Between the Lines: The Forgotten War

Aug 14, 2015

Steven Spruill
Credit Nancy Spruill

Steven Spruill wanted to write a story about war ever since he found his father’s military uniform hanging in their Battle Creek basement. “He was in the US Army Air Corps,” Spruill recalls. He was a young boy when he came across his father’s uniform. Spruill is a father now himself and the author of 16 books.


Spruill calls his most recent book, Ice Men: A Novel of the Korean War, his "magnum opus." While most of his earlier books were science fiction novels, Spruill says he decided to write about the Korean War after browsing a book store. 

“I was four years old when the Korean War started,” he says. “I thought nothing of it at the time because I heard nothing about it. The war went on until I was seven.” He would wonder later about that silence, “Why don’t I know more about this? I went into a book store and there were these walls of books on World War Two, and walls of books about the Vietnam War. And there were two bookshelves, less than the length of my arm span, about the Korean War.”

Spruill felt driven to make those shelves wider. He interviewed Korean War veterans, spent countless hours on research, and wrote Ice Men — only to find that his usual publishers, St. Martin’s Press and Doubleday, weren’t interested. Other traditional publishers also passed on the book. Unwilling to let the manuscript collect dust in his desk drawer unread, Spruill decided to publish the book himself.

Ice Men cover
Credit Steven Spruill

  “I wanted to give voice to the Korean veteran,” Spruill says. Today’s wars, he says, are often missile strikes launched from thousands of miles away. “That wasn’t the case in those days. There was a lot of mayhem…it was really horrible. Through my three main characters, I wanted to get some sense of that myself. I wanted to make myself think about it, how it felt.”

Ice Men brings the reader into the medical tents where surgeons, defying Army regulations, conduct experimental procedures in an attempt to save arms and legs that might otherwise be amputated. Soldiers march through bitter cold, sometimes 35 degrees below zero, holding medicine capsules inside their cheeks to keep them from freezing. Some are captured and Spruill writes about the prisoner-of-war camps. In the midst of this man-made madness, Spruill manages to weave in a love story between an officer and a MASH nurse, as well as the difficulties of a father-son relationship that are resolved on a snowy field in combat.

Steven Spruill was born and raised in Battle Creek, but now Steven Spruill was born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, but now lives in Virginia with his family. He has a PhD in clinical psychology. Among his other titles are The Psychopath Plague; The Imperator Plot; Hellstone; Before I Wake; My Soul to Take; Daughter of Darkness; Sleepers; and others. Spruill is almost done with work on his 17th book: Ramses, a modern twist on the Egyptian tale of Pharaoh Ramses II.

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