Following up on my last post, here’s a few more war novels that didn’t make my all-time favorites list, but are still very good reads.
All Quiet on the Western Front: I read somewhere that Elmore Leonard became inspired to be writer after reading this one. It didn’t have quite that effect on me — I read it my junior year in college — but the story of the individual German soldier in World War I is compelling, especially since it’s told from that perspective. It’s not a cheery story, but you can’t put it down, either. And, of course, it’s considered to be one of the classic war novels.
M*A*S*H: Yeah, you’ve seen the movie and the TV show. Now read the book. Much like Catch-22, the original novel seems certifiably insane compared to the on-screen interpretations (especially the TV show). It’s interesting that the three versions (book, movie, TV) are all pretty different from each other — from biting satire, to very dark humor to comedy. Who knew that doctors and war don’t really fit together all that well?
Team Yankee: I’d forgotten this snappy novel until a friend recently reminded me. Published in the ’80s — post-Red October and at the height of the Cold War — this story of a cav unit in Europe at the outset of WWIII is immediately engrossing. The author, Harold Coyle, was an Army major when he wrote it, and he brings a lot of the real world into it — the confusion of battle and command, the technology (the good and the bad), the machines. It’s all here. If you’re looking for a good one to read on your next long flight, this is a good pick.
Red Storm Rising: I kinda hated admitting I liked this one. Clancy’s second novel, before he became insufferable with his 1,000-page techno-dink movies (I mean, novels). One fun note is that he got a little ahead of himself in this one. Written in the mid-80s, before the U.S. admitted the Stealth fighter even existed, Clancy writes about the plane in support of U.S. forces defending Eastern Europe against the mechanized Soviet hordes. That’s fine, but his description of the plane (based on speculation and best guesses), which he called the “Flying Frisbee” turned out to be dead wrong a few years later.
Sand in the Wind: Robert Roth’s gripping tale of a Marine platoon in savage combat in Vietnam. Sounds like Fields of Fire, right? Yeah, a little bit. I can’t remember which I read first, but I remember the simlarities between the two. And I read both several times (my original copy of Sand in the Wind eventually fell apart). This one has ascene concerning a napalm attack that will make your skin crawl. It’s a bit long, but a good tale nonetheless — and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Nam-a-Rama: Here’s a bit of advice on this one — don’t read it on an airplane. This is another laugh-out-loud story that I ran across completely by accident. It came across my desk when I was working at the features editor for Army Times Publishing Company. If you liked The Men Who Stare at Goats, you’ll love this insane tale of the Vietnam War.
The Red Badge of Courage: This one didn’t make my favorites for one simple reason: I had to read it as an assignment during my sophomore year of high school. Yes, it’s a classic. Yes, it’s well-written. But when you have to read a book, it loses a little bit of its impact. Plus, the Civil War is a tough subject to fictionalize (unless you write The Killer Angels).
W.E.B. Griffin: Griffin is one prolific dude. He’s written about 40 novels, under his own name and several pseudonyms, but the two I liked the most were the Brotherhood of War series and The Corps series. In the former, each book (The Lieutenants, The Captains, etc.) follows a group of Army armor officers who fight in World War II and beyond. They’re all dashing, rakish, cavalier, thoroughly competent and never get assigned weekend duty. You know, they’re everything real officers aren’t. This is not profound literature, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to read. The same is true for The Corps, though these books are based much more in actual historical events surrounding the Marine Corps’ Pacific campaign in World War II. The annoying the part of this series is that every book rewinds back to 1941, rather than pick up where the last one left off.
And speaking of books, don’t forget: The Kindle editions of A Simple Murder and Enemy Within are on sale at Amazon this month for only 99 cents. So what are you waiting for? Buy them here.