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Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam [Kindle Edition]

Paul Clayton
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $9.99
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Book Description

2001 Frankfurt eBook Award Finalist: The year is 1968. Like thousands of other American boys, Carl Melcher is drafted and sent to Vietnam. His new company is infected with the same racial tensions plaguing the nation. Despite that, Carl makes friends on both sides of the color line. The war, like a tiger lurking in the bushes, picks off its victims one by one. Naively over-optimistic, Carl believes that karma and good intentions will save him and his friends. Then fate intervenes to teach Carl something of the meaning of life, and death.

Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam was a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, along with works by Joyce Carol Oates and David McCullough.

Recommended by: Library Journal:

“In this fictional account of the Vietnam War, Clayton shuns drama and political issues, detailing instead the minutiae of one soldier's experience. The simple language reflects the identity of an uncertain youth drawn involuntarily into a new and unfamiliar world. …this novel does reveal Clayton, himself drafted in 1968, to be a reflective and strategic writer."

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clayton offers a solid albeit familiar account of the horrors of war in his debut, a Vietnam coming-of-age novel that tracks the fortunes of a young man from Philadelphia named Carl Melcher through his difficult tour. The first half of the book remains fairly static as Melcher drops out of college, ends up in the service and draws a relatively benign assignment away from the fighting, allowing Clayton to develop the various stock characters in Melcher's squad. The action heats up when Melcher begins to go out on patrol, then turns white hot around the time of the Tet offensive as the quiet, affable protagonist goes through a series of tense but predictable close calls. When Melcher falls in love with a local Vietnamese girl, the novel almost breaks from genre formula, but Clayton comes closer to innovation during the closing chapters after Melcher is wounded and mulls the possibility of self-mutilation in a Japanese hospital to keep from going back into battle as his tour winds down. Clayton's simple prose remains balanced and effective throughout, but the novel has far too many familiar scenes, from the obligatory subplot about an experienced GI who gets killed just before his tour ends to the predictable infighting among squad members and some stereotypical material about clueless officers. Clayton's strong character writing carries the book, though, and he gets mileage from underplaying Melcher's reaction to the daily horrors.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Echoes of Joseph Heller's CATCH-22, written about an earlier war, are seen in the surrealism of the scene, which Carl himself describes as a comic book cutout, a brutal illumination of his childhood games."

"Drawn from the author's own experience as an Army soldier in Vietnam, Clayton deftly portrays an innocent abroad in the development of his protagonist, the likable but naive Carl Melcher."
- BookPage

Product Details

  • File Size: 488 KB
  • Print Length: 228 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1468130994
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002KE5UO0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,778 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EVERYMAN and War: The Sanctity of the Human Spirit July 28, 2004
CARL MELCHER GOES TO VIETNAM is about as unlikely a title for a book as one can imagine. It sounds like a running byline in a newspaper, or a children's 'learn about this' story, or something that borders on corny. But after reading Paul Clayton's very strong novel, the title could not seem more apt. This is the tale of a lad from Philadelphia who enters the military in the late 1960's when the nation was at war in Vietnam and the kids of that generation were being eaten by induction into training camps then shipped via classy commercial airlines to Vietnam where they adapted to one of the ugliest wars in our history: Vietnam was an enormous mistake and the young men sent there to die or serve their year In Country returned home with either physical or indelible mental wounds. Making the narrator of this book (that is so very real a look at that war called Vietnam) a simple, nondescript person brings a powerful Everyman theme to the book. Carl Melcher lands in Vietnam without much in the way of history, he likes to read Hermann Hesse, he gets along with most everyone despite the ethnic barriers superimposed on the inductees - he just wants to survive. Clayton creates a group of likeable characters, gives them time to bond, and then begins to send them out on patrols where slowly most everyone is consumed by the greed of the war effort. There is no beginning or end to this story and that is so sensitive on the part of Clayton, a man who gathered his information form his own tour of duty in the Nam. He writes in straight forward, simple prose, much the way one would expect Carl Melcher to observe the world. Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam March 15, 2011
By BigAl
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Tons of novels have been written about war. It seems like half of Hemingway's oeuvre qualifies. "Catch-22" and Ron Kovic's "Born on the Fourth of July" are two classics. Some glorify war while others illustrate its absurdity.

"Carl Melcher" is one that shows the absurdity, but takes a more subtle approach than the over-the-top satire of "Catch-22." Sometimes contrast can illustrate an idea better than repetition. Rather than continually showing the absurd, as Heller did in "Catch-22," Clayton shows the contrasts. Many days Melcher is bored, working in the camp in the Vietnam jungle with no imminent danger. Even while on patrol it is usually a whole lot of no action. Yet the threat is always there and the sheer terror when attacked shows why war changes a soldier. Melcher's changes are gradual - some good, some not, and some hard to judge - yet over the course of the novel the amount of change is immense.

It seems to me that Melcher's experiences are probably more true to what the typical soldier in Vietnam actually experienced than most other Vietnam War novels. This makes its message both more powerful and more credible.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog.**
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, Evocative Coming of Age in Vietnam Story September 8, 2010
What would you do if you were sent to Vietnam as a young man? How would that confusing war change you? How would you come home? In a casket? Without legs? Without hope? Grateful?

Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam provides a plausible, evocative answer as a likeable narrator fumbles, mumbles, and stumbles in a strange land. Friendship is easier to find than solace, and our anti-hero gains perspective through loss and amidst chaos and confusion. Sometimes getting home alive is victory enough - if you have good friends.

This thin, semi-autobiographical novel felt real, but I have only been to Vietnam as a tourist and teacher in the 21st century. I must admit, however, that Paul Clayton made me feel blessed that I never had to go to Vietnam as a soldier. What more do you want from a tragic war novel?

I recommend this thin, engaging coming of age novel for fellow travelers to Vietnam, high school students, and especially children of Vietnam Vets. It's one of those books that raises big questions and describes the dangers of innocence in a time of war.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOUR DE FORCE December 27, 2003
Too bad this novel hasn't been published by a large house. Paul Clayton manages to keep enough distance from his subject to allow him to craft his work with dispassion and objectivity. Clayton served in Vietnam, and maybe there are more than a few autobiographical incidents in this novel. The prose borders on being minimalist, especially the dialogue, and that's what really works in Clayton's favor as he depicts the every day existence of what it was really like to be a grunt in Nam. (In some ways his writing style reminds this reader of Raymond Carver). The tone is serious, the characters very real. The protagonist, Carl Melcher, is just an ordinary, average citizen soldier that comes to Vietnam to fulfil his obligation to Uncle Sam. Along the way he makes friends and loses friends. It's a great coming of age novel in that Melcher also loses his innocence. An endearing character due to his naivete and willingness to accept his fellow grunts on their own terms, Melcher ends up being just another emotional casualty by the time he gets back to the "world." The language, the dialogue, and the logical flow of events carry you along effortlessly, and when you finish, you're left with a whole lot to think about. Thanks for serving, Paul, and thanks for writing this powerful little book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Vietnam War Novel for Everyday Guys
Great story telling! From the beginning to the end, it piqued my interest. And the ending was perfect. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Paul Holden
4.0 out of 5 stars the experience is almost a disappointment. It’s almost like a trip to...
It took me a while to get around to reading Paul Clayton’s Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam after receiving a copy at an Epinions Meet and Greet. Read more
Published 9 months ago by technicat
5.0 out of 5 stars my heart broke back then and now again from reading this book
Well done story that seems too real and it reminded me of when we were young and demonstrating and men came home stoned all the time or crying all the time or both.
Published 16 months ago by carol meer
2.0 out of 5 stars The way the author ended the book sucks!
The ending sucks! I was enjoying the book until the ending. Did the author change his mind and just close the book on a whim?
Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
The story kept me interested from start to finish. If anything, it ended too soon. I had no doubt that the author was on the front line in Vietnam. Well done!
Published on March 31, 2013 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Closest to the real experience, except he took out the swearing.
This was a surprising novel. As a Vietnam veteran I've seen most of the movies about the subject, but I haven't read very many books. I didn't see combat myself, but what Mr. Read more
Published on February 8, 2013 by Harry
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't have enjoyed it any more.
I couldn't put this book down once I started. Good writing, good reading. Very graphic, and will hold your attention if this is your reading preference. Read more
Published on December 26, 2012 by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars How it might have been for me
This is a most underrated, overlooked account of the Vietnam war. I was lucky and never got drafted. Read more
Published on October 27, 2012 by Gregory Gieber
4.0 out of 5 stars A trip down memory lane
For almost fifty years I have avoided books, movies, and mostly discussions about Vietnam. I decided to read this book to see if my memory had softened the experience. Read more
Published on July 27, 2012 by Jim
1.0 out of 5 stars This is why you shouldn't be allowed to self-publish
I think Mr. Clayton needs to work on his writing. It's incredibly jarred, the narrative voice is dull and derivative and in some places he just tries too hard; "Shaving cream... Read more
Published on January 23, 2012 by Mr. C Dillon
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More About the Author

Paul Clayton is the author of a three-book historical series on the Spanish Conquest of the Floridas-- Calling Crow, Flight of the Crow, and Calling Crow Nation (Putnam/Berkley), and a novel, Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam (St. Martin's Press), based on his own experiences in that war.

Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam was a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, along with works by Joyce Carol Oates (Faithless) and David McCullough (John Adams).

Clayton's latest book-- White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke-- is a work of historical fiction.

Paul currently lives in California, with his son and daughter.

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