Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Soldiers Weigh In on Iraq

September 17, 2005; Page P4

The Iraq War is coming to your local bookstore.

Readers who scooped up political fare last year are now being offered
accounts of the Iraq conflict by soldiers who were recently on the

Their memoirs offer a range of experience and perspective on the war, from
reformed slacker Colby Buzzell, who worries there's no end in sight, to
Dartmouth alumnus Nathaniel C. Fick, who sees peace on the horizon if more
troops are mobilized.

The tone in each is blunt. "The world hears war stories told by reporters
and retired generals who keep extensive notebooks and journals," writes
former National Guardsman John Crawford. "They carry pens as they walk,
whereas I carried a machine gun."

Publishers say these soldier memoirs complement books penned by journalists
about the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. "They put you further inside the
soldier's head and tell you what it's like to shoot at somebody, what it's
like to be shot at, and how they got there," says Ivan Held, president of
G.P. Putnam's Sons. "These books take you into Iraq and give you a
first-hand look."

Part of the appeal of the new battlefield memoirs is that they feature
ordinary people performing in extraordinary ways under pressure. "There are
significant numbers of readers out there who want to know what the
experience is really like," says David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus Books
LLC, a unit of Washington private-equity firm Perseus LLC.

These authors are little-known, but their stories are extraordinary. Below,
culled from interviews with five new writers, are descriptions of their
books and a taste of what they contain.


THE BOOK: "My War: Killing Time in Iraq," publishing in October.
The Author: A 26-year-old slacker feeling that life was passing him by,
Colby Buzzell was rejected by the Marines. He waited a couple of weeks to
ensure that he could pass an Army drug test.
The Plot: The inside story as told by Everyman. Mr. Buzzell arrived in Iraq
November 2003 and left the following October.
Behind the Scenes: In his eighth month in Iraq, Mr. Buzzell, now 29, started
Worst Moment: Getting his first leave canceled.
Take on the War: Mr. Buzzell is concerned that there is no end in sight.
"What is winning? Is it winning the global war on terrorism? Eliminating all
the insurgents in Iraq?"