Second-Class Sailors by Lance Garland

Second-Class Sailors

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A crime novel about the aftermath of a brutal act that examines sexuality’s uneasy place within the strictures of military life.

Garland’s debut begins with a grim act of ferocious violence as U.S. Navy sailor Danny Stone, nearly catatonic from a night of hard drinking, is raped by his colleague. He’s reluctant to pursue charges against his aggressor, however, as he’s hobbled by the shame of his victimization, conflicted about his own sexuality, and afraid to openly state his sexual orientation in an environment that essentially criminalizes same-sex love. His best friend and fellow sailor, Cash Mulroney, knows about the crime and gives testimony regarding it. A tender romance between Cash and Danny slowly blooms. The relationship, which unfurls slowly, is often captured in poetic language: “In the darkness that is now our haven we sit like statues against time. No longer alone, we are capable of anything; the pain, the misery, the damnation, all fall like distant stones to the far reaches below our senses.” However, its discovery threatens to end Cash’s career in the Navy with a dishonorable discharge. The narrative perspective often shifts among multiple characters, giving readers a fuller vision of the drama’s overall emotional stakes. Sometimes Cash provides the narrative perspective; at other times, Danny and occasionally Dorothy Paige, the lead investigator of the rape, are the primary storytellers. The story also serves as a sociological study of the possibility of tolerance in an institution that aspires to govern every aspect of its members’ private lives. The author began writing this book while he was the subject of naval court-martial proceedings himself, but despite the book’s indictment of the military’s stance on homosexuality, it never devolves into a facile rejection of military life. In fact, it presents Cash’s commanding officer as a model combination of military toughness and tolerance. The cinematic courtroom drama, meanwhile, keeps the pace quick and tense.

A courageous exploration of the power of love and sexuality to transcend institutional boundaries.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2015
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2015


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