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Synopsis: A fact-inspired novel that tells of flying unarmed Cessnas over the heavy antiaircraft defenses of the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War. These daring air attacks were shrouded in secrecy during the war and the men who labored in tropical heat and monsoon rains to keep the combat aircraft armed and ready-to-fly often did their jobs without knowing what the mission was. Almost three decades later, after reading A Certain Brotherhood, these men understood for the first time the importance of keeping their little Cessnas ready to fly over the Trail. Of special interest to aviation buffs and those interested in military history, the novel paints an accurate and vivid picture. The new Stealth edition includes a restoration of 30,000 words to the text.
From the Author:
A Certain Brotherhood is rooted in 1967 when I flew Cessnas in combat over the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos during the Vietnam War. While I attended the Air War College in 1979-1980, I researched and wrote a book-length report about air interdiction operations over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. That effort was characterized by a member of the Air Force Office of History as probably the best account of the day-to-day lives of Forward Air Controllers we'll see out of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately the report got hung up in the declassification process and was never published as I was told it would be when I wrote it. And I would differ with the Office of History's characterization, as several FACs have written non-fiction accounts that provide many more insights into what the FAC world was all about. And A Certain Brotherhood, although written as fact-based fiction, is a better account, as well.
While working on the interdiction manuscript, I sent about 90 pages of the draft to Dr. Patrick Sweeney, of the University of Dayton. Pat and I had flown together as FACs in the 23rd Tactical Support Squadron. Pat said he stood at his kitchen counter and read the entire 90 pages without stopping. His conclusion: we needed to write a novel. Until that time I had never considered writing novels. At Christmastime in 1980, Pat and I and Jerry Dwyer (who was shot down twice in O-2s after I left NKP) sat down over some take-out Chinese food and plot-outlined a potential novel about Forward Air Controllers over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
As might be expected, three guys trying to put together a novel from different locations and perspectives wasn't likely to work. After a couple of us put together some pages that didn't match up well, we split up the effort. I took the main pieces I had brought to the effort, and Pat and Jerry continued their part. Some years later, they published Nail. When I arrived for my combat tour in February 1967, the call sign for our FAC squadron was Nail. I flew initially as Nail 59, then flew as Nail 12 on most of my missions.
My move to an assignment in California and enrolling in the Master of Professional Writing program at USC led me into the techno-thriller genre/market. The novel about flying Cessnas over the Ho Chi Minh Trail remained a goal, and I continued working on the plot for a 2-book series. After the success of Iskra and Red Lightning, I had a powerful agent in New York for a while. He submitted a proposal to about a dozen New York agents and got pretty much identical responses. There was no market for Vietnam novels in the mid-90s. A number of readers have since expressed dismay at that assessment. I believe the assessment reflected more on the interests of NY editors than upon the interests of the thousands of Vietnam veterans.
I continued writing on the project and working it through Paul Gillette's Workshop for Professional Writers. I decided to combine the two books into one as-yet-unnamed novel. The title came from a discussion over dinner one evening with Paul, two other writers, and me. I talked about how I was trying to come up with a title that would capture the dedication, heroism, and camaraderie of American pilots in a secret war that most Americans had learned little about. At the previous workshop meeting, a new Air Force officer had joined, and I had taken the lead in explaining things to him during the breaks. Over dinner, Paul thanked me for helping since Paul was always busy, even during the breaks. I responded with something like, "That's okay. It's a certain brotherhood." One of the women said, "There's your title." And she was right.
The manuscript languished without any editorial interest. In 1996 my sister, Jacque Sue, asked why we didn't self-publish the novel. I told her that self-publishing the novel wouldn't make any money. She didn't care. It had been a few years since she had a new novel to give out as Christmas presents, and she just wanted A Certain Brotherhood to give out.
So I did the editing and put together the layout. Jacque wanted pictures to be a part of A Certain Brotherhood. She had always been a voracious reader, but I reminded her anyway that novels didn't normally include pictures. She had closely followed my time away in the war, and she understood better than many what the role of Forward Air Controllers had been. She believed readers would not grasp the significance of the FAC part of A Certain Brotherhood if they didn't visualize that these dangerous feats were being accomplished in small unarmed Cessnas. Jacque was right, so I included a number of photos in the layout.
Jacque also wanted a glossary to help her keep the terms straight since so much of the book is in the lingo of the men who were flying those small Cessnas. I explained to her that Paul had taught me to always make clear what a word meant, either with a direct explanation or by implying the meaning within the surrounding context. She understood that but pointed out that when she encountered the word again a hundred pages later, she didn't know where to find that original explanation. So I included a glossary many readers find helpful. The glossary wasn't included in the hardcover edition in 2000, but I have returned it to the 2011 eBook editions.
My profile includes a picture of Jacque and me with a copy of the original edition of A Certain Brotherhood. She's responsible for the book reaching readers years before it ever would have otherwise.
One thing I love about self-publishing is that I had a printed copy in hand within two weeks of turning over the final manuscript to the printer. When I turned in the final manuscript for The Iskra Incident, the wait was more than a year and a half. We contracted for 3,500 trade-paperback copies under the imprint of Cricket Press. The black cricket in the logo is identical to the cricket the maintenance troops stenciled onto every O-1 and O-2 flown by the 23rd TASS and probably on the OV-10s in later years.
For much of my tour I roomed with my good friend, Charles "Chic" Randow. When I had a good draft in the mid-90s, I sent him a copy. His first response was, "You have to tell Judy I'm not J.D." When you read A Certain Brotherhood, you'll understand. Chic also told me that he gave the copy to his father to read so that he would understand what our shared combat tour had been about. After the novel was published, Chic told me he'd given a copy to his son so that he would understand. Those exchanges confirm to me that I got it right. They also give some additional insight to Chic's words I have included in various places among readers' comments.
Because A Certain Brotherhood was published despite the rejections in New York, many readers have learned much about the secret war over the Ho Chi Minh Trail from an insider's point of view. A new veterans' organization named The Thailand-Laos-Cambodia Brotherhood (tlc-brotherhood.org/) formed in 1997 as a result of the publishing of A Certain Brotherhood. The TLC Brotherhood has helped many veterans gain a new pride in their service to America of supporting military operations from, in, and over Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. A major activity of the TLC Brotherhood has been to provide humanitarian assistance in those countries on behalf of those Americans who did not return from Southeast Asia with us. Support is provided mostly to help children by donating, food, equipment, etc., to schools, orphanages, schools for the deaf or blind. Virtually all donations collected to directly to such projects. As of the end of December 2010, the TLC Brotherhood members and supporters have provided more than $295,000 in assistance on behalf of those who didn't return with us. The TLC Brotherhood website provides more details on the humanitarian assistance and other information of interest to SEA veterans and readers of A Certain Brotherhood.
Title: A Certain Brotherhood: A Novel of the Secret...
Publisher: Stealth Pr
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: New
Book Description Stealth Pr, U.S.A., 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: Fine. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good. First Stealth Edition... Firm hinges, no owner marks in text and no wear to the cover. Signed & inscribed by the author on title page.Jacket has two one inch closed tears. Rare signed. military hist. Signed & Inscrbed By the Author. Bookseller Inventory # 66944
Book Description Stealth Press, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine. A clean copy. Dustjacket beautiful sharp crisp and bright almost no shelfwear. Book is fine, no markings, solid, excellent pristine copy. Fiction Case. Pasadena's finest independent new and used bookstore. Bookseller Inventory # 73685
Book Description Stealth Pr, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: Used: Good. Bookseller Inventory # SONG1588810054
Book Description Stealth Pr. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. 1588810054 Bumped and creased book with tears to the extremities, but not affecting the text block - GOOD. Bookseller Inventory # Z1588810054Z3
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