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Dog Soldiers

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,740 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews
In Saigon during the waning days of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong for him. Dog Soldiers perfectly captures the underground mood of America in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered profite ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published April 2nd 1997 by Mariner Books (first published 1973)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it liked it
Shelves: vietnam

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to fuck up like this.”

The Summer of Love has withered away into the Autumn of Paranoia and the Spring of Delusions. John Converse, a journalist, whose claim to fame is his ability to produce compelling headlines (stories to go with the headlines, well that is where things go haywire), is in Vietnam, but he isn’t really sure why he is still there. His room has been tainted by some maniac American who chased lizards along th
Aug 20, 2013 Amanda rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnam, blog
I began this book thinking it would be about the Vietnam War told from the perspective of an in-country reporter named John Converse. I came to find that, while a few early scenes were set in Vietnam and Converse did occasionally reflect on his time spent there, the focus of the book is a drug deal that goes wrong--horribly, horribly wrong. However, I still loved the book. It has a bit of a Pulp Fiction or Guy Ritchie film feel to it. None of the characters are likable people and they have the m ...more
Dec 22, 2010 Kirk rated it really liked it
A few weeks ago I happened to catch the 1978 adaptation of this novel, Who'll Stop the Rain, starring Nick Nolte when he was only, like, 36 instead of 902. The movie made me nostalgic for Robert Stone's original novel, so I found a first edition online for amazingly cheap and re-devoured it in a day. It's a great glimpse into scuzzy America c. 1970---the death of the 60s' cultural revolution, when druggie enlightenment turned into junk dealing and free love degenerated into a trip to the titty b ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: cracked actor
Recommended to Mariel by: future legend
Whenever I spy a cop car in my rearview mirror I feel like they might be coming after me. If I step out of line they'll pull me over and that'll be it. (That I've been ticketed twice for bullshit reasons - driving through a one road town with shiny new cop cars for all with out of county plates type of reasons - is neither here nor there. "It's all over. The game is up!" What game? Beats me. I'm probably fucking crazy. ) I slow down to the absolute speed limit, turn my music off, grip the steeri ...more
Aug 20, 2015 Lyn rated it liked it
Relentless and dirty.

First published in 1973, Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers is a hip and groovy but graphic and ugly depiction of a time and a place when our culture, our world was at a crossroads and Stone embraces the suck with the fervor of a Marine at Parris Island.

First, Stone describes the scene in language contextually correct for the time. This has the feel and sound of a Dirty Harry film and behind the early 70s prose a reader can almost hear a Lalo Schifrin score grooving out in stacked
Dec 22, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing
I always wrote Stone off as a post-Hemingway tough guy writer (which on some levels he is), and really wish someone had slapped me and forced one of his books into my hand. He uses the stark storytelling of Hemingway with the dark forebodings of Conrad and the apocalyptic humor of Nathaniel West. This novel travels through the same anxieties of Pynchon’s Gravity;s Rainbow( with a bag of heroin replacing phallic rocket technology) but with more naturalistic prose, on the edge borderline demented ...more
Apr 19, 2009 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: who wouldn't profit from a portrait of idealism gone wicked?
Recommended to John by: many readers & writers
Robert Stone, let's all remember, joined his Stanford classmate Ken Kesey & the rest of the Merry Pranksters aboard the LSD-fueled bus "Further," back at the onset of the High Sixties. The experience brought in its richest harvest, however, not in any memoir (though Stone's recent PRIME GREEN makes an admirable effort) but in this piercing & scarifying *noir.* Though first published just as the '60s hallucinations were petering out, DOG SOLDIERS remains the essential depiction of how the ...more
Sep 06, 2009 Kemper rated it really liked it
Set in the early '70's as the Vietnam War was winding down, Converse (a guy, not a shoe)is supposedly a journalist, but in reality has gone to Vietnam mostly as a tourist. As he gets ready to return home, he gets involved with a deal to smuggle a large quantity of almost pure heroin back into the states, and he has reason to think that the CIA is covertly sponsoring the plan.

Converse recruits a former soldier, Hicks, to get the dope back into the States and hand it off to his wife, Marge. Marge
Larry Bassett
The novel tells the story of an American journalist in Vietnam who schemes to smuggle heroin into the United States aided by his wife in California and an ex-Marine accomplice. As the plan goes askew, Stone creates a harrowing struggle for possession of the drug while investigating the psychological motivation and interrelationships of the major characters.

Having experienced the American involvement in Vietnam firsthand, Stone is seemingly more concerned with analyzing the aftermath of the conf
Apr 17, 2012 Jessica rated it liked it
This is one of those books from the 70s where every conversation they have you know that they're really talking about something else, something much deeper and more profound than what they're saying on the surface, but you have no idea what it is. Or maybe that's just me. I want to like this book, I want to be hip to the cool, 60/70s druggie counterculture. I want to be in on the joke and get what the cool kids get. But I just don't seem to. It's the same for me with Naked Lunch or On the Road, ...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Dec 27, 2015 Kurt Reichenbaugh rated it really liked it
Were Americans ever really naive or is that just something common myth tries to convince us of. Personally, I don't think so. The 60's is a duplicitous reflection of history that depends on where it was one stood at the time. Were you in the back of the bus, in Stanford or Harvard, at Woodstock, or in a POW camp? I was a child of the 70's and I'll be the first to admit that my mind used to go into "shutdown" mode whenever some older suburbanite started waxing poetic about what a free spirit they ...more
I was born in 1968. My memories of the early 1970's are that of a child. My parents worked. They provided a nice safe house and I was never cold or hungry. What memories I have of the first part of that decade (outside of my family) are associated with television shows ( The Rookies, Adam-12, Emergency, The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and a few movies. So when I am curious about what was going on in America's soul during that time period I turn to works of fiction - books and movies. Everything from ...more
Enjoyable, but did not really get under my skin.
Aug 06, 2015 Jeremy rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-fiction
The conventional wisdom goes that this book is a scathing examination of how far the ideals of the flower power generation had fallen by the mid 1970s. A would-be heroin smuggler returns from Vietnam to find that his real war is in America, amidst a revolving cast of of dissipated junkies, sleazy hustlers, violent thugs and burnt out old hippies.

Maybe as a millenial reading this in 2015, I'm just generationally too far removed from the social fabric of this age to really 'get it,' but I thought
Lukasz Pruski
On the cover of Robert Stone's "Dog Soldiers" a blurb from Washington Post Book World screams "The Most Important Novel of the Year". Had this been indeed true, then 1973 would have been a terrible year for books. "Dog Soldiers" is just a complex and competent thriller, with some nuggets of social observation thrown in to make it appear wise and deep.

1973, Saigon. Vietnam war is winding down. The main characters are John Converse, a low-level journalist and an aspiring writer, his wife, Marge,
Oct 15, 2014 Aaron rated it liked it
John Converse decides to smuggle heroin from Vietnam to the U.S. almost on a whim, and his wife Marge and "friend" Hicks end up bearing the burden of unloading it while John is pursued by a team of possible federal agents.

It's pretty easy to tell when I don't get a book, and in this case I seemed to be missing crucial context about Vietnam and how the world worked in the mid-1970's. I also think my Kindle version of this book was riddled with typos and bad formatting, especially with dialogue, w
Jun 26, 2016 Tim rated it it was amazing
This was one of the toughest, liveliest, most biting things I have ever read - real, funny, and sharp. Stone writes in the Hemingway style - short, clear sentences, terse and direct. But he is no Hemingway as far as his concerns go, althou the macho content of his writing is reasonably high. He is interested in moral and emotional ambiguity, greed, toughness, and some of the stranger conflicts that can occur between men and men, and men and women.

The story follows a small-time journalist named C
Aug 25, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok
Shelves: time-100
Another one that should be filed under "wanted to like more than I did." The beginning here is strong, with the tourist reporter John Converse in Vietnam and trying to get into a drug deal on his way out. There are some funny observations in here, and the one that made me laugh the most is when Converse thinks, "In a world where flying men hunted down elephants, people were just going to want to get high." This in reference to rumors that American helicopters were shooting at elephants as they h ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
I started reading this because I heard that this was a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S Thompson. While I haven’t read anything of Thompson (I will soon) I am a huge fan of Chandler; this is more neo-noir than hard-boiled but that’s ok. Dog Soldiers follows the story of a war journalist, a marine and the journalist’s wife as the plan a smuggling deal. Converse (journalist) plans to ship heroin from Vietnam on a marine vessel with the help of Hicks (marine). When Hicks gets to America ...more
It took me a while to start enjoying this book about three people near the end of the Vietnam war who decide to smuggle 3 kilos of heroin into the states. It felt a little dated, and grounded in an ancient sense of cool, where a willingness to get high was supposed to be an indicator of your superiority as a human being. The characters were generally unlikable, and Marge, especially, grated on me. But the dialogue overall was very good, the antagonists were far more than just stereotypical cardb ...more
Ben Bush
Dec 03, 2014 Ben Bush rated it it was amazing
The awesomeness of this book comes and goes, but if you're interested tight brilliant sleazeball dialogue with metaphysical undertones, there's sections of this that were made for you.
Oct 21, 2009 Ed rated it really liked it
This is Heart of Darkness put in the Vietnam War times and fueled by the addiction and money profits of smack. I liked the hard-nosed attitudes and trancy prose. Rather grim at times.
Jun 24, 2015 Jason rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 07, 2010 Stephen rated it really liked it
Starts out wonderful with insights of a civilian journalist who goes to Vietnam to feel the pain of his generation and write his great novel/play, and how he later returns with the knowledge that he is just trying to make a quick buck smuggling heroin back to the states. Then it shifts to his partner, the one-time all-American boy who thinks of himself as a peaceful zen warrior, but finds himself surrounded by an unfamiliar America that wants nothing more than drugs and titty bars. His experienc ...more
Carmen Petaccio
Oct 29, 2012 Carmen Petaccio rated it really liked it
"In a manner of speaking, he had discovered himself. Himself was a soft shell-less quivering thing encased in a hundred and sixty pounds of pink sweating meat. It was real enough. It tried to burrow into the earth. It wept."

"It was a seduction. The shit would seal some chaste clammy intimacy; there would be long loving talks while their noses ran and their light bulbs popped out silently in the skull's darkness."

"Men rolled in the road calling on Buddha or wandered about weeping, holding themsel
Joey Gold
Jun 15, 2015 Joey Gold rated it it was amazing
"Yes," Dieter said, "I can see that. But in real life, you can't pull it off."
"Well then, fuck real life. Real life don't cut no ice with me."
("Dog Soldiers", Robert Stone, p. 292).

The most unique thing about this book is how its language runs in collision with its pace. It has the rhythm of a bloody heist thriller, but the language that describes this action is filled with strange, psychedelic imagery. Towards the last section of the novel (and no, this isn't a "spoiler") a raging battle in Mex
Eli Bishop
Mar 05, 2012 Eli Bishop rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
Rereading this and A Hall of Mirrors, I was knocked over by both of them again in different ways... but while I still can't rate this one as any less than great, it now seems like a lesser kind of thing, a little more schematic. Where A Hall of Mirrors felt like it took place in a living world (though an often yucky one), Dog Soldiers feels more like a hollowed-out dream-world where the characters are totally alone with the results of their free will-- which is probably exactly the effect Stone ...more
Apr 11, 2009 Roger rated it really liked it
If all books were this fun to read, I don't think I'd get much done in life. For the first one hundred pages or so, Dog Soldiers fell into the "pretty fun to read, though not too much else going on for it" category. The plot seemed a bit overplayed, and the dialogue sounded as if it were taken out of something aged and hard-boiled, or intended for young adults. But the further I got into the book, the more I liked it. The characters emerged as fairly three-dimensional, well illustrated people. T ...more
Jan 16, 2014 Charles rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-14
A puzzle and a mystery. A book about three kilos of heroin smuggled stateside from Vietnam. A drug deal gone bad. A chase. A second deal gone bad and then a third. The real bad guys win and the sorta bad guys sorta win by some of them outliving all these bad deals.

I thought I hadn't read it, but the last third was sure awful familiar. I wonder what that means. In the reality of this book it means something. I'm mostly pleased with this read, but it does reference lot of Catholic practice that
Earnest Thompson
"I am not now -- nor have I ever been -- God," the now toothless guru Dieter says from his mountain top fortress amidst a psychedelic forest. A firefight ensues, of course. And the hope and promise of the counter culture completes its descent into hard drugs, finger pointing and layers of vicious betrayal.

That wasn't the Vietnam era story I intended to read, however. In a momentary lapse of recall, I reached for Michael Herr's war memoir Dispatches and came back w/ Robert Stone's terrifying nov
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SSG: Spy/Spec-Ops...: Robert Stone 3 23 Aug 02, 2015 08:03PM  
Stone's genius with characters 8 19 Sep 02, 2014 08:09AM  
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ROBERT STONE was the author of seven novels: A Hall of Mirrors, Dog Soldiers (winner of the National Book Award), A Flag for Sunrise, Children of Light, Outerbridge Reach, Damascus Gate, and Bay of Souls. His story collection, Bear and His Daughter, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his memoir, Prime Green, was published in 2006.
His work was typically characterized by psychological compl
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“I’ve been waiting my whole life to fuck up like this.” 27 likes
“I've always remembered. This fellow said to me - if you think someones'doing you wrong, it's not for you to judge. Kill them first and then God can do the judging.” 19 likes
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