In Shandar @KILLCONGRESS.COM (Ink and Lens, 218 pp., $10, paper; $2.99, Kindle), Richard Baker, writing as Wrigley Brogan, offers up a noir-ish detective novel with a hard-boiled cop, Walter Checkers, at the center of the action. Most of the characters are Vietnam veterans (as is the author). A group of young Vietnamese women who work as prostitutes also are a big part of the action.
Somebody is blowing up bad people using C-4, making quite a mess in the city, and Detective Checkers is asked to figure out what’s going on. As the detective puts it, people are being blown to bits and there are no leads, nothing to go on, except a woman must be involved.
The book is filled with philosophical asides, many of which seemed priceless. For instance, “Anyone that believed we were fighting for American freedoms around the world was a fool at worst, and naïve at best.”
Later, Doc, a Vietnam veteran medic, says, “Don’t forget what we learned in the war. Every decision we make in life is wrong. Do you shoot this person or that person? Do you go down this trail or that one? Do you save Bill or Jerry? The decision is always wrong.”
There are many other references to the Vietnam War. The novel is permeated with the them. Keeping track of them was like trying to register snowflakes in a snowstorm. This is done with wit and intelligence, however, and is never cumbersome.
I highly recommend this mystery novel to all readers, especially Vietnam veterans who are hungry for a good read that is a salute to that dirty little war that most of us can’t seem to get out of our systems.
There’s lots to love in this book. At one point, it is said that the most worthy candidate for political office is the one who raises the least money. I immediately thought of Jim Webb.
Baker has respect for the American teenagers who trudged through the Vietnamese jungle during the war. Books that demonstrate that respect are needed in our literature.