Finding Moonby Tony Hillerman
Until the telephone call came for him on April 12, 1975, the world of Moon Mathias had settled into a predictable routine. He knew who he was. He was the disappointing son of Victoria Mathias, the brother of the brilliant, recently dead Ricky Mathias, and a man who could be counted on to solve small problems. But the telephone caller was an airport security officer,… See more details below
Until the telephone call came for him on April 12, 1975, the world of Moon Mathias had settled into a predictable routine. He knew who he was. He was the disappointing son of Victoria Mathias, the brother of the brilliant, recently dead Ricky Mathias, and a man who could be counted on to solve small problems. But the telephone caller was an airport security officer, and the news he delivered handed Moon a problem as large as Southeast Asia. His mother, who should be in her Florida apartment, is fighting for her life in a Los Angeles hospital - stricken while en route to the Philippines to bring home a grandchild they hadn't known existed. The papers in her purse send Moon into a world totally strange to him. They lure him down the backstreets of Manila, to a rural cockfight, into the odd Filipino prison on Palawan Island, and finally across the South China Sea to where Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge is turning Cambodia into killing fields, and Communist rockets are beginning to fall on the outskirts of Saigon. Those he meets on this quest are as strange to Moon as Asia itself. There is Lum Lee, an elderly Chinese man who wants Moon to finish a job left unfinished by Ricky's death. But is Lee seeking ancestral bones as he claims, or a shipment of opium lost in the chaos of war? There is Mrs. van Winigaarden, a chic and sophisticated folk-art buyer who wants his help to save her missionary brother - if that is really her motive. Only Nguyen, warrior in a lost cause, with kill communists tattooed on his chest, seems easy to understand. But hardest of all for Moon to fathom is the mythical version of himself he finds among his brother's friends.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
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- Product dimensions:
- 4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, April 12 (Agence France-Presse) -- The United States abandoned its embassy here this morning, with six helicopters sweeping into the embassy grounds to evacuate the ambassador and his remaining staff.
The action came as the last resistance of the Cambodian Army collapsed and Khmer Rouge troops poured into the capital, many of them riding on captured tanks and trucks.
The First Day April 12, 1975
Sirley was giving Moon the caller-on-hold signal when he came through the newsroom door. He acknowledged Shirley with the I'll-call-'em-back signal, threw his hat on the copy desk, sat down, and looked at D. W. Hubbell.
"Nothing much," Hubbell said. "AP has an early tornado in Arkansas. Pretty mediocre, but it could get better. Things are still going to hell in Nam, and Ford has a press conference scheduled for eleven Washington time, and Kissinger issued a statement, and General Motors --"
"What did Henry say?"
Hubbell did not bother to look up from his duties, which at the moment involved chopping copy from the teletype machine into individual stories and sorting them into trays. The trays were variously labeled PAGE ONE, SPORTS, FEATURES, FUNNY, SOB STUFF, and PIG IRON -- the pig iron being what Hubbell considered "seriously dull stuff that the League of Women Voters reads."
Hubbell said, "What did Henry say? Let's see." He glanced at the top item in the PIG IRON file. "Henry said that Dick Nixon was correct in declaring we had won the war in Southeast Asia. Hesaid the North Viets were just too stubborn to understand that, and the press was playing up the current setbacks to make it look like a disaster, and it was going to be the fault of the Congress for not sending more money, and anyway don't blame Kissinger. Words to that effect."
"What looks good for the play story?" Moon asked, and sorted quickly through the FRONT PAGE tray. The United States seemed to be evacuating the embassy at Phnom Penh. Moon saved that one. The new president of South Vietnam, something-or-other Thieu, was picking a fight-to-the-death bunch for his cabinet. Moon discarded it. A bill to put a price ceiling on domestic oil production was up for a vote in a Senate committee. That was weak but a possibility. The South Viets were claiming a resounding victory at Xuan Loc, wherever that was. He tossed that one too. Senator Humphrey declared that we should establish a separate U.S. Department of Education. There'd be some interest in that. The Durance County Commissioners had moved the road to the ski basin up a notch on the priority list. Most of the 28,000 subscribers the paper claimed would be interested in that one. And then there was a colorful, gruesome feature on the plight of refugees pouring into Saigon from points north.
It was good human interest stuff, but even as he read it Moon was conscious of how quickly these accounts of tragedy from Vietnam had become merely filler -- like the comics and Ann Landers and the crossword puzzle. A few years ago they had been personal. Then he'd searched through the news for references to Ricky's Air Mobile brigade, for actions using helicopters, for anything involving the Da Nang sector where Ricky's maintenance company was stationed. But since Ricky resigned his commission in 1968, Ricky had been out of it. And since 1973 the United States of America was also out of it. What was left of the war was a distant abstraction. As Hubbell had described it once, "Just another case of our gooks killing their gooks." In the press across America, and in the Morning Press-Register of Durance, Colorado, the war was no longer page one.
But it was still page one sometimes at the Press-Register -- until last month. Ricky was still in Nam, a player on the sidelines. That made Moon interested and made him think the Press-Register's readers would also be. Now Ricky was dead, no longer running R. M. Air and fixing helicopters for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam just as he had fixed them for the U.S. Army. Probably the same copters, in fact. But as Ricky had said in one of his rare letters, he was "getting a hell of a lot more money and a hell of a lot less aggravation from division headquarters." There was a kickback to ARVN brass, but Ricky considered that "the equivalent of an income tax."
Ricky had said more. He had said, Come and join me, big brother. Come and join the team. Join the fun. It would be like old times. He'd said, South Nam is going under, and fast. Soon there'll be no more fat contracts from ARVN, but there will still be plenty of need for what R. M. Air can offer. Help me get this outfit ready for the change. And he'd said (Moon remembered the exact words), "R. M. Air is no good for slogans. We'll rename it M. R. Air, for Moon and Rick, and call it Mister Air. I'll do the business, you keep the engines running. Come on. With all that money she's married to now, Mom doesn't need you anymore. But I do."
Which was just Ricky buttering him up. Their mother had never needed him. Victoria Mathias wasn't a woman who needed people. And neither did Ricky. But bullshit or not, Moon had enjoyed thinking about making the move, even while he was wondering why Ricky had invited him. But he had never answered the letter. There hadn't been time.
"That Arkansas twister is looking better," Hubbell said, inspecting the copy now emerging from the teletype. "The new lead says they got thirteen dead now." He waved the paper at Moon, looking mildly pleased with himself.Finding Moon. Copyright © by Tony Hillerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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I've read all of the Hillerman Leaphorn/Chee novels, and found them to be educational, as well as interesting and gripping. His descriptions of the Arizona-New Mexico country and the rituals and customs of the Native Americans are very accurate. Having recently returned from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, I decided to read "Finding Moon," and found it gripping. It takes place during the last two weeks of the Vietnam War and describes the adventures and setbacks incurred when an America goes there to find the child of his deceased brother and bring her back to the US. I recommend it very highly.
Hillerman follows Moon Mathias through his unexpected adventures through Southeast Asia during the confusion of the closing months of the Vietnam conflict. Hillerman weaves a good story with believable characters and shifting directions. Great read.
I love Tony Hillerman's work and this is no exception. But be warned: if PBS, BBC or National Geographic specials about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge give you nightmares, there are parts of this book that are hard to read. However, I never seriously thought about stopping reading it.