The Wild, Wild East: From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (Hardcover)
The Wild, Wild East recounts the adventures of late-onset Texan and international businessman Tom Meurer over a span of 55 years, from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism. As a freshly commissioned Air Force lieutenant, Tom experienced a build-up to war. But it was only after billionaire H. Ross Perot wooed him into the seemingly starchy world of software engineering that Meurer traveled to wartime Vietnam and Laos, searching for evidence of 1,600 missing U.S. prisoners of war. He found himself negotiating with drug-runners, brothel owners, gold smugglers, and dangerously high-ranking diplomats. What started as a privately funded international spy-ring, ended with a privately funded tickertape parade and star-studded weekend reception in San Francisco. Years later, he returned to Vietnam, looking for oil instead of prisoners.
Between trips to Southeast Asia, Meurer began working with the Nixon White House as a presidential advance man. Beyond the obvious challenges of anti-war and civil rights protests, Meurer recounts the perils of camera angles, college football fans, bathroom visits, exotic helicopter rides, and the devastating 1970 Peruvian earthquake, which killed more than 80,000 people.
Meurer tells of his longtime friendship and business career with Ray Hunt, of Hunt Oil Company, and the game-changing discovery of oil in Yemen - a country "storming out of the 14th century." Ever the fish-out-of-water, he describes his travels, negotiations, and business developments in "Red China" as it began to turn capitalist in 1979. Through his role in Chinese oil exploration, private equity, personal friendships, and the nascent beef industry, Meurer witnessed the People's Republic of China's meteoric rise over the following 35 years. Along the way, we find him pranking communist border guards, breaking out of curfew-imposed war zone hotels and into U.S. embassies, nearly crash landing in Siberia, arrested for jogging in Albania, vacationing with the family in Karl-Marx-Stadt, and ingesting unspeakably exotic foods. He watched leaders, luminaries, lending practices, and landscapes change and change again (and then again), while collecting hotel soap, memberships to airline VIP lounges, and frequent flyer miles. He often found himself in rooms with presidents, prime ministers, sheikhs, and village chiefs as history was happening.
In true Forest Gumpian fashion, The Wild, Wild East is a study in best-case scenario of wit + energized wonder + proximity to wealth. Through the opportunities presented by Perot and Hunt, Dallas billionaires who were employers but became dear family friends, Meurer found himself living his best life, one of worldwide adventure while simply having fun, making an honest living, and helping the truest of people and best of friends.
These are stories of one man's life - the career, adventures, and impressive people, friends, axioms, discoveries, events, cultures, and institutions he encountered along the way.