Cover image for A dangerous friend
A dangerous friend
Just, Ward S.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999.
Physical Description:
256 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Peter Davison book."
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In this, his twelfth novel, Ward Just penetrates more deeply into America's role in the world than he has ever done before. This beautifully constructed large-canvas novel of Saigon in 1965 can be justly compared to Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO or Graham Greene's THE QUIET AMERICAN. A DANGEROUS FRIEND is a thrilling narrative roiling with intrigue, mayhem, and betrayal. Here is the story of conscience and its consequences among those for whom Vietnam was neither the right fight nor the wrong fight but the only fight. The exotic tropical surroundings, the coarsening and corrupting effects of a colonial regime, the visionary delusions of the American democratizers, all play their part. In A DANGEROUS FRIEND, a few civilians with bright minds and sunny intentions want to reform Vietnam -- but the Vietnam they see isn't the Vietnam that is. Sydney Parade, a political scientist, has left home and family in an effort to become part of something larger than himself, a foreign-aid operation in Saigon. Even before he arrives, he encounters French and Americans who reveal to him the unsettling depths of a conflict he thought he understood -- and in Saigon, the Vietnamese add yet another dimension. Before long, the rampant missteps and misplaced ideals trap Parade and others in a moral crossfire.

Author Notes

Ward Just (born 1935 in Waukegan, Illinois) is an American writer. He is the author of 15 novels and numerous short stories.

Ward Just briefly attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He started his career as a print journalist for the Waukegan (Illinois) News-Sun. He was also a correspondent for Newsweek and The Washington Post from 1959 to 1969, after which he left journalism to write fiction.

His novel, An Unfinished Season, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. His novel Echo House was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He has twice been a finalist for the O. Henry Award: in 1985 for his short story About Boston, and again in 1986 for his short story The Costa Brava, 1959. His most recent novel is entitled, Exiles in the Garden. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Just's intelligent, compelling, and meticulously crafted fiction offers unexpected insights into the psychology of people obsessed with art or political intrigue and faced with circumstances that make pursuit of their passion, or addiction, difficult if not dire. An ever-evolving writer with a deep sense of global connectedness and the habitual abuse of power, Just has reached a new plateau in his twelfth novel, a work of subtle suspense and significant irony that penetrates hidden terrain similar to that explored by Conrad, Greene, and Didion. It takes place during the early, hubristic days of the war in Vietnam, when Americans, assured of their moral and material superiority, blindly staked out their turf. Brash, ignorant, and eager to escape a loveless marriage, Sydney Parade jumps at the chance to play hero and joins a shadowy foreign-aid operation. His meager qualifications include a loose connection to a Frenchman, Claude, and his American wife, Dede, who oversee a strategically located rubber plantation. Having almost jeopardized his position by alienating Claude's family before even setting foot in Vietnam, Sydney gallantly redresses his faux pas by saving Dede's life. Her and her husband's gratitude cannot, however, keep Sydney free from a web of lies and subterfuge that results in the murder of innocent civilians, and, on a personal level, his rapid and demoralizing disillusionment. Stealthily low-key, Just's quiet drama captures all the spiritual, ethical, and cultural misunderstandings that made the war in Vietnam, like so many other attempts at modern imperialism, so malignant, futile, and tragic. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0395856981Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

With the appearance of his 12th novel, former journalist (and Vietnam reporter) Just (Echo House) has reason to be proud of the books he has produced, all of them thoughtful, judicious commentaries on the ironies inherent in politics, culture and human relationships. This trenchant work, set in 1965 Vietnam as the U.S. is inching toward full-scale war, may prove to be his most significant; certainly, it reflects with quiet understatement one of the central moral issues of our century. Its protagonist, Sydney Parade, is emblematic of the idealistic, dangerously na‹ve Americans who felt it their mission to bring democracy to Southeast Asia. Recruited by Dicky RostokÄthe brash, arrogant head of the Llewellyn Group, a foundation that purports to administer financial aid and technical assistance to Vietnam but is in reality a covert arm of Pentagon policyÄSydney leaves his wife and daughter in Darien, Conn., and travels to a country town near Saigon. Sydney is unaware of his vast ignorance of Vietnamese culture and political reality, but after he becomes involved with French expatriate and rubber plantation owner Claude Armand and his wife, Dede, a native Chicagoan, Sydney gradually loses his hubris. Eventually, he realizes that the American goal of "nation building" in Vietnam is at best a tragic delusion and at worst a cynical grasp at power. Almost accidentally, Sydney becomes the conduit for information about a U.S. Army captain captured by the VC. Ensuing events result in the annihilation of a village of innocent Vietnamese, betrayal of the Armands and the ruin of the one truly moral member of the Llewellyn staff. In spite of his good intentions, Sydney has become, as Dede Armand says, "a dangerous friend." Just gives readers an incisive vision of America's end of innocence. He does so with strongly limned characters who do not forfeit their individuality even as they are overwhelmed by history. Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

An idealistic young political scientist comes to terms with 1965 Saigon: a Vietnam War novel without the war. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

The Effortp. 1
The Family Armandp. 13
A Child in Such a Milieup. 37
Dacyp. 56
Getting Used to Itp. 74
A Shooting in the Marketp. 98
Assimilate or Dispersep. 118
Big Dumb Blondp. 140
Plantation Louvetp. 165
The Life of the Mindp. 185
Pablo's Hatp. 208
The Arsenal of Democracyp. 235