Reviews for The Thorium Stratagem
A couple of years ago, a friend recommended a new novel by Kent Hinckley (Hearts, Minds, and Coffee). I loved that book and checked out Amazon for other books by Hinckley. I was surprised to learn that that was his first novel. I was even more surprised to learn that Hinckley is no spring chicken but, rather, is a “seasoned” man who has found a new, invigorated stride after a successful career as a businessman. Who would have thought a businessman could write so well?
In the last month or so, I learned about Hinckley’s second novel, The Thorium Stratagem. (Thorium?? The only time in my life I had heard the word thorium was in Tom Lehrer’s great 1950s song, The Elements.)
I will admit it took me about twenty pages to get settled into this new novel. In part, this was due to my own advancing years; I’m a bit slower to sort out details in my head than I used to be. And in other part, it was because Hinckley did, indeed, introduce a lot of characters and action scenes in those early pages. However, once all that was reasonably sorted out in my graying head, the pace easily held my interest and I found myself trying to guess what the hell Hinckley was going to have his characters do next. I discovered that my efforts to guess correctly were dismal. Hinckley threw surprise after surprise at me. I like that, even though it reveals my own imagination to be, well, unimaginative.
In outline, much of the story is rather conventional in the sense that it involves political leaders of the U.S. and Russia; spies; counterspies; agents; double-agents; a hero evidently based on Hinckley; etc. But all that is beside the point (at least for me). What held my interest was the puzzle of the whole thing.
This novel, like Hinckley’s first, has an optimistic ending. If I could fault him in one respect, it is that this novel features so much government corruption, at the highest levels, and yet the good-guy top political leaders manage to pull the fat from the fire. My own inclination would be to bring the whole nation-state, political shebang crashing down. But, then, I can’t write novels.
Read it. You’ll love it.
After reading Mr. Hinckley’s first book, Hearts, Minds and Coffee, I eagerly awaited his second book, The Thorium Stratagem .After reading it, I have been ecstatic about it and recommend it highly to any and all who like mysteries and are also concerned with the many real dangers that the world faces today . The story moves rapidly with many twists and turns ; sometimes it is hard to keep track of which characters are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys .Until the very end of the book, the mystery is solved, and it leaves hope for us all.
Mr. Hinckley’s use of the English language continues to be spectacular; sometimes I had to look up a word, which makes me even more impressed.
I hope that you all will read it and enjoy it as much as I have.
Reviews for Hearts, Minds, and Coffee
An evocative book which will remain in my mind. I appreciate the skillfully written, stark truths expressed by the author. This book is highly recommended to readers who want knowledge about one perspective of the Vietnam war. Thank you Kent Hinckley for sharing your story.
How do you write a meaningful story about Vietnam that isn’t filled with body parts and pain? How do you find redemption in a war that has become a symbol of failed politics and wasted lives? Former Intelligence Officer Kent Hinckley has done this in a clear and kindly way, through characters who are believable and humane, including multiple sides of this complex war.
There’s a lot of kindness in “Hearts, Minds and Coffee” that sets it apart from most war novels, especially those that deal with Vietnam. There isn’t much cynicism, and no graphic blood-and-guts. Through his characters, we find realistic moments of anger, and recognition that citizens, even soldiers, can be different from the politicians who create the wars. These are believable characters, soldiers and villagers on opposing sides, who choose humane responses even as they are placed in what seems an endless situation.
By creating Slater Marshall and his special forces team, Hinckley presents a believable main character who is sucked into battle, armed with inferior weapons and misinformation, and who retains his sense of humanity. And he populates the story with memorable squad members, villagers, fly-boys, high ranking officers, grunts, opposing soldiers, and go-betweens of complicated loyalties.
His story also explains Vietnam to me in ways that my old military friends never could. The guys I knew didn’t want to talk about what happened there, and I don’t blame them. How could I understand? My 4-year navy stint ended in 1963, so I hadn’t been in Vietnam, a war I opposed. In 1966, when my old Naval Academy roommate wrote home to describe how he was out building schools in rural villages, I didn’t understand that, either. Was he justifying our country’s existence there, among all the brutality and carnage? Or was he trying to make a positive difference? It didn’t compute.
Hinckley’s novel helps to understand how men and women from my naive and idealistic generation could be consumed by this terrible war, and how some of them did positive things. It provides examples of small kindnesses, common sense, creative decisions within a deeply flawed system, and determination to remain human. And after all these years and wars and shattered lives, it even provides some rays of hope.
Hearts, Minds and Coffee is a great story! A very entertaining wartime adventure read, but also a wonderful story of love, the power of friendship, and one man’s courage to follow the course set by his moral compass while still fulfilling his duty to his fellow soldiers and remaining true to his sworn Oath of Service. Set during the Vietnam War, protagonist and newly minted 2nd Lieutenant Slater Marshall and his reconnaissance team find themselves living on their own, in enemy territory. What follows challenges the reader to ask themselves: “Would I, against all odds and the risk of violent death or Court Marshall, have the courage to work for peace in the midst of war?” Even though Hearts, Minds and Coffee is a work of fiction, the author states that many of the characters and events introduced in this novel were based on actual people and events. It is a surprisingly touching book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. I loved this book!
California author Kent Hinckley brings a rich background to his debut novel – a novel with a completely different view of the Vietnam War. He served in Army Intelligence in Vietnam, worked for Bank of America international finance in Taipei and Tokyo, worked in the real estate industry for over twenty years emphasizing green technologies, and now lives in San Diego, California.
Whether or not this book is a memoir or simply a very well considered novel is unknown but Kent Hinckley certainly knows how to build a story with a solid basis from childhood to pacifist Vietnam soldier. HEARTS, MINDS AND COFFEE is so very real to those of us who served in Vietnam in the same time frame as this book’s plot will notice all the left unsaid portions in the now famous pantheon of Vietnam novels (Tim O’Brien, Philip Caputo, etc) and that is why this book is destined to rise to that level of anti-war novels.
Kent’s main character is Slater Marshall whose childhood was spent on a farm with an abusive father and a passive mother, a lad who as he grew realized his fear and loathing of injury and killing, join the ROTC in order to afford school, studied Vietnamese, found himself destined for military duty, and being a pacifist at heart he elects to remain in the back support groups. Assigned to Viet Cong controlled territory he discovered a family in a small village and against all odds manages to save the Vietnamese villagers and his fellow Americans and in short becomes the truest kind of hero.
Kent’s manner of pacing this novel is so practiced, so natural, so seamless that his writing betrays his presence of a nascent author in the field of contemporary literature. He is a fine writer, offers an entirely new look to the Vietnam War legacy and his timing could not be better. As the reports mount of the high incidence of PTSD among Vietnam Vets and now repeated among those returning from the various wars in the middle East, it helps the public view war differently – and becomes an homage to those who are placed in war zones physically but whose hearts and minds remain with the afflicted people. Highly Recommended.
I’ve read many military books, but this one was quite interesting to me since it was from a different perspective. Slater’s story is one that had me captivated from the start, and it was eye-opening and inspiring to hear of his journey with fellow soldiers in Vietnam. I think this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the Vietnam War, and anyone who wishes to read a tale of one soldier’s quest for peace and understanding.
I have read several war related books and also take a couple history classes in college, but never have I read one with quite the same perspective as “Hearts, Minds, and Coffee.”
Slater Marshall is a small town boy from Iowa who is the first in his family to graduate college. Like most graduates he has plans but those are sidetracked when he is drafted into the Vietnam War. Although he is opposed to the war, he finds himself off to boot camp and then shipped off to the jungle. Open with his peaceful beliefs, he is quickly on the bad side of a more traditional commander. The commander sends him along with 3 other soldiers on a mission with little to no expectations of survival. These four men band together and instead of trying to fight for their survival, simply befriend a Viet Cong village named Phan Lac and earn the trust of its villagers.
The story is uplifting and I love that Slater has his peaceful beliefs and is able to actually live them in this crazy scary situation he finds himself in. I thought Kent Hinckley did a fantastic job of developing Slater and making him a believable leader to the band of misfits. I think that even though this may have been a work of fiction, it brings to light the realities of Vietnam and Slater’s unique point of view. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good war story and I will be passing it along to my Dad in Afghanistan. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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