Theasa Tuohy, who hails from Oklahoma, has written a book about a female freelance journalist in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. The book is “Five O’Clock Follies, What’s a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?” Part of the title, Five O’Clock Follies, refers to the Saigon 5 p.m. daily briefings from the military information officers to the embedded journalists with the troops in Vietnam. “At one point,” Tuohy said, “the military was so perturbed by the term, they changed the meeting time to 4:30 p.m. so they couldn’t call it ‘Five O’Clock Follies.’”
Every good story involves conflict and Tuohy’s selection of this 1968 time frame, yields many levels of antagonism. There was no shortage of opposition between the military leadership and the press assigned to cover the war. The Tet Offensive, launched by the Viet Cong supported by Chinese Communists, created outright bloody carnage in several waves of coordinated attacks on the South Vietnamese supported by U.S. troops. Back in the States, the media brought the war, including the results of the Tet Offensive, into U.S. living rooms on the evening news. There was social division on the part of demonstrators and the young peace officers and National Guardsmen called to control them. Not since the U.S. Civil War had a war so divided the generations. The population over 40 remembered what happened to Europe when politicians capitulated with their enemies during World War II. The youth were being drafted, and many didn’t see a connection to preserving American freedoms in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Add to that mix, the dicey gender politics of the time and the author had a rich backdrop in which to place her heroine.
It is said most first novels are unintentionally autobiographical in nature. Tuohy a New York, journalist, editor, and playwright, has fought to break the glass ceiling in several of her jobs. Tuohy said, “Many times I’ve been the first female to do many things in my career.” Like the main character in “Follies”, Angela Martinelli, she’s had to prove herself and her abilities to her male counterparts. The fact that Martinelli is a freelance reporter adds to her challenge with the old guard media.
Tuohy found with “Follies” she had to transition from her journalistic writing style, which she pointed out is linear in dimension, to the more cyclical style of fiction writing. Since she was still working full-time, the book took her 25 years to research and write. In addition to copious historical research, Tuohy said at a certain point the book became character-driven. “You can almost sit back and watch what the characters will do, you get to know them so well,” she added. “The characters dictate the story (or book) length,” she explained.
Tuohy’s grandfather participated in an Oklahoma Land Run, and virtually all of her family lives here. Her mother, for whom she was named was a famous female pilot and friend of Wiley Post and Will Rogers. When she was ten, her parents moved to the Bay Area of Northern California, and she graduated from UC Berkeley. The rest of the family moved back to Oklahoma, while Tuohy headed for New York. She kept coming home for family celebrations. Coincidentally she was “home” in Oklahoma City just in time for the Oklahoma City Bombing on her mother’s birthday, April 19, 1995. They heard the concussions from her mother’s downtown apartment. A few phone calls later and Tuohy was out the door, driving her rental car to the Associated Press offices for an assignment. She was part of a team of reporters who helped bring information to the nation on our first major attack since Pearl Harbor.
Hastings held a book signing for Tuohy on Tuesday, Oct. 23. She was interviewed on KWHW that morning and spoke at the Disabled American Veterans that evening. On Wednesday Hastings in Lawton had a book signing for her and Thursday, she spoke at the Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum in Hobart.
at Hastings, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. You can read the Kirkus review on the book at “www.kirkusreviews.com”.