John Podlaski put in a 1970-71 Vietnam War tour of duty as an infantryman with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the 501st Infantry Brigade of the 101st Airborne. He published the novel Cherries-A Vietnam War Novel, which was well reviewed when it appeared in 2010.
When Can I Stop Running (184 pp., CreateSpace, $7.99, paper; $2.99, Kindle) is mostly a work of fiction, but many of the events are taken from Podlaski’s own experiences.
“The places mentioned were real and did exist,” he tell us. The characters are fictional.
The book takes place during one night in Vietnam when the main character, John, and his African American buddy, Louis Gladwell, spend the night by themselves in a Listening Post 500 meters outside the wire, “deep in the Iron Triangle jungles.”
The book is an exploration of the mental aspects of fear. The author alternates the telling of many things, terrifying and otherwise, that happen to scare John and LG, with the relating of tales from his childhood that scared him. There is a lot of use of italics, which was off-putting, but the storytelling is exemplary.
The fears all ring true. They reminded me both of growing up in Yakima, Washington, and of time I spent in Vietnam isolated from a defense system that gave me any sense of well-being. I should say, though, that not much of my time in Vietnam was spent that way.
Readers who loved Cherries will enjoy this book. I did.