The multi-million-copy bestseller that coined the phrase for tragic American blunders abroad.In the episode that lends the book its title, the "ugly American" is Homer Atkins, a plain and plain-spoken man, who has been sent by the U.S. government to advise the Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan on engineering projects. When Atkins finds badly misplaced priorities and bluntly challenges the entrenched interests, he lays bare a foreign policy gone dangerously wrong.

The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdock and William Lederer. The book depicts the failures of the US diplomatic corps, whose insensitivity to local language, culture, customs and refusal to integrate was in marked contrast to the polished abilities of Eastern Bloc, primarily Soviet diplomacy and led to Communist diplomatic success overseas.

First published in 1958, The Ugly American became a runaway national bestseller for it’s slashing exposé of American arrogance, incompetence, and corruption in Southeast Asia. In linked stories and vignettes, the book uses gripping storytelling to draw a devastating picture of how the United States was losing the struggle with Communism in Asia.

The book caused a sensation in diplomatic circles. John F. Kennedy was so impressed with the book that he sent a copy to each of his colleagues in the United States Senate. The book was one of the biggest bestsellers in the U.S., has been in print continuously since it appeared, and is one of the most politically influential novels in all of American literature.

Was the GOOD GUY in this book. The people of the SE Asian country in which the book is set LIKED him, because he was unpretentious and humble and truly helpful to them. 

The "Ugly American" of the book title refers to the book's hero, plain-looking engineer Homer Atkins, whose "calloused and grease-blackened hands always reminded him that he was an ugly man." Atkins, who lives with the local people, comes to understand their needs, and offers genuinely useful assistance with small-scale projects such as the development of a simple bicycle-powered water pump.

Another example, he found a way to convert abandoned Jeep engines into pumps to help irrigate their rice paddies. Only his face was 'ugly' to them. So when you hear somebody refer to a loudmouthed know-it-all tourist as an ‘  Ugly American’, you can be sure they haven't read the book!