Between the invasions of Cambodia in 1970 and Laos in 1971, the United States sought to pacify Vietnam, but as David Lawton's powerful novel shows, some of the hearts and minds conquered were American. Giles Trent, an intelligence adviser, fights the war in many ways: sometimes with an M-16, sometimes by eating more chili peppers that his Thai counterparts. Amid the nervous energy of the war, the ravaged beauty of the country, and its people, Trent has made his piece with Vietnam's brutalities and his equivocal role in them. But Emily Macdonnell, an idealistic and ambitious news correspondent newly arrived in Saigon, is not mollified by Trent;s evasions about American involvement in South Vietnam's elections. When she is detained and stripsearched at Tan Son Nhut airport, she and Trent become coconspirators in a war within a war. A Lovely Country captures the face of the war behind the lines, with its double agents and corrupt general, lush villas and seedy brothels, earnest antiwar demonstrators and jaded diplomats. Some things can be said; some cannot. Some people survive; some do not. Emily can ask every question; Trent can find words for only some of the answers. David Lawton has given us a remarkable first novel.