Sprawling tale of the Army's Ranger operations in the early days of the Vietnam War, by a screenwriter and Vietnam veteran. Foley fills his novel with both the history and lore of the LRRPs, or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, which typically were composed of volunteers from regular Army units who were given more privileges in rear areas, but also were at higher risk. In groups of five or ten, they stayed in enemy territory for weeks at a time, undercover and silent. Their casualty rate was high, and the prolonged stress preyed on their mental health, but they were indisputably brave men, and much admired. Foley begins with a typical mission: Lieutenant Jim Hollister's platoon converges on a foggy morning to spring an ambush, in preparation for the full- scale assault by regulars. Foley does a credible job with the VC platoon leader's point of view, too, whose men level a village and plant evidence to make it seem like an American atrocity. This sets up the central dilemma of the novel, which throughout is well- handled and moderately suspenseful. But there is so much talk of ordnance and tactics that the story sometimes recedes from view. And Foley's characterizations are uneven: a first sergeant, with his brutality and insensitivity toward the Vietnamese, is still touching or even endearing, like a character out of James Jones. Other efforts seem incomplete or one-dimensional. Hollister himself, though we follow him throughout, remains remote. We do believe that he knows what he's talking about, however, when the novel ends and he has become a Ranger instructor. The combat scenes are so authentic that recruits could study them, but it's a clunky story. For the converted.