Is Last of the Annamese a Sequel to The Trion Syndrome?

A writer friend who knows how fixated I am on Vietnam asked me that question. My immediate answer was no. The two stories are quite separate and unrelated to one another. And yet . . .

Trion is about a Vietnam vet suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury and how he finds his way home. Annamese tells in fiction one of the stories that cause me to suffer from PTSI. Like so much of my work, it was written in part to help me come to terms my memories, to learn to live them. I found out shortly after the fall of Saigon that writing down what happened forced me to bring my unspeakable memories to the conscious level and face them head on. I learned that putting my memories into words brought me an imperfect peace.

To be sure, Chuck, the protagonist, is not me. I never lost a son killed in action, nor am I a retired Marine officer. He’s older than I was during the fall of Saigon. But he’s as clueless as I was, and he and I share a certain toughness in outlook. The tingling at the base of his spine in dangerous moments is identical to what I feel—a kind of signal from my unconscious to beware.

Most important, almost every disaster Chuck endures in Last of the Annamese were ones I faced, including his physical collapse at the end of the book. So maybe one could make an argument the Annamese is a psychological or spiritual sequel to Trion. In a very real sense, the PTSI of the protagonist of Trion is my PTSI. And telling Chuck’s story allowed me to pour the resulting pain out on the page. I was able to channel my anguish into my writing, not into my living.

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