Edgar Doleman’s Arlen’s Gun is the story of a Vietnam combat mission gone wrong and the efforts to save the men involved.
At the story’s heart is Airman Arlen Washington, a young man who enlisted in the Air Force to avoid being drafted. As the story opens, Washington, an angry young man who has recently learned bad news from home, is aboard an AC-47 gunship nicknamed “Spooky 45.” The crew aboard are responsible for providing fire support for other units in the Vietnam jungle.
Washington is not well liked and “locked in his own closet” of emotion. But the one thing that allows him to escape from his troubles is a fantasy about stealing an AC-47 machine gun and using it to clean up the gang-riddled neighborhood at home. Washington is so transfixed by the weapon that his fellow soldiers tease him about it. Then Spooky 45 comes under attack, and Washington must do his part to keep the crew alive.
The author notes in the preface that the story is based on actual events, and this is clear in his authentic telling of the story. Describing the guns on Spooky 45, Doleman writes: “Each of these new guns could pour out up to six thousand rounds a minute … each gun had a cluster of six barrels. With its six barrels, a minigun was the equivalent of six regular machine guns. This firepower gave the AC-47 a nickname from a popular song of the time—‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’” Doleman also often offers nice turns of phrase, such as, “McLaughlin and Blagget let out a collective breath, as if they had shared a lung.”
This is not a fast read, but one with a detailed plotline that creates realism, tension and uncertainty. Its numerous characters are all well drawn.
Well written and plotted, this will most appeal to those interested in the Vietnam conflict or war stories in general.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.