A combat veteran’s astute look at the Vietnam War, both captivating and emotionally forthcoming.



A veteran recounts his harrowing experiences as a Marine commander during the Vietnam War.

Debut author Chamberlain was born in 1942, the youngest of five children, and grew up in rural Wyoming and Nebraska. He enjoyed a “storybook” life before the conflict in Vietnam changed him forever. After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1965 and training in Quantico, Virginia, he was deployed to Da Nang in South Vietnam. A first lieutenant in a class of officers dying at an alarming rate, he soon became the commander of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. Given his lack of combat experience when assuming the post, the men under him experienced “obvious concern.” He was also “amazed” at the “poor quality” of the clothing and equipment they were issued, including the M-16 rifles, defects he partly attributed to both incompetent decision-making and the profiteering of the military industrial complex. Chamberlain provides an unflinching account of the “classic” guerrilla warfare he regularly encountered, the grim conditions he suffered along with his men, and the nihilism of the enemy he faced. His recollection of his time in Vietnam culminates in a dispiriting event poignantly conveyed. He recovered the body of a Marine killed in action only to discover a previous mission to do the same had failed. The author claims the operation was deceitfully covered up, an issue he investigated later. In addition, Chamberlain’s feelings of betrayal at the “deplorable” treatment of veterans following the war and the diminishment of his “patriotic fervor” are powerfully and sadly expressed. His memoir, which features uncredited photographs, is as candidly personal as it is historically astute. Besides a captivating account of the war itself, he affectingly shares his struggles with PTSD in the years that followed the conflict and the consolations he found in public service.

A combat veteran’s astute look at the Vietnam War, both captivating and emotionally forthcoming. (photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950647-03-3

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Love the West Publications LLC

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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