An interview with author James Garrison on Indie Beacon Radio from March 3, 2020, discussing his novels QL 4 and The Safecracker and his writing career.
“Across the Divide,” published online in Wraparound South, spring 2020 issue, describes a young soldiers journey thumbing across Carolina backroads to see his girlfriend during the Vietnam War era. The story is a creative nonfiction prequel to QL 4.
“The Outpost,” was published online by The Smuggler’s Den, Issue 12, March 2020. I began the first draft of this story during the early days of the Iraq War, based on a dream I had in which a soldier in a smoking jeep with flat tires speeds across a rise in a desert landscape. I realized that the U.S. was embarking on another long war in a country and society it did not understand, especially the historical conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites. The setting in the story is loosely based on Algeria in the mid-1950’s during that country’s war for independence. Influences include my experience in Vietnam, my stay in Saudi Arabia for several weeks with a Saudi Aramco/Texaco joint venture, and a French movie, “The Battle of Algiers.”
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
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
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
by James Garrison
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
Jim is also working on a third novel, What Seems True (noir fiction, approx. 89,000 words) based on a true crime. Not even in Port Arthur, Texas, do you shoot a man six times with a 16-gauge shotgun for no reason at all, not even to rob him. In the South in 1980, it has to be about sex or race. Or both.