THE SERPENT PAPERS by Jeff Schnader:
THE VIETNAM WAR IS THE DEFINING EVENT OF ITS GENERATION. It created a rift between those who fought and those who protested—a rift which this novel aims to heal with rapprochement.
NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS
“SCHNADER'S WRITING IS MULTI-SENSUAL & POWERFUL: The Sixties was an adrenaline rush that forever changed the world. The debut novel, The Serpent Papers, explores the Sixties from a wide range of angles and paints a vivid panorama of that traumatic era.”
—Fran Hawthorne, NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS
THE FREDERICKSBURG FREE LANCE–STAR &
THE RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH
“NOVELIST DELIVERS AUTHENTIC, INTENSE TALE OF COMING OF AGE IN VIETNAM ERA: The first wave of Baby Boomers came of age during the Vietnam era, a seminal epoch for them, a defining one for the nation. Many novelists have explored that experience, but few as perceptively and personally as does Jeff Schnader in The Serpent Papers.
“Worlds collide at the climax to a tale rendered with intensity of purpose, vigor of prose, authenticity of time and place, and depth of characterization. Schnader engages the reader with telling detail and emotional impact.
"At once alarming and astute, The Serpent Papers coils within the reader’s mind and strikes with precision.”
—Review by Jay Strafford for both newpapers
“Probing the consciences of people & a nation during a pivotal era, The Serpent Papers, an intimate novel, is about the development of one’s personal values, the costs of following one’s conscience, taking a stand when life itself is at risk & what it means to be a patriot.
“In my opinion, The Serpent Papers is an excellent and insightful portrayal of what was going on at the time and of the inner struggles of those who lived it.”
—Kristine Morris, FOREWORD REVIEWS
AS SEEN IN GOODREADS (5⭐️STAR REVIEW)
“Quickly hypnotizing the reader like the gaze of a snake, this tale of a young man finding his way, a poet’s voice finding a listener, and truth holding out its hand to the truth-seeker, is a beautiful novel – haunting in the tone of its voice, fascinating in its recreation of an era, and filled with wisdom that’s relevant to any era, perhaps most especially to today.”
—Sheila Deeth, Writer, Professional Editor & Reviewer
“A great read! Interesting and captivating! A vivid story of coming of age in the Vietnam era – politics and protests, a cynical drug culture, military misadventure and making love, not war; a thrilling roller coaster ride through the turbulent early 1970’s. The book draws the reader – of any generation [as] Schnader spins an exciting, fast-paced and entertaining read. If you were really there and do not remember, you will now.”
—THOMAS FERGUSON, Former US Principal Deputy Undersecretary-Defense (for Presidents Bush & Obama)
“Literary circles will soon know the name Jeff Schnader as his novel, The Serpent Papers, an intriguing, engrossing mosaic tale of relationships forged in a contentious and conflicted era, will certainly become a bestseller. This emerging master storyteller will have already made a significant and noteworthy contribution to historical fiction. A captivating read cover to cover, this book commands attention.”
—Rob Stoller, Executive Producer, Art In Motion
“One of the best manuscripts I’ve read all year. Written extremely—extraordinarily—well. Characters are fully-fleshed, complex and interesting. Use of The Serpent is original and interesting. And the evocation of the times is vivid and apropos.”
—FORMER PUBLISHER & PRESIDENT OF DUTTON BOOKS and EDITOR OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY, ROBERT LUDLUM & JAMES BALDWIN
JEWISH NEWS (UJF of Tidewater Virginia):
"SCHNADER TALKS THE TALK & WALKS THE WALK: "The novel's themes go far beyond the Vietnam War, and I can't stop thinking about this book. Full of beautifully drawn complex characters, composed in a straightforward and flowing style, the writing is dotted throughout with elegantly graceful prose.
"The novel is succinctly resolved in a breathtakingly beautiful flourish of Schnader's pen."
—Steve Budman for The Jewish News
“So what is conscience? How can we live with it, be true to it, examine it every moment of every day? The Serpent Papers addresses these questions. Every page in this book is right in the intellectual wheelhouse. The war in Vietnam confronted all of us in our generation; it was like no other. We had to be true to our consciences, and that’s what this book is about. The pressure for us to define our allegiances was real and constantly present; moral lines were drawn. Each of us had to decide whether to fight this war or to resist the horror of it.
“The vivid and real characters in this brilliant, masterful book bring us right back to the days of that era when each of us had to take a stand. They remind us how our decisions—whether to follow our consciences or to ignore them—might make us murderers or Congressional Medal recipients.
“I loved this book. An important book, it is the best I’ve read in the past ten years.”
—Michael D. Smar, M.D., Bronze Star Recipient
Combat Medic, US Army, 1st Infantry, Vietnam, 1968-69
Author of the Foreword for The Serpent Papers
NPR REVIEW by JOAN BAUM
“The Serpent Papers resonates with significance today as veterans return from Afghanistan, damaged not only by their service but by mounting criticism. If we’re going “to try to heal the whole nation,” we must recognize the cultural & political forces that prompted the war in Indochina over 40 years ago, a war that still haunts those who served as well as those who protested. Schnader's book is dedicated to both groups.”
—JOAN BAUM for NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
“If you want to know what it was like in the early ‘70’s in America’s colleges as the Viet Nam War dragged on and on, then this is your ticket to the tie-dyed, psychedelic, bell-bottomed world of Columbia University at the peak of the Anti-Establishment, Anti-Vietnam War, Make-Love-Not-War Woodstock Era of America’s youth. This book takes you right back to those days of ‘Hell No, We Won’t Go’, when Students for a Democratic Society and the notorious Weathermen held sway across campuses from coast to coast.
“I was amazed that I identified so much with the main character, J-Bee. As I read, I was rooting for the students to win their fight. J-Bee is thrust into the maelstrom of political turmoil complicated by his fiery first love and strained relationships with his parents, childhood friends, anti-war friends and the Mysterious Serpent, a coffee house sage who speaks pearls of Wisdom and Truth to those who will hear.
“A rollicking ride of conflict through the trials and tribulations of a young American torn between his family, who want him to serve the nation honorably, and those opposed to serving, all of whom are competing for his very soul.”
-Recipient of 3 Purple Hearts & 2 Bronze Stars, Army Commendation Medal with "V" Device with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Palm Award, Meritorious Service Medal
-US Army, 1st Infantry & Americal Divisions; Vietnam, 1966-67, 68-69, 70-71 (served 1000 days)
-Playwright of the drama: Bonne Annee
COMMENT by COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY ALUMNA:
“Wow! As a Columbia alum, I have always been fascinated by its history. Through an incredibly sophisticated and brilliantly talented use of the written word from the opening paragraph to the last page, The Serpent Papers read with such forward moving force that I did not want to get off the ride. It was gripping, riveting—in one word: timeless. It blew me away. I absolutely loved it. Bravo!”
—Victoria Fedrigotti, Columbia University alumna and Published Curator, Art Critic & Art Historian
“The Serpent Papers will be enjoyed by readers who care about America. It’s a novel that's hard to put down.”
–Richard Nochimson, Columbia College alumnus & Professor Emeritus of English, Yeshiva University
COMMENT by COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY ALUMNUS
AS SEEN IN GOODREADS (5⭐️STAR REVIEW):
"I think it is underappreciated how volatile college campus life was in the early 1970’s, the epicenter of which was Columbia University between 1968 and 1973. I found this story thoroughly enlightening. In this book, Schnader places you firmly in the middle of all that tumult and forces you to experience the agonizing soul-searching that students of the era were forced to contend with, which I personally found fascinating."
—Chris Young, Columbia College alumnus
WRITERS SPOTLIGHT & BOOKSCOVER2COVER:
“I could not put The Serpent Papers down. I thought about this book for a month. The Serpent Papers finds the human soul. It is Schnader’s gift.”
—Sandra Fluck, Founder & Publisher of both THE WRITE LAUNCH literary journal and BOOKSCOVER2COVER
"One of the best books you will ever read"
—Jon Ostrow, Teacher
“Wow! Finished The Serpent Papers in 2 days. I spent the summers of '69 & 70 in New York, and the book brought me back to those extraordinary and tumultuous times. I sat with my two best American friends as they anxiously watched the Viet Nam lottery on tv discussing options.
“The book captured the themes and flavor of those days, including: LSD, pot, make love not war, basement cafés, music and most impactful the fine line between law and order and peaceful protest. I love the way the book connected all the characters in a seamless way.”
—Michael, Munzar, MD, CM, Chairman of the Board, HEXO Corporation
PROFESSOR OF HISTORY COMMENTS:
“In this engaging bildungsroman by Jeff Schnader, we become deeply immersed in the time of American life and culture during the war years 1971-1972, and in a place, Columbia University in the City of New York. We learn of friendship, growth, and love, as The Serpent reveals the path toward living a good life.”
—James W. Oberly, Editor of *Budapest Blackout: The Wartime Diaries of Dr. Mária Mádi* (forthcoming, 2022), Professor Emeritus of History, University of Wisconsin
TESTIMONIAL OF KENT STATE UNIV ALUMNUS:
“I had the privilege of reading this book. I often reflect on the events that shaped our experiences & lives. I was not expecting to be personally drawn into the novel, but how could I have known that The Serpent Papers was going to stimulate my memories and emotions of being a student at Kent State University in 1971-1974? This book opened labyrinths that have been locked in my memories for fifty years.
“I have spent weeks recalling the discussion and kinetic atmosphere propagated by students, faculty, police, school administration and elected officials. I have wanted to reexamine and document this experience for my children and grandchildren for quite some time. Fabulous stuff—thanks, Jeff Schnader, for making it happen!”
—Steven Magida, 1974 Kent State University graduate
“Just finished the book and I’m stunned by its intensity. Wow! The writing is so vivid and beautiful. Every sentence painted a picture. The book allowed me to experience the 1970s with the depth that my emotional immaturity stifled all those years ago. J-Bee’s internal struggle for identity and meaning was powerful.”
—Janet Maurer, PhD
“Wonderful & interesting characters. J-Bee’s evolution is convincing and moving. The political, the historical, the academic, and the emotions & feelings of the times— this is a heady mix.”
—Editor & Former Book Publisher
“The characters are very strong. The major idea of this novel is intriguing. The tensions between J-Bee’s background, his personal code, the thrill of campus life, and his relationships drive the story in a unique direction. The story is well written, exciting and full of insight; allusions and imagery enhance the experience. It is a book that makes me think; I imagine writing essays on it. The relevance to today's culture is obvious.
—Aaron Kaiserman, PhD, Faculty, English Literature Department, University of Ottawa
“Praise for The Serpent Papers: This Vietnam-era novel vividly captures the pivotal time when young American men's futures hung in the balance. An unforgettable, paradigm-shifting perspective on the era!”
—Margaret Winslow, PhD, Professor Emerita, City University of New York, and author of the books: Over My Head, The Cusp of Dreadfulness, and Smart Ass.
“I certainly agree with Richard Marek that the writing is better than just about anything that comes in over the transom.”
—Editor, Book Editors Alliance
“This novel evokes a time and place... It gets heady.”
“Right at the top of my reads ever... I was a student in 1970, and this book is like walking back to those times—except it is better. A great story well written. Could anyone want more than that in a book? Nailed it!”
—Skip Keith, Hampton Roads Writers
"WOW- This is an important book. This is a piece of literature that makes you happy that literature exists."
—Reviewer of The Serpent Papers on Audible
“Unexpectedly, I don’t simply like The Serpent Papers, I am enthralled! The writing is special, authentic in voice and compelling. I read more slowly so as not to miss a phrase, a thought. Fascinating and leaves me wanting more. It reflects that era from the inside out. The book brings me back to a time in my life of excitement, cosmic change and my own questioning of right and wrong.
“I loved the book. The writing is insightful yet conversational despite difficult subject matter. I see it on the big screen. The pleasure was all mine.”
—Dr. Vivien Brown MDCM, CCFP, FCFP, NCMP, Asst Prof, Univ Toronto, VP North America of the Medical Women’s International Association
DECORATED VIETNAM VETERAN TESTIMONIAL:
“As a two-time recipient of the Bronze Star and Vietnam War combat veteran, I would be placed in the role of the character Gilly in The Serpent Papers. Drafted out of college, my choices were made for me, and my life was thrust into the darkness of war. [Now I’m like] a snake [who] cannot crawl back into his skin.
“The characters in The Serpent Papers have expanded my concepts, which have been clouded by perspective. I now understand that young men at home were trudging through the trenches of political mud for my sake. Very good read!”
—Arthur T Swanner, Recipient of 2 Bronze Stars
-US Army, 2nd & 94th Artillery
-Two tours in combat, Vietnam War
“Jeff Schnader writes a tale that encapsulates a very difficult time in US history. He exposes generational differences and conflicted emotions due to the Vietnam War. The character of J-Bee knits together a great read that will force you to reflect not only on that time but your own experiences.”
—Professor Ian MacDonald, MD, CM, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Alberta
“Jeff Schnader has captured a universal truth about youth. A wonderful read.”
—Benjamin Kitchings, The History Voyager Podcast
REVIEW by Jay Strafford for
THE FREDERICKSBURG FREE LANCE-STAR &
THE RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH
The first wave of Baby Boomers—now in their 60s and 70s—came of age during the Vietnam era, a seminal epoch for them, a defining one for the nation. Many novelists have explored that experience, but few as perceptively and personally as does Jeff Schnader in The Serpent Papers.
Son of a bullying admiral and an alcoholic mother, protective elder brother to a severely hearing-impaired boy, abuse victim of Catholic school nuns, Joseph “J-Bee” Bell grows up in Norfolk.
His best friend, Gilbert “Gilly” O’Daly, volunteers for Vietnam. But J-Bee chooses to enroll at Columbia University in 1971. Among others, he meets Margo, a senior, waitress and political activist; Billy, a gentle hippie; Bloom, a World War II veteran; Milo, a privileged preppy and an incipient drug lord; and the Serpent, who holds forth on the war while concealing his identity behind a screen at a campus hangout.
“I had one foot in the world of my fathers, the bastion of the military and the Catholic Church,” J-Bee tells us, “and the other foot out of the box in a land I had yet to recognize fully, the rarefied realm of ivory towers where professors smoked pipes and conjectured, everything lost in a smoggy haze of thought, a citadel of turbulent intellect and ideology.”
Worlds collide, especially when Gilly, on furlough, visits J-Bee in New York City. What follows is the climax to a tale rendered with intensity of purpose, vigor of prose, authenticity of time and place, and depth of characterization, particularly that of J-Bee.
Schnader, a resident of Norfolk and a graduate of Columbia, draws heavily on history and personal experience in “The Serpent Papers,” his first full-length novel. He’s also a professor of medicine and a physician who has worked in hospitals for veterans.
As he develops the events that lead to J-Bee’s ultimate decision of whether to become a warrior (he has a penchant for violence) or a protester (he embraces many facets of the counterculture), Schnader engages the reader in J-Bee’s struggle of conscience with telling detail and emotional impact.
At once alarming and astute, The Serpent Papers coils within the reader’s mind and strikes with precision.
Review by Kristine Morris
FOREWORD REVIEWS (January / February 2022)
Probing the consciences of people and a nation during a pivotal era, The Serpent Papers is a novel about the intricacies of decision-making and taking a stand when life itself is at risk.
Growing up in the 1960s, J-Bee, the son of an admiral in the US Navy, is caught up in the national conflict over the Vietnam War. Events demand a choice between his military family’s expectations and his own revulsion for violence. Further complicating his decisions are his loyalty to his best friend, Gilly, who volunteered for duty and was sent to Vietnam, and his tormented memories of his act of vengeance, which stopped just short of murder, against the bullies who caused the death of his younger brother.
Rebelling against the violence of his heritage and his conflicted Catholic upbringing, J-Bee refuses to follow the military track after high school graduation. Instead, he attends Columbia University, a “hotbed of radicalism” and the home of “commie-pinko organizers.” A battle brews inside of him—one that he feels will either lead to redemption, or to hellfire.
When J-Bee finds himself in the midst of a campus protest, confronted by phalanxes of New York Tactical Police in battle garb, he reflects on the logic of his anti-war girlfriend and the campus café readings of the mysterious “Serpent.” With "violence tattooed on [his] soul from birth," has he changed enough to stand with “an anti-war rabble” against his ingrained identity? His answer to that question sets him on a surprising course.
Raw and intimate, The Serpent Papers is a novel about the development of one’s personal values, the costs of following one’s conscience when its dictates conflict with “group think,” and notions of what it means to be a man and a patriot.
CLOSE TO HOME: "Schnader Talks the Talk and Walks the Walk"
Review by Steve Budman
JEWISH NEWS, Tidewater Virginia (March 28, 2022; page 31)
I recently finished reading The Serpent Papers, a new novel about the Vietnam era by Jeff Schnader, a local retired physician and EVMS professor turned author.
And I can't stop thinking about it.
College life in America during the peak of the Vietnam War and the student protest movement is the platform on which this tale is based—but the novel's themes go far beyond.
At a glance, the story appears to be a memoir. But instead, it is historical fiction, heavily informed by Schnader's background. The result is a coming of age story, full of beautifully drawn complex characters, love as well as angst, surprising twists, dark moments, and ultimately, growth and hope.
I can't stop thinking about it because I was a student at the University of Maryland during this period when Schnader and his protagonist, J-Bee, were at Columbia University.
Schnader has painted a full panorama of this late hippy period, including the struggle between the placid peaceniks, the extreme leftist war protesters, the Khaki-and-button-down conservative students and the university establishment. All together, he accurately depicts the conflicting cultures and highly charged emotional atmosphere of the time.
Composed in a straightforward and flowing style, the writing is dotted throughout with elegantly graceful passages of prose. The novel is succinctly resolved in a breathtakingly beautiful flourish of Schnader's pen.
The Serpent Papers brought all of the late '60s to early '70s feel back to me—in a very visceral way, since my raw unsettled experiences at College Park were very much the same as Schnader's recreated time at Columbia. Now, when friends ask what my college years were like, I will tell them to read Schnader's book.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the author for coffee. An expected 30-minute chat turned into a two-and-a-half hour conversation. Schnader, like his main character, in a desire to help and give back to those who sacrificed, worked for twenty-two years in the VA hospital system. Like J-Bee, he hopes for peace but also works to heal the survivors of conflict as he strives to heal a divided nation.
Schnader talks the talk and, more importantly, walks the walk. He may be reached through his website: www.jschnaderauthor.com
—Steve Budman is a commercial phootographer who is an occasional contributor to Jewish News of photographs, wine review, and now book reviews. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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