Local author Richard A.M. Dixon won a national award in May for his 2013 autobiography, "Angels in My Foxhole," soon after releasing his sixth book, "The Tiger of Dien Bien Phu."
"Angels in My Foxhole" draws on Dixon's recollections of his 20-plus year career as a paratrooper at home and abroad. It also touches on other experiences, including his Mount Rainier summit attempt and his work clearing the Iditarod trail in Alaska. The book won honorable mention for self-published memoir in the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award, a national contest highlighting the work of independent publishers.
For Dixon, self-publishing has been just another adventure in a rich and diverse life. From a young age, he sought exploration and learning with the Boy Scouts, joining in 1947 and earning his Eagle Scout rank in 1956. "A lot of the things I did in the army I learned in the Boy Scouts: map reading, compass use," he said.
Scouting also gave Dixon the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands for the international Scouting Jamboree, where he met other scouts from all over the world. He saw firsthand the aftereffects of the Second World War and what it had done to the Dutch countryside. "They had rubble, rationing, and they couldn’t get any kind of meat. I said to myself, if I go to war, I’ll fight anywhere else as long as it’s not in the United States," he said.
Dixon did eventually go to war after a stopover at the University of Washington. "When I first arrived at UW, I didn’t want any part of the military," he said. However, after receiving a draft notice and excelling in a mandatory ROTC course, Dixon chose to make the best of his situation and opted for airborne service as a paratrooper.
Dixon was deployed to Vietnam at the outbreak of the war and steadily accumulated promotions and medals throughout his eventful and tumultuous service there. "I was always kind of a rebel in the Army," he said. "I knew how to follow orders, but if I didn’t think an order was right, I would do my best to get around it. I wouldn’t disobey it, but I would find a way to get around it."
After his return from Vietnam and retirement from the military in 1985 at the rank of lieutenant colonel, Dixon worked as a sales manager traveling around the country. He moved to the Key Peninsula from Vashon Island before starting to write in 2006.
"As it turned out, I made the best possible choice to support my writing because it’s so quiet out here," he said.
But Dixon struggled to write about his experiences.
He eventually found success by writing an account of the various canine companions he worked with throughout his life, inspired by a suggestion from his wife to "stop writing about yourself, start writing about the dogs." Dixon published "My Heroes Have Always Been Dogs" in 2008.
His new novel, "The Tiger of Dien Bien Phu," is set in Indochina at the end of the French colonial period, predating his own experience in Vietnam.
Dixon will host an open party and autograph signing at Blend Wine Shop in Key Center July 14, 6 to 8 p.m., to celebrate his award and the publication of his new book. For more information, go to: richardamdixonbooks.com.
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