Lisa Lieberman’s third Cara Walden mystery, The Glass Forest, takes place during the plague-ridden 1957 production of Graham Greene’s political novel, The Quiet American.
Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and starring renowned British actor Michael Redgrave and American war hero Audie Murphy, the film was disowned by Greene and bombed at the box office. The Glass Forest conveys the urgency of Greene’s moral vision, but Lieberman’s story differs in its representation of Vietnam not as the passive plaything of the West, but as a damaged country struggling to take charge of its own future.
Lieberman made use of film editor Bill Hornbeck’s shooting diary and his letters home to his wife (housed in the Reid Cinema Archives at Wesleyan University) to capture the behind-the-scenes drama on the set of The Quiet American, but she also had a more personal motivation for writing about Vietnam. Her cousin Allen was drafted in 1968 and served with the 4th Psychological Operations Group (PSYOP) at Tan Son Nhut airport, its Saigon headquarters. An expert marksman, Allen came under heavy fire during PSYOP missions and saw many of his comrades die. He shot himself in April 2002, six months after the US invasion of Afghanistan. “Allen told me he never knew why he was fighting in Vietnam,” says Lieberman. “In researching the early period of American involvement in Southeast Asia, I wanted to answer his questions.”
Lisa Lieberman writes the Cara Walden series of historical mysteries based on old movies and featuring blacklisted Hollywood people on the lam in dangerous international locales. Trained as a modern European cultural and intellectual historian, she has written extensively on postwar Europe. Media experience includes interviews on National Public Radio’s “To The Best of Our Knowledge” and Australian National Radio’s “All in the Mind,” and a panel discussion on KQED’s public affairs call-in program, “Forum.” The founder of the classic movie blog Deathless Prose, she writes film criticism for the Film Noir Foundation’s e-magazine Noir City. ◊