I set the novel Red Flags in an area I knew well – Phu Bon, the most remote province in Vietnam. Roughly the size of Delaware, Phu Bon was beautiful and desolate, underpopulated by Vietnamese – maybe 11,000, mostly resettled unwillingly from the north — but the ancestral heartland of the Jarai tribe of what the French called Montagnards, “people of the mountains,” and the Vietnamese called moi, “savages.” Sixty thousand Montagnards lived in Phu Bon’s 5000 square kilometers.
Not counting the tigers, snakes, crocodiles and the steady flow of tourists from North Vietnam trekking toward the coast or setting up rest areas to recuperate from their long journey on the Ho Chi Minh trail, that worked out to just under thirty-five people per square mile. When I was there, a grand total of seventy-six residents of the province were American soldiers, missionaries and the occasional CIA spook. Seventy-six of us in the middle of nowhere.