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Best Author's Acknowledgement Page Ever Written

Wild Fire UK cover
I love the way Nelson DeMille writes, especially his trilogy with John Corey as the main character.

On reading his very latest, WILD FIRE, I came across this beaut cameo of an acknowledgement, which has to be the best ever written to make fun of "name dropping" authors. Here 'tis -- enjoy:

...There is a new trend among authors to thank every famous people for inspiration, non-existent assistance, and/or some casual reference to the author’s work. Authors do this to pump themselves up. So, on the off chance that this is helpful, I wish to thank the following people: the Emperor of Japan and the Queen of England for promoting literacy; William S. Cohen, former secretary of defense, for dropping me a note saying he liked my books, as did his boss, Bill Clinton; Bruce Willis, who called me one day and said, "Hey, you’re a good writer"; Albert Einstein, who inspired me to write about nuclear weapons; General George Armstrong Custer, whose brashness at the Little Bighorn taught me a lesson on judgement; Mikhail Gorbachev, whose courageous actions indirectly led to my books being translated into Russian; Don DeLillo and Joan Didion, whose books are always before and after mine on bookshelves, and whose names always appear before and after mine in almanacs and many lists of American writers -- thanks for being there, guys; Julius Caesar [oh, man, this is a good one!], for showing the world that illiterate barbarians can be beaten; Paris Hilton, whose family hotel chain carries my books in their gift shops; and last but not least, Albert II, King of the Belgians, who once waved to me in Brussels as the Royal Procession moved from the Palace to the Parliament Building, screwing up traffic for half an hour, thereby forcing me to kill time by thinking of a great plot to dethrone the King of the Belgians.

There are many more people I could thank, but time, space, and modesty compel me to stop here.

And here's an article from written by Tom Miller (February 13, 2006), whose opinion on the author I very much share and well appraises DeMille's work generally:

Nelson DeMille's Vietnam

Nelson DeMille needs no introduction to anyone who's ever had a few hours to kill while traveling. The author of twelve—and counting—best-selling novels of suspense, DeMille's books have accumulated more frequent flier miles than anyone not named Clancy. His reign as king of the airport kiosk even managed to survive his latest thriller Night Fall, a fictional account the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 in the waters off Long Island. Now, that's staying power.

But, long before DeMille's most common prefix was "NY Times best-selling author," he was called Lt. DeMille and led an infantry platoon of the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He has drawn on his wartime experience to pen two Vietnam novels—1985's Word of Honor and 2002's Up Country. Both showcase DeMille's talent as a storyteller. But, more than that, they represent an attempt to exorcise the ghosts of the war—an attempt that will resonate with many of DeMille's fellow veterans.

DeMille's books are meant to be read and enjoyed, not endlessly parsed over cappuccinos in the faculty lounge. They are conventionally plotted (beginning, middle, end), clearly written, politically incorrect, and don't confuse irony for sophistication.In other words, anathema for our academic elites.

The book critics, who have to answer to editors and publishers instead of hiding behind tenure, can't ignore someone who sells as many books as DeMille, but they can dismiss him with faint praise. So they note his faculty for storytelling: "[an] incredibly versatile storyteller"; "An intelligent and accomplished storyteller"; "[a] muscular storyteller. "What they don't say is that "storyteller" is often code for popular and popular means lowbrow to these pseudo-snobs. If it's not dense with metaphor and wrapped in irony, it's not literature. You know: art.

What these well-schooled but poorly educated folk forget is that storytelling is at the heart of all great literature. Starting with Homer. Anyone who's read his Iliad and Odyssey will agree that he's a versatile, intelligent, accomplished, and muscular storyteller. He also had quite a popular following.

Now, while DeMille is good, he's no Homer. We're just trying to make a point. DeMille is closer to Hemingway, whom he identifies as an early influence on his writing. The influence is most visible in DeMille's concise sentences and muscular language. He also admits to an affinity for Graham Greene, which is evident in his exotic settings and his thematic search for moral equilibrium.(Greene wrote what remains the best novel on collision between Vietnam and the West, The Quiet American.)

The major thrust of Word of Honor and Up Country is three-fold: what the war did to us (especially the warriors on both sides but also the larger societies, its long reach, and the possibility of finally exorcising its ghosts. That the books, published seventeen years apart — Word of Honor in 1985, Up Country in 2002 — turn on the same themes is proof of the war's long reach and persistent ghosts.

In Word of Honor, a former infantry officer in Vietnam is called to account for a long-hidden massacre that occurred on his watch.Almost two decades removed from Vietnam, Ben Tyson is a successful executive and pillar of the community. When a writer researching a book on the Tet Offensive pins the massacre of over 100 civilians at a hospital outside Hue on Tyson's platoon, his life slowly collapses around him. Facing a public relations nightmare, the Army quickly charges Tyson with murder and hauls him before a court-martial.

Like the non-fictional Lt. William Calley of My Lai infamy, the fictional Lt. Ben Tyson alone will stand accused for the sins of Vietnam. As Tyson wryly and bitterly reflects, "57,939 sacrifices weren't enough."DeMille is clearly unhappy that neither the military brass nor the government has ever taken ownership of the war and that the onus, then and now, always falls on the troops.

Tyson's trial is intended to be cathartic, and it is... to a degree. But, despite the courtroom exorcism, the ghosts linger.

Perhaps that's what led DeMille back to Vietnam in 1997. Ostensibly, he returned to research the novel that became Up Country, but the ghosts clearly were calling. You can hear them throughout Up Country. And, despite the assurances of his main character Paul Brenner — DeMille's alter ego as a First Cavalry Division infantryman before, during, and after the Tet Offensive—it's not at all clear that's he's made his peace with the war.

DeMille brings Army homicide cop Brenner, the hero of The General's Daughter, out of retirement to investigate the alleged murder of an American officer during the Tet Offensive. Not only did the crime take place thirty years earlier, but the only evidence of it is a letter taken off the body of a North Vietnamese soldier by an American G.I. The purloined letter, written by the dead soldier's brother, indicates that he observed one American officer murder another.

The Army wants Brenner to return to Vietnam in an unofficial capacity—posing as a tourist—and find out if the letter writer survived the war. Despite his misgivings, Brenner allows himself to be talked into going.The rest is part travelogue, part flashback to the war, and part thriller.

Brenner is detained at the Saigon airport, shadowed and harassed by a skeptical Col. Mang of the Security Police, and seduced by his contact, Susan Weber, an ex-pat investment banker with a secret. His journey takes him from Saigon north to Nha Trang, Hue, Dien Bien Phu, and Hanoi. Along the way, DeMille offers a detailed snapshot of contemporary Vietnam. Much has changed since the war, but much remains the same. A new battle — for the future — is raging between market reformers and a statist rearguard, and the outcome is still uncertain.

Brenner also visits his old battlefields — Quang Tri Province, the A Shau Valley, and Khe Sanh — and faces his personal ghosts. Brenner (DeMille) insists that he's finally put the past to rest with this trip, but we remain unconvinced. DeMille leaves too much evidence to the contrary. "Like most soldiers," Brenner muses at one point, "he didn't understand how the politicians could give away what had been bought in blood. "On another occasion, Brenner tells his interpreter, "'Tell him... America still remembers its South Vietnamese allies,' which was total bullshit, but sounded good. "Still sounds conflicted to me.

Maybe it's still too soon. Maybe, in fact, Vietnam will haunt us until the last of the Baby Boomers pass on. Maybe only then can the last chapter on the war be written.


The Wit and Wisdom of Nelson DeMille

  1. 1."Any fool, including an ROTC lieutenant can be a military genius at the breakfast table twenty years later."

  2. 2."Hope is nothing more than deferred despair."

  3. 3."I was . . . a JAG lawyer with a Combat Infantry Badge, living proof that even lawyers have balls."

  4. 4."Ultimately all war stories are bullshit... From the Iliad to the Granada invasion, it is all bullshit."

  5. 5."[Dueling's] been outlawed in the Army for over a hundred years. Takes a lot of the fun out of garrison life."

  6. 6."[He] looked sort of honest, so he wasn't CIA."

  7. 7."Sometimes you have to rat someone out, but never rat out a friend. Pick an Ivy League grad whenever you can."

  8. 8."Nostalgia is basically the ability to forget the things that sucked."

  9. 9."Munitions is one thing we never ran out of.We ran out of will."

  10. 10. "I guessed that they had all been officers, probably army or marines, because they didn't have the sloppy and goofy mannerisms of air force officers."

  11. 11. "It was interesting that the Viets assumed all Americans were anti-Communist. I guess they hadn't met any Ivy League professors."

  12. 12. "There are descending circles of hell... and every soldier is convinced he's in the worst circle."

  13. 13. "If you were inside one of these things [concrete pillbox] when it took a direct hit, it would scramble your brains... We used to call it becoming a marine."

  14. 14. "[A] senior colonel trying to get a star was like a high school girl trying to get a date the night before the prom; blow jobs were not out of the questions."

  15. 15. "I've never actually known a war story to get smaller with a retelling."

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