This story examines two features of modern-day life, civilian and military. Carl Norberg is an artist who serves in the American army at the start of an Asian war. We also learn about the arts community in a large northeastern city, where Carl decides to start his civilian career. Can a man who’s not at home anywhere he goes use his talents to build a satisfactory, fruitful life? Can he find a woman to love and build a life with?
The United States has been on the losing side of a war in an Asian country called Kulon. A peace treaty has just been signed in Paris. A veteran named Carl Norberg now lives in an imaginary east coast city called Botolph and drives a cab while he launches his career as an artist.
He comes in contact with various people — other artists, a librarian, the host of a late-night radio talk show, his brother Eric who is in the insurance business, and the woman he falls in love with and marries. He works hard. His paintings, some based on his memories of the war, attract attention.He can look ahead to decades in the public eye as a respected artist. He attracts critics, however, people who resent the fact that he is an outsider, that he ignores trends and goes his own way, and that he is brash and unpolished. A thief steals a half-dozen of his pictures from a gallery; a gallery that he opens himself burns down. He keeps on with his work and develops into the mature artist he dreamed of being.
Norberg also writes a memoir about his service in Kulon in which he tells about his friendship with a Kulonese artist and the artist’s family. He describes his work as an interpreter, which includes helping to interrogate prisoners of war. He takes part in a manoeuvre to destroy enemy weapons in the Hills of the Tigers and spends a brief time as a prisoner. His memoir ends as the war heats up and American forces withdraw from the area they have been occupying..
Norberg’s memoir alternates with chapters about his life in Botolph and the people he gets to know there. One of my purposes in writing “The Hills of the Tigers” has been to tell the story of one former soldier who recovers from the withering experience of warfare and is able to lead a productive, fruitful life and become an inspiration to others.