09-10-2009: MilSciFi.com interviews David Sherman,
author of the military fiction novel, The
MilSciFi: "Welcome. Please tell us about your
Sherman: "There are two aspects of The Junkyard Dogs. One is the story of a Marine Corps Combined
Action Platoon in Vietnam.
That part of the novel is an accurate portrayal of the lives of those
In the other, The Junkyard
Dogs is a meeting of two rumors.
One, widely believed and equally widely denied, is that the CIA's
Phoenix Program in the Vietnam War was at least in part an assassination
program; the CIA would target Viet Cong or North Vietnamese cadre in villages
and send people in to kill them. The
other rumor, which crops up on occasion, is that the Marine Corps' Combined
Action Program was a front for Phoenix, that Marines were used to commit
I served in a CAP, and I can tell you honestly that I never even heard of Phoenix until years after I came home from the
war. As a matter of fact, I was quite
surprised when I finally learned that the CIA had any role whatsoever in the
war. In all the CAP reunions I have
attended, I've only once heard a vet say that his unit performed any duties for
That instance was one on which the CAP provided security while a CIA
team went into a village to capture a cadre."
MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this
Sherman: "Frankly, I don't believe that CAP
Marines had anything to do with an assassination program, CIA-run or
otherwise. But the rumor that they did
stuck in my mind. I finally decided to
write about how it might have happened."
MilSciFi: "Is this work part of a series?"
Sherman: "The Junkyard Dogs is a stand-alone novel, unrelated to anything
else I've written or plan to write. Not
withstanding the fact that I began my writing career by writing a six book
action-adventure series, The Night
Fighters, about a CAP. When I wrote
this book, I felt that after eight previous novels (the other two weren't about
a CAP) about Marines in Vietnam, I'd said all I had to say on the
MilSciFi: "In the book your characters are
based at Fort Cragg, was there such a place?"
Sherman: "There were, at one time, 119 CAPs
Every one was different. Some CAP
camps had bunkers and masonry buildings like the one in The Junkyard Dogs, others were more primitive--in my CAP, we lived
in tents. After the Tet Offensive, CAPs
were mobile, moving from place to place daily, without a home base. I made up Fort Cragg.
MilSciFi: "How much of the background of the
story is based on your own experiences?"
Sherman: "The only specific thing in this
novel that comes directly from my own experience is the use of nicknames. Most of the Marines in my CAP went by
nicknames--what the kids called us. For
example, I was De Vinh, which was as close as the kids could come to pronouncing
David. I know CAP Marines from having
been one, and I know how CAPs other than my own operated from reading most of
the little that's been published on the program, and from talking with other
CAP vets. Coming up with realistic
characters and situations was easy."
MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the
aspiring military fiction writer?"
Sherman: "Well, sir. Military culture is quite unlike civilian
culture. Within the military, the
culture is different from branch to branch: army culture isn't like air force
culture, isn't like navy culture, isn't like Marine culture. And war, I'm speaking here from the point of
view of the infantryman, is radically different from anything else in the human
experience. When I read military
fiction, I can tell whether or not the writer is a vet. If he's writing about Marines, I can tell
whether or not he ever wore the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.
My advice to anyone who wants to write military fiction is enlist.
Get the experience, learn the culture.
If you haven't lived it you can't get it right, it's too far removed
from anything you know. And you can't
get it from a book.
Unless, of course, you're writing something so far out that nobody
expects it to be accurate or realistic."
MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the
most difficult about writing military fiction?"
Sherman: "Staying in combat, seeing people I
know, friends even, get killed. When I
write, I immerse myself in the story; the characters are real people to
me. I'm working on something now where a
lot of characters get killed. It's hard.
I don't believe in spear-bearers--anonymous characters that are
there only to get killed. To the
greatest extent possible, every one of the characters who get killed in my
novels has a name, they aren't anonymous cannon fodder."
MilSciFi: "Besides military and science
fiction, is there any other genre you write in?"
Sherman: "I have a vampire novel out, The Hunt. You can learn more about it on my
website. There are my three DemonTech novels. There's the possibility of a fourth DemonTech. And there's another I'm noodling with. But I may or may not do anything with it."
MilSciFi: "Do you have any other projects in
Sherman: "That would be telling."
MilSciFi: "Do you have any upcoming author
Sherman: "At this time, I don't have
MilSciFi: "Thank you, and Semper Fi!"