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"Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge  Mountains in southwestern Virginia"


Bob Nienkemper'sFATAL GAMES was nominated as best  fiction of 1998 by The Library of Virginia

 


Frank Mays, author of AND NO PURPLE  HEART, was recently honored at Arlington  National Cemetery by participating in wreath laying  ceremony with Stephen Spielberg


 


Barbara Turner's TANGERINE SKY receives  rave review from The  Roanoke Times, Sunday, June 13, 1999

TANGERINE SKY. By  Barbara Fleenor Turner, Briarwood Publications Inc.

Turner has, according to her bio, interviewed more  than 200 Vietnam veterans in preparation for  writing this  book. For those of us who are not familiar with the dark  side of vet-hood, the revelations of Turner's protagonist  are shocking. The mythical Jimmy Meade, who lives in the  very  real Penn Forest area of Roanoke, is a 40ish vet who  appears to be suffering some from the more fickle  symptoms of poisoning by Agent Orange. His flashbacks and  memories are almost too  painful to read about, much less  to imagine living.

The time is the early 1980s, and Jimmy has been back  from Nam for more than 10 years. His  patriotism and  self-confidence led him to complete four tours of duty  and then to feel lucky that he got out in one piece. His  no-nonsense wife and his two young sons regard their  breadwinner with  respect and, occasionally, fear. The  older son is chafing under his father's iron rule, but  the younger son, only 10, idolizes his father and is the  most confused when the family's center begins to  collapse.

The author has woven a lot of contemporary social  problem into her narrative, wrapping Jimmy Meade and his  crisis in a nest of familiar themes that all of us can  recognize. Jimmy's feisty wife is  yearning for some  personal fulfillment and finds a full-time job that she  loves.

The older son becomes ensnared by an older woman who  hires him as a handyman. Jimmy himself  can't reconcile  the love and trust he has for his wife with a sudden need  to prove himself in other, less savory situations.

The Nam flashbacks and their disastrous effect on  Jimmy are the core of the book, however, and do a  remarkable job of making the day-to-day lives of the  soldiers who served there feel more  real and gritty than  other accounts do. Turner's protagonist isn't a  particularly endearing man, nor is he someone who would  capture a reader's heart. He can be rough, raw,  narrow-minded and  petty. But the horrors that he faced as  a soldier have come back to haunt him and give the reader  more than enough room for pity and grief on his behalf.

Turner writes in a straightforward, unfussy manner.  The sometimes awkward sentences seem consistent with the  rocky, awkward lives being presented. One might, however,  quibble with  some of the dialogue between husband and  wife, mother and son, boyfriend and girlfriend. The  things these people say to one another seem too coached  to be realistic family exchanges.

Both the author and her publisher are local, and the  novel's Roanoke setting is intriguing for anyone who  lived in the valley around the time in which the events  take place.

A book of this nature, with its local roots and  theme-laden plot, is going to affect everyone who reads  it. Some will be shocked by the subject matter and  language. Every reader will be forced to  look more  closely at his own family dynamic and consider how  complex and fragile a marriage, a child, a life can be.

Turner's purpose appears to have been to expose some  of the darker currents of military service in Vietnam and  the threat of permanent damage brought about by stress  and toxic chemicals  sprayed on the soldiers. She does a  fine job of portraying how the pressures of civilian life  can force that damage to burrow further into a man's  soul. Each memory that Jimmy faces is another  nail in his  flesh, and Turner sees him as a sacrifice. Even though  Jimmy and his family are fictional, they feel almost as  real as anyone you are likely to know in your own life,  and the intimate  revelations of their private sorrows  will draw you in.

By A.K.WILLAMS

Ray Hammond's THE ICE  BREAKER INCIDENT was recently nominated  by the Library of Virginia Center for the Book  for the Library of Virginia 2000 Fiction Award

 

Frank May's AND NO PURPLE  HEART was recently nominated by the  Library of Virginia Center for the Book for the  Library of Virginia 2000 Non-Fiction Award

 

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