The Waltz He Was Born For: An Introduction to the Writing of Walt McDonald

By Janice Whittington; Andrew Hudgins | Go to book overview

McDonald’s A Band of Brothers:
A Plea for a Deeper Understanding

Clay Reynolds

In 1985—the tenth anniversary of the fall of Saigon—with my mind on an idea for a scholarly study, I conducted a bibliographic search to determine just how many fictional works on the Vietnam experience had been published by American writers. I anticipated that I would find a thousand or more titles. Instead, just over a hundred titles could be identified, and these included some (The Ugly American, Land of 1000 Elephants, The Bamboo Bed, and even Norman Mailer’s and James Michener’s writings on domestic reaction to the war) that were ancillary to American military involvement in the war in Southeast Asia.

I should have anticipated this result. Although the Vietnam War touched the lives of tens of millions of Americans in direct ways, it did not have the deep-rooted daily—in some cases, hourly—force that was carried by either of the two world wars of the twentieth century. I already knew from research that World Wars I and II produced a remarkably slim body of prose fiction in the first decades following their conclusions; even today, World War I, as a bibliographic rubric for fiction, yields only a comparative handful of titles when measured against the thousands of volumes based on the Civil War or even such relatively minor incidents as Custer’s Last Stand or the fall of the Alamo. (A quick Internet search actually revealed more in-print books dedicated to the assassination of John Kennedy than to World War I.) It’s fair to say that even taken together, both

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