ABOUT Darrell McLaughlin

Darrell McLaughlin
To quote the late Jerry Garcia, “what a long, strange trip it’s been”. In my sixty-one years, I've worked on a missile launch crew, in the engine room of a Mississippi riverboat and as the operator of a chemical plant. I've sold insurance, advertising and other stuff, worked in numer More...



Deer Neck is partially set in Vietnam, yet it is not a war novel. It’s protagonist, Shelby Elkins is a wounded Vietnam vet, but his really serious wounds had nothing at all to do with the war. The war was only one of the ‘strange new worlds’ Shelby had found himself in over the years, some from which he was never able to find his way entirely back. Yet, for everything lost, something still remains. His friend, who had gotten killed in a helicopter crash, had left a letter for Shelby to read should something like that happen. In it he referenced a poem by Carl Sandburg, which ends “I have asked to be left a few tears and some laughter.” Sandburg once also wrote, "If it can be done it is not a bad practice for man of many years to die with a boy heart." Deer Neck is about that wish and that practice.

The war is long over, now as far away in time as it was in distance from the innocent world of the Tennessee cotton fields of their childhood. Now the best friend Shelby ever had is dying and asking to see him. This is the same best friend who Shelby has, over and over, betrayed and disappointed. This is the same best friend now married to the woman who has truly always been the love of Shelby’s life. This is the same best friend whose thirty-year marriage almost ended because of Shelby.

Caught literally at a crossroads, Shelby has to decide whether it takes more courage to face the situation or to continue to stay away. He finds that facing the horrors of Vietnam was nothing at all compared to finally facing himself and the truth. Like Andy said, "It took 24 hours to go over there and 30 years to come back."

Deer Neck is a synthesis of the real stories of the people of my generation. It is a story of place, time and events, but more than that, it is a story of the human qualities that transcend place, time and events. Deer Neck was written to honor the true heroes among us. It was written to honor those who survive.