HOSTAGE OF PARADOX by John Rixey Moore


A Qualmish Disclosure
Email this review


A former Green Beret sergeant recalls at length and in vivid language how he survived the Vietnam War against heavy odds.

Moore begins by lamenting that the “words of power” he could use to try to describe the “fundamentally non-transferable experience” of war have been “squandered on the commonplace,” and so, they cannot suffice to describe the dread and horror of Vietnam. Nonetheless, he then uses those words—as well as many others usually only found in vocabulary tests—to record a deeply personal, often minutely detailed account of his war experience as a clandestine operative. In a splendid narrative effort, worthy of the more than 500 pages he devotes to it, he defies the disclaimer and comes convincingly close to conveying what it was like be under attack or to move as soundlessly as possible through sweltering jungles on missions where discovery meant death. Moore writes that he was 25 when he arrived in Vietnam in 1968 and spent most of his tour at a Special Forces camp near Da Nang as a member of the 5th Special Forces Group. A highly trained member of a military elite but a somewhat reluctant warrior, he made survival for himself and his outfit his first priority. Once past the puzzling title, believing—independent of enjoying—the story depends on a reader’s acceptance that a faithful account can exist more than four decades after it happened. In this regard, there’s room to wonder if anyone could recall events at this remove with such excruciating exactness. Moore’s powers of observation seem least keen when turned to character development. In addition to its predilection for uncommon diction—a sound is described as “unworldly, chimeric, like the wheezing cry of something broken through a mis-weave in weft of living things”—the writing style tends to take on a florid tone that can get in the way of easy reading.

Deserves a place in the upper ranks of Vietnam War memoirs.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1936332373
Page count: 505pp
Publisher: Bettie Youngs Book Publishers
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2013