This is the post excerpt.
I have been writing since I was six years old. I now have four novels and seventeen stories in print. Adelaide Books in New York will publish my latest novel, Secretocracy, early in 2020.
My first published book, Friendly Casualties, was a novel in short stories derived from experiences in the 13 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 tells the story of an federal intelligence budgeteer persecuted by the current administration because he refuses to approve finds for an illegal operation.
Yesterday was lunar new years, the beginning of the year according to the Chinese zodiac. And the year that has just begun is the year of the rat. That makes it my year. According to my birth date, the rat is my zodiacal sign. I am a rat. That makes me clever and resourceful but not very brave.
In Vietnam, the beginning of the lunar year is also the start of spring. The Vietnamese call the day Tết. It is far and away the biggest holiday in the Vietnamese calendar. The celebration lasts for days.
We Americans know the word Tết because the North Vietnamese in 1968 launched a country-wide offensive coincident with the Tết holidays taking the South Vietnamese and U.S. forces by surprise. As I have reported elsewhere in this blog, the National Security Agency (NSA), my employer, had, at my behest, put out a series of reports starting five days before the first attack warning that a country-wide offensive was coming. The reports were largely ignored.
The offensive was a military failure. The North Vietnamese were repulsed with great losses. But the offensive was a political success. The U.S. government had been telling the American citizenry that the North Vietnamese were losing the war which wouldn’t last too much longer. The Tết Offensive proved the opposite was true. U.S. public opinion turned against the war. We ended up withdrawing from Vietnam and ceding the country to enemy. It was the first war the U.S. had ever lost.
So every year, toward the end of January or the beginning of February, when the new year, according to the Chinese zodiac, arrives, I remember the Tết Offensive. I can never forget it.
The United States prisoner rate (number of prisoners per 100,000 people) is 737, the highest in the world, followed by Russia at 615. We have well over two million people behind bars.
And, as I reported here recently, “In 2017, the most recent year for which complete data are available, 39,773 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a death rate of more than 10 per 100,000 people. At the same time, our number of guns per hundred people was 120.5—we have more guns than people in the U.S. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have about 46 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.”
Is there a relationship between these two extreme figures? What does it tell us about our country that we have more people per capita in prison that any other nation and the highest rate of gun ownership among the developed countries of the world?
I conclude that we must find a different way. Are we really a nation of jailbirds and gun toters? I request comments from readers of this blog.
What I find hard to explain is that I enjoy all these presentations. I am normally rather shy. In groups, I tend to be quiet and listen rather than speak. But put me in front of a crowd with a microphone, and my personality suddenly changes into that of an actor. Granted, I was trained as an actor and public speaker many years ago. That doesn’t explain why I revel in speaking to a group and watching the reaction.
And my audiences are focused and attentive. They follow each word and gesture. Every eye stays on me. My sense is that their rapt attention results from two factors—the intensity of the stories I have to tell and my own emotional stress. Every time I give the fall of Saigon presentation, for example, I get tears in my eyes at three different points in the story I’m telling. I’m so moved that I have trouble controlling my voice. The audience is as moved as I am.
The problem has become that my presentations are so popular and I enjoy them so much that I have too little time to write. And writing is my calling in life.
So this year, 2020, will be the year in which I spend the majority of time writing. I’m currently working on two new novels. I’ll get to them just as soon as I get through the current spate of presentations. Or maybe the one after that. Or maybe . . . time will tell.
My presentations with slides are on three subjects—Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) (which I suffer from as a consequence of my time in combat), the 1967 battle of Dak To in the Vietnam highlands, and the fall of Saigon.
As this is written, I haven’t yet given the PTSI presentation. As noted earlier in this blog, I’ve been hesitant to speak publicly about my malady but came to realize that I can help others with the affliction by telling publicly how I’ve coped with it. I’m now scheduled to give the presentation twice in the next two months.
The Dak To presentation recounts my experience in supporting the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam war and tells of how the intelligence I provided on the North Vietnamese wasn’t believed, resulting in severe casualties. My next scheduled presentation on Dak To will be in February.
Far and away my most popular presentation is on the fall of Saigon. I’ve now done it more than 60 times, most recently on 17 January, and I’m scheduled to do it again on 26 January. It tells of my desperate struggle to get my 43 subordinates safely out of the country before the North Vietnamese attacked Saigon in April 1975 and my own escape under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets.
As a writer and speaker, I do many public presentations. I do speeches with slides about my experience during the Vietnam war, a class on fiction craftsmanship, and readings from my published novels and short stories. I can’t speak publicly about my experiences after 1975 because they’re still classified.
And occasionally, I do presentations on opera. That results from my more than ten years of presenting introductions to operas to be telecast from the Met at senior centers around the Washington, D.C. region. I hold a BA in music and became an opera devotee before writing took over my life. The presentations were very popular, and I enjoyed doing them. But as my books were published, I found I had less and less time for anything other than writing and speaking about the subjects I focused on in my writing. Nevertheless, once a year or so, I get a request to present about an opera shown on DVD.
My readings are from my four published novels and 17 short stories, derived, for the most part, from my 13 years in and out of Vietnam. Between 1962 and 1975, I was in Vietnam at least four months every year, and I escaped under fire when Saigon fell. Later this year, I’ll add two more books I’ll be reading from. My Secretocracy will be published in March, and Coming to Terms will come out in July.
My class on fiction is intended only for writers. It details the practices required to write publishable fiction—the rudiments of craftsmanship unique to fiction—basic reference materials, formatting, copy editing, and wording and structure, with a primer on the construction of dialogue.
A year or so ago, I did an interview with TV & Radio Talk Show Host/Producer/Journalist Karen Allyn, on Montgomery Community Media. She had read my books and knew of my history in Vietnam, and she prompted me to talk about my experiences, including coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). She emailed me recently to tell me that the interview will be aired again at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, 23 January. Meanwhile, you can hear it at https://www.blogtalkradio.com/fowm/2018/02/23/annamese-by-tom-glenn-focus-of-women-magazine–joslyn-wolfe-a-scammer
After Karen contacted me, I listened to the interview again. Those familiar with my presentations and writings, including this blog, will recognize many of the incidents and issues I brought up. The book I mentioned that I was looking to publish, Secretocracy, will be released by my current publisher, Adelaide Books of New York, in March. The same publisher will bring out my collection of short stories, Coming to Terms, in July.
Listening to the interview made me reflect on how far I’ve come. When I returned to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon in April 1975, I was an emotional and physical wreck. In addition to physical illnesses (amoebic dysentery, ear damage, and pneumonia), I was subject to the worst symptoms of PTSI. I have struggled ever since to come to terms with my unbearable memories of men slaughtered during combat and the monstrosities that occurred during the fall of Saigon. I’ve taught myself to calm my emotions as I remember the atrocities I witnessed and participated in. It worked. I’ve trained myself to react calmly to the memories that are ever with me. I’m to the point that the worst I suffer is occasional crying jags and nightmares.
I’m to the point that I can now start helping others afflicted with PTSI. I’ve agreed to speak publicly about my affliction and how I’ve coped with it. I know that will aid others similarly damaged.
I’m grateful to Karen and others who have encouraged me to deal with and speak openly about the malady. I and other sufferers will be better for it.
What is the Trump administration doing? What has it accomplished? More important, what has it not accomplished? For the most part, we don’t know.
Part of the reason is that so many top government positions are either empty or are filled by temporary “acting” personnel. According to the most recent information I could find, a Fortune article dated November 2019, we have 28 acting cabinet secretaries not confirmed by the Senate. Similar numbers apply to senior ranking advisors.
And top jobs in many departments go unfilled. One of the worst is the State Department—which Trump dislikes—where almost half the top jobs are empty. Dozens of embassies are understaffed, and no ambassadors have been named to many countries.
Of course, we have no information about the state of classified work in the government. We know that Trump disdains the U.S. intelligence community whose 16 agencies concurred that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election to help elect Trump. These agencies are the eyes and ears of the government. To the degree that they are crippled or weakened, danger to the U.S. increases. The job of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who oversees their work, is currently an acting official, unconfirmed by the Senate.
But even the status of unclassified government bureaus remains murky. Little or no news about the state they are in is reported by the press. The regular press briefings common in previous administrations have largely disappeared. We simply don’t know.
I suspect that only after Trump leaves office will we begin to discover the havoc he has wreaked.