Donald Hamilton, The Ambushers, and books with veterans in them
Still, the two books got me thinking about how badly Sylvester Stallone. Chuck Norris, and Steven Seagal have damaged the reputation of the men's adventure story, specifically the kind whose protagonist is a veteran. Lazy liberal that I am, I had come to regard the genre, rightly or wrongly, as a field where lazy right-wingers could live out action fantasies they would never come within a million miles of in real life. From the other side of the political spectrum, I'd begun to fear that any story featuring a veteran was thin disguise for anti-war polemic.
Paul Davis, a few years older than I am and a veteran, has given me a schooling on the shifting depiction of Vietnam veterans in popular culture. For Paul, the Tom Selleck TV show Magnum P.I. marked a turn away from depictions of Vietnam vets as damaged psychopaths. And my recent reading has convinced me that thrillers and adventure novels need not be marred by polemics, whether from the left or the right, just because their protagonists are veterans, at least not if the writer is as good as Donald Hamilton.
Of course, the two Hamilton novels I have read recently appeared in 1955 and 1963. I will be eager to see if the political tone changed in the Helm novels that appeared after public anger against the Vietnam Wat began to build.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014