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Anthony Swofford follows his international bestseller, Jarhead, with an unforgettable first novel -- a powerful story about a youth spent on a U.S. air base in Japan and the gritty neon streets just outside it, where the Japanese underworld lurks and a rebellious young girl finds herself in great danger.

Anthony Swofford took the literary world by storm with Jarhead, his electrifying memoir of serving as a U.S. marine in the Gulf War. Celebrated for its visceral candor and profane lyricism, Jarhead stands today as a landmark contribution to the literature of war.

Now, in his bold fiction debut, Swofford demonstrates the same audacious vision as he plumbs the legacies of war, the wish for redemption, and the danger of love.

Seventeen-year-old Severin Boxx lives on Yokota, an enormous American air force base on the outskirts of Tokyo that is home to fourteen thousand U.S. soldiers and a large contingent of long-range nuclear bombers. Just outside the base lies the busy Haijima rail station. Exit A is one of the many doorways into this place of movement, anonymity, and sudden disappearance. Much of the novel's action transpires in the netherworld around Exit A, a mad neon landscape of noodle shops, strip clubs, sushi joints, pawnshops, whorehouses, sake fountains, military surplus stores, tattoo parlors, hash bars, comic book stores, pachinko parlors, fish shops, and alleys -- "the alleys that all lead somewhere, usually down."

It's here, not long before the Gulf War begins, that we first meet Severin, an earnest, muscular high-school-football star and son of a base colonel. Like most of the other young American men on the air base, Severin is mad for Virginia Kindwall, the base general's daughter, who is a hafu -- half American and half Japanese. Beautiful, smart, and utterly defiant of a father who wields godlike military power, Virginia has become a petty criminal in the Japanese underground.

Severin is soon caught up in Virginia's world. But theirs is not a typical high school romance; they fall into trouble way over their heads and are quickly subjected to the enormous, unforgiving tensions between America and Japan -- a relationship still informed by the long shadows of World War II and America's use of the atomic bomb.

Years later, Severin and Virginia remain lost to each other -- until an emotionally frayed, thirtysomething Severin embarks on a quest to find Virginia and, in so doing, the part of himself taken from him when his boyhood abruptly ended.

Like Jarhead before it, Anthony Swofford's Exit A is darkly irreverent, frankly erotic, and more than a little wicked, a tale told in a brooding, pained voice filled with the simple human fury of being alive. It is, in sum, a first novel in full. Building inexorably toward a climax that is at once suspenseful and emotionally overwhelming, Anthony Swofford's fiction debut is a triumph.

Dan Winters

Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in New York.

"Absorbing...The wacky culture clash that westerners experience in Japan is also carefully observed. Swofford portrays well the two-way love-hate relationships that so often develop when west and east meet." -- The Seattle Times

"Swofford is superb on military life, on the beat and pulse of the hierarchical power and ragged consumption that drive a military base.... [He] has now written two very fine and very different books." -- Bookforum

"Swofford has a great eye for detail and cultural kitsch, which imbues Exit A with a lot of incidental humor despite its weightier themes." -- Los Angeles Times

"Exit A boasts a beautifully written hero in naive severin boxx." -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Fascinating...Swift and bold...The tale has undeniable cinematic panache, and Swofford boots it along with the big, thumping V8 of his prose." -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"In Exit A, Swofford's prose swaggers...showcasing the genius that made his name in Jarhead...proving he can easily hold his own with the giants of American letters." -- San Francisco Chronicle

More books from this author: Anthony Swofford