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Water in Darkness


A taut, disturbing novel that examines the Vietnam War’s living legacy and plumbs the depths of human sadness.

$14.95 $11.21

What people are saying…

“Just when you think it is safe to forget about the Vietnam War, something forces it back into consciousness. Perhaps it is former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey’s nightmare of having to relive, live on CNN, the horror of a night 30 years ago in the Mekong Delta. Perhaps it is a book like Daniel Buckman’s Water in Darkness.”
Los Angeles Times

“This book should carry an R-rating for violence, language and sexual situations, but unlike the average movie, it earns these elements by making them part of the bricks and mortar . . . Buckman’s novel is filled with sour truths about the ways men use race and ethnicity to erect barriers, walling themselves off from those who might otherwise grant them solace.”
Publishers Weekly

“Simply put, Water in Darkness is a superb novel, a tasty piece of storytelling. Daniel Buckman’s tale is a roller coaster ride, told from that blunt, dark place where the rubber meets the road. And the writing is gritty, precise, and vivid—like a dream. Here is an earthbound ‘Chicago’ style that harkens back to Studs Lonigan, and reminds one of the close-to-the-bone, walk-the-plank stories of Mike Royko, Stuart Dybek, and Nelson Algren. Buckman speaks for a new, young generation of soldiers who thought they were at peace. Water in Darkness is a sterling piece of work—the best new fiction I have read in a good long while.”
—Larry Heinemann, author of Paco’s Story, winner of the National Book Award

Water in Darkness is a strong, thought-provoking first novel that works on several different levels: life in the army, the day-to-day ghetto life in post-Vietnam America, and a deep humanity of people trying to survive. It is disturbing, tragic, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. A rich canvas bordering on surreal, with a dream-like poetic style—the kind of book that draws you like a magnet to be read again and again.”
Yuri Kapralov, author of Once There Was a Village and Devil’s Midnight


Water in Darkness is a taut, disturbing novel that examines the Vietnam War’s living legacy and plumbs the depths of human sadness. The book opens in the late 1980s in the last months of Jack Tyne’s enlistment in the US Army. Jack is a young soldier haunted by the death of his father at Hue City during Vietnam, and by childhood memories of watching his stepfather molest his sister. On the evening before his discharge from the Army, Jack covers his ears and hides in self-loathing while an effeminate soldier, also orphaned by Vietnam, takes a beating.

Jack ultimately returns home to Watega, Illinois and wanders among the ruins of steel mills long gone South, only to discover the same frustrated America which had forced his escape into the Army. He drifts north to Chicago and works as a day laborer, hoping to beat memory, evade conscience, and become invisible. There he meets Danny Morrison, a Vietnam Veteran dismissed from the Chicago Police Department for cocaine abuse. This violent, dispossessed man, filled with his own strange lusts, becomes a surrogate father for Jack Tyne, quickly pulling him into the dark heart of our violent culture.

Heir to the impressionistic tradition of Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy, Buckman uses psychological landscapes and terse dialogue to tell his story of the skeletons of Vietnam. Buckman’s America is a wasteland of depraved cities and drought-stricken cornfields where the moral high-ground afforded it after VE Day lingers like an ironic mirage—a place where there can be no illusions of innocence, only reminders that innocence is itself illusory.


Book Details

  • Paperback: 193 pages
  • Published: 3/1/03
  • IBSN: 9781888451382


DANIEL BUCKMAN was born in Rockford, IL in 1967. He served as a paratrooper with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and attended the University of Illinois. He currently lives and works in Chicago. His works include Water in Darkness and The Names of Rivers.

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