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Suddenly We Didn't Want to Die


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About the Author

Elton E. Mackin (1898-1974) joined the Marine Corps in early 1918 and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment on the second day of the battle of Belleau Wood, June 7, 1928. Mackin was awarded the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and two army Silver Star citations for his valor from Octoer 3-5, 1918, at Blanc-Mont.


The eponymous hero of this entertaining first novel is a lovable rogue who bounces from one sticky situation to another, always landing on his feet. As an 1897 graduate of West Point--the story of how a private threatened with a court-martial ends up with an appointment to the military academy makes for a rollicking interlude early in the book--Fenwick enters the officer class just as the U.S. is about to make its entrance on the world stage. He is posted to Cuba during the Spanish-American War and later to China to help put down the Boxer Rebellion. There's only one problem: he despises combat and is constantly scheming to avoid it. Although the situations are a bit predictable and the writing occasionally glib, Fenwick's first-person narration displays an honesty that makes his arrogance, cowardice and womanizing oddly endearing. In the time-honored tradition of the comic picaresque, he finds himself acclaimed a hero and ordered back to New York, where he is toasted by the cream of society and personally greeted by President McKinley. Instead of the cushy life Fenwick expects as a reward for his bogus achievements, the president sends him on a special mission to the Philippines--presumably clearing the way for a second volume of his cockeyed adventures. (Oct.)

"This beautifully written and truly gripping war memoir is a significant addition to battlefield literature. A minor classic . . . An altogether remarkable job [comparable] to Crane, Remarque and Mailer. Deserves the widest possible audience."--The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"This immediate, eloquent report merit[s] comparison with Thomas Boyd's Marine Corps [1923] classic Through the wheat."--Publishers Weekly "A real curiosity: a highly mannered World War I diary, published nearly 80 years after being written and 20 years after its author's death. Bright snapshots abound...sometimes a young man's lyricism takes over [but] the horror of war never departs. The diary has the faults one expects, and the promise one prays for. A fine addition to WWI literature."--Kirkus Reviews "A forthright, eloquent, and powerful memoir certain to become an enduring testament to the drama and tragedy of World War I. Threaded with no small measure of poetry, this superb memoir is sure to become a classic."--Great Battles "A plain but powerful tale . . . [in] vivid prose loaded with details that bring the horrors of World War I to life, he tells an exceptional new version of the old story of battle transforming a boy into a veteran."--American Library Association Booklist "To the ranks of Erich Maria Remarque, E.E. Cummings, John Dos Passos and Siegfried Sassoon, we must now add Elton Mackin . . . who, in a terse style reminiscent of Hemingway, [succeeds] in making someone unfamiliar with war truly now the frightfulness of the trenches and the greatness of the many men who fought in them."--Marine Corps Gazette

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