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?