Phạm Ngọc Thanh (2)

In Last of the Annamese, I portray the last visit by the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, to Colonel Thanh. My description of their conversation is an almost verbatim rendering of the conversation I had with the South Vietnamese officer I talked about in yesterday’s blog post.

As with all the characters in my fiction, I didn’t actively create Thanh. He came to me as if from a source outside myself, fully formed. As I wrote about him, he revealed more of himself to me until it felt as though he was someone I knew well and saw every day.

What I admire most about him is not his serenity but his strength. His peacefulness and courage spring from his internal harmony which is the underlying core of his potency. He is at peace with himself. That gives him power.

Thanh isn’t perfect. He makes mistakes. But he is strong enough to recognize his errors, admit to himself and others that he’s erred, and then correct himself.

Reviewers have congratulated me for creating him and making him so compelling and believable. But it doesn’t feel as though I made him up. It feels as though he came to me ready to play his role in the story of the fall of Saigon. He told me his story. All I did was write it down.

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