Phoenix Mistress by Frank Wadleigh

 

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Frank Wadleigh’s Phoenix Mistress (iUniverse, 208 pp., $24.95; $14.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle) is written in the first person, but the book is a novel and the characters are fictional—except for famous people. The book takes place in Saigon in 1969-71, which is when the author worked as a senior intelligence analyst at MACV on the controversial Phoenix pacification program. All of the details in the book on Phoenix, Wadleigh says, are true.

Often the book reads more like a memoir than a novel, but that is not unusual for books of this sort. The main character, a computer scientist, is assigned the job of investigating the effectiveness of the Phoenix Program. He is shocked that innocent civilians are targeted and tortured. He protests and when those protests are ignored, he faces a moral dilemma.

Then he meets the title character.  She is pictured on the cover of the book.

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Frank Wadleigh

This novel is engrossing and well-written. As this is a historical novel, expect to come across a lot of facts and names. I recommend it to those who wish to read a book about this particular aspect of the non-combat side of the Vietnam War.

Wadleigh tells us he was “directly involved in the Pacification program headed by William Colby who became CIA Director after the war.” So he knows what he is writing about.

—David Willson

 

The Gomorrah Principle by Rick DeStefanis

Rick DeStefanis, a veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, dedicates The Gomorrah Principle (CreateSpace, 432 pp., $17.95, paper; $5.99, Kindle) to all veterans, especially the paratroops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions. The book is described as a “non-stop literary thrill ride. Stand back, Bob Lee Swagger.”  I’ve read all of the Swagger books, also about a legendary (fictional) Army sniper, so I was eager to find this thriller in the same league with the Swagger books.

The backwoods hero, Brady Nash, is notified that his boyhood friend, Duff Coleridge, has died in Vietnam under mysterious circumstances. Brady receives a letter that contains allegations that Duff was murdered and that a woman in South Vietnam, Lynn Dai Bouchet, knows how and why.

Brady Nash, who is characterized as “dumb as a brick,” “Country dumb,” and a “stupid hillbilly” by the villain, Jack Moxon, manages to join the Arm and become a Ranger. He gets sent to Vietnam to serve as a sniper, which led me to think that Nash was smarter than he looked.

Nash becomes a part of a special operations study and observation group, whose purpose is to go after VC cadre. This program is also called Phung Hoang, aka the Phoenix Program. Traps are set for Nash by Jack Moxon, who complains that Nash, that “stupid hillbilly, stumbled out of every trap set for him.”

When Nash arrives in Vietnam he gets orders for Headquarters Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade. He ends up at a firebase south of Ben Het in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border where he serves from December 15, 1967, to January 28, 1968. Given than time frame, I figured that the book would show us Nash’s involvement in the Tet Offensive. I was not disappointed.

Rick DeStefanis

Moxon tells Nash that if we don’t stop the VC in Vietnam, we’ll be fighting them in California—in Santa Monica, no doubt. I won’t give away the ending, but there is a possibility of a sequel.

This thriller is well written and well plotted. It contains no clinkers or boring spots and it moves right along from start to finish.

I recommend it to those who have not had enough of reading sniper thrillers or books dealing with the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The author’s website is http://rickdestefanis.com

—David Willson