Book Review: Laos File by Dale Dye
Dale A. Dye
Open Road Integrated Media
Publication Date: 22 JAN 2013
5 out of 5 stars
I originally requested this title to review after seeing the author’s name. Dale Dye, the author of Platoon (an Oliver Stone movie) has a distinguished military career (Bronze Star with Valor!) as well as having a reputation for portraying solid military characters in a long list of gems like Band of Brothers, Platoon and Saving Private Ryan.
Laos File is the story of a dead Marine’s lifelong friend, Warrant Officer Shake Davis, an active duty Marine “Gunner” at the end of his military career. With the occasional contextual flashback, we follow Gunner Davis in the era of the Clinton Administration as he off-handedly discovers that his friend had worked for a certain government agency in the 1970s on a mission involving MIAs in Vietnam. Gunner Davis is thrust into a sprint to be the first to find the Laos File, a batch of documents that may describe the fate of over 200 missing US service members.
The characters are more fully developed than most novels in the action-espionage-war genres. It’s a little more gritty than most, using military slang when appropriate. I found it strangely refreshing, especially since I recently set aside a different title for using too much jargon at inappropriate places. But Dye avoids this error. His terms are dead on and at times I felt like most civilians would perhaps find this device a little confusing. But for me, well, it felt comfortable. Familial backgrounds and social influences shaping the characters are brought into character development in a fluid way without forcing us into those back stories.
I really enjoyed the narrative voices used in this book. When Gunner Davis is the focus, it is with his thoughts, using military jargon with a distinct rough, edgy unwaveringly military ethos. It is such an obviously helpful device, that it escaped my notice until well into the reading when the voice is a Vietnamese Soldier reflecting on the horrors of his own participation in the war. My initial feelings of a disjointed story were all for naught. My mind disengaged from critical evaluation to fully enjoying the action and carefully worked out tensions.
I think Vince Flynn fans would find this a welcome read. I would love to see this adapted to a movie with Dale Dye as Gunner Davis. I have no doubt that it would be a successful venture.
I thoroughly enjoyed this title. It’s gritty where it needs to be. It is believable at so many points as really good war stories should be. Without a doubt and without fail, Laos File is just another example of Dale Dye’s skill set.