SOMEONE ELSE'S WAR by Howard R. Simpson


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A tired and disillusioned longtime CIA operative in Vietnam is ordered to terminate one of his agents, also his only friend, as Simpson (A Very Large Consulate, 1988; etc.) continues to mine his 1950s and '60s past as a USIA officer in Vietnam. Bob Fraser is from the new old school of US diplomats in Vietnam, sharper than the virtual colonialists who preceded him and something of an old fogy beside the new kids, with their trim physiques and fluidity in Vietnamese. Relegated to a quiet coastal backwater town after an ""incident"" in Saigon, Fraser is somnambulistic and hardly able to imagine a future for himself. (Indeed, he seems to have no past either: Simpson leaves Fraser bereft of family background or physical description, and hardly even mentions his name until well into the book.) Fraser finally wakes up, however, when he is ordered to assassinate one of his own men, Arnaud Caze, a former French agent whom Fraser later recruited. Caze has been Fraser's one buddy and confidante in Vietnam since the two met outside a caf‚ bombing soon after Fraser's arrival. They share a common cynicism and a growing sense of walking in place beside ""someone else's war."" Fraser, though, is shocked when told that Caze is a double-agent working for the North Vietnamese. A botched assassination attempt during a fishing trip puts Fraser officially off the job but unofficially on the streets of Saigon with a loaded gun. As luck would have it, it's the weekend of the Tet holiday 1968. While the city explodes around them, Fraser and Caze fight their private, and not so private, battle. Fraser's (lack of) character is unfortunate, and the story unfolds slowly and with little suspense, but, still, it's an interesting one, set in a place and time that Simpson evokes with skill and obvious knowledge.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Brassey's