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Apricot Marmalade and the Edmondson Transmittal
Lon Orey, author

A satire about a team of US Military Intelligence agents in Thailand during the height of the Vietnam War. They wear civilian clothes and carry credentials as they conduct counterintelligence investigations and surveillance of suspected enemy agents. Although well-motivated, their often humorous attempts to complete their assignments and stay out of trouble rarely succeed. The style and tone of this book have been compared to that of MASH and Catch 22.

Set just after the Tet Offensive, Orey’s satiric romp through Thailand in 1968 follows the missions of the 187th Military Intelligence Detachment at a time when American support for the war in Vietnam was ebbing. Despite that malaise, Ed Reynolds and his unruly counterespionage team still pack a punch as they complete, or attempt to complete, special assignments involving espionage, bombings, and snake-infested jungles, landing themselves in trouble time and again. Multiple team members’ operations get detailed from chapter to chapter, with Reynolds serving as this ensemble adventure’s protagonist. Prone to pointing out flaws in the orders he’s given, or that the orders themselves are an “asinine” waste of taxpayer money, Reynolds (named by his parents for J. Edgar Hoover) is often accused by his commanding officers of undermining the mission, making for tense relationships.

Orey builds the world of late 1960s Thailand in rich detail, demonstrating a persuasive command of the geography, language, and culture. Though the towns and characters are invented, the country itself is vividly rendered, offering readers an enjoyable and immersive travelogue. Orey includes so many characters, descriptions, and individual missions that the threads can be a challenge to track, especially for lay readers not steeped in military jargon or the era-specific references. As you might expect in a satiric novel, some characters, the villains and foils particularly, are so bizarre or convoluted they strain credulity, such as the hypersexual missionary or the seductive Russian intelligence agent.

What sets the book apart is Orey’s sharp pen, comic timing, and crack dialogue, as his scruffy band tracks its marks, deals with GRU agents and arms smugglers, faces imprisonment and torture, and tries, in its way, to maybe even see some justice get done. That dialogue and crisp descriptive action are well balanced throughout this ragged comedy that will appeal to fans of military fiction whether serious, pulpy, or satiric.

Takeaway: This satiric war novel sends a rowdy band of U.S. counter-espionage specialists into a well-realized 1968 Thailand.

Great for fans of: David Abrams’s Fobbit, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B