Book Reviews

Colors of WAR & PEACE: A Collection of Short Stories
By D.M. Thompson
Daniel M. Thompson
1st edition (03/23/2018)
190 pages

Hues of Green: A Critical History of D.M. Thompson’s Colors of War & Peace
By Edgar Tiffany
Edgar Tiffany (01/312023)
223 pages

By Jim Suber

I. The Book

Colors of War & Peace was written by Dan Thompson. It was published in 2018 and can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Abe Books, among others.

Thompson served two tours in the Vietnam War as a Green Beret in the highly secretive, unconventional and elite “MACV-SOG” (Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group) from 1968 to 1970. His assignments included Hatchet Force platoon leader, Recon Team Leader (One-Zero), Covey Rider, along with brief stints as asst-S-2 and S-3 and Launch Site Commander. SOG ran missions behind enemy lines in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam from 1965 to 1972. Adding to their mystique, SOG men were bound by 20-year non-disclosure agreements that prohibited communication with anyone (including themselves) about that group — with threat of prosecution, and perhaps federal imprisonment for breech or infraction.

Thompson’s book is a collection of eight powerful short stories sharing his experience before, during, and after the war. It includes a brief foray in the business world as a stockbroker, away from the war but not far enough from his recurring addiction to high-risk, high-reward — sadly compounded by inept leadership. The stories are beautifully written — authentic, transparent, intelligent, tragic, ironic, sarcastic, humorous, and, of course, “colorful.” There are numerous magical literary moments — metaphors, imagery, symbolism — inducing the reader to pause, smile, or sigh.

Thompson courageously exposes his own deeply personal “Jacob at Peniel” story; like the Biblical figure Jacob, who wrestled with angels and himself throughout the night, Thompson’s stories reveal his determination to find peace for himself and his fallen comrades. Thompson not only describes his poignant emotions, but also skillfully “leads” the reader to join his earnest search for answers.

Those that never served in combat (and most have not) cannot completely understand the depth of his experience and anguish, yet Colors of War & Peace artfully magnifies what warriors have said for thousands of years. Dwight D. Eisenhower, for one, said it to the Canadian Club in Ottawa in January 1946 (shortly after World War II):

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Most of us cannot imagine the burdens a warrior carries long after the war. Thompson’s book often refers to the French and their war, the American precursor in Indochina. Perhaps that is a hint that the answer can be found in the French word for war, guerre. That word shares the same root as their word for healing, guerir — suggesting that finding peace often, surprisingly, requires combative resolve to obliterate our internal demons, doubts, and fears. Thompson’s writing shows that resolve and a healing.

II. A Book about a Book

Hues of Green: A Critical History of D.M. Thompson’s Colors of War & Peace by Edgar Tiffany was published in 2022. It became available in early 2023 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Mager and Quinn Booksellers, and, among others.

Edgar Tiffany is a Vietnam Veteran. He served in the First Infantry Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 509th Airborne Infantry Regiment (8th Infantry Division’s airborne arm in Europe) and U.S. Army Special Forces. He also served in the post-Vietnam Special Forces Reserves which is where he met (then) Captain Thompson.

Tiffany connects to Thompson’s “colors” with his interpretive “Hues,” and explains his “book about a book” as,

“This critical history of the writing of Colors of War & Peace and ‘a man like any other’ was motivated by the respect I have developed for him, my long history in viewing experiences of this author and a realization, over the four years since its publication, that Colors of War & Peace was a far ‘deeper’ read than I allotted it on the first go-around.” (Page 19)

Tiffany goes on to say,

“I have always carried Vietnam around in my head as GREEN. It was (a) place that reverberated with hues of green and I have said as much in my own writing . . . It is safe to say that these same hues of green have drawn me to the deeper intentions and meanings of Thompson’s Colors of War & Peace, to catch the flickering vision behind his metaphors and lead, as you will see, to answers fascinating, mysterious and challenging.” (Page 20)

“A book about a book,” eh? Could two special operations guys devise a scheme to make us read both books — twice? Yes, they could. Sneaky bastards! If that was their intent, then it certainly worked on me! Without question, their “collaboration” makes both “reads” brilliantly richer.

Like his Special Forces captain, Edgar Tiffany is a fabulous writer and provides extraordinary insight into each of Thompson’s eight short stories. As a bonus, Tiffany weaves in observations about an earlier writing from Thompson in 1994 (suspiciously released just after the 20-year non-disclosure moratorium required from all that served in SOG) titled In Search of My Rune. Tiffany spotlights Thompson’s numerous (albeit sometimes camouflaged) references to Alfred Lloyd Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe, the chorus in classic Greek tragedy, and a hundredfold others. Tiffany also provides absolutely hilarious and virtuosic illustrations of how Thompson’s “real, but ludicrous situations are informed by snatches of Marx Brothers-like dialogue reminiscent of Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, Horse Feathers, and Monkey Business, among others.” (Pages 45-48)

Dan Thompson means the world to me — especially his love, respect, and devotion for his fallen comrades in MACV-SOG. He was the Covey Rider that oversaw the last insertion of Recon Team Oregon (two Americans and four indigenous teammates) behind enemy lines in Laos. That team included my oldest brother who was listed as Missing-In-Action (MIA) on November 13, 1969. The two Americans, Ron Ray (“One-Zero”) and Randy Suber (“One-One”), remain Missing-In-Action to this day. My wish for Dan Thompson is that he continues wrestling for answers and shares his journey with the rest of us in his magnificent writing.

These two men are talented writers whom, I believe, are finding some solace and peace in their artful writing. The reader is richly rewarded. Both books are mesmerizing reads — especially if you read them twice or more!

Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Special Forces
5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 22 May 1947
Home City of Record: Ballwin, MO
Date of Loss: 13 November 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action