The Serpent Papers
Quick Overview :
Hardcover, ISBN 978-1-57962-648-8
J-Bee, son of a military officer, is raised in a violent milieu during the 1960s. After his little brother is persecuted by bullies, J-Bee commits a retaliatory act of brutality, the nature of which scars him. When his best friend, Gilly, volunteers to fight in Vietnam, J-Bee--repulsed by his own violence--refuses to follow either his father or Gilly into the military. Instead, he matriculates at Columbia in 1971, an era of counterculture, drugs and sex and rock 'n roll, in order to seek his redemption. While there, he is introduced to the mysterious Serpent who recites in the campus café, and to the politically active Margo who schools him in anti-war politics and the virtues of peace. Although he feels loyalty to his best friend fighting overseas, he increasingly sympathizes with Margo's rationale against the war. Torn between supporting the war or protesting against it, J-Bee's paradoxical feelings are ignited when his friend Gilly, on furlough from Vietnam, visits him at Columbia. With ratcheting tensions and bullhorns leading students in protest, pro-war and anti-war factions collide in campus riots, and J-Bee makes the choice that defines his life.
Jeff Schnader was at Columbia University in 1972 where he participated in sit-ins, marches and protests against the Vietnam War. He took part in demonstrations in front of Hamilton Hall where students were beaten by the N.Y. Tactical Police Force in full battle regalia. Such was the genesis for The Serpent Papers. He graduated from Columbia University and received his medical degree from McGill University with further work at Johns Hopkins. A Professor of Medicine, he has authored over 50 scientific publications, chaired national medical panels, was a frequent guest on NPR and has been recognized with awards for teaching and for editing a medical journal.
He has worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs for 22 years, serving the needs of American War Veterans, including those of The Vietnam War. His short story, “The Champion,” won first prize in the 2020 Annual Quills Contest, and he was a short-listed finalist in the 2021 Blue Moon Novel Competition. This is his first full length novel.
REVIEWS OF THE BOOK
-Thomas Ferguson, Former U. S. Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (under Presidents Bush & Obama)
"Yours is one of the two best manuscripts I've read all year. You write extremely—extraordinarily—well. Your characters are fully-fleshed, complex and interesting. Your use of The Serpent is original and interesting. And your evocation of the times is vivid and apropos."
-Richard Marek, Former Publisher who edited Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin & Robert Ludlum.
"Literary circles will soon know the name Jeff Schnader, as his debut novel, The Serpent Papers, an intriguing, engrossing mosaic tale of relationships forged in a contentious and conflicted era, will certainly become a bestseller. This career physician and emerging master storyteller will have already made a significant and noteworthy contribution to historical fiction. A captivating read cover to cover, this book commands attention... It is a triumph!"
-Rob Stoller, Executive Producer, Art In Motion
"I could not put The Serpent Papers down. I felt an urgent need to continue reading because I wanted to see where the story took J-Bee. I was vicariously identifying with his existential search for the soul, for the epiphany, for the reason for being. I thought about this book for a month. The Serpent Papers finds the human soul. It is Schnader's gift."
-Sandra Fluck, Founder & Publisher, bookscover2cover & THE WRITE LAUNCH literary journal
"The Serpent Papers will be enjoyed by readers who care about America. Schnader is a story teller and has created a story and world that are engaging. It's a novel that is hard to put down."
-Richard Nochimson, Professor Emeritus of English, Yeshiva University
"So what is conscience? How can we live with it, be true to it, examine it every moment of every day? The Serpent Papers addresses these questions. Every page in this book is right in the intellectual wheelhouse. The war in Vietnam confronted all of us in our generation; it was like no other. The vivid and real characters in this brilliant, masterful book bring us right back to the days of that era when each of us had to take a stand. I loved this book. An important book, it is the best I've read in the past ten years."
- Michael Smar, M.D., Bronze Star Recipient, Combat Medic, US Army, 1st Infantry, Vietnam, 1968-69
"Just finished your book and I'm stunned by its intensity. Wow! Your writing is so vivid and beautiful. Every sentence painted a picture. I feel like I sleepwalked through the early 1970s, but your book allowed me to experience it with the depth that my emotional and cognitive immaturity stifled all those years ago. J-Bee's internal struggle for identity and meaning was so powerful."
-Janet Maurer, PhD
"Unexpectedly, I don't simply like The Serpent Papers, I am enthralled. The writing is special, authentic in voice and compelling. I read more slowly so as not to miss a phrase, a thought. Fascinating and leaves me wanting more. It will stand the test of time and genuinely reflect that era from the inside out. I have become a besotted fan, very unlike me. I loved the book, J Bee, the Columbia life and the very internal questions that can never be fully answered as some many variables intervene. The writing is insightful, yet somehow conversational and not at all obtuse, despite the difficult subject matter. This is a winner. I can see it on the big screen. The pleasure was all mine."
—Dr. Vivien Brown MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP, NCMP, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, VP North America, Medical Women's International Association
-Aaron Kaiserman, PhD & Faculty, English Literature Department, University of Ottawa
"In this engaging bildungsroman of a first novel by Jeff Schnader, we become deeply immersed in the time of American life and culture during the war years 1971-1972, and in a place, Columbia University in the City of New York. Along the way, we learn of friendship, growth, and love, as The Serpent reveals more and more of the path toward living a good life."
-James W. Oberly, editor of *Budapest Blackout: The Wartime Diaries of Dr. Mária Mádi*, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Wisconsin
"Dr. Schnader writes a tale that encapsulates a very difficult time in US history. He exposes generational differences and the conflicted emotions that were felt by students across many campuses in the USA because of the war in Vietnam. You will want to explore its setting in the Columbia University campus on Manhattan. The character of J-Bee knits together a great read that will force you to reflect not only on that time but your own experiences."
—Professor Ian MacDonald, MD, CM, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Alberta
"I had the privilege of reading this book. I was not expecting to be personally drawn into the novel, but how could I have known that The Serpent Papers was going to stimulate my memories and emotions of being a student at Kent State University in 1971-1974? This book precipitated the opening of labyrinths that have been locked in my memories for almost fifty years. I have spent the past two weeks recalling the discussion and kinetic atmosphere propagated by students, faculty, police, school administration and elected officials. I have wanted to reexamine this experience for my children and grandchildren for quite some time.
Fabulous stuff—thanks, Jeff Schnader, for making it happen!"
-Steven Magida, 1974 Kent State University graduate
"Praise for The Serpent Papers: This Vietnam-era novel vividly captures the pivotal time when young American men's futures hung in the balance. An unforgettable, paradigm-shifting perspective on the era!"
-Margaret Winslow, PhD, Professor Emerita, City University of New York, and published book author
"Wow! Finished the book in 2 days. I spent the summers of 1969 and 70 in New York, and the book brought me back to those extraordinary and tumultuous times. I sat with my two best American friends as they anxiously watched the Viet Nam lottery on tv discussing options. The book really captured the overriding themes and flavor of those days, including but not limited to: LSD, pot, make love not war, basement cafés, music and most impactful the blurred fine line between law and order and peaceful protest. I love the way you connected all the characters in a seamless way."
-Michael, Munzar, MD, CM, Chairman of the Board, HEXO Corporation
"If you want to know what it was like in the early '70's 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), Playwright: Bonne Annee