Weekend Reads: “First Blood”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had the pleasure of taking a workshop from author David Morrell in 2018. Yet, I had not read his debut work. I finally took care of that this year.
I think it’s important to point out that I was not a fan of the “Rambo” movies. There were continuity errors galore, as well as errors about weaponry, etc., that were obvious to me from my time with the Dept. of Defense. The good news here is that the films have very little in common with the book.
Rambo has come home from Vietnam with a Medal of Honor and a bad case of PTSD. He wants to get lunch in a tiny Kentucky town, and runs afoul of Sheriff Wilfred Teasle. Teasle doesn’t want any “hippie vagrants” in his town. Rambo doesn’t disclose to Teasle that he’s a veteran, despite seeing Teasle’s medals from the Korean war on the sheriff’s office wall.
When the sheriff arrests Rambo and decides to forcibly cut his hair and shave off his beard, Rambo’s PTSD kicks in and a killing spree begins. Ultimately, Col. Samuel Trautman, head of the Green Beret training school that made Rambo into a super soldier, is called in to assist.
The book’s POV alternates between Teasle and Rambo in a deliberate way. It allows readers to see both the parallels and contrasts in the characters. Both men are anti-heros, to be honest. Neither is an ideal protagonist.
This book is a thoughtful look at the effects of PTSD and, while it is not an easy read in terms of the violence, it is full of well-executed prose and believable characters with whom I found myself empathizing.