Cages of Smoke, A Military Adventure
Harry Weston is a soldier repatriated to New Zealand following service in Malaya. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful Kiwi girl ‘Moana’, but tragically loses her when she is killed in a car crash. Filled with anguish and deeply concerned by the presence of a man that he knows nothing of, killed with her in the car, he wants some answers as to exactly what happened. Her family, always against their relationship, reject him and refuse to let him near. Distraught he turns to the bottle for relief.
One boozy night somewhere near the docks in Auckland he gets himself shanghaied by a couple of military looking characters that had wandered into his local drinking den and plied him with drinks. He quickly sobers up when he realises that their intentions are not as friendly as he first thought, escorted to a backstreet building he is presented to an army captain that he vaguely remembers from somewhere during his time in the Far East. After a short conversation his memory is fully restored, but this is a story he would rather not recall; drunk or sober.
The captain tries to blackmail him, citing an incident from his past in Singapore when he kept the company of a psychopathic Australian who had bragged of orchestrating the rape of a previous girlfriend. The Australian had mysteriously disappeared and Harry was reported to be the last person that had seen him alive, an event he remembers only too well.
Unwilling to co-operate, Harry has to be coerced into a mission to Hong Kong. His purpose: to neutralize Robert Tan, an American soldier once a victim of brain washing during the Korean War; and now suspected of influencing powerful people that could draw New Zealand into the escalating Vietnam War. Neither colonial officials nor Triads welcome Harry to Hong Kong, and by the time he arrives it is too late, Kiwi combat troops were already committed to Vietnam.
Harry is completely baffled as to why he was specifically chosen for this task, why he was forcibly re-enlisted back into the New Zealand army and then sent on an espionage mission that could never achieve its objective. This was never a role he had performed during his military duties. It seemed to be the story of his life, everything going wrong with no explanations and at a time when he is grieving the loss of his girlfriend.
Living the life of an expat on government funding seemed to suit him however; he started to make friends and met a beautiful Australian/Chinese girl who eased the pain and suffering of his previous loss. But once again the story is not straightforward and he bears witness to a sequence of events that result in more dead bodies, his new girlfriend Mei-ling is responsible for at least one of them and has to flee to Taiwan to escape the Hong Kong authorities.
Once more alone and the objective of his mission now impossible, Harry’s second life in the military comes to an end; he receives notice to leave Hong Kong and heads back to New Zealand as a civilian. Unable to settle there, he eventually finds work in New Guinea. Here he has to start again, his military adventure at an end, or so he thought. He starts works at a school teaching the local kids carpentry and lives in a community full of expats both from Europe and the Pacific regions.
The jungles of New Guinea are a dangerous place, littered with the remnants of the Pacific war, many of which are completely unstable. But they are also seen as a source of potential income for the locals and some of the kids Harry teaches go hunting for military refuse so they can report their whereabouts for a reward.
The political climate he finds himself in is also pretty unstable, New Guinea is preparing for independence and some very unsavory characters take up residence. They are out to get what they can from the country, no matter what the cost to the people that live there, especially those that try and stand in their way. These characters are the flotsam and jetsam of the war in Europe – refugees or protagonists – ex-pats from Australia and other Pacific countries; all people drawn by an isolated frontier and a country that is ripe for exploitation.
A Soldier’s Story
Harry got his fair share of military adventure as a soldier and, as an expat living in a volatile world, he saw a load more he wasn’t expecting. Growing older changes your values in life and Harry was no exception, he began to recognise the futility of war and of military intervention. When he finally meets Dawn and they settle down together, the years pass and this old soldier’s story seems set to have a happy ending, but not before he has deal with a few more nasty people and ultimately has to give up on living life as an expat.
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You can see the author’s profile using this link Markham Turner – War Romance Author