Earl Norman

The Earl Norman books are becoming extremely rare, and publishers don’t seem to be interested in reprinting the series. The only way some of us may ever have all the stories is for collectors to scan and type the stories into PDF to swap with other collectors. I have already completed PDFs of HANG ME IN HONG KONG and KILL ME IN ROPPONGI. I am working on KILL ME IN YOKOSUKA. If other collectors would do the same for some of the other books, we could eventually have PDFs of all ten books. Why not help? I can be contacted at fadingshadows40@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Run From The Mountain

“The Run From The Mountain” by William Groninger. Young Herman Wakely was fresh out of tank and infantry training when he was sent to Occupied Japan in 1946, and assigned to Headquarter I Corps, Military Police Platoon, in Kyoto, with no MP training. Training would be on the job. Wakely would spend his three years with I Corps, and these are his memories of the time.
Sadly, there is no central plot, just little episodes. Men come and go, so we never know who will be in the next sequence. To add to the problem the writing is awkward. The sentences are extremely long, with way too many commas. It suffered from lack of tightening, and good editing. Even though this is a soldier’s story, to the author’s credit the profanity is kept to a minimum. There was only one “f” word within the first 75 pages. I was also disappointed that some of the units were not identified, as my old MP unit, the 720th MPs patrolled Tokyo during the Occupation. After a year Blakely leaves the MPs for Special Services.
Although the story lies somewhere between truth and fiction, I would allow a little truth, a little imagination, and a lot of fiction. I did enjoy the story, especially since some of it was about the Military Police during this time. As it was, many men were selected for MP units just because they were big and tough, or at least looked mean and tough. They needed to be. The cities were wide open, with prostitution, black market, and every kind of contraband imaginable. The GIs were also a big problem. Alcohol makes anyone mean, and American GIs are no exception. MPs had to get rough with them to keep them in line. Later, MPs would be sent through training before assigned to units, and it was their career field. How Blakely left the MPs so easily, since they are forever undermanned, leaves me wondering if it was really his idea or the unit’s to get rid of him. Another situation that left me flabbergasted was when he tells his CO he has decided not to reenlist; they relieve him of duty and cut his orders instantly, and he’s on a ship home that night. Orders and rotation do not happen that fast in the real Army. But it’s the ending that I like best about the book; the feeling when you leave a unit, and the men you served with behind, knowing they had meant the world to you, but now they were in the past, and would be soon forgotten. Read the following by the author:
“It happens like that all the time in the Army.” I said, thinking now of Dillavou. “You meet guys and they’re your friends, then they go or you go. And you never hear from them again. It’s sort of like your life. Things happen you think are really important, but then they pass, and the people that were a part of them go too, and the only real significance is that they happened to you.” And I knew suddenly it was true and that was the way I felt. In a way it pleased me, but it also made me feel lousy to realize that was truly what I believed.
I was not aware of this story when I wrote my own novel about an MP unit in France during the early 1960s. It’s probably a good thing, for I wouldn’t have wanted this novel to influence COLD WAR HEROES. At least mine was tight, and had a plot, though it wasn’t received very well. Readers didn’t understand it was a satire, and were expecting something else. For readers interested in this period of Japan’s Occupation, however, I highly recommend this book, as it will give you an insight into that time of chaos, and the problems of Japan trying to rebuild their nation under the eye of American military presence.

Tom Johnson

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