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Techno-Thriller's Theme Echoes Past

ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE

* Irvine author says his book about an attack on Taiwan brings to mind a work about Pearl Harbor--from 1920s.

September 17, 2000|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irvine author Chuck DeVore knew his techno-thriller about a sudden Chinese attack on Taiwan would strike a chord. But even he was surprised by the response to the novel's controversial premise after one of Taiwan's largest newspapers ran a story on "China Attacks."

DeVore and co-author Steven Mosher's Web site, http://www.ChinaThreat.com, received 600 visits within 48 hours after the Taiwan Daily News ran its full-page interview with Mosher about the novel and the idea that, contrary to the opinion of many experts, China possesses the means to successfully invade Taiwan.

That, combined with a recent interview DeVore had with The Financial Times, propelled "China Attacks" to the top sales ranking among nearly 3,600 print-on-demand books on Amazon.com.

Although a mainland Chinese attack on Taiwan may seem unlikely, DeVore believes tensions between China and the island democracy of 23 million 90 miles off China's coast could ignite into open conflict.

That's the reason he and Mosher--a longtime critic of the Communist regime in Beijing--gave up trying to land a traditional publishing house for their first novel and decided instead to go with a print-on-demand publisher, Buy Books on the web.com.

"We looked at the strategic situation in the Strait of Taiwan and we felt there was a danger that our work would be overtaken by events this year," said DeVore, 38, who served as a special assistant for foreign affairs in the Reagan-era Pentagon.

"The idea was to get the book out now by using the modern Internet print-on-demand method and then try to attract interest from a traditional publishing house next year."

DeVore is an executive with a high-tech information technologies firm and a military intelligence major in the Army National Guard who earned a bachelor's degree in strategic studies from Claremont McKenna College. He said he's always wanted to write a novel.

The opportunity arose a year and a half ago when DeVore, the father of two daughters, took time off from work to take care of his wife, Diane, a cancer patient who was recuperating from surgery. With five months off from work, he did his research, wrote an outline and a sample chapter.

Seeking a co-author who was a China expert with a publishing track record, DeVore chose Mosher, a friend since they met a decade ago when Mosher was director of Asian Studies at the Claremont Institute.

Mosher, who lived in rural China after the Cultural Revolution ended in the late '70s, is the author of several nonfiction books about China and Asia, including "A Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against China's One-Child Policy" (Harcourt Brace).

The novel's main character is a young CIA analyst who sees the Chinese invasion coming but can't get her bosses' attention. The Chinese detonate two nuclear-driven electromagnetic-pulse bombs over Taiwan, knocking out its communications, electricity and high-tech military equipment.

The Chinese follow up by firing missiles loaded with nonlethal incapacitating agents that rain down on Taiwan.

The Chinese then begin their invasion, pressing into service commercial shipping such as freighters, cruise ships, ferry boats and fishing boats, in addition to their military amphibious assault craft.

Because Taiwan's air force, navy and army have been incapacitated, the Chinese use commercial aircraft to fly troops into commercial airports they've seized using airborne and commando forces.

Some military affairs experts say the Chinese couldn't pull off such a scenario, that they couldn't neutralize the Taiwanese air force quickly enough, DeVore said.

But, he said, "If you go back in history and look at things like Pearl Harbor at the time, in 1941 conventional military thinking would not have thought it possible to coordinate such a large raid by hundreds of aircraft from several aircraft carriers.

"What's interesting, though, is someone wrote a novel about that very thing happening years before"--Hector C. Bywater, an Englishman, whose "The Great Pacific War" was published in the mid-1920s.

Of course, DeVore added with a laugh, "Everybody ignored the guy."

"China Attacks" ($19.95) also is available through Borders.com and can be purchased in electronic form at www.MightyWords.com for $12.

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