Inspired by a Marine, ‘Back to the Dirt’ is filled with adventure, flash backs, humor

I know this is Mothers’ Day. I should be covering a book with some connection to mothers, right? Well, in my defense I’ll merely state that no writer has ever written a book without having had a mother. Are we good?

“Back to the Dirt” by Frank Bill was inspired by what the author’s father went through during the Vietnam War. Bill’s dad was with the First Engineers, C Company, Third Platoon (Thunderin’ Third Herd), U.S. Marine Corps. He was stationed in Da Nang from December of 1967 to January of 1969.

Frank Bill, Sr. was a minesweeper. Each day he would sweep the roads into the base for mines so their tanks could move across the area freely. During the night the Viet Cong would come back out to conceal more mines in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

One day a mine detonated. It killed one of his fellow minesweepers. That blast could have slain the author’s father as well if his unfortunate friend had not been standing between him and the exploding mine. This actual incident becomes one of the fictional events defining Miles, a character in “”Back to the Dirt,” inspired by his dad’s experiences.

As the story opens Miles is quite angry. He works in a factory that manufactures paint additives; one of his co-workers has been supplying him with illegal steroids. Miles is a bodybuilder and his co-worker has not been coming through with a new supply so Miles has flown into a classic roid rage over all this.

Miles gets into an altercation outside the factory with his drug dealing colleague. This incident gets reported to management. Throughout the story the possibility Miles could lose his job over that kerfuffle looms over him. But otherwise he’s busy, really busy, worrying about other things.

Like his girlfriend, Shelby. She’s quite a bit younger than her bulked up beau. Shelby’s father is another messed up Vietnam veteran with a drinking problem. When his wife finally got fed up with him she walked out and their daughter Shelby opted to stay with her dad. That’s when her dad began abusing Shelby and her twin brother.

Now Shelby has vanished and Miles spends most of the book looking for her. Initially this reader thought that Miles had a fellow veteran riding along with him during his various adventures and he does, in a way. Soon we comprehend Miles has PTSD and he’s been conversing with the ghost of his minesweeping buddy.

Bill’s loving depiction of Miles is an affectionate, heartwarming tribute to his own father. Miles wants his steroids. He forces his reluctant dealer to take him to see the main supplier. Initially the supplier is hostile and suspicious. When he realizes Miles is a veteran he becomes a lot more friendly.

The story alternates between flashbacks and chase scenes. Along back roads in southern Indiana we encounter gnarly dudes. Miles takes some LSD-things get really strange. There’s humor, horror, and nonstop adventure in “Back to the Dirt.”

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

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