Local author relates a tale of war's tedium

Novel focuses on the boredom of a soldier's life

November 18, 2001|By Tom Kim | Tom Kim,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Author Bruce R. Waldron could have written about fierce gun battles and explosions in his new book, A Year in the Belly of the Tiger, a fictionalized account of the Vietnam War. But he chose not to.

Instead, Waldron, a Vietnam veteran who works for Carroll County government in Westminster, decided to focus on an aspect he believes is neglected in most accounts of the war - the boredom.

"I think there is something lacking [in books and movies] in showing what a tour is like," Waldron said during an interview at a book-signing in Mount Airy this month. "It's more tedious than [what is depicted in] the movies."

Waldron's book, written in journal format, tells the story of 19-year-old Tim Welch, who has just begun his one-year tour of duty. The story follows him as he experiences life in a new and hostile land.

The story begins as Welch arrives in Vietnam on Memorial Day 1970. From there, an almost day-by-day account is given of the life of the young soldier from a small town in Oklahoma.

The book follows Welch as he goes through an often-mundane life thousands of miles away from his family and friends.

"That's what I'm trying to get across, that feeling of being away," said Waldron, 50, who spent about 18 months working on the novel.

A Year in the Belly of the Tiger is Waldron's third published work. A book of short stories, Belly Up to the Yellow Line, and a self-published collection of poetry preceded the novel, which was published last month by AmErica House of Baltimore. A review on Amazon.com describes Belly Up to the Yellow Line as "a delicious collection with a surprising twist in every bite."

Waldron said he based much of the 227-page novel on his experiences, but he's quick to point out that it is a work of fiction.

"The book [encompasses] some of my feelings," he said.

Anne Dorsey, owner of the Whistlestop Bookstore in Mount Airy, where Waldron recently signed copies of A Year in the Belly of the Tiger, said the novel's journal format drew her into the story.

She said she grew up during the Vietnam era and remembers her brother and friends experiencing the same things the fictional Welch does. Until Waldron's book, she found it difficult to read books about that time.

She said the novel is approachable: "With the journal form, you really get absorbed into the character, his thoughts and feelings," she said.

The book has been selling well at her Main Street store, she said.

Waldron grew up in Silver Spring and was drafted into the Army in 1970. He headed across the ocean as a surveyor during the war and completed a one-year tour of duty in 1971.

After the war, he attended Daytona Beach Community College in Florida, where he studied civil engineering. He came to work in Carroll County nearly 14 years ago and today is the county's development review coordinator.

Since then, he has studied writing at Frederick and Carroll community colleges. He also has attended summer writers workshops at Frederick Community College and St. Simmons Island, Ga. He is associated with the Independent Writers Association, a group that meets regularly in Frederick.

Waldron lives in Libertytown with his wife, Dianne, and daughter, Kelly, 16, who attends Linganore High School in Frederick County. His son, Christopher, 22, is in the Army Reserve.

In A Year in the Belly of the Tiger, Waldron said, he wanted to delve into issues rarely explored in most war novels, including camaraderie developed when young men are placed in a foreign environment and the closeness it brings. But he also wanted to focus on the differences.

"You had brothers from Detroit living with someone from Alabama," Waldron said of his own experience during the war. "I guess in the end, I hope the reader gets a feeling of what a Vietnam veteran went through and comes up with an appreciation."

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