TO BE FREE! by Ron Martin

TO BE FREE!

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Martin's first is a good old-fashioned prisoner-of-war escape yarn in which a resourceful American Marine travels the length of North Vietnam to safety. Jack Ramsey is an ordinary grunt who does one tour of Vietnam and returns joyously to the waiting arms of his girlfriend, Cathy--only to find that she recoils at the sight of his uniform (""I've got a real hang-up about this war""). Spurned, Ramsey heads back for Nam, where he drowns his sorrows by volunteering for long-range reconnaissance patrols deep into North Vietnam. He sees some awful things, but it's only when he's captured by the NVA that he realizes he's not in Kansas anymore: ""A boot stomped down on his testicles. Teeth and lips splintered and split, a rifle barrel was thrust into his mouth. Blood and vomit spewed from the shattered cavity."" He's taken and interrogated by the evil Tran; it soon becomes a test of wills: if he reveals his mission, he'll be sent to a better camp. If not, he'll rot in a tiger cage in the mud. But Ramsey rises to the occasion by slipping his emaciated body out of his cell and beginning his Incredible Journey--down a river to the China Sea, then south 500 miles by stolen sailboat to the Republic of South Vietnam--fighting off sharks and narrowly eluding his pursuers. He comes home to medals and nightmares and an understanding barmaid who becomes his wife, but can only let go of it when he visits the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington: ""Tears fell upon the hallowed ground, an end and a beginning."" If you're looking for sophisticated struggles of conscience and an examination of the morality of the Vietnam War, this is not the door to knock on. But for a nuts-and-bolts man's adventure-tale of the kind that used to appear in the old True or Argosy magazines (only here a lot better written), one could do worse. Evil Asians are the captors, but Japanese or North Koreans would do just as well--the escape's the thing, and here it's strictly edge-of-your-chair.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1986
Publisher: Vanguard