Running with the Enemy – Lloyd Lofthouse

Low-Def Kindle Cover December 11Apologies for not replying to or checking out your blogs of late, I shall be catching up with you all in the next day or two so keep your welcome mats out.  Whilst I’m at it, a big thank you to Mr Lofthouse for his patience whilst I battled (see that, a pun this early on) through various backlogs of various things.

Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. In “Running with the Enemy”, Ethan Card is a loyal US Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again. And the women he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

In the claustrophobic theatre of war, there is always a feeling of hidden yet blatant peril which could be lurking anywhere and in this cat and mouse game that takes place in various countries there really is a sense of oppressive drama and isolation.

As this is a book set in the Vietnam War, then you will probably appreciate there is a fair amount of brutality involved including one particularly grim torture scene.  This is over quickly though as the book rattles along at a cracking pace, with action aplenty but also a fair amount of army politics and a forbidden love thrown in as well.

In keeping with the real thing, a bit of technical jargon is used, some of which I wasn’t familiar with and I did have to search out some words but overall I was able to understand what was meant through context and even if you need to learn the meaning of all words like myself that you don’t know, it doesn’t detract from the flow of the book at all.

As Card and the truly sinister antagonist Ortega – an intelligent psychopath with influence who will stop at nothing for power and revenge – play out their deadly game of hide and seek to the backdrop of the grim insanity of war, we see it’s madness and lies corrupting everybody down to their deepest morals. Ortega is representative of some of the more unpalatable displays of what go on in armies – which one would be naive to think doesn’t go on – which makes him a really good hate figure.  In fact this guy has no redeeming qualities apart from the fact that he makes a character that the reader loves to loathe.

On reflection, the characters line up as either good or bad, the pace of the book probably negates the type of role that would demand a complex back story which would ensure inner struggle and unpredictability.  This is not so much a criticism as a fact of the single-mindedness of the situations they are placed in.  Each must do what they can to survive.   Tuyen has the most complex issues in the book with her position in life,  being in ‘a mans world of war’ and her loyalties and teaching being utterly confounded and brought into conflict with the position she finds herself in.  Although there are not an abundance of female characters in the book, they all seem to hold a sense of power be it sexual power play or political. There is of course always going to be one character who you are waiting for to do something absolutely unhinged and unsavoury, there is a good example of that with one of the soldiers whose mind has snapped and he has some good internal monologue throughout.

As with any war book there are elements of unnecessary cruelty, it doesn’t hold back in its depiction of war and the actions both heroic and cowardly as it shouldn’t but if you go into this one be prepared for an uncomfortable read of torture and violence as well as love and loyalty.  Isolation from the world in these jungles is indeed a terrible thing and the various mindsets of people are always going to be a challenge to capture, the author manages to give us an insight whilst keeping the action flowing.

The supposed overarching aim of war for the common soldier is to survive and protect loved ones, the truth is usually nothing as noble as that when it comes down to the reality of war, perspectives can be skewed, army politics can be wildly at odds with reality so it is refreshing to find a book that has little of the jingoism that can be used as some sort of accepted form of patriotism.

I found the character of Kit somewhat jarring comic relief, his late arrival in the story and the slight change of tone didn’t work for me, he felt a little too like a slapstick sidekick, like that annoying kid from Die Hard 4.0.  Similarly Ortega’s overuse of word ‘man’ almost started to annoy me.  Having said that both things (but mainly the former) do not sufficiently bring the reader out of the book to spoil it…in fact if you don’t mind a bit of bloody with your words then this is a fast paced visceral read that captures some of the hell ordinary people go through in armed conflicts.

16 Replies to “Running with the Enemy – Lloyd Lofthouse”

  1. It sounds like a Sven Hassel book of the Second World War. His books were full of that kind of thing. He was a German and he wrote about the evil of the Germans and their war crimes. It sounds like this could be a good read for those who like that kind of genre. It’s not mine. I don’t like torture scenes which is why I can’t watch the Saw or Hostel films.


    1. I haven’t read any Hassel but have read a few of Leo Kessler who wrote of battles from the German point of view which is a bit different. This book differs from Kessler with bringing more of the politics of the situation and the plight of the civilians. Not sure how indepth Hassel goes with his books though. The one torture scene is pretty brutal but at least in a book you can skim read to the end, I saw the first Hostel and it was just grim…I don’t mind a bit of gore if the film around it is intelligent but that was just terrible as was Saw.


      1. Yeah, gore in a film has to be a reason. Gore for the sake of it – chop the leg off for a key – no, that doesn’t do it for me. Creatures exploding out of people or ripping them apart (RIP Giger) is okay. The torture scenes in Game of Thrones season 3 made me cringe, but it was there for a reason. As was the torture in Prison Break.


        1. I loved the Evil Dead over the top gore…the book whilst having its mindless violence, apart from the one time I didn’t find it overly graphic. There’s nothing in there you won’t see in a war movie.


            1. I thought that was directed well and didn’t linger to long on the gory bits, I found The Thin Red Line an easier watch gore wise though.


              1. Thin Red Line. Was that the one with Lee Marvin and Mark Hammill? No, that was The Big Red One I think. I haven’t seen Thin Red Line


                1. In a nice symmetrical way I haven’t seen The Big Red One. It’s an arty watch, some would say pretentious but I liked it. Perhaps I was just in a patient mood.


  2. Hi SteJ. No apologies needed. You’re a young dude with stuff to do, people to see, places to go & books to read.
    So nice to see you back though. 🙂


    1. Oh so many books to read! My problem is I write a lot and then get overwhelmed with it all and end up disappearing for a bit…I should be just going for it, there isn’t really an excuse but life is never that simple!


  3. It seems intelligent psychopaths generally spend their time pursuing power and manipulating ordinary, emotion-feeling folk. I wonder what unintelligent psychopaths spend their time doing? Running parliament, probably,,,


    1. Ha, that is a good point but when you say run parliament, surely that should be ruin parliament. Perhaps only psychopath and the misguided enter into that ‘profession.


  4. Glad to see you back! I seem to have one foot in and one foot out of the blogging camp these days. Don’t think this book is my ‘cup of tea’ as you Brits may say.


    1. It’s a fine line with the blogging getting all consuming. I do like my teas and also my books. I’m thirsty and ready now!


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