Tag Archive for: Vietnam War

When Writers Travel

Who else loves to travel?

We just returned from Southeast Asia. I’m not sure if this
was a bucket list trip or simply an area of the world we were curious about.
Both my husband and I were too young for what we call the Vietnam War, but I
remember the protests and the horrors of the war shown on the nightly news. Soldiers
being spit on and called “Baby Killers.” The MIA bracelets. Four Dead in Ohio. (My blogmate’s books are set in the era, by the way.) The guys in the deli where I worked during college
with their bravissimo: “I was stoned the whole time,” and our church youth advisor,
a then, newly-minted lieutenant, who would not talk about his time in Vietnam. My
brother-in-law, a medic during the war, who also does not discuss his experiences
I could go on, but I think you get the drift. Or maybe you
Then there’s Cambodia. A close friend’s daughter served there
with the Peace Corp and kept me intrigued with a running series of Facebook
posts. And who isn’t moved by the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge?

So we went.

And we loved Saigon. 
The locals call District 1, which is
the old town, “Saigon” while the sprawling city is referred to as Ho Chi Min
City. There’s energy and optimism, friendly people, and 6 million scooters
(mostly being driven by young, texting locals). 
One of the things we did was a
street food tour – vendors set up, legally or not so much, wherever there’s an
open spot of pavement. Hygiene may be optional for some of those vendors. 😉
Our guide for the tour said Saigon is in to “Capitalistic Communism.” They
relate to Cuba, consider Russia a socialist country, and think North Korea is a
disgrace. By the way, they still don’t like the Chinese, even as China pours
investment money into the country, and the French… well…the south doesn’t hate
them as much as the north. But you know, we never ran into anyone who openly disliked
Americans. Instead they all wanted to practice their English on us.
Go figure.
Although the War Remnants Museum, chronicling the “American
War,” was a sobering reminder of what a horrible war this was for both sides.
We worked our way north with stops in Hanoi where we checked
out the Hanoi Hilton and learned it was a massive torture prison built by the
French (see “they hate the French” above, along with the 95 years of French
Ironically enough, the Vietnamese have huge respect for John
McCain and his decision to stay with his men rather than using name and
position to bail himself out. (cough, cough, bone spurs.)
But damn, the coffee and cheese were French and amazing.
On to Halong Bay, which was awe inspiring. Seriously. I thought it would be water, a small bay, with a few of those rock monoliths. A picture may be worth a few words here.

And on we traveled, through Cambodia and down the Mekong, back to Vietnam. So many glimpses of a different lifestyle. A third world country struggling to move ahead. Pride in the remnants of a kingdom in the past. Something beyond tolerance for the religious practices embodied by hundreds of temples. The quiet serenity of sunrise at Angkor Watt. 
Terrifying safety issues in manufacturing. Health and hygiene issues
that made us cringe and wonder why we obsess over plastic straws. 
The sadness of
the long-term impact of the Khmer wiping out every person in the country who
could read and write and the current struggle of the Cambodians to find their footing. 
The search for foreign investment in the face of those struggles. Quiet disdain
for the puppet government put in place by the Vietnamese, who also installed 8
million landmines to keep the Khmer out of Vietnam. (There are roughly 4
million mines still hidden in the ground. They pay children $1 for each turned
in mine – people also use the explosives to blast fish in ponds, but that’s a
separate story – and many bear the missing feet and hands as a sickening
reminder of how dangerous those devices are.)

What can a writer learn? 

A sensory overload? That iced Vietnamese
coffee is wonderful? An appreciation for friends and a zest for life? A
sobering realization three generations of Vietnamese live in an area roughly
the size of my living room. An appreciation for air conditioning (gah, I grew
up in the South and yeah, Robin Williams had it right. Vietnamese weather? Hot
and damn hot.)

Maybe it’s getting outside our own heads for a while. Trying
new things. New experiences. Learning about a new-to-me ancient culture. Meeting
new friends and recapturing a curiosity about the rest of the world.
Whatever you want to call it, I’m glad I went. And I’m
already eyeing another area of the globe…
What the most interesting place you’ve visited lately?

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She’s hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

New Release from Bethany Maines

by Bethany Maines
Today is the release date for my new novella – Wild Waters!!  This is my first time doing true romance (sex
scenes – eep!) and I’m very excited for everyone to get a chance to read it!
Purchase Wild Waters at:

Or enter to win a free copy on my website:
WILD WATERS (with Sienna Lance)
His duty. Her secrets. The mission that brings
them together will tear them apart.
In the steamy jungle of 1960’s era Vietnam,
when a team of Navy SEALs are brought together with a pair of reporters, no one
is prepared for the explosive secrets their encounter will reveal. Lt. Ben
Kolley, former WWII frogman, leads one of the first teams of Navy SEALs in 1968
Vietnam. His wild pack of soldiers  have earned their reputations as
“green ghosts” on the Mekong River and none is more elusive than Catch,
the point-man with an uncanny sense of the water. The reporters, a bumbling
drunken writer, and Kahele, a female photographer with a sharp
mind, dark eyes, and an even darker secret are the first allowed to
interview a SEAL team and both are intent on nailing their assignment. But
neither Kahele or Catch are prepared to discover an attraction for each other
that’s like nothing they’ve ever experienced. Soon, Catch is breaking all
the rules to be with her, and Kahele finds herself entangled by a passion
she’s never felt before.  But for Ben, Kahele dredges up horrifying
memories of an old mission – one where not all of his team returned. Can Kahele
be trusted or is she the monster Ben fears? The clock is ticking, and soon all
their lives may depend on Ben’s decisions.  SEALs believe
they can survive anything, but can they survive the truth?

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Tales from the City of
and An Unseen Current.
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

A Summertime Tease

Here’s my addition to your end-of-summer reading, an excerpt from my first mystery. I’m hard at work now finishing up the second, to launch next June. Hope you enjoy this tease meant to tantalize. Let me know how you like it! I’d love to hear from you. Kay



Austin hurried down Harbord Street in the deepening twilight. She’d tried the usual meeting place at the University of Toronto, but some bearded hippie said the anti-war group had moved, gone to the United Church on Bathurst. Which she was having trouble finding.

She was tired of rushing, her feet hurt, and her skirt was too tight. Carrying the container of muffins was awkward and slowed her down. Why did she bother to bake anything anyway? David’s anti-war colleagues would just gobble up her food and keep on arguing.

Hiking several more blocks, Austin reached Bathurst and turned north, searching for the flashing lights that marked Honest Ed’s. The popular cut-rate department store was near the church, and she hoped her weary legs wouldn’t collapse during those long, final blocks.

She stopped and slumped against a lamp post, catching her breath. Why didn’t she throw the blueberry muffins away and be done with them? That would be foolish and wasteful though, given how little money the transplanted Americans had. The draft resisters didn’t often thank her, but they’d be grateful for free food.


Her heartbeat tripled while her gaze pierced the darkness. After an eternity, a small figure slithered out of the shadows. A devil’s red face, topped with horns, loomed before her.

Her jaw dropped open and she stifled a scream. What the hell?

“Trick or treat.”

Damn it. Halloween had completely slipped her mind.

“My goodness, you’re very scary.” Austin tried to slow her thudding heart by taking deep breaths, then leaned closer to view the devil better. He stared back, swinging a pillowcase no doubt filled with treats.

“I’ve got goodies. Do you want some?”

The devil child nodded solemnly, then grabbed the offering and skipped away shrieking. His cries were probably joyful, but to Austin they sounded sinister, like a ghoul howling into the urban wilderness.

She turned in a circle and examined her surroundings, noted for the first time the jack-o-lanterns decorating the stores. In her frantic rush to make the meeting on time, she’d ignored the signs of Halloween. A wave of homesickness washed over her. Back home in Cuero, Texas, Daddy would be dressed like an abnormally tall ghost and doling out candy with a lavish hand.

She set out once more, tramping past tacky storefronts that hadn’t seen a paintbrush in years. While she’d never dream of walking alone at night in a similar American neighborhood, she assumed it was okay in Toronto. Everyone did it. Everyone said the crime rate was low here. But while she’d felt safe just moments before, if worn-out and cranky, now she was rattled, even a little scared. Phantom lizards hopped around in her midsection.

When she finally reached the United Church, it opened its brick arms to her, representing a safe haven. Puffing, she raced through the side door, only to slam into a deathly silence. She’d expected the usual cacophony of arguing voices to greet her, to lead her to the meeting, but the old building felt like a mausoleum, not a meeting place or house of worship. The frustration of failure crashed against her fatigued body.

Summoning her last few ounces of energy, she dashed down the dim hallway.

“Ye better watch out,” an ethereal voice called. “I mopped the floor, and it’s still wet.”

Austin jerked to a stop and lost hold of the box she was carrying. It hit the floor, and the muffins burst out. She watched her baking—a labor of love shoehorned into a too-full day—rolling across the wet floor. She howled, sounding just like that devil child.

A stooped old man emerged from the shadows and shuffled to her side as she fought back tears. He leaned on a mop, using it like a crutch, and then reached down to help her.

“It’s okay, lassie.” He wheezed between words. “Your treats are only a wee bit dented. Look—some are still wrapped up pretty.” His hands trembled, but he managed to tuck a few wayward muffins back in the box. He tried to scoop up another, but had to stop, both hands gripping his mop, as he struggled to catch his breath.

“Thanks for your help, but I’ll get the rest.” She crouched down to finish cleaning up while the old man stood by and watched. Straightening, she said, “Do you have any idea where the anti-war meeting is? I’m late.”

“Those lads ran off somewheres. Maybe try the university, eh?” The janitor tried to lift up his mop, but his hands were so unsteady that he dropped it. The mop clattered on the linoleum, making Austin jump.

What was wrong with him? Austin inhaled a long breath—what was wrong with her? She felt guilty that he’d exerted himself to help her. He looked as old as her grandfather, and Gran was eighty. Now drenched in remorse and stymied, she simply wanted to flee.

“I can’t carry this stuff another step. Think I’ll just leave everything in the kitchen for y’all to enjoy tomorrow.” She shifted several steps away down the hall.

“But I must go,” he called after her, “and canna help you.” A violent coughing spasm interrupted him.

“That’s okay,” she stopped to yell over her shoulder. “I’ve been here before and know my way around.” Then remembering her manners, she swung around to thank the old man, but he’d already faded back into the dark, a slick move appropriate for Halloween.

She began to jog in the direction her memory dictated, listening to her footsteps echo in the empty hall. When she turned a corner to see a sign pointing to the kitchen, she grinned with relief.

“Something’s finally going right,” she murmured.

Austin pushed the door open and entered a room as dark as puddled ink. Promising herself never to bake for the group again, she inched through the murk, feeling along the wall for a light switch. Her ears seemed to catch the sound of scampering feet, and she quivered; mice gave her the creeps. After several cautious steps, one foot slipped. She almost fell, but instinctively grabbed the counter and righted herself.

With greater care, she edged ahead.

Her left foot hit something solid. She pitched forward, not managing to catch herself a second time. But the object she’d tripped over had some give to it and cushioned her fall.

“Damn, that was a close one.” She spoke aloud in the darkness, needing to fill the silence. Lying on the floor, she thought about just staying put. That had to be better than anything else she’d tried that day. Yet the smell of dust and something oddly metallic made her change her mind. She sneezed and reached for her purse, needing a tissue, but instead her fingers met a sticky, moist goo.

Her heart slammed against her breastbone, and she gasped.

The dark was no longer her biggest worry.

She lunged to her feet and felt her way back along the wall. Her quivering fingers found the switch and flipped it. Florescent lights crackled and illuminated the room.

Austin’s eyes slowly adjusted to the sudden flood of light.

Before her sprawled a man in a pool—no, a lake—of blood, and her blueberry muffins covered the most beautiful suede jacket she’d ever seen. She knew not to touch anything and squelched an urge to brush crumbs off the body. The blanket of baked goods made the man’s condition appear comical.
It was anything but.

She recognized him. No one who’d seen Reginald Simpson in action would ever forget him. But she mustn’t think ill of the dead.

Her legs were unresponsive planks. Frozen in place, Austin could only stand and gape at the corpse. Or what she guessed was a corpse.

Reg lay on his back. Blood covered one side of his head, catsup-colored and slick, shimmering in the light. She needed to check but hesitated, trying to recall her CIA Mentor’s advice for daunting moents like this.

“When you need to forge ahead but don’t really want to,” Mr. Jones used to say, “then just breathe deep and focus. Empty your head of expectations so you can absorb all the data that surrounds you.”

One gulp of breath was not enough. She took three more. Emptied her mind of fear and crept back toward Reg. Leaned down close, turned her face away to breathe deeply again, placed her fingers on the skin beneath his beard, and felt the truth. This was an inert thing, not a man. Reg was gone.

Warm bile rose in Austin’s throat. She needed to vomit but swallowed and gagged instead. Eyes closed, she willed the wave of nausea to pass. She’d never seen a dead person before, other than an aunt who had passed away peacefully of old age. But that frail body, lying in a satin-lined coffin in a pristine funeral home, belonged in a reality much different from this grotesque one with its figure laid out on a worn tiled floor.

Austin began shaking and grabbed the kitchen counter to steady herself, then jerked back, afraid to leave more fingerprints. After a few moments, her racing heart slowed and her curiosity overcame her initial fright. Here was an event plucked from one of her favorite mystery novels. It was morbidly compelling.

Using the hem of her blouse, Austin rubbed the place where she’d clutched the counter. Okay now, she told herself, get it together. What should she do first?

She’d often wished she could step into an Agatha Christie novel or work alongside Nancy Drew. Once Austin startled a friend when, upon entering a room, she abruptly declared, “That brass candlestick would make a good murder weapon.” However, surveying this scene, Austin didn’t see a single candlestick—or any other obvious implement good for killing.

She stepped back from the body and moved around the kitchen slowly. She peeked into an open container for trash, but it held nothing. Either the trash had been cleared away before the murder or the killer had taken it with him.

The closed cupboard doors called to her. “Open me,” they clamored. And so she did, again covering her fingertips with her blouse. This operation took a long time—using her blouse was awkward and added complexity to the process. And the kitchen was enormous and held many cupboards. Twenty-two. She counted them. Twice. The tedious process calmed her teeming brain.

Her gaze swept the room, searching for clues. For anything out of place. Anything unusual. Satisfied that there was nothing suspicious, she decided it was time to call the cops.

—and the story continues!


Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery, in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate
love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to
prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and
Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas
with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly
allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob
Dylan buff too. #

Stories—Tell Me Yours

By Kay Kendall

I write historical murder
mysteries, and my chosen time period is the turbulent era of the 1960s. My work
in progress is set in 1969, entitled Rainy
Day Women
. This time my amateur sleuth, Austin Starr, gets drawn into a
murder investigation when her best friend, Larissa Klimenko, is suspected of
killing a leader in the women’s liberation movement. The action takes place in
those notoriously rain drenched cities of Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver,
British Columbia.

Like my debut book, Desolation Row, this second one takes
its name from the title of a famous Bob Dylan song. Dylan’s oeuvre is so vast
and so comprehensive that I can find almost anything I need to illustrate among
his song titles. Luckily for me, titles of creative works are not covered by copy
write law. When members of the boomer generation see the titles of my mysteries,
almost all of them will know that the books will either take place in the
sixties—or at minimum evoke them.

If you are reading this,
you may scoff when I say that what I write is historical fiction. It’s not that long ago, you may think.
Why, perhaps you yourself lived during that time. That cannot be history.

But, no, it is history.
That time is dead and gone. Five decades gone.

Last week I spoke to
classes at a community college in Alabama. Only about two in one hundred
students had heard the name of Bob Dylan. Moreover, none of them knew why the
United States was drawn into fighting a war in Vietnam. And none of them had
ever heard of the “domino theory.”

Yep, stick a fork in the
sixties. They are done.

One reason I choose to
write about that time period is to describe its importance to those who know
nothing about it. Reading fiction is an easy way to learn about history.

The other reason is to
commemorate and revivify a part of American history that has had far reaching effects.
Societal upheaval was so intense in the 1960s that the aftershocks still are
felt today. We have only to watch TV news to see the rage called forth by the
changing, broadening roles of women to realize that these ideas are not yet

While Desolation Row looks at the consequences of the Vietnam War, the
anti-war movement, and personal outcomes from military service…in Rainy Day Women, I explore the hopes for
female improvement held by early members of the women’s liberation movement.

Participating in that
movement was one of the most important intellectual endeavors I ever undertook.
The magnitude of changes that the movement made in me cannot be underestimated.
In my daily life, I speak occasionally about this, but I seldom hear others do

I know that there are other women whose lives
were changed as mine was. I would love to hear your stories.

In my first book I used one
real military tale from World War II. I felt it was almost a sacred experience
that I didn’t want to disrespect by making up events…although I certainly fictionalized
them enough so that no one can tell whose stories they were.

Similarly, in my new
book, Rainy Day Women I would like to
include a few real memories from real women who participated in women’s
liberation groups.

Whatever you’ve got to
share, I am eager to listen. Rest assured, I will not incorporate your words
into my writing without asking your permission. I hope you will let me hear
from you. 

Kay and her bunny Dusty
 is an international
award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband,
five house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. A fan of historical mysteries, she wants
to do for the 1960s what novelist Alan Furst does for Europe in the 1930s
during Hitler’s rise to power–write atmospheric mysteries that capture the
spirit of the age.

Discover more about her at 

Fashions of the Times

By Kay Kendall

I adore fashion. I can’t help it. It’s genetic. Both my grandmothers and my mother enjoyed clothes, jewelry, and dressing up. At the age of ten I had a weekly hair appointment at a salon. Shopping trips to the big city of Wichita from my hometown of 12,000 were a monthly highlight. In early years Mother and I even donned gloves for the 25-mile trip. When my Texas grandmother took me to the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas, I almost swooned.

Now, flash forward to the eighties. Shoulder pads made the scene. Love at first sight! They helped balance my proportions, counteracting my hips. My mother, however, was appalled. “My dresses had big shoulders in the forties, and I’m not excited about things I wore before.” I didn’t understand. How could she be so stuffy?

With this new millennium, boho chic arrived. But it’s all sixties fashion to me. Retro hippie would be an even better name. The first time I saw nouveau bell-bottom trousers in an issue of Vogue ca. 2003, I groaned. Oh, surely that will never catch on again, I mused to myself, throwing the magazine aside in disgust. Then came the beads, the peasant blouses, and all the other hippie accouterments. The only thing not seen in redux-land is a version of my old macrame purse.

 Soon celebrities in the under thirty-five age group staked out hippie chic as their own look. Try an online search of images for entertainers Nicole Richie or Sienna Miller, and fashion stylist and designer Rachel Zoe. Every image of them is heavily influenced by the sixties. Nicole even wears macrame occasionally.

At first, like my mother twenty-five years ago, I spurned the return of styles I’d worn before. But boho chic gained strength and crept into more and more clothes. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Stairway Press of Seattle published my debut mystery set in the sixties. Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery features a young bride from Texas who gets swept along by the tides of history during that turbulent time.

The choice of cover was tricky. The design had to evoke the Vietnam War era without turning off potential readers. Real photos from the period are too grungy, but countless current pictures are for sale of young female models dressed like hippies. We chose one of those photos, and the result has drawn raves. “Isn’t she, er, fetching?” a bestselling male author gulped as he stared at my book cover, almost drooling.

To set the mood at my book signings, I often wear blouses and boot-cut pants (not bell-bottoms) like those I wore back then and throw on some beads and ethnic-y earrings to complete the effect. Luckily for me, there’s no dearth of such clothes and jewelry to choose from.

How about you? Are there styles that have returned (from the dead, as it were) that delight you? That you are happy to wear again? Or are there other styles that have as yet to resurface and you wish they’d hurry and return?

Personally, I think how one dresses is a great form of self-expression. I love playing with style. Sure, it’s vain, I guess, but it is still fun!

Kay Kendall is an international award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, five house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. A fan of historical mysteries, she wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Alan Furst does for Europe in the 1930s during Hitler’s rise to power–write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age.