Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Jon Correll. The Sparks Fly Upward. Portland, OR: Inkwater Press, 2013.

The Sparks Fly Upward“It seemed only right and natural that the rhythms of Nathan’s life were tied so inexorably to the land and the seasons. He could not fathom people who lived days that were carbon copies of the previous one, no matter the place or the season. They were people without root in the soil, carried along by the distractions of the modern world. He was born a generation or two too late, and he was making the best of it.”

Nathan Miller and his family live in Idlewild, a tiny hamlet nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rest of the Miller family consists of his younger sister Ally, his parents, Jean and Bill, and his grandparents, Emma and Clyde, otherwise known as “Mom” and “Dad.” The Millers’ devotion to their ancestral homeland is palpable, and they are clannish in their tight-knit family unit. Although Nate’s parents work at Appalachian State University in nearby Boone, it is clear that they see their income from the outside world as a necessary means to make life in Idlewild more comfortable. “Mom” and “Dad” are traditional farming folk and they keep the Miller home functioning using their mountain wisdom and almost clairvoyant perceptions.

Nathan is the central figure of the novel and he is faced with the challenge of leaving Idlewild to attend college at Chapel Hill during the turbulent 1970s. The Sparks Fly Upward focuses upon Nathan’s transition between the two locations. The first half of the story moves at a languid pace, dense with details of Nathan’s relation to the natural world and populated by a motley assembly of several minor characters who convey the atmosphere of small-town life. Novelist Jon Correll presents a clear delineation between the good and the evil in Idlewild, which has its share of heroes, good citizens, town off-casts, and bullies. Nathan relates to such a defined sense of right and wrong, saying “where I was raised, there was right and wrong, pure and simple, and you stuck to that code no matter what.” He is a character deeply shaped by faith and morality. His adherence to a rigid internal code of morals causes occasional flares of temper though. Early in the novel, when a bully picks an unfair fight with a weaker student, Nathan intercedes and strikes out against the bully. Despite his usually well-meant motivation, Nathan’s temper and quick action inevitably lead him to trouble.

Over the course of the novel, Nathan’s black-and-white way of thought becomes clouded gray. Before he sets off to Chapel Hill, he finds himself tested in his new relationship with Becky Jenkins who is about to relocate from Idlewild to Wake Forest. Nathan wants to stifle his attraction to Becky to maintain a respectable relationship, just as he plans to not succumb to the heady temptations of college life. Upon Nathan’s arrival at UNC, he is faced immediately with all the requisites of a wild undergraduate experience — drugs, alcohol, and sex. His roommate Gus, a slightly grizzled Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, is a willing partner in these decadent escapades. He’s the first to offer Nathan a joint. And his recollections of the war deliver an ambiguous statement on a neatly wrapped dichotomy of good and evil. Still, when Nathan realizes how quickly he has strayed from his beliefs, he endeavors to return to his original path. Although Nathan’s path turns out to be less simple and straightforward than he anticipated, one thing is for certain: the ultimate destination is Idlewild.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ashe, Correll, Jon, Mountains, Orange, Piedmont

Sharon Wildwind. Loved Honor More. Detroit, MI: Five Star, 2012.

This book opens in early May, 1975, a time when television sets across America were full of frightening and heartbreaking scenes from Vietnam as North Vietnamese forces took Saigon and American forces and their allies evacuated the country by any means possible.  The images trouble Vietnam veteran Elizabeth Pepperhawk, leaving her particularly vulnerable when she is visited by a stranger who tells her that her love, Colonel Darby Baxter, has died at the U.S. embassy in Saigon.  Along with that devastating news, the woman brings Elizabeth a baby–Darby’s baby?– and a demand for $3,000 to compensate her for her expenses and the risks she took getting the child out of Vietnam.  Elizabeth turns to her housemates Avivah Rosen and Saul Eisenberg to raise the money to give the woman.  Within a day of receiving Elizabeth’s payment, the woman who brought the baby to Elizabeth is dead.  This disturbing development puts Avivah, now an Asheville police lieutenant, in an awkward situation.  Can she investigate this murder when she had prior dealings with the victim and when she herself might be an accessory in the illegal transport of a baby?

Elizabeth plans to find a Vietnamese couple to adopt the child and soon learns that there is a small community of Vietnamese refugees nearby.  But Elizabeth can tell that things don’t add up–at the hatchery where the refugees live and work, at the clinic where Elizabeth works and the woman died, and with the Army whose story about Colonel Baxter’s death doesn’t match the evidence that Elizabeth received from the dead woman.  Elizabeth and Avivah try to sort this out even as anti-refugee sentiment flares in the community, their friend Benny’s boss goes missing, and Elizabeth’s boss–who is married to Avivah’s boss–appears to be hiding something that may or may not be related the woman’s death.

While all this is going on, major life events occur for some of the recurring characters in this series–Benny and Lorraine have a child and Avivah and Saul set a date for their wedding.  Author Wildwind is tying up loose end in this novel, the last book in the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Mystery Series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Madison, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Wildwind, Sharon

Kathy Reichs. Spider Bones. New York: Scribner, 2010.

Most of the action in this latest Temperance Brennan novel takes places in Hawaii, but the case originates in the actions of two young men in Lumberton, North Carolina in the 1960s.  Authorities in Quebec are puzzled as to  how an American soldier thought to have died in the Vietnam War could turn up a corpse in Canada  forty years later. Tempe Brennan is called in.  Her visit to the man’s father will introduce readers to Lumberton, but the Vietnam War and drug smuggling are the true subjects of the novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Coastal Plain, Mystery, Novels in Series, Reichs, Kathy, Robeson

Bob Boan. Bobby Becomes Bob. Kingsport, TN: Twilight Times Books, 2009.

As the title suggests, Bobby Becomes Bob is a coming-of-age story.  At twenty-eight Bobby Padgett has returned to his childhood home of St. Umblers, North Carolina.  Before the reader learns why he is back or what his mission there is, we follow Bobby as his mind flashes back to the experiences of his childhood – from his first broken bone to his first love, Sam.  He also recalls experiences such as finding a wallet on the sidewalk, working hard to pay for college, and twice avoiding the Army draft.  As he grew up, Bobby’s parents taught him how to be honorable, a gentleman; they also instilled in him strong family values.

Bobby was drafted for a third time and quickly sent to Vietnam. This altered the course of his life. On his second day in Vietnam, Bobby and his squad were captured. In captivity they were brutally and repeatedly tortured. When Bobby was rescued by American soldiers three and a half years later, he was a different person.  After spending months in Japan, Germany, and Washington, D.C. recovering, Bobby resolves to go by “Robert” or “Bob” from now on as a sign of his maturity.

When he finally returns to St. Umblers, Bob finds a street named in his honor, and Sam walks by him without recognizing her former flame. Bob realizes that his family and friends believe that he died in Vietnam, and that they have changed as much as he has. Although he plans to set the record straight eventually, Bob decides that this day would not be the day for his homecoming, and he returns to Washington.

Small-town North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s is vividly portrayed in this novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Boan. Bob, Coastal Plain, Johnston, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship

Sharon Wildwind. Soldier on the Porch. Detroit: Five Star, 2007.

For the past two years, former military policewoman Avivah Rosen has been trying to make a new life in Asheville, North Carolina and to forget about her role in a scandal in Vietnam. However, after a deadly explosion at the Veterans Affairs hospital where she works as a security guard, Avivah’s life is in grave danger. When she is approached by the F.B.I. and offered protective custody, Avivah realizes that the ugly truth will surface. In Long Bien, Vietnam, Avivah’s major ordered his four officers to kill six American soldiers – all Black and Hispanic. Now, Avivah is the only surviving officer with knowledge of the crime.

Elizabeth Pepperhawk, also known as Pepper, is a nurse at the VA hospital and Avivah’s housemate and best friend. After coming into work intoxicated on the night of the explosion, Pepper also finds herself at risk – of losing her job. To keep her job Pepper agrees to attend workshops led by the hospital’s personnel department. She meets an interesting cast of characters in class, but Pepper often butts heads with the Director of Personnel and the session leader. When a team-building outing in the mountains goes wrong, the lives of Pepper and her classmates are put at risk.

Avivah and Pepper’s stories merge as the F.B.I investigates the explosion and the two women, along with their friends, explore why Avivah’s former major was in Asheville. As their lives become increasingly more at risk, the women realize that they can trust no one. They must figure out who is killing people close to them – before they become the next victims of an unlikely perpetrator.

Soldier on the Porch is the third novel in Sharon Wildwind’s Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Vietnam Veteran Mystery Series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Buncombe, Madison, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Suspense/Thriller, Wildwind, Sharon

Sharon Wildwind. First Murder in Advent. Detroit: Five Star, 2006.

Throughout the past few years, parallels have been made between the current war in Afghanistan and the war in Vietnam four decades earlier. The popularity of each war dwindled over time, and acclimation back into society was difficult for veterans. For Army nurse Captain Elizabeth Pepperhawk (also known as Pepper), ex-Special Forces first sergeant Benny Kirkpatrick, and former military policewoman Avivah Rosen, getting used to 1972 America after tours in Vietnam is especially difficult. They experience flashbacks, have trouble relating to civilians–and are pushed back into survival mode in the mountains of North Carolina.

After receiving a phone call from Benny, Pepper drives in a snowstorm to the Convent of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in mountainous Crossnore, North Carolina. Benny is concerned about Avivah’s well-being following a conflict in New York City with a robber; specifically, he worries that the press will hassle Avivah and uncover some secrets from Vietnam that she did not want to surface. Being surrounded by friends for a restful break is exactly what Benny thinks Avivah needs. However, their plans change when members of the Saratoga Patriotic Foundation arrive at the convent. This organization, which sees itself as an alternative to the U.S. Army, is forcing the convent to turn over its buildings and land using a suspicious deed nearly a century old. When Avivah’s new lover, Gary, is found dead, the three friends begin to wonder which characters in this strange cast they can trust: the nuns, the members of the foundation (including a history professor, a troubled Korean War veteran, and a World War II general), even each other. As they race to get to the bottom Gary’s murder and others and to uncover the secret of the convent, Pepper, Benny, and Avivah must soldier on in the remote retreat – without electricity or an exit plan.

First Murder in Advent is Sharon Wildwind’s second novel in the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Vietnam Veteran Mystery Series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Avery, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Suspense/Thriller, Wildwind, Sharon

Sharon Wildwind. The Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Vietnam Veteran Mystery Series.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been in the news in recent years, but the Vietnam War still has its place in the psyche of the generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s.  This series, set in the 1970s, follows four individuals as they transition from active service into the civilian world.  Elizabeth Pepperhawk, an Army nurse, and Avivah Rosen, a former military policewoman are the main characters.  Both women struggle with what they saw and did during their years in service, and Elizabeth is burdened with a drinking problem.  First at Fort Bragg, and elsewhere in the state in later books, Elizabeth and Avivah, and their friend Benny Kirkpatrick, support each other, confront  the demons of their pasts and make new lives, even as they stumble into death and foul deeds.  The novels capture the flavor of the era and raise issues that are still with us today.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, Mystery, Novels in Series, Series, Wildwind, Sharon

Sharon Wildwind. Missing, Presumed Wed.. Detroit: Five Star, 2009.

Weddings should be happy occasions, but in the week leading up to the union between Benny Kirkpatrick and Lorraine Fulford, Benny and Lorraine and their family and friends experience fear, anger, jealousy, regret, and shame.  It starts when Benny’s mother, Grace, is abducted at the Asheville airport in the presence of a young boy who will soon be one of Benny’s stepsons.  Grace reappears the next day, but when the man who abducted her turns up dead, Grace and her husband become suspects.  It seems that Benny’s parents knew the dead man when they all lived in Alaska in the 1940s.  As the novel unfolds, readers learn that the dead man was one dirty dog and that other characters–including the bride–had reason to wish him dead.  While policewoman Avivah Rosen works on the case, her friend Elizabeth Pepperhawk attempts to smooth jangled nerves even as her composure and sobriety are tested by her relationship with the man in her life, Colonel Darby Baxter.

In Presumed Wed a large cast of characters flow into and out of the action.  It’s 1974 and the war in Vietnam, illicit Irish Republican Army fundraising, and the social ferment of the era, especially the women’s movement, figure in the plot and color the character’s inner lives.  The rich portrayal of this era is an element that adds depth to the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen mysteries.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Buncombe, Madison, Mountains, Novels in Series, Wildwind, Sharon

Sharon Wildwind. Some Welcome Home. Waterville, ME: Five Star, 2005.

Elizabeth Pepperhawk has just come back from Vietnam to serve at the army hospital at Fort Bragg.  She had barely arrived when she comes across the dead body of a solider who was supposed to have died overseas two years before.  When the Military Police are hesitant to pursue the case through to the end, Pepperhawk enlists the help of officer Avivah Rosen and the two women track the clues on their own.  The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Pepperhawk and Rosen and is a rich glimpse into life on a military base in the early 1970s.

This is the first novel in the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Vietnam Veteran Mystery Series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2005, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Mystery, Novels in Series, Wildwind, Sharon