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A stunning book about the right stuff in the wrong war. As a child, Robert Mason dreamed of levitating. As a young man, he dreamed of flying helicopters - and the U.S. Army gave him his chance. They sent him to Vietnam where, between August 1965 and July 1966, he flew more than 1,000 assault missions. In Chickenhawk, Robert Mason gives us a devastating bird's eye-view of that war in all its horror, as he experiences the accelerating terror, the increasingly desperate courage of a man 'acting out the role of a hero long after he realises that the conduct of the war is insane,' says the New York Times, 'And we can't stop ourselves from identifying with it.'

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780552124195
ISBN-10: 0552124192
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 24mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Corgi Books
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 24-Aug-1984
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » The trials and triumphs of a Vietnam vet, revealed in a soft-spoken, sometimes even bloodless sequel to Mason's acclaimed war memoir, Chickenhawk (1983). Since his return from Vietnam in 1966, Mason has led what seems a terrifically eventful life: Locked in debt with his wife and young son, he launched a successful mirror-manufacturing business; plunged back into poverty when his partner forced him out, he crewed a pot-smuggling ship - only to be caught and thrown into prison; trapped behind bars, he became a bestselling author and wrote a successful technothriller, Weapon (1989) - and all this backdropped by struggles with alcohol, Valium-addiction, and infidelity. But Mason's prose here is so without resonance that his story carries little punch - for example, in his discussion of his substance abuse: "My body sent me a painful message, saying that it had developed an extreme dislike of alcohol. What a shock. Alcohol was as much a part of my biology as my blood. The message was a headache so horrible that I couldn't see straight....I switched to smoking pot....I began to feel better immediately." Potentially dramatic episodes mire in minutiae: The pot-smuggling cruise to Colombia - the book's centerpiece - bogs down in wrestlings with seasickness and broken machinery; the prison that Mason is sent to turns out to be a minimum-security one where his greatest concerns seem to be what job he'll get next (he graduates from landscaper to commissary clerk) and how his writing will fare (he quotes reviews of Chickenhawk at length). It's only when Mason flashes back to Vietnam or, early on, swoops through the sky in a chopper that his tale soars above the mundane. Forthright but fiat-footed, and far less paradigmatic than Mason's first memoir. Enough of this author's life, already; henceforth, he should stick to his clever, winsome thrillers. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Book Review: Chickenhawk by Robert Mason - Reviewed by (11 Jul 2011)

Review Written by Bernie Weisz, Historian, Pembroke Pines, Fl USA contact: BernWei1@aol.com This book abruptly puts you in the cockpit of a Huey Gunship helicopter during the early days (1966) of the Vietnam War. Robert Mason, in "Chickenhawk" takes you on a graphic month by month tour of helicopter duty starting in August, 1965 and concludes with Mason's disillusionment with a war that would ultimately claim more than 65,000 American lives. Mason vividly elucidates his paralyzing bouts of P.T.S.D., alcoholism and ultimately, like other returning Vietnam Veterans, unemployment upon return to civilian life. Hence is the tie in to his second book. As the reader discovers in Mason's second installment, he descends into criminal activity and lives the life of a drug smuggler transferring his military skills to illegal gains. Needless to say, it is interesting to note Mason's gradual change from an aggressive "pro-war hawk" supporting wholeheartedly the Vietnam War to his change after his D.E.R.O.S (military slang for "Date of Estimated Return from Overseas Service, i.e. when a soldier returns from his Vietnam tour and goes back to "The World" (the U.S.).Upon Mason's early days of adjustment transitioning from flying combat missions to the boredom of civilian life, he describes paralyzing anxiety of dying, P.T.S.D., and flashbacks of the war. For his flashbacks Mason condescendingly brands himself a "chicken". That's why he named this book "Chickenhawk". Mason was a soldier in regards to his exterior. However, his "insides" (being a coward) and his "outsides" didn't match! Mason angrily asks the reader a question he has been perplexed with for years: "Why didn't the South Vietnamese fight the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese like the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army fought the South Vietnamese? Mason asserted that without the support of "our allies" (the South Vietnamese) the U.S. was going to (and ultimately did) lose the war. However, since it was blatantly obvious to everyone that the South Vietnamese for the most part were corrupt and couldn't care less about victory, why was the U.S. there in the first place and continued until 1973 to fight a war that could not be won? Mason insists in "Chickenhawk" that the people in Washington must have known this. Most American plans were leaked to the V.C. and N.V.A. . The South Vietnamese Army was rife with reluctant combatants, mutinies,and corruption. Mason wrote about an incident where an A.R.V.N. detachment of soldiers at Danang in I Corps squared off in a pitched firefight with South Vietnamese Marines! There was the ubiquitous South Vietnamese sentiment that North Vietnam, with it's leader, Ho Chi Minh, would persevere to victory. Regardless, all these ideas are intertwined in a personal story chock full of raging madness, frightening extractions of wounded being dusted off, fierce combat and death. This is one book I will reread many times!

Author Biography - Robert Mason

Robert Mason is married and lives in the United States.

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