A Common Virtue

Written by James Hawkins
Review by Bryan Dumas

Paul Jackson is an eighteen-year-old Marine who finds himself at the wrong end of a firefight at the Duc Lo Firebase in Vietnam. As the sole survivor of the onslaught, he catches the eye of daring, young Captain Rivers, who enlists him to join in a new, risky venture called Marine Force Recon. After traipsing deep behind enemy lines with Rivers, it is decided that Jackson was going to help Rivers run the unit, but to do that he’d have to be an officer. In one month, Jackson goes from Lance Corporal to Lieutenant, exposing Jackson to even more scrutiny by the old guard of the Marines’ internal factions, as he has no college degree and never attended OCS – where he is being shipped off to as the war heats up. While at OCS, Jackson falls in love with a New York socialite who begs him to stay, but Jackson knows his duty. He will finish what he started.

This is James Hawkins’ first novel, and though I am not a regular reader of war & military fiction, I couldn’t put the book down. His writing is tight, crisp and had me anticipating every ambush. It is a gritty book that doesn’t hide the horrors of the Vietnam War. If I had any issues it would be the use of the military jargon, but there is a glossary at the back that I had to reference often. Also, it is advertised as a book that pits the soldier against an American public that despises him, but that part was so minimal that I hardly noticed. I wish there was more of this aspect. Overall, a good read.