It all started in 1969 when Staff Sergeant Jerry Andrews of Special Forces A-Detachment 255 brought six of his team members back to Pleiku in body bags—It was the longest chopper ride of his life.
Twenty-two years later, Jerry is a middle-aged police detective that has been assigned to a mysterious string of brutal serial killings in the "Little Saigon" section of Los Angeles. The similarities of the killings bring back ghastly memories of Jerry's three tours in the jungles of the central highlands during the Vietnam War. All the victims are Vietnamese. All the victims have been mutilated in a similar fashion. There is no doubt in Jerry's mind that the murders are linked, somewhere, to his past—a past where he’d fought side by side with his U.S. Army, Green Beret, brothers in the jungles of Vietnam.
Colonel Vinh Ho and his family escaped Vietnam in the airlift of 1975. They were taken out by chopper just as the American Embassy fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese Army and the Communist Government of Ho Chi Minh. Vinh Ho had political clout in the South and friends in the north, as well as being a CIA double agent. During the war years, he’d made many political contacts on both sides of the pond and amassed enormous wealth—wealth that he spread over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Unbeknownst to the American government that supported him, he had parlayed his ill-gotten gains into a huge illicit drug business operating out of the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia. Vinh Ho personally headed up his operation and, with the help of an ex-patriot American, ruled it with an iron fist.
Gunner McConnell was smuggled out of Vietnam under unusual circumstances. He was a member of Special Forces A-Detachment 255 at Plei Me. As a Special Forces A-Team member, he was a cool and calculating, cold-blooded killer. After the war, Gunner only cared about two things in life… pussy and prosperity. Colonel Vinh Ho took care of Gunner's needs and Gunner ran the Colonel's drug operation, just as directed, with an iron fist. It was on one of Gunner's frequent trips to L.A. that Jerry Andrews first became aware of his presence. As it happened, the timing of his trip coincided with one of the murders he was investigating and Jerry knew he had a new lead, a "person of interest," in the person of his former teammate.
William Baines Beal, "Willy," was also one of the former members of A-255, one of the team members that didn't fill a body bag on that fateful day back in '69. Like a lot of his former mates, life after Nam became an interminable fight for existence and a daily battle for his physical and mental life. Willy had become a street person, an alcoholic, and a man, who when he was sober, had a penchant for American political history—especially the political history of the Vietnam War. Willy, like many of his brother warriors, was locked out of America when he came home from the unpopular war. Like many of these warriors, Willy, was headed for an anonymous death, a cheap pine box and an obscure burial in "Potter's Field." When his friend, "Preacher," dies from AIDS, Willy becomes a man with a mission, a man driven by acrimony and vindictiveness. Willy blames the death of his friend on the drugs and dirty needles that were sold to him by the pushers in the Colonel's vast drug organization. Willy, for all his shortcomings, knows that Gunner McConnell is still alive. Willy also knows that Jerry is one of L.A.'s finest and meets with him from time to time at Jerry's favorite watering hole—the 44 Magnum. Willy Beal knows all about Colonel Vinh Ho, the drug cartel he ran out of Vietnam and the drug empire he has built up in Little Saigon—and he means to tear it down!
CLUB SAIGON is a fast-paced, serious, story of life after the Vietnam War for four members of A-Detachment 255. All the characters are as divergent in their lifestyles as they are in their sensibilities. CLUB SAIGON will keep you on the edge of your chair, and just when you think you know who the serial killer is, another plot twist will lead you down the convoluted path that leads you through the front door of CLUB SAIGON—where membership is required!
"Robert Martin Grossman’s Club Saigon (Koehler Books, 412 pp. $30.94, hardcover; $21.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle) is a brutally violent murder mystery set in Los Angeles nearly two decades after the end of the Vietnam War. The story line goes back and forth between late-sixties South Vietnam and early-nineties L.A. This is ingeniously represented by the fact that a bar in Pleiku and one in L.A. both share the name, Club Saigon.
The story begins in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam early 1968 when a Special Forces compound is overrun by forces of the North Vietnamese Army. Grossman—who served in the Green Berets himself—writes that six good men died on that night while back home “the hippies were burning the flag.”
The next thing we know it’s twenty-two years later and Jerry Andrews is a detective with the LAPD. He left the Army after three tours in the Vietnam War and is now basically killing time while he waits for his retirement in three years.
He’s investigating the murder of a Vietnamese man in an alley in Little Saigon, a one-square mile area in the City of Angels. One of the dead man’s his ears had been removed by his assailant. That bit of information causes Andrews to recall an incident from his time in Nam.
Andrews lives in a one-room efficiency apartment. His “last wife” had left him, he hasn’t attended church in over ten years, and he spends a great deal of his time at a cop bar called 44 Magnum. Sometimes he has nightmares based on his combat experiences in the Ia Drang Valley. He also suffers from migraine headaches, which are coming more frequently and more painfully.
Additional dead bodies begin showing up in the alleys of Little Saigon. All Vietnamese, each missing an ear. Andrews somehow doesn’t consider the possibility that there’s a serial killer on the loose until after the sixth death. This is also a guy who seems surprised to walk into a men’s room in a bar and notice that it “smelled like piss.”
As he continues his investigation, Andrews comes across evidence that could involve a few of his Special Forces buddies—guys he’s had no contact with since the war. Then one of them becomes his main suspect. There’s a problem though: the man has been dead for years.
Andrews and his buddies don’t seem to be a very enlightened bunch. They’ve apparently always harbored prejudice against Vietnamese. As Andrews puts it: he’s still “slightly racist when it came to Vietnamese.”
During the war Andrews and company spoke of “ARVN assholes” and “fucking farmers,” and were known to urinate on dead enemy bodies. More than twenty years later they wonder why Vietnamese refugees in America can’t “learn proper English,” and think of them as people who typically “eat dog meat.”
Grossman’s novel explores some interesting concepts such as astral projection, dreamscapes, shapeshifters, and “counting coup.” As brutally told as this story is, it’s light reading, falling into the area of testosterone-driven revenge fantasy."
"Club Saigon - a realistically gritty crime drama that succeeds in painting a vivid picture of the unspoken struggles often experienced by Vietnam Veterans long after returning home."
"No account has captured the silent struggle of the Vietnam Veteran more successfully than Club Saigon. A realistic crime drama that paints a masterfully gritty picture of the unending pain experienced by the veteran long after returning home."
“Club Saigon” hits the nail right on the head: If the career politicians send American GI’s to fight, then the career politicians should get out of the way, and let the career military do the job. it made no sense to me that the politicians in Washington, D.C. were making us GI’s play by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules . . . which wasted 50,000+ GI lives
“Club Saigon is a fast-paced, action packed murder thriller that is equal parts police and military drama. In addition to entertaining his readers, Mr. Grossman sheds much needed light on the struggles too many Vietnam Veterans continue to face to this day.”
“Club Saigon” reminds me of the gritty Matt Helm stories I read back in the 1960s. His lead character, Police Detective Jerry Andrews, is jaded, ruthless, pragmatic, and yet somehow competent—I can’t put it down!
“Club Saigon” is a murder mystery with an abundance of intrigue, plenty of action and never lacking in interest or excitement. It’s a combination of military and police work set in the aftermath of Vietnam War. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, in fact, it’s one of the best I have read.