This novel is about an American expat named Mitch Winslow, who trades goods along the wildest reaches of the upper Amazon River in his old trawler boat.
After stopping for supplies at a remote mestizo village, a captivating woman asks Mitch for passage to the frontier town of Iquitos. He says he doesn’t take passengers, and it will be several days before he returns to Iquitos—not mentioning that the police are looking for him there. She pleads for his help, saying she has been shunned from her village. He finally relents. But life-threatening trouble soon upends their journey, first gripping them together, then tearing them apart.
This novel is very loosely based on an expedition a friend and I organized into the wilds of the Peruvian Amazon Jungle. We journeyed hundreds of miles upriver in a wood thatched-roof boat to the explosive clash of two Andean Mountain rivers that converge to give birth to the mighty Amazon River. On another trip, we trekked through the foothills of snow-capped Andean Mountains. These two explorations formed the backdrop of this exciting love story.
Here's what editors are saying about this book...
“Intriguing and hard to put down!” -- Rose Lundrigan, editor
"This gripping novel mixes suspense and intrigue into an epic love story. It takes place in the Amazon River basin of northern Peru and the plot winds through as many twists and turns as the river itself. It’s about the thrilling adventure of two unalike people through an exotic world, and it set my imagination on fire!" –- Hollis Willeford, editor and writer
LOST IN DALAT is a novel about Meggan Mondae, who travels to the exotic mountain city of Dalat, Vietnam, to find the battlefield where her father was long-ago reported missing in action—just a few months before she was born. While searching for the place where he was last seen alive, she uncovers shocking secrets about him, secrets that now threaten her.
Here’s a sample of reader reviews from around the world:
“I felt I was not just reading a novel, but listening to a real love story born of war.” — Nguyen Van Viet (Dalat, Vietnam)
“Dalat is very close to my heart and your written words just took me back there. I enjoyed reading it so much.” —Marjorie Vincenti (Perth, Australia)
"Wow, what a novel! Lots of surprises, twists and turns, and unexpected mysteries."
—Janine Nu Huynh (San Jose, California)
“It’s a wonderful book. I so wanted Meggan to find her father alive, but I then decided that life isn’t always that convenient, and I should relax and allow you to lead me, the reader, along to the book’s conclusion.” —Helen Baggott (Dorset, England)
“I peeked at page one and stayed up all night. I couldn’t put the damn thing down!” —Larry Stoller (Minnesota USA)
Get LOST IN DALAT in either paperback or ebook at your favorite bookseller.
Click here for book group discussion questions from the author.
THE IDEA FOR LOST IN DALAT was stirred by my curiosity about a buddy in my US Army outfit during the Vietnam War. He had already been in Vietnam for almost three years before I arrived, and during that time he became a Buddhist to marry a Vietnamese woman he loved. They had two children together, and his wife and children lived in a house near the Army airfield where we were stationed. Because of curfew restrictions, he could be with his family during evenings and Sundays, our only day off. The Army had put a limit on extended tours in Vietnam, so my friend would be forced to return to the US a few months after my to return to the US. I asked him about his plans, and he said “The only way I’ll go back to the United States is in a pine box. My family is here, and I have no family worth returning to in the US.” He explained that he would desert, and his wife’s extended family already had plans in place to hide him until the war was over. Because I left Vietnam before his return date, I don’t know what happened to him. There was no internet i in 1966, and we couldn’t correspond by mail because all letters from soldiers were read and heavily censored.
I returned to Vietnam as a civilian in 1998, and tried to find out if my wartime buddy was still alive in Vietnam. The day before I was scheduled to return home, I received information from a reliable source about an American deserter who was living in a remote area with his family. The communist government had made up a propaganda story about him, but didn't publish his real name. My source told me that going there could be dangerous for the man and his family, and dangerous for me. I returned home with only musings about his fate, musings that eventually bloomed into a story about the courage of a family torn by war. In 2017, I returned to Vietnam to do research for LOST IN DALAT.
The photo above, taken by James Luger, is a Buddhist temple in Dalat, Vietnam, where the famous Zen Master, writer, and spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh, once lived.
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I left childhood behind the morning my father suddenly died of a heart attack. I was 13 years old, and tried to save him with Boy Scout first aid resuscitation until our rural doctor finally arrived. For years I wondered if I could have done more. That traumatic morning left me forever vigilant and prepared for possible emergencies—a form of PTSD, I suppose. That strength served me well as a soldier in Vietnam, though, as if it had been a parting gift from my dad.
My mother also grew up without a father present during most of her teenage years. The coal mine of Joplin Missouri where her father worked was closed during the Great Depression, forcing him to follow the crop harvests from state to state as an itinerant farm worker, sending home what money he could, but never enough. Mom dropped out of high school to work in a shirt factory, bringing home extra money to survive. She was a strong and caring mother and mentor, and I see elements of her in the main character's mother in LOST IN DALAT.
Research about women who grow up fatherless has shown that they often become fiercely self-sufficient, but their shadow side can be a fear of abandonment. These became traits of my main character, Meggan Mondae. Her driving quest was to learn about about the missing-in-action father she never knew, wondering what he had been like, what it would have been like to talk to him, learn from him, and sometimes lean on him.
The photo to the left is James Luger overlooking coffee gardens and vegetable greenhouses near Dalat, Vietnam, in 2017. Vietnam is now the world's #1 coffee exporter.
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