The office where I write and spend most of my waking hours is the main room in the lowest floor of my split-level house. The long narrow room is at the foot of the stairs at the southern side of the house. At the northern end of the room are glass doors that lead to a patio looking out over a pond or small lake, perhaps a hundred feet in diameter half filled with water reeds. The western wall of the office is taken up with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves overloaded with books (including many I have reviewed), LP records, tapes, musical scores (among them the hand-written scores of music I composed), and CDs. The small bit of space left is filled with nine plaques and framed certificates honoring me and my books.
The eastern wall of the room is filled with family pictures—twenty photos of my children and grandchildren—and fourteen certificates revering my books. In the midst of those certifications is a photo I am especially proud of. It shows Marine General Al Gray holding a copy of my novel Last of the Annamese, which is set during the fall of Saigon. It was General Gray, then a colonel, who rescued me as Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese conquerors. It was thanks to him that I escaped, even though, granted, it was under fire. He went on to be the Commandant of the Marine Corps, a man considered a hero by Marines. General Gray, now in his nineties, still stays in touch with me, especially on April 29, the day Saigon fell in 1975.
My office, in short, speaks volumes about me and my history. It will be there for my family when my life is over.