Verdict: Author Richard Barager’s lively and erudite voice conveys the story with a vibrancy that mirrors the times, although the overall plot of RED CLAY, YELLOW GRASS is as formulaic as the genre warrants.
America in the 1960s was a period of upheaval and change, a sweeping national drama with larger than life stars and a cast of millions each with their own personal story. RED CLAY, YELLOW GRASS is a document of three of these stories and how they are inexorably woven together to play key roles in the changing times.
Hardened by a youth shuttled in and out of the foster care system, David Noble’s outlook on life is definitely a cynical one. He could easily wallow in that nihilism, but instead focuses his energy into trying to bring about positive social change. His political activism brings him in contact with Jackie Lundquist, and though they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum they soon become romantically involved. The dichotomy of their politics both energizes and threatens their relationship, so much so that after one particularly virulent debate David marches to his nearest recruiting office and joins the Marines.
Stationed in the tragically doomed Khe Sahn corridor, David sees the horror of war first hand. He survives his tour in Nam, seemingly less scarred than many of his contemporaries, and returns to the states even more resolute to foment change. He gets his old job back and re-enlists in college. He also finds himself back in Jackie’s arms despite the fact that her political views have moved even more to the opposite extreme and that she is now involved with Kyle Levy, an equally leftist radical and David’s former best friend. The three unwittingly enter into a love triangle that is perilous and strained not only by the stresses of partitioned love but by the extremes of their political ideology.
This ideology leads them to cameo roles in some of the most historic events of the period including the Chicago Democratic Convention and the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway. When tragedy strikes the trio at the latter event the demise of their love triangle stands as a reflection of the demise of the decade’s innocence which most sociologists maintain was that Altamont concert.
In a coda that rescues those characters from having their stories end so dourly, a filmmaking progeny of the 60s decides to document his parents’ involvement of that time. In researching for the project he uncovers some long-hidden truths that cast a kinder light on those political participants once called radicals, and frames the decade as a much-cherished period of hope rather than one of turmoil.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for Indie Reader