An early post-Vietnam novel that was written when not quite a post-Vietnam was post yet. In a lot of ways, this novel feels like a very American, very 1970s sequel to Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. We begin in Vietnam where an American war correspondent (free-lance) starts investigating some underworld leads, which takes him to the southeast Asia heroin (and other drugs) trade that punctuates a lot of what happened in the Vietnam war. We find ourselves back in the US at other times. What is happening is that there’s a big score coming down with a lot of moving parts, and the various threads of our narrative slowly link up with one another.
This novel is a good example of the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction, and not in terms of quality, as both forms of writing can be very good, or very bad. Here, there’s a heavy focus on character development, abstract ideas (especially how power, ideology, and outsiderness function), and language. There is plot, but it comes out you in strange ways. I think the novel is quite good, but when I was done with it (and I felt like I maybe read it all in one fell swoop) I left with a series of impressions, that I am not finding easy to put down in the review. This is all in distinction from a plot-driven narrative, where the story beats would give me more clear footholds. This book FEELS early 1970s in a way that’s hard to articulate. None of these comments matter all that much to the novel, but the next book I read was so plot driven, that the distinction was on my mind.