Friday, June 9, 2017

Interview with war writer James Strauss

My special guest today is James Strauss. We’re chatting about his war biography, Thirty Days Has September, the First Ten Days.

Former Officer in the Marine Corps, CIA field agent, college professor, deep sea diver and expedition ship anthropology lecturer.

Welcome, James. Please tell us about your current release.
His only fear was not knowing if he had what it took to be a Marine Officer...that is, until the day they sent him to the Nam. A second lieutenant, fresh out of training, lands in Vietnam full of wonder and a consuming awe that quickly descends into dread at the deplorable conditions he, as an officer, has to endure. Speaking his mind to a superior officer only makes matters worse, as he is ordered to take command of a company of misfit who have no respect for their newest untested commander, and whom they unaffectionately nickname, Junior. He quickly realizes the Marine company is not only fighting the external North Vietnamese Army but the internal racial divide amongst them.

There's no going to the rear and certainly no going home. The only choice they have is to go deeper into the valley of death, known as the A Shau. One thing is certain, death will come, but will it come from the enemy or from within? Superbly vivid scenes and ultra-realistic portrayals give this book stunning authenticity and depth. Thirty Days Has September, the First Ten Days is a riveting tale of impossible choices that flawlessly captures you in the moment and refuses to let go, even long after the final page is turned.”

What inspired you to write this book? 
My experiences as a young Marine Corps Company Commander in Vietnam.

Excerpt from Thirty Days Has September, the First Ten Days:
I heard Fusner turn on his little transistor radio and fiddle with the dial. I looked over at him from where I crouched across our tiny clearing in the jungle bracken. I leaned against the hard surface of an overly thick bamboo stalk. There was only one station to listen to. It took Fusner almost a minute to find it, however. I closed my eyes. Brother John spoke, as if he’d been inside Fusner's little plastic box just waiting to be let out. “This is Brother John, coming to you from Nah Trang on the Armed Forces Radio Network, and here’s a selection for you guys out there in the bush wondering about those you love and miss back home. It’s Tim Hardin giving you all a reason to believe.” The song played: “If I listened long enough to you…I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true…knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried, still I look to find a reason to believe…” The words bit into me, the melody driving them ever deeper with each line of lyrics Hardin sang. I knew my wife was true, but I didn’t think the song was about her. I’d get home, if I made it, and there we would be. And I’d stand there, looking at her, and then I’d lie straight-faced, and she’d cry. She’d know, and we’d live with her knowing, that I lied. She wouldn’t leave me because of who she was and who she thought I was. And I knew I could never tell her the truth, unless I wanted to lose her. The song continued to play, like it was being strummed on the damaged instrument of my soul, until I couldn’t listen anymore. I closed my eyes and it all started to go away, as I drifted to somewhere else inside my mind. It didn't matter where it was because I went there knowing somehow my wife would find a reason to believe.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Thirty Days Has September, The Second Ten Days

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was a young child writing and directing the other kids in the neighborhood at making plays for family, relatives and neighbors.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write? 
I write full time. I publish a weekly newspaper and write most all of the copy, although I have three reporters contributing. I correspond regularly in long hand with three friends geographically distant. I, like almost all writers, must wedge writing into what time I have from living, errands and other pursuits. Post Traumatic Stress allows me to write in the night hours when everyone else is asleep. I only sleep about five hours a night.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I use a self-invented Da Vinci kind of code to write my journals, that I must put on a Rosetta Stone for someone coming later to interpret…if it might be worth it for anybody to interpret and read.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A fighter pilot, but I did not have the eyes when the time came.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Writing something original, cogent, and refined is very difficult when working alone, as almost all unpublished writers must do today. What is even harder is coming to accept that it is much more difficult to get read, either by agents, editors or publishers than it is to write the book in the first place. It is a closed system, open to mostly family, friends, relatives and cronies…more like Hollywood than any novitiate is likely to believe. Rejection is almost automatic in the literary world of today and even the most gifted of writer’s must accommodate that and then respond by finding some other arcane way to get the writing in front of any real measure of the public.


Thanks for being here today, James.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

I was honored to hear this story verbally in 1970 when Jim was discharged from the USMC and thankfully he wrote a manuscript and his wife kept all 30 "letters home"