Sucker Punch: Getting Killed Can be the Least of Your Problems, by Jim Carroll

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Jim Carroll for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I was recently contacted by Jim Carroll to give his book a try, as he thought it would be right up my alley. Taking the reader into the middle of the Vietnam War, Carroll looks less at debating troop presence and political choices than to offer the reader a behind the scenes look at things from the air… in a helicopter. John Mack is a young guy whose recently finished some of his Basic Training and learned a little more about flying helicopters on Uncle Sam’s dime. It’s 1970 and Vietnam is calling him, but he has yet to be deployed. After making one wrong move too many, Mack draws the ire of a general and is shipped off to ‘Nam and sent on a mission that is full of danger. He will not only be behind enemy lines, in an area not officials sanctioned for Americans, but will be acting as a mole to inform on a blackmarket scheme that is brewing. Deemed ‘Slick’ by those around him, he flies a medevac chopper with bullets flying by all the time. Slick is unsure if each time the rotors spin will be his last flight, but he is ready to forge ahead. With so much blood and death, Slick cannot be sure how he will find the time to discover who is involved in the smuggling without being discovered himself, but thirty years in jail is a strong motivator. Meeting many soldiers, nurses, and those in between while flying in Vietnam, this is one experience John ‘Slick’ Mack will not soon forget. A great piece that takes a different spin on war and leaves the reader enthralled at the adventure. Recommended to those who like a military thriller without all the talk of troop movement, as well as the reader who needs something gritty as they delve deep into the literary jungles this book offers.

I am hesitant when it comes to new authors or books about which I know nothing. I have had some real duds and find myself wondering if I can be one who leads the way when forging down a reading path. Carroll does a masterful job at renewing my confidence and making me want to read more books of this genre. John ‘Slick’ Mack remains a wonderful character, if a little naive. In his early 20s, he is still trying to discover himself while he pushes into another part of the world. His experience with helicopters may be there,, but this is an entirely different theatre, one in which the rules no longer matter. Faced with situations and characters he could not have dreamed up, Slick must keep his focus and not mess up, as it is more than his own life in his hands. Other characters help to support wonderful development throughout this piece and kept me wanting more. There is a technical aspect to the book, as the reader learns a great deal about how helicopters work, which exemplifies Carroll’s research and ability to convey things without boring the reader with minutiae. I found myself wanting to learn the mechanics and wondering how it all fit together. With a mix of short and longer chapters, I was highly impressed and cannot wait to see if there is more to this larger story. Carroll has a fan in me and I am pleased that I took the plunge, as it was a glorious adventure, and not a napalm-esque disaster whatsoever.

Kudos, Mr. Carroll, for a great piece. I hope others discover this and I am able to read more of your work!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: