Tacoma, WA (PressExposure) July 15, 2011 -- Baker's book, "First a Torch" marks the first historical novel about the battle of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. Baker, a disabled Vietnam Veteran, researched the history of the siege for over 35 years and is considered an expert on the battle. Winner of the "Ernest Hemingway Award" for short fiction, he has brought to life the French Foreign Legion and Viet Minh combatants in a truly unique way. Told from both sides, this novel is unique in its understanding of war.
Because Baker is both a disabled Vietnam veteran and because he lives in Vietnam, he has a distinct perspective on war and the Vietnamese people. He understands what it is like to fight in a foreign country in almost impossible conditions against a very frustrating opponent. He understands European military tactics, unit structure, and the arms used.
But what makes him especially unique is his understanding of the Vietnamese people and their culture. He has lived in Vietnam for many years and is especially interested in their taoist and buddhist philosophies. Only by understand their religions can one attempt to understand their culture and thought patterns.
Because he also understands he is not Vietnamese, and can never know them completely, he has developed a Vietnamese character who in originally more French than Vietnamese. Chau has been raised in a wealthy French oriented business family. He speaks Vietnamese poorly, knows little about his own country, and feels the only hope for the Vietnamese is to follow French modernism and ideals. An event in his life changes all that and he embarks on a voyage of discovery, not just to free his country from the French, but to learn what it means to be Vietnamese.
Bix, an American farm boy, is on a different type of discovery. He wants one great adventure before he settles for life on a farm. He joins the French Foreign Legion to find that adventure. There he meets a divergent group of misfits, from homosexuals to German S.S. soldiers running from the last war, all looking for an electric life.