Winner of the 2010 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from The Center For Fiction, and one of Time Magazine's of Top Ten novels of the year.

Publishing News

Leah Garchik, of the San Francisco Chronicle, writes: "El León Literary Arts, a small Berkeley publishing house incorporated as a private foundation, had set May 1 as the official pub date for "Matterhorn," ex-Marine Karl Marlantes' 700-page novel about the Vietnam War. The book was printed and review copies mailed out, but in late April, writer Tom Farber, who presides over El León, received calls from several New York publishers.

They had heard about the book from staffers at Barnes & Noble who'd read it when it was submitted in a first-novel contest, and they were interested in pre-empting El León's edition and joining forces to create a more widely distributed edition.

A deal was struck between Farber and Morgan Entrekin of Grove Atlantic, and copies already printed but not yet distributed will become galleys for the El León/Grove joint publication...This huge book couldn't at first find an agent or a publisher. Farber recognized its power. Take heart, writers."

Critical Praise get the feeling Marlantes is not overly worried about the attention span of his readers; you get the feeling he was not desperate or impatient to be published. Rather, he seems like a man whose life was radically altered by war, and who now wants to pass along the favor. And, with a desperate fury, he does. Chapter after chapter, battle after battle, Marlantes pushes you through what may be one of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam-or any war.

—Sebastian Junger, New York Times Book Review

Matterhorn is one of the most powerful and moving novels about combat, the Vietnam War, and war in general that I have ever read.

—Dan Rather

Thirty years in the making, Marlantes's epic debut is a dense, vivid narrative spanning many months in the lives of American troops in Vietnam as they trudge across enemy lines, encountering danger from opposing forces as well as on their home turf. Marine lieutenant and platoon commander Waino Mellas is braving a 13-month tour in Quang-Tri province, where he is assigned to a fire-support base and befriends Hawke, older at 22; both learn about life, loss, and the horrors of war. Jungle rot, leeches dropping from tree branches, malnourishment, drenching monsoons, mudslides, exposure to Agent Orange, and wild animals wreak havoc as brigade members face punishing combat and grapple with bitterness, rage, disease, alcoholism, and hubris. A decorated Vietnam veteran, the author clearly understands his playing field (including military jargon that can get lost in translation), and by examining both the internal and external struggles of the battalion, he brings a long, torturous war back to life with realistic characters and authentic, thrilling combat sequences. Marlantes's debut may be daunting in length, but it remains a grand, distinctive accomplishment.

—Publishers Weekly

Matterhorn combines the grit and dark humor of Catch 22 with the eloquence of All Quiet on the Western Front. The truth of this book honors the soldiers of Viet Nam as well as all wars. Karl Marlantes has written a classic.

—Sessalee Hensley, Barnes & Noble

Matterhorn is relentless and fascinating, as powerful in its simplicity and authenticity as any book I've read. You're dropped in country from the first page (a dramatic fall leaving you soaked and covered in leeches), and marched into the darkness with Bravo Company as your sole companions. Marlantes, highly decorated Vietnam veteran, exposes the mind-numbing repetition, crushing bureaucracy, and desperate deeds of war in such stark, moving language; you will be stunned and exhausted, but grateful for the story.

—Daphne Durham, | | Senior Manager, NA Books Editorial

The experts tell us what they are excited about reading in 2010.
Powell's new-book purchasing supervisor, Gerry Donaghy, wants to check out Matterhorn, a 2010 Vietnam War novel by decorated Vietnam veteran Karl Marlantes. The jacket copy [notes] that this is on the level of The Thin Red Line [a 1962 thriller by James Jones] and The Naked and the Dead [Norman Mailer, 1948], which is a bold statement, says Donaghy, but "readers I trust who have read this say the description isn't far off."

Christian Science Monitor: Top book picks for 2010

Even as the Vietnam War recedes into the past, the despair, confusion, and mythology it generated retains a grip on our culture. Debut novelist Marlantes offers a realistic, in-the-trenches look at that war. Matterhorn is a remote jungle base of operations held by the marines. We follow a young reserve lieutenant, Waino Mellas, as he nervously begins command of a squad ordered to take out a North Vietnamese machine-gun nest; afterward, the squad is sent into the remote jungle for obscure reasons. This is the beginning of a long and murderous journey, with little food or water, constant rain, impassable terrain, and enemy ambushes. The soldiers bond with one another, but their faults and divisions are magnified, as racial tensions mount and cultural differences are revealed. The battle scenes, at which the author excels, are frequent, brutal, and viscerally energetic, and the skillfully rendered dialog reveals a bunch of strangers attempting to communicate in life-defeating circumstances. In the end, there are no real victories. Verdict Obviously not a brief, cheery read, this is a major work that will be a valuable addition to any permanent collection.

Library Journal

Matterhorn is a terrific, towering novel. Marine Lieutenant Marlantes does for the Vietnam War what Lieutenant Sassoon did for the war in Flanders; what Sergeant Mailer did for the war in the Pacific; what Tenente Hemingway did for the war in Italy. He takes you there, shakes you, and never lets you go. Matterhorn will surely take its place on every armchair-warrior's bookshelf, shoulder to shoulder with Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, The Naked and the Dead, and A Farewell to Arms.

—Prof Jon Stallworthy, Editor, The Oxford Book of War Poetry.

Here we see heroism and sacrifice among the front-line troops, greed and deceit among the high officers and politicians. This Vietnam novel is as much a condemnation of politics as it is of war, even as it is a glorification of the emotional ties that bind the most unlikely of comrades forever, through and beyond life into death. As a combat veteran and writer, I find the story, the prose, and the characters of Congressional Medal quality.

—Chester Aaron, author of About Us

A gripping narrative, powerful and unflinching. There are scenes in this wonderful novel that I defy you to forget.

—Michael Fredrickson, author of A Defense for the Dead

I had the honor of serving in the same battalion as Karl Marlantes in Vietnam. There he proved himself to be one hell of a Marine. With Matterhorn, he proves himself to be one hell of a novelist.

Matterhorn made me relive events long shrouded in the mists of memory, mists as thick as the clouds that so often enveloped the grey-green mountains where Karl and I operated in that desolate, remote corner of South Vietnam. No other novel about Vietnam-including Jim Webb's Fields of Fire-does a better job of capturing the essence of what it meant to be a "grunt" in Vietnam than Matterhorn.

No doubt Karl and I differ over the wisdom of waging the Vietnam War in the first place. But reading Matterhorn, one understands what it was like to be at the "end of the line," where the lowly infantryman implemented national policy whether it made sense or not, where decisions made with Olympian detachment by those up the chain of command often seemed surreal to those of us who had to carry them out.

But in the end Matterhorn puts me in mind of Saint Crispin's Day speech of Shakespeare's Henry V.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. Matterhorn is a powerful work of literature and a tribute to those who fought and died at the "end of the line."

—Mackubin Owens, Associate Dean, US Naval War College

Only rarely does a book like Matterhorn come along. It combines great American literature with sweaty palm adventure. You neither have to love war nor hate it to find yourself spell struck by Marlantes's rare gift of dialogue and revelation of gut wrenching combat.

—Mike Harreschou, author of Chain of Evidence

A born storyteller, Marlantes has for decades thought and felt deeply about how to bring home the Vietnam war. The result, as we shadow a new Marine lieutenant almost from day one on the ground, is a beautifully crafted novel of unrivaled authenticity and power, filled with jungle heroism, crackerjack inventiveness, mud, blood, brotherhood, hatred, healing, terror, bureaucracy, politics, unfathomable waste, and unfathomable love. Lt. Waino Mellas - green, ambitious, an Ivy League boy - ascends the steepest learning curve of his life in dialogue so vivid it will grab and hold you until there are no more pages to turn. Matterhorn is a tour de force of military fiction. I have never read a war novel, outside of War and Peace, that created such a living, breathing hologram of all sides of any war, from the smallest details - the songs, the hair, the drugs - to the most profound - the campaigns, the questions, the whole conflict as it breaks down and builds up class and race, inspiring and destroying patriotism in unforgettable characters who make you cry when they die and when they survive.

—Christina Robb, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of This Changes Everything: The Relational Revolution in Psychology

Marlantes has a knack for dropping period details into his prose without confining or delaying his story. Each of these details contributes to our knowledge of what it must have been like to serve in a war that the rest of us only argued about. We always knew it was hell, but now we know how. Marlantes has re-created an environment that is disappearing from collective memory and in so doing performed the public service of keeping it vibrant and alive in all its horror. It's true. If you weren't there, you are now.

—Paul Gambaccini, author of Love Letters

Matterhorn ranks up there with the best novels about combat in the green hell of Vietnam. This is a nose-in-the-mud,leeches-in-places-you-don't-want-to-think-about book. A Princeton-educated Marine lieutenant learns the hard way about class, callous brass, and deadly racial hatred. Marlantes writes some of the best leatherneck dialogue you'll ever read.

—John McChesney, Senior Correspondent National Public Radio, San Francisco Bureau

Praise from Bookstore Owners

As a bookseller it is truly a gift when a book comes along that I can honestly rave about to customers. It is only about once every ten years or so that I read a new book that really grabs me the way Matterhorn does. This is a vivid and unforgettable look at what war does to young men, and old men, and how good intentions and ambitions are crushed and twisted by the horror of war. Of the many fine books written about the Vietnam War this, in my opinion, is the best. And, although the Vietnam War is now history, we need to be reminded, and those too young to remember must learn the true cost of war.

—Grant Novak, The Vermont Book Shop (Middlebury, VT)

Matterhorn is a riveting and literary tour de force. It is a powerful and unforgettable journey into the heart of the god of war-where meaning can be elusive and humanity yearns and strives to create it. A quintessential American novel that engages and forces the reader to care-deeply.

—Ed Conklin, Chaucer's Books (Santa Barbara, CA)

A first novel— Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes — is a literary tour de force and is co-published by El Leon Literary Arts and Grove Atlantic. It is a riveting novel and a fantastic read. Watch for it! ...

—Chaucer's Bookstore

Matterhorn is the best war novel I have ever read. The prose is elegant and the emotion is raw-I felt like I was soaking wet, muddy, and walking in fear alongside Mellas, Hawke, and Jackson in the tangled jungles of Vietnam. This is a grand and hugely ambitious novel.

—John Hugo, Andover Bookstore (Andover, MA)

Every war has produced some seminal fiction, but in the case of Vietnam there have been few examples. Karl Marlantes now increases the list by one with a towering, majestic novel of men in combat. Like all great literature his work transcends a particular war because of the universality of his characters and themes. This is a novel that will endure.

—Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books (Ann Arbor, MI)

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
By Karl Marlantes


El León;
Published El León/Grove Press, May, 2010
Fiction/Novel/Historical novel



A graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He and his wife Anne live on a small lake in Western Washington. Matterhorn is his first novel.

Karl Marlantes