Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam: A Novel Hardcover – Jun 15 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Clayton offers a solid albeit familiar account of the horrors of war in his debut, a Vietnam coming-of-age novel that tracks the fortunes of a young man from Philadelphia named Carl Melcher through his difficult tour. The first half of the book remains fairly static as Melcher drops out of college, ends up in the service and draws a relatively benign assignment away from the fighting, allowing Clayton to develop the various stock characters in Melcher's squad. The action heats up when Melcher begins to go out on patrol, then turns white hot around the time of the Tet offensive as the quiet, affable protagonist goes through a series of tense but predictable close calls. When Melcher falls in love with a local Vietnamese girl, the novel almost breaks from genre formula, but Clayton comes closer to innovation during the closing chapters after Melcher is wounded and mulls the possibility of self-mutilation in a Japanese hospital to keep from going back into battle as his tour winds down. Clayton's simple prose remains balanced and effective throughout, but the novel has far too many familiar scenes, from the obligatory subplot about an experienced GI who gets killed just before his tour ends to the predictable infighting among squad members and some stereotypical material about clueless officers. Clayton's strong character writing carries the book, though, and he gets mileage from underplaying Melcher's reaction to the daily horrors.
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"Drawn from the author's own experience as an Army soldier in Vietnam, Clayton deftly portrays an innocent abroad in the development of his protagonist, the likable but naive Carl Melcher."
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is short but intense. It tells the story of one man's experiences in the war, his brushes with fate and his ultimate survival. The first two thirds of the book sets up the plot and develops the character of Carl Melcher. I'm sure that his character is representative of many young men who went to the Nam. The story pulls together in the last third of the book and the reader does a great deal of speculating about "what if" - what choices were made for Carl and what choices did he make himself.
Many of the characters are representative. I felt that the character of Carl's Vietnamese girl friend could have been a bit more developed. However, perhaps the author wanted to give her an almost dream like image - was she really real of a figment of Carl's imagination - part of his love hate relationship with Viet Nam.
One of the other reviewers suggested that this work would be excellent for students who did not live through the Viet Nam experience. I totally agreee with that. It allows the read to "live" Viet Nam, to smell the smells and feel the heat. The story is not new. But it gives a real insight into a war that continues to fascinate the American people and will be the subject of continued writing for generations to come.
In Carl Mercer Goes To Vietnam Writer Clayton draws on his own experience in Vietnam to present the reader with understanding of what it was to be 'in country' during the most difficult of times. Men on DEROS, yearly rotation, had little time to acclimate themselves with the horror of war or the reality that much of time is spent not in ducking bullets but in sheer boredom of 'garrison duty' out in whatever camp where they lived in the jungle.
Very akin to David Hackworth's revelations in his book, About Face, writer Clayton points out, the 'coping with the situation' problems the men faced there in the jungle in South East Asia were not necessarily left there when they returned to 'The World.' Clayton presents a bit of insight into why so many more Vietnam vets seem to have returned to the US ill prepared to reenter society. This is a book I will suggest to my sons who never had a chance to really know their father. This work may help them better understand the man who screamed each night before he died at age 37 while they were still children.
Carl Mercer Goes To Vietnam is filled with the same excellent writing as is found in writer Clayton's Calling Crow series.
Excellent read, recommended
Most recent customer reviews
I'm going to say, despite the lackluster title (which is pretty dull and doesn't draw anyone in), this is a pretty good book. Read morePublished on July 18 2004 by email@example.com
Paul Clayton brings us a compelling story of the fictional Carl Melcher and his journey into, through, and beyond Vietnam. Read morePublished on Oct. 13 2003 by Thomas Nixon
A finalist of the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Award, Carl Melcher Goes To Vietnam by Paul Clayton is a compellingly written novel drawn from Clayton's own experiences in the Vietnam War. Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2003 by Midwest Book Review