One major inspiration for Diamond-T came from the works of Paul Fussell. Among other things, my book was to be — at least in spots — a war novel.
But not an ordinary war novel:
I’ve been an enemy for years of the concept of the “Good War” and of all the sentimentalizing that’s done by people who didn’t fight it or who profited from it in one way or another. We all profited, but at what a cost.
I’ve been a fan of the writings of Paul Fussell since reading The Great War and Modern Memory in college. It laid out for me — for the first time — the origins of what I had come to know as the “modern world.” At some point in the past a cynical edge had come over society. The stark futility of World War One had set the course for the Europe’s descent into skepticism and irony, though that particular wave didn’t hit America until Vietnam.
“Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant ‘paying off of old scores’; and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances.”
The hero of my story is in a rush to join up with the infantry in 1944, feeling that it held the ability to wash him of his shame and personal doubts from his horrible childhood. It ends up only intensifying both. Fussell’s view of war inspired Nick Pente’s experience, but it was his attribution of the great social changes brought by mechanized large-scale combat that really formed my vision of what the book was to be about. Nick is both a hero and a victim. The way he’s seen most depends on the cultural attitudes of the reader.
“I would read accounts of so-called battles I had been in, and they had no relation whatever to what had happened. So I began to perceive that anything written was fiction to various degrees. The whole subject– the difference between actuality and representation–was an interesting one. And that’s what brought me to literature in the first place.”
Paul Fussell died in 2012 after a long and prolific career as an English professor and an infantry lieutenant. His contributions to our understandings of war and civilization live on.