“Amotan Field” by S. Elliott Lawrence
A boy happens on bones and starts digging into the past. Distant ghosts begin to stir. Buried secrets begin to rise.
Amotan Field was written to answer the basic question, what happened after First Light S. Elliott Lawrence’s first novel? The book ended with the main character landing at the San Francisco Airport on June 18, 1969 and heading for home. Many readers asked after reading First Light, “so what happened after that?”
Amotan Field is a story of redemption. Redemption for a returning soldier dealing with the aftermath of combat. Redemption for a WWII soldier, a member of the Celilo/Wyam tribe, who was denied a medal because the truth of his bravery was buried by a terrible accident.
Amotan Field is about the history of the Indian community, which had lived and thrived along the Columbia River for thousands of years, shoved aside in the 1850s by pioneers, missionaries and the military, promises made and broken and complicit racism which has continued.
“First Light” by S. Elliott Lawrence
A very different military novel. FIRST LIGHT is the story of Kenneth McKenzie, faced with conflicting issues of duty and responsibility as an infantry platoon leader. It’s as if the Graduate has joined the army and is confronted with All Quiet on the Western Front. The chain of command demands adherence to orders, but McKenzie soon finds his soldiers need protection from the fealty he owes to superior officers.
First light is that discreet time of morning when dawn breaks apart the dangerous night. Soldiers are tempted to relax although it is the most dangerous time; the time when a cunning enemy likes to attack. McKenzie must learn how to be a leader of kid soldiers and deal with his own fears. FIRST LIGHT becomes a metaphor for his own journey to discover who in the chain of command above him is dangerous and when duty trumps loyalty to his troops.
When McKenzie is assigned to Delta Company, 1st of the 5th, the battalion commander, Colonel Fishmuth, greets him with disdain because McKenzie is not only a 2nd Lieutenant, but he has no specialty school patches on his uniform.
Like most battalion commanders in 1968, Colonel Fishmuth, commissioned after Korea, having never led a platoon or company into combat, is in command of a full battalion of four-line companies and a recon platoon. This is his only war.
McKenzie begins to think he has made a big mistake and that no one will take care of him but himself.
Delta Company has been involved in a long struggle over tactics. Within weeks of McKenzie arriving, they walk into the bottom of a narrow draw with a trickling stream and are ambushed by a brutal crossfire of Chinese machine guns. This incidence foreshadows a conflict for McKenzie between following orders or making his own decision as the situation dictates. His hatred for Colonel Fishmuth festers. He is consumed with thoughts of revenge.
It is a compelling story of one man’s struggle with the experience of war. It is not heroic but there are medals. It is a sad, frightening, uplifting and realistic picture of what every man confronts when taken away from a civilized world and thrown into a confusing war of little purpose and conflicting motives, fought by kids who must grow up too early and a career military looking to make up for too many years of peace.