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BEYOND THE FIRE by Steven D. Salinger


by Steven D. Salinger

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-446-52079-9

A dizzy whirlwind of a debut thriller that ultimately runs out of air: about the fate of an American soldier trying to return home 25 years after having been listed as missing in action. Do the garroted corpses of employees of the Manhattan-based international arms-dealer Parker Global have anything to do with the savagely wounded hulk of a Colonel Everett Ransom found bleeding in the Vietnamese jungle? First-novelist Salinger suggests a connection as he cuts rapidly between the idyllic paradise of postwar Vietnam and the NYPD Bluelike milieu of Homicide Lieutenant Mel Fink and his partner, Don Barton. As Barton and Fink (their names are juxtaposed, making for a series of campy allusions to the Coen brothers movie) are seduced but not corrupted by various denizens of Parker Global, Colonel Ransom awakens to find himself under the care of Isaac ``Zach'' Johnson, a saintly Army medic who was captured by the Viet Cong and has survived all these years as a village doctor. Ransom vows to take Johnson, and his Vietnamese girlfriend Mee Yang, back to the States—no simple task, thanks to a sky-high pile of thinly brushed bad guys inside Parker Global, the Pentagon, and the news media. Soon, everybody wants to kill Johnson and Ransom, a former bad guy who did secret arms smuggling for Parker Global. Salinger doesn't let any of his microscopically brief chapters end without Hollywood-style ultraviolence, bedroom acrobatics, or a snickering revelation of how nasty some Americans can be. Whatever help such devices might offer, his story still collapses under the corpses of too many interchangeably vile also-rans, while his thesis—that finding out what really happened to our Vietnam vets, POWs, and MIAs is the kind of prayer that God can only answer as a curse—does not convince. A quick, breezy, confusing read that, despite its baggy plot, gratuitous sex, and ditto violence, shows the skills of a writer who is meant for finer things.