I’m please to have a guest post from Richard Baker today. He is the author of Cao Bang, an historical fiction novel available from Amazon. I normally read and review authors’ books myself when they contact me, but I am not a fan of this particular era and subject matter. I didn’t want anyone who might be to miss hearing about this book however. As you’ll read below, Richard Baker has the experience and personal knowledge needed to make this a very realistic piece of fiction! Please join me in welcoming him to The Book’s the Thing. – Erika
Description from Amazon:
Ho Chi Minh and General Giap are ready to attack the French along the “Highway of Death” in Vietnam near the border with China. They have learned that the French are going to retreat from the post at Cao Bang. They hope to catch the French Foreign Legionnaires in the open along with a support unit moving up from Hanoi. For Ho and Giap this battle must be won. For the French the battle is a matter of life and death.
“Cao Bang,” is the first in a historic trilogy about French colonialism in Viet Nam. It concerns the retreat of French forces from the Chinese border areas of Viet Nam that resulted in one of the most disastrous defeats in military history as the Viet Minh declared their first major victory in their quest for independence. (Accurate figures are impossible to secure and figures range from 4,000 to 7,000 French troops involved with 23 to 100 survivors)
I actually wrote the last book in the trilogy first, “Siege at Dien Bien Phu.” The book took 30 years of research and, because of its accuracy, has been accepted by the French Foreign Legion as an official part of their history in Viet Nam. That gave me the idea of writing about the events leading to that final battle. I am presently writing “Dong Khe,” the second novel in the trilogy.
I was wounded twice in Viet Nam (Pleiku) while serving with the army band. Musicians have little desire to hurt anyone and I have suffered a life –long struggle with PTSD over the war. I started traveling to Viet Nam eight years ago to make amends or seek redemption. I started writing travel articles before landing a job with a Vietnamese cultural magazine in Hanoi. Gioi Publishing, the oldest government publisher in Viet Nam, recently published “Dien Bien Phu – a short history and guide for tourists. I often teach Vietnamese orphans photography using donated digital camera.
I understand war, soldiers, and Viet Nam. That is why I concentrate on these areas. My historical novels always tell of the events equally from both sides. Sergeant Knowles, a German Legionnaire is the main French character. Lieutenant Hoang is with the Viet Minh.
The writer Evan Hunter was concerned because I was so driven and haunted by my writing. He suggested I “Hack up a few people, just for fun.” He wrote serious novels under Evan Hunter and fun books under Ed McBain. All my books, even the lighter ones, contain veterans or deal with Viet Nam. Books like “The Hands of Esau” take place in Viet Nam with an ex-patriot bar as the local gathering place. Because they are mystery books I chose Wrigley Brogan as a pen name. (Wrigley is a gum; Brogan is a shoe – gumshoe)
I envy those writers who claim to find writing fun and effortless. For me it is constant work, emotionally demanding, and physically draining. I write almost every day, if only a sentence or two. If you write a page a day you will have a 360 page book by the end of the year. I seldom have an idea of what I am going to write. A sentence might get stuck in my head, or one scene, or the image of someone bent and twisted or with a constant smile. I never make an outline and seldom know the ending unless that is what came to me first. I enjoy the surprise of what is coming. I always visit the places of my work. I want to smell the air, feel the heat, watch the sunrise and sunset.
I believe in the art of writing and attempt to try different techniques. Parts of “Gecko” were written in 2nd person, something seldom done. Death has been described so often that it is often difficult to convey its finality. A scene concerning death in “Siege at Dien Bien Phu” was written in twelve sentence. Each sentence contains one less word. The final sentence is a single word – “Gone.” The paragraph simply pinches out as does the life. People who read the novel probably will never notice.
I have never built a web site about my books. I am one generation too late to enter the electronic world. I have a web site promoting Viet Nam – asiaonline.com but nothing about me, or my work. All my books are available at Amazon and can be ordered at book stores.
8012 14th Avenue Court East
Tacoma, WA 98404
If you’d like to check out Richard’s book, you can find it on Amazon.