The Vets - Stephen Leather

First Chapters - Stephen Leather The Vets
The Vets - Stephen Leather book cover

Four men. They've never met, and they've got nothing in common - except that they all fought in Vietnam. And each in his own way has come to a crisis point in his life.

When they all sign up for a veterans' tour of Vietnam's former combat zones, some are hoping to exorcize the past, others to simply escape the present.

But then they meet a man who has very different plans for them. Colonel Joel Tyler is offering them a once-only chance to turn back the clock, to revive old skills, and to take part in the most spectacular operation of their lives.

This time their mission will take them not into the jungle but into the teeming heart of Asia's financial capital - Hong Kong. Their aim, to pull off a robbery of stunning ingenuity and extraordinary daring.

But the ghosts of betrayal and defeat have not finished with them yet.

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The Vets was the second book of a two-book deal I had with Hodder & Stoughton, the first being The Chinaman. I wrote it in Hong Kong and Paris, then finished it off while I was in Baltimore. It was a huge book - almost 300,000 words when I finally finished, and I ended up throwing away almost a third. It's still my biggest book by far. I guess it was because it was the first book I wrote full-time, my earlier books had always been written while I had other jobs. The fact that I was doing it full-time also meant that I could spend more time doing research, including traveling to Vietnam.

While in Vietnam doing research for The Vets I got the idea for The Tunnel Rats, but it was several years before I got down to actually writing the book.

The plot of The Vets is really complex, and I'm very proud of it. It's full of well-drawn characters and I think I really capture the atmosphere in Hong Kong prior to its handover to China. . I think the title could have been better but my editor Bill Massey and I wracked our brains for months and couldn't come up with anything else.

The Vets Reviews

"Those who pick up The Vets expecting a cosy jaunt through James Herriot country are in for a ghastly shock. The vets in the title of Stephen Leather's latest thriller are the kind who served in Vietnam - and they're more likely to bite the heads off live chickens than cure lame podles or minister to moulting budgies. Leather's last novel, The Chinaman, raises plenty of controversy with its vivid portrayal of IRA bomb-making and the former journalist has chosen another highly-topical subject for this latest action-packed read - the handover of Hong Kong to China. Four jungle veterans trying to come to terms with the trauma of their wartime experiences sign up for a holiday tour of Vietnam in a bid to rid themselves of their memories. But it transpires that the tour is simply a front - in fact the four have been hand-picked to take part in a devious and highly dangerous robbery in Hong Kong, for which all their battle skills learned against the Viet Cong will be needed. At stake is not just money but political control as, amid a climate of fear, rich Chinese shunt their millions into Western countries. The plot blasts along faster than a speeding bullet and the violent action - reminiscent of a good Rambo film- is spiced with liberal doses of sex, blackmail and corruption." Louise Brown, Today

"If you feel a sleepless night coming on, here's something to help you meet it head on. The Vets is about four men. Battle veterans. Toughies. Back in Vietnam to stir old memories. But by page seven we are on a nailbiting midnight helicopter mission with the Kalashnikovs, AK47s and M16s blazing away. And the fur and feather of battle flying once more. By now you are hooked and you haven't even got to Hong Kong where the real action is. His last was praised by Jack Higgins who couldn't put it down. The same goes for this." Daily Mail