Bill Merritt Books

Where the Rivers Ran Backward

Highly recommended – Library Journal

[Merritt’s] subtle technique is chilling. It captures the war’s incoherence and the author’s jumbled emotions toward it – Newsday

Never false, never flagging, it is the voice of a man who has been to war and returned with something important to say – Tim O’Brien

A fascinating mosaic of reminiscences about Mr Merritt’s fellow soldiers, their weapons, their training, their travails and the war . . . A well-crafted evocation of the zaniness of wars and the quiet perseverance of the men who fight them – The New York Times

A gutsy and finely accurate portrayal of a grunt’s life in the most divisive of Asian wars – Kirkus

Merritt’s writing is just short of superb – El Paso Herald Post

Among the books about the Vietnam War, few have caught the flavor of that memorable era more vividly than Bill Merritt’s Where the Rivers Ran BackwardJay Parini

The writing is rich and layered, the dialogue utterly real, the stories frank and fascinating. Highly recommended for anyone interested in what Vietnam was like for a junior enlisted man, and a must for any serious reader of Vietnam War literature – Keith W Nolan

A stunning, moving performance – Greenwich, CT, Time


Against a background of rock ‘n’ roll music, Where the Rivers Ran Backward presents a closely observed almost molecular portrait of slow-paced days strung together by patrols and night watches in bunkers where the stench of vomit and old beer burns like tear gas. There is combat, frenzied and terrifying, but there are also stories of pet monkeys and centerfolds; observations on the spell of exploding white phosphorous grenades; convoluted dialogs with a jeep driver enrolled in a mail-order course on Rosicrucianism, and conversations, THUD, interrupted, THUD, by artillery, THUD, around the clock.

Where the Rivers Ran Backward describes the war’s strange, almost intoxicating beauty; a yellow river, complicated inlays of green and silver shimmering on its banks through the morning fog, helicopter gunships sending bright neon threads streaming across the night sky. Comic, then suddenly reflective, lyrical then quietly matter-of-fact, Merritt describes a time and a place in which effort seemed only to reinforce constancy, in which a river carried all its country’s sorrows each day to the sea, and then ran the other way, bringing them back on the tide, forever.