C.D.B. Bryan dies at 73; author of 'Friendly Fire'
"Friendly Fire" chronicles the story of the death in Vietnam of Iowa soldier Michael Eugene Mullen and his parents doubts about the official account. (Los Angeles Times / December 20, 2009)
Bryan died Tuesday of cancer at his home in Guilford, Conn., said his wife, Mairi. He was holding one of his favorite shaken martinis when he died, she said.
Although Bryan wrote extensively for several magazines throughout his career, he was best known for "Friendly Fire."
The book, which started as an article for the New Yorker, is based on the 1970 friendly fire shrapnel death of Iowa soldier Michael Eugene Mullen. It chronicled his parents' doubts about the Army's official account of the death, their quest for answers and the transformation of his mother, Peg Mullen, into an ardent antiwar activist. She died in October.
"He was very proud of the fact that he exposed the friendly fire issue, and the fact that the government was lying to people who were as very patriotic as the Mullens were," Mairi Bryan said Friday. "Of all of his works, 'Friendly Fire' was the one of which he was most proud."
The book was turned into a 1979 Emmy-winning television movie starring Carol Burnett, Ned Beatty, Sam Waterston and Timothy Hutton.
C.D.B. Bryan, whose full name was Courtlandt Dixon Barnes Bryan, was born in New York City in 1936. He always enjoyed writing and credited his stepfather, novelist John O'Hara, with nurturing his interest in fiction.
Bryan, known to friends as Courty and Courtlandt, especially liked good conversation and good martinis -- always shaken, never stirred, Mairi Bryan said.
"He was one of the great conversationalists of his time. He could really hold a room," she said.
Bryan used those storytelling skills in several publications, including the New Yorker, Harper's and the New York Times Book Review, for which he did scores of reviews.
Bryan graduated from Yale University, was an Army veteran and wrote several books in addition to "Friendly Fire."
In addition to his wife, survivors include two daughters, a son, a stepson and a stepdaughter.
His son, St. George Bryan, said he will be cremated and his remains stored in martini shakers until a memorial service after the holidays.