EXPIRED: 12/15/09 – C. D. B. Bryan, 73, wrote books, chain smoked and drank a lot of martinis. He’s best known for an article for The New Yorker magazine that evenutually became the 1976 book, Friendly Fire, about the accidental death of a US soldier in Vietnam, and a families anger aimed at the Army and the US government, thereafter.
His subject, Michael Mullen from LaPorte City, Iowa, was killed in 1970 by shrapnel from a shell fired by his own troops. His mother, Peg Mullen who died this year and is covered here in this blog, doubted the Army’s official account of his death. Friendly Fire traces the Mullen’s transition from patriotic American citizens to Anti-Vietnam War activists. Years later Friendly Fire was made into an Emmy Award-winning television movie that starred Timothy Hutton as Mike Mullen, Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty as his parents and Sam Waterston as Bryan, himself.
Bryan was born in New York City. His father was a magazine writer. After his parents divorced, his mother married the novelist John O’Hara. Both certainly had an influence on Bryan as he’s dabbled in fiction and in the topic of Alien adbuctions in his writing: His last book published is titled Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abductions, UFOs and the Conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His first novel, P.S. Wilkinson, won the Harper Prize in 1965. His other novels include The Great Dethriffe and Beautiful Women; Ugly Scenes. Bryan wrote for several magazines, including the satirical magazine The Monocle, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine and The New York Times Book Review. Bryan taught writing at Colorado State University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a voluminous book reviewer.
But above all, he was very proud of the fact that he exposed the friendly fire issue, and the fact that the government was lying to people who were as patriotic as the Mullens were. Of all of his works, Friendly Fire was the one of which he was most proud.
Still writing wasn’t all he did. With a name like Courtlandt Dixon Barnes Bryan, you’d drink a lot of martini’s and go by just your initials, too. He’ll have his remains stored in martini shakers until his final resting place is decided on.