When the Vietnam War rolled a hand grenade into the Animal House

    From the screenwriter of The River Wild, comes a survival saga of a different kind: a coming-of-age account of his senior year at Dartmouth College... a time when the reinstatement of the draft lottery made his class of 1970 the first since WW II to graduate with a diploma and a draft number.

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    • A great read you won’t want to put down...
      Good Reader, Amazon Reviews
    • A beauty of a book. A rollicking read that will go down as a compelling voice of a generation...
      HK Luce, Amazon Reviews
    • O’Neill is a masterful storyteller… (who) takes you from jaw-dropping, I can’t believe those frat-boys did that, to the intensity of the period’s political upheavals on campus... to the swamps of Vietnam.
      Jake Farley, Amazon Reviews
    • In this moving and thoughtful book, Denis O’Neill shines a light on a fraught, but largely unexamined moment in recent American history...
      Bleacher Seat 445, Amazon Reviews
    • Whiplash is a funny, sad and inspiring story of college students finding their place in a changing world that will encourage all who read it to value their lives and look toward the future...
      Vanessa Ingram, The Gonzaga Bulletin (online)

About the Book

The 60's are back with a vengeance – —

1969 - 1970 is the climactic finale to a tumultuous decade stuck between the free love of Woodstock, and the national nightmare at Kent State. Senior Danny O'Shea, his two roommates, and their band of Dartmouth fraternity brothers confront a year of living dangerously when their draft numbers are drawn, and their road trip culture runs head-on into the specter of Vietnam.

Love, sex & beer, staples of those coming-of-age years, are joined by protests, body bags and fear. The universal - usually joyful - rites of college abruptly become a deeper, darker journey. The soundtrack shifts from Otis Redding's laid back Dock of the Bay, to Country Joe McDonald's seminal 60's protest song: "Well it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for..."

For those who drew a low draft number, they were fighting for their lives.

For more information visit: The Author's Website »

Wonder what your draft lottery number would have been if you were 18 to 26 years of age in the U.S. on December 1st, 1969?

About The Author

Denis R. O'Neill Author, Journalist, Screenwriter

Former Dartmouth hockey captain Denis O'Neill has worked as a journalist, short story writer, and writer/producer for Public Television ( Frontline, Mystery, Masterpiece Theatre, No Irish Need Apply ). He wrote the screenplays for The River Wild, starring Meryl Streep, and A Shot at Glory, starring Robert Duvall.

For more information visit: The Author's Website »

  • Denis R. O'Neill

December 1st, 1969 The Night of the Draft Lottery

Four friends reminisce about the way it was... the night that Uncle Sam came calling.

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Once Upon a Time in Photos

The Men ( and Woman ) of Heorot House

Mead Hall Men ( Animal House Mode )
Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library

The Season Begins

Holding the Fort

The Boys of Winter

Winter Carnival Ice Sculpture
Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library

Parkhurst Takeover
Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library

The Dean on the Steps of Parkhurst
Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library

Protestors Being Taken to Jail
Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library

Read the reviews

The book is getting a lot of positive feedback from readers.

Remember the draft?

Even though it appears O'Neill never went to class and spent most of his college years in a beer induced haze, he somehow learned to turn a phrase. The boy can write. Some moments in the book are pure poetry, and when mixed with the shenanigans that filled that last year of school, that was what gave me whiplash- in a good way. I loved this book. I kept remembering the same thoughts and worries as my brother faced the draft. Read More »

by Pepper on November 17, 2013

Animal House, Vietnam Draught and Absurdist Theatre. A little something for Everyone!

The old chestnut that if you remember the Sixties you weren't there has had the effect of mercifully limiting the number of Sixties memoirs. This book is fortunately an exception. Tightly intercut chapters unite to tell a coming of age story in an unusual and very filmic way. Set against the backdrop of the turbulent Vietnam draft lottery Danny struggles to find his way through the vissicitudes of romantic, sporting and college life as well as and absurdist theatre. Read More »

by David Philp on November 15, 2013

When War Spoiled the Fun

Whiplash grabbed my 65-year old butt, hauled it back to Dartmouth in the late 1960's and held me captive until I finished the last page. The scent of fraternity basement air freshener- a potent mix of stale beer, cigarettes and vomit- wafted from every page. I was reminded that beer was the beverage of choice every hour of every day of the week, at any and all occasions, including in my case moments before entering the starting gate at the Dartmouth Winter Carnival slalom race. Read More »

by Bad1970 on November 14, 2013

An exhilarating look at a perilous time

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... circa 1969. A year after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Chicago riots, and the election of Richard Nixon; a year before the Kent State killings and the rapid escalation of the Vietnam protests, 1969 was the first year of the Selective Service lottery, created to determine who would be drafted into the Vietnam War, and young men across the country suddenly found their lives at a tipping point... Read More »

by tc243 on November 11, 2013

Shadow of a War

In this moving and thoughtful book, Denis O'Neill shines a light on a fraught, but largely unexamined moment in recent American history: When the Selective Service System finally came to grips with the unfairness of the draft that was sending mostly the poor, the uneducated, the unlucky to fight and die in Vietnam. The solution was the lottery, which, in theory, put all candidates on an equal footing. Of course, that wasn't the way it worked out. O'Neill tells his story through the largely true experience of a group of privileged young men at Dartmouth College... Read More »

by BleacherSeat445 on October 20, 2013

A Chick Book in Disguise!

WHIPLASH is at its heart, a young man's journey from college-frathouse-boobs-&-beer to the harsh truths and tough choices of adulthood. That it takes place in 1969-70 around the night the Vietnam War draft numbers were announced, makes this a different kind of coming of age story. With humor, clarity and insight, O'Neill weaves together the public upheaval of the time with the emotional cataclysms of becoming an adult. When Danny discovers his girlfriend is with someone else, our hearts break with his. And all along the way, the laugh out loud moments pull us forward.

by Renata Simone (Marblehead, MA) on October 14, 2013

I'm biased, but:

I was lucky enough to read and give my very positive input on early drafts of Whiplash - The Book, written by screenwriter and author Denis O'Neil. It's a funny and thoughtful memoir set at Dartmouth, recounting "when the Vietnam War rolled a hand grenade into the Animal House" with the re-institution of the draft. Dartmouth people, consider taking a look. Producer people, consider optioning before Denis does his NPR interview.

by Alexis Jolly on October 8, 2013

Wildly entertaining read!

This book took me right back to where I was when the lottery numbers were called. It's a poignant and sometimes raucous memoir of Dartmouth students (at a time when the very first woman was admitted to the school!) whose lives were changed immeasurably by the country's need to institute a forced lottery. A great read that you won't want to put down!

by Good reader (Burbank, CA USA) on October 6, 2013

Press & Media

Dartmouth Alumni Magazine: "The Lottery"

From the Nov/Dec 2013 Issue of
Dartmouth Alumni Magazine

Huffington Post Blog Snap

From the Dec. 4th, 2013 Issue of
The Huffington Post | Impact/Blog

Where to Buy the Book

You can purchase the book through the online venues below

COMING SOON: WHIPLASH will also be available in paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Click Here for the Paperback Version »