Dark Side of the Looking Glass by Vernon Harris
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!
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