A stunning book about the right stuff in the wrong war. As a child, Robert Mason dreamed of levitating. As a young man, he dreamed of flying helicopters - and the U.S. Army gave him his chance. They sent him to Vietnam where, between August 1965 and July 1966, he flew more than 1,000 assault missions. In Chickenhawk, Robert Mason gives us a devastating bird's eye-view of that war in all its horror, as he experiences the accelerating terror, the increasingly desperate courage of a man 'acting out the role of a hero long after he realises that the conduct of the war is insane,' says the New York Times, 'And we can't stop ourselves from identifying with it.'
The trials and triumphs of a Vietnam vet, revealed in a soft-spoken, sometimes even bloodless sequel to Mason's acclaimed war memoir, Chickenhawk (1983). Since his return from Vietnam in 1966, Mason has led what seems a terrifically eventful life: Locked in debt with his wife and young son, he launched a successful mirror-manufacturing business; plunged back into poverty when his partner forced him out, he crewed a pot-smuggling ship - only to be caught and thrown into prison; trapped behind bars, he became a bestselling author and wrote a successful technothriller, Weapon (1989) - and all this backdropped by struggles with alcohol, Valium-addiction, and infidelity. But Mason's prose here is so without resonance that his story carries little punch - for example, in his discussion of his substance abuse: "My body sent me a painful message, saying that it had developed an extreme dislike of alcohol. What a shock. Alcohol was as much a part of my biology as my blood. The message was a headache so horrible that I couldn't see straight....I switched to smoking pot....I began to feel better immediately." Potentially dramatic episodes mire in minutiae: The pot-smuggling cruise to Colombia - the book's centerpiece - bogs down in wrestlings with seasickness and broken machinery; the prison that Mason is sent to turns out to be a minimum-security one where his greatest concerns seem to be what job he'll get next (he graduates from landscaper to commissary clerk) and how his writing will fare (he quotes reviews of Chickenhawk at length). It's only when Mason flashes back to Vietnam or, early on, swoops through the sky in a chopper that his tale soars above the mundane. Forthright but fiat-footed, and far less paradigmatic than Mason's first memoir. Enough of this author's life, already; henceforth, he should stick to his clever, winsome thrillers. (Kirkus Reviews)
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 24th August 1984
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 12.8 x 2.1
Weight (kg): 0.28