Monday, September 2, 2013
Review: Welcome Home, Captain Harding (Captain Harding #3) by Elliott Mackle
Joe is back! Welcome Home, Captain Harding! I was really worried about him at the end of Captain Harding and His Men when he was shipped off to Vietnam. I even thought that was going to be the setting for this third book. Instead it is now1970, "Hair" is playing on Broadway and the "Age of Aquarius" still has a grip on the country, particularly on the West Coast -- the perfect setting for Joe's misadventures.
After finishing an 18-month tour in Vietnam, Joe is assigned to the Castle Air Force Base, California, working with old friend and father figure Colonel Bruce "Ops" Opstein, commander for operations for the 39th Bomb Wing. Joe hasn't even shaken the jet lag, nightmares, or fear of crotch rot when Ops shows him a pictures of himself in Hawaii with both Cotton and his mother Ambassador Elizabeth Boardman. Joe is under surveillance. Joe's new assignment at Castle spying on arrogant, hot-dogging bomber pilots, and organizing an air show to counteract the whole anti-war movement does not come as sweet news either. Soon Ops and Joe realize the whole place is FUBAR -- fucked up before all recognition -- as pilots go around with sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll on their minds, and the higher ups turn out to be even worse than that! Joe's career comes under fire from all directions as the men or buddies he works with are more a detriment than a help, and covering his ass to stay in the military closet becomes almost impossible.
There I am, reading the beginning of the story and I'm already yelling at Joe for pulling dumb moves and following his dick instead of thinking things through before leaping into the fire. By now, we all know that's just Joe, but that didn't matter to me. Cotton is now a freshman at Berkeley and slowly getting pulled into the anti-war movement, but they are together and that's what becomes important to Joe. He is in love with the now nineteen-year old Cotton, so you can only imagine that these two are not necessarily thinking with their "little grey cells." No, not possible. Not even after Ops warns Joe that he has received more anonymous photographs. To further complicate matters, Sam shows up at Joe's place in Merced. Now a TWA pilot, he is a favorite buddy/hookup Joe met at the Wheelus AFB in Lybia. Cotton figures out the relationship angle and decides to get involved. Will there be room for one more in a committed relationship?
Let me begin by saying that I don't usually get so involved with characters that I actually worry for them, etc. I try to maintain a certain distance, even when connecting with characters, so that I can at least be somewhat objective about their actions. But, I can't seem to help myself with Joe Harding and I know that is one of the aspects of this series that makes me love it so much.
Elliott Mackle does it to me every time. I began reading Welcome Home, Captain Harding and didn't stop until that last page was turned. It was an emotional roller-coaster. I was yelling at Joe because he wasn't being careful enough, while simultaneously getting upset because he HAD to be careful in order to keep his military career going. But, coming back to reality and keeping in mind that this is historical fiction, Elliott Mackle again captures the times and situations beautifully.
The necessity to stay closeted vs. the need for love and intimacy is one that Mackle tackles in this book with even more vigor than he did in the past two installments. The frustration, the witch hunt, and how far everyone is willing to go to protect themselves are all well rendered by Mackle as he uses humor through misadventures, miscalculations, and manipulations to get his point across. The same happens with Mackle's deft handling of the issues that plagued the Air Force pilots at the base during that time, and with his portrayal of 1970 San Francisco by incorporating the two differing perspectives dealing with the key issue of that time period in history about the war in Vietnam, with the Peace Movement on one side and the military on the other as seen from Joe's point of view.
The military details that Mackle includes in this novel are again fantastic, although I did notice that they took less space than in the two previous installments. Similarly, those pesky military acronyms have lessened, or are now explained to the reader along the way. Mackle continues the tradition of combining Joe's often humorous misadventures with seriously tough issues such as domestic violence among the military, drug abuse, cover ups, and persecution of gay servicemen in the military. The usually tight dialog is not as consistently tight as it is in other installments, but it is still great, providing that quick pacing that makes these books such excellent reads.
Welcome Home, Captain Harding is the third and last book of Elliott Mackle's Captain Harding trilogy. As such, it ends Joe's adventures and misadventures with a bang. I didn't, however, expect anything less from Mr. Mackle whose works I've come to highly enjoy along the way. I cannot tell you how much I love these three books, or how much I am going to miss this character. I am a fan. I definitely recommend Welcome Home, Captain Harding, but more so, I highly recommend the trilogy as a whole.
Category: LGBT Historical Fiction/Mystery Suspense
Series: Captain Harding
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/September 1, 2013
Visit Elliott Mackle here.
Complete Trilogy -- Grade: A- (4.7 Stars)
Captain Harding's Six Day War, #1
Captain Harding and His Men, #2
Welcome Home, Captain Harding, #3