Today we're talking with Jim Gilliam - author of Point Deception.
FQ: On the back cover, we learn that like the protagonist in your story, you too ran away from home at 14 and joined the Coast Guard. Would you tell our readers about that experience?
I was nine-years-old when my parents divorced. I was an only child and I thought it was my fault. I was an avid reader and I retreated to the sanctuary of books where the hero was a teenage boy like Frank Nelson in the Gunboat Series of Books for Boys. These books became my reality. When I finally succeeded in running away from home I only had enough money for bus fare to New Orleans where things happened pretty much as described in the book. I lived out of my suitcase in a locker at the Trailways Bus Depot for awhile, I stayed at the YMCA for a time, I stayed in a flop house for fifty cents a night, I even slept on a roof top under a ventilator duct. I was living at a Catholic mission for homeless men until I got my dream job on the yacht Windjammer II. I had a series of jobs including working for the Port of New Orleans under the docks replacing old pilings. My mother was a notary and when I left home and I purloined one of her notary seals which I used to obtain a legitimate delayed birth certificate from the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics. That's how I was able to join the Coast Guard at the tender age of fourteen.
FQ: In addition to sharing the induction into the Coast Guard with Tim Kelly, your protagonist, is there any more of Jim Gilliam in Kelly's character?
Oh yes. The book started as a fictionalized autobiography. All of the characters in the book are based on people I actually knew growing up. So I would say that my protagonist Tim Kelly was about 80% Jim Gilliam.
FQ: Rucho is one nasty man. Was he a fun character to write or were his scenes difficult?
Interesting that you should single Rucho out. He was real and he was the typical school yard bully. I tried to describe him as he really was. I heard he kicked an aging history teacher in the chest during a recess period. The teacher died a day later from a fatal cardiac arrhythmia as a direct result of a cardiac contusion. That guy used to kick my butt on a regular basis until I finally learned how to fight and turned the tables on him. Funny, he never bothered me after that. All bullies are nothing more than cowards.
FQ: The combat scene on board the Point Deception was very realistic. Was is written from experience or via a very active imagination?
A little of both. Unfortunately I've seen more than my share of violent death. After the Coast Guard, like Jack London, I bummed around a bit, working as a deputy sheriff, a medical technologist, and finally a navigator on a geophysical survey vessel operating out of the Australian port of Darwin. When I had enough I got serious about life, enrolled in college and became a physician assistant. I did a surgical residency in the Bronx--a lot of trauma and death and dying there--and decided to join the Army as an airborne combat physician assistant. I spent four years in Central and South America providing medical support for the Contras and others. The Point Deception was based on the real Point Welcome. The book is dedicated to Lieutenant Junior Grade David C. Brostrom, USCG and Engineman Second Class Jerry Phillips, USCG killed in action by elements of the U. S. Air Force 11 August 1966. I knew both men, they deserve to be remembered. In the book I attempted to recreate what I imagined that attack was like. It was probably more terrible than I described.
FQ: Mary Beth and Brenda are two women who stand by their man, no matter what. How important was it to you to build these characters into the story? Do you think that through them, their men are more "human"?
Tim Kelly needed the stability of a good woman in his life to make him a whole person. I've been lucky enough to have known some really fantastic women in my life including my mother and my current wife Laura. They helped shape my character. Brenda made Tim, as you say, more human. As for Rodolfo Guzman, there really was such a person, and I met him when I was twelve-years-old. He was reputed to be a boss in the Mexican Mafia. In the book, I made him the good bad guy; the man I knew certainly was. The real Rodolfo was crazy about a woman from my home town of Port Isabel and they later married. Love makes us all human. Don't you think?
FQ: There was a definite camaraderie between Kelly and his Coast Guard friends. Was this something that you too experienced in the Coast Guard and if so, was it important for you to include it in your book?
The book began as a fictionalized autobiography that almost immediately took on a life of its own becoming a Coast Guard story. Enlisting at age fourteen, for a very important part of my life, it was my honor and privilege to be a member of this select group of truly outstanding professionals known collectively as: the United States Coast Guard. I sent Admiral Papp, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, a copy of Point Deception. In his thank you note he said, "Remember you will always have a home with the Coast Guard and be part of the Coast Guard family." I will always cherish that sentiment.
FQ: You mention a sequel to Point Deception. Would you tell our readers a little about this new story?
Here is a brief synopsis of The Campeche Reprisal the sequel to Point Deception. Undercover narcotics agent Tim Kelly is rescued after seven days of torture at the hands of the Campeche Drug Cartel; he plans to marry Brenda Conrad, the love of his life. When Brenda and her best friend, the daughter of the Governor of Texas, are kidnapped by the Cartel and taken to a secret location in the jungles of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Tim recruits a local Mayan rebel leader to help him rescue the two women. It should be fun to write.