Through all my adventures post-Vietnam, I found time to write. I had, after all, been writing stories since I was six years old, and I’d long known my vocation was writing. But I had a wife and four children. Writing doesn’t pay but spying does.
Then, in the early 1990s, I retired as early as I could to write full time. Nearly everything I wrote was about Vietnam. My experience there had changed me permanently. My later exploits were exciting, but my life was never consistently in danger as it had been in Vietnam. Nor was I ever responsible for the survival of others as I was during the fall of Saigon when my it was my job to arrange for the escape of my 43 subordinates and their families. Those experiences left me with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) but also pride knowing I’d willingly put my life on the line for my country and for the well-being of others.
For decades, Vietnam was an unacceptable subject. It was a shameful war. The less said about it, the better. Despite that, I was able to get most of my short stories published, but my novels were consistently rejected. In 2012, I self-published my novel-in-stories, Friendly Casualties, inspired by events during the Vietnam war.
To my surprise, even though it has sold few copies, Friendly Casualties is a critical success. Seven readers gave it a five-star review on Amazon.com. They accurately divined my intent, to portray all participants in the Vietnam war, men and women, Vietnamese and Americans, as casualties.
Apprentice House of Baltimore brought out my novel No-Accounts in 2014. It is the only one of my published books not about Vietnam. The same company published The Trion Syndrome, the story of a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSI, in 2015. The Vietnam freeze was thawing. Then, in 2017, the Naval Institute Press published Last of the Annamese, set during the fall of Saigon. A new generation of readers, unaffected by bias against the “shameful” war in Vietnam, wanted to know what happened during that war.
I sense that I have finally completed the healing process of writing about my darkest days. I now turn my attention to other times in my life. Adelaide Books of New York will bring out my latest novel, Secretocracy, in early 2020. It tells of an intelligence budgeteer under attack by the Trump administration because he refuses to fund an illegal operation. And I’m now hawking a short story collection not about Vietnam called Coming to Terms.
Maybe my long preoccupation with a war that ended more then forty years ago is finally resolved.