||Jun 26 2002
It’s 1974 and a US Army Ranger stationed in Thailand is assigned to CIA covert operations inside Cambodia. He also falls in love with member of Thai royal family, complicating his already tenuous situation. As the situation in Southeast Asia deteriorates, Sergeant Kendle’s team is sent on increasing dangerous missions, finally leading to ambush and death.
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Derek Hart Books
The story's main character, James Kendle, is a sergeant in the US Army. Kendle's first assignment after completing Ranger School at Fort Benning is command of a Long Range Recon Patrol based in Lopburi, Thailand. The story begins with Kendle's arrival in Thailand and assignment to Team Delta.
The first task that Delta Team is to undertake is a routine patrol along the Burmese border. The patrol is patched with a few tense moments, but is otherwise unproductive from a military standpoint. Delta Team returns from the field to find that Military Assistance Command, Thailand needs all Special Forces units closer to the border of Cambodia.
Ironically, Delta's first assignment after moving to U Taphao Airbase, is honor guard duty at the Royal Palace of King Bhumipol. Here Kendle meets Princess Mai Yop Dui, and falls deeply in love. Their attraction is instantaneous, but the relationship is difficult for both of them to pursue.
As US military influence in the region declines, the political situation in Cambodia and Vietnam worsens. With this, Kendle's Team is sent on increasingly difficult and riskier missions. Kendle and Mai see each other as often as possible, but with decreasing frequency.
Kendle soon comes to learn that the US State Department and the Thai Monarchy have discovered his relationship with the princess. Forbidden to pursue it any further, Kendle is given one last opportunity to see Mai if he and his team will conduct a deep insertion into Cambodia to escort out a high level CIA operative. He and his team agree. The mission goes horribly wrong - the helicopter carrying Delta Team is shot down by a Khmer Rouge patrol. Two of Kendle's teammates are killed, and Kendle himself is badly injured, but a trailing helicopter picks up the remaining men. Kendle and his men are taken to the US military hospital in Bangkok, where Kendle spends several weeks in recovery.
Kendle is informed that he will receive a medical discharge and be sent back to the US. Upon learning this, Kendle tries desperately to contact Mai, but is stonewalled at every attempt. On his way back to the States, Kendle stops to purchase three strips of yellow silk: Two in remembrance of his fallen friends, and one for his lost love.
4 1/2 Roses
This is a powerful book. That has to be said up front.
The story of nineteen-year-old Sergeant James Kendle and his squadron of elite men in 1975 Cambodia makes for fascinating reading. Written in a simple, matter-of-fact style that makes the subject matter that much more poignant, the book details the missions and mayhem that this squad goes through. From the bar fight they become embroiled in on a 48 hour pass to the baby Kendle delivers on the verge of a dusty Cambodian roadway, the reader feels a part of the history being made.
But why is this book being reviewed here on this site? Because the centerpiece of the plot is the love affair between Kendle and Thai princess Mai Duan. Doomed from the start by politics and circumstance, there is a bittersweet passion to the affair that leaps from the pages. There is plenty of casual sex as well, as might be expected in the story of young men cast adrift in a foreign country in the midst of war, but the love story between Kendle and Mai rises above the casual to transcend time and race. Their brief interlude of happiness serves as a counterpoint to the horrors of the covert missions that Kendle’s men undertake.
The book is told from the viewpoint of Sergeant Kendle, and this gives it an immediacy that strengthens the story. His impressions of the Orient and his growing disillusionment with the war effort reflect the attitudes of the America he is a part of. Events spiral toward an ultimate tragedy that will change his life forever.
This story has elements to appeal to male and female readers alike, but it is not a typical romance. A reader looking for a traditional love story might be disappointed. On the other hand, a reader looking for a novel that tells of a time in American history that should never be forgotten will find an engrossing read that will remain in the memory for a long time to come.
Naïve young Sergeant James Kendle thinks he is lucky to be sent to the exotic location of Thailand; beautiful willing young girls, sun and all the glamour of the mysterious Far East. To make things even better he is in command of a small team called Delta and hits it off straight away with his new squad. During his brief tour of duty the predictions of a fortune girl will all come true – he will fall in love and have many adventures. But a lot more will happen and not all of it will be pleasant.
Derek Hart has an enviably easy style, packing in a lot of adventure, military action, romance and local colour in remarkably few pages. The book is structured as a series of short stories, focussing on various aspects of Kendle’s tour of duty including forays into enemy territory, life at “The Dirty Pit,” Bangkok’s fleshly delights and a certain romantic interlude. Nevertheless, they read as one continuous story in chapters and in turns comic, exciting or tragic they seem to run the gamut of wartime emotions and make deceptively light reading while staying in the mind long afterwards. No mean feat for such a short novel; perhaps writers of overlong doorstops ought to take a leaf out of Hart’s laconic book. I’d recommend this one to anybody who enjoys a good tale well seasoned with action and romance.
When I first received this book, I was reluctant to read it let alone review it. It’s not something I would normally read. Thankfully, I was mistaken.
This is not exactly a novel, but, rather, a series of chronologically ordered vignettes that are all inter-connected. It is, essentially, the tale of a young American soldier coming of age in the Cambodian jungles in 1975, at the end of the Viet Nam War. It is the story of love and loss, of friendship that goes beyond mere camaraderie and of the frustration and guilt that plagues those who do come back alive.
These stories made me weep and they made me laugh. They evoke memories that, for some, may be better left buried, but you will not be bored. While technically, the book needs editorial refinement, the stories themselves are flawless. This is a book that makes you think, and one that everyone should read. “Tales of the Yellow Silk” is definitely one to pick up and take a look at.
Reviewer: Vicky Burkholder
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