Veteran’s 2nd novel looks at war ’s effect

by William Dean, The Dominion Post   - Oct. 5, 2020

Coming home from war can be rough, especially for Vietnam veterans.

West Virginia author John Brown's second book, "Augie's World," is dedicated to those who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder and to families who provide support.

Brown's first book, "Augie's War," used his childhood memories growing up as part of an Italian family in Clarksburg and his time in Vietnam. "Augie's World" draws on some of his experiences after returning home from the Vietnam War.

"A lot of the novel deals with Augie's troubles when he gets back," Brown said. "In the last one, he was concerned about what happened to his buddies, but now he's home. He's dealing with these things, the invisible wounds."

PTSD wasn't really acknowledged until about 10 years after the war, Brown said.

Safely home from Vietnam, but dealing with the "invisible wound" of PTSD, Augie enrolls in graduate school about a month after the Kent State shooting. There, he suffers many of the indignities Brown said he faced, such as being called a baby killer.

"I dealt with a lot of the same issues," Brown said. "Not from everybody and not just from students, but from faculty who looked down their nose at me. I had a rough time. So, 'Augie's World' has to deal with all that stuff."

Augie turns to alcohol and drugs to cope, quits school and is hired to work at his Uncle Sal's bakery overnight, which helps him get a few hours of sleep without nightmares in the morning.

Augie then upsets a mafia group known as The Black Hand and has to go on the run.

Brown said the book is dark and touches on hard subjects but he tries to lighten it up with moments of humor. Some of the writing, such as about Augie's use of drugs and alcohol, was tough, Brown said.

"When I came back, I had a few bouts of that," he said.

Brown said he enjoyed the research for the book, and people who frequent Canaan Valley — where Augie goes to hide from the mafia — will recognize many of the places in the book.

Brown said he didn't intend to write "Augie's World," and he "resisted and resisted" trying to write another book about Augie, but started writing a third book on Augie a few weeks ago.

"I don't know what I'll call it," he said. "Augie three?"