I am always eager to discuss my books and I enjoy the comments of my many readers. I invite you to post your comments and questions here to share with me and others. Many of the locales and happenings in my books are based on actual experiences particularly in Valley of the Queen. I was surprised to find out that there are many  who were engaged in my narrative of the bond between the four Chicago friends who stayed loyal even when they were placed in mortal danger. In fact, that is why I wrote the sequel…by request, to continue their story. I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts about them.

Let’s get started.

A Description of Valley of the Queen

 

This is the story of a lost queen, a lost treasure, and four Chicago friends with a surprising connection to both.

Early in the tenth century in an area we know as Vietnam, a legendary queen of the Champa (Shampa) people flees a conquering army forcing her to escape west to a hidden, paradise-valley refuge. She leaves the remaining wealth of her kingdom hidden in a cave near a Cham temple.

During the Vietnam War Era Jack Largent is working as an Air Force photographer when he witnesses the aftermath of a devastating rocket attack just off of the Phan Rang Air Base and near a Cham temple that kills a dozen Security Police airmen.

By the 1980s, the indigenous Champa people are scattered and mixed among the many nations of Southeast Asia. Their queen has been missing for a thousand years since the time of the legendary Queen Dau Te Po and the fall of the Champa Kingdom. The Champa people have an ancient, sub-conscious and compelling need to serve and obey their queen, which has left them unfulfilled for centuries.

In 1986, in Chicago, Catherine Marsh, an investigative, television features reporter and owner of NearNorth Productions, visits a traveling Asian art show at the Art Institute. She meets a former rescue pilot from the Vietnam War, and hears a rumor about a cover-up concerning a rocket attack killing a dozen United States Security Police Airmen near a temple close to the Phan Rang Air Base. At the same time, the source tells her of a rumor concerning an ancient treasure thought to be hidden somewhere nearby. Through her investigations she has already learned about the wealth and rise to power of an Asian despot named Colonel Minh who was the Province Chief of the area encompassing the Air Base and the nearby temple when South Vietnam fell. She combines these nuggets of information into the possibility of a blockbuster story and decides to follow up on it.

Catherine meets Jack Largent who is now a successful advertising photographer with a studio in Chicago. When she learns he was a photographer in Vietnam, she asks him about the ‘massacre’ near the Cham temple. She is surprised to discover that he was there and attempts to enlist him in her pursuit of information, but Jack is reluctant to discuss with her what happened during that incident.

Colonel Minh was a corrupt Province Chief involved in smuggling drugs out of the country, and black market items in, during the Vietnam War. He twice intercepted Vietnamese gold shipments and secreted them out of the country to his estate in Ubon, Thailand, as South Vietnam fell at the end of the war. Now he is a major player and powerful businessman and it is his ambition to rule all of Southeast Asia. Colonel Minh knows of the compelling devotion of the indigenous Champa people for their queen and believes if he can find this lost queen, he will have a ready-made and motivated army to lead a revolution to rule Southeast Asia.

Jack’s involvement becomes complicated when Catherine has an affair with his assistant, Kelly, and he falls in love with a young Asian woman, Mai Sambath, a Vietnamese refugee, who is also a production assistant of Catherine’s. Their romances are genuine but become more involved as they take up living together and their destinies intertwine. Mai professes her undying love to Jack but avoids any serious discussion of marriage because she feels there is something important she still has to do with her life. While working on Catherine’s investigation of Colonel Minh, Mai, discovers through an associate of his, Su Ling, that she is the long-lost queen and rightful heir to the Champa throne. Su Ling being of Champa heritage swears her undying loyalty and obedience to Mai. But Mai is shocked by something else she discovers, and she asks Su Ling to help arrange for her to get together with Colonel Minh.

In 1989, The temple site and nearby scene of the rocket attack, the legend of the lost queen and her treasure, and the story of the depraved Colonel Minh’s theft of gold, necessitates that Catherine bring her investigation along with Mai and Jack to Vietnam.

As a further proof that she is the queen and rightful heir to the Champa throne, Mai finds the hidden treasure near the Cham temple fulfilling that part of the legend. But beyond that, Mai still has a secret plan, and is cooperative when Colonel Minh kidnaps her and takes her away to his hidden paradise-valley headquarters in Cambodia.

Colonel Minh marries Mai and presents her to the Champa faithful as the return of the legendary Queen Dau Te Po. He calls on all of the Champa people to reunite with her at Siem Kulea, the traditional ancient Champa valley in northern Cambodia. He plans a revolution to take over Southeast Asia and restore the Champa kingdom with him as the new king. Thousands answer the call and come to the remote valley to eagerly serve their queen.

What is Mai’s secret and why does she willingly marry the vile Colonel Minh? What does she do when Jack shows up trying to save her? Why was a body found buried along with the lost treasure in the cave, and what is the important secret hidden within the four treasure chests? How does Mai’s secret plan lead the four Chicago friends into mortal danger?

These are only a few of the many intriguing questions presented as the Chicago friends come to the hidden paradise valley of Siem Kulea in Northern Cambodia and are confronted with a bizarre tenth-century culture, lifestyle and traditions.

Actual historical events and good character development give the narrative a strong foundation that holds the reader’s interest. Mortally perilous situations and surprising twists lend to a story that reviewers reported on Amazon was “a page-turner”, “suspenseful”, and “sexy”.

 

 

 

 

There are Lots of Recommendations for Valley of the Queen

It’s no secret I am proud of the story I tell within my books. I am not alone in that regard. Here is what a few others thought of my books from their comments posted on Amazon:

Characters to read about againCover for Valley of the Queen

 “An impressive debut novel, this difficult-to-pronounce but equally hard-to-put-down adventure tale delivers a strong cast of unusual characters whose lives intersect in Chicago and take them across the Pacific to Vietnam and Cambodia. Weaving together ancient Southeast Asian legend, American military involvement in Vietnam, and Chicago entrepreneurship in the late eighties, the scope is ambitious and result rewarding. Intelligent female and male leads must trust each other as they pursue a lost treasure and a medieval culture to which their newest friend is the royal heir. Sexy and suspenseful, I can’t wait for the sequel!”  -Dk Mercer 

Evaluation of “Valley of the Queen”

“I found this to be a very riveting book, actually I believe I termed it as a “page turner”. Once I began the book I did not want to put it down. While this is meant to be fiction it is interlaced with many factual occurrences. I spent many months off of the coast of Viet Nam during the “war” and therefore could relate to much of the story. I think that anyone who spent tours in Viet Nam, in country or off shore, would find this a “terrific read”. I read many books each year and upon finishing them I donate the books to a worthy charity. This is one book that I will not donate. I have placed it on my shelf for another read. I suspect that I will read it several times over the next few years.”  -Bill Largent

The Right Stuff

“I really enjoyed reading this book. I was gripped by the story immediately. I have traveled several times to Vietnam and have read many other accounts of the Vietnam War or as the Vietnamese people say ” the American War”. The book really brought many of the locations that I have visited to life. It was a very interesting mix of real life experiences of the author, who was stationed in Vietnam during the war days, as well as a fictional story involving Vietnamese history. I highly recommend this book as the author brings the charm and mystery of Vietnam to life.” –Michael Farr

What a Great Story!

“This book had me turning pages eagerly, and only putting it down when I had to. I looked forward to each next chapter. I can heartily say, what a wonderful, fascinating story!” –David Doody

Old Fashioned Excitement.

What a story…..Glamour, Adventure, and old-fashioned excitement from the author’s who lived through the Vietnam conflict. Reads like a cross between Ian Fleming and Judith Krantz……..Enjoy! Cathee Cohen

Page-turning Action and Suspense

If you are looking for page turning action and suspense, or if you seek a deeper understanding of South East Asian culture, or if you are engaged by stories of love and friendship, this is our book! This tome is the result of a craftsman at his work. Congratulations on a marvelous tale with so many ins and outs, so much suspense, such a loving group of friends

What was it like to write your books?

My cousin asked me “Where do you get your ideas? How do you come up with something like that?” A friend asked, “Are you Jack Largent?”

At the beginning of the book I have a disclaimer that states that many of the events in the book Valley of the Queen are based on actual fact and experiences but the characters are only composites of people I have met along the way. Thus in a small way Cover for Valley of the Queenfor a part of the book when I was writing, I was Jack Largent.

I read somewhere good advice for authors that said you should write about what you know. I have to say based on my experience that is very good advice. I was in Vietnam as a photographer and had an assignment that took me all around Southeast Asia. Later I was an advertising photographer in Chicago at a time when advertising was going through the throes of changing media.

I started writing not through some inspiration but because it was something I always wanted to do. I cannot imagine anyone would want to read my auto-biography, but I have been in a lot of interesting situations in my life and met a lot of interesting people. Armed with that, one day I sat down and started writing.

At first, it was just my folly. In fact, when I finished the first full draft (and even published) it still remained my folly. I was very proud of it, but I confess I was surprised that people read my book and liked it. It wasn’t until then that I took it seriously. I pulled it from publication and went to work in earnest to make it as good as I could. I made numerous mistakes and it was not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night and start typing with a new idea. It became everything to me, the center of my day. Every time I thought I was done, I found more mistakes. I was never frustrated, only amused by repeated signs of my many faults, and determined to do better. I loved, really loved, editing my books. I bet I read each of them one hundred times and every time I found mistakes. Just when I thought it was perfect, I discovered my narrative was sprinkled with faulty grammar. I paid for a line-by-line edit and used a popular online grammar program. They both helped a lot. I almost always got A’s in school in English, but I had forgotten some of the rules about grammar like writing in the past-perfect tense. That turned out to be a big one. So I went through it again and again. It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun—great fun! I’m not kidding. I loved it. It was a time machine because time seemed to fly when I was working on my books.

A lot of people (both men and women) have told me they enjoyed reading my books. That is like getting paid. The books are different than most fiction. Valley of the Queen has a dual time frame that follows through the book and comes together in the end. That opens up the narrative to a very interesting plot line and you never know what to expect. These are normal everyday Chicago friends, who live and love day-to-day as we all do, and then they aren’t anymore. They are carried away on a ride of fantasy that takes them to the other side of the world. There are unusual romantic involvements and unexpected twists. At one point Jack Largent ends up confronting a culture that is thousands of years old. You are right there with him, feeling what he feels, confounded as he is. That’s the part I like about the book. We are just like them, so much so we can feel what they feel and experience it all with them. It is a real adventure I suspect everyone will enjoy. I know I did.

Jack and Mai

Of the many characters that weave their paths and get involved in romantic relationships within the two books, many would argue that Mai and Jack’s is the most interesting.

I am not sure that is true. Afterall, they met in an arranged setting planned by their friends, whereas the others met by accident and under unusual circumstances. Kelly and Catherine met in a magic bar, and Daniel and Su Ling met in the Queen’s chambers of a tenth century palace.

That said, it is apparent that Mai and Jack fall in love at the first meeting, he a Chicago homeboy, and she and Vietnamese refugee. Who could imagine that their love for each other would be asked to withstand the determined agenda of an ambitious Asian dictator and risk even torture and death?