4 out of 4 stars
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A Police Action is a historical fiction novel written by AA Freda. Because Freda served in the Vietnam War, he draws on his personal experiences to write with authority and authenticity. James Coppi, the main character, jumps into a relationship with teenager Samantha Powers just before deploying to Vietnam. After meeting at a country bar and dance hall, the two spend a night together. Sam unexpectedly reveals her deepest secret to James. How will he respond to the knowledge that she is carrying another man’s baby? Will their initial attraction be strong enough to sustain a relationship through the hardships presented by war? The tale is told by alternating between Sam’s and James’ experiences throughout the story. In addition to love and war, the themes of relationships and commitment are also explored.
A strong feature of this novel is the development of its characters. Commonly referred to as a coming-of-age story, it narrates the growth of James from an irresponsible rule-breaker to a man changed by his wartime experiences. Sam, too, starts out as a teenager in rebellion against her preacher father’s rules and develops to be an independent and capable woman. I must admit that I did not like James’ character through much of the narrative. He was a hustler who made his living from other people’s misfortunes, had no qualms about lying when it served his purpose, and somehow never received the consequences he was due.
In addition to the two main characters, Freda introduces the reader to supporting characters such as Sam’s friend (Kathy), the landlady, James’ fellow soldiers, and military personnel. The dialogue was believable and entertaining, particularly among the soldiers. There’s never a dull moment with James Coppi, which leads to a surprising amount of humor in a book of this nature. I found the Coke Conspiracy to be particularly amusing.
What I liked most about this book was the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Vietnam War. From cover to conclusion, it was packed with realistic accounts of the war, yet without gory battle scenes. Even the title was revealing of the conflicting attitudes America faced. The government refused to acknowledge the war, preferring to refer to it as a “police action.” Freda took care to describe even the smallest details, such as the proper procedure for removing a round from a mortar; descriptions of the environment of the battle field (sights, sounds, and even emotions); and the daily challenges of cleanliness, sickness, and sleep during wartime. I found it interesting that he observed that the women in Vietnam did the physical labor while the men supervised. The attention to detail was enlightening and not overwhelming or overdone in any way.
What I liked least about this book was the inclusion of explicit sex scenes. The story could have been just as strong without these scenes. Therefore, I would not recommend this book for younger audiences. I would also caution readers who are sensitive to the issue of abortion to steer clear. But for mature readers who enjoy stories of love and war, I recommend this book. There were a handful of minor editing errors such as missing spaces or commas, but they did not disrupt the flow of reading at all. Because of the author’s authentic presentation of history interwoven with well-drawn characters, I award A Police Action 4 out of 4 stars.
A Police Action
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