*****Unsettling Reality Review by Rox Burkey
Author John Polaski is terrific as he sets up this story of middle-class Detroit in the Vietnam era. Young men off fighting a war, while their families continued a level of normalcy. When the solider receives a letter from his Sis, the events start to unfold.
I really enjoyed all the visuals I gained from the words, yet the description of the Dad looking for a weapon struck me as nearly desperate, and I cheered his actions.
“Dad quickly returned to his workshop table and scanned the shelves for a weapon of some kind. Without guns in the house, his options were limited to a few tools stored in shoeboxes. He chose a three-pound ballpeen hammer and rushed back to the landing. Already having removed the safety chain and opening one of locks, the intruder’s hand now fidgeted with the final deadbolt. Once opened, he gained access into the house. Dad said he held onto the hammer with both hands like a baseball player and swung with all his might, aiming for the center of the leather gloved hand. Connecting, a loud bone crunching sound was quickly followed by a terrified scream from the other side of the door; the painful shrieks drowning out the sounds of crickets and the mating calls of other insects. Dad wielded the hammer and readied himself for another blow, but the arm quickly withdrew. In his haste, the burglar brushed against the jagged edges of the remaining windowpane. Blood spurted onto the glass and small bright red rivulets ran down the length of the door.”
Author Podlaski draws readers into the meat of his stories immediately. I have enjoyed each book of John’s I have read. No words are wasted. There is enough detail to make his characters compelling and relatable. It’s a good read and easy read recommended for young adults and above. I think you will love the ending.
About the Author
John Podlaski (1951 – ) was
raised in Detroit, Michigan and attended St. Charles and St. Thomas Apostle
Catholic schools, graduating in 1969. Immediately afterward, John started
working for one of the automotive parts suppliers in the area and then attended
junior college full-time in the fall. After four months of overwhelming
pressure, John dropped out of college – choosing income over education. This
turned out to be a huge error in judgement as a school deferment protected him
from the military draft. Uncle Sam wasted no time and Mr. Podlaski soon found
himself inducted into the Army in February 1970. Then after six months of
training, John was sent to Vietnam as an infantry soldier; serving with both
the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the Geronimo of the 101st Airborne
Division. During his tour of duty, John was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge,
Bronze Star, two Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and several
other campaign medals. Back in the states, Mr. Podlaski spent the next four
months in Fort Hood, Texas before receiving an early military discharge in
The War Veteran returned to his former position with the automotive supplier and because of his military experience, he was promoted to shift supervisor. He met Janice Jo a few months later and married in 1973. The G.I. Bill helped them to purchase a home in Sterling Heights, MI, they continue living there to this day. A daughter, Nicole Ann was born in 1979. Using additional benefits from the G.I. Bill, Mr. Podlaski returned to college part time; graduating four years later with an Associate Degree in Applied Science.
In 1980, John began working on his memoir about his Vietnam experiences. He had carried a diary during his year in Vietnam, and his mother had saved all the letters he had written from the war zone – both were used to create the outline. He toiled on a manual typewriter for four years before finally completing his work. About the same time, a new national veteran group, akin to the V.F.W. was formed in Washington, DC. They called themselves “Vietnam Veterans of America” and chapters quickly sprung up around the country. John joined Chapter 154 in Mt. Clemens, MI, and as an active member, helped to launch their inaugural Color Guard – marching in parades and posting colors for local events. The members of this chapter were a closely knit group, but wives often felt left out during the many discussions about Vietnam. When learning that John had authored a book about his tour of duty, the wives asked to share a copy of the manuscript, hoping it would help them better understand what their husbands might have endured during their time in Vietnam. The memoir was well received, and wives were now joining their men during these discussions. All were increasingly supportive and urged him to locate a publisher. After hundreds of rejections, a publisher from Atlanta, GA finally came forward and offered to consider the manuscript if it were re-written to a third-person format.
Atari had just come out with a new computer console and a word processor – making re-writes and editing much easier; his work now saved on floppy diskettes. The re-write continued until 1989, consuming all his spare time. John had finished half of the manuscript, then suddenly lost interest – discouraged, and not wanting to work on it any longer – it was ten years already and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. So everything was boxed up and moved to the garage for storage.
Mr. Podlaski continued working for various companies within the automotive sector; primarily in Management roles tasked in either plant start-ups, financial turnaround, or plant closures. John returned to college in 2000 and received a Bachelor’s in Business Administration two years later. He and his wife retired in mid-2013.
At John’s 40th high school reunion, many of his former classmates who read his original manuscript twenty years earlier had questioned its lack of publication. It was a great story and all were relentless in their efforts to get him motivated and finish the rewrite – offering help wherever needed.
After learning that the conversion of Atari diskettes to the Microsoft Word format was extremely cost prohibitive, John’s daughter offered to retype both the completed manuscript and the rewrite, saving both on a USB memory stick. Nine months later, “Cherries” was completed and published. It took almost thirty years but seeing it in print made it all worthwhile. During his retirement, John published a second book about his Vietnam experience called, “When Can I Stop Running?” in 2016; both are available on Amazon.
The author and his wife own a 1997 Harley Davidson Heritage motorcycle and enjoy riding when possible; both are members of the Harley Owner Group.
If you are interested in receiving a “Kindlegraph” for either of his two books (a personal autograph for your kindle), use this URL, search out the authors’ name and then post your request. Your signed document will be sent to you via e-mail.
www dot kindlegraph dot com
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