Books

Johnston judge’s ‘Ordinary Soldiers’ pays homage to fellow Vietnam soldiers

In his first novel, “Just Ordinary Soldiers,” Don Overby recounts his experience as a young man drafted in the 1960s to serve in Vietnam.
In his first novel, “Just Ordinary Soldiers,” Don Overby recounts his experience as a young man drafted in the 1960s to serve in Vietnam. Chapel Hill Press

In his first novel, “Just Ordinary Soldiers” (Chapel Hill Press), Don Overby recounts his experience as a young man drafted in the 1960s to serve in Vietnam.

“Almost from the time I came home from the Army, I heard practically nothing but negative remarks about the quality of the draftees as soldiers,” Overby said. “Having been a draftee, it always really irritated me.”

After his tour, Overby concentrated on his education, earning a law degree and launching a career as a lawyer and judge. But Vietnam was always at the back of his mind.

“I have stayed in touch over the years with a few of my fellow soldiers, and about 10 years ago I came up with an idea to start having reunions of the guys in my mortar platoon,” he said. “We had our first reunion April of 2010. After the first couple of reunions the idea was coming together that there was a story to tell about these guys and draftees in general. We were good soldiers. From my days of graduate school in history, I had always wanted to write the great American novel. … Of course, that never happened, but I felt I had a better story to tell.”

“Just Ordinary Soldiers” took Overby nearly three years to write. “Writing a book is a lot different from writing a court order,” he joked.

“I try to pay homage to the guys I served with, using this memoir as the vehicle to do so. I include some history of the ’60s, of the military draft and of the Cold War to put our service in context. We were infantry, but non-combatants, and we have largely been forgotten even though we played a significant role in the global politics of the day.”

Overby, an administrative law judge, lives in Johnston County.

New titles

Padgett Gerler’s third novel, “The Gifts of Pelican Isle” (CreateSpace), follows Ally Albright and her attempt to recover from a personal tragedy. She returns to her parents’ home on a remote island off the coast of North Carolina to heal and discovers hope again.

Gerler, who lives in Raleigh, will have a book launch from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29, at Talbots in Triangle Town Center.

“Parallel Lives” (CreateSpace) by Rita Berman is a memoir about life in London during WWII. It includes stories from Berman’s cousins, who were also affected by the bombing of their grandparents’ house and factory. Berman lives in Mebane.

For children

H. Leigh Ballance, a former banker, has a new children’s book about a boy who makes friends with the Number People. “The Secret of Gum Swamp” (Gum Swamp Publishing) is a read-aloud book designed for early readers. Each number, from zero to nine, is illustrated by Rocky Mount artist Marion Clark Weathers. Balance will be reading from his book at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at Page 158 Books in Wake Forest.

Triangle-area authors: We want to hear about your new book. Send information to bookbeat@newsobserver.com. As space permits, we will mention self-published books by local authors that are for sale on commercial sites.

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