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AKW books :: -Humor (fiction) :: 716th Flour and Shower

716th Flour and Shower
716th Flour and Shower
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2011 Non-Fiction eBook of the Year!

Lt. Jacob Jingle, a screw-up in ROTC, ended up in the Vietnam “conflict”, working in a mostly fictitious, dysfunctional supply unit.

While madness and sadness rage around them in South Vietnam, the men of the 716th Quartermaster Company stumble and fumble their way through their mission: to feed, clothe, provide showers for, and gas up troops in the field. And, sadly, to collect their bodies when they fall.

Unlike other Vietnam novels, “716th” isn’t all that bloody. In fact, only two members of the 716th were actual casualties in the war. One was run over by a Red Cross donut truck and the other one died laughing.

That said, Lt. Jingle is jubilant that he did not have to kill anyone in Vietnam. Wait, take that back. He did zap a number of cockroaches, but they were already half-dead from eating army food.

Then there’s the pig and the monkeys . . .

Fiction based on fact (with some embellishment).

Rated "G"

83,000 words (equivalent to 311 pages in mass market paperback format)

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SKU SKU42
Author Jacob Jingle
Audience Rating G
Price: $3.99

 
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Author: Sam White
For starters, it should be warned that this is an odd (but interesting) hybrid between fiction and nonfiction. Kinda like movies that claim to be based on true stories, but are hardly accurate. I can only guess that the other AKW NF books up for eBook of the Year in their category that just weren't as good. Even the product description admits that many events are loosely based on real ones while others are made up. I'm not sure what parts are real and which are fake, but either way it's kind of a mess.

After the tone setting preface and first chapter, Lt. Jingle (and yes, that's not his real name) seems to lose his train of thought as he gives us a long backstory about his life before he arrived in Vietnam, which has several backstories within said backstory about how he's been a screw up his whole life, some of which are more relevant than others. And even when the story finally gets back to the quartermaster unit in Vietnam, events seem to happen out of order part of the time with background info related to them that sometimes feels unnecessary (if you've ever wondered about the origin of canned foods, you're in luck). It's like talking to an elderly relative telling a story about his or her past that would be more interesting and entertaining if he or she would tell the story in chronological order and not just as they remember things as they come to them.

That said, it's still quite funny. It often does for the Vietnam War what M*A*S*H did for Korea (even Jingle makes comparisons) or what Hogan's Heroes did for War World II. There are truly hilarious events as Jingle and his comrades deal with various mishaps ranging from plans going disastrously awry to misunderstandings getting out of hand to pulling pranks on unliked officers & rivals in the combat units (and having pranks pulled on them) to having some humorous run ins with the locals & local wildlife (even some surprisingly funny encounters with the Vietcong).

It also becomes more poignant the deeper in it goes. A story set in Vietnam, no matter how much comedy it has, will still has some death and despair. Even early on Jingle and his friend Lt. Miles get a look at what's happening to men on the field at a hospital and it only gets worse from there. The characters become disillusioned with the war and what they're doing and some minor characters do regrettable things in anger or defiance. Jingle makes several moving statements about not only about how wrong the Vietnam War was, but unfavorably mentions Iraq as well. In later chapters he gives information about the history of Vietnam and how the situation could've been handled differently that are a real eye opener.

I really wish I could rate it higher, but the story's meandering distracts from it too much.

And one point he's telling a story about a friend, gets off topic and then says "But I'm rambling off course with the Spook story". Unfortunately, he rambles off course with many of the other stories too.


Author: Pete Christensen
The Flour and Shower is a tongue in cheek war novel along the lines of ‘M*A*S*H’ or ‘Catch 22’. It shows both the revulsion and absurdity of war while taking the reader on an alternately swaying ride from horror to hilarity.

This takes place in the Vietnam theater with a quartermaster corps (supply unit) behind the lines. Jacob Jingle writes with the flow of conversation. It’s an easily understandable work lacking the pretense and overly descriptive nature that bogs down so many otherwise good books.

Throughout the 420 pages Jingle weaves a tapestry of stories and anecdotes from people and events in his past while moving the plot forward with the dangers and comical situations he’s experiencing in Vietnam. All this is done in a narrative form where he actually talks directly to the reader. It’s a unique format that he delivers well in a very comfortable, folksy style.

The main character Jacob Jingle is a down home Oregonian with absolutely no ambition to be a war hero or even see combat for that matter. He does however have the one quality so lacking in so many anti-war protestors. His loyalty and sense of duty demands he serve his country and (as corny as some may think it sounds) he does his duty. I also enjoyed the way he consistently showed empathy for his advisories. There was always a very upfront and honest realization that there were no real bad guys here, just soldiers on both sides following orders. All too often war stories center around demonizing the enemy rather than understanding them.

The story opens with the Jingle’s first night in Nam. The author instantly develops a sort of ying and yang type writing that mixes witty dialogue with humorous situations all enveloped in a constant sense of danger. While the humor is mostly self-deprecating it’s never over the top or absurd. He takes a simple situation of going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and turns it into a comic adventure story.

He keeps the dialogue flowing while Jingle introduces us to such interesting characters as Westy, Uncle Ho, Buttons, Lieutenant Miles, Digger, Captain Donahue, and his best friend Matt. There are humorous events associated with each but more importantly the author makes each person real and human. Even the people you find rude, demanding, or outright obnoxious are believable and interesting in their own way.

Much of the piece is done in flashback. After throwing us into the Vietnam action he returns to boot camp and his training days at Fort Polk in Louisiana and his attempt at paratrooper duty at Fort Benning in Georgia.

I found his religious observations while remembering his baseball experiences at Serra Catholic High School interesting and amusing. But for all out laughs the absurdity of a soldier saving another from being prematurely body bagged and left for dead was hilarious in a bizarre sort of way. His explanation of how a court martial works and its various types was insightful and detailed. He followed that up with the experience of an actual court martial (no not his own) that left me laughing out loud.

In chapter fifty-three Jingle gives a dissertation on smoking that’s funny enough to work in any stand-up routine. It’s fraught with irony, and observational humor and ends with the ultimate smoke moocher prank.

I enjoyed this book and think you will too. Unlike ‘M*A*S*H’, or ‘Catch 22’ Jingle never sets himself up as some kind of crusading anti-war hero determined to teach the system where it went wrong. Instead he simply unveils a well told tale of a good natured person making the best of a bad situation with a sense of humor that allowed him to laugh at himself in hindsight.


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