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John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

Written by Neil SheehanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Neil Sheehan


List Price: $14.99


On Sale: October 20, 2009
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-679-60380-1
Published by : Vintage Knopf

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Read by Robertson Dean
On Sale: August 11, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-57801-3
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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

In this magisterial book, a monument of history and biography that was awarded the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, renowned journalist Neil Sheehan tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann–"the one irreplaceable American in Vietnam"–and of the tragedy that destroyed that country and the lives of so many Americans.

Outspoken and fearless, John Paul Vann arrived in Vietnam in 1962, full of confidence in America's might and right to prevail. A Bright Shining Lie reveals the truth about the war in Vietnam as it unfolded before Vann's eyes: the arrogance and professional corruption of the U.S. military system of the 1960s, the incompetence and venality of the South Vietnamese army, the nightmare of death and destruction that began with the arrival of the American forces. Witnessing the arrogance and self-deception firsthand, Vann put his life and career on the line in an attempt to convince his superiors that the war should be fought another way. But by the time he died in 1972, Vann had embraced the follies he once decried. He went to his grave believing that the war had been won.

A haunting and critically acclaimed masterpiece, A Bright Shining Lie is a timeless account of the American experience in Vietnam–a work that is epic in scope, piercing in detail, and told with the keen understanding of a journalist who was actually there. Neil Sheehan' s classic serves as a stunning revelation for all who thought they understood the war.
Neil Sheehan

About Neil Sheehan

Neil Sheehan - A Bright Shining Lie

Photo © Ron Blunt

Neil Sheehan is the author of A Bright Shining Lie, which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1989. He spent three years in Vietnam as a war correspondent for United Press International and The New York Times and won numerous awards for his reporting. In 1971, he obtained the Pentagon Papers, which brought the Times the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for meritorious public service. Sheehan lives in Washington, D.C. He is married to the writer Susan Sheehan.

Praise | Awards


"Masterly. . . . One of the few brilliant histories of the American entanglement in Vietnam." --The New York Times

"A brilliant work of enormous substance and ambition. In telling one man's story [A Bright Shining Lie] sets out to define the fatal contradictions that lost America the war in Vietnam. It belongs to the same order of merit as Dispatches, The Best and the Brightest, and Fire in the Lake." --Robert Stone, Washington Post Book World

"A compelling, graphic, and deeply sensitive biography [and] one of the few brilliant histories of the American enthanglement in Vietnam. . . . Sheehan's skillful weaving of anecdote and history, of personal memoir and psychological profile, give the book the sense of having been written by a novelist, journalist, and scholar all rolled up into one." --David Shipler, The New York Times

"If there is one book that catpures the Vietnam War in the sheer Homeric scale of its passion and folly, this book is it. Neil Sheehan orchestrates a great fugue evoking all the elements of the war." --Ronald Steel, The New York Times Book Review

"An unforgettable narrative, a chronicle grand enough to suit the crash and clangors of whole armies. A Bright Shining Lie is a very great piece of work; its rewards are aesthetic and . . . almost spiritual." --The New York Review of Books

"Enormous power . . . full of great accomplishments . . . Neil Sheehan has written not only the best book ever about Vietnam, but the timeliest." --Newsweek

"It is difficult to believe that anyone will write a more gripping or important book on America's war in Vietnam than A Bright Shining Lie, a towering book that has been 16 years in the making. . . . Sheehan shows, perhaps more convincingly than anyone else who has written on the subject, that our intervention in Vietnam was in fact a terrible blunder, damaging to America and devastating to the Vietnamese and the other people of Indochina--a mistake as tragic as it was unnecessary." --Detroit News

"[A Bright Shining Lie] is more than a biography. It is also a compelling and clear hstiroy of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Mr. Sheehan's book . . . is the best answer to any American who asks: 'How could this have happened?'" --Wall Street Journal

"Using the life of one man as his framework, Neil Sheehan has written the best book on America's involvement in Vietnam since Frances FitzGerald's Fire in the Lake." --Kirkus Reviews

"One of the milestones in the literature about the war. . . . In these times, a readable book about the Vietnam war, like any other clear warning, is worth its weight in life." --Christian Science Monitor


WINNER 1989 Pulitzer Prize
WINNER 1988 National Book Awards
WINNER 1988 Sidney Hillman Prize

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