My father, Darryle Purcell, is the author of the popular Hollywood Cowboy Detectives books, a series of B-Western pulp mysteries featuring actual cowboy stars of the 30s and 40s. You can find all his books on his new website.
His newest ebook, Jungle Rot, is a huge departure from the Hollywood Cowboy stories. Here is our discussion about Jungle Rot, released today.
Tell me a little bit about Jungle Rot.
The story takes place in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam during 1965 and ’66. Two First Cavalry Division PFC paratroopers, Patrick Stone and Dan Loman, have been assigned to the “unlucky platoon,” where accidental deaths have become daily occurrences. Stone begins to believe that someone other than those pesky communists has been targeting and killing his fellow troopers. Unfortunately, he cannot relay his concerns to his platoon sergeant, who considers Army privates two levels lower than pit vipers.
As the body count increases, Stone attempts to make sense of the situation while holding on to his own ability to stay vertical in the wet, deadly jungle filled with enemy soldiers, venomous snakes, booby traps and angry sergeants.
What was the inspiration for this story?
I served in the First Cav during those years and I based the characters, attitudes, areas and actions on reality, with a slight twist. I added the existence of a murderer. During that war, there were many accidental deaths caused by mortar and artillery short rounds, exploding tubes, mishandled grenades, accidental shootings, etc. Much of it early in the war when lots of the ammunition had been in storage for quite a while; some of which was actually left over from the Korean War.
It was a logical jump to question whether a serial killer could have choreographed such “accidents.”
Why did you want to set a mystery story in the jungles of Vietnam?
I enjoy reading a variety of mystery stories. It seems like just about every setting has been used for crime fiction, except the Vietnam War.
When we veterans returned and rejoined the workforce and/or attended college, we were not very well thought of by our peers. Books and movies of that era depicted us as psychopaths. We usually made sure our college instructors were unaware of our service in that such knowledge would assuredly have impacted our GPAs. Certainly times have changed. But to this day, very few works of fiction depict soldiers of that time period as regular human beings.
Loman and Stone are two typical 18-year-old soldiers who, like most of us who served, did their best to do their jobs while surviving jungle warfare. And those guys would have returned to civilian life to become productive members of society. I wanted to portray my protagonists as regular guys going about their daily lives in the very surreal atmosphere of the Central Highlands.
There is a lot of action and danger sandwiched into this story. Were there any ideas that you decided not to include?
Besides the stereotype psychopath characters in which Hollywood filmmakers wallow, there is the myth that real war veterans don’t speak of their experiences. They do tell stories, but most often they are humorous episodes that are shared only with other veterans who would understand and get a good laugh about the situations (usually over a cold beer or two). I tried to thread enough elements of humor throughout the mystery to ground the characters in reality. At the same time, I had to be careful not to overdo it, as both war and murder are serious topics.
How does this story compare to your popular Hollywood CowboyDetectives series?
They are nothing alike.
My B-western mysteries take place between 1934 and 1941. Former newspaperman Sean “Curly” Woods, who works as a studio flack for low-budget cowboy films, has to keep B-western Barrymores out of trouble while protecting the film industry from a variety of bad guys. Sounds simple enough, but problems arise when egotistical producers, National Socialists, Soviet Socialists, international assassins, mob thugs, criminal scientists and supernatural, preternatural and extraterrestrial beings threaten the studio system as well as the American way of life.
I write the Hollywood Cowboy Detective books in the style of the great Saturday matinee serials of the 1930s and ’40s, while illustrating them along the lines of the pulp adventure publications from the same era.
Thanks so much for the information. Where can we find this ebook?
Jungle Rot came out today, exclusively on Amazon. All my books in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series can be found on my website.