This is the literary spark that ignited the cinematic fuse for the film Go Tell the Spartans. The movie, set in 1964 at the very outset of the Vietnam War, draws heavily from Ford's wonderful novel. The author was a reporter and, after spending time in the war-torn Asian country, wrote and published this tale back in 1967. It still holds up tremendously
more than four decades later.
What sets the author's book apart from the litany of other Vietnam-centric novels is the time period. The propensity of most war tales takes place post-1967 or 1968, when the actual fighting between the U.S. and the North Vietnamese Army had already begun. Here, America is only involved in an advisory capacity; real troops have not yet been committed. Incident at Muc Wa, a tiny abandoned garrison town the vanquished French forces had abandoned ten years earlier, is a micro-look at what the war would eventually turn into. The bungling leadership; the mismanagement of supplies and men; dealing with the indigeneous forces (South Vietnamese Army); and the often horrific outcomes when all these elements were mixed together.
Ford is both narrator and novelist here, honing his sharpened pen and powers of perception to bring the reader directly into the line of fire. There is a sense of dark humor that permeates every chapter.
What makes the humor that much more scathing is that it comes from a very real place
- flow charts to determine areas where the enemy is most likely to turn up; having to bribe local provincial leaders in order to utilize their resources.
This is a superb book about the opening moments of the Vietnam War. Daniel Ford was there and he saw what was happening and he wrote about it. Eloquently. Efficiently. Stylishly.