We’ve had lots going on around here. Anyone who’s seen the FB postings lately knows that my granddaughter, Caitlin, has my first novel ready for re-issue. She put the whole effort pretty much in perspective a bit ago. A friend asked her how it all works and she told him, “He writes the books. I do everything else.” She nailed it. My understanding of all things electric is that the less I mess with them, the less likely I am to get knocked on my butt. Electricity is not my friend. We nod in passing. We’re civil. I rebuff all attempts to narrow that gap. (I’m madly in love with my defibrillator, but that’s whole ‘nother thing.) Anyhow, as the official do-er of everything else, Cait’s put together a stellar new book jacket, worked out all the kinks in print-on-demand, scanned and proofread pages to within an inch of her life, etc.etc. What’s surprising and really amusing to me is that I’m almost as excited about this re-release as I was the first publishing. There won’t be anything like the fanfare, but the hooraw that accompanied that initial event involved all manner of people I didn’t even know. This is family, and it’s a lot more fun. When TARGETS came out the first time, I hustled up the best bottle of Champagne I could find for Carol and me. Come to think of it, that moment was precursor to the present system, only sort of mirror-image; whereas Cait does all the heavy lifting on getting the book out, I did the hard work finishing off the bottle after Carol had her sip. And because there’s so much family involved in this effort, there’s a warmer, richer feeling of accomplishment that goes with this.
Time has a lot to do with that, as well. When TARGETS was first published, the Vietnam war was still an open wound on the American body politic. Everyone assured me that no one wanted to think about it, much less read a novel about it, particularly one that dealt with the even darker underside of that piece of misery. It’s hard for me to grasp that that was almost two entire generations ago. Even so, the novel went on to be the first one about that war to be selected by the Book Of The Month Club and be granted generally favorable content in other quarters. What excites me about this re-lease is how pertinent the story is to the events of the present. I watch the fumbling, confused behavior of my country in this apparently endless Middle Eastern inferno and I see every stupid mistake from the Vietnam era repeated – not occasionally, but incessantly. It also fascinated me to learn that Ken Burns, a man I believe is the most distinguished maker of historical documentaries ever, is releasing his examination of the Vietnam war in September. Perhaps – perhaps – enough people will watch it and learn from our history so we don’t have to keep repeating it. The original intent of TARGETS was to illustrate that war, no matter how many people are affected, is a matter of individual involvement. When we hear of armies clashing we see only furor. It’s when you get down to one man killing another (or woman killing woman, in our modern equal-opportunity savagery) we confront the truth. When death is given numbers it becomes mere arithmetic. It’s face-to-face where the work gets done. No one comes away from it the same as he went in. I tried to write a novel that gave war a human context. In that worst of environments, we fall in love, we laugh, we win and lose petty, pointless arguments, we exult, we writhe. The second release of TARGETS gives me one more chance to go to readers and say, “This is what it was like for the people who lived where steel met steel every day, every night.” I want them to experience that place and, hopefully, find a way to prevent people living like that ever again.