Sagahawk by the Sea John F. Bronzo

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The Vietnam War figures in John Bronzo’s latest novel, Sagahawk by the Sea: A Love Story Changes History (Archway, 270 pp., $34.99, hardcover; $16.99, paper’ $3.99, e book), but it comes along relatively late in the story. This is a novel of time travel, so the story moves anywhere and anytime the author wants it to go.

This time travel novel begins in 1961, then proceeds in sections to 1967. Bronzo—whose previous book was Mary Bernadette: Secrets of a Dallas Moon: A Young Vietnamese Girl’s Tale from the Grave about the Killing of JFK—dedicates this new book in part to his high school classmate, Peter E. Sipp, know as “Dude.” Sipp “was killed in Vietnam when he threw himself on a grenade to save his buddies,” Bronzo writes, “sacrificing his life so they could live out theirs.”

This novel includes the author’s explanation of what really happened on July 7, 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico, with that mysterious crash of a so-called flying saucer. One of the characters in this novel is sent there to investigate.

“At first it was said to have been a flying saucer, but later it was identified as a weather balloon,” Bronzo writes.

This novel jumbles up time so that unexpected things happen to those who are affected by the mutants that show up in Roswell with a warning to Americans related to Russian missiles in Cuba and God knows what else.

“If 1965 is the year that Vietnam first invaded my consciousness, 1966 is the year that Vietnam caught the nation’s attention in earnest,” Bronzo writes. “Protests against the war became a commonplace occurrence on college campuses, in cities across the country, and on everyone’s television screen.”

That’s true as far as it goes, but this book, as most books do, makes it seem as though everyone in this country was talking and thinking about the Vietnam War. But most of us were not searching our souls.

The National Guard and the Reserves get a mention as refuge for “the savvy” and the well connected draft evaders and that others were fleeing to Canada. Most draft age men, just hoped for the best and went along with whatever came their way. That included your reviewer.

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Bronzo

For those who enjoy conjecture about the options available in history, including during the Vietnam War, Sagahawk by the Sea might be the novel for you.

As the subtitle has it, “A Love Story Changes History.” Read the novel and see if you agree that that really happens.

Bronzo’s website is johnfbronzo.wordpress.com

—David Willson

Mary Bernadette by John F. Bronzo

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The entirety of John F. Bronzo’s Mary Bernadette: Secrets of a Dallas Moon—A Young Vietnamese Girl’s Tale from the Grave About the Killing of JFK (Archway Publishing, 426 pp., $40.99, hardcover; $26.99, paper; $2.99, Kindle) is neatly summarized both in the long title and in this paragraph at the beginning of the book:

“Rooted in the 1963 Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) and taking place during the Vietnam War in 1971, this is an epic tale of patriotism and sacrifice and of love and intrigue, as seen by the backward glance of a young Vietnamese girl named Mary Bernadette, who was born on the day President Kennedy was assassinated and lived just long enough to see his other assassin—the second gunman on the grassy knoll—be captured.”

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used factiously. As Bronzo says, “Any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.”

I’ve read many, many books that deal with the JFK assassination, and this is a worthy addition to the field. I’ve even written a couple of conjectural stories about the existence of a second assassin.  So I am familiar with that confused and nightmarish event.

Bronzo has given the interested reader an enjoyable novel to read, as well as plenty to think about. I recommend this book to those who never seem to get enough grist for the conspiracy mill that has been cranking out one crazy theory after the other for all these decades.

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John F. Bronzo

This novel does demand close, attentive reading, however, as the names of characters change throughout. The free and easy way the book moves through time and space can easily discombobulate the reader who needs a book to be strictly chronological and narrated by people who are alive and well.

We’re told that Lee Harvey Oswald was not “a silly little communist acting alone” in nut country, and that he was framed.

The book does occasionally intersect with the themes in other Vietnam War books, including the phrase that most irritates me, “baby killers.” It’s as if babies were treasured by the armies in previous wars. But babies died in all wars.

—David Willson