Eric Recommends: ‘Last One In’

“Last One In” is fictional, but author Nicholas Kulish drew on his real experiences as a journalist embedded with the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq to tell this engrossing, sometimes satirical story. The novel is about a shallow gossip columnist who gets sent to Iraq with a Marine convoy. (The reason his newspaper makes him go: He happens to have the same name as the incapacitated war correspondent who was supposed to do it, and the Pentagon refuses to change the name on their list at the last minute.) The character arc is standard (Jimmy learns what’s really important in life), and Kulish’s occasional dips into “Catch-22”-style wartime satire don’t mesh with the rest of the book’s more earnest tone. His believable descriptions of Marine culture and the daily routine of waiting in the desert for marching orders are compelling, though. His vivid, humane treatment of the characters will give you a new appreciation for the military and perhaps give clarity to the often-vague idea of “supporting the troops.”