Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Little Saigon #01 - Abel's War

Author Nicholas Cain is a former US Army MP, sergeant and Vietnam Vet. After penning his experiences for the manuscript “Saigon Alley”, he was later rejected by publishers and convinced by Zebra to convert it to a series entitled 'Saigon Commandos', which ran 12 total books. Cain wrote the 'War Dogs' series as Nik Uhernik, eight entries of 'Chopper-1” as Jack Hawkins as well as writing three novels for 'Able Team' as Dick Stivers. In 1989, the 'Little Saigon' series debut, “Abel's War”, was launched by Lynx Books. It was the first of six novels starring Police Lieutenant Luke Abel, a former MP and Vietnam War vet. The character parallels the author's own life, but is it worth reading? Sadly...it's hit or miss.

Protagonist Luke Abel worked seven years in Old Saigon, three in Santa Ana and another ten years for the L.A.P.D. The book's beginning has Abel working for an elite Department of Justice arm called M.A.G. (Metro Asian Gang) task force. The traditional territorial boundaries between police and Sheriff's departments in the L.A. metropolitan area are largely ignored by M.A.G. The officers selected for this division are skilled veterans approved by the Justice Department and given free reign to conduct investigations as detectives. The book's premise is the rivalry between Chinese and Vietnamese gangs in Little Saigon as the Tet Lunar New Year festivities approach.

This debut plays out like a weird episode of 'ChiPS'. There's talk of the rivalry and a few centralized run-ins with a gang leader, but overall it is just a series of daily procedures in the life of a M.A.G. Officer. None of it is really that interesting and it has taken nearly 2 weeks to complete all 214 pages. It's a bit cumbersome with a lot of flashback sequences revealing Abel's MP work in Vietnam and his unfortunate separation from Xinh, the love of his life. I'm hesitant to agree with the book's title as there really isn't an “Abel's War” to be found here. It's just a standardized police procedural that sort of mucks along. Depending on how much you like the police sub-genre is the gauge on “Abel's War” entertaining you. 

I'll pass on the next volume but I'm giving a tip of the hat to Nicholas Cain. His volunteer service time in Vietnam (despite a high draft number) and as a Colorado state trooper is commendable. In 1990 he stopped writing to concentrate on private investigation.