I run because it is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who are now making them.
-Robert F. Kennedy
“Dr. Raymond Meinkewitz I see you’ve made a return to Storybook Junction.”
RAY MEINKEWITZ: “Well, the fourth book in the Patch Kincaid Series is much too important even today not to comment on it.”
“Why is it more important than JFK’s Assassination and the Garrison investigation?”
RAY MEINKEWITZ: “Listen up. I don’t discount those events. They too changed history. But let’s look a little closer at where this book begins. The fall of 1967. In the words of Bob Dylan’s song- ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
“Why do you say that?”
RAY MEINKEWITZ: “I have a different attitude now having survived my time with Patch. You see, The Title of the last book is called American Injustice, which is followed by Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Vietnam should be subtitled or added to the title. Vietnam never would have happened if Kennedy lived. The decision by Kennedy had been made and was in the process of being implemented by Secretary McNamara and codified by McGeorge Bundy in Kennedy’s NSAM 263 in October of 1963.”
“How does the book address this change?
RAY MEINKEWITZ: “Patch and I were on the way to Vietnam at the beginning of the book.
Why was that?“
RAY MEINKEWITZ: “Commander Beauregard had been imprisoned in an American jail which was a stinking pit. We get into two of the major themes of the war. Young American Men drafted against their will and mowed down in Southeast Asia. We experienced that nightmare firsthand. The death and destruction and the atrocities carried out in the name of freedom. It was disgusting. And Patch was in the thick of the assassinations.”
“And how would things be different now if these things had not happened?”
RAY MEINKEWITZ: “Vietnam was a stain on the American psyche. A stain like that brings shame and guilt. Societal norms were diminished. And further with the assassinations so cleverly carried out exacerbated the horror. Without the execution of our beloved and competent leaders our political and social ideals would have been proudly elevated. So, I guess the word important doesn’t begin portraying the enormity our how our history was annihilated. We are the ones left to deal with it. I see that retrograde is about to begin.”
“Godspeed Ray Meinkewitz.”
When I was sixteen years old, I sat with a 3 ½” reel to reel recorder, hard wired into the speaker on my parent’s portable TV. Robert F. Kennedy was going to announce his candidacy for president of the United States. I was a huge admirer of President Kennedy and deeply affected by his assassination. I heard the words of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and soon realized that he spoke with the poignant passion. More than that I distinctly remember feeling the call for justice in RFK’s announcement. The same way I felt about President Kennedy. I still have my 3 ½” Mylar reel, supplanted by video digital files, and when I hear Bobby Kennedy’s words, I still feel the passion and call for justice but now there is a sweet sadness that will never go away.
With Martin Luther King the process for me was like a slow drumbeat. As I grew into adulthood it became clear to me that Dr. King challenging insurmountable forces was nothing short of breathtaking. In the 1960’s day after day, month after month reports of civil rights marches, protests, denial of rights, and killing was a numbing process. I watched on TV the August 1963 March on Washington and listened closely to the flourishing rhetoric of Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial. And later I understood more about his other speeches and read his writings about justice in the United States. My effort with this novel brings Patch to the truth about Dr. King’s death.
I did not fully comprehend the true nature of the RFK and MLK assassinations. That began in college with Mark Lane speaking at UMASS Amherst. I have detailed the assassinations in the Patch Kincaid Series with research meshed within a story narrative as seen through Patch’s perspective. One prevalent emotion persists, especially after wading knee deep into the history. That emotion is anger. And that emotion will someday depart in peace.
Love is Strange is a song written by Bo Diddley and most known by Mickey and Sylvia’s rendition, although I like Buddy Holly’s 1957 recording. And love is strange. It was most difficult to bring Natalie and Patch together in a credible fashion. Patch still had hopes of returning to Apex Junction to Shari and the boys. I was constantly searching for an opportunity to bring them together as the story progressed and even feared I wouldn’t be able to posit their relationship. Ah, but I found a way. And what developed was exactly what the novel and Patch and Natalie’s own journeys required.
I did not fully absorb when I first heard that someone in my town had been killed in Vietnam. In the mid-sixties we used to play touch football on the street, holding up the game every time a car went by. Today that game would be impossible with the traffic. When we got a game going one of the kids just down the street would somehow show up. I just remember his smile and friendly attitude and he could catch the damn ball! Like many of my generation, he was one of many African Americans drafted to fight ten thousand miles away for a spurious cause. I never saw him again -the kid with the smile who could catch the ball. He left for Vietnam with that smile and was returned to the United States in a body bag.
He’s buried in Arlington and is commemorated in the final Patch book in Vietnam and later in the book. Writing these scenes was not easy and the audio required many takes. Rest in peace.
Robert P. Fitton
We had no cameras
To shoot the landscape
We passed the hash pipe
And played our Doors tapes
And it was dark
So dark at night
And we held on to each other
Like brother to brother
We promised our mothers we’d write
And we would all go down together
We said we’d all go down together
Yes we would all go down together
From Goodnight Saigon