Award-winning New Zealand author and Horowhenua resident Carole Brungar will launch her third novel in Foxton on Saturday.

The Nam Shadow is the second in a series by the Foxton-born author. It follows the New Zealand Booksellers best-selling novel The Nam Legacy.

The books examine the lives of New Zealand characters against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

The Nam Shadow centres on a carefree young soldier called Terry, from Foxton.
For him, life's an adventure, but Vietnam changes his perceptions of that, questioning how easy is it to cope with the extreme fear and intense emotions that come with war, when he knows life now balances on the accuracy of a bullet.

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It also follows combat photographer Frankie Proctor, who knows every young soldier in Vietnam has a story to tell. The problem is whether she can manage to tell them before the war claims these men, or her.

Terry finds himself fighting a war he never saw coming, and as Vietnam eats away at him from the inside, both he and Frankie can only try to outrun the shadow cast over their lives.

Brungar has had an almost life-long interest in the circumstances of Vietnam, and says there aren't many New Zealand stories that are set around it or explore its consequences.

"I would like to think that those men and women who went to Vietnam and their experiences as a consequence are not forgotten," she said.

Brungar completed many hours of research to write the stories, which are a blend of fiction and non-fiction.

As a result, the books include accurate historical detail and settings that feel very real, especially to those who experienced the conflict first-hand.

The juxtaposition of small-town Foxton in the 1960s, and the terrifying sights, sounds and smells of the Vietnam War is particularly striking, and brought back memories for New Zealand-based veterans in particular, Brungar said.

"I've had quite a number contact me, and reading the first book, they said it brought a lot of memories back and is quite realistic," she said.

Brungar said she achieved the level of realism in the books through research, talking to people and her own memories, having been born in the 1960s.

Some of the characterising aspects of the culture at the time, such as the music, influenced her interest in the topic and era.

She also partly located the story somewhere she was very familiar with.

"I was born in Foxton, my parents were both there.
"It could have been set in any small town [in] New Zealand but I have a soft spot for Foxton."

Artistic licence allowed Brungar to add a few features to the Horowhenua town, including a fictional hotel, which she says several people have contacted her about, as they couldn't remember it being there, nor could they find it now.

"It was almost a shame to say it was fictional," she said.
"It's actually quite complimentary when people believe the places are real and the people are real though. It must mean you've done a good job with the character development and building up the scenes."

Brungar also travelled to Vietnam in 2016 on a research trip after The Nam Legacy had been completed and said it was important to experience the people, food, smells and weather. She found the trip very humbling.

"To stand on the ground where thousands of young men lost their lives is a very emotional experience. There were tears shed on more than one occasion," she said.
"We consider it an absolute tragedy that we lost 37 during the conflict, but when you consider America lost over 58,000 and Vietnam several million, that's a lot of fathers, brothers and sons. It's hard to come to terms with such horrific losses and while we remember the brave men and women of World War I and II, I hope we never forget what we were part of in Vietnam."

The effects of war are, of course, far longer-reaching than the years a conflict took place.
Brungar looks at this in both books in the series.

The Nam Legacy focuses on the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on soldiers and families, while The Nam Shadow will highlight the consequences of exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals used during the Vietnam War.

The most deadly chemical was Dioxin, a byproduct of the two chemicals used to make Agent Orange, and which is toxic, even in minute quantities. Agent Orange was used as a defoliant and millions of gallons were sprayed on the Vietnamese countryside, settling on crops, vegetation, people and in waterways. The chemical changes the human DNA structure, causing miscarriages, birth defects and cancers.

"I think although the general public have heard about the Vietnam War, not many know much about it," Brungar said.
"Unless they have relatives who went over, little is known about what they were exposed to, or the consequences. I hope this book makes readers think about some of the problems that many have since faced."

The Nam Shadow will be available from bookstores across New Zealand or at www.carolebrungar.com.

It will also be available as an ebook.

The launch is at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, Foxton on Saturday 10 November at 2pm. All are welcome, and Carole will conduct a question and answer session.