Authors: Di Morrissey
Di Morrissey is Australia's leading lady of fiction. She planned on writing books from age seven, growing up at Pittwater in Sydney. She quickly realised you don't leave school and become a novelist. Di trained as a journalist, worked as a women's editor in Fleet Street, London, married a US diplomat and in between travelling to diplomatic posts and raising daughter Gabrielle and son Nicolas, she worked as an advertising copywriter, TV presenter, radio broadcaster and appeared on TV and stage. She returned to Australia to work in television and published her first novel,
Heart of the Dreaming
, in 1991.
is her fifteenth novel.
Di divides her time between Byron Bay and the Manning Valley in New South Wales, Australia, when not travelling to research her novels, which are all inspired by a specific landscape.
Also by Di Morrissey
Heart of the Dreaming
The Last Rose of Summer
Follow the Morning Star
The Last Mile Home
Tears of the Moon
When the Singing Stops The Songmaster
Scatter the Stars
First published 2007 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney
Copyright Â© Lady Byron Pty Ltd 2007
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Australia
ISBN 978-1-4050-3818-8 (pbk.).
The characters and events in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Typeset in 12.5/15pt Sabon by Post Pre-press Group
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group
Internal illustrations by Francois Jarlov from
Under the Sign of the Blue Dragon
Long Tan cross illustration by Paul Murphy
Internal map by Richard Adams
âI Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green)'
Words and music by John Schumann
Â© Universal Music Publishing Pty Ltd.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Reprinted with permission.
Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.
These electronic editions published in 2007 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.
Adobe eReader format: 978-1-74198-035-6
Online format: 978-1-74262-111-1
EPUB format: 978-1-74198-021-9
Macmillan Digital Australia
to read more about all our books and to buy both print and ebooks online. You will also find features, author interviews and news of any author events.
Dedicated to Jim Revitt;
my uncle, mentor and mate,
who covered the Vietnam war for the
Australian Broadcasting Commission 1966â67.
Thanks for everything Jimbo!
For .Â .Â . Boris with much, much love. Couldn't get through each day without you!
.Â .Â . My daughter Gabrielle and my son Nick. I'm so proud of you both and love you more than words can say.
.Â .Â . All my family, especially my mother, Kay, who has always been there for me.
.Â .Â . For my other family at Pan Macmillan â Ross Gibb, James Fraser, Jane Novak, Jeannine Fowler, Roxarne Burns, Millicent Shilland, Liz Foster, the marketing team â Paul Kenny, Katie Crawford, the sales team and all the great reps, not forgetting everyone at the warehouse.
And for Nikki Christer â thanks for 13 wonderful years.
.Â .Â . Ian Robertson, lawyer extraordinaire, great and good friend â thank you.
.Â .Â . Liz Adams, you've turned into a wonderful editor as well as being a pal â thanks!
.Â .Â . Peter Morrissey who was with United States Information Service in Vietnam 1967â68.
For assistance with this book â Col Joye, Lt. Col. Eric Richardson (ret.), Jimmy Pham, Thi Duong, Chiquita Ho, Cath Turner, Gracie Nicholls. At Cockscomb â Gene Owens.
In Vietnam â Iain Finlay and Trish Clark, Carol Sherman and all at CARE Hanoi, Consul-General Mal Skelly, Quoc Nguyen, Mark Rappaport, Paul Murphy, Breaker Cusack.
.Â .Â . And thanks to long-time friend Kirsten Garrett who has shared so much of my journey.
And to all the Australian forces who served in Vietnam â THANK YOU.
South Vietnam, August 1966
swept low over the broad curve of the Saigon River at the edge of Saigon city. The upstream harbour area was cluttered with large freighters and small coastal trading vessels, barges and the traditional wooden river boats that were homes as well as workplaces for thousands of river dwellers.
The scene had changed little over time, except that this year there were more warships than usual, a scattering of grey-hulled vessels ranging from river and coastal patrol boats to frigates. Their sombre presence and the overhead droning of helicopters were the symbols of a war that had already brought years of agony to the small South-East Asian nation.
And everywhere, upstream and downstream as far as the eye could see, there were hundreds of sampans and fishing boats moored together in floating villages or singly making their way to thousands of homes and enterprises by the water's edge. This river complex was part of the vibrant and rich region of South Vietnam.
Despite long-running postâWorld War Two conflicts, first with the French and now between communist and anti-communist powerbrokers in North and South Vietnam, the residents of Saigon carried on with their ceaseless bustle of commerce and politics at a pace that was increasing by the day. From the big entrepreneurs down to the humblest hawkers in the narrow lanes, there were new opportunities, and the locals were taking advantage of the boom times. By whatever means, legal or not, many saw the chance to profit from the war. Money was flowing as never before as the United States and its allies pumped resources into backing the anti-communist government of the South. No one knew what lay ahead, so they made the most of the moment.
Further down the coast, from his seat beside the helicopter pilot, Australian entertainer Col Joye gazed down at the sluggish brown Mekong River snaking its way towards the sea. Tom Ahearn, an Australian reporter travelling with them, tried to take a photograph.
âWhere's the river start, mate?' Col asked the Australian army pilot.
âComes from Cambodia. And, before that, the back-blocks of Laos. The densest jungle and remotest villages you can imagine. Beats me why the French fought so hard to hang on to their old colony there. Dry season you can't get all the way through but most of the time you can. 'Specially now.'
âBit of a back door that'd be hard to patrol, wouldn't it?' asked Tom Ahearn.
The pilot glanced back at the journalist and at the famous rock and roll singer beside him whose world was so far removed from the distant jungle. He gestured to the horizon. âThere's really a bloody big highway down there, under the trees, and even in stretches under the ground. A highway for the Viet Cong and their backers up north. That's what makes this stoush a bit different. It's hard to figure out friend from foe, until they start shooting at you.'
âYeah, I heard the enemy over here wore pointy hats and black pyjamas. Seems to me the whole damn country is wearing pointy hats and black PJs!' said the singer.
The journalist made a quick note of the comment in his notebook.
They flew almost at tree-top level. âWhy so low?' asked Col, his apprehension making the pilot grin in response.
âMaking it a bit safer, mate. We've gone past any Cong sniper before he's even heard us.'
The chopper flew beneath thunder clouds that hung heavy, leaden and sodden. Most days a solid wall of water was dumped over the jungle, rice paddies and river, but quickly, as now, the sun burned through the grey clouds making the damp air steam, insects surge and men sweat in their uniforms.
âIt's really quite a beautiful scene,' said Col as the patchwork of rice paddies gleamed in the sunlight.
âYeah, but every acre down there is part of a war zone,' Tom reminded him.
They landed at the Australian base camp helipad at Nui Dat, where the rest of Col's band â the Joy Boys â and singer Little Pattie were watching their gear being transferred from the other aircraft to a line of military Land Rovers.