cover image THE MARINE: A Novel of War from Guadalcanal to Korea

THE MARINE: A Novel of War from Guadalcanal to Korea

James Brady, . . St. Martin's/Dunne, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-29142-6

Straight-ahead prose tempered with wry humor distinguishes this latest war chronicle by Brady (The Marines of Autumn, etc.). Tracking Col. James "Oliver" Cromwell from college to retirement, the novel sometimes reads more like memoir than fiction, but marches smartly up to its dramatic high points. At Notre Dame, Cromwell learns to box well enough to go to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. In World War II, he joins Evans Carlson's famous Raiders and participates in the bold Makin Island Raid, vividly depicted as a near disaster. By 1950 he is a decorated lieutenant colonel, assigned as aide to Ambassador John Muccio in Seoul, South Korea, only days before the North Koreans storm south. Here the novel kicks into high gear, portraying one of the roughest patches in U.S. military history. Through the first summer of hostilities—"the gritty stand at Pusan, the tides at Inchon, the arrogance of demanding Seoul by a date definite"—Cromwell sticks by Muccio as his boss attempts to keep track of a South Korean government that is running away as fast as it can. MacArthur is shown as both a genius and a madman, backed by an army that must relearn the art of war. Through it all, Cromwell's steps are dogged by a former college classmate, Ben Sweet, a conceited war correspondent and novelist who becomes a kind of nagging alter ego. Brady weakens the novel's climax by letting Cromwell take a serious wound offstage, but this soldier's tale of key conflicts in two mid-century wars is a solid achievement. Agent, Jack Scovil. (June 3)

Forecast:The split focus of this novel may make it a harder sell to new readers than The Marines of Autumn, but Brady's strong fan base will enjoy the wider perspective.