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10 thoughts on “Dog Soldiers

  1. says:

    NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER 1975 I ve been waiting my whole life to fuck up like this The Summer of Love has withered away into the Autumn of Paranoia and the Spring of Delusions John Converse, a journalist, whose claim to fame is his ability to produce compelling headlines stories to go with the headlines, well that is where things go haywire , is in Vietnam, but he isn t really sure why he is still there His room has been tainted by some maniac American who chased lizards along the walls, crushed them, and left the stain of their residual fluids on the paint There were moral objections to house lizards being senselessly butchered by madmen Everyone felt these things Everyone must, or the value of human life would decline It was important that the value of human life not decline Heavy things are going down He comes up with this rather insane idea to smuggle heroin into the states With the counter culture dying, LSD and Marijuana are out and heroin is the new beast to chase The pellet with the poison s in the chalice from the palace, but the flagon with the dragon has the brew that is true Converse hires this guy named Ray Hicks, a merchant marine with a penchant for Nietzsche, martial arts, and Zen, to smuggle the heroin into Southern California Once there Hicks is supposed to hook up with Converse s wife Marge Marge is then supposed to turn the heroin over to the distributors Marge works in an Adult Theater She flashed the mooches fingers laboring over their damp half erections, burrowing in the moldy subsoil of their trousers like arachnids on a decomposing log SHUDDER She has developed a drug habit while John has been gone It starts out as a monkey, but grows into an gorilla Diluted Deluded Dilaudid.Ray is naturally paranoid and believes someone is following him He is sure that Converse has doubled crossed him After all he knows that Converse thinks he isodd Marge is gliding on the wings of befuddlement and between the two of them they hatch a plan to escape and sell the drugs through other sources Bad, bad, bad idea The serpent tempting Eve bore a set of carefully rendered rattles And everyone involved is having and trouble distinguishing reality especially after Marge and Ray start sampling the product Dilaudid is out Heroin is in The gorilla starts doing pushups Converse is trying to explain what has happened to his drug contacts They are not very happy with him, but what keeps him alive is that they still don t have the product As John was leaving Vietnam he could tell that the situation there was about to explode in all new ways It was becoming a different war, but when he gets back to the States he can tell that things have changed there as well Crooked cops, crooked lawyers are all getting into the drug pipeline business He exchanges one war for another war The new American dream is being able to make one big drug deal Converse meets the type of client that heroin is tailor made for He sat desiring the girl a speed hardened straw colored junkie stewardess, a spoiled Augustana Lutheran, compounded of airport Muzak and beauty parlor school Her eyes were fouled with smog and propane spray To follow the line of reason of any one of the characters will take corkscrew dexterity It is a sordid novel Readers don t like these characters and they aren t supposed to What you recognize in them that is also in yourself are the very things you like least about yourself They are weak, greedy, self centered, and lacking in compassion They continue to allow themselves to be swept along by events simply because that is easier than swimming for shore This novel is a time capsule of a period when the last bits of naivety and innocence in America are being exchanged for cynicism and skepticism It is the dawning of the age of HERE WE ARE NOW, ENTERTAIN US It took until 1991 for Kurt Cobain to explain to us what was going on.If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at


  2. says:

    Relentless and dirty.First published in 1973, Robert Stone s Dog Soldiers is a hip and groovy but graphic and ugly depiction of a time and a place when our culture, our world was at a crossroads and Stone embraces the suck with the fervor of a Marine at Parris Island.First, Stone describes the scene in language contextually correct for the time This has the feel and sound of a Dirty Harry film and behind the early 70s prose a reader can almost hear a Lalo Schifrin score grooving out in stacked heels and jiving with a denim jacket and a thick leather belt We get to know the protagonist, an ostensible journalist in Vietnam who gets involved in a maladroit heroin deal that eventually and inevitably encompasses his family.Secondly, I could not help but compare this fine work, which won the National Book Award for fiction in 1975, with Cormac McCarthy s 2005 novel No Country for Old Men Both avoid sympathetic euphemisms and instead boldly and simply illustrate a Boschian landscape of hellish design and consequence No doubt McCarthy s work is the brutal, but Stone s stark realism and objective sensibility is the timely chronicle Finally, in his heavy use of drug depiction and counterculture language, Stone s voice sounds Hunter Thompson like in its eulogy of the lost optimism of the 60s, looking back as they both do and wistfully long for the high water mark that is past Stone never quite lets his narration devolve into the drug induced stream of conscious meanderings of Thompson or of Burroughs, but his style is reminiscent of Beat generation dope mindedness.An important work, certainly, but difficult in many respects, like a regrettable memory as in the words of Galway Kinnell we can never be rid of.


  3. says:

    A few weeks ago I happened to catch the 1978 adaptation of this novel, Who ll Stop the Rain, starring Nick Nolte when he was only, like, 36 instead of 902 The movie made me nostalgic for Robert Stone s original novel, so I found a first edition online for amazingly cheap and re devoured it in a day It s a great glimpse into scuzzy America c 1970 the death of the 60s cultural revolution, when druggie enlightenment turned into junk dealing and free love degenerated into a trip to the titty bar We tend to look back on that period now either with sentimental moralizing American Pastoral or wacky absurdism Inherent Vice But Dog Soliders captures what must have felt like the plunge into the abyss of amorality that the so called counterculture degenerated into in those scary post Manson days when some revolutionaries argued with a straight face that the original Chuckie doll was right to slaughter the bourgeoisie excuse me, the pigs because dig, baby American corruption and hypocrisy was way past redemption What s perhaps most terrifying about this book is the lack of a moral center The two main characters, Converse and Hicks, are both corrupt in their own ways, the former a writer scrambling to recapture his gonads by running scag into the States after a terrifying breakdown on a Nam battlefield, and the latter a self fashioned zen samurai merchant marine who in trying moments reaches for his submachine gun to get to nirvana When Converse asks Hicks to sneak the H to Converse s wife, Marge, all hell breaks loose, and we re introduced to a variety of frightening simulacra of American capitalism First and foremost, there s Antheil which on name alone gets Stone massive points for cool George Antheil being a 1920s composer He s a maybe narc who deals, dig, and he has two viscious thugs who do his evil bidding Then there s the phony Hollywood sorts who wanna ride the dragon because it s hip, the drug hustler with the last name Peace who gets off watching other people getting off so he can rip em off , and the unfortunate roshi who gets a lead sandwich for believing in transcendence Take that, zen motherfucker In the hands of a thriller writer, these would be cartoon characters, but for Stone they become opportunities to plumb philosophical reactions to the problem of engage the French noun, not the verb First and foremost is nihilism, the state of the American soul post 1960s, but also Christian sacrifice and Buddhist poise If you like your characters well read and quote dropping when they beat the shit out of each other as I do , the dialogue works really well Plus Hicks is a fairly obvious attempt to assess the legacy of that Holy Fool Neal Cassady Dean Moriarty of Kerouac fame , whom Stone knew from hanging with the Kesey crowd c 63 64 If you know how Cassady met his unfortunate demise in 1968, Hick s final march out of the desert of American emptiness wooshy with smack will ring excitingly familiar I would say this is definitely a 70s classic, and probably my fave attempt at a postmortem on the 60s.Which makes the movie all the frustrating For contemporary viewers it s probably most interesting for the familiar faces There s Michael Moriarity, soon of the original Law and Order, as Converse And the GREAT Anthony Zerbe, previously seen wearing a black hood while taunting Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, as Antheil Ray Sharkey, a great actor now famous for denying he had AIDS in the eary 90s, along with Richard Masur, who usually plays the judge or the wussy ex husband Unfortunately, the script guts the book, despite the use of a lot of the original dialogue This is especially unfortuante for Moriarty, who usually goes full metal hambone when he acts see the cult classic Q, or Quetzalcoatl Plus the movie is full of those irritating zooms that no director in the 70s could do without when they had to UNDERSCORE A DRAMATIC MOMENT Then there s Nolte, who was a gorgeous hunk of raw beef in the day Too bad he has to go proto Rambo at the movie s end he s fun when he s bitch sapping Charles Haid shortly of Hill Street Blues So watch the movie only if you re into an endless soundtrack of Creedence Clearweater Revival, which no Vietnam flick can resist, just as no baseball movie can do without Centerfield Yea, Fogerty But if you like tough, uncompromising books about fallen people you wouldn t step within ten feet of, these dogs do hunt.


  4. says:

    Una buena novela, f cil de leer, con una estructura lineal y donde se retrata con cinismo y hasta con sarcasmo y humor la dura resaca posterior a los a os del hippysmo La derrota moral que supuso la guerra del Vietnam para todo un pa s es plasmada en el desenga o, el miedo y el derrotismo de los personajes de la novela todo vale pero nada funciona con la excepci n quiz s de la droga pero no dura mucho Es un retrato de la violencia, del sinsentido, de la falta de alternativas, de los pocos argumentos que existen contra quien no entiende de argumentos, de lo poco que puede hacer el bien cuando el mal entra en juego, de lo dif cil que es ser malo cuando no te han dibujado para serlo y de lo dif cil que es vivir cuando no tienes ninguna raz n para hacerlo Un relato cuyo estilo tiene mucho de novela negra sobrio, no abundan las descripciones, apenas sabemos nada de las caracter sticas f sicas de los personajes, y nicamente a trav s de los excelentes di logos que llenan la novela y de los hechos podemos deducir las personalidades y los sentimientos de los personajes, unos perdedores que juegan a ser malos hasta que se tropiezan con malos de verdad A pesar de que no es una novela b lica muy pronto el escenario principal va a ser California las referencias a la pel cula Apocalypse Now o a su hermano literario, El coraz n de las tinieblas, son inevitables de hecho, la novela empieza con una significativa cita de este libro He visto el demonio de la violencia, el demonio de la avaricia y el demonio del deseo ardiente pero, por todos los cielos , eran demonios fuertes, vigorosos, con ojos rojos, que ten an a su merced a hombres a hombres os digo Pero de pie en aquella ladera, present que, bajo la cegadora luz del sol de aquella tierra iba a conocer un demonio fl ccido, pretencioso y con ojos apagados, de una locura voraz y despiadada Aunque no sea del tipo de novela que me suele atraer me ha parecido que su calidad literaria es innegable Recomendable.


  5. says:

    I began this book thinking it would be about the Vietnam War told from the perspective of an in country reporter named John Converse I came to find that, while a few early scenes were set in Vietnam and Converse did occasionally reflect on his time spent there, the focus of the book is a drug deal that goes wrong horribly, horribly wrong However, I still loved the book It has a bit of a Pulp Fiction or Guy Ritchie film feel to it None of the characters are likable people and they have the moral sensibilities of a gnat, but they re entertaining and a reflection of the shifting values embodied by the time period when asked why he tried to move heroin from Vietnam to the U.S., Converse replies, You hear stories over there They say everybody does it Being there fucks up your perspective Like most Vietnam novels, Dog Soldiers is liberally sprinkled with black humor for those who can find and appreciate it I would read the novel all over again just for Converse s remembrance of being fragmentation bombed in Cambodia a particularly harrowing and well written scene of self realization Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder


  6. says:

    Whenever I spy a cop car in my rearview mirror I feel like they might be coming after me If I step out of line they ll pull me over and that ll be it That I ve been ticketed twice for bullshit reasons driving through a one road town with shiny new cop cars for all with out of county plates type of reasons is neither here nor there It s all over The game is up What game Beats me I m probably fucking crazy I slow down to the absolute speed limit, turn my music off, grip the steering wheels and total panic in my brain I don t breathe until they pass me Yeah, I have um anxiety problems I could probably worry about anything if I put my mind to it That it isn t impossible and bad shit happens all of the time is not a mind rester I felt something like that reading Dog Soldiers The game is up and they are coming for me But I don t know how to play the game Converse is a former soldier cum writer cum tourist in Vietnam He feels the fear of the horizon in the back mirrors and the front windows Cop cars What the hell humanity can and will do to each other It s the long view of things If you look at history books as dates and events it s not about one life, or two, or millions Who pays for what anything good anyone has someone paid for it I like to play history games with myself Like reading about the suffragettes I don t think if I was face to face with those women who were beaten and starved in prison for women s right to vote I d ASK for them to do it What s worth it for personal reasons, what s not about me The fear is also a heat Heat on your skin to feel alive and consuming all to keep it burning I ve heard this cliche about self mutilation to be about feeling alive It isn t, exactly It s letting yourself off the hook and getting feeling bad over with a punishment It s a kind of freedom, the worst that can happen, the getting over with I said a kind of freedom It s the giving in to the worst kind of yeah, giving up It sure doesn t feel free It feels fucking sick If you can t beat em join em That Drug yourself, give in to the soul numbing horrors of killing fields and bombs Cry for what That s the problem with the long views It s all burned up The short views of joining Fuck It wasn t hard at all to make it all about me and life in the world now and all the joining them and hoping there is going to be a long view at all Dog Soldiers is a matter of heart killing of country killing and looking in your window for the cop car cause it COULD happen The big picture is so far beyond my paranoid grasping mental claws It sure isn t a heat on my skin of feeling alive Dog Soldiers might ve been a big picture book when it came out about America after the Vietnam war The war on drugs It might ve been one drug bust Nihilism Cops came It could still be now I read about the fear and sick long and short view of no hope in the world and I recognized THAT as now and future now It s something to run from Now It kinda IS about all of us It s about us to point the trigger in the mirror like we re taxi driver and cool bravado and sly dialogue and tough outside and soft inside and soft outside and hard inside exterior Pretending smoke and mirrors, right Dog Soldiers is a movie Long view pretend Paranoia pretend and forgetting what s worth it for who in what you can see in your face as dates and facts I wish I wasn t so afraid I wish I wasn t so good at the laughing either Dog Soldiers made me smirk as well as it made me squirm I couldn t even think of what else they could have done than to do crack and smuggle drugs and give up I can see how it could happen it s not always like that Just the fearful times It is tough to be like Converse and the distraction doesn t work It deadens you enough to not get out.


  7. says:

    I always wrote Stone off as a post Hemingway tough guy writer which on some levels he is , and really wish someone had slapped me and forced one of his books into my hand He uses the stark storytelling of Hemingway with the dark forebodings of Conrad and the apocalyptic humor of Nathaniel West This novel travels through the same anxieties of Pynchon s Gravity s Rainbow with a bag of heroin replacing phallic rocket technology but with naturalistic prose, on the edge borderline demented characters in a society seemingly on the edge of exploding into total savagery whether in Vietnam or California Lots of allusions to government corruption and the Manson family, this is the novel of the dark heart of early 70 s America, but its concerns seem if not so, at least as pressing in our new merciless age to quote Bowles.


  8. says:

    Set in the early 70 s as the Vietnam War was winding down, Converse a guy, not a shoe is supposedly a journalist, but in reality has gone to Vietnam mostly as a tourist As he gets ready to return home, he gets involved with a deal to smuggle a large quantity of almost pure heroin back into the states, and he has reason to think that the CIA is covertly sponsoring the plan.Converse recruits a former soldier, Hicks, to get the dope back into the States and hand it off to his wife, Marge Marge is supposed to hand it off to others per arrangments Converse has made However, once the drugs are in the states, things go wrong, and Hicks and Marge end up on the run from a couple of thugs and a government agent Converse returns home to find the deal is blown and is soon in desperate trouble himself.Even though most of this book is set in the U.S., it s really about the effect that Vietnam had on America Once your government has unleashed large scale death and destruction on another country for murky reasons, keeping your own moral compass seems naive Get what you can, do what you want, and don t worry about the consequences It explains most of the 1970s But the book is a cautionary tale about this view It says that if you go this route, beware You ve bought into the law of the jungle, and there are a lot of predators out there Just because you think you re ready to live outside the law because you saw some bad shit and think you ve jettisoned the conscience that comes with your place in society, that doesn t mean you re ready to deal with the people who never had one to begin with.


  9. says:

    Robert Stone, let s all remember, joined his Stanford classmate Ken Kesey the rest of the Merry Pranksters aboard the LSD fueled bus Further, back at the onset of the High Sixties The experience brought in its richest harvest, however, not in any memoir though Stone s recent PRIME GREEN makes an admirable effort but in this piercing scarifying noir Though first published just as the 60s hallucinations were petering out, DOG SOLDIERS remains the essential depiction of how the dream soured collapsed, in a swill of broken lives Certainly Denis Johnson needed this novel to clear the way for the tragic yearning of JESUS SON, but DOG SOLDIERS has the better imagination the full bodied personalities Its first episodes play out as a kind of Vietnam dinner drama, in which the gunfire s offstage the former Marines Converse Hicks cast their lots w the fallen they take up smuggling heroin Converse presents perhaps the most destructive artist figure in a generation of American novels he says of bringing the scag to San Francisco I feel like this is the first real thing I ever did in my life Yet it s Hicks who s the greater creation, an American samurai saddled w a serious love of booze an inborn commitment to the principles of Zen Soon after coming ashore in the States, Hicks is spurred to running for his wife w Converse s wife Marge, a woman w rich conflicts of her own, on the one hand a marvelously free smart definition of marriage motherhood on the other an abject determination to get as high as she can The bad guys come across w a matching vividness, in particular the crooked SF detective Antheil indeed, his Fuhrer is an insect , who w his two pet rats swiftly collar Converse force him to help w tracking catching Hicks, Marge, the smack The scenes of Converse s torture are the most directly presented violence in the book, but the latter half of DOG SOLDIERS puts us through a number of perfectly shocking outbursts, each one a blow between the eyes yet each rendered the intense by their moments of indirection, the things the characters can t see Then too, the worst that happens here all seems necessary, so they re touched w humor some of the grim one liners have stayed w me for decades now , enlivened as well w an undeniable nobility The blood depravity incubate buds of fresh possibility Stone may demonstrate a broader political vision in the later books, Conradian panoramas like the Central American FLAG FOR SUNRISE or the Jerusalem novel DAMASCUS GATE, but it s this personal vision that risks most matters most After reading, you re never free of its chilling shadow of American overreach.


  10. says:

    If you think someone s doing you wrong, it s not for you to judge Kill them first and then God can do the judging The time was rough and the time was wild The counterculture was on the rise and then it was in decline Reaction and decadence were settling in If you haven t fought for your life for something you want, you don t know what s life all about In the tumultuous times many are sucked in by the dangerous undercurrents and the price of survival grows high.


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