American Warrior

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The year is 1961. America has a new president, named John F. Kennedy, and a new era the newspapers are calling the Dawn of Camelot. But for ten-year-old Paul Brett, dealing with an abusive father and the immigrant gangs roaming his slum neighborhood of China Slough, America is only a small, dead-end place he is struggling to survive.

That is, until the night a mysterious stranger comes out of the darkness to his rescue, and initiates a ...

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The year is 1961. America has a new president, named John F. Kennedy, and a new era the newspapers are calling the Dawn of Camelot. But for ten-year-old Paul Brett, dealing with an abusive father and the immigrant gangs roaming his slum neighborhood of China Slough, America is only a small, dead-end place he is struggling to survive.

That is, until the night a mysterious stranger comes out of the darkness to his rescue, and initiates a journey--an unforgettable odyssey--beyond his wildest imagination.

From his unlikely beginnings in a brutal California migrant camp, into the darkest underbelly of a distant and unpopular war, to his final and, perhaps, most deadly struggle for survival inside the bowels of a near-medieval military prison, American Warrior follows this amazing journey of one young hero from boyhood to manhood, and from love lost, to his final and most incredible attempts to regain that love.

"A fast-paced...thoroughly engrossing story of a journey through pain and violence." Kirkus Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
In this military thriller, a boy grows to maturity with violence, first at home, as its victim, and, finally, through martial arts and the military, as its master. As a child in the 1960s, Paul Brett was often beaten by his vicious, drunk father. On his paper route he meets a man named Draeger, who teaches him pentjak silat--Indonesian martial arts. By the end of high school, Paul masters the techniques of this discipline. A run-in with the law leads him to enlist in the Army. He ends up in Vietnam with the Green Berets, operating secretly behind enemy lines in Laos. One mission goes horribly wrong; Paul goes AWOL, but he's captured and thrown into a military prison in Maine, where he has to fight for his life to survive. This book is hard to put down, and at times, especially during scenes set in Vietnam, the realism is startling and palpable. The challenges of Paul's life--emotional, physical and psychological--are compelling. First-time novelist Snyder uses a spare, direct vocabulary for the action scenes, though he sometimes switches to an elevated tone ("fathomless despair," "mother's watery womb") that jars. And there are narrative gaps. After Paul begins his martial arts training, any mention of his home life ceases until many years have passed, including a pivotal incident when he first confronts his father's abuse. After Draeger dies, Paul drops martial arts, an important part of his identity, and pentjak silat isn't mentioned again until he is in prison, many years later. The fight scenes at the prison mostly take the form of visions, presented via various images, but are sketched with too little description of the physical confrontations. A fast-paced, sometimes uneven, thoroughly engrossing story of a journey through pain and violence.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780741423207
  • Publisher: Infinity Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/30/2004
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

James Snyder was born in Memphis, Tennessee and fell in love with the cadence and sound of storytelling as a child, listening to the meandering tales of his Southern grandmothers and great aunts. While still a child, his family moved to Napa Valley, California where he attended middle and high school, and began taking writing classes at the local college. He left after a year to join the military, and was a soldier with a tactical mobile operations unit in Germany. It was there, while pulling a Harz mountaintop guard duty one night during a snowstorm, he had the chance encounter with another soldier that ultimately became the genesis for his military thriller, American Warrior.

His second novel is the suspense thriller, Desolation Run. In addition, he has just released the YA trilogy, The Beautiful-Ugly.

"Berlin Diaries" is his blog at where he further discusses the backgrounds of his writings.

He currently lives in Texas.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2005

    Unflinching Brutality

    Perhaps the most striking thing about American Warrior's early chapters is the sense of discovery as Snyder's young protagonist is gradually exposed to the mysteries - and disappointments - of the world around him. Later Snyder observes, of the same protagonist, now grown up, 'It was funny to him, how quickly one life was replaced by another.' American Warrior follows Paul Brett through three distinct lives. In the first, he contends with an abusive alcoholic father, meets a kind librarian who opens his mind to a wider world, and, most importantly, connects with Draeger, a retired Dutch mariner who teaches him Pentjak Silat - a rare form of Indonesian martial arts. Draeger is more a crusty old bast*** than wise sage and hardly a gentle taskmaster, but the skills and disciplines he teaches young Paul will serve him well later in life. Paul's second life takes up after his father's suicide, when he ships out to Vietnam as part of a Special Forces unit and begins unauthorized forays into Laos. The missions continue until a spy begins passing information to enemy troops, compromising the unit's safety and leading to a harrowing scene in which Paul kills two companions to save them from a worse fate at the hands of the enemy. Paul slips back through hostile territory, only to find that his government has, in effect, double-crossed him. He escapes Vietnam, only to be caught and charged with desertion. At this point his third life begins, in a forbidding Maine prison called The Castle. At this point Snyder's narrative - no stroll in the park thus far - becomes truly grim. The author spares no detail in describing the savagery of prison life, a life Paul only survives by virtue of his fighting skills and tough inner core. As the story ends, Paul is sprung from prison by an old CIA contact. This is in exchange for his services on one last mission into Laos, where he finds that he's been double-crossed again and barely escapes with his life. For all it's grim subject matter and the unflinching brutality of Snyder's prose, American Warrior is a gripping, and highly readable, look at the life of a man who might very well have achieved greatness had the cards been stacked a little differently. Instead, he is called upon to use his formidable skills just to survive. William I. Lengeman III

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2005

    Moments of Pure Terror

    'American Warrior' is a novel of a boy becoming a man, coming to know himself through an intense life full of abuse, self defense and ultimately overcoming his fears and desires to do what must be done to survive. Paul Brett gets slapped around by his dad and attacked by neighborhood boys until he is convinced to become what he sees an old Dutchman reveal as he breaks up a fight. Can he learn to be such a warrior? For years he practices, trains with the old man, and he develops a sense of self through it all. Training in the military is but another intense step toward Paul's coming of age and he demonstrates his strength while forming a fast friendship. He continues his training until it is time to go to Vietnam. There, Paul joins a Top Secret Forces group known as SOG, Studies and Observations Group. It is here that the novel takes a truly unique turn. This is not your typical Vietnam story. The author explores the illegal aspects of the war; the campaign occurring across the Laotian border along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The writing is intense and in depth with moments of pure terror and deep sadness. Paul's life is not an easy one to read about. The war is not the end of the tale, and what becomes of him is terrible and intense. Can he survive? Will he ever be able to go home and hold his wife in his arms once more? James Snyder had written a deeply thoughtful story. His treatment of the war is respectful and realistic. The plot is well designed and fulfilling. Snyder's characters are full of human flaws and hopeful growth, just as they should be. Heather Froeschl

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