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An Ex-Marine's Novel Wages the Two Wars of Vietnam

December 17, 1985|HARRY TRIMBORN | Trimborn, an ex-Marine, was a Times correspondent in Vietnam in 1969. and

Winters Coming, Winters Gone by Allen Glick (Pinnacle: $15.95)

Allen Glick's fine first novel deals with two recent wars--the shooting war in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, as experienced by a squad of young Marines, and the emotional war that raged through the squad's survivors and other veterans in the subsequent decade as they groped to find a place for themselves in a homeland that for them had become a strange and alien country.

The shooting war is presented with clarity and restraint that reveal the horrors, atrocities and absurdities involved in the conflict. Glick's vivid descriptions of battles and the all-too-brief pauses between them are superb. They could have been written only by someone who experienced them, as the author did while a Marine infantryman serving in Vietnam for 22 months, according to the jacket.

Beyond the American involvement, Glick presents the Vietnamese people with compassion and understanding in relating the tragedies they have suffered through the years at the hands of both their countrymen and foreigners.

The second part of the book lacks the impact of the earlier chapters. The tension and drama of the combat zone are lost as the survivors return home, bewildered, embittered and burdened by the guilt of what they had done in Vietnam.

They plunge into the anti-war movement, and into a honky-tonk world of drugs, drink and sex--centered on the crudities of a topless bar in Texas. Glick's use of the bar as a vehicle in the veterans' quest to come to terms with civilian life is somewhat heavy-handed in an otherwise sensitive work, as is his use of encounters with redneck police.

Yet, such lapses do not mar Glick's tribute to the human spirit as displayed in the Vietnam scenes. His Marines may wet their pants or cry out for their mother or sweetheart during battle. But they fight with courage, discipline and a deep sense of loyalty to their fellow Marines--these qualities, as Glick shows, and the deaths of Marines and innocent Vietnamese alike all turning out to be for nothing.

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