Vietnam War, Coming of Age and Father Son Relationships are Explored in The World Played Chess By Robert Dugoni – Author Q & A Included!

The world played chess

My Review

From the author of The Extraordinary Life Of Sam Hell comes another moving story that is sure to bring tears! Robert Dugoni treats us to his expert, character driven storytelling about growing up you won’t want to miss! In his latest novel, The World Played Chess, recent high school graduate, Vincent has a job working construction to make some beer money the summer before he goes off to college. On the construction site with him are two war veterans, Todd and William, who share stories of their difficult and painful experiences over in Vietnam. The realities of fighting in a war as an outsider, coming of age while faced with emotional, moral and physical challenges, surrounded by loss, lack of family support, all while trying to remain hopeful was a lot for William and all the men in Vietnam to have experienced at such a young age and it took a toll. Years later, Vincent, now a father with his own son, Beau preparing to head off to college, remembers his last summer at home working construction. When Vincent receives William’s journal in the mail, he chooses to read it, revisiting William’s memories of war. Facing tragedy at home, Vincent understands the lessons his friend taught him even more clearly as he draws strength from the journal to help his own son realize that being born into privilege doesn’t guarantee a long, full and happy life.

Vincent working construction, William heading off to war and Beau preparing to play college football all had dreams that were impacted by fate. With lessons about friendship, love, perseverance and hope, and through multiple characters and timelines, Robert Dugoni skillfully brings us into the lives of these three young men as we experience their growing up from boys to men. I loved this story, the format that included journal entries and chapters dated to keep the timeline straight, the deep and complex characters, the friendships explored and the father son relationships. I highly recommend The World Played Chess.

Author Q & A

Congratulations on the release of The World Played Chess…I really loved this wonderfully moving story!   

Q: You are a best selling author across multiple genres; espionage, police procedurals, legal thrillers and literary fiction.  Do you set out to write a certain genre with intention, how long does it take you to complete a book and what do you attribute to your all encompassing success? 

A: I do set out to write in a certain way depending on the genre that I am writing. However, I also believe that the books readers remember are about characters who are three-dimensional and real. No matter the genre, I try to create characters that people will wonder about and worry about long after they have closed the book. I want readers to feel like they’ve just visited with a good friend and hope that good friend’s life turns out all right. The length of time it takes me to write a book really varies. Sometimes I have a strong sense of the plot and it goes quickly. Sometimes it can be a more difficult struggle. It also depends on what else I am doing while I am writing. Generally, anywhere from 6 months to 9 months, including research. 

Q:  When did you decide you wanted to be a writer and how did practicing law influence you? 

A: I knew when I was twelve and in the seventh grade that I wanted to write, that I loved to write. My mother was a big influence on me. She had many classic books that she kept handing to me to read. Practicing law taught me how to work long hours and to multi-task as well as persevere through difficult times. 

Q:  Where did you get the idea for The World Played Chess an emotional and personal story about a boy right before college and his older self as a father? 

A: The idea for the book came from my own life. My summer after senior year in high school I went to work on a construction crew with two Vietnam veterans and received the education of a lifetime. 

Q:  Americans growing up before the 1970s were protected in their environment and could easily live without extensive knowledge of the outside world, yet The Vietnam War coincided with more media access. Why was that the case and how do you think this impacted young people coming of age in the 1970s? 

A: Vietnam was the first media war. With the widespread use of television, the war could be broadcast into American households. The United States initially thought it would be a great propaganda machine to legitimize the war, but that thinking backfired when people at home saw the body bags and read about the number of wounded every day. People coming of age in the 1970s no longer had a glorified view of war. All the John Wayne and feel-good war movies went out the window and we got real movies like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Deer Hunter, and Full Metal Jacket. Young people realized you could die, just as more than 50,000 young people died. 

Q:  Vincent learns so much about the world from the Vietnam vets he works with over the summer before college and in turn, when he has a son heading off to college, he teaches similar lessons to his son. As a country and as parents, have things changed? Do you think we have improved how we prepare our youth for the real world and do we protect and nurture them any better than we did in the 1970s? 

A: I don’t think that can be answered generically because not everyone comes from the same circumstances. I think we have access to more information to better equip our children for what lies ahead. We have a better understanding of things like mental illness, anxiety and other illnesses that impact what can happen at college and in the real world. But young people now are exposed much earlier to things that can be detrimental to their development. Violent gaming and the internet have removed much of the naivete I enjoyed as a young person. Those days are, sadly, gone. 

Q:  You captured the painful experiences of war through William’s journal entries – how did you research and ensure what you wrote about the Vietnam War rang true, and how did you come up with the idea of journaling to convey the soldier’s story? 

A: The idea of the journal actually came from my son, who read a copy of the manuscript and said he really didn’t know about the Vietnam War and wanted to know what happened to William in Vietnam. I love research so I read about 15 first-hand accounts of men who spent time in the Vietnam War. I watched all the movies. I watched documentaries and I had two consultants, Marines who had served in Vietnam and were willing to help me to understand that experience. 

Q:  I shed many tears reading this book and another touching, inspirational story you wrote that really got to me was The Extraordinary Life Of Sam Hell. From Ocular Albinism and bullying to Vietnam War and personal tragedy – writing about boys with life experiences that allow them to become admirable and compassionate men is a sweet spot for you! Love for family and friends resonates in both of these coming of age stories and I wonder, how did your upbringing influence your characters? 

A: I was raised in a loving family with 9 brothers and sisters. My parents sacrificed so much of their lives so that my brothers and sisters could have the very best lives possible. But it was not without heartache and pain. My Dad lost his father at a very young age. My mother’s father was an alcoholic. My youngest brother was born with Down syndrome and met with bullying. Through it all, for the most part, we found strength in each other. I remain close to my siblings and to my nieces and nephews. In the end, family is all that matters. In the end, I realize that growing old is a privilege, it is not a right. We make the best of our lives and when we do, each of us has the chance to lead an extraordinary life.  

Q:  Where do you get your ideas for books, how do you keep track of them and how do they get developed into stories? 

A: Ideas really just come to me. They have to germinate for a while and the characters have to develop. If I need to do research I do it in abundance, until I feel like I know the characters well. I can see them and hear them speaking. Then I just let them tell me their story, without trying to impose my story upon them. 

Q:   I heard you have more than one new book out this year – can you tell us about the different series you write, when you are releasing new work, how you juggle so much in a short timeframe and what you are currently working on? 

A: I write the Tracy Crosswhite police procedural series. In Her Tracks, Tracy Crosswhite #8, came out in April. In October, The Last Line, an Amazon Short story about Tracy’s partner’s Del Castigliano and Vic Fazzio is out. In August 2022, What She Found, Tracy Crosswhite #9 will be published. I also write the Charles Jenkins espionage series. In February 2022, The Silent Sisters, Charles Jenkins espionage series #3 will be published. I have written the David Sloane legal series, five books. And I write standalone novels as well. 

Q:  The World Played Chess would lend itself very nicely to a movie on the big screen. Who would you envision playing Vincent, William and Todd? 

A: I always loved Matt Damon as Vincent. Mark Wahlberg comes to mind. There are so many outstanding actors, it would be tough to choose. Orlando Bloom. James Franco. Paul Giamatti.  

Q:  Women’s fiction is a recognized category and there are many books about women and their relationships. Books about men and fathers and sons are not as abundant. Can you recommend any recent books you enjoyed that have a male focus?  

A: I don’t look at books in terms of genres or male or female protagonists. I just like a good story. I read all kinds of books across all genres. 

Q:  What authors do you enjoy and what are a few recent books you recommend? 

A: I read many authors. Stephen King, Kristen Hannah, Lisa Gardner. Again, I am not author specific as much as I’m story specific. So if a book is getting a lot of attention, I’ll grab it and read it. 

Q:  How can we keep up with you and all you do? 

A: The best place is to find out more are Readers can subscribe to my newsletter which announces new releases. Readers can also find me on  Amazon at Robert Dugoni. I’m also on Facebook at  

robert dugoni

About Robert Dugoni:

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Internationally Best-Selling Author of 20 novels in The Tracy Crosswhite police detective series set in Seattle, the David Sloane legal thriller series, and the Charles Jenkins espionage series. He is also the author of several standalone literary novels including The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell and The World Played Chess as well as The Seventh Canon and The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post best book of the year. Several novels have been optioned for television or film. Robert has been nominated for and won numerous awards. He has sold more than 7 million books in more than 25 countries and languages., twitter: @robertdugoni, Instagram: You can sign up for his newsletter at: 

Review of The Extraordinary Life Of Sam Hell

For More Books set in Vietnam, related to Vietnam or the Vietnam War, check out…

The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

Her Sister’s Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol

The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong


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