New novel, The Serpent Papers, focuses on Vietnam War

by | Oct 21, 2021 | Other News

The Serpent Papers by Jeff Schnader, an area author and professor of medicine, is set on Columbia University’s campus amidst protests against the Vietnam War.

This is the first book written about Columbia’s 1972 demonstrations. For the Vietnam War generation, the war is still the defining event of their lives and rivets their interest. The war created a generational rift between those who fought and those who protested, which this novel aims to heal with rapprochement.

In the book, J-Bee, scion of a military family, is raised in a violent milieu during the 1960s where he commits a retaliatory act of brutality. While his best friend volunteers to fight in Vietnam, J-Bee is repulsed by his own violence and refuses to follow in his father’s military footsteps. Instead, he matriculates at Columbia in 1971, an era of counterculture, in order to seek redemption. Although he feels loyalty to his friend fighting overseas, he strongly sympathizes with his girlfriend’s rationale against the war. Torn between supporting the war or protesting against it, his paradoxical feelings are fueled when his best friend, on furlough from Vietnam, visits him at Columbia. With ratcheting tensions and bullhorns inciting students to protest, pro-war and anti-war factions collide in campus riots, and J-Bee redeems his prior acts of violence by making the choice that comes to define his life.

Publication date for the 302-page hardcover book is January 2022.

Jeff Schnader was at Columbia in 1972 where he participated in student-held massive demonstrations and was beaten by the N.Y. Tactical Police in full battle regalia, an experience which he uses as inspiration for true-to-life scenes in the novel. After training at Johns Hopkins, he has been a physician, journal editor, research scientist, and Professor of Medicine for 25 years. He has authored 50 medical publications (including in The New England Journal of Medicine); he has spoken and chaired more than 130 national medical panels and symposia in front of audiences of 200–1,000 scientists. He has also appeared on NPR more than 20 times as an expert guest. He resides in Norfolk and notes that two of the book’s characters are Jewish.

One Review of The Serpent Papers

by David Aldridge

If you want to know what it was like in the early ’70s in America’s colleges as the Viet Nam War dragged on and on, then this is your ticket to the tie-dyed, psychedelic, bell-bottomed world of Columbia University at the peak of the Anti-Establishment, Anti-Vietnam War, Make-Love-Not-War Woodstock Era of America’s youth. This book takes you right back to those days of ‘Hell No, We Won’t Go’, when Students for a Democratic Society and the notorious Weathermen held sway across campuses from coast to coast.

I was amazed that I identified so much with the main character, J-Bee. As I read, I was rooting for the students to win their fight. J-Bee is thrust into the maelstrom of political turmoil complicated by his fiery first love, strained relationships with his parents, childhood friends, Anti-War friends, and the Mysterious Serpent, a coffee house sage who speaks pearls of wisdom and Truth to those who will hear. A rollicking ride of conflict through the trials and tribulations of a young American torn between his family who want him to serve the nation honorably and those opposed to serving and who are competing for his very soul.

David Aldridge: Recipient of 3 Purple Hearts & 2 Bronze Stars, Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Palm Award, Meritorious Service Medal. US Army, 1st Infantry & Americal Divisions; Vietnam, 1966–67, 68–69, 70–71 (served 1000 days).

Jeff Schnader’s Website