I’m just getting ready to publish my first short story collection Distant Voices. One of the stories is Choosers of the Slain – set during the Vietnam war. I hope I’ve done justice to what it felt like being a US Marine in the middle of an unconventional war in 1966. I tend to carry a notebook with me and I write while I’m waiting for trains, so here is an exclusive sneak look at the original notes (please excuse the terrible handwriting) and the finished extract –
I had become a stranger to myself, and besides that I sort of had a girl. Kára was amazing, smart, beautiful, my very own angel. I loved being with her, she made me smile. Some of her friends were equally beautiful women, but Kára was special. She had an ethereal quality that set her apart from every other girl I had ever met. I shook my head to clear away the daydreams. There would be time enough for that once we were back at the firebase. My feet sank into the mud and mulch of the jungle as I walked. The rain made it difficult to move and harder to spot trip-wires and booby traps, so I was cautious.
I’d heard stories of the VC putting grenades in dolls and teddy bears in the cities. You go to pick them up and BOOM! Worse still to my mind were the Vietnamese women and children who went up to unsuspecting GIs holding live grenades. How could they do that? I couldn’t wrap my head around what made a person treat life so cheaply. Didn’t they understand that we were here trying to help them? Then again, who could understand a country where the Buddhist Priests set themselves on fire? The day wore on and so did my nerves. I don’t think that I was as on edge as usual. Even though I was short I wasn’t that worried about being out here in the bush. I was actually enjoying myself; I felt like I belonged here somehow. I was as much a part of the jungle as Charlie. I think I was stupid to dream about going home, I was home.
Choosers of the Slain is one of twenty stories in the collection. Some have been previously printed by 13 Human Souls, Dark River Press and The Great Escape, the rest are new. I hope that when it’s published you enjoy reading Distant Voices as much as I enjoyed writing the stories in the collection.