"ELECTRIFYING... Andrew Kaplan is at his dazzling best in Dragonfire
... The term 'Dragonfire' neatly evokes the extraordinary narrative heat generated in this best novel yet from talented Andrew Kaplan... This exciting novel of adventure changes into a grim but thrilling novel of revenge, exploding into twist after twist until the knockout, shivery ending... a searing, ultimately satisfying entertainment with energy, passion, and moral resonance."
"UNEQUIVOCALLY EXPLOSIVE! Snaps you up with its first page and hangs right in there. Kaplan, with the surehandedness of a pro, knows well the underbelly business of spycraft."
--Gerald Browne, author of "Stone 588"
"A superb and original blending of Eastern mysticism with the shadowy world of espionage."
--Nelson DeMille, author of
"Medal of Honor"
"A Hit! ... Not only a modern version of Dante's Inferno, it is the most complete available manual of covert CIA field operations, has fascinating lore about Asia, and contains more cliffhangers per square inch of chapter than can be measured."
--Richard Condon, author of "Prizzi's Honor"
They were friends once. The kind of special friends the men of the hill tribes call “death friends” to distinguish them from those with whom one merely shares rice and talk. Nearly two decades later, the fact that they had known each other at all became a critical element of the Dragonfire operation, as the affair came to be called within the National Security Council.
Locked inside the “Black Vault”, the innermost sanctum within the CIA complex in Langley, there actually exists a photograph of all of them together. All except Pranh, who snapped the shot. Of course, no photograph of Pranh himself was ever needed, because there was a time when, under the name Son Lot, you could find his face on posters plastered all over Cambodia.
Still attached to the photo is a yellowing label typed by some long-forgotten Army S-2 intelligence analyst. It reads: “U.S. Special Forces advisers attached to the 11th ARVN Ranger Battalion. Parrot’s Beak sector, Cambodia. 5 June 1970.”
The photo itself is black and white. It shows four young men sitting in relaxed poses atop an armored personnel carrier. They are wearing camouflage fatigues dappled by the sunlight and are cradling their weapons with the casual ease that comes with long familiarity. One of them, Parker, is caught in the act of flipping his cigarette in the direction of the camera.
He seems tanned, even cocky, wearing the kind of cynical sneer that only the truly innocent are capable of. In the middle is the agent later known only as Sawyer. The photo is the only physical evidence he ever existed, because after Dragonfire, his personnel file and all cross-references to his real identity were purged from the data banks of the CIA’s Cray supercomputer.
In the picture, he is shirtless and so lean you can almost count the ribs. His green beret is draped over the muzzle of a captured AK-47, and he is squinting in the strong sunlight. He still had two good eyes then and without the eye-patch that was to become his trademark, looks like a young Jack Kennedy. Next to him is Harold Johnson, nicknamed “Brother Rap,” fist clenched in the Black Power salute. He sports a sparse, nineteen-year-old’s mustache, a Black Power shoelace bracelet, love beads, and “Born to Kill” painted in white letters on his helmet liner. And squatting near the machine gun mount is Major Lu, wearing green fatigues and oversized aviator sunglasses that make him look like how the Buddha might look if he had been turned into a frog.
It was an ordinary photo. It captured only their faces, not their souls.
On the day after it was taken, their friendship was torn apart forever.