Reviewed by Joni Bour

Now and then, I will read a book that leaves me wishing there were more pages to read, more story to follow. Samuel Crawford definitely mailed one to me a month or so ago. I know I shall fail miserably in trying to describe this book and why I think you should read it, but I am going to give it a shot anyway.

First off, I know a little secret about the two main characters in the book, Charles and Dan, but I am not telling. I want to tell, be sure of that, and it would delight you to no end if I did let the secret out, but then I might also ruin a great adventure for you. Therefore, you have to figure it out on your own, if you can.

These two young men are both nearly the same age and yet worlds apart, live the tale beautifully of one young man gone to war, knowing nothing about survival, nothing about death, nothing about life. The first becomes a real soldier, a real man and survivor in the year he is there. Then he meets up with the second young man who seems just like he was so long ago and takes him under his wing.

This book is one of the most comical, sad and beautiful in its simplicity I have ever read about the Vietnam War. In reading this book, there were times when I laughed until my sides hurt. Other times when the story described something funny, I felt tears run down my cheeks. Because in a real world, the world I live in, day to day warm meals, safe streets, happy kids and a dog named Roy, things like those that happened to Dan and Charles don’t happen. Not knowing why everyone else leaned their sea bags against the window next to their seat on the bus might have made me laugh if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was because they were trying to keep bullets that went through the window from hitting them first. It was a great adventure to follow along as Dan showed Charles the ropes, except for the cold hard reality that the ropes were not the ways to do your job faster or easier. They were ways to simply stay alive.

What I enjoyed most about the story was also the most difficult thing about the story and that is that the author approached his life, (which do you think he is, Dan or Charles?) with humor and self-deprecation. He was so matter of fact about things like a Vietnamese boy selling his sister on the street corner the way an American boy might sell a newspaper. You may find yourself just staring at the page as if you don’t understand at all what he just said. You know it is true, you have heard those sorts of stories before, and yet, your heart really cannot fathom such lack of feeling or lack of concern for your own family or fellow human being. He speaks to many things that few authors bother to write about. Things like day to day life that were probably quite ordinary after a while, but at first, they were shocking and terrifying to a young man in a war torn land a zillion miles away from his peaceful homeland.

Sam Crawford will make you laugh and laugh and feel sad all at the same time. He will make you wonder and worry about those two young men by the time you reach the end of his book. I guess that is his plan so that you will go out in search of his second book. I know you will, and right you will be to want to do that. I can’t imagine that you would be disappointed. To the contrary, by the time you get to the end and get a chance to look at the pictures and wonder about the young men you have grown to love, you will already know the secret. Maybe.

As to the author, he served six years in the United States Navy and three tours of duty in Vietnam as part of the “Brown Water Navy” and he has become another of my heroes. I have quite a few as many of our readers might know. I just bet he is the same fellow in person as he is in the book which will soon make him your hero as well.

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Posted 11/8/04