Dog Soldiers (novel)

Dog Soldiers (novel)
Dog Soldiers  
First edition cover
Author(s) Robert Stone
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Fiction
Publisher Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY
Publication date 1974
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 342
ISBN 0-395-18481-9
OCLC Number 948202
Dewey Decimal 813.54 74.11441
LC Classification PS3569.T6 418
Preceded by Hall Of Mirrors
Followed by A Flag For Sunrise

Dog Soldiers is a 1974 novel by American novelist Robert Stone. The story revolves around journalist John Converse, Merchant Marine sailor Ray Hicks, Converse's wife Marge, and their involvement in a heroin deal gone bad. The novel won the 1975 National Book Award (US) for best fiction,[1] an honor shared that year with co-recipient The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams.[2]

The novel was included on TIME magazine's list of the 100 best English-language novels 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.[3]

The book was adapted into the 1978 film Who'll Stop the Rain, starring Nick Nolte.


Plot and Summary

Dog Soldiers deals with the fall of the counterculture in America, mistrust of authority figures, and the end of the optimism of the 1960s. Southern California (where the majority of the novel takes place) has moved on from the Summer of Love to post-Manson paranoia. Converse seeks inspiration for his next big play as a correspondent in Vietnam, but only finds the decline of morals in himself as well as the world. Symbolic of this moral corruption is his decision to traffic in heroin, which was never embraced by the 1960s counterculture the way LSD was.

Converse involves his friend Hicks in the smuggling deal. He offers to pay Hicks to hide the heroin on the Merchant Marine vessel he works on when it ships from Vietnam to California, and then to deliver the dope to Converse's wife in Los Angeles upon arrival. The novel's primary complication unfolds when Hicks arrives in California and realizes he is being followed. Unsure of whether Converse has been double-crossed by his suppliers or if Converse has himself betrayed him, Hicks elects to go on the run, taking along Marge with him, who is addicted to prescription painkillers and who had agreed with Converse to do the deal. Hicks---a bit of a paranoid survivalist infatuated with Friedrich Nietzsche and martial arts with a bit of Zen Buddhism thrown in---proves a formidable escapist, and the action of the novel follows the extended pursuit of Hicks and Marge by Converse and his suppliers. Marge would like to believe that she has spent her youth as an advocate of freedom, both sexual and speech, but inevitably discovers she is little more than an adulterer and a junkie. Antheil, their pursuer, may be interested in arresting them and getting the drugs off of the street, or killing them and keeping the swag for himself, but no one can tell for sure.

The initial chapters portray South Vietnam as a decadent pit of death, mismanagement, and cheap thrills—essentially it is doomed to self-implosion. The next several chapters show us a detailed view of Hicks' life, once an all-American Marine, now wandering among the ruins of urban decay, longshoremen bars converted to titty bars, and stumbling across all manner of perverts in Southern California. The final chapters do spend some time fleshing out the 'regulatory agent' Anthiel and his cohorts, but it is not clear if these are merely well-informed drug thieves or if they are legitimately on the fringe of the law enforcement world until the end of the novel. We are also introduced to Dieter in the last few chapters of the book. Dieter is the German immigrant who stayed in the cliffs/desert where the wild parties and orgies of yesteryear are just ghostly memories. At one point he asks Hicks to stay, to somehow kickstart the feeling of the sixties all over again, and Hicks replies that it's over.


Stone acknowledges having borrowed heavily from his experiences among the Merry Prankster milieu led by novelist Ken Kesey, with whom Stone became acquainted while he was a student in the graduate creative writing workshops at Stanford University. The character of Ray Hicks is modeled specifically on Beat Generation icon and Merry Prankster Neal Cassady. Numerous details from the novel are based on Cassady and his exploits and the environs of Ken Kesey's home in La Honda, California, an informal commune depicted in the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and Allen Ginsberg (among others).


  1. ^ "National Book Award Winners". Retrieved 2010-01-19 
  2. ^ Sam Allard. "Thomas Williams' 'The Hair of Harold Roux' deserves a rousing readership". Retrieved 2011-07-30. 
  3. ^ Grossman, Lev; Richard Lacayo (2005). "All-Time 100 Novels: The Complete List". Time. 

External links

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal
  • Stephenson, Gregory. Understanding Robert Stone. University of South Carolina Press, 2002. ISBN 1-57003-462-1

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