Synopses & Reviews
This is the true story of a young American reporter who went to Vietnam with an open mind and an innocent heart and was plunged into a world of cruel beauty and savage violence. His experiences in the war forced him to question all his assumptions about his country, the nation's leaders and his own sanity.
John Laurence covered Vietnam for CBS News from 1965 to 1970. He was judged by his colleagues to be the best television reporter of the war. He and his camera team lived with a squad of U.S. troops in the jungles of War Zone C to film The World of Charlie Company, a documentary that received every major award for broadcast journalism. Despite the proffessional acclaim, the traumatic stories Laurence covered became a personal burden that he carried long after the war was over. He struggled with memories of the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hué, incoming artillery at Khe-Sanh and Con Thien, the wounding of those around him, the deaths of his friends the killing of civillians, a colonel who smoked opium during the siege of his camp, American troops who fell in love with their dead comrades. Mostly, his conscience haunted him about a close encounter with a North Vietnamese soldier that forced him to make a decision of life and death.
After years of reckoning with his memories, Laurence has made sense of them in this memoir by weaving them into a compelling story. It is laced with humor, anger, love, and the unforgettable tale of a very idiosyncratic cat who was determined to play his part in the Vietnam revolution. In reconstructing his experiences, he has relied not only on his notes and memory, but also on hundreds of hours of film footage shot at the time. This gives the book an uncanny vividness and fidelity to facts.
The Cat from Hué is filled with bizarre stories of unexpected human behavior, of famous names and of unknown soldiers, of the worlds of the American grunt and the Vietnamese civilian, of incredible humanity and courage, of corruption and cowardice, and of the personal price of survival and sanity. Along the way, it clarifies the history of that murky war and the role that journalists (some of them as crazy as they were brave) played in altering its course. Finally, the book offers a secret to survival for those who still struggle, as he did, with the demons of Vietnam.
For anyone who was there, for anyone who wants to discover what it was like to be there, fora ll of us trying to understand what the Vietnam War meant and still means for America, The Cat from Hué is memorable reading.
"Those of us who, with virtually unstinted admiration, followed Jack Laurence's seemingly fearless reporting from Vietnam have waited thirty years for this book. He does not disappoint. It is a classic of war reporting." Walter Cronkite
"In this book Jack Laurence becomes the Odysseus of the Vietnam War, returning years later with fresh news of the battles and tales of his journey so vividly told that readers will feel they accompanied him and saw what combat was really like and what it does to the mind and soul. Possibly the best television correspondent of the Vietnam War. Laurence has written a book that is at once intelligent, perceptive and gripping. I, for one, couldn't put it down." Frances Fitzerald
"I met John Laurence in Vietnam during the battle of Hué Citadel, Tet 1968. Since that time I have followed his career and have been impressed with his honesty in reporting and amazed at his vast experience in Vietnam and other hot spots around the world. He brings that experience and integrity to The Cat from Hué. If you want to know how it was in Vietnam, read this book it is superb." Colonel Bob Thompson, U.S. Marine Corps (retired)
"Jack Laurence went to Vietnam in 1965 when he was twenty-five and quickly established himself as one of the most distinguished correspondents of that war. No other reporter's work so successfully captured the feelings and emotions of the grunts who fought it. Now, more than thirty years later, he has finally published his memoir of that time a kind of modern era Red Badge of Courage a coming of age as a young man against a background of sheer terror. More than any book I know it explains what happened in the complicated collision between those who fought the war and those who covered it." David Halberstam
"The Cat from Hué is wonderfully vivid, wonderfully written. On our long shelf of Vietnam books, I don't think I've read anything that captures so immediately the peculiar taste of the war. Laurence writes as if it all were yesterday. In the clear time-capsule of his memory, the stories he renders with a fiction writer's skills are nonetheless never invented, always true to events, as if anything less would dishonor the dead." John Balaban
"A fascinating story that captures the tragedy of Vietnam superbly. I hope it finds a place on the bookshelves of all serious professional soldiers. They will profit from its incisive observation and masterful storytelling." General Robert Shoemaker, U.S. Army (retired)
An evocative memoir of the madness and miracles of the Vietnam War is presented by an award-winning reporter whose experiences in combat--and whose relationship with a Vietnamese cat named Meo--have haunted and inspired him for more than 25 years.
About the Author
John Laurence was a foreign correspondent for CBS and ABC News who covered many of the most important events of our times: from the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 to the bringing down of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet empire. He reported more than fifteen wars and revolutions. He lives in rural England with a tribe of abandoned cats.