When Joe dies, his brother Jack thinks it’s an accident… until the parcel arrives with Joe’s diaries and notebooks, and the map of the cabin high up in the Appalachians where Joe’s war buddy, Wash, is hiding out with a girl he’s kidnapped – just the latest in a long line of girls. Joe has one last favour to ask of his brother. He wants Jack to rescue the girl and – if he has to – kill Wash too. So starts a complex and intense tale that involves a journey back to Vietnam and into the dark past: a past where Clausewitz, the philosopher of war, meets de Sade, the philosopher of man’s own individual evil. But there are too the incendiary eyes of innocent judgment. And there is love – and love is complicated.
“An extraordinary page-turner. Intricately plotted, with astute observations that capture the fingernails-on-a-blackboard atmosphere of Vietnam, then and now. Reminiscent of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene. It’s up there with the best.” — Colin Leinster, former Vietnam correspondent, LIFE magazine
“Chamberlain, who lived and wrote in Hong Kong for 25 years until 2000 but still returns occasionally from the UK, weaves an intricate plot in Alphabet, which captures the tense atmosphere of Vietnam, back in wartime days and now. It centres around Jack, whose brother Joe – a ‘Nam veteran – has died, and features Joe’s war buddy, Wash, who has kidnapped a girl. With its effective staccato-legato rhythm, it builds tension from the off.” — Time Out
“When I came across this title while writing my Summer Reading List, I knew it was going to be a fascinating read.“ — The Examiner
“Vietnam is a word that simultaneously conjures up a country and a war – and not just any war. It was a war that revealed to America a glimpse of the darkness of its own psyche. This novel is an exploration of this darkness and its continuing ability to infect the present. In short, when men come back from war, they bring the war back with them. … To my mind there are two things that make a worthy writer: life and commitment. Why do we think the next great novel is going to come from a young person? It is the middle–aged and elderly who have lived life. Fiction that is not informed by a mind that has had some experience of life is not worth reading. So live life and explore yourself in that life – be aware, listen, feel.” — read the interview at Selling Books
“This book really got to me. I am a veteran, I fought in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971 with the Australian Army and in Cambodia in 1972 with FANK against the NVA and the KR. Chamberlain has touched on something here that very few people have the slightest idea about. The darkness in us all that the combat experience can somehow turn into something that can consume us. It can turn us into something less than human, it’s a kind of rage and its call is siren to say the least. The mix of fear, power, adrenaline, hatred and despair is a volatile one and once a person is in its clutches it can be very difficult indeed to get out. I know, because although I did ultimately manage to claw my way out, it really did nearly have me, it nearly took me for good or worse and I did much under its influence that I relive sometimes, those incidents seem surreal as though I read about them once or saw them on TV, but no, it was me or at least the person I once was. I could truly identify with Joe and Wash, I was often repulsed by them but there was much in them that is in me and it has seen the light of day – and that is truly frightening. I guess more of Joe than Wash but, believe me, I have known plenty who just like Wash went down that road, seeking the combat context which allowed them to dance with that particular devil. I was truly on the way to being one of them. This is not an easy book to read but it is an extraordinary piece of work.” — Amazon review