Most authors of fiction disclaim their characters are not representative of any persons living or deceased, for liability protection. However, Jim Gilliam has his own DNA mapped into his main character Tim Kelly, in his suspense novel, Point Deception. Having enrolled in the U.S. Coast Guard at the underage of 14 by lying about his date of birth and continuing after military service a parallel career in law enforcement, both Gilliam and Kelly have much in common. But the similarities stop there, as his book brings the reader into a story of an emotional and riveting tale of fictional incidents, events and intrigue; boldly heightened by Jim Gilliam’s immense first-hand knowledge of his subject matter.
Nobody’s perfect. That’s how Jim Gilliam developed his protagonist Tim Kelly, as he equivocated him between sound moral judgments and anti-social behavior; revealing a depth in complexity associated with real people instead of stereo-typical fictional characters. So too is Gilliam’s style of writing; using precise vernacular of military terms and procedures known commonly to those who served in the armed forces and law enforcement, adding realism and credibility to the fictional plot. Interestingly, Jim Gilliam also toys with the timeline of his book in a way of starting with a torture scene gripping the reader’s attention, then carrying him back into the life of Tim Kelly explaining the personal characteristics that comprise the ending, which is set in the beginning. These techniques, along with a high level of respect for the reader’s intelligence, result in Point Deceptionachieving the many accolades from much of the reading community, which it rightfully deserves.
The pivoting point in the novel is when the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Point Deception was attacked by “friendly fire,” off the coast of Vietnam in August of 1966. This excerpt exemplifies the terse, concise technical writing Gilliam throws into each page of his gripping novel:
“Many mistakes occur in war; it is the nature of the beast. This morning, the Point Deception had been mistakenly identified as a hostile target thought to be steaming south form the northern side of the Seventeenth Parallel -- DMZ. Identified as a hostile craft, the Point Deception was fair game for the B-57 commencing the first of three gun runs – seemingly just moments after the flares lit up the Point Deception. The B-57 swooped in for the kill, its four 20mm M39 cannons spewing death and destruction. Built for a maximum speed of 16-17 knots, the Point Deception’s light steel hull and aluminum superstructure offer no protection for the personnel on board.”
This event, along with the military’s CYA method of shedding responsibility and saying, “These things happen in combat” have a perfuse effect on Tim Kelly, short-circuiting his already volatile mind and bringing him into an orbit of anti-social behavior. As many Vietnam Vets have to deal with PTSD and haunting memories, the reader gets a rise in blood pressure from the weaving of emotions as Gilliam writes about honor being shed by those holding high military positions. This was one of the feelings portrayed in Point Deception that I personally took to heart.
Having Tim Kelly dismissed from the Coast Guard with less than an honorable discharge, he sought a career in drug related law enforcement. It is here he re-encounters his past, having to bust Rodolfo Guzman, a powerful drug lord and a person he befriended in his youth. This series of events plays out like a Mission Impossible movie, with a daunting task of bravery, violence and adrenaline rich moments of suspense and terror.
Jim Gilliam has created a “must read” book for those who enjoy action packed military and law enforcement novels. He has a unique style that will set him apart as a refreshing written voice in the myriad of similar genre works. Point Deception would play out perfectly as a block-buster movie given the public’s insatiable appetite for heroes with character flaws, going against all odds to achieve a socially beneficial outcome. In fact, I can’t wait for the sequel!