Jim Webb

The Novels of Jim Webb

The literary career of a possible presidential candidate


Potential presidential candidate Jim Webb has a number of novels to his name; you may recall them sparking a pseudo-scandal when he was running for the Senate in 2006. (Some unsavory things happen in the books. Therefore, his opponent's operatives claimed, Webb must be unsavory himself.) In an article posted today at The American Conservative, former Reasoner Bill Kauffman takes a deeper look at Webb's literary career and discovers the same populist politics that Webb displays on the campaign trail:

Not to be confused with Walter Hill's STREETS OF FIRE.

His superb first novel, Fields of Fire (1978), follows into Vietnam a platoon of Marines led by Robert E. Lee Hodges, a young officer from hardscrabble Kentucky who hears ancestral voices as he fights not for the Domino Theory or Robert McNamara but "because we have always fought."

Hodges's unit includes an enlistee from Harvard, mockingly nicknamed "Senator," a "pissant crybaby" who loses a leg yet gains a hard-won wisdom. Senator returns to school a "Real Live Wounded Vet, as rare at Harvard as a miner at a tea party." Contrasting the mewling children of privilege with the hicks and soul brothers with whom he had served, Senator comes to understand that a "culture gap" dwarfs the generation gap or any other artificial barrier that divides Americans.

This culture gap, as well as his rank-and-file resentment of those warmongers who "had other priorities," a la Dick Cheney, has been a consistent Webb theme.

In Something to Die For (1991), Webb's bloodless villain is a defense secretary—a product of Harvard, naturally—who prissily disapproves of the photo of Nathan Bedford Forrest that decorates the office of the elderly Senate majority leader, a Mississippi populist who wants us to tend to our own affairs rather than go abroad to slay dragons.

The secretary, a cuckold who "didn't have the guts to serve when there was a war on, and now every time there's a crisis he wants to send them in," engineers a U.S. intervention in Ethiopia to divert public attention from a scandal involving Japan. He is nicknamed Chicken Hawk by "the fighting troops of America," among them Col. Bill Fogarty, who recalls of Vietnam: "I killed soldiers I did not hate, to fulfill the desires of politicians I did not love."

You can read the rest here. For more from Reason on Webb, go here.

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  1. This just in – women weak-willed and need protection and coddling to survive in the real world.


    In their analysis, the researchers found that subjects who had been assigned to a female minority group felt significantly more challenged and threatened than those subjects assigned to female majority groups or gender equal groups.

      1. And that . . . *that*, is why there are no female libertarians.

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  2. The secretary, a cuckold who “didn’t have the guts to serve when there was a war on, and now every time there’s a crisis he wants to send them in,” engineers a U.S. intervention in Ethiopia to divert public attention from a scandal involving Japan.


  3. (Some unsavory things happen in the books. Therefore, his opponent’s operatives claimed, Webb must be unsavory himself.)

    I wonder if SugarFree will be similarly accused in his Senate run…

    1. Nah, he’s safe – oppo researchers won’t be able to pass on any dirt to their bosses, since you can’t read his opus without being driven to gibbering madness. (Unless you’re a libertarian – we’re already wild-eyed ranting lunatics, so who can tell the difference?)

  4. Hodges’s unit includes an enlistee from Harvard, mockingly nicknamed “Senator,” a “pissant crybaby” who loses a leg yet gains a hard-won wisdom.

    Hmm, Christopher Buckley seems to have… uhhhh… been “influenced” by that character in Boomsday.

  5. “Webb denies that “America should be governed by a club of insiders who manipulate public opinion in order to serve the interests of hidden elites who hold the reins of power.””

    Hidden? WTF is wrong with you, Webb?

    They’re out in the open – “yeah, we run the country, you got a problem with that? You do? Well, fuck off then!”

  6. I was in the woods late one night the stars burnt trails through the old branches… and a weeping wind poured through the moon beams like a serial cutter. I smoked a few trees and ate a quarter gram of magic shrooms and was on my fifth bottle of Golden Monkeys and I wandered into my wood. Like always. Warm misty night. But my body wanted to climb a stairway to the blue clouds in the early morning… and I did this. Dangerously. I climbed the biggest oak on my property. The grandpa was born probably in 1850. I climbed this oak in the dark ohio morn tripping and drunk… I scrapped all the shit out of my fucking skin and limbs but I made it to what could be called the top of a 150 year-old White God Oak…. and my skin crawled with anger and resentment. It hated me. But I felt the up called and if my skin didn’t like it so be it… I sat like a lost doll left after an angry tornado on top of that old oak in the early mists of the ohio fields… but when you are tripping and drunk the branches are like rainbow snakes and the mist is like a pounding surf of color punches so I sat there freezing not knowing what to do and then I hear this fucking hiss….

    1. and I look to my left and I see this raccoon sitting way the fuck out on a limb and he or she looks at me while its deft hands grip a light branch… this raccoon’s eyes glinted like a Long John Silver treasure chest and I wasn’t particularly scared but maybe concerned because no one in the know wants to mess with a fucking coon… so, I steadied my rockets and waited… because, maybe the universe wanted to play…. and this coon started to whisper coon poems to me… and my nerves starting to separate from my flesh as the coon whispered faster a dictionary of pudding no mind could comprehend and then I saw that raccoon slide his ass over on that branch and touch my cheek and he tied a string to my ankle and I floated off that old oak branch while a raccoon god held onto me…. but the raccoon god did not understand wherefore I traveled and his god power was powerful but not agile powerful and when I floated into the sky I carried the god raccoon with me and he did not let go…

      1. And I did not know why raccoon god did not let go but he or she seemed viciously intent on the bring me to and the out and in of the universal parallels and the arms of those things no humans have seen or loved and this powerful creature still looked at me with diamond glints for eyes and then I understood I will travel with someone I will not let fall into the peaceful home with and those stuttering violins started and the galaxy screamed and me and my raccoon god as we floated into a very dark and old universe… I had no astronaut suit and neither did my raccoon god… I imagined a million ways to travel time and my raccoon god seemed rather unperturbed and I found peace in this as the stars zipped by and all those strange places full of all sorts of dreams in the clouds of interstellar love cried with the waving ladada’s of planets seeking all sorts of circular rotundas and this raccoon god and I descended onto a massive explosion because we love brilliant lights because we talked for millions of years about those things we loved and disliked… and the raccoon god like wings of stars and I like massive explosions…

        1. So raccoon god and I swam in the lights of lost dying stars… cavorting in the ancient human dust… living in the lace of the dead… my lovely flights lost and never found forever and then and now time is.

          1. This is pretty fucking rad. Of all the places you could go to share this, I’m glad it’s here with us, brother.

            1. Its psychedelic saturday.

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