Lawrence McAuliffe, Vietnam Veteran, Author of Purple Sun

Lawrence McAuliffeLawrence McAuliffe, after serving as a Marine lieutenant, returned to serve in Vietnam as a Catholic chaplain with the Marine Corps up along the DMZ in 1968-’69, and is a disabled veteran of that conflict.

Out of that experience—and years of pondering the conflict’s worth and waste, its pain, suffering, and the continuing challenge of attempts to understand—Purple Sun emerged. It is a war story that is not about war, but about evil and death, and the sense of sin and sacredness found in the depth of the human spirit.

While McAuliffe is an accomplished writer, this is his first novel. The story is bigger than life, evoking events of legendary stature. Yet the almost universal response, from those who served in Vietnam and even from those who protested it, is that no other Vietnam novel has captured the complex reality of the times like this one does.

McAuliffe lives in Boston with his wife, Marilyn. He is stepfather of six children and grandfather of eleven. He is a highly literate interview guest, who can discuss issues of war and peace, theology, philosophy, and heroism.

Purple Sun: An epic tale of war and redemption

Purple SunA first novel published by a small press seldom attracts a lot of attention. This one has beat the odds, for a lot of good reasons. Lawrence McAuliffe knows his subject. As a chaplain in Vietnam, he counselled young soldiers in the most horrific of war conditions. And he himself sustained disabling injuries in the conflict. The book is a powerful story formed during decades of reflection on the events of that time.

This is the story of a thrice-wounded young soldier, a fundamentalist Christian, who, for no reason that he can explain or justify, shoots to death a holy man—a Buddhist monk—in the ruins of Hue in 1968. He refuses to believe the monk could have died, and searches for him. Later, the young soldier, Billy Kern, disappears during battle.

A battle-seasoned African-American sergeant and a young lieutenant from a privileged background both take interest in the case. Sergeant Ross and Lieutenant Gallo have almost nothing in common except on overriding desire to solve the mystery. Had Billy Kern been killed in battle? Had he deserted? Could he possibly still be alive? Long after returning to the States and leaving the service, Ross and Gallo keep in touch, and 30 years later, know they have to return to Vietnam to find out what really happened.

A former Viet Cong soldier, who carries his own scars and memories, is their guide. The journey takes them from the monastery of the Purple Sun back around the world to the mountains of Wyoming, where a small-town newspaper editor becomes entangled in the enduring mystery of Billy Kern.

McAuliffe’s book has won universal praise from literary critics and experts on the emotional impact of war on veterans. Some of their comments appear on the catalog listing for this book, at

Contact Information

Journalists planning reviews or articles about the book Purple Sun may request review copies and related materials by contacting the publisher. The contact person is Steve Carlson, who can be reached at or calling (802) 482-2988.

Lawrence McAuliffe is also available for broadcast interviews, as a guest who can discuss issues that once tore America apart, and that have now become relevant again in a time of extended war. To make initial arrangements for an interview, contact Steve Carlson at Upper Access.