Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dog Soldiers, by Robert Stone

(pb; 1973, 1974)

From the back cover:

"Heroin. You pick it up in Southeast Asia. You smuggle it in through San Francisco. You sell it for all the ravenous American market will bear.

"For Converse, a disillusioned journalist, it is a perverse proof of his manhood. For his wife Marge, a college dropout working in a porno movie house, it is a new kick. For Hicks, a devotee of Oriental spiritualism and martial arts, it is another step past fear and moral scruples.

"For all of them it is a trip into a nightmare of lawless violence and insane greed."


Like the untenable and nasty war that helped spawn it (Vietnam), the events that take place after Ray Hicks smuggles heroin into the States are spectacularly f***ed-up. (Normally, Converse and Hicks smuggle marijuana, but the heroin pay-off, which looks to be astonomical, is too tempting.)

This is the melancholic, sordid and body-strewn milieu of Joseph Conrad, times ten. Converse is the cowardly, morally ambiguous American; Ray, his amoral American antithesis. Marge, Hick's wife in the States, with her growing needle habit, is just another victim. Even Antheil, whose smack Ray and Marge have fled with (after Antheil sends goons to whack them), is a victim of sorts, in a high-risk game where the wrong word in the wrong ear means instant death.

Bleak, ironic, crazy-violent and ultimately tragic, Dog Soldiers encapsulates many aspects of the Vietnam War, as seen by small-time eclectic "operators" whose cash and chemical endeavours arise from that struggle.

Stunning, pivotal work, this. Worth your cash and time.

The retitled film, Who'll Stop The Rain, was released stateside on September 8, 1978. Michael Moriarty played John Converse. Nick Nolte played Ray Hicks. Tuesday Weld played Marge Converse. Anthony Zerbe played Antheil. Richard Masur played Danskin.

Karel Reisz directed, from a script by author Robert Stone, and Judith Rascoe.

1 comment:

megastein said...

I had no idea that the film was based on a book, I am definatly grabbing this one!

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