Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
The Third Tour is a military fiction collection written by Bob Stockton. Stockton was in the Navy for twenty years and served on “destroyers, submarines, gunboats and aviation reconnaissance squadrons.” He retired after twenty years of service with the rank of Chief Petty Officer. The Third Tour is the third book in his series of novels featuring Zack Martin, a young enlisted man, but it can be enjoyed on its own. Zack, and the other Navy personnel the reader gets to know in this story, are all fictional characters; however, they are representative of the many soldiers, sailors and marines who served their country during the Vietnam War. After being injured aboard the USS Stroud, Martin was home with his girlfriend, Camille Moore, but he repeatedly relived the horrors of that attack in his dreams. Campbell, who had been on duty with him, had been mortally injured and he kept seeing the man as he begged for Martin’s help; that scene had become the focus of horrific nightmares. Camille wanted Martin to go back to the doctor at the Balboa Naval hospital, but Martin felt that any sign of distress would result in his being discharged. Martin had already put in nine years in the Navy and wasn’t about to jeopardize his Naval career over a few bad dreams. He began to feel as though Camille was trying to mold him into someone he was not, someone who would go off to college with her and then settle down to raise a family. Martin returned to the USS Ralph James and waited to hear what his next tour of duty would entail.
Bob Stockton’s military fiction series of interconnected short stories, The Third Tour, is a gripping and suspenseful look at the efforts made by Navy personnel during the Vietnam War. As I began reading, I became increasingly involved in Martin’s life and that of the other servicemen in the story. Stockton makes each aspect of this tale vividly come to life. You can hear the sounds of helicopters as they arrive with reinforcing fire and sense the tension and hidden dangers they were exposed to in the country parts of the story. There are some unforgettable moments in this story, especially when Martin and Gunny acknowledge the fear they all feel and how to cope with it. Stockton weaves a psychological element throughout these tales as Martin and other servicemen seem to increasingly feel that there is no life for them outside of the military and grow increasingly alienated from American culture as well as their families and friends. Stockton’s writing style is perfectly suited for military fiction, and his characters are authentic and memorable. As I read The Third Tour, I was reminded yet again of the tremendous acts of duty, service and self-sacrifice performed by our veterans; reading of their acts of heroism is an enriching, if humbling, experience. The Third Tour is most highly recommended.