David Drake served as an enlisted interrogator in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1970. The Army took him from Duke Law School and sent him on a motorized tour of both countries with the 11th Cav, the Blackhorse. He learned new skills, saw interesting sights, and met exotic people who hadn’t run fast enough to get away. Dave returned to become Chapel Hill’s Assistant Town Attorney and to try to put his life back together through fiction making sense of his Army experiences. Dave describes war from where he saw it: the loader’s hatch of a tank in Cambodia. His military experience, combined with his formal education in history and Latin, has made him one of the foremost writers of realistic action SF and fantasy. His bestselling Hammer’s Slammers series is credited with creating the genre of modern Military SF. He often wishes he had a less interesting background. He lives with his family in rural North Carolina.
His story, “The Price”, appears in the Weird World War III anthology.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background?
I was born in 1945 and raised in Eastern Iowa along the Mississippi. I was attending Duke Law School when I was drafted. The army sent me to Vietnamese language school and then to interrogation school, then shipped me to Nam where I was assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Blackhorse.
I came back to the World, and finished law school. For 8 years I was assistant town attorney for Chapel Hill, NC. In 1980 I stopped lawyering and spent a year driving a city bus.
What kinds of stories do you write? Why?
I’m best known for my military SF. I write whatever I feel like, though.
Which of your short stories is your favorite? Why?
My favorite story is probably Airborne All the Way. Writing it broke me out of a bad place I was in after a long-time friend finished drinking himself to death.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?
The craziest thing? I suppose agreeing to be rewrite man on Newt Gingrich’s first book, Window of Opportunity. I’ve never been interested in politics, but I decided I couldn’t turn down the challenge.
Tell me about a time you almost died.
We’d gone on a madcap just on the Viet Nam side of the border. I was riding the flame track, a Zippo: 200 gallons of napalm in an aluminum box with a whip antenna 15 feet in the air. We were on the dike between rice paddies when monsoon storm hit us coming from the left side. Lightning hit a 10-foot tree on the dike to my left. Then lightning hit a tree to my right and the storm was over us. All that happened to me was that the book in my pocket got soaked.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
On that same madcap the village chief came over and offered me and the other interrogator little paper bags of peanuts. I thanked him and asked how long they’d raised peanut, which I didn’t think of in connection with Vietnam.
“Three years,” he said. They’d had a rubber plantation. Then the planes came over and all the trees died. They replanted peanuts because rubber takes too long to grow.
What was your favorite subject in school? Why?
Favorite subject through high school would be History.
What’s your favorite book? Why?
Favorite book–The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett. The viewpoint character is coldly ruthless with no bluster.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I live in central NC. The climate is temperate and well watered. El Paso (language school) was too dry and no trees; Iowa got very cold in the winter.
Each of the stories in this volume evoked certain themes and emotions that can sometimes be approximated with music. The below video is the editor’s best interpretation of the feelings and themes that this author’s story evoked. Please note that this is only the editor’s interpretation. The author did not know this portion of the blog post existed until the editor published it.
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