JACKSON STREET by John A. Miller


and Other Soldier Stories
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 A few of these gritty tales about military men have appeared in literary magazines, but they deserve a wider audience. Miller's characters have more in common than simply being members of the armed forces; they all have trouble making decisions. For people whose profession is war, they are surprisingly averse to conflict and often try to back away from it. In ``The Rifle,'' a lieutenant delivering an officer's remains to his family becomes embroiled in a disagreement between the dead man's wife and parents over who will keep the flag to be draped over the coffin, even though all he wants to do is leave town. Women are particularly suspect and mysterious to these protagonists. ``Bethune, South Carolina'' shows a soldier dating a Duke freshman who, though Catholic, has a pretty advanced vocabulary for 1965 (``I didn't find out what ejaculate meant until the next day, when I borrowed the first sergeant's dictionary and looked it up''). When she becomes pregnant and asks for $500, he arranges a cheaper abortion through a tough comrade. A mother staying with her son at a rented vacation cabin in ``Blackstone'' (Virginia) gets involved with a hard-drinking man named Billy Murdoch--who turns out to be AWOL--and begins neglecting her boy for long stretches. In the title story, a future enlistee watches from afar while his blackguard cousin seduces a prim piano teacher. Some stories fall short. ``Vancouver,'' which intersperses the saga of a man returning home from Vietnam with wartime scenes written in the style of a film script, rambles on too long, and a few too many pieces end on a note of quiet puzzlement that eventually becomes monotonous. But in the aggregate, this is an honest collection that successfully develops such recurring themes as guns and their misuse. An impressively serious and professional debut from a man who served in Vietnam himself and obviously knows whereof he writes.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1995
ISBN: 0-9642949-3-1
Page count: 178pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994


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