Many books have been written about the Vietnam War; memoirs from the men and women who experienced the blood and dirt of the war, fictional accounts of the grunts in the boonies, and allegorical novels of things that never were. As a veteran of that conflict, I’ve read most of them, impressed by some, troubled by many, and entertained by a few, but never before have I read a novel about Vietnam that affected me so profoundly as Targets by Don McQuinn.
Marine Major Charles Taylor, a Korean War veteran, about to end his service after being denied promotion to lieutenant colonel, is starting his second tour in Vietnam. Burned out and disaffected, he’s not looking forward to spending his year as a paper-pusher in the headquarters in Saigon, but as a good marine, he goes where he’s ordered. When the gruff, but enigmatic Colonel Winters offers him a job with his top-secret, off-the-books unit, Taylor is not impressed at first, but then decides, ‘what the hell!’ and accepts the assignment. The research unit’s mission is to conduct counterintelligence operations to neutralize or eliminate the enemy—regardless of which side they’re on.
Very quickly, Taylor finds himself mired in intrigue, deceit, and betrayal—and, at the same time, he finds love, only to have it snatched away. He’s forced to decide just how far he’s willing to go, and whether he can do his job and still retain his honor.
Though fictional, this book tells the story of Vietnam in a way that few before it have been able to accomplish. The reader is taken into the minds and hearts of the people on both side of the battle lines, but more importantly, those who inhabit the middle ground, and those who fight in the shadows, where success is not rewarded with medals and adulations, and failure is met only with contempt.
f you think you understand the war, after reading this book, you’ll realize that you didn’t know jack. This one will keep you up at night, long after you stop reading.
A resounding five stars.