QL 4 received an award for literary fiction from the Military Writers Society of America at a ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, in September 2017. http://www.mwsadispatches.com/2017-season

QL 4 was the 2019 Independent Book Awards winner for literary fiction and military fiction.  https://www.independent-bookawards.com/links/2151-winners-2019/resources/8161-ql4

Sticker-Winner Independent Book Awards

QL 4 was a finalist for the 2018 Montaigne Medal.                                http://www.hofferaward.com/Montaigne-Medal-finalists.html#.WtuPbX9G2po

QL 4 was a FINALIST in the category Military (Fiction) in the 2019 TopShelf Book Awards!


Reviews of QL 4

BookReview of #QL4 from #ReadersFavoritehttps://readersfavorite.com/book-review/ql-4

Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers’ Favorite

“James Garrison was in Vietnam. I don’t know when. I don’t know where. I don’t know anything else about him, but I know he was there. There is an authenticity and literary realism that his novel QL4 has that cannot be manufactured or copied. You have to have lived it. You must have lived it and you must know how to write. That is what makes the very best novels about our failed experiment in Vietnam. That is what makes QL4 a great novel. You cannot manufacture the social system that the U.S. Army creates in Vietnam and everywhere else it goes. You can only live it and then try to recreate it on paper so that others will have an idea of what it was like. That America, that Army jargon, that forced togetherness and camaraderie between men who would never even come together back in the real world is something I have never seen in any other organization or situation.

The most impressive thing about QL4 by James Garrison is that it took me back to my own Army experience. So many of the soldiers in QL4 reminded me vividly of men I served with. What made that feeling even stronger was the situations that only war and the Army can create repeatedly. Situations involving death, corruption, theft, and betrayal of self, buddy, and country. The plot of QL4 is good, very good. But the characters are outstanding, as my old First Sergeant would say. As for the setting, it is Vietnam during the war, and I’ve already told you that James Garrison was there. If you want to have an idea of what all the fuss was about, read QL4.”

The US Review of Books


QL 4
by James Garrison
TouchPoint Press
“‘The worst times to get killed are right after you get here and right before you leave.’ He rolled his eyes toward heaven. ‘And all the days in between.'”

Private First Class Justin Bell is drafted into the Vietnam War while pursuing his graduate degree and is assigned to Military Police patrol where he observes a corruption far beyond the combat he was anticipating. Distraught by the crime and injustice he repeatedly witnesses, he quickly becomes disillusioned by the military and the war effort. Ill at ease in his surroundings and assignments, he doesn’t know whom to trust and begins to question everyone’s motives as any form of stability he previously sensed crumbles. He uncovers a trail of deception that links to a highly profitable black market, and crossing paths with those involved can prove deadly. As the disturbances mount, his morality can no longer allow him to remain silent. Bell struggles to find a resolution to his discontent as he evaluates his own responsibility in the occurring exploits.

The magnitude of how one choice impacts all proceeding outcomes is the essential premise of this wartime novel. Each character in the story faces a distinctive situation in which the decision-making process is amplified by the ability to survive under chaotic and life-threatening circumstances. The author depicts the Vietnam landscape and cultural environment in expert detail, creating an ominous backdrop that serves as an overture to the arduous missions of the American servicemen and personnel. QL 4, the highway that runs from Saigon into the Mekong Delta, plays an integral role in the novel, exposing a harsh imbalance between the violence and the undeveloped terrain. Readers of historical fiction, military, and crime novels will be intrigued by the author’s organized plot that continually forms heightened suspense as the characters reveal their intent, configuring an unpredictable climax and a haunting conclusion to the Vietnam experience.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

QL 4 Background

The entrance to the MP compound outside Vinh Long in December 1969, before completion of the sandbag fortifications and bunkers. The “MP villa” in QL 4 is based on this compound, although the book’s version is different in some respects.

While the story told in QL 4 is a product of the author’s imagination, the setting and some of the incidents described are based on fact. In 1969–70, the author was stationed outside Vinh Long, the district capital of Vinh Long Province, located on a major branch of the Mekong River. The location of the novel is loosely based on Vinh Long and the area around it, but with much literary license to fit the story.

The MP Villa

A view of the compound from the roof of the “MP villa.” Note the road to the canal, the perimeter, bunkers under construction, and the V-100 in a revetment.

View from the roof of the villa, toward the rice paddies to the east.

The author with a Cambodian flag following the invasion of Cambodia in May 1970. The flag prop was provided by a returning ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) soldier at the cost of a case of beer. More than flags disappeared from Cambodia during the invasion.

The exterior of the “MP villa” and our basketball goal.

The Ferry

Vendors at the My Thuan Ferry (if I remember correctly) on a branch of the Mekong River. In QL 4, the ferry is recast as the My Linh Ferry and Vinh Long is replaced by Van Loc, to avoid having geographical limitations on the descriptions in the book.

A bridge, completed in 2000, has replaced the ferry. Also, the road known as QL 4 is no longer. Instead, it is National Highway 1.

On the ferry—greeting the passengers. The MP relationship with the Vietnamese public was generally quite friendly, although there were some rough moments, some of which are described in QL 4. Unpleasant contacts included confrontations with Vietnamese soldiers (involving firearms and grenades) and terrible traffic accidents, such as a boy being bisected by a deuce-and-a-half.

More photos from the ferry, taken with a small Brownie Instamatic from an MP patrol jeep.

Street toughs at the ferry, my guess about ten years old. It wasn’t unusual for one of them to tell you, “GI, tomorrow you die,” or some equally encouraging remark.

Race Relations

A Black Panther newspaper that I brought home from Vietnam. Racial tensions were high in 1970, both in the States and in Vietnam. Black soldiers viewed their oppression as exacerbated by being sent to fight in a war to keep the Vietnamese “free” when they did not have many basic freedoms at home. Slave bracelets and segregated cliques were common. The “race riot” in QL 4 is described pretty much as it happened, although there probably wasn’t the critical mass for a real “riot.” The author did witness a real riot while a law student at Duke University the year before: phalanxes of police in riot gear, clouds of tear gas, and flying rocks. It made the front page of The New York Times (Feb. 14, 1969).