Books by Christopher West Colie

Released: Sept. 1, 1999

For incurable romantics only, a trove of love letters half a century old, written by an American soldier to his bride. A kind of proto-beatnik, young Colie spent the early 1950s bumming around the Americas, hopping boxcars and tramp freighters to see where adventure might take him. Along the way, when both were 20 years old, he met and married Carole Calkins, who thought him "unusual and even a little mysterious." Soon thereafter Colie was drafted into the army and sent off to the Panama Canal Zone, where he spent his time alternately going AWOL and composing the letters that are gathered here, which profess his zealous love. (That love didn—t keep young Colie from succumbing to the fleshy temptations of Panama City, and some of the more painful correspondence centers on his confession of infidelity, evidently forgiven.) When not professing his undying devotion, Colie describes the rigors of military life, for which he was not well suited, and, in stream-of-consciousness prose, his exotic surroundings: "The nights of the long, dark, crooked streets and the shacks and houses spread out toward the edges of the city night and bunched together along dark streets with dark jungle night behind them, the nights with yellow light coming out of windows and open doorways, the nights walking through strange neighborhoods, the nights with the people out in the streets and standing in the doorways . . . " These descriptions rarely reach out beyond the Panamanian red-light districts, but they are better written than the average travelogue. Observing his youthful behavior in a postscript, Colie admits that the letters favor "a preoccupation with my own feelings at the expense of what I should have been writing." That's true. His writings won—t put Abelard and Heloise, or for that matter, Griffin and Sabine out of business, but readers of a certain bent may still enjoy Colie's stroll down memory lane. Read full book review >