My sixth and newest book, Coming to Terms, will be published this month by Adelaide Books of New York. It is, like all my fiction, based on real experiences of real people. The collection of ten stories is centered on the idea of finding a way to go on living despite the obstacles life throws in one’s path. The Foreword reads as follows:
“Coming to Terms tells the stories of men and women confronted with pain as a consequence of love and hate, goodness and evil. Each finds a way to go on living, however imperfectly.
“All these tales come from my life, as a husband, father, soldier, and caregiver to the dying. Each major character is drawn from people I have known. My hope is that you and I, both, can learn from the choices these people have made.”
All the stories resulted, in one way or another, from my years in Vietnam. Some are set there, but others are drawn from the actions of people I knew during my Vietnam years, from my time taking care of patients during the AIDS crisis, or my seven years working with the dying in a hospice. I got into that work to help me cope with my insufferable memories of combat. I learned that when I was focused on someone in need, my unbearable memories faded into the background.
One of the stories, “Trip Wires,” was the basis of my later novel, Last of the Annamese. It tells the story of how Ben Griffith died in Vietnam. In the novel, Ben’s father, Chuck, a retired Marine officer, returns to Vietnam in 1974 to work in intelligence. He’s determined to help win the war so that his son’s death won’t have been in vain. When he learns that Ben didn’t die in combat but was murdered by another soldier, his purpose for being in Vietnam and, ultimately, for living through the fall of Saigon, is gone.
But the novel doesn’t tell the reader the circumstances of Ben’s death. Only the short story does.