Mark Perlman, the author of the historical novel, The Reluctant Soldier, offers the reader a multifaceted story of war, romance, murder, political intrigue, and bohemian life during the interwar years in Paris. Fact and fiction are skillfully weaved throughout the book. It makes for an educational and easy read.

A Novel by Mark Perlman

ISBN 9798360020271
Publication Date September 20, 2022
Number of pages 300 pages
Format 14 x 22,5
$21.99 (Free shipping to U.S. and Canada)

Also on

Commande en francais

Read Chapter One Now!
Join the mailing list.

Your email address will not be sold or distributed. Your privacy is respected. Unsubscribe at any time.


Virgil Lincoln Carpenter (1891-1973), an African American, grows up on a farm in the segregated American South in a loving but struggling family. He finds solace from problems and injustices when he carves out a section of cornfield for private reflection. He recreates this space throughout his life as a refuge from difficulties. It serves as a theme and metaphor for that place of serenity we all seek.

Virgil is The Reluctant Soldier

Fate smiles on Virgil when, as a young man, he saves the life of a white banker’s daughter. The banker finances Virgil’s college education, he moves to New York City, and becomes a professor. When many of his students leave to join the army as America enters World War One, Virgil feels pressure to enlist and reluctantly joins the famous “Harlem Hellfighters” Regiment. The story follows Virgil and his Hellfighters through the challenges of war in France. Returning home after the war, he is forced to flee the country after killing a man in self-defense while visiting his family in Virginia.

Jazz, Interwar Paris, and The French Resistance

Virgil takes a covert, circuitous trip back to France. He is befriended by his French liaison officer from the war, Henri Le Van, a detective in Paris. While working as Le Van’s confidant and chauffeur, he witnesses many murders Le Van must solve during the “Jazz Era” of interwar Paris. During this time, Virgil meets several historic personalities such as Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene Bullard, Sylvia Beach, and others. Virgil marries a Corsican woman he had met during the war. As political turmoil increases in Paris during the early 1930’s, their growing family moves to the Champagne Region for a quieter life. This plan is disrupted as World War Two erupts in 1940. Both he and his wife join the French Resistance. It is a life-or-death situation for their family with many losses.

Virgil’s Return to America

Several years after the war ends, Virgil suffers more personal losses. His life takes a turn for the worse due to his self-destructive behaviors. After confronting his demons, he decides to return to America. Shortly after he arrives, his alias is uncovered. He is extradited back to Virginia to stand trial for a death that occurred over three decades earlier. He must decide whether to reconcile with his demons and past or succumb to them.

The Reluctant Soldier, A Hero’s Journey 

While the story is told from Virgil’s perspective, his great nephew, Mason Jenkins, provides a prologue, opening chapters, and an epilogue that explain his great uncle’s influence on his life and brings Virgil’s journey full circle. Will Virgil’s story and legacy bring redemption to him and motivate Mason to live his best life?

The factual characters and events interwoven with fictional ones bring Virgil’s story to life in vivid details that speak to issues both racial and universal and will appeal to a multi-generational, multi-racial audience. Perlman has spent over fifteen years doing research in both the U.S. and France to bring authenticity and a genuine historical perspective to The Reluctant Soldier. He succeeds admirably in bringing us a testament to the power of love, faith, and endurance.