THE DELTA by Marshall Harrison


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The tale of a forward air controller, or FAC, in the early clays of the Vietnam War--from the author of the novel Cadillac Flight and A Lonely Kind of War. Major Sam Brooks is a fighter pilot, which should give him high status in the Air Force. Instead he's at the end of his career because of a brief affair with his commander's wife. The commander, a Colonel, has dogged Brooks and prevented promotions, despite the fact that Brooks is a fine pilot. Brooks comes to Vietnam with an attitude problem, and, sure enough, runs into his nemesis, who assigns him to a mucky, VC-infested outpost deep in the Mekong Delta, and who turns him into a FAC as well. A FAC guides jets into the target rather than piloting them himself; not only does this seem inglorious to Brooks, but it also seems as though his old enemy is trying to get him killed. Worse, Brooks is insubordinate to superior officers and impatient with garrison routines, so that's it's clear he brings most of his troubles on himself. There are compensations: a pretty civilian trying to introduce miracle rice to the Vietnamese, and the fact that Brooks begins to like flying the little Cessnas. Brooks is an attractive character: a lonely man, not truly a tough guy, and shy around women; his inadequacies for ground combat provide comic relief. But where Harrison, a former FAC pilot himself, shines is in his gripping descriptions of combat flight. The detail is unimpeachable: every creak in the struts, every hard right to dodge .51 caliber fire--even the grease-pencil mark on the windshield, there to aim the hand-fired rockets. No politics at all here: just men working their machines, and yet when Brooks swoops low and for an instant sees a burning VC, he feels horror at what he's done. Brooks's love affair with Lee is predictable, but he himself is likably troubled, and the air scenes are nothing short of stunning.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Lyford/Presidio