One thought behind Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard …
Over the past years, it became “fashionable” to bash US service members serving worldwide while making saints out of the other side. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the war in Vietnam, when we had Hanoi Jane posing for pictures with North Vietnamese artillery units and passing a POW’s hopeful message home on to the commander of the Hanoi Hilton prison, a place where so many American servicemen (including John McCain) were imprisoned and tortured. That was a national disgrace!
And it is not always intentional. The Vietnam War film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, in my opinion, tried to give a truthful picture of the Vietnam War. However, we can rarely escape inserting our own views into what we create. While most who viewed this film praised it for its neutrality and fairness, and accurate portrayal of the war, many Vietnam Veterans I have spoken with, are still left with a bad taste in their mouths when watching this film because, at least in their view, it still portrays the American servicemen in a somewhat undeserved negative light.
Yes. Bad things happen in war. We all (well, at least those who bother to learn a little history) remember the My Lai Massacre. Unfortunately, war can bring out the worst in people as well as the best. But I would venture to say that at least 95 percent of American servicemembers serve their county honorably. That fact seems to get lost.
It was my intention, starting with Serpents Underfoot and continued in Montagnard, to write stories that would portray American servicemembers in a positive light because that is what the vast majority of them deserve. Being an old veteran myself, it still upsets me to hear some schmuck bad-mouth the very same people who fought for that schmuck’s right to bad-mouth them. And, far more often than not, the bad-mouthing is undeserved. Anyway, that was my goal. Readers will notice, I included all branches of service in Serpents Underfoot and several of them in Montagnard. There are even references to the British SAS, SBS, and the Israeli Defense Force. These are those who fight to preserve freedom around the globe.
I am happy when readers pick up on this …
And several of them have. There are comments in reviews like …
This story gives insight into the bravery of men like these who risk their lives to save others. (Montagnard)
You will find an astounding emotional impact as you walk beside men like JD and his K9 partner, Ajax, risking their lives to protect other people. (Montagnard)
A good job of describing the real Vietnam war and the inhuman crimes committed, not by US servicemembers but by the Vietcong and North Vietnam army. (Serpents Underfoot)
That is why a review like this one from DeeDee means so much to me!
Great story; very well written. Loved all the characters. This book, like your last one, had me from the beginning. JD is amazing and is an Isshin-ryu expert to boot. This book has it all. It makes you proud to be an American, has believable love stories and great action throughout. Loved it.
Feel free to check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here, and please, check out my books on my Amazon Author’s Page! They do get great reviews!
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I have had a long-held interest in the martial arts. One Christmas, I received a book called Best Karate, written by Mas Oyama, when I was 13 or 14 years old. I spent hours in my bedroom trying to learn from the book.
When I began attending the Charles H McCann Technical School in North Adams, Massachusetts, I was invited by a friend to a Uechi-ryu Karate (a very traditional Okinawan system) class in nearby Adams and started attending. But once I discovered cars and girls, that pretty much ended that … as well as my interest in scouting.
When I was stationed in Korea (12/81 to 12/82), I studied Tae Kwon Do with the battalion instructor. He was excellent. I earned a red belt, which, in that system, was the equivalent of a brown belt in the ranking system used by many styles. When I got back to the U.S., I started competing in tournaments and did okay. However, I discovered these Isshin-ryu guys who had a wicked reverse punch. They would slide up your extended kicking leg and nail you with it. I decided I needed to see what they were doing and so sought out an Isshin-ryu dojo.
Years later, I was running my own dojo and hosting tournaments. But I was very disappointed in the way things were evolving. I was never that wild about sport karate. I just did that to keep students. I saw limited techniques being used in sport karate; it was more like a game of tag. The rules seemed to violate the karate “maxims” I was trying to adhere to.
For example, in Okinawan Karate, all kicks are targeted below the waist. Step into the ring, and now all kicks must be above the waist. That seemed odd!
And kata, especially with the advent of musical kata, quickly devolved into breakdancing with some kicks thrown in.
Note: Let me just say that full-contact karate and MMA fighters of today are great athletes and some damn tough individuals. They are very good at what they do and deserve respect. It is just not “karate” as I had come to understand it.
The problem was that I do read a great deal, and I had read a lot of history about Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, and the early pioneers of Tang Hand, which later become known as Empty Hand … or Karate. I was simply not seeing the Karate I’d read so much about. Either the stories were all lies, or there was nobody around who could do that stuff anymore. I was actually ready to throw in the towel. Then I met Sensei Sherman Harrill.
Sensei Harrill was from a cross-roads in the cornfields called Carson, Iowa (near Council Bluffs). He was an ex-Marine who trained with the Isshin-ryu system’s founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku, while stationed in Okinawa in the late 50s. And he was the real deal.
Everything I had ever seen paled when stacked up against what he did. No matter who you were, how big, how strong, or what you knew … he would effortlessly show you the error of your ways. Organizations, rank, who you knew did not matter. It was what you could demonstrate on the mat that counted.
So, I started over. I traveled all around the country to seminars for years to train with this guy. It was a humbling and memorable moment when I asked him how I could become his student. He laughed and replied. “well, most folks just ask.” So, I asked. And he replied, “Darren, I have seen the changes you are making in your Karate and how you train … so welcome aboard.”
That was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.
The origins of JD’s Nguyen-ryu
Nguyen-ryu is an indigenous martial art found in Vietnam. Mai’s father, Ang, was a village elder, and in the book Serpents Underfoot, a well-respected practitioner of this art. Ang taught this art to both his daughter, Mai, and the son of his old Montagnard friend, Dish. Dish and Mai both taught the art to Curtis Cordell, Mai’s American husband, and JD’s father.
Curtis tried to teach Nguyen-ryu to his son, but that old father-son thing interfered. Eventually, Curtis took his son to a dojo run by a friend of his. That Sensei taught a very traditional version of Isshin-ryu. JD did learn a great deal of Nguyen-ryu from his mother, which blended well with the Isshin-ryu.
It has been my experience that most “real” martial arts have more in common than differences. That is because when you get past all the marketing hype, it is body mechanics that determine what works … and the human body only moves powerfully so many ways.
My exposure to Nguyen-ryu
Enter Charlie Taylor, a good friend, a Vietnam veteran, and a damn good martial artist. He just showed up at my dojo one day and started helping out.
Charlie had served several tours in Vietnam as a medic on Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols in the region of Vietnam my books focus on. He was a quiet guy, but when the mood struck, he had some fantastic stories to tell about his experiences in Vietnam. I am sure he embellished them a bit to make them more fun to listen too, but there was something in the stories and his eyes when he told them that led you to understand that there was an element of truth to each one.
Charlie was also a highly-skilled martial artist, and there was nothing “superfluous” in what he did. I remember spending time training what was essentially a “silent sentry removal” technique with him and being shocked and a bit disturbed at the ease with which it worked. I still remember asking him, rhetorically,
“And, you’ve used this before.”
He just looked at me kind of funny and replied, “On a few occasions.”
While he knew a few of the kata, Charlie didn’t practice Isshin -ryu. In fact, many of our workouts consisted of me teaching him more Isshin-ryu kata. He practiced what he called Nguyen-ryu. Charlie claimed he’d learned it from his grandfather, who’d married a Vietnamese girl while stationed in Japan after WWII. This girl’s father was a skilled practitioner of the style, and after a suitable period of denials, consented to teach it to his daughter’s round-eyed husband.
I know it sounds like a movie plot. And maybe it is. I can neither prove nor disprove Charlie’s claims. However, I can definitely vouch for his abilities. Charlie could be damn scary when he was “in the zone,” much like my former instructor, Sensei Harrill. Those who have trained with Sensei Harrill will understand what I am referring to. We called it “shark eyes.”
Charlie did have an honorary 5th-degree black belt in Isshin-ryu Karate signed by Harold Long. However, he always claimed it was not worth the paper it was written on. It seems Charlie had impressed Harold Long with his abilities while training for a period at Long’s school in Knoxville, Tennessee, but, as mentioned earlier, had only learned a few of the kata. He held no official rank in Nguyen-ryu, so he always wore a white belt.
I will say that the kid’s classes loved it when Charlie regaled them with stories of his early training days. He always referred to them as “Papaw Days.”
Unfortunately, Charlie passed away a few years ago from a combination of medical conditions, several of which I am sure originated with his tours of duty in Vietnam. Some of the threads in Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard are based on past discussions with Charlie. And I think Charlie may be resurrected from the dead for a character in the next book in the series titled Reciprocity. I think he would like that.
Martial Arts scenes in the two books …
I have seen a large man knocked unconscious with a punch to the shoulder. I do not know too many people who could do that. Sensei Harrill certainly could. And, his “fence post punch” was something to behold. You did not want to get hit with it.
On more than one occasion, MMA fighters or cage fighters from the casinos in Council Bluff would make their way to his dojo after hearing about this karate guy who had a reputation for being a badass. Every one of them left with a new appreciation for karate … well, at least Sherman Harrill’s version.
The technique JD uses to take out the drug smuggler on the trail from Laos into Vietnam is simply one of my variations on Charlie Taylor’s sentry removal technique.
Putting it all together
I like to think my stories are written to entertain, but there is so much more to them, at least for me. They are ways to remember, record, and share the people I have known, places I have been, things I have seen, and the stories I have heard, as well as the possibilities those things can combine to create.
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I am a bibliophile and have been one since childhood. In fact, Biblio is my avatar name. Books were my favorite birthday gifts. A week before I got married I took the GRE test so I could go to Library School the following year. (I knew that I wanted to be a Librarian. But no, we did not get to sit around and read books all day.) Unlike some of my fellow librarians, I never had the urge to catalog my Golden Books.
With so many books and so little time, I’ve turned more into a tsudonko. (Tsundoku is acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. The term originated in the Meiji era (1868–1912) as Japanese slang. It combines elements of tsunde-oku, (to pile things up ready for later and leave) and dokusho…
My original plan, at the suggestion of my editor, was to submit Montagnard to Kirkus Reviews; which I did. A few days later, I got an email from Katerina at Kirkus, suggesting that, since Montagnard was a sequel, I should let them also review Serpents Underfoot so they would have a better picture of the story as well as me as an author.
While it made sense, anyone who has looked into Kirkus knows that 1) they are brutally honest, and 2) they are expensive. That is because they are the gold standard for book reviews and a good review from Kirkus can open doors and reach a large number of influencers like publishers, agents, foreign publishers, film executives, librarians, and booksellers.
I was hesitant because, while I know Serpents Underfoot is a pretty darn good read (its gotten lots of good reviews), it was also self-edited, and I was sure I would get raked over the coals. It seems, though, that this was not to be the case! Anyway, to make a long story short, I ponied up to have Serpents Underfoot reviewed as well. That was on June 16th. I received the “review completed” notification email today!
Here are a few excerpts …
Resonant characters propel this consistently gripping terrorist tale.
In this debut thriller, a Navy SEAL tries to uncover a terrorist plot.
… Gilbert’s action-oriented tale is dense with characters and personal histories … myriad subplots and backstories are often enthralling.
… All of the story characters are well developed, producing genuine shocks when certain individuals die. The author writes in an unadorned prose that keeps the plot moving at a steady beat.
… the finale is … exhilarating.
Combine this with the Literary Titan August 2020 Gold Book Award notification on August 3rd, and my feet may not touch the ground for the rest of the week!
Anyone who would like to, can read the full Kirkus review by clicking here!
Please will take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!
And if you have read Serpents Underfoot, check out its sequel, Montagnard, on Amazon.com! It’s even better!
I was checking my email late last night before I went to bed, and found an email from Thomas Anderson, Editor In Chief at Literary Titan. I included a few excerpts from the email below.
Literary Titan Book Award
We are proud to present you with our Literary Titan Book Award. Your book was recently reviewed through our Book Review Service, with that service your book is entered into our Literary Book Award competition. Your book deserves extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge your hard work, dedication, and writing talent. Start telling the world that you’re an award-winning author, because we will be!
Thank you for letting us read your fantastic book.
I was utterly flabbergasted, amazed, and humbled. Beth Kallman Werner, my editor, had told me it was a fantastic book, and that I should enter it for consideration by a couple of reputable book award organizations. So, I did. I guess I just really never thought I would actually place, never mind win the gold!
This is going to take a little getting used to!
I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!
And also, if you do enjoy an excellent action-adventure story, check out my novel, Montagnard, on Amazon.com! Yep! Yours truly is now an award-winning author!
I continue to be blown away by the response to my newest release, Montagnard. It is mindblowing, motivating, and humbling, all at the same time. I just received another review from an award-winning author I respect and whose work I enjoy reading.
While the response to my first book, Serpents Underfoot, was mostly positive, and it has gotten some excellent reviews, it was also my first book. So I know there were some rough spots and a lot of room for improvement. It did receive some “mediocre” reviews, and a couple of reviews really blasted it.
The truth is that it was Lee Boyland’s review of Serpents Underfoot that help motivate me to continue writing and begin this second book, Montagnard. Especially after a couple of those harsh reviews. While Lee stated that there was certainly room for improvement, all the elements of a great story were there, and that he felt I would improve with time. For that reason, this review has a great deal of meaning to me.
Below are a few of Lee’s comments on Montagnard. You can read the entire review by clicking here. I hope you will read it, and then check out my book. The reason I write is that I love to tell stories, and I would really like to hear what you think about it.
A great story continues
The author has written a great sequel to his first novel, Serpents Underfoot. Two generations of warriors, the father, a special forces officer fighting in Vietnam, and his son, a SEAL master chief, bring to life a story that began in the highlands of Vietnam, circled through Africa, the Middle East, Thailand, and then returns to Vietnam. Bravery, valor, honor, comradeship, revenge, and love with realistic combat and martial arts scenes kept this reader enthralled and turning the pages.
….. The story has believable characters (including strong women and a dog that I loved). ….. The Bangkok bar, Obsession, is a hoot.
The author does an excellent job of describing battles in Vietnam, Africa, and the Middle East. Readers with no military background will gain a feel for what modern limited combat is like. I found the plot, geography, weapons, and people believable. And I can’t wait to read the next book.
Lee Boyland, Award Winning Author
Thank you, Lee. I really appreciate your support!
And be sure to check out Lee Boyland’s book on Amazon as well. I reviewed one of them here.
The Prairies Book Review just gave Montagnard a pretty awesome review.
In this swiftly paced, thrilling second installment in Gilbert’s The JD Cordell Action series, the situation, the enemies are new, but the heroes aren’t: JD Cordell and his four-legged companion Ajax return to take readers on an exhilarating journey to Vietnam for a rescue mission.
After completing his last mission in Niger, JD is ready to retire with his K9 partner Ajax. But after his father’s unexpected death, Mai, JD’s mother, travels to Vietnam to see her adopted brother Dish, a Montagnard rebel who is on the Vietnamese government’s most wanted list, and accidentally steps into a blood feud between her brother and a powerful Vietnamese drug lord. JD must come to Vietnam and face the vicious enemy.
Despite the book’s high action theme, JD’s relationship with his four-legged companion remains heartbreakingly personal throughout. Gilbert weaves the multiple plot threads with skill and effortlessly moves his protagonists through a series of explosive combat zones. The characterization is first-rate: Ajax is real enough to touch, and JD with his passion, intelligence, caliber, and sensitivity make for a worthy hero. The action is first-rate and the plotting intricate and clever. A horde of twists and nerve-wracking action scenes mark the final battle between the vicious enemy and JD’s team.
You can read the rest of the review here! Still waiting to see what Titan Literary and Kirkus have to say!
No Ordinary Dog is the powerful true story of a SEAL Team Operator and military dog handler, and the dog that saved his life.
Two dozen Navy SEALs descended on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011. After the mission, only one name was made public: Cairo, a Belgian Malinois and military working dog. This is Cairo’s story, and that of his handler, Will Chesney, a SEAL Team Operator whose life would be irrevocably tied to Cairo’s.
Starting in 2008, when Will was introduced to the SEAL canine program, he and Cairo worked side by side, depending on each other for survival on hundreds of critical operations in the war on terrorism. But their bond transcended their service. Then, in 2011, the call came: Pick up your dog and get back to Virginia. Now.
What followed were several weeks of training for a secret mission. It soon became clear that this was no ordinary operation. Cairo was among the first members of the U.S. military on the ground in Pakistan as part of Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted in the successful elimination of bin Laden.
As Cairo settled into a role as a reliable “spare dog,” Will went back to his job as a DEVGRU operator until a grenade blast in 2013 left him with a brain injury and PTSD. Unable to participate in further missions, he suffered from crippling migraines, chronic pain, memory issues, and depression. Modern medicine provided only modest relief. Instead, it was up to Cairo to save Will’s life once more―and then up to Will to be there when Cairo needed him the most.
My thoughts …
This book is absolutely outstanding!
No Ordinary Dog by Will Chesney and Joe Layden is a fantastic story told (and read … I listened to the Audible book) by Will himself. The book is written as a tribute to his K9 partner, Cairo. It details the story of Chesney’s service with the US Navy SEALs, his decision to become a K9 handler, and the incredible bond and partnership that developed between these two SEAL warriors.
I am a dog lover, are you?
If you are a dog lover, this book is a MUST READ! It is simply an incredible story of loyalty, courage, sacrifice, commitment, and love. It is a moving tribute to a fantastic dog, a loyal partner, and a best friend. We are truly blessed that Will Chesney chose to share his story with us! It is a book I guarantee you will not want to put down!
The introduction is one of the best I have ever read and brought a tear to my eye. The book just gets better from there. The descriptions of training, missions, and the time Chesney and Cairo spent together have you right there living in the moment. At the same time, the stories of missions are well-done and informative, but not graphic or in danger of giving away any military secrets.
No spoilers, but the part of the story where the author is recovering from a severe injury, and Cairo comes to his rescue, was incredibly moving. Later, when Cairo is in real need, Chesney returns the favor. If you are not at least brought to the verge of tears, you are not human.
I absolutely recommend this book and give it 5 stars, only because that’s where the scale stops. This incredible story is off the scale. You can check the book out on Amazon by clicking here!
I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here! And check out my new novel, Montagnard, on Amazon.com!
I was very humbled and honored to receive another 5-star review for my new release, Montagnard. This review is especially meaningful to me because it is from a fellow author who is also a Vietnam War veteran.
And Glyn Haynie is not just any veteran. During his 20-year career, he was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart, two Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, French Commando Badge, Drill Instructor Badge, and Army Recruiting Badge.
I would bet that he probably has seen or had dealings with the Montagnard people while serving in Vietnam.
In full disclosure, I have read most of his books, and if you are even remotely interested in the Vietnam War and its veterans, I highly recommend them. His works include both memoirs and works of fiction.
Here is an excerpt from his review …
A must-read for anyone that read Gilbert’s first book, “Serpents Underfoot.”
I was happy that the author decided to write a second book about JD Cordell. The trip back to Vietnam was surreal. The characters were well developed and believable. The story centers on JD’s mother, Mai, returning to Vietnam to find her adopted brother, Dish, and she is kidnapped. JD and Ajax, with members of his SEAL team, head to Vietnam to find them.
If interested, you can read this and other reviews here!
I hope you will check Montagnard out! The Kindle version is now available, the paperback will be in stock any day now, and the hardcover will be available July 1st! Click here to visit Montagnard on Amazon.com