit to "rats in a maze" subject to an experiment), I looked forward each time to picking up from where I'd left off. It's a page-turner. Published in 1977, it has been reissued several times since. Copies of the paperback are listed in one section at Amazon from $67-$599. Only seven users at Amazon have rated it, forging to a consensus of 4.6 of five. In the opinions I scanned, everyone regarded it as fiction. If it's not, these men were the greatest soldiers who ever lived. There are five other titles under Rivers' name. All seem to be thrillers. The last was in 1989. As for his co-author on The Five Fingers, James Hudson, I was unable to find any info on him. I ran a search on the name and found several books attributed to it, but since TFF wasn't among them, I assume they were written by someone who shares that rather common name. On a scale of five, I rate TFF 3.5. The title refers to those of the seven assigned specific duties.

A president's biggest burden by far is sending troops into combat. It must cost a lot of sleep. In an article in today's NY Post, Seth Lipsky, a Vietnam veteran, reveals how moved he was by a new book: Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors by George W. Bush and Laura Bush. "It’s something that’s never been done before in America — a book of paintings of our soldiers by the commander-in-chief who sent them to war." It contains 66 portraits accompanied by a profile of the sitter written by the former president. I'm not here to resurrect Bush's reputation. Although his presidency was a huge disappointment and may be judged in history as a colossal failure, I've never doubted that he is a good person, and I'm happy to plug the book. Winston Churchill also painted, and there are many books about his works listed at Amazon. Lipsky says art helped him after his experiences in Vietnam.

The snafu at the Oscars makes me want to believe in karma.

I'm glad President Trump delivered a fine speech. The problem is getting congress to act as boldly and quickly as he does.

There were parts A and B of the floating book shop today. The first, less than a half-hour, was curtailed by light rain. The second was two hours later. My thanks to Romanian-born artist Andu, who purchased Psychic Warrior: The True Story of America's Foremost Psychic Spy and the Cover-Up of the CIA's Top-Secret Stargate by David Morehouse, and to the gentleman who who bought Silence: A Christian History by Diarmaid MacCulloch. A Russian gentleman brought me a mimeographed sheet of odd occurrences he suggested I look up on the web. He was a bit of a close talker, like Judge Reinhold on that episode of Seinfeld. The highlight of the session was the Lady Eve saying she loved Five Cents. She said: "Write a sequel." Boy, that made me feel good. As I've said before, of my eight books, it's the one in which I have the least confidence. Thank you, madam.
Even though I didn't make much money, it was a productive day. I proofed the first 20 pages of Present and Past, which will be my ninth book.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

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