Ward S(wift) Just Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ward S(wift) Just 1935–

American novelist, short story writer, nonfiction writer, and journalist.

Just's writings reflect his experiences as a journalist in Washington, D.C. and as a war correspondent in Vietnam. His nonfiction includes To What End: Report from Vietnam (1968), an impressionistic record of that conflict; and Military Men (1970), a study—based largely on interviews with professional soldiers—of the American army of the 1970s.

As a fiction writer of terse prose, Just has established a favorable reputation for capturing the ambience of a place. Particularly notable in this regard are his novel Stringer (1974), which evoked the nightmare of Vietnam, and his short story collection The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert and Other Washington Stories (1973), which depicted the political cross-currents within the capital of an America at war. A later novel, A Family Trust (1978), reveals Just's midwestern roots in its portrayal of a small town dominated by a patriarchal editor-publisher of a local newspaper. Returning to the Washington milieu, his recent novel, In the City of Fear (1982), is set in the present-day capital. The story shifts back and forth in time to evoke the long shadow of Vietnam.

Although critical reception to his work is uneven, Just is commended for being a serious writer who accepts the difficult challenge of writing about contemporary politics.

(See also CLC, Vol. 4 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)