DUTY by Jim R. Lane


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A Navy man stumbles his way on board the USS Gays in the Military and comes away with an engaging, candid story about manhood, the ambiguities of rank, and individual conscience. Legal affairs officer Mark Palmer, idle in San Jose aboard the USS Modoc, is called to Captain Morgan Bennet’s office and presented with a letter alleging that petty officer Marion Lamm has committed a homosexual act. Bennet won’t have this sort of thing on his ship and demands an immediate court-martial. Though Palmer succeeds in lowering the charges, he’s also sure the claim is too flimsy to stand. But Palmer’s 16 years of service have put him up for a promotion that Captain Bennet can cancel as he likes, so the junior Palmer does as ordered. (Twenty-year Navy veteran Lane is clearly on familiar ground here.) None of this sits well with Lynn, Palmer’s lover and a former Navy wife, but Lynn is conflicted, too. Her ex-husband, the shadowy Tony, prevents her from getting on with her life by holding child-support payments for their daughter hostage. This doesn’t sit well with Palmer, who knows that his love for the mother and daughter is honest—unlike his enthusiasm for the case against Lamm. The trial, a deftly written, back-and-forth affair, pits Palmer against defense attorney Lt. Templemann. While Palmer never quite gives an opinion on gays in the military, he does know Lamm—persecuted by the sailors for busting up their on-board drug abuse—is innocent. Captain Bennet’s outrageous prejudice is never explored, but Palmer’s own romantic, gender, and career conflicts are fully and humanely elaborated. In resolving them, author Lane doesn’t take the easy out, and the conclusion seems probable if unexpected. An informed depiction of the “new” military, all told in Lane’s fluent voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-882593-29-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Bridge Works
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999