ONE OF THE GUYS by Robert Clark Young


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A debut novel built from a one-line premise: porn-shop worker finds dead Navy chaplain in a stall, assumes his identity, boards ship, let the fun begin. Miles Derry is a down-and-out, recovering drug user and alcoholic who mops the floor in a pornography arcade. His life has been a string of failures: he has disappointed his family, himself, and yearns for his daughter, Kari, who lives beyond his reach in the Midwest. On a fateful night, Miles finds the body of James Banquette, a Navy chaplain, toppled over in a stall, and notices a remarkable physical resemblance between himself and the expired cleric. The uniform also fits perfectly. So, after burning the shop and the body in it, Derry is off for the USS Warren Harding, bound for East Asia and filled with old salts, hard-asses, frightened recruits, you get the picture. (One lusty civilian math teacher, Robin in the tight shorts, adds spicy sexual intrigue.) The ship makes its way to the Philippines and, later, to Okinawa, both of them sexual emporia for the brazenly post-pubescent crew. Having witnessed a military mishap that incinerates a Philippine village and its inhabitants, Derry walks blandly through the tragedy of it all. He receives a homoerotic letter from a fellow priest, and begins a comforting correspondence with the widow Banquette, Michelle, who knows nothing of her husband’s death. In an unlikely series of contrived events, Miles/James saves a life, is nominated for the Navy Cross, and finds possible, lasting love with Michelle. But through it all—the beatings, the sex, the acronyms peppering the text—Derry is unmoved as a character. The possibly engaging dramas of the self (the assumed identity, the self as a role one plays, e.g.) are only vaguely explored. The opening situation is a cliché (the priest’s gay) that provides entry to an unamusing recital of experiences odd, often brutal, and ultimately inert to the main character, if not to the reader.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-019365-4
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999