James Milton Smith Reviews
Terry Irving Review of The Fourth Pillar
First, James Milton Smith is very much the Real Deal. He gets both essemtoa; of writing about war; riveting descriptions of the fear, joy, terror, and exhaustion of real combat and the years of internal battle with the “invisible wounds” that all of those who have truly been on the front lines. His writing was wonderful and my job, as editor, was like that of an archeologist—clearing away the undergrowth. Once that was done, there were vivid descriptions, crisp dialog, and a wonderful sense of humor. Sort of an Angkor Wat of a book. Again, the sequences where he opened his veins and described the painful process of coming to terms with PTSD, there is an honest and wonderfully human story of the “push pull” process of seeking help when all his conditioning fights against it.
Jim is the real deal. From the fleshpots of Thailand, to the ludicrous “secrecy” of a war everyone but the American public knew was being fought. Jim has nailed this story.
With all that, it’s not a simplistic diary of one man’s time in combat, it’s a meditation on the meaning of life and death. The constant process of thought, meditation, and reconsideration that Jim has gone through shows his sharp intelligence which flashes through on every page.
All that and a surprise ending.
It was an honor to work on this book and I would like the reader to understand that “The Fourth Pillar” is very much the work of James Milton Smith alone.
A note from the author about Terry Irving:
Mr. Terry Irving is a four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. He edited and reviewed my novel The Fourth Pillar to be published in 2017. As an award-winning writer and producer, he has won three Peabody Awards, and three Du Pont and Telly awards. He worked as a senior live control room producer at CNN, Fox, ABC and MSNBC. He wrote and edited copy for some of the top anchors and journalists in television news including Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer, Wolf Blitzer, and Aaron Brown. Mr. Irving has produced stories in all fifty States and around the world from Beirut, Hong Kong, El Salvador, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square.
The mission where Owen O’Brien was trying to save his own and his team’s lives—whereupon he quickly found the location for his precise ambush of the NVA—is the most stellar writing in the book… The stories are powerful. At the best, the story is magical. Owen took to heart the Socratic dictum to “know thyself.” W.S., Oregon
Just finished reading SECRETS BROUGHT HOME. I must say I was struck by three main things: the excellent quality of the writing, revelations about the secret war in Laos, and insights into the manifestation of PTSD. I had noticed echoes of that conflict in other works bout the Vietnam War, but had no clue about the details revealed by Owen O’Brien. SECRETS BROUGHT HOME should be a commercial success at several levels. Firstly, it may open up a discussion about the CIA’s efforts to thwart the NVA’s flanking maneuvers; secondly, it may shine more light on PTSD, a subject that is growing in importance with the return of every afflicted Iraq and Afghanistan combat vet. Very well done, Marine. Semper Fi, B.B. California
You have created more than a book. As I read [your book], visual images flash through my mind from my own experience there, so it’s more like a movie or a personal memory. I can see it, I can hear it, I can smell the burning fuel and feel the heat and the humidity… Your photo of the bridge is a shock each time I view it. For weeks now, I have read and reread those same first pages but last night I made a breakthrough. Instead of starting on page one, I started where I had left off. I am now on my way to completion… Thank you for your book. L.C., Oregon
SECRETS BROUGHT HOME is a compelling book of one man’s story of dedication, personal mistakes, government mistakes, the horror of war and the difficulties recovering from that horror. Although autobiographical in style, it reads like a novel and the reader becomes embroiled in the life of the main character. What did I like best about the book? That is hard to say. While it is compelling, it is a difficult read because of the enormous emotional suffering of the main character, and the reader’s natural tendency to identify with the protagonist. I believe I enjoyed it most when the protagonist was being honest with himself, and that was most of the time. The experiences of the character were far beyond any I’ve had in my life, and to live his life vicariously enriched my store of knowledge of what our military endures. The best part for me was the ending where he made peace with the North Vietnamese man and himself–I cried. Congratulations on a great read and a successful book. Judge’s commentary, 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Book Awards
Most novels are teased through a multitude of drafts to a state of high literary polish. But perhaps the great American lie of the Vietnam era— the secret war in Laos—is best exposed via no such language. Jim Smith deploys an urgent, awkward, even traumatized prose—a prose as unpolished as a combat helmet—to drag his Marine hero through his horrific role in that war. This same brokenness of voice makes Smith’s climax so unexpected it left me reaching like an old jarhead for the brim of’ that same helmet, to shield myself from the blindingly cathartic glare. David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why
This book is full of humor, anger, intelligence and a sweet poignancy that was the endings reward. I’m glad I read it and I hope it is discovered by those who find solace in reading it. It tells the story of a survivor who may not outwardly appear war weary but becomes inner lightened as he makes peace with what was destroyed. Only someone who has been to war can know its destructiveness. What war could not destroy physically Owen inflicts upon his own soul by the secrets held within. Secrets Brought Home reveals the war does not end when a soldier comes home. It is misplaced for a time, lurking in the shadows, smothered by addictions, waiting to reveal its ugly destructive powers once again when least expected.
From reading this book I learned our greatest enemies aren’t those we face across a battlefield. Instead, they are our inner demons, the enemies within that cannot let go of the past, cannot allow us to forgive ourselves for the destructiveness inflicted within and without. So many of us punish ourselves for a past we cannot change. Our own guilt causes us to inflict suffering upon ourselves we wished our so-called enemies had inflicted upon us. It’s called survivor guilt. Why am I here? Why did I survive? These are questions not only asked by Americans serving in battle, but by every soldier defending what he believes is his to defend. Many things are universal among all humans. This book reveals we sometimes need a stranger to show we are all the same. Amazon Review by RatRacer
Finished this book almost two weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. So many facets to consider and it helps me to understand my Vietnam Vet husband a little better. I recommend this to everyone that lived through that era and to our young adults… Amazon Review by Mrs. C
An amazing story of a paramilitary in Laos, and his subsequent search for understanding for his part in a secret war–written with heart and laced with humor, rawness, and incredible poetry. The young O’Brien is dropped by the “powers that be” into a sometimes exotic but more often dangerous, brutal, and surreal existence. He serves as a CIA mercenary with his team who are native Lao tribespeople and Thai mercenaries. More than a Vietnam War novel, the story reminds us that the work of deep and painful introspection can sometimes free us from those things held too tightly. The story reveals O’Brien coming to terms with his part in the war – through his anger, bargaining, frustration and bitterness; it explores loss of innocence and loss of self, and the discovery of self.
This is a great fictional read based on actual history of the Secret War in Laos. The story inspired me to read and learn more about the war the U.S. waged in Laos, and what I discovered is disturbing. To quote Owen O’Brien, it is important to “know the difference between patriotism and bad foreign policy.”
When I read the book, I laughed, cried, felt anger, developed empathy for the Hmong of Laos for their strength and fortitude, and felt an admiration for the men and women that serve our country for their unending courage and sacrifice as they face insurmountable odds and the horrors of war. I highly recommend this book to any veteran or family/friend of any veteran home from the Vietnam War, Middle East Wars, or any war. And also to anyone who is paying attention to and alarmed by today’s current events and trends–the U.S. foreign policies and unending wars, and the marked increase, still highly unrecognized and unacknowledged, of PTSD. M.S., Oregon