Darrell Bain and Will Stafford are Vietnam War veterans who found each other on the Internet and became computer pen pals. Their years-long correspondence resulted in Bain narrating and publishing most of those exchanges in a book called T.I.N.S.* (CreateSpace, 290 pp., $11.99, paper). The book’s cover tells us that T.I.N.S. is an acronym for “This is no shit.” Humor is the basis for every story.
Or, as the subtitle says: “Hilarious stories by Vietnam vets, zany tales from the war, childhood craziness, and post-war foibles.” The difficulties of childhood and teenage development, along with mid-life aging, dominate the storytelling. This made me feel shortchanged as problems related to marriages, dogs and cats, professions, food and dieting, illnesses, and smoking dominated too much of the text.
At times, these exchanges resemble a game of can-you-top-this. They heighten the entertainment, but also create scenarios bordering on repetitive and mundane chores familiar to most people.
I wanted to hear more about the military careers of Stafford and Bain. Both men spent two tours in Vietnam. Stafford flew helicopter gunships and Chinooks. Bain served as an Army medic. Their few stories about the Vietnam War and military life in general lift the book to a higher level. These stories also are humorous, but deal with activities, events, and places far beyond ordinary life.
Regardless of the topic, Bain–the author of Medics Wild!— generally plays straight man to Stafford and makes him the star of the book. Both men display highly perfected senses of humor.
Bain extends a caveat: “This book contains the complete and unabridged books, Toppers and More Toppers,” both of which he wrote.
Bain’s website is darrellbain.com