by Mary Saums
An Army MP, a Marine, a tunnel rat and an Israeli secret service agent walk into a bar ....
You stare and slowly lower your beer to the table.
Which of the following are you thinking:
A. Where's the priest and the rabbi?
B. back door back door back door
C. Ah, crap. I left the .45 in the other purse.
D. *snap* I need to go to the bookstore.
Okay, who said bookstore? Everybody? Of course you did. Book people know what those pub-crawlers are all about.
It struck me that they fit in with what Charlaine talked about in the previous blog, on the way characters have changed over the years in regard to nationalism.
One of the group isn't instantly recognizable, so let's start with him.
Timothy Carrier, a well-muscled young ex-Marine, goes to his friend's tavern after work and sits at the bar. Later on, a man comes inside acting strangely, shaking, looking around. Carrier is surprised when the man sits next to him and even moreso when the man pushes an envelope toward Carrier and says, "$10,000 now, the rest when she's gone." The man leaves without another word.
What is a good guy to do?
I knew Dean Koontz was a master. But a miracle worker? Not only is this a fantastic read, it is a special gift that reminds the easily cynicized like me that, yes, America still produces real good guys who will always choose to do the right thing, and will always choose to save others whatever the cost to themselves. Though Koontz doesn't stomp all over the message like I just did. It's a wonderful book, fast-paced, an excellent teacher for writers. Highly recommended.
Just a regular, everyday kind of guy. Walking down the highway. Minding his own business. Have toothbrush, will kick your sorry bicuspids in. Picking up trash. Just doing his part to Keep America Beautiful.
Lady Bird would be so proud. Reacher takes the combination of getting trash off the street and patriotism to a level she could never have imagined.
In his 16 (so far) novels, he drifts on the high roads, then gets off on the by-roads where he has run-ins with thoroughly disgusting subhumans up to no good. That's when he knows he's fixing to have a good time. Because they will lead him to the low roads, where the subhuman head honchos rule. These are places normal law enforcement never bothers to clean up. They're too close, too connected or too afraid to do what's right. Small, closed communities often pay no mind to things like laws. Innocent people get hurt because the outside world doesn't know or doesn't care.
Reacher can't allow that. In the out-of-the-way places, he brings justice to the poor, the abused, the unconnected, the forgotten who have become prey to strong, wicked oppressors.
So is Reacher patriotic since he saves lives, restores rights and therefore facilitates the law? Or is he unpatriotic since he breaks laws as he sees fit? I don't think there's any doubt that he loves his country. He does believe in chain of command, in military situations.
The real world is more of a problem. Trouble comes looking for him. Not good for him, but great for readers who love to see him get out of it.
The Tunnel Rat.
We learn in The Black Echo, the first Bosch book, that he served in Vietnam as a tunnel rat. When US troops would find part of the Viet Cong tunnels there, a soldier, or "rat", would go down into the darkness with a flashlight, a gun and a bayonet.
How would that experience shape a young man's personality? his life? Since he's the strong silent type, Bosch holds it in. He carries on, joins the force, solves homicides.
Steady as he goes. Even when circumstances suddenly force the horrors of war upon him again, he soldiers on because he must, because others depend on him. The Black Echo is a great book that introduces a real American hero, one who may be fictional but is very close to the real ones around us every day.
The Israeli Secret Service Agent.
I depart from U.S. patriotism in fiction to nationalism of a different sort. Daniel Silva's excellent spy series features Gabriel Allon, a world-renowned art restorer who also happens to be equally proficient as a Mossad agent for Israel.
There's so much to love about this series. It is rich in history, the reader gets to travel all over the world in each book, ancient religious information (a personal fave) is often part of the story, art and other beautiful things play a part.
For me, the best, strongest part of the books is the character of Ari Shamron, Allon's boss. He's the one who keeps pulling Allon back to do a spy job only he can do, when Allon wants to remain retired. Ari Shamron is the embodiment of Country First. That has been his life. Silva weaves real life events into Shamron's fictional notoriety, such as hunting down those responsible for the 1972 Munich killings. He is a powerful character and well-suited for the series.
I'm sure I'm leaving out obvious military protagonists that everybody loves but I can't think of right now. If you've read any with female military heroes, please speak up. I'm reading a manuscript by an ex-military friend that's outstanding. Would love to read more like that.