My Books

This is the post excerpt.

I have been writing since I was six years old. I now have five novels and seventeen stories in print. Adelaide Books in New York published my latest novel, Secretocracy, in March 2020. It will bring out my newest collection of short stories, Coming to Terms, in July 2020

My first published book, Friendly Casualties, was a novel in short stories derived from experiences in the thirteen years I trundled between the U.S. and Vietnam to provide signals intelligence support to U.S. Army and Marine combat units fighting in South Vietnam. The first half of the book is a series of short stories in which characters from one story reappear in another. The second half is a novella that draws together all the preceding tales.

No-Accounts came from my years of caring for AIDS patients. It tells the story of a straight man caring for a gay man dying of AIDS. I got into helping men with AIDS to help me cope with the horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. When I was with my patients, men suffering more than I was, my unbearable memories went dormant.

Next came The Trion Syndrome. It begins with the Greek Trion legend about a demigod so brutal to the vanquished that the gods sent the Eucharides, three female monsters, to drown him. The protagonist, Dave Bell, is haunted by half-remembered visions of the war in Vietnam. At his lowest point, he recalls that he killed a child. Dave considers suicide, but a young man appears and helps him. It is his illegitimate son, a child he had tried to kill through abortion, who now helps him find his way home.

Last of the Annamese was published in March 2017. I used this novel to confront my memories of the fall of Saigon from which I escaped under fire. Once again, the image of the boy-child recurs, as the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, a retired Marine, grieves over the loss of his son, killed in combat in Vietnam. He returns to Vietnam as a civilian intelligence analyst after the withdrawal of U.S. troops and encounters Vietnamese boys whom he tries to save during the conflagration.

Secretocracy, published in March 2020, tells the story of an federal intelligence budgeteer persecuted by the Trump administration because he refuses to approve finds for an illegal operation. Coming to Terms, out in August 2020, is a new collection of short stories about people trying to work through the downturns in their lives.

Pink Eye

I have come down with a malady I haven’t suffered since I was a child: pink eye. The proper name is conjunctivitis. It turns the eyes red and makes them swell and tear. It made me look especially bad for my interview yesterday morning with the television station WMAR (about which more anon). My primary care physician prescribed first one, then a different eye drop. My eyes are better but still look bad.

I believe I will just have to wait until the disease runs its course and I get better. I hope that’s soon, because I’m scheduled to do my presentation on the fall of Saigon twice in early November in celebration of Veterans Day. And I always go out of my way to look my best when I’m presenting.

But I guess I’m stuck for the time being with looking hideous. And the tearing makes reading more difficult. That’s a real problem because I have to read just about constantly, partly because I’m a writer, partly because I review books.

A minor difficulty but an annoying one. I’ll take all the sympathy I can get.

The Marines and Me

As readers of this blog know, I have a long history with the U.S. Marines Corps. I first worked with Marines in 1962 during my initial trip to Vietnam. As the war grew and expanded, I supported troops on the battlefield with intelligence derived from intercepting and exploiting North Vietnamese radio communications. I worked with the Marines less often than with the army simply because there were fewer Marines in country.

During the thirteen years I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S., I sometimes ran into a situation that I coined a term for, the Cassandra Effect. That was when the unit I was working with didn’t believe and act on the intelligence I was providing. One of the worst examples was during the battle of Dak To in 1967. I warned the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade that a large North Vietnamese force was in the hills along the Cambodian and Laotian border preparing to attack us. They didn’t believe me and didn’t prepare. The result was one of the bloodiest battles of the war which ended without any territory changing hands.

But I never encountered that problem with the Marines. They invariably took my information seriously and acted on it. That resulted in some remarkable victories.

One of the reasons the Marines always exploited signals intelligence was that one of their leaders, an officer named Al Gray, had worked in signals intelligence early in his career. When I first met Al in the early 1960s, he was a captain commanding units engaged in combat. Over the years, as I supported troops on the battlefield in Vietnam, I kept running into Al. Then, when Saigon fell in 1975 and I escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets, it was Al Gray, by then a colonel, who rescued me. Al continued to rise in the ranks until he became Commandant of the Marine Corps. Nearly every Marine I have ever met knows who Al Gray is. He’s one of their heroes. Despite his renown, General Gray is a humble man. And he has continued to stay in touch with me over the years.

So to this day, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the Marines. That is why I always capitalize their name.  

Lucky Me

I am, in every respect, the most fortunate of human beings. I am in better health than any other man I know of who is my age. I am blessed with a generous annuity as a result of my years of work for the government as a linguist (seven languages), spy, and—eventually—executive. My income allowed me to buy a house that requires no yard work with a beautiful view overlooking a pond surrounded by trees. I retired from the government almost thirty years ago to write fulltime and now have six books and seventeen short stories in print. I have four children and four grandchildren who are as healthy as I am. Left alone when my beloved died a year ago last March, I have started dating again, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

I’m in such good health primarily because to go out of my way to take care of myself. Every other day, I exercise for over two hours, lifting weights. I go for long walks around the pond in back of my house. I watch my diet taking care to eat almost exclusively fruits and vegetables, very little meat, and no sweets. I allow myself one cocktail (a gimlet) before dinner every night and drink wine with lunch and dinner, the only two meals I eat every day. I sleep at least eight hours each night and take a nap every afternoon.

My time is spent cooking (I make two soups and a bean dish from recipes I developed myself), reading (I review many books every year), and, most of all, writing. I recognize writing as my vocation. It is the hardest work I’ve ever done and the most rewarding. I do my writing in my office which takes up the largest room on the lowest floor of my split-level house.

So here I am, older than almost everyone I know, a pinnacle of health, fulfilling my calling free of concerns about money. Never in my life did I take a job for money or seek to increase my income. Instead, I simply did the work I most enjoyed or felt was most important. It turned out that being a linguist and working on the battlefield to assist friendly troops paid well. Later, I became a leader where all my contemporaries were managers—I encouraged my subordinates to be the best they could be while my fellow managers sought to control the people who worked under them. I was so successful that I rose to the top of the government executive ranks, then retired as early as I could to write fulltime.

My life, in short, is ideal. I arrived at this juncture by virtue of hard work and being willing to put my life on the line to help others. But mostly I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right skills.

Lucky me.


Because I am a writer and a linguist, I use dictionaries constantly. The most often consulted are those on my computer, the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and the Oxford English Dictionary, which runs to twenty volumes in its current hardcopy edition. Close by, I have hardcopy editions of the Merriam-Webster and, open on a stand near my desk, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, one large volume. On my bookshelves and no longer in use are several other English-language dictionaries.

Then there are the foreign language dictionaries in the seven languages I’ve worked in. I have unabridged-size volumes for Spanish, Italian, French, and German, and smaller dictionaries in Latin, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Of these, the Chinese-English dictionaries are the most interesting because they arrange their entries by the 214 character radicals and by the number of strokes in both the radical and the phonetic components of the character.

Of all my dictionaries, my favorite is the Eugène Gouin Dictionnaire Vietnamien Chinois Français, that is, Dictionary of Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, an unabridged-size volume that offers the French and Chinese equivalents for Vietnamese words, published in 1957. It is almost 13 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 3 inches thick. I bought the Gouin in the early 1960s in Vietnam and in the 1970s, still in Vietnam, paid a bookshop to replace the flimsy original cover with a sturdy leather-covered backing which I have since had to reinforce with heavy masking tape. These days, the dictionary occupies an honored place on a maple bookstand in my office.

The only books that outnumber my dictionaries are my musical scores of operas, symphonies, and piano music that I have been collecting since I was a child. Nearby are tapes and CDs of the music I love, ranging from Bach through Mozart and Beethoven and the moderns. Then there are the books I have reviewed. As I look at the bookshelves surrounding my desk in my office, I can read my own history. Even the books I have written myself are there. An observer could learn a great deal about me just from looking at my books.


Back in my days of caring for AIDS patients (the mid- to late 1980s), I picked up the habit from other caregivers of wearing scrubs, the pajama-like clothing, consisting of a short-sleeved top and pants held in place by tie strings and no buttons. I had scrubs in a variety of blues and greens, ranging from pale to dark. Because I had a doctorate in public administration, other caregivers, as a prank, stole several of my scrub tops and had “Dr. Glenn” stitched above the breast pocket on the left. That meant I was constantly explaining that I was not a physician, much to the amusement of my fellow caregivers.

All these years later, I still have and wear regularly four or five sets of scrubs. They’re easy to jump into when I want to run to the local grocery for a bottle of milk. And they invariably fool people into thinking I’m a physician, scrubbed down for surgery (that’s where the name “scrubs” came from). I often get addressed as “doctor,” as if everyone knows of my advanced school degree.

The scrubs are only one way that my past catches up with me. I sometimes wear my Vietnam veteran pin. When I do, people so often thank me for my service. I guess you can’t escape your past. That’s fine with me—I’m proud of history of helping others.

Scheherazade (2)

Continuing Scheherazade’s story from yesterday:

“Against her father’s wishes, Scheherazade volunteered to marry the king. Once in the king’s chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved younger sister, Dunyazad, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The king lay awake and listened with awe as Scheherazade told her first story. The night passed by, and Scheherazade stopped in the middle. The king asked her to finish, but Scheherazade said there was no time, as dawn was breaking. So the king spared her life for one day so she could finish the story the next night. The following night Scheherazade finished the story and then began a second, more exciting tale, which she again stopped halfway through at dawn. Again, the king spared her life for one more day so that she could finish the second story.

“Thus the king kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the conclusion of each previous night’s story. At the end of 1,001 nights, and 1,000 stories, Scheherazade finally told the king that she had no more tales to tell him. During the preceding 1,001 nights, however, the king had fallen in love with Scheherazade. He wisely spared her life permanently and made her his queen.”

As I read Scheherazade’s stories, I was mesmerized as much by the setting as I was by the twists and turns of the tales. Many years later, as an adult, I visited the area Scheherazade described. By then, I had already spent a good many years in East Asia and was accustomed to living in a culture different from my own. And yet, for all that, the fictional world of A Thousand and One Nights, devoid of poverty and the destruction of modern industrialization, remained fixed in my fantasy.

As a result, I, as a writer, learned the magic of creating a fictional place so compelling that readers believe it is real.


One of the first long-playing (LP, 33 1⁄3 rpm) vinyl records I got as a teenager was Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic poem Scheherazade. The music, with its middle-eastern influences, captivated me. That led me to investigate the source of the Scheherazade story, the collection of tales called A Thousand and One Nights, also known as Arabian Nights. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the collection:

“The story goes that the monarch Shahryar, on discovering that his first wife was unfaithful to him, resolved to marry a new virgin every day and to have her beheaded the next morning before she could dishonour him. Eventually the vizier could find no more virgins of noble blood and offered his own daughter, Scheherazade, as the king’s next bride.

“Sir Richard Burton’s translation of The Nights, describes Scheherazade in this way:

“Scheherazade had perused the books, annals, and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples, and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts, and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.”

More next time.

Waltzing Matilda

As a child, I had a small collection of 78-rpm records given to me by my parents. Among them were symphonic music and operas (including complete recordings of Aida and La Traviata). And then there was a recording of Marjorie Lawrence singing “Waltzing Matilda,” an Australian song called a “bush ballad.” I noticed that the song, despite its title, was not a waltz. It was in duple time (that is, either two-four or four-four time). It is so popular with Australians that it has been described as the country’s “unofficial national anthem.”

I was surprised when the song showed up again in my adult life—in Vietnam of all places. As part of my job collecting intelligence on the enemy, I worked with Australian troops and civilian intelligence specialists. One day, I heard them singing “Waltzing Matilda.” They were astonished when I joined them in the song and knew all the words, even though I didn’t understand what they meant.

I’ve since learned a great deal more about the song. According to Wikipedia, “The title was Australian slang for travelling on foot (waltzing) with one’s belongings in a ‘matilda’ (swag) slung over one’s back. The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or ‘swagman’, making a drink of billy tea at a bush camp and capturing a stray jumbuck (sheep) to eat. When the jumbuck’s owner, a squatter (landowner), and three troopers (mounted policemen) pursue the swagman for theft, he declares ‘You’ll never catch me alive!’ and commits suicide by drowning himself in a nearby billabong (watering hole), after which his ghost haunts the site.

“The original lyrics were written in 1895 by Australian poet Banjo Paterson, and were first published as sheet music in 1903. Extensive folklore surrounds the song and the process of its creation, to the extent that it has its own museum, the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, in the Queensland outback, where Paterson wrote the lyrics. In 2012, to remind Australians of the song’s significance, Winton organised the inaugural Waltzing Matilda Day to be held on 6 April, the anniversary of its first performance.”

These days, when I hear “Waltzing Matilda,” I am reminded of the happy days I spent working with the Australians in Vietnam. We were brothers in arms.

School (3)

By the time my enlistment in the army was finished, I was comfortable in Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, the three languages of Vietnam. NSA hired me at a grade six steps higher than the normal starting level and immediately sent me to Vietnam. I spent more time there for the next thirteen years than I did in the U.S. and escaped under fire when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in April 1975.

During those years, I had no time for further schooling. But I made up for it during the next eight years. I enrolled at the George Washington University for graduate work in government and ended up taking a doctorate in Public Administration in 1983. I didn’t return to school for a degree; I went back to learn. I was admitted provisionally because my undergraduate grades were less than stellar, but I earned straight A’s all the way through and graduated with distinction. Turned out I wasn’t so dumb after all.

The study of government was new to me, and once again I was fascinated. This was a new kind of schooling for me, much of it grounded in both science and philosophy which forced me to think at levels I had never before attempted. I loved it.

I was to have one more bout with schooling before I called it quits. That was to study Spanish, the most commonly spoken foreign language in the U.S. which I, a linguist by trade competent in six foreign languages, had failed to learn. After I retired from the government, I went for classes to the Howard County Community College in Columbia, Maryland. Once again, I relished the time in class. But this time it was a new experience. I was the oldest class member. My fellow students were young enough to be my grandchildren.

Hence my schooling. And my thorough enjoyment of learning in the classroom. I can bear witness that school is neither necessarily boring or unpleasant. It can be a distinct pleasure.

Put differently: I’m here to bear witness to the joy of learning in the classroom.

School (2)

After I graduated from college, I enlisted in the army to go to the Army Language School (later called the Defense Language Institute or DLI) to learn Chinese, a language that had always fascinated me. The army, in its wisdom, decided that I should study Vietnamese, a language I had never heard of. This was, after all, 1958, and we called that part of the world French Indochina. So I spent the next year in intensive study (six hours a day in class plus two hours of private study each night, five days a week, for fifty-two weeks) of this mysterious language.

Despite my disappointment at not being able to study Chinese, I was surprised to find that Asian languages were fascinating. Because of my musical training, I had no trouble understanding and using Vietnamese tonal inflections. The whole way of thinking in Vietnamese was entirely different from the western languages I knew (Italian and French, which I had taught myself as a child; Latin throughout the four years of high school; and German which I had taken in college). I looked forward to my daily classes and took great pleasure in learning.

When I graduated from the language school, the army assigned me to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland. Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. wasn’t far away, so I enrolled in Chinese classes. I found spoken Chinese a good deal easier than Vietnamese, but the written language using characters was a new challenge. The Chinese spend their whole lives perfecting inscription of characters which is actually an art form. I spent countless hours practicing the writing of characters but never achieved anything past the apprentice level.

Once again, I enjoyed my Chinese classes to the hilt. And I came to understand that part of the reason I liked school so much was that learning invariably opened up new worlds to me.

More next time.