Dirty Copper by Jim Northrup

The poet, novelist, storyteller, and columnist Jim Northrup’s latest book is a short, fast-reading novel, Dirty Copper (Fulcrum Publishing, 203 pp., $15.95). In it, Northrup spins out the story of Luke Warmwater—the hero of his award-winning short story collection, Walking the Rez Road  (1993)—who is back home on the Anishinaabe reservation in northern Minnesota after surviving a harrowing tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam.

Jim Northrup enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1962, and served for four years. That included a thirteen-month tour of duty in Vietnam with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines in the 3rd Marine Division from 1965-66.

The Vietnam War is never far from Luke Warmwater’s thoughts in this engaging novel, which covers his first few years after getting home. Warmwater has post-war nightmares and daytime flashbacks after becoming the first Native American deputy sheriff in Carlton County, Minnesota. He then moves on to a job in the Waukegan, Illinois, Police Department.

Jim Northrup

Northrop tells Warmwater’s story in bursts of short, simple sentences. The style works well to illuminate the day-to-day details of this Vietnam veteran’s life, as well as his flashbacks and nightmares.

The themes are both broad (Vietnam veterans’ readjustment problems after coming home from the war; institutionalized racism and discrimination faced by Native Americans) and narrow (Luke Warmwater’s love life, family life, and work life).

Jim Northrup will receive the Vietnam Veterans of America Excellence in the Arts Award at our National Leadership & Education Conference next month. His website is www.jimnorthrup.org

—Marc Leepson