Crap Shoot, by Robert Moriarty—available exclusively in e-book format and almost short-story in length—covers two main events in the main character's life. The book's opening chapter puts you in the cockpit of a Marine F-4B on a mission near the coast of North Vietnam in 1968. In the following six chapters, the reader is transported back via flashback to the protagonist's initial training as a Marine Aviation Cadet—focusing on the budding fighter pilot's forays into bar hopping, craps shooting, and women chasing. In the final two chapters, you'll return to that same F-4 cockpit and complete the combat mission you started at the outset.
Strap on your G-suit and oxygen mask and get ready for a wild and bumpy ride to a very different era. Crap Shoot transports the reader to a time when any "blue-eyed, Marine fighter pilot" might say "it will be a cold day in hell before the Marine Corps lets a woman into the cockpit of a jet fighter," and not raise an eyebrow. You'll find plenty of action and experience life among a very elite section of the military—the world of the Marine combat fighter pilot. Not surprisingly—given the book's title—you'll also learn quite a bit about shooting craps.
Moriarty's writing style is frank, direct and at once familiar and anachronistic. Men—and yes, this was a period of time when an American fighter cockpit was exclusively a men's club—would use a self-assured, jargon-filled language that fit the rarified world in which they lived. Their salty language was occasionally sprinkled with a mixture of Southeast Asian expressions that became a part of everyday conversation: "If I decided to didi mau I wasn't about to pin on any new hero medals."
There was a time and place where that sentence would need no explanation. I spent the first part of my USAF flying career listening to words like those from the Vietnam combat veterans with whom I flew. Over the years I got used to hearing—and still remember—expressions like "Sawadi kap" or "Layo Layo." They became part of the lexicon—a connection to a different time and a different place. Although the expression didi mau didn't ring any bells for me, a quick online search confirmed that the it comes from Vietnamese—Di, go; and Di Mau: Go quickly.
Moriarty's authentic language and especially his depiction of aerial combat exudes authenticity—perhaps bafflingly so for those unfamiliar with the specialized lingo. That same macho spirit and language might be a bit jarring to some.
The digital version of the book I received for review apparently did not survive transmission through the "electronic highway" unscathed. There were words split in two, misaligned paragraphs, and 51 copies of the book's cover at the beginning. However, once I skipped forward to the first chapter, I was treated with a tight writing style and plenty of high-altitude, high-G action from the "good-old days." If you're ready to climb into your trusty F-4 Phantom and go for a quick joyride chasing after MIGs—or the occasional beautiful craps player—you might want to give Crap Shoot a try.
By John Cathcart, MWSA Awards Director and Reviewer
A young Marine fighter-pilot faces the worst odds imaginable over the flak-filled skies of North Vietnam when three enemy fighters jump him. Should he fight when all seems hopeless or turn and run to safety so he might return to fight another day? What are the odds of him making it home to his beloved wife?
Author: Robert Moriarty
Book Format(s): Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 57