Stuart Klawans
January 29, 1993 AT 05:00 AM EST

It’s the late 1970s or early ’80s, and you’re in West Germany with the U.S. Army. Officially, you write memos that keep your commanding officer’s skids well-greased. Unofficially, you deal in heroin and anything that can fall off a truck. You’re white, so you’ve hired the biggest, toughest black man on the base as your No. 2. You sample your own goods, but not enough to lower the IQ — or so you tell yourself.

Robert O’Connor’s second-person, present-tense novel is a funny, scary study of the peacetime Army making war on itself. Tightly plotted, sharply observed, and written in a style of terse, colloquial meanness, Buffalo Soldiers reads like a GI version of Elmore Leonard. Like most army novels, it strains credulity whenever a character requiring the pronoun she trots across the page. Apart from that, it’s an impressive debut. A-

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