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eBook Version is Available on Amazon

  Through The Gates Of Hell
                    A Stunning New Novel
                                                          by William W. Stilwagen

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Keep telling yourself:

 This is only a novel; it is not real.

        Rick is an aging bush guide, uneasy war hero, and former NYPD cop. He is searching for his missing friend Steve. Steve has gone to Vietnam on a tour to bury his demons. But burying demons can be dangerous if you dig up new ones. Laotian renegades have abducted Steve and dragged him into the deep, dark jungles of Laos. He is struggling to stay alive. Wracked with guilt, Rick is struggling to find Steve, or his body, and bring him home.

       Rick enlists a long-known and trusted Vietnamese local guide who brings in a few unsavory and armed communist-hating rebels. Together, they set off to find Steve. Rick soon learns there is an underground network of rebels throughout Southeast Asia who are hellbent on overthrowing their totalitarian oppressors and he gets unwittingly caught up in the mix.

       A power-hungry Colonel Khang and a vengeful General Pham are not only trying to stop Rick and the rebels but have sent their commandos to kill them. Before it is over, they will all pass through the gates of Hell.


Through The Gates Of Hell is a present-day, international thriller. It is dashed lightly with the paranormal, although much of the story is derived from true and poignant experiences. One character, Tuan, is uncommonly upbeat and funny even though he knows he is doomed. A lifelong, quixotic love survives death. And the warrior bond formed 50-years prior overrides personal safety and comfort, all the way to the devastating conclusion.

Available now at:

This Site

The Book Bin (Onley, VA)






Harbor Site Books

ISBN #: 978-1-7356763-3-3



5.0 out of 5 stars


Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2023

Highly entertaining

I did not have the honor of being a Marine, but have a son (Capt., USMC, ret.) and several friends who were. Although this was a work of fiction, it was obviously built on a foundation of historic fact that even those of us who were not present could feel and understand. I found myself swept away with the narrative and felt the need to continue reading to see where the next twist in the plot would lead (I read the book in two sittings). Kudos to Bill Stilwagen for producing such a riveting story and portraying the honor, loyalty and camaraderie that the Marines have for each other.

Karen S.

Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2023

Riveting, fast-paced tale of the enduring impact of the Vietnam War on those who served

Although I came of age during the Vietnam War era (or as the Vietnamese call it, the American War), as a woman and person who’s never been to war, I wondered whether Bill Stilwagen’s book would keep my attention, and whether I could relate to the characters. Those concerns were quickly erased as I delved into this fast-paced and fascinating story. Yes, it’s about war — a war that caused trauma and devastation on both sides. But it’s also about honor, devotion and love. While the story contains brutal descriptions of combat (as any war story must), it also beautifully describes the love and loyalty that servicemen have for each other, and the lengths to which they will go to protect and remember the brothers with whom they served. Bill’s book also honors the Vietnamese people who assisted the Americans both during the war and today as they revisit the country that so deeply affected their lives more than 50 years ago. I especially liked Bill’s sensitive portrayal of the relationship between veterans and their wives who supported them even though they could never truly know what their husbands endured. “Through the Gates of Hell” is a riveting, compassionate and imaginative take on contemporary Vietnam by a Marine who knows the country as well as any veteran who served there. Congratulations, Bill, on a terrific book.


Stephen G. Badger

Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2023

Was drawn into Bill Stilwagen's novel

I am a veteran of the Vietnam War, with 26 months in country. I was not a Marine, but served in the Army as an aircraft mechanic. My company was located in I Corp so most our missions were with the U.S.Marines in the area of the DMZ. I do have much respect for United States Marines.

In the past 10 years I have returned to Vietnam five timed with the tour company Bill is with. Bill was our tour guide in at least two of these tours.

When I opened "Through The Gates Of Hell" I was hooked. I felt as if I was back to Nam on a tour again. Bill used his bush guide knowledge to the highest. It drew me into an area of my life that I understood and enjoyed. Once the situation changed I said oh now here is where I will loose interest in the novel. But, Bill wrote the story in a way that I was able to follow every minute of the of the journey and really didn't want to put the book down. To be honest I didn't expect the ending to happen the way it did.

Bill, great job and I enjoyed every minute of your story, it certainly gives a true meaning of "Brotherhood". You have also shown that on your tours.


Sam Grant

Reviewed in the United States on July 6, 2023

A Tale of Two Tales

I slipped seamlessly into Bill’s first tale because it was so familiar with my own experiences within the four tours that I have made with Bill and his cohorts at Vietnam Battlefield Tours. So many tears were shared amongst fellow Vietnam on those tours. One hour sharing our stories with fellow veterans was worth ten hours with a non-veteran counselor. So much healing I witnessed on these tours including my own. Suddenly, almost without warning, Bill takes us into his second tale! This is a tale of a tour guide, Rick, who persuades his Marine best friend, Steve, with whom he served with Vietnam to return with him on one of his tours. He promises Steve they will visit the site of the battle at which both of them were wounded and where Rick saved Steve’s life. Things take an interesting twist. Buy the book find out how that progresses!


Paul Thrailkill

Reviewed in the United States on July 20, 2023

Good read

The book was a good read. The book took a couple of disturbing turns which made it interesting. I am an ex marine of the same age as the main characters so some of the book struck close to home. I was sorry to read the author Bill Stilwagen is struggling with serious health issues from the war. All my very best.


David M. Franklin

Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2023

Authentic, Nostalgic and what an Adventure Mystery!

I've been on post-war trips back to Vietnam with Bill the Author. He is the real deal adventure warrior. At first the book finds the reader immersed in an easy "Been there,done that" trip down memory lane. The story builds and builds to the point of not wanting to put the book down with a real adventure climax. A good read for the novice civilian to this twenty eight year Marine Veteran of the Vietnam War and beyond.
Semper Fi & ALOHA from Dave Franklin.


Fred Tomasello Jr.

Reviewed in the United States on May 8, 2023

"One More Marine reporting, Sir! I've served my time in Hell!"

 In 2018, several of us decided to return to Vietnam for the 50 year anniversary of TET, '68. Bill was our main tour guide who helped us find the exact locations of battles. He listened to us as we took turns on the bus microphone telling our stories, pouring out our hearts and choking up with tears--an extremely moving and cathartic event for every one of us. For Bill to make that trip 68 times, the agonizing long flights, the layovers, the jet lag, etc. and then to listen to our stories "over there" and to bring us back "to the real world" is an astounding testament to his heartfelt love of combat veterans and his attempts to help us live in peace with what we did. I loved the ending of his book where we all meet "on the other side," a final trip we all must take, and, when I cross over that thin veil, I look forward to once again thanking Bill Stilwagen for re-invigorating the amazing connection we all have as Marines and for shepherding us through every step of those trips. Semper Fi, my friend.


J. Thomas Esslinger

Reviewed in the United States on April 21, 2023

Reality mixed with strong imagination

I recognized vignettes from my trips back to Vietnam with the author who led 68 such trips for fellow Vietnam Vets. He was unsurpassed as a bush guide, and has used that experience to create a well-written and enjoyable first novel. Read it. You will enjoy it.

Available through the Author or on Amazon and Kindle
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William W. Stilwagen

17467 Plantation Road

Onancock, VA  23417


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About the Author


William W. Stilwagen served in Vietnam in the United States Marine Corps. In 1969, he was a field radio operator on the DMZ with HQ Battery, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division based at the Rockpile and Dong Ha. In 1970, he flew as a machine gunner with HMM-364 (Purple Fox Squadron) out of the Marble Mountain Air Facility. He holds eleven military decorations, including the Air Medal for heroic action, the Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds, as well as the Combat Action Ribbon and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He is authorized to wear the coveted Combat Aircrew Insignia and the Rifle Expert Badge.

In 1970, he was presented with the Conspicuous Service Cross by then Governor of New York and future U.S. Vice President, Nelson A. Rockefeller.


To name just a few of his post-war activities: he has served as the Executive Director of the $1,400,000 Suffolk County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission; has been active in veterans affairs; provided over 300 seminars internationally on the realities and the legacy of the Vietnam War; and was Chairman of the Town of Brookhaven, NY Anti-Bias Task Force. In 1990 and 1992 he worked with Soviet Afghanistan veterans on techniques to effectively deal with their PTSD and suicide issues. In 1994, some of his accomplishments were read into the Congressional Record by then U.S. Representative George J. Hochbrueckner. Also in 1994, he graduated from the SUNY Stony Brook Honors College, Magna Cum Laude, with degrees in Social Sciences and American History.


He is a founder of the non-profit tour company, Vietnam Battlefield Tours, Inc. His first love, for which he is highly qualified, is returning to Vietnam as a bush guide for his brother warriors, which he has done 70 times in the last 27 years.


Bill is the author of the non-fiction lexicon: VIETNAM War SPEAK: The Distinctive Language of the Vietnam Era.


Book Signings
Sep 09, 2023, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Four Corner Plaza, 25304 Charles M Lankford Jr Memorial Hwy, Onley, VA 23418, USA

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