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Vietnam is on the Horizon - an Editorial Review of "Cheerful Obedience"

Book Blurb:

Navigating the stormy seas of the 1960s wasn't easy, especially if Vietnam was on your horizon.

Ignoring his 2-S selective service deferment, Conor Patrick McKall volunteers for the draft, and Uncle Sam promptly deposits him in the Big Green Machine.

Six months later McKall is walking point in jungles, rice paddies, and rubber plantations. In nine short months, he's made an infantry squad leader responsible for a dozen other grunts. In the "boonies," life is lived one day at a time.

Joining McKall's squad is Jack "Red" Sheridan whose near-death encounter with a black panther presents challenges to his credibility from other members of Lima Platoon. When McKall stands with Sheridan, an unbreakable bond develops. They meet Red Cross Donut Dollies and together experience the infamous Black Virgin Mountain where the good guys control the top and the bad guys the rest.

Escaping Vietnam for a handful of days on R&R in Sydney, Conor experiences Aussie hospitality and the attention of a green-eyed beauty who offers him a chance to escape the war. Loyal to his oath and to his men, Sergeant McKall barely has time to supplant the fading scent of Chanel before he and his squad must face their determined and deadly adversaries. The arbitrary gauntlet of Vietnam offers no guarantees.

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Author Bio:

A decorated combat soldier, and former United States Attorney, Patrick McLaughlin spent 1967 in Vietnam as an infantry squad leader with the Dogface Battalion of the Big Red One. Following Army service, he graduated from Ohio University then Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

He served ten years with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern Ohio, the last four-and-a-half years as the United States Attorney having been appointed by the district court then by President Ronald Reagan. For thirty years he made his mark in the private sector as an accomplished trial lawyer, the last twenty years heading his own firm.

Patrick has been inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame, and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Christine, reside in Greater Cleveland.

This is his debut novel, and he would be delighted if you followed him at

Editorial Review:

If any day is a good day to die this must be one.The NVA gunner watches and calculates as the enemy come into focus. He turns to the three men at his position. “They are coming.” Armed with AK-47s, RPGs, and Claymores, the others nod. Down the irrigation ditch to the gunner’s right and left other men are alerted to the approaching enemy. The gunner rejoices that the enemy is walking into the shorter section of the L-shaped ambush— the section manned by his platoon. The rest of the reinforced company, elements of the 165th NVA Regiment, held positions occupying the longer section of the ambush. The veterans of the 165th want revenge.

The compelling and poignant novel "Cheerful Obedience" by Patrick McLaughlin is set against the stormy backdrop of the Vietnam War. From the first lines, we are taken back to October of 1967 near the Cambodian border. We are immediately thrown into the reality of war – that today, this day, could be the day that our protagonist dies.

Immediately, we are pulled into the trenches with them, armed with AK-47s, RPGs, and Claymores. With three simple words, “They are coming”, we feel the peril in the moment, and we also feel the heat of revenge. War is never pretty. This book showcases it in first-person.

The story of Conor Patrick McKall, a young man who forfeits his deferment and enlists in the military only to find himself in the thick of combat, is told in this book. McLaughlin's novel not only honors the soldiers of the Vietnam War but also explores the human condition during difficult times. We also get a first-person look at what it was like for new soldiers at boot camp and basic training.

The first couple weeks of basic the new soldiers are introduced to the singular world of military life. Not only does each soldier have to look and act the part but so do all physical things that interact with the soldier. All brass, shoes, and boots must display at all appropriate times a shine that defies logic since the first time one wears that item the hours spent placing it in proper form vanish as if they never occurred but, to be sure, will be repeated again and again.

The soldier’s bunks and foot lockers must be maintained in a specified manner, and no deviations are accepted. The two-story wooden barracks occupied by the Fifth Platoon might as well be a cathedral because at times of inspection one can only pray that the DI does not find even one tiny flaw in the cleanliness of the commodes, showers, and especially the waxed floors. One can easily shave using the floors as a substitute mirror and eat off the floors at inspection time. But if not flawless, there is hell to pay, and the entire platoon pays the price.

Army life during a war was not an easy one. But life back home for civilians wasn’t easy. War takes a toll on the whole country and this book highlights that as well. It makes a strong impression on the reader about how challenging the 1960s were, especially with the Vietnam War looming. It captures your interest and sets the tone for the conflict and the era.

McLaughlin does an amazing job of combining historical facts with this intensely sentimental tale. We watch Conor McKall grow from a fresh recruit to a strong squad leader. There is a great deal of action, tough choices, and combat tactical specifics. Aside from that, the storyline is further deepened by this intriguing anecdote of Jack "Red" Sheridan and a black panther.

The text is easy to read and flows well. With just the right amount of action, dialogue, and detail to keep you interested, the pacing is perfect. One thing that really stands out is how developed the characters are. Conor McKall's transformation is clear and engaging, highlighting the impact that combat can have on a soldier's mental health. The way his relationship with Sheridan unfolds is so well done. I like that the chapters are short, making it easy to read a little here and there and come back to your place easily. And it keeps the pacing of the story moving along well.

The story moves along easily, and McLaughlin's meticulous attention to detail makes the Vietnam War scenario seem incredibly authentic. I won't reveal the ending, but it's a touching and satisfying one. It does a good job of distilling the complexities and long-lasting effects of conflict.

One old friend has your tray, this one is for Badger at the next bunker, and a third tray is for McKall.”

What the hell are you smoking Ricardo?”

Soldier, I believe that this tray of real food is for you,” exclaims Maribeth as she steps from behind Ricardo.

Stunned, Red is speechless as his mind races to catch up with what his eyes are seeing.


Maribeth, what are you…”

Perhaps I was mistaken, but I thought that you might find a way to visit Cu Chi. Since you have not, I am forced to visit you on the spooky Black Virgin Mountain.”

Annie steps from behind Maribeth holding a third tray, and Red does a double take. The look on his face is priceless. Ricardo turns to Annie. “Follow me and I’ll drop this food with Badger and Chief. Then we’ll visit the squad leader.

Unlike the numerous other Vietnam War novels that are available, "Cheerful Obedience" is unique. It strikes the perfect combination between emotional depth, historical knowledge, and superb narrative. McLaughlin writes with clarity and fascinating depth, balancing humorous banter with just the right amount of vivid information. He does an excellent job at expressing the characters' feelings and the tone of the conflict.

I liked how the dialogue is done, how the speech of the characters is true to the times, true to Army life, and also gives us insight into the personalities of our different characters.

In summary, "Cheerful Obedience" is a must-read for everyone who enjoys historical fiction or war stories. It is a must-read because of McLaughlin's vivid storytelling and in-depth knowledge of the subject.


“Cheerful Obedience” by Patrick McLaughlin receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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