Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Racial tension threatens aircraft carrier, commander

No Salvation, by Jeffery Hess. Down & Out Books. 312 pages. Trade paperback $18.95.

The USS Salvation is a huge aircraft carrier that is part of a fleet patrolling in the South China Sea during the final months of the Vietnam War. It is a perfect microcosm setting, a floating island of tedium, outrage, hostility, pain, fear, and overworked bravado. It is 1972, and racial tension is high: perhaps nowhere higher than on a pressure-cooker at sea where the sailors are virtually imprisoned by the nature of the wartime situation. 

It’s been a long time since anyone has left the carrier.

That racial tension and its accompanying violence have become a major problem is no secret to the ship’s captain. He has decided to make his new Executive Office (XO) an up-and-coming commander named Robert Porter, who is one of the most carefully drawn major characters in the book and perhaps the one most likely to receive the reader’s sympathy, the linchpin for tamping down hostilities.

Perhaps chosen less for his illustrious record than for the fact that he is Afro-American, Porter immediately finds himself in a difficult position. His very success as an officer who has pleased his white superiors has pegged him as an “Uncle Tom,” with all the baggage that such a label conveys.

Black sailors, including those with some rank, have been sabotaging the ship’s overall effectiveness. They seem to be ready for an internal war with their white shipmates – and, indeed, they mount a most unpeaceful demonstration to demand equal treatment equal to that of the whites.


The ship has other problems. Drug use is rampant and the source of an unofficial economy among the abusers and the dealers. The ship’s cobbler runs the narcotic business and related ventures.

Mr. Hess has given himself a complex challenge, that of bringing readers close to the reality of this enormous vessel and the huge number of individuals who keep it functioning, both technically and as a complex amalgam of duties, skills, backgrounds, and personalities. He has done a marvelous job, though readers will find their memories tested by the large number of characters, their stake in the enterprise, and the astounding size of their temporary home in a physical structure that contains so many levels, so much task-specific work space, living spaces for four thousand men, and dangers. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 10, 2019 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 11 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, Venice, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – No Salvation

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Vietnam War protest violence leads to child abduction over 40 years later

Someone Must Die, by Sharon Potts. Thomas & Mercer. 380 pages. Trade paperback $15.95. Kindle Ebook $3.99.

A bone-chilling thriller with a strong sense of how history shapes people’s lives, this book also probes deeply into the workings of family dynamics. The main character, Aubrey Lynd is a PhD candidate in social psychology. We meet her at home in Rhode Island where she is dealing with the harsh ending of a six-year relationship. Her boyfriend, she has just discovered, has been a serial cheater. Potts-SomeoneMustDie,cover3-16-16

Her confidence shaken not only by his behavior but also by her blindness to it, Aubrey soon receives more bad news. Her six-year-old nephew Ethan has been abducted. This is not the kind of return home to Miami that Aubrey needs, but she must comfort her mother, Diana, who had taken her grandson to the carnival where the abduction took place. Diana had only recently been reunited with her son Kevin’s family, and this apparent show of irresponsibility only turns him against her and back into the embrace of his wife’s parents.

Diana is heartbroken. After the combined police and FBI investigation begins that we learn the motive for the abduction. Someone leaves a note for Diana saying that Ethan will be returned if she will kill Jonathan Woodward. Jonathan, who is being considered for a Supreme Court vacancy, is Diana’s significant other.

Sharon Potts

Sharon Potts

Diana is given a deadline by which she must provide proof of Jonathan’s death. If she contacts the authorities or misses the deadline, Ethan will die. In other words, she is put in a trap: someone must die – Ethan or Jonathan. The fact that a child had died under Diane’s care (she had been a practicing physician) only complicates her emotional situation. At first, she keeps the note a secret, but it doesn’t stay secret.

Aubrey plays an important role in the investigation, using her own training to influence the actions and perceptions of FBI Special Agent Smolleck and Detective Gonzalez of the Miami-Dade police. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the June 29, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 30 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Someone Must Die

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An eloquent, hard-hitting memoir of perseverance, pride and purpose

I Heard My Country Calling, by James Webb. Simon & Schuster. 400 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Alluding to another writer’s warning, Mr. Webb cautions those who meet him (or read his works)  against understanding him too soon. People have been understanding him too soon for half a century, perhaps ever since he showed up as a plebe at the United States Naval Academy in 1964. Perhaps even before that. A versatile, complex man, James Webb has seemed easy to classify, to pigeonhole. In part, that’s because of his sometimes off-putting straightforwardness: he’s the guy who’s often disputing your certainties.

To be straightforward is not to be simple.  IHeardMyCountryCalling

Looking back, Mr. Webb draws a broad picture of his forebears – the Scots-Irish folks who settled and built communities in the middle of America. He details a few generations leading up to his immediate family, whose roots are in Arkansas. It’s a story of working hard to get by, toughness, religious faith, and surprising isolation from mainstream metropolitan culture and enterprise. Small towns in Nebraska, Texas, and Missouri; back roads; modest ambitions; and no patience with pretension. However, his father’s two year assignment to RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire, England was an unexpected, horizon-widening experience.

James Webb senior, a self-taught engineer, pulled himself up to positions of respect and authority in a long Army career that climaxed in the race for space between the U. S. and the Soviet Union and the missile defense system program. James senior didn’t offer his young namesake much praise, constantly challenged him to bear hardships without complaining, and taught him how to box. He also taught his son, by example, what duty means and why sacrifices are necessary.

Love of country was in James Webb’s DNA. It still is.


The family’s vagabond life at the whim of duty assignments was aggravated further by the father’s penchant for moving from house to house even during a short-term posting. Such doings make it hard to form friendships and impossible to have educational continuity. The Webb children were over and over again the new kids in town or on the army base. On the other hand, they learned to know their country by adjusting to different slices of it over and over again. These were not your ordinary Baby-Boomers.

Young Jim is thrilled to receive an NROTC scholarship to the University of Southern California, where he has a ragged but exciting freshman year before gaining a recommendation and then acceptance to join the U. S. Naval Academy class of 1968. Mr. Webb’s chapter on his USNA experience is the best short treatment of Naval Academy life during those years that one is likely to find. Midshipman Webb enjoys being tested, hates the “Micky Mouse” stuff, rises to one of the highest positions in the Brigade of Midshipman before graduation. Excelling in the humanities and leadership, he is marginal in the technical curriculum. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 17, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly, click here Florida Weekly – James Webb 1 and here Florida Weekly – James Webb 2.

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