An Interview with Dennis Foley

We spoke with Dennis Foley, author of numerous Vietnam War novels, about how he became a writer and his experiences during the war.

An Interview with Dennis Foley

We spoke with Dennis Foley, author of numerous Vietnam War novels, about how he became a writer and his experiences during the war.

How did you become a novelist? Was writing something you always wanted to do?

No, writing was the last thing on my mind in grade school, high school, college, and graduate school. After I got out of the army I found myself working in Hollywood wearing several hats, from producer to technical advisor. One day I found myself in a position where a script was needed in a hurry and I was the only one around who could write it. So at thirty-eight I discovered writing. I didn’t start working on novels until my union, the Writers Guild of America, went on strike. Prohibited by union rules from writing screenplays and teleplays during the strike, I tried my hand at a novel. And that was half a dozen novels ago.

How did you become involved in the Vietnam War? Did you join the army or were you drafted?

I was drafted right out of high school. This was a couple years before Vietnam really heated up. And when it came time for me to get out of the army, I had no money to go to college. So I applied for infantry officer candidate school and was accepted. My thinking was that I could put away some money while going to OCS, and even more during the six months after graduation that I was obligated to spend on active duty.

That was the plan. But just a few weeks after entering OCS, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred and all of our obligations were extended from six months to indefinite. So a year after graduating, I found myself as a recon platoon leader in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. And I spent the better part of the next ten years shuttling back and forth to Southeast Asia until the war’s end.

Is there something about the Vietnam War, or the military in general, you think people don’t understand or grasp or appreciate as much as they should?

Since going to an all-volunteer army in 1972, fewer and fewer Americans have members of their families who served in war- or peacetime. So their understanding of soldiers diminishes each year we have a volunteer force.

Where did the idea for the character of Jim Hollister come from? Are there autobiographical elements?

I held all of the same jobs that Hollister does and knew well the officers I replaced and those who replaced me. As such, the Jim Hollister character is a collection of fictionalized personal experiences and those of other officers who held the same jobs.

What is the most important thing you want your readers to get out of reading your books?

Since my main focus is fiction, what I most want to do is provide escape and entertainment for the reader. That’s it.


Find out more about Dennis Foley here.

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