Aaron Gwyn’s “Wynne’s War” is a quickly captivating fast paced new tale of men at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Illustrating it is not easy to identify the good during battle; the perspective from the ground in this novel weaves a gritty realism, love of horses and morality in conflict with surprising revelations. “Wynne’s War” also shows a reality beyond national headlines in the case of Bowe Bergdahl, the United States Army soldier held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan.
Tulsa area readers may be surprised as the hero is local and comfortable in manor and perspective – yes, you may think, a Northeastern Oklahoma country boy would react that way – doing what he thinks is right.
It has been said, “America never wins a war till the boys from the Southwest get there and get tired of it” and this story shows some grains of that truth.
In “Wynne’s War” an elite team of Special Forces infiltrates a forbidding Afghan war zone on horseback in search of vast treasure. Of course, they don’t know squat from bananas about horses so they need an expert. One would think the Special Forces would have experts to find experts, but apparently video works in the modern age.
Corporal Elijah Russell’s horsemanship is revealed during a firefight in northern Iraq and, after it posted on YouTube, the young Army Ranger is soon assigned to the Special Forces unit on their secret mission into the treacherous mountain terrain deep into enemy territory.
Oklahoma native Aaron Gwyn’s “Wynne’s War” went on sale May 20, 2014 and several critics have noted his remarkable skill in this lyrical, thrilling blend of military fiction and Western that was based on the author’s extensive interviews with Green Berets, Army Rangers, and other veterans.
Gwyn grew up on a ranch and told Publishers Weekly, “I was surrounded by cattle and horses, but I hardly consider myself a top hand. I was never in the rodeo, but I was definitely a cowboy as a kid.”
It takes knowledge of ranching to even know what a “top hand” means and an Okie modesty to know not to claim the title unearned.
Gwyn said he did “a ton of research” and it shows. He pulled historical accounts of the Afghanistan War, memoirs by veterans and field manuals like the Ranger Handbook. Then he interviewed combat veterans and Army Rangers and Special Forces operators experienced in that theater of war.
Publisher’s Weekly also notes, “This story is not for wimps – the scenes of battlefield wound treatment, and the torture and execution of prisoners, in particular, are grim and will upset some readers. But its gritty realism is part of the strength” of story.
As this writer prepared to review Gwyn’s work, the Bowe Bergdahl exchange for five Taliban leaders was executed with the surreal comic cluster only America’s most incompetent President could accomplish. As the history of Bergdahl’s “waking off base” became clear; “Wynne’s War” came often to mind. A deserter walks away from battle. A defector joins the enemy. Which was Bergdahl? Time will tell, but in all detail Bergdahl was far less a real man than any fictional character in “Wynne’s War” by Aaron Gwyn.