Rolling Thunder

Mark Berent, Author Putnam Publishing Group $19.95 (382p) ISBN 978-0-399-13439-5
Berent is a decorated Air Force pilot who served three tours in Vietnam. His first novel is essentially a series of vignettes and anecdotes loosely structured around the yearlong tours of duty of Air Force Captain Court Bannister and First Lieutenant Toby Parker, with a ground-force counterpoint in Special Forces Major Wolf Lochert. Principal villains are the Washington policy-makers who send men to die in a war they are not allowed to win. Within this intellectually unsophisticated black-and-white framework, however, Berent's laconic, jargon-rich narrative evokes moods eclipsed by later and more spectacular events. Set in the mid-'60s--the last stages of the professionals' war, when career soldiers were still able to believe in what they were doing--the story focuses on ground-support operations over the south of Vietnam. This was a war the Air Force had been unprepared for and was uninterested in fighting, a war of obsolescent fighter-bombers flown by men who had dreamed of becoming astronauts, and of the Forward Air Controllers, the daring FACs, who called them in on almost-invisible targets. Yet as the novel ends, its protagonists intend to return for another tour of duty, which has come to overshadow survival in their minds. Fortunate is the country, Berent tells readers, where such men wear its uniforms; may they never again be so betrayed. The message is no less powerful for being predictable. Literary Guild and Military Book Club alternates; author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-56431-063-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 402 pages - 978-0-515-10190-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 416 pages - 978-0-7434-8683-5
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