99 CENT SALE – The Reach of the Banyan Tree

99 cents on AMAZON.COM

For a limited time only, The Reach of the Banyan Tree is well within reach. You might say it’s a steal at only 99 cents on Kindle from August 17-23.

Historical Fiction + Contemporary Romance + VIETNAM!!!! = A Terrific Read!

I had an amazing time piecing together this 300 page novel. I loved adding the center section which extends back to Vietnam in 1945 at the tale-end of World War II. It not only helps the reader understand the complexities 20th century Vietnam and that country’s amazing story, but it also helps to explain the modern romance which makes up the rest of the story. Don’t worry, the romance is ALSO based in Vietnam and bathed in its amazing culture.

How did I do my research? By living in Vietnam for 10 years. By learning Vietnamese fluently. By studying Vietnamese culture and history IN Vietnamese. I do hope my experiences help to bring this book to life. But don’t worry, this isn’t some high-brow treatise on geo-politics. At its heart its a story of fathers and sons and the loves of their lives.

Please do pick yourself up a copy. And now, it’s so cheap, there’s no reason to pass it up.

And don’t forget to leave a review. Your support is much appreciated.

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Movie Review: Dunkirk

I mean, really. Who am I question the artistic decisions of Christopher Nolan?

“Dunkirk” is Nolan’s self-penned, produced, and directed rendition of the English evacuation from Dunkirk in the early parts of World War II. I use the word rendition rather than story on purpose, because Nolan has chosen to strip away the human elements of the story, the typical sentimentality which brings patriotic and nostalgic folks to tears, in order to provide a more sterile and emotionally distant film to show what happened.

The show is, of course, impressive. The cinematography is breathtaking and many intense scenes of peril and struggle as the British and French tried to hold off the Germans’ advance before the small private English boats get upwards of 35,000 soldiers to safety in England.

The script follows the happenings of several individuals: a private boat hired on the English side to go to Dunkirk and retrieve some men, a couple of privates on Dunkirk who take their chances by trying anything they can to get on a ship for the homeland. The fighter pilots who battle the Germans in the air as they try to protect their countrymen on the sea and beach below.

But what Nolan doesn’t do is tell us who they are. We don’t know their stories. We don’t know about their loved ones at home. We don’t what they’ve been through. We are simply given a tableau of action that describes their ordeal of Dunkirk. For this reason, some moviegoers will not enjoy this film. It may seem confusing at times and distant, lacking real human connection.

But this is, obviously, how Christopher Nolan wanted it to be, and he achieved his goal in grand ways. Anyone who watches the movie understands what happened at Dunkirk. What we don’t see is the heart and human stories that we experience in other war movies such as “Hacksaw Ridge.”

My son said that he wished he knew it was going to be like this before he went to see it because it would have helped. I agree. “Dunkirk” is a good historical film produced by one of the film masters of our generation. It’s just not the kind of film which will grip your soul. If you know that ahead of time, I think you’ll appreciate the movie even more.

A Short Narration #1

RLT  Musical Revue is a special show of musical theatre (May 20th) which highlights the songs and short musicals which I’ve written or co-written over the past eight years. It includes 21 pieces of varying lengths, including 3 short musicals of 10 minutes or less. To tie the show together, I’ve written a few narrative pieces which introduce certain segments of the performance. Here’s a short one entitled Sacrifices & Hope. It introduces one of my favorite pieces, the short musical “A Woman at War” which tells the story of Sarah, who fights World War II in her own way on the home front.

Sacrifices and Hope. Hope is a platitude which means nothing without sacrifice. Hope doesn’t bloom alone in a barren and frozen winter soil. Hope requires sacrifice. For who would trust in a man who isn’t willing to lay does his life for his love? Who would trust in a God who wouldn’t firsthand understand the pain and sorrow holding back the spring’s green growth? Hope grows in the soil of sacrifice, on the distant battlefront, on the lonely home front, in the dead cold mud of the first day of March. As sacrifice is planted, hope grows.

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Did Truman Start the Vietnam War?

The headline is purposefully provocative. How could Truman, who came on the scene after Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, have started the Vietnam War of two decades later? He didn’t, of course, but the case could be made, and was made in my thesis, that Truman instituted a policy shift towards Indochina which set the groundwork for what was to come. Here’s a snippet of my introduction on the topic.

Harry S. Truman, Vice-President and former Senator from Missouri, assumed the office of the Presidency on April 12, 1945 after the death of the longest serving U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Truman immediately found himself in charge of a nation embroiled in the most all-encompassing war in human history. Unprecedented in scope and in challenge, President Truman faced the ravages of war waning in Europe but with the likelihood of a long and costly affair in the Pacific Theater against Japan. The Truman administration was charged with the task of managing war reparations, checking Communist advances, attacking an entrenched Japanese army, and balancing fragile relations with Britain and France. This would have been enough of a challenge for a seasoned leader like Roosevelt, but for the inexperienced Truman, it was truly daunting.

Truman had served as Vice President for only a matter of weeks before Roosevelt’s death. His senatorial background gave him limited experience in the realm of foreign affairs, and Roosevelt did not include the new V.P. in important matters of state during the nascent hours of FDR’s fourth term.  In fact, Truman had been excluded from most executive branch conferences on foreign policy, leaving him to gleam his knowledge of world events mostly from reading newspapers and listening to Capitol Hill chatter (Donovan xiv).  When he became president, Truman did not know about the Manhattan Project (Bradley 103), and had not been informed of what Roosevelt had said at the meetings in Tehran and Yalta earlier in the year (Donovan 10).  He entered the Presidency as a neophyte in foreign policy with no experience in the art of negotiating (Donovan 10), and he brought with him a new Secretary of State, James Byrnes, who also had little foreign policy training (Donovan 17).  This lack of experience, coupled with Roosevelt’s confusing and often contradictory foreign policy, presented Truman with great challenges as his administration tried to bring closure to two wars while balancing world peace.

Not surprisingly, Truman said very little publicly about foreign policy over the first few months of his presidency, but a closer look at the actions of the executive branch in the early days of his administration reveals a clear shift in foreign policy which favored an understandably strong commitment toward France and Britain as tensions heightened with the Soviets over the make-up of post-war Europe (Lucas 13).  In July 1945, the discord over Poland unraveled the trust between the two war-time allies and put Warsaw firmly under control of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (Donovan 57). This undoubtedly gave Britain, France, and the U.S. a great deal of apprehension concerning the Soviet Union’s long-term plans. The U.S. viewed the Soviets in purely ideological terms, thinking that worldwide Communism was the goal (Lucas 13). By the end of 1945, most American policy experts viewed Soviet aggression as the greatest threat to world security, and they saw the Soviets emerging as the dominant power in Asia (Buhite and Hamel 370). Because of this, Truman’s focus on repairing European alliances in the summer of 1945 made a lot of sense; however, this European-focused foreign policy shift would have grave consequences for the peoples of Indochina.

Viet Minh and USA Relations in 1945

Part of my Master’s Thesis that I wrote a couple years back dealt with the Viet Minh, the Vietnamese nationalistic rebels who warred with the Japanese and French during and after WWII. The Americans had some very interesting interactions with them in the summer of 1945. Some have called these interactions nothing less than a missed opportunity which may have drastically altered the future geo-political alignments in southeast Asia. No matter what may have changed, the Viet Minh-USA relations in 1945 are fascinating – so fascinating, in fact, that I based a good portion of my third novel on a Viet-Minh-American connection. So in this post, I just want to highlight a paragraph from my thesis which outlines the politics of the region in the summer of 1945. I’m sure I’ll connect it to my novel at a different time.

 

After the initial contacts between the Viet Minh and the Allied forces in southern China, the U.S. sent some OSS officers to Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh headquarters in Tan Trao, one hundred miles north of Hanoi (Marr, “Vietnam” 286). The OSS officers spent several weeks training Viet Minh forces (Marr, “Vietnam” 364), which the Americans believed could be used to help fight the Japanese. The views of certain officers who came into contact with Ho during that time bolstered the claim that the Americans, perhaps in hindsight, had missed an opportunity by sidelining the Viet Minh’s nationalistic movement in favor of French restoration. OSS lieutenant Dan Phelan, who began his mission to Vietnam leery of the possible communist connections of the Viet Minh, soon raved about the Viet Minh, stating that they were “patriots deserving full trust and support” (qtd. in Marr, “Vietnam” 289). Other military personnel with boots on the ground in Indochina expressed the opinion that Ho could be trusted as a democrat at heart who cared about American ideals (Bradley 136-139). But the fractured nature of affairs in Washington had already delineated military operations with political realities as OSS assessments of the developments of Indochina had no bearing on policy toward the French. The OSS troops in Vietnam that summer were not privy to the fact that the non-French trusteeship model for Indochina was sidelined and that the administration had shifted its goals to the assumption that the French would once again rule Indochina (Marr, “Vietnam” 291). However, from a military standpoint, Washington did not want to limit the use of any groups, including the Viet Minh, to further military objectives (Marr, “Vietnam” 291). As the summer plodded on, the Americans helped train the Vietnamese, who were preparing for the end of the war to declare their independence, and hoped that this eventual announcement would be backed by the U.S. These naive hopes were later crushed by the Truman administration’s continued support of France’s control in Indochina.

Are you familiar with the banyan tree? Check out post on the Storyreadingape

Chris, at TheStoryReadingApe was kind enough to publish a guest article I wrote as a promo for my new novel. I focused in the banyan tree and what I learned about it when I lived in Vietnam. Here’s the beginning of my article, but please click the link below and go over to his great website for the rest! Thanks!

Before I moved to Vietnam in 1994, I wasn’t familiar with the banyan tree – but what a unique and amazing tree it is. A banyan tree can be described more as a root system rather than a single tree with a single trunk. The roots of a banyan tree grow up from every direction and expand out in remarkable ways – the far reach of a banyan tree is tremendous. The limbs become so long that they sag to the ground and then continue right on growing into the sky again. More recently, I learned that the original root structure of a banyan tree dies when the new roots grow out around it.

Right around the year 2001, I visited the historical site of Tan Trao, which was Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh resistance headquarters in the mountains of northern Vietnam during World War II. The Viet Minh successfully cozied up with the Allies in an effort to help the war effort against the Japanese. Their ulterior motive, however, was trying to win western support for their independence movement, in order to throw off the shackles of French colonial rule. Ultimately, it didn’t work, as WWII led to the French-Indochina War which led to the Vietnam War.

Read the entire post HERE!

The Strange Ways of the Universe – an Excerpt

One of the things I really enjoyed doing with my soon to be released third novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, was to pepper small doses of history into the writing to better frame the time period. Here’s the opening paragraph to a chapter entitled “The Strange Ways of the Universe” which help set the stage of the crazy, confusing mix of political alliances at the end of World War II.

On a cosmic scale, it all seemed kind of absurd. Communist trained guerrillas fighting to overthrow the Japanese, so that they could get a chance to overthrow the French, whom they really hated. Communist trained guerrillas, working with the communist Chinese in cooperation with the nationalist Chinese to fight against the imperialist Japanese with the help of the Americans. Americans, working with the communist Chinese and the communist-leaning Vietnamese, while ignoring the French of Indochina who had kowtowed to the Germans and cooperated with the Japanese, even though their Free-French brothers fought side-by-side with the Allies in Europe. So it was. July of 1945 in Indochina was a political and military mystery—common threads tangled in the strangest of ways—just like a small fourteen-year-old boy who had become infatuated with one Charles Regal Carson.