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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
NOVEMBER 2012
41
Mossy Memoir of a Rolling Stone
Thompson Buchanan, New Academia
Publishing, 2011, $24, paperback,
210 pages.
“Russian cab drivers, Tsarist palaces,
Kremlin leaders, Foggy Bottom and the
African jungle—they are all here in Tom
Buchanan’s witty and fast-paced memoir
of a fascinating life in the Foreign Service,”
says retired Ambassador Edward Hurwitz.
In
Mossy Memoir of a Rolling Stone
, Russia expert and Foreign
Service ofcer Tomas Buchanan refects on his career in the
Soviet Union and Africa and his childhood, education and service
in World War II with charming style. His service in Moscow
coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination
of President John F. Kennedy. During the latter incident, he
witnessed the amazement of Russians that such an egregious act
could occur in the land of the free.
He ofers insightful commentary on cultural diferences while
highlighting somber truths about the disastrous Soviet tour-
ism failures and the crises in the agricultural and most other
economic sectors. His memoir, which is a volume in the ADST
Memoirs and Occasional Papers series, is at once informative
and enthralling as readers get a glimpse of one man’s part of U.S.
foreign policy history.
Tomas Buchanan joined the State Department in 1948 as
an intelligence specialist on the Soviet Union and entered the
Foreign Service seven years later. He has served overseas in Paris,
Moscow, Bujumbura, Libreville, Oslo and Leningrad. Since his
1981 retirement, he has periodically worked for State and USAID.
Sunsets in Singapore:
A Foreign Service Memoir
William S. Shepard, Amazon
Digital Services, Inc., 2012,
$2.99, Kindle Edition.
Tis personal memoir of diplomatic
service spans a quarter-century, from
the author’s administrative duties as a
general services ofcer in tropical Sin-
gapore to political analysis behind the Iron Curtain in Budapest.
Te work shows how American diplomacy works overseas. It
gives the reader an insider’s view of a typical American embassy,
the responsibilities of each section and how they work together.
From personal security to representation, the career skills
needed for modern diplomacy emerge here. So do the experi-
ences of diplomatic families as they move around the globe,
accumulating the memories of a lifetime.
An absorbing read, the book has also proved useful for some
new Foreign Service members. “I recently passed the Oral
Assessment portion of the Foreign Service Exam, and can attest
to the relevance of William Shepard’s experiences to the type of
hypothetical situations raised by the examiners,” one writes. “An
FS candidate will learn not only from the specifc examples cited
in the book, but more importantly fromMr. Shepard’s thought
process while handling a wide variety of issues facing members of
the diplomatic corps.”
Career FSOWilliam S. Shepard, who retired as consul general
in Bordeaux, also served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens
and Washington, D.C. He has written more than a dozen books
on a variety of topics, most recently a history of “unknown” con-
ficts
(see p. 30) a
nd a new collection of mysteries
(see p. 51).
FICTION & POETRY
The Flowers of War
Geling Yan (Translated from Chinese by
Nicky Harman), Other Press LLC, 2012,
$15.95, paperback, 256 pages.
Te Flowers of War
begins in 1937 just
after the Japanese Imperial Army has
entered Nanking. Te St. Mary Magda-
lene mission becomes the residence of schoolgirls and courte-
sans from a nearby brothel. Mortician John Miller has come to
the convent to bury the recently deceased head priest. However,
as the Japanese enter the city and start wreaking havoc on its
citizens, he decides to pose as the priest in order to protect the
girls.
Te story centers on the themes of survival, fear and, ulti-
mately, sacrifce. Tere is also a strong dichotomy between the
innocent schoolgirls and the worldly visitors from the brothel. It
is a quick but fascinating read about one of the most tragic and
infamous events of the 20th century. A movie based on the book,
starring Christian Bale as Miller, was released in December 2011.
Geling Yan published her frst novel in 1985 and has written
numerous works since, including two novels—
Te Uninvited
(Faber, 2006) and
Te Lost Daughter of Happiness
(Hyperion,
2001). Her husband, Lawrence Walker, is a Foreign Service
ofcer.