BACK Screenplay Finally Finished: Adventure Backpackers Encounter the Vietnam War.

BACK Screenplay Finally Finished: Adventure Backpackers Encounter the Vietnam War.

Above Photo: Remote mountains and jungle – the real-life locations of BACK. (© unknown)

One reason I wanted to write my novel BACK was to catapult the Vietnam War, and the evils and problems arising from that conflict, into a modern-day context.

An unexploded aeroplane bomb, dropped during the Vietnam War and still embedded in the jungle, nose upwards, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

An unexploded aeroplane bomb, dropped during the Vietnam War and still embedded in the jungle, nose upwards, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

I also wanted to show that all kinds of problems thrown up by the war still blight the jungles and countries of the region in which it was fought, and these problems still carry risks for modern-day Adventure backpackers trekking into the same jungles.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail makes it onto tourist signs in Laos. Adventure Tourism along it is becoming big business.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail makes it onto tourist signs in Laos. Adventure Tourism along it is becoming big business.

This is true of the millions of pieces of unexploded ordnance still littering the jungles of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, but it’s also relevant for other hangovers from the war.

Planes spraying the jungle with Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

Planes spraying the jungle with Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The defoliant allowed US planes to see what was happening on the ground, especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

For example the effect of Agent Orange on the landscape, which, in the book, causes a wet-weather landslide along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from a mountainside still denuded of vegetation from its wartime spraying. This has ongoing relevance throughout the book (and the screenplay).

The effects of Agent Orange on mountains and jungle can still be seen today.

The effects of Agent Orange on this mountain top can still be seen today.

The persecution of ethnic hill tribe minorities who fought alongside the US during the war, especially the Hmong in Laos and the Vietnamese Montagnards is also relevant to the book and is also a plot point in the screenplay.

Adventure backpackers trek through the Vietnamese jungle.

Adventure backpackers trek through the Vietnamese jungle. (© unknown)

Many of these hill tribes are still living in remote jungle villages, trekked to by modern-day backpackers in search of remote and unusual encounters, which is also relevant to the plot of the novel and the screenplay.

The same jungle forty-five years ago, when the Vietnam War was raging.

The same jungle forty-five years ago, when the Vietnam War was raging.

The Khmer Rouge, another and maybe the grossest evil to emerge from the Vietnam War, and their psychotic reign of terror in Cambodia are also relevant to the proceedings in BACK, as, unfortunately are their brutal torture techniques.

A painting of a Khmer Rouge interrogation at their torture centre in Phnom Penh by Nann Nath, one of only a handful of survivors from S-21 Prison, where up to 20,000 prisoners were interrogated before being killed.

A painting of a Khmer Rouge interrogation at their torture centre in Phnom Penh by Vann Nath, one of only a handful of survivors from S-21 Prison, where up to 20,000 prisoners were interrogated before being killed.

The drug trade and drug crops grown in the lawless, corrupt border areas of the region are also significant.

The tangled, dense jungle in the tri-border area conceals much from prying eyes.

The tangled, dense jungle in the tri-border area conceals much from prying eyes.

And of course, so the whole issue of the fate of American servicemen who were left behind as POWs after the end of the Vietnam War to die in the jungles of Asia is also crucial to the plot.

What happened to these POWs, caught in Vietnam, and others like them? It seems clear that after the war, many were kept in the jungle and never returned home.

What happened to these POWs, caught in Vietnam, and others like them? It seems clear that after the war, many were kept in the jungle and never returned home.

Then there are the physical and natural dangers of jungle trekking, such as snakes, wild animals, tigers, bears, leeches and malarial mosquitoes present in the region’s jungles, and massive psychological issues which come into play when people become lost, disoriented and scared out there.

More jungle dangers - bears have destroyed this tree to find honey.

More jungle dangers – bears have destroyed this tree to find honey.

Even just stepping off a foot trail for a 30 second wander in dense jungle can bring a hint of this disorientation and fear. I know; it’s happened to me many times when I’ve been out researching in the tri-border jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

What the Vietnamese jungle looked like during the Vietnam War.

What the Vietnamese jungle looked like during the Vietnam War.

Then you have a bunch of dodgy British backpackers who tag along with the American trekkers. The Brits have their own shadowy agenda for wanting to go into the jungle, and just what they’re up to is revealed later in the action.

The trekkers also encounter other dangers from the Vietnam War in the jungle – Viet Cong booby traps. Not bamboo traps, but ones made out of bombs, grenades, bullets and mines, which may still be lurking in the jungle waiting for an unsuspecting trekker to trigger them.

Adventure backpackers ford a river in the Vietnamese jungle.

Adventure backpackers ford a river in the Vietnamese jungle. (© unknown)

Imagine then, trying to condense all of these issues and themes (and many more) not only into the book but, more concisely, into a screenplay chronicling the fateful trip of a bunch of Adventure backpackers who disappear into the region’s 70 million year-old jungle.

A hilltribe woman shows me an airman's knife taken off a downed pilot in the Laotian tri-border jungle. It is not known what happened to the airman.

A hilltribe woman shows me an airman’s knife taken off a downed pilot in the Laotian tri-border jungle. It is not known what happened to the airman.

The Americans go in search of something left behind from the Vietnam War, armed only with a combat journal from a Special Forces mission to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1968, some old photos, maps and a wide variety of modern communications devices, none of which prove helpful when they get out there.

Inside the Vieng Xai cave complex in northern Laos, where downed US Airmen were kept prisoner. None were ever returned.

Inside the Vieng Xai cave complex in northern Laos, where downed US Airmen were kept prisoner. None were ever returned.

I have finally finished my screenplay based on the BACK novel and will now look to get it developed and made. It would be a great psychological jungle thriller with the right actors and director.

Unexploded North Vietnamese munitions discovered along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

Unexploded North Vietnamese munitions discovered along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

But as I learnt a long time ago, writing these things is actually the EASY part; getting them commissioned, funded and made are the often impossible tasks, but we are now looking seriously at this and I’ll provide updates on this site if and when there’s any news.

The famous Ban Nakay Cave POW photograph. taken in nothern laos by a drone, it appears to show US POWs playing volleyball under armed guard.

The famous Ban Nakay Cave POW photograph. Taken in northern Laos by a drone camrea, it appears to show US POWs playing volleyball under armed guard. (See close-up below)

I’ll explore all avenues to get this made.

Close up of the volleyball game int he above photo. Who were these people and what happened to them?

Close up of the volleyball game in the above photo. Who were these people and what happened to them? US Intelligence pointed out at that time volleyball was virtually unheard of amongst the armies of South-East Asia.

See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.

For POWs left behind in Laos, see:

© Peter Alan Lloyd

BACK Parts 1 and 2

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews 

UK: Amazon.co.uk: BACK Parts 1 and 2 

US: Amazon: Back Parts 1 and 2

Smashwords: Back Parts 1 and 2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peter.lloyd.94064?fref=ts

Website: www.peteralanlloyd.com

Twitter: @PeterAlanLloyd

Front cover of BACK Part 1.

Front cover of BACK Part 1.

Front cover of BACK Part 2.

Front cover of BACK Part 2.

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7 Comments

  1. Yolanda van der Puyl

    The truth about POWs still being held will never be known. Our country doesn’t give a ratsass about SSGT James M. (Jimmy Ray) Ray from R.I. I have worn his bracelet since 1968. I had one made in white gold and my granddaughter will carry on my cause.Until Jimmy Ray comes home HE PROUDLY SERVES HIS COUNTRY…God bless ya POW-MIAs….your not forgotten by your brothers or a 13 year old runaway protesting the war in NAM…Rebel

    Reply
  2. Reb

    The picture of the caves is something my ex sister in law told me about when she returned to Vietnam to the village she was raised in. An elder told her about the cave in the mountains that was haunted by Erie screams….the elder said her sent in the cave and there were bones stacked on wooden shelves. Dog tags, knifes old military ruck sacks that our soldiers used. I have the crumped map the elder made for her. I’m going to find the map and send it to the organization that searches for evidence of our loved ones….

    Reply
  3. David McDonell

    The failure of the attempts to fully investigate the the brave MIAs due to the pressure of John Cain betrays everything the USA stands for. Everyone has accepted the view that the US involvement in Vietnam was unsuccessful but without a long dissertation the facts are very different.
    While I was unable to serve in the Australian Army I am filled with great admiration and gratitude for those who did.
    I wonder how any of us would have felt when we realized that after the risks of fighting and surviving the prisons of Laos, Cambodia ,Cuba Russia and Vietnam we were abandoned by our country.

    Reply
    • Peter Alan Lloyd

      I agree. And this sentiment was uppermost in my mind when I wrote the screenplay for our MIA film.

      Reply
  4. Lynn Hexler-Haan

    I have read in the not to distant past literature concerning the MIA’s of the Vietnam War. The thread was the concern that a significant number of POW’s were still held on high ground,yet the government had denied their existence. However, it also had photograph’s ( from a drone I believe) of letter’s spelled out in rock and plant form that read USA and such like,so clear it was remarkable!Despite this when reported on the official view was that it was just regular geography.How that conclusion was reached beggar’s belief! It was as if these men never existed ……..sad reading.

    Reply

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