AA Freda served in the Army’s 5th Infantry Division in the Vietnam War during the period immediately after the Tet Offensive. Freda is the author of Goodbye Rudy Kazoody ,a coming-of-age novel.
The main characters in Freda’s A Police Action (Dorrance Publishing, 254 pp., $25, hardcover; $16.75, paper; $9.99, Kindle)–which also is a coming-of-age tale–are nineteen-year-old Samantha (Sam) Powers and twenty-one year old James Coppi. It’s a “meet cute,” love-at-first-sight book. And it demonstrates that love is hard, very hard, especially when the female protagonist is pregnant by someone other than the young man she is in love with.
Both of these young people are confused. It doesn’t help matters that James is headed for Vietnam as an Army draftee. Is there any hope for a couple who met in a place called Country Honky Tonk in Colorado Springs? As the cover blurb warns us, “uncertainty is the only certainty” in this story.
As a survivor of the 1960s, I recognized that era as a main character of this story. The author has done a good job of portraying the 1960s, including the effect the Vietnam War had on the country and the young people who were knocked topsy-turvy by it.
James is something of a con man. He operates as an Army Shylock, lending money before payday to all and sundry. He goes into the Army prepared to operate this way, and has trusted relatives who wire him the money he needs to keep his dirty little business going. I kept expecting to see him dragged into an alley and get his wrists broken, but (spoiler alert) that does not happen.
James does get shipped to Vietnam and does serve his time there, being at risk some of the time although he is mostly a rear echelon trooper. Freda offers a full discussion of the role of REMFs in the war, by the way, and gives some statistics.
To wit: “There’re eight to ten rear-echelon motherfuckers for every one of us up in the front.”
The huge base at Long Binh is accurately characterized as a Little America with tennis courts, nightclubs, restaurants, hot meals, and hot showers. Body count and shit-burning details get full discussion and ham and motherfuckers and fragging get more than a mention.
Also, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s Project 100,000 program—the one that resulted in underqualified men being drafted—is discussed, and said men are called “retards.” Not a kind label for men who through no fault of their own ended up serving in the Army.
Serious subjects are dealt with, but mostly this is a novel of young love in which Sam and James struggle to survive in a world out of their control. I enjoyed the novel and highly recommend it, especially to young adults.
I am one no longer, but during the period portrayed in this novel I was, and I went through much of what our young lovers did.
My heart went out to them in the course of this sensitive story.
The author’s website is https://www.aafreda.com/a-police-action.html