VALHALLA by Jere Peacock


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Quoting the publisher: ""Warning: This is not for the timid or prudish. It will burst on the public like a bombshell. ""... Count two of us among the ""timid and prudish"". Worse- from this viewpoint- among the bored, for most of 529 pages of life among the peacetime Marines, following Korea, stationed in a former POW camp in Japan. On the outskirts, a townful of whores and rotgut had sprung up to service the soldiers. Inside, a volcanic but routine boredom reigned. The results are told in a kind of tape-recording technique: the endless conversations of professional soldiers, men essentially hopeless, who fill in time between wars with the elementary satisfactions (food-drink-sex-violence), are punctuated by equally literal and distasteful descriptions (going to the head, etc., etc.). It is a record that carries an appalling weight of four-letter realism. The philosophy and invented plot are less convincing. The book's structure is based on two opposed viewpoints. Giff Bohane, Silver Star Korea Veteran, needs violence (another ""war lover"" perhaps). He selects a one-legged whore, deserts in the midst of manoeuvres, and feels at peace only when, lacking a genuine war, he contrives to have rebellion brutally beaten out of him in the guardhouse...Canny Hugh Thorton, who enjoys manipulating people, makes a different adjustment. The girl he selects is also a behind-the-scenes manipulator, an educated Japanese who owns the whorehouse, and whores for fun. They love but part, each with an eye on the main chance, which for Hugh means becoming a big wheel, as a sergeant. The real hope of this violent, unanchored community is a new war. Trained, geared and promised it, they arrive in Indochina just as peace is signed. The uneasy sense of this restless, unoccupied, waiting power is genuine and disturbing. It was probably true back to the mercenaries of Alexander. But the embarrassing, exhaustive detail, the naive bravado, the lack of a civilized outside viewpoint, make this difficult going. It has none of the drive, the occasional compassion, that made The Naked and the Dead rise above its material substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1960
Publisher: Putnam