My first Vietnam novel was Friendly Casualties. I published it myself as an Amazon Ebook in 2012 after years of rejections of my fiction about Vietnam. The sense of shame and repugnance of Americans about the Vietnam war still dominated the publishing industry. Even my short stories were met with hostility, but I eventually was able to get seventeen of them into print.
Friendly Casualties uses a form I’ve never encountered with any other writer. The first half of the book, called “Triage,” is a series of interrelated short stories, eight in all, that relate fictional versions of happenings I had encountered during my thirteen years in and out of Vietnam. The second half, “Healing,” is a novella that weaves together the events in those stories, uses some of the same characters, and shows how so many events during the war were interdependent.
To my surprise, Friendly Casualties was a critical success. Seven readers gave it a five-star review on Amazon.com. They accurately divined my intent, to portray all participants in the Vietnam war, men and women, Vietnamese and Americans, as casualties.
I include myself in that category. I came back from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon physically ill (amoebic dysentery, damaged hearing, pneumonia), but the greatest damage was to my soul. Those wounds stay with me today, as vivid and painful as when they were first inflicted. I, too, am a casualty.