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The year is 1968. Like thousands of other American boys, Carl Melcher is drafted and sent to Vietnam. His new company is infected with the same racial tensions plaguing the nation. Despite that, Carl makes friends on both sides of the color line. The war, like a tiger lurking in the bushes, picks off its victims one by one. Naively over-optimistic, Carl believes that karma and good intentions will save him and his friends. Then fate intervenes to teach Carl something of the meaning of life, and death.
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Paul Clayton was born in 1948, drafted in 1968, and sent to Vietnam in September of that year. He served with an infantry line company in the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands of Pleiku Province. After the army, Clayton went to Temple University in Philadelphia where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 1976. He currently lives and works in California.
Clayton offers a solid albeit familiar account of the horrors of war in his debut, a Vietnam coming-of-age novel that tracks the fortunes of a young man from Philadelphia named Carl Melcher through his difficult tour. The first half of the book remains fairly static as Melcher drops out of college, ends up in the service and draws a relatively benign assignment away from the fighting, allowing Clayton to develop the various stock characters in Melcher's squad. The action heats up when Melcher begins to go out on patrol, then turns white hot around the time of the Tet offensive as the quiet, affable protagonist goes through a series of tense but predictable close calls. When Melcher falls in love with a local Vietnamese girl, the novel almost breaks from genre formula, but Clayton comes closer to innovation during the closing chapters after Melcher is wounded and mulls the possibility of self-mutilation in a Japanese hospital to keep from going back into battle as his tour winds down. Clayton's simple prose remains balanced and effective throughout, but the novel has far too many familiar scenes, from the obligatory subplot about an experienced GI who gets killed just before his tour ends to the predictable infighting among squad members and some stereotypical material about clueless officers. Clayton's strong character writing carries the book, though, and he gets mileage from underplaying Melcher's reaction to the daily horrors.
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Book Description Thomas Dunne Books, 2004. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0312329032
Book Description Thomas Dunne Books, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0312329032
Book Description Thomas Dunne Books, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110312329032