Mervyn Brown, War in Shangri-La: A Memoir of Civil War in Laos, Radcliffe Press / I. B. Tauris, 2001, 288 p.
Sandwiched between US-supported Thailand and Communist North Vietnam, the tranquil Buddhist Kingdom of Laos–the original Shangri-La–became the center of a major Cold War crisis in the early sixties, when Mervyn Brown served there as deputy to the British Ambassador. He has written a fascinating and highly readable account of his often hazardous experiences, which included the battle of Vientiane passing through his garden and a grueling month as prisoner of left-wing Pathet Lao guerrillas in remote mountainous jungle inhabited by Stone Age aboriginal people. His story is set against a detailed account of the developing political and military crisis. It reveals the tensions that developed in the US between the newly elected President Kennedy, his Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and their advisors in the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon while a regional policy was formulated in the face of the perceived communist threat.
Sir Mervyn Brown, after Oxford where be gained a tennis blue and formed life long friendships with Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin mainly through jazz, became a career diplomat, and served in Buenos Aires, Singapore and Vientiane, as Ambassador to Madasgascar and Benin, and as High Commissioner to Tanzania and Nigeria, with spells at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United Nations.
Table of contents:
Foreword–The Rt Hon The Lord Carrington, KG, CH * Life Before Laos * A Short History Lesson * Last Days of Peace * The Little Captain and the Invisible King * The Battle of Vientiane * World Crisis * The Plain of Jars * Stalemate in Vientiane * An Involuntary Tour of the South * Success at Last * Things Fall Apart * Dream Turns to Nightmare * Ends and Means
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