The Furax Connection brought back memories of 1951-54 and my Army service in Korea as a sergeant first class with the
1092nd Engineer Combat Battalion.
Think 1950. Think Korea. Think induction.Think the draft. Think basic training. Think Fort Leonard Wood. Think
foul-mouthed drill sergeants. Now you are ready to get into Steve Kanne's absorbing, attention-holding novel.
"What's a Furax," you may be wondering? Well, you'll find out as you follow this tale of Billy Rosen through his
induction and basic training experiences during the Korean War years. Lots of us Korean veterans - and vets of any of
our country's wars, I'm sure - will recognize Billy's life as a new draftee as being a lot like ours, but this is
definitely not just a series of clichÃ©s about a young guy getting drafted in 1950.
Instead we as readers, along with Billy, find ourselves puzzled and confused about what's going on, as we and Billy
are caught up in a mysterious design that affects everything Billy does from the moment he arrives at Fort Leonard
The story begins when Billy, a 21-year-old fresh out of Harvard, decides that he wants to volunteer for the draft; he
doesn't want to be an officer, he wants to be an enlisted man. He's a smart, thoughtful, decent guy who's willing to
do what the Army asks of him to get him ready for combat. But Billy is an actor in a plot that he knows nothing
about, as impossible deeds are demanded of him and slanderous accusations are made about him, almost causing him to
be dishonorably discharged.
Author Kanne, a former instructor at Fort Lewis College and a retired attorney, keeps his readers in suspense as they
follow Billy from his wealthy Chicago suburb to the barracks of First Platoon, Company B, at Leonard Wood, and even
to a chance encounter with the post commander and his beautiful college-age daughter. All the while, he is being
tracked by members of the military who want him as an elite "Water Walker."
The book is filled with memorable characters, like Fat Jerry, whose personal hygiene calls for a special GI scrubbing
party, and "The Boys," a couple of Army wheeler-dealers whose specialty is doing the impossible. Then there's Col.
Harkavy, whose thoughts are all centered on his forthcoming promotion to brigadier general. And we can't forget
Durango resident Emma Durban (who lives down the street from me on East Third Avenue), the post commander's
mother-in-law, who shares Billy's passion for good books.
There are fine, selfless military people, too - the men of Billy's platoon, his seemingly merciless but ultimately
humane first sergeant, his nurse in the Army hospital - people who go way beyond the call of duty to help Billy when
he is really down. They all convey to us the author's seminal message: The military is a close-knit family of good
and decent people who, in the end, come together to care unselfishly for their own. This message is perhaps why Furax
has been chosen for sale in PXs in the Midwest and in Veterans Affairs health-care centers throughout the country.
The book is a page-turner and, because of its powerful female characters and the author's view that "women rule," of
particular appeal to women readers. The writing is clear and uncluttered, a pleasure and surprise in these days of
I found Furax to be an enjoyable read, and, not surprisingly, it has been lauded by three national reviewers. One, Alan Caruba, a charter member of the National Book Critics Circle, chose it as one of the best in new fiction for the
month of November 2009. As a retired professor of English with a reputation as a tough grader, I give it an A and
heartily recommend it.
Carroll "Dr. Pete" Peterson is a Korean War veteran and Emeritus Professor of English at Fort Lewis College. Reach
him at email@example.com.