Running With The Enemy by Lloyd Lofthouse

LofthouseRunningWithEnemyWhy I Read It: I lack general knowledge of the Vietnam war and I find historical fiction a great way to become acquainted with history.

Where I Got It: A review copy via the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Those who want a nitty gritty action-driven war story might enjoy this.

Publisher: Three Clover Press (2013)

Length: 378 pages

Ethan Card may have come from a street gang, but he found his place in the world in the Marines. Considering signing up for yet another tour, Ethan finds himself embroiled in a plot that will put him in prison for life, if not kill him. Set in the Vietnam war, Card is framed by CIA agent Ortega for selling weapons to the Viet Cong. To add to his difficulties, the woman he loves, Tuyen, is part of the National Liberation Front, a combative political entity that fights for the freedom of the country. At first, Card, with the support of his commanding officer, Colonel Price, considers fighting the charges through the military court. But then Ortega makes the mistake of threatening to torture, rape, and murder Tuyen. Now Ethan must flee the military, see Tuyen to safety, and face Ortega.

This is a book about war and violence and Lloyd Lofthouse doesn’t hold back. He portrays the violence straightforwardly without any fanfare, showing the military and culture clashes and greed for power that lead to torture, rape, and murder. Ethan Card and Price and ARVN Ngyuen stand as men trying to do the right thing in a messed up situation. Ortega isn’t the only man who lacks a moral compass. No, such men run free and plentiful in this book. A key character is Tuyen’s half brother Giap, a sadistic man with a chip on his shoulder concerning Tuyen’s parents. It’s a nitty gritty read, to be sure.

Let’s talk about the sex, both violent and pleasurable (distinctly separate in this book). There are few female characters and those females have one of two roles: 1) Being rescued/protected by a good guy, who they are bedded by; or 2) Being threatened with rape or experiencing rape. I am going to speak plainly about both. The author tells us that Tuyen is a seasoned fighter and we even see her carrying a gun at some point. towards the end, she finally shows us some fighting skills. Other than that, she is helpless. The love scenes focus on the man’s pleasure and the number of times he can perform in a given night. There is no description of the women’s pleasure or satisfaction. Yes, we ride around briefly in the ladies’ heads, and yes they have warm fuzzy feelings for their lovers. But still, the love scenes are lacking the women’s point of view. OK, now for the harder part. There were points in this book where one rape scene followed another – a nightmare to a real time scene to a memory. While the language is explicit, the author does a good job of portraying the fear, pain, and disgust of the women; the scenes do not focus on the rapist’s pleasure.

SPOILER ALERT With all that said, one of our good guys, who is in his late 20s or early 30s, ends up sleeping with a 14 year old girl. Yes, the sex is consensual, but the girl, and girl she is, is in a desperate situation looking for some sort of stability and future. Of course this left a big blinking question mark over the good guy’s head – should he really be called a good guy? END SPOILER.

The book didn’t go into any of the Asian cultures mentioned in any great detail, which I had hoped it would. Instead, the book is primarily Americans running around the jungles of Asia perpetrating violence or trying to end it. The characters, once laid out, didn’t change much. The story was heavily action-driven with little development of character or setting. The whole story was steeped in testosterone. The ending was predictable.

So, did I like it? I was sucked in by the nitty gritty feng shui of the book, then repelled by the over use of sexual violence and testosterone dousing. Even though the ending was predictable, I still liked that the good guys won and the bad guys lost. However, the limited roles by the female characters left me feeling that half the story still lies buried and voiceless.

What I Liked: No punches pulled on portraying the brutality of war; the ending.

What I Disliked: Limited female roles; gratuitous sexual violence; the book could have explored the Asian cultures more, and not just on swapping torture methods.

What Others Think:

Book Dilettante

Historical Novel Review

Lynelle Clark Aspired Writer

I received this book for an honest review as part of the blog tour hosted by Premier Virtual Author Book Tours. If you would like to learn more about the author or the tour, click HERE. Lloyd Lofthouse has recently been named Runner Up in the 2013 Beach Book Festival and Honorable Mention in the 2013 New York Book Festival , both for Running With The Enemy.

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9 thoughts on “Running With The Enemy by Lloyd Lofthouse”

  1. I always felt that my US history classes ended either before the war or skimmed it briefly so I don’t know a lot about it either.

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