A very interesting book arrived on the review table from one of the book agents round town. It is “Air Base” (ISBN 978-616-305-707-5, and published by the author Leonard H. Le Blanc III). The front cover states that the book is part of the U-Tapao Royal Thai Naval Air Base Series – II. This prompted me to contact the agents, asking “Where is Book I?” The response was that there was another in the series, and it was III, so just call II One and III Two. The fact that the book is part of a military detective mystery, seemed to fit immediately. The mystery then starts with the numbering on the front cover!
The author is American, has many degrees from many universities in the US and has served in the American military, both Army and Navy. The introduction makes the warning that although the U-Tapao Royal Thai Naval Air Base still exists, the book is a work of fiction.
It is set in the RTNB (Royal Thai Naval Base) and the reader is introduced to more acronyms than you would ever imagine, all revealed in 22 pages at the end of the book (or perhaps that should be ATEOTB).
Several chapters at the beginning are used to set the scene in U-Tapao, and another in Nigeria. Author LHLBIII does get carried away with hyperbole, even finding a Jeep that would do 100 mph (160 kph) when the manufacturer could only coax half of that on a good day with a tail wind.
The book is a series of very short chapters detailing the day to day life of 1st Lieutenant Legere. Each chapter has a heading, showing where the central character was at that time, such as “Between C and D Avenues, 8th Street, Parking Lot, Outside BOQ #1, U-Tapao RTNAB, Chonburi/Rayong Provinces, Thailand, 12:45, 24 July 1975.”
The book runs through all the places and situations we have all seen – the jewelry shops, the ‘chaperones’, saving ‘face’, maids, katoeys and more. It also runs through situations you haven’t seen or experienced unless you were in the USAF or USN.
A little over half way through the book, the apparently main subject of the mystery appears, and that is scrap being stolen from the salvage yard. Did 1LT Legere’s team do it, as claimed by the camp commander, or otherwise?
Author Le Blanc III does show that he has a good understanding of SE Asia. “None of these learned ‘political theorists’ had considered that each country in SE Asia had their own unique political, cultural and historical developments. That each country, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia, were mutually antagonistic, based on centuries-long periods of invasions, conquests, hegemony and subjugations and the attendant mutual, if not unwaiverable, suspicions.” (In two sentences Le Blanc III has pointed out why the AEC will never work in my personal opinion.)
In some ways, this book did remind me of Catch 22 with the banality that comes from the regimentation, without which the Military cannot function.
You can purchase Book II directly from the author, at around B. 400, contact [email protected]