While Training for Violence Overseas…
these Marines face violence within the U.S., and within the military.
Sam Foster’s new book is technically fiction, although Non Semper Fidelis
is based on real events that Foster witnessed up close. “It took me forty years to write this novel,” he recalls. “I knew what happened in real time. It took me most of a lifetime to learn what it meant.”
Foster remembers from the point of view of Jack Kendrick, a young Californian who has joined the Marine Corps and is going through Officer Candidate training at Quantico, Virginia. At first the book appears to be a collection of short stories. Artfully, the stories become more and more interdependent as we read further and further into the book. By the third story we recognize that they all concern, either directly or peripherally, Jack Kendrick’s development as a marine who fits in and still a man who thinks for himself. A plot line emerges so that by Chapters six and seven we know we’ve been hooked by a short but important novel.
This is a novel with and about violence, set during the Vietnam War era, but the violence in this story does not take place in Vietnam. The violence here is close to home. This is a novel about intolerance and racism in the United States.
At the climax of the novel, Kendrick’s black friend Corporal William Buck is on leave in Memphis, visiting his mother. During what was supposed to be a brief stay, Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot dead and the city erupts in a race riot. Corporal Buck chooses to remain AWOL rather than leave his mother in the urban war zone. When he eventually returns to Quantico he is willing to face discipline, but unwilling to tolerate the hateful taunts of a racist sergeant. At this point violence becomes a personal issue, a matter of courage, not only to stand up for oneself and one’s personal politics, but also to challenge the military chain of command, regardless of the consequences.
About the author. After discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps, Sam Foster returned to Los Angeles, California, where he has lived ever since, has raised a family at the beach, and has been a member of the downtown Los Angeles business community.