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Let me ask you something, Coburn. Some young man in the rth says goodbye to his family, kwing he'll probably never see them again. Then he walks down the Ho Chi Minh trail carrying a couple of mortar rounds or B-40s with ten of his comrades. By the time he gets to this place, maybe eight of his friends are dead because of malaria or B-52s. This young man comes down here and sits on the river bank waiting for one of those patrol boats to go by. He sits there with dysentery and food and finally he sees one of those boats and shoots off his B-40. And misses. The patrol boat calls in an air strike and kills him. And while he's dying, ather ten men say goodbye to their family and march down the trail. So what? asked Coburn. In the south they take a young man, feed him well, put him in good uniforms, give him boots and an M-16 and train him and pay him. And then he goes to war in a helicopter, jumps out and someone shoots at him. What's he do? He throws away his rifle, throws off his helmet and runs away. So, Coburn, who do you think will win this war? The different reasons for participating in the Vietnam War between four major groups-the American army, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), and the Viet Cong (VC)-could t be more stark. As much as one approaches it as a war like any other, its mirror opposite sees it more of what war is really about: the struggle between life and death with compromise. There is retreat or surrender for those fighting for North Vietnam. There are weekend passes for R&R, trips back home after a year, and returns to base camp for a meal and a shower. There is only squatting hungry in the bush, waiting for the opportunity to kill or be killed-and that's it. These dualities feed off each other in ways far more significant than strategy and tactics can provide summation for. They impact human life at a visceral, horrifying level. And they are the nature of war. For Clark Coburn, being a naval officer appointed to a military advisor job in Vietnam is his chance to pad his resume with the glory and heroism it is currently lacking. There is thing else in him: resolve, true belief, call of a higher power. His motivation is driven by personal greed and self-centeredness, for as talented, ambitious, and charming as he is, he is also equal part narcissistic, shallow, and lazy. It is a rare combination, one that the ravages of war will prey on without mercy. Tram Vo is everything Coburn is t-patriotic, dedicated, guarded, and remote-and takes his appointment in the NVA and his duty to his nation and people extremely seriously. To him this is t a one-year commitment but one that may take many years-perhaps decades-and will undoubtedly take his life with it. He is that soldier sitting in the bush, waiting for his chance to kill and/or be killed. For him there is thing else. A scathing indictment of the corruption of the human soul by war, Kenneth Levin's bracingly honest and harrowing debut is reminiscent of masterworks like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War. A decorated combat veteran whose his own experiences in Vietnam are combined with the personal interviews of North Vietnamese veterans, Levin deftly explores the nature of man amidst the chaos and horror of war. As illuminating as it is disturbing, Crazy Razor demonstrates with stark clarity that the real villain in war...is war itself.
Kenneth Levin is a decorated combat veteran of the war in Vietnam whose blindness forced him to retire from the US Navy with the rank of Commander. A student of the Vietnam War, he completed several drafts of Crazy Razor before traveling to Hanoi, Hoi An, and Cu Chi to interview Viet Cong and NVA veterans and their children to incorporate their experiences in the novel's final draft. Originally from Chicago, he holds degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He and his wife live in Oakland, California.