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Local author draws from Vietnam experiences

Glenmont man’s short stories drawing from Vietnam experiences arranged into book

— “I wasn’t in the military and I was very fortunate, because the people that served in the military with great honor and distinction experienced things I can only begin to image,” he said. “I also had the exquisite opportunity to get to know some Vietnamese people really closely … and that was something that soldiers couldn’t do.”

On April 22, 1975, he returned to Saigon to help some of his friends escape as North Vietnamese troops closed in, spending 24 hours in the panicked scene.

“It took me a while to get to the point that I actually wanted to start writing about it,” he said. “I am not sure exactly how it evolved, but I wish I had done it earlier.”

The collection of stories in Redwood’s book “Love Beneath the Napalm,” stretches across several settings, including the former imperial capital of Hue at the end of the Nguyen Dynasty, Hanoi after the American pullout from Vietnam, the Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979, contemporary San Francisco and even Schenectady, where his award-winning story is set.

“Love Beneath the Napalm” is the story of Vietnamese man scarred by napalm who ends up working in a Schenectady restaurant, and the reactions others have toward him.

Vietnam has heavily influenced his writing, but Redwood believes it’s a subject whose complexity Americans should tackle.

“Vietnam is problematic and it is difficult for us to really deal with what happened there, because we lost the war. That was something that was new in the American experience,” Redwood said. “If we looked at it a little more objectively the reality is most countries have lost some wars and won some wars.”

As the Vietnam War begins to fade from the American conscience, he believes it is also important for people to not forget it.

“I think you learn more from your mistakes than your successes sometimes,” he said.

Redwood is working on a sequel to a mystery novel and has no plans to slow down writing as he continues his other passion and career in law. Writing fiction, he said, sort of keeps him going throughout his days.

“It helps to get me up in the morning as I make the coffee and think about this stuff,” he said.

For information on Redwood or to purchase his book, visit his website at www.jamesdredwood.com.

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