Jim Gilliam comes to his novel TARNISHED HERO with enough background experience in the topics with which he deals that he adds a flavor of authenticity to his story from the start: he ran away from home at age 14 to join the Coast Guard, served on active duty with the Coast Guard from January 1957 until June 1966 when he joined the Army as an airborne combat physician assistant. Leaving the Army in August 1986 he was employed in civilian practice until May 2001 when he joined the Navy's Military Sealift Command as a civilian mariner physician assistant. He is a veteran of multiple deployments to the Persian Gulf in support of operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Obviously he learned the lingo and tales passed around the danger loving troops that gives him the language and atmosphere of having been there done that in this fast reading novel.
The summary of the novel as presented is solid: `In the early 1960's, Tim Kelly's Coast Guard career takes him to Galveston. Hoping to put his father's death at the hands of a union busting thug behind him. Kelly transfers to San Francisco where he meets Brenda Conrad and clashes with an overbearing and sadistic executive officer. Given a choice between courts martial and combat duty in Vietnam, he chooses Vietnam. After receiving the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in combat during an action where three of his friends are killed in action by our own Air Force. Kelly releases his rage in an Air Force officer's club, earning him a less than honorable discharge. Returning to the U.S. with the stigma of a less than honorable discharge, Kelly embarks on a new career as an undercover narcotics agent. After his rescue from the drug cartel when his cover is blown, he plans to marry Brenda, but before the wedding can take place Brenda and her best friend the daughter of the Governor of Texas are kidnapped and spirited to the cartel's secret island base off the coast of Yucatan.' Offering more would be considered spoilers.
The reason this reviewer keeps returning to the works of Jim Gilliam is his visceral style of writing. He manages to uncover secrets of those in control, finds ways of letting the public understand the vagaries of those in power, be they military, government or crime, an dat the same time he keeps his relationships between his main characters solid and realistic so that we can all identify with them. He is an outstanding writer and this book deserves a wider readership. Grady Harp, July 14