Critics of my writing often point out that my novels and short stories are fiction in name only. I plead guilty. The events described in my stories really did take place. I fictionalize them by showing fictional characters—rather than myself—participating in the events depicted.
Sometimes to disguise reality, I change the time frame of events. My novel, Secretocracy, is set during the Trump administration. It tells of the president’s persecution of an intelligence budgeteer. In real life, I was that budgeteer, but it was not during Trump’s presidency. The project I refused to fund because it was illegal and violated treaties with other governments was so highly classified that I suspect few were aware of it. I, like the protagonist in the novel, was severely punished for my recalcitrance. On the president’s orders, I was stripped of my security clearances and assigned to a warehouse in the slums with no job, hoping that I’d resign in protest. I didn’t. The president’s term ended, and I was exonerated.
More typical is Last of the Annamese, my novel set during the fall of Saigon. Every incident in the story really did occur. I was there. I saw it happen. I escaped from Saigon under fire on the night of 29 April 1975 after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets.
Then there’s The Trion Syndrome. That is a fictionalized tale about a man coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), which I suffer from as a consequence of the many instances of being in the midst of combat on the battlefield while assisting U.S. and friendly forces with signals intelligence—that is, intercept and exploitation of the enemy’s radio communications. The methods the protagonist uses in Trion to live with PTSI are not the ones I used, but his experiences—including not being able to remember the events that brought on nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and irrational rages—are my own.
More next time.