4 out of 4 stars
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Randy Miller has written a blockbuster novel about the Vietnam war, its unpopularity, and the consequences of serving your country. Deadly Waters is a must-read book.
His story concerns “Vermont boy,” Zachariah Martin, who joined the Navy straight from high school. Zach was brought up on a farm in Vermont. He understands hard work, and this ability served him well in the Navy, and he becomes a valued member of the crew and gets an accelerated promotion. Zach leaves his sweetheart, Tally, to see the world, but the world he saw haunted him for the rest of his days.
Miller describes a beautiful love story between Zach and Tally. Their letters to each other are captivating, supportive, and loving. They are both more mature than one might expect of their age group. Tally urges Zach to share the horrors he is experiencing. Doing so relieves the pressure building in Zach to have to keep it to himself. Miller provides kind parents and elders who give Zach and Tally good advice.
Miller can detail the world of a navy deck ape with marvelous precision, and he describes the ships, the people, the equipment, the atmosphere, and the smells. We are inside the minds of Zach and other personnel; it is a gnarly journey that Miller involves us in. He powerfully brings alive the changing seas and its terrible dangers to seamen. If you have been to sea, you will marvel at the accuracy of his observations. If you haven’t been to sea, you will gain an exceptional education.
Miller also describes the different countries and waterways the ships navigated to get to Vietnam and Korea. We recognize the sleazy side of the entertainment available to sailors in port. In Miller’s world, the bar girls “were incurable romantics… always looking for love,” and a seaman and his bar girl can fall in love and be a conventional couple in the Philippines until the Navy tracks him down. The conversations that Miller conjures up are full of profanity, which seems acceptable in including the reader in the life of the seamen. Zach’s love for Tally was so strong he could ignore the attraction of the bar girls.
I’m sorry Deadly Waters does not have a fairy tale ending. Suffice it to say, the war, the government, the horrors take their toll. We know this fictional story has its basis in fact because we have heard on the news during the last few years about the efforts needed to get the VA to live up to its promises. This book deserves a 4 out of 4 rating for its detail, research, and eloquence. I do not rate it 3 out of 4 stars because this excellent story needs telling to as broad an audience as possible. I found no errors and believe it was professionally edited. I also found nothing to dislike except the subject itself, which is saved by Miller’s incredible ability to produce fiction based on fact. I recommend this to a vast audience including government, armed forces, VA personnel, Y/A who want to make a career in the services, and all people who believe in justice and making it happen.
Deadly Waters: The Vietnam Naval War And Its Aftermath
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