Vietnam

Vietnam dominates my writing. Three of my four published books and most of my 17 short stories in print focus on Vietnam.

Friendly Casualties tells stories of those damaged by Vietnam. Among the military, the term, “friendly casualties,” refers to those hurt or killed by our own weapons. All the characters in the book qualify as friendly casualties, hurt in irreparable ways by the war itself.

The Trion Syndrome is about a Vietnam vet suffering from Port-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). It is my own story told as fiction.

Last of the Annamese tells the story of the fall of Saigon which I survived, escaping under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city. I showed the fictional protagonist going through the travails I suffered myself.

Even No-Accounts, the story of a straight man caring for a gay man dying of AIDS, was the result of Vietnam. To help me cope with PTSI, I volunteered to work with the dying. For five years I cared for men dying of AIDS. All seven of my patients died.

Critics point out that my novels and short stories are fiction in name only. They’re right. The stories I tell are about events that really happened.

After 1975, I went on to other work as a signals intelligence operative in other areas of the world, but that work is still classified. Friends make educated guesses about where I might have been deployed from the artwork that decorates my house. A painting of a tiger from China hangs over my living room fireplace. A picture of a church in Kiev decorates my piano room. A copy of the virgin’s head from Michelangelo’s Florentine statue Pietà is on the wall between the glass doors to my deck.

Those same friends muse about the languages I speak: Vietnamese, Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. They draw conclusions I neither confirm nor deny about where my work must have taken me.

More tomorrow.

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