An iconic photo from the Vietnam war. Do you remember this time in history? What does it mean for you? Leave a comment below!
In early 1994 I was working alone in my office and listening to the radio. Things were slow and my mind was wandering. Reflections, a 1967 song by Diana Ross & The Supremes played. It had been the theme song for the television series China Beach. A spark flashed through my mind! The theme for a book was coming together. Reflections was ironically followed by the 1970 song Run through the Jungle by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Both songs were popularized during the Vietnam War Era. The intro music to Run through the Jungle sounded like war jets streaking overhead. In my mind they were heading to a Vietnamese target. My first novel, Dark Side of the Looking Glass, was already a glowing flame of excitement.
My mind relived those terrible scenes broadcast live to television audiences. Reflections of them reminded me once again of my brother who was sent over as one of the early “advisers” in 1962. Then my mind went to family and friends sent over to fight, especially to my best high school friend who was drafted in 1965. And finally of you, stranger, and to all those who didn’t make it back. My thoughts turned inward. I had not been drafted; I never volunteered for duty; and I never went into the service. I never had to go to war—but my brother and family and friends did.
Drawing from my 1960’s military work and that 1994 epiphany while listening to twenty-five-year-old songs on the radio, I began my first novel, Dark Side of the Looking Glass, a Vietnam inspired fictional fantasy. The words and the music took my mind deeper into the jungles of Vietnam and the war that had raged for many years so long ago—and to the many casualties from it. For a few minutes I was lost in the war.
The songs and music of that 1994 day of reverie spoke directly to me of a bygone era—of a horrible history—about those who served, and me. Reflections reminded me of looking into a mirror, much like looking into a crystal ball. But a future was not foretold, only the past dark images of the Vietnam War and its aftereffects illuminated the silvery finish; images that emanated from somewhere on the other side—from deep within the hellish memories of a sad time in our American past.
Perhaps unnecessary self-imposed guilt for having escaped that personal hell created the “inspiration” for my book. Too many had gone to war all those years ago; too many families were torn apart by it; and too many questions were left unanswered from it.
Reader, would you share with us how you and your family handled life after war?
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Dark Side of the Looking Glass, my first novel, started out simply as a personal desire to write a book. I loved reading and thought that I possibly could write a book of a genre that I enjoyed reading. I had to try my hand at it. While business was slow in my small architectural firm, I thought that this would be a good time to venture into a book. I had no “lines to draw or specs to write” so I decided to jot down a few ideas for a fictional novel. I began by making some notes of what could be interesting thoughts for my book. I had a short list of possibilities.
I was working alone in my office and had Oldie-Goldies playing on the radio. A particular song played and a light came on in my mind! My first choice for a book subject was quickly replaced by something entirely new … and different. So yes, definitely, a primal thought generated from a song was the seed that germinated to produce my first novel. It was not exactly “inspirational” but certainly thought provoking … and providential. It seemed that fate had insinuated itself into my head.
Dark Side of the Looking Glass began from that epiphany that I had just before spring of ‘94 during a lull in my architectural work while listening to twenty-five-year-old songs on the radio. Reflections, a song by Diana Ross & The Supremes, and the theme song to the TV series China Beach played. It grabbed my attention. This song, of course, brought up thoughts of Vietnam. Waves of emotion rushed through me as I remembered my brother and others serving there. Reflections was followed by the song Run through the Jungle by Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of my all-time favorite groups. To me, the intro music of the song sounded like fighter jets streaking overhead, perhaps heading to a Vietnamese target. It took my mind to the jungles of Vietnam and the war that had raged for many years so long ago and to the many casualties from it.
My mind relived those terrible scenes broadcast live to television audiences. And, it reminded me again of my brother who was sent over as one of the early “advisors” in 1962 and again, of high school friends who were drafted in 1965 and sent over to fight … and of those who didn’t make it back. I thought about myself. I had not been drafted; I never volunteered for duty, and never went into service; I never had to go to war … but my brothers and friends did. While thousands fought and died in Vietnam, I only served our country during those awful years in an air-conditioned, multi-story, high rise office building behind a desk—designing projects and reviewing military specifications for ongoing domestic and foreign military projects. What real impact did my DOD occupation have?
My book’s theme is of a character much like me, who did not go to Vietnam. But much later in life, fate—or something way beyond Sam Michael’s control—caught up with him and sent him through a nightmarish turn of events into the throes of the Vietnam War in 1965 as a young green-horn African-American soldier.
The song, Reflections, reminded me of looking in a mirror and being able to see inside it much like looking into a crystal ball. But a future was not foretold, only the past dark images of the horrors of the Vietnam War flashed across the silvery finish; images that emanated from somewhere just on the other side—deep from within the hellish memories of a sad time in our American history.
Perhaps unnecessary and self-imposed guilt created the “inspiration” for my book. Too many had gone to war all those years ago, but I didn’t … my number didn’t come up!
I am happy to announce a giveaway event for my book, “Dark Side of the Looking Glass” on GoodReads. Ten lucky winners will receive a trade paperback copy of my first published book. The contest runs midnight, June 15 through July 15! Click here to enter!